Given all of the hints that I have dropped, this one should come as no surprise. Not reaching the top spot, though, may come as as surprise. Of course, those recurring numbers have to count for something….
Like my last post, the story of this selection began long ago. Specifically, the story begins in a log cabin perched atop a rock cliff overlooking the farmlands of the high desert with Black Butte and the Cascade Mountains looming in the distance. It was there, in that cabin, that my father helped me select the last class that would inevitably complete my schedule for my first semester of high school. That class was Introduction to Journalism, and it lead me on a path that brought me to this very moment in time.
Along the way I have learned much, and forgotten even more. Even my forgotten memories, though, are not lost. Like bubbles surfacing from an active geyser, they trickle into my consciousness from time to time clearing the way for an inevitable explosion of past memories. My father is there, old friends and co-workers are there too, along with conversations long forgotten. One such conversation that has surfaced once again came in the dark and cramped office of a college newspaper. Our managing editor, an old reporter from the daily newspaper in Bend, Oregon, had brought in one of his old co-workers to talk with the staff about the newspaper industry. I don’t remember all of what he said, but one point stands out clearly in my mind. One of my fellow staff members asked him about the best way to become a writer. He responded saying that anyone can learn to write. The real trick, he said, was learning about the world. I believe that it is through this understanding of the world that a writer finds his or her voice. Without a voice, you might as well write ad copy, because money will be the only thing that you can hope to gain from your writing. Don’t get me wrong, you can do a lot of things with money. You just can’t find yourself in it.
When it comes to writers with a voice, you would be hard-pressed to not to include Hunter S. Thompson on the list. Love or hate him, Thompson definitely had a voice. That voice landed his book, The Rum Diary, as number two on my literary influences list. One of my favorite lines from The Rum Diary comes on page 51 of the novel: “I felt for the first time in my life that I might get a chance to affect the course of things instead of merely observing them.” That line is followed closely by another of my favorites: “I began to see a new dimension in everything that happened.” Definitely great lines. I too hope to affect the course of things instead of merely observing them. I suppose everyone does. To truly influence the world, though, I imagine we should follow Paul Kemp’s words and look for the different dimensions in the things that happen around us.
I for one, enjoyed Thompson’s voice. As crazy and insane as it could be, it sought to explain the world in the best way Thompson knew how to explain it. In the end, I suppose there is only one way to describe Thompson’s voice, and that is with a quote from the man himself: “I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.” For now, I leave you with the scene from the film version of The Rum Diary below: