Every Book Has Important Ancestors
The movies, music, and books that informed my debut collection.
No book is an island—each is made of more than our experience and imagination and sentences. Books emerge out of other books and influences that help provide a template or guide or inspiration or peer or parent. Some influences are more direct and others are subtle, but knowing what works an author is in conversation with can provide a richer reading experience. Plus, chances are, if you like one, you might like the other. Ranging from musicians and tour guides to filmmakers and authors, here are a few key creative forces that set the table for No One You Know, my nonfiction collection about encounters with strangers.
1. Aimee Mann’s songs about slippery connections
In lonelier times of my life, Aimee Mann’s songs were a kindred anthem. The micro-stories in Mann’s songs are often interpersonal, with two people psychologically circling each other. Many of her lyrics explore the trickiness of intimacy, fleetingness of connection, and slipperiness of language— they’re often melancholy but also not without hope, a mindset that I related to. In the same way that she (perhaps) memorialized some slivers of personal experience into song, I started rendering my own lived moments of connection and disconnection into micro-memoir. When I wrote my book, I was thinking a lot about the space between two people. How fast connection can be in some interactions, so elusive in others. How even when it strikes with serendipitous, miraculous power, it can still vanish with shocking speed. How it can return years after you presumed it dead. Here’s a favorite stanza from Mann’s song, “How Am I Different:”
I can’t conceive
You’re everything you’re trying to make me believe
’Cause this show is
Too well designed
Too well to be held with only me in mind