Yesterday I read a very cool essay by Aleksandar Hemon on powells.com. An excerpt:

When I was writing “The Sorge Spy Ring,” a story from my first book, The Question of Bruno, I listened to only two CDs: Mahler’s Ninth Symphony and Parliament’s Mothership Connection. I could not listen to anything else — it seemed that the story demanded those two and would not admit anything else. To my mind, “The Sorge Spy Ring,” a story about Richard Sorge, a World War II spy who was working in Tokyo for the Soviet and was arguably the greatest spy of the past century, and about a boy who believes his father might be a spy, is heavily influenced by Mahler and Parliament, a most unlikely combination. But what the relation is, I cannot possibly explain.

This, along with the Salman Rushdie interview I read in which he talked about being influenced by certain filmmakers, got me thinking about the non-literary things that influence my writing. These include:

1. Christopher Nolan’s films
The man is obsessed with storytelling, and I mean that as a high compliment. There is always an uderlying layer of meaning to the action in his movies, and–in my opinion, at least–the metaphor of life as story is present in a lot of his films. Take this quote from The Prestige:

Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts. The first part is called “The Pledge”. The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird or a man. He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal. But of course… it probably isn’t. The second act is called “The Turn”. The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you’re looking for the secret… but you won’t find it, because of course you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to know. You want to be fooled. But you wouldn’t clap yet. Because making something disappear isn’t enough; you have to bring it back. That’s why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call “The Prestige”.”

See what I mean?

2. Quentin Tarantino’s films
I love me some Quentin Tarantino. While there are generally no complex metaphors under the action of his films, Tarantino creates some of the coolest, most interesting characters in all of characterdom. Think of O-ren Ishii’s (played by Lucy Liu) speech to the Yakuza bosses. UBER cool, and totally effective at letting you know exactly who O-ren is (and why you shouldn’t f*ck with her). [link coming later]

3. Good, solid rap music
The wordplay that you can find in hip-hop is really creative and very often innovative; it’s also rich in imagery and often utilizes cool narrative techniques. Some songs that make me want to put pen to paper are “Intruder Alert” by Lupe Fiasco; “Spodieodiedopaliscious” by Outkast; “Ms. Fat Booty” by Mos Def; “Here We Go Again” by DMX; and the “All Eyes on Me” album by Tupac Shakur.

4. Erykah Badu’s music
Miss Badu is an artist in the purest sense of the word, and when I listen to her, I feel like one too. 🙂 Her similies and metaphors get my synapses firing. Plus, she’s mastered voice, style, whatever you want to call it: her songs don’t blend in with the crowd. You KNOW you’re listening to an Erykah Badu song. I remember the first time I heard hear–I was 12 or 13, lying on my bed listening to the radio when “On and On” started playing. I sat straight up and listened, rapt, to the entire song and did not want it to end. I had the same feeling the first time I read Toni Morrison and Junot Diaz; there’s just something about good art that calls out to you. And if you’re an artist, it makes you want to create.

What about you? What inspires you to create?

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