WHAT THE HELL

Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Strange bedfellows — my first big influence as a writer

A strange thought occurred to me yesterday. Who, I asked myself, is the first writer to make an impression on me as a writer?

As they say on the television machine, The answer may surprise you.

First of all, let me say that I was a fairly late bloomer where reading is concerned. I did the requisite book reports & such. I did my time with Mark Twain excerpts and books geared toward kids (one of my favorites was Wind In The Willows), but I really wasn’t drawn to reading till this guy came into my consciousness. I was thirteen, believe it or not.

Until then, no persona was really linked in my mind with the concept of “writer.” I hadn’t heard of Kurt Vonnegut yet. Joseph Heller. Kesey. They ones who would become my models later on. Norman Mailer was off the map. Flannery O’Connor? Nope. Not yet.

So it wasn’t until November 1970 that a person identified as a writer got inside me and got things churning. Make that December 1970, when Life Magazine described the events surrounding the ritual suicide of Yukio Mishima.

Honest to God, when I read that story and pored over the unreal photographs of this completely foreign figure trying to get a coup started at a military installation, something clicked in my head. It wasn’t: “Writers are awesome; I want to be a writer.” Maybe it was more like, “I thought writers sat at desks and typed. But look at this guy. Is he a soldier or an actor? What does he want? Why did he do this? I can’t stop thinking about him.” (And, of course, being thirteen, I was morbidly fascinated with the whole idea of seppuku.)

I know this doesn’t make sense, but something about Yukio Mishima introduced to me, at least through some kind of obscure metaphor, the idea that I wanted to write. Writing has power. Writing has drama. Writing is risky and shocking.
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You wouldn’t know it to read my stuff, but this is the guy who lit my fuse. Yukio Mishima.

Who did it to you?

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9 comments on “Strange bedfellows — my first big influence as a writer

  1. Charles Yallowitz
    February 10, 2014

    As a write, it was Fred Saberhagen. Something about the world and characters he created in the Book of Swords struck a chord with me.

    • Kevin Brennan
      February 10, 2014

      Another sword guy. Interesting! Mishima had a thing about swords too…

      • Charles Yallowitz
        February 10, 2014

        I was doing fencing at the time too, so that probably had a hand in it.

  2. 1WriteWay
    February 11, 2014

    I don’t think one writer did it for me. I have a memory of writing when I was 9 but I can’t remember what I might have been reading at the time. But I suppose the full-blown desire to “be” a writer really happened when I was in community college (I’m a very late-bloomer) and I started reading Anais Nin. I can’t even remember how I came about to read her. Keep in mind: I lived in a very tiny town, pre-computer, pre-Internet. But I was quite the feminist and actively searched for women writers to study. I devoured her diaries, her novels. I believe many of her works were self-published, but I think that was rather in vogue among her group of writers and artists. She and her life were romantic ideals for me for a long time. [Obviously, my Calvinistic upbringing won out which is why I spend most of my time working in an office and not drinking wine at a French cafe.]

    • Kevin Brennan
      February 11, 2014

      Nin is perfect for a small-town Calvinist girl!

      You had your inner French artiste, and I had my inner samurai. Interesting!

      • 1WriteWay
        February 11, 2014

        Just promise me you won’t ever commit seppuku. i hate to think of the mess that Sue would have to clean up.

      • Kevin Brennan
        February 11, 2014

        She’d never forgive me… She hates cleaning.

  3. ericjbaker
    February 11, 2014

    I always liked to write, but Kurt Vonnegut was the one who made me say, “Yeah. I this is it.” Oh, the horror of what I began to compose at that point. Thank the lord I found it all in a box about 10 years ago and destroyed it. It’s not often we get to go back and wipe painful parts of our lives out of existence like that.

    • Kevin Brennan
      February 11, 2014

      Vonnegut came right on the heels of Mishima for me. I had the sense not to try to mimic him though. He’s great for investing the young uns with enthusiasm, isn’t he?

      I’m afraid someone’s going to discover my box of shame before I do, and I won’t be able to disown that crap!

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This entry was posted on February 10, 2014 by in Writing and tagged , , , , , .
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