Many great books kept me company during the several years I worked on my memoir, Born on the Bayou. Southern writers—Faulkner, Welty, Warren and Harper Lee—provided inspiration in the strong sense of place they evoked. Entering a writer’s world is such a gift, made possible only by one’s true talent of moving mountains on a page—and the writers above demonstrate that talent again and again. But I also read and would recommend a few other books that have moved me over the years…
A MOVEABLE FEAST by Ernest Hemingway is a book that I, perhaps like many writers, re-read from time to time. Hemingway, nearing death, reached deep one last time into his well of incomparable artistry to deliver this memoir of a time long lost to him – his youth in Paris. The intimately conversational quality of this work is the kind of tone a writer working on a memoir should read again and again, I think.
IN GOD’S HOUSE by Ray Mouton is a lifelike fictionalization of an important historical event – the worldwide clergy sex abuse scandal. Writing in a fast-paced, character- driven narrative, Mouton’s authentic southern voice delivers a suspenseful tale of tragically flawed characters unfolding in a twisting, dark plot that ultimately shatters the great institutions of Rome.
SELF-RELIANCE by Ralph Waldo Emerson is one of the books I keep on my desk in Lake Bruin, Louisiana and in my office in Beverly Hills. Although aspects of Emerson’s style might seem archaic or outdated to some modern readers, upon closer inspection it’s also evident that no word is ever wasted, and that he had a measured elegance which remains unmatched. “But the soul that ascends is plain and true; has no rose color, no fine friends, no chivalry, no adventures, does not want admiration; dwells in the hour that now is, in the earnest appearance of the common day, — by reason of the present moment and the mere trifle having become porous to thought, and bibulous of the sea of light.”
Emerson always said “Insist on yourself, never imitate” – some of the best advice a writer, or any person, can ever follow.