Atomic Words and the Authors Who Exploded My World

Bleeding Pen--ObjectsThe word I’d found in my grandmother’s book fascinated me down to the cellular level. P-tar-mi-gan. Ptar-mig-an. How do you even pronounce it?

Little did I know then, but words would collide, then cohere, to round out my “observable universe.”

mat·ter

noun \ˈma-tər\

2b :  material substance that occupies space, has mass, and is composed predominantly of atoms consisting of protons, neutrons, and electrons, that constitutes the observable universe, and that is interconvertible with energy

And as worlds go, I started small. A Dog Called Kitty was one of the first chapter books I read as a child. Fast forward to my “tween” years and I was reading everything from Brontë to Lovecraft to King. And when I turned over that pink scrap of paper and began to write my first horror—and horrible, I might add—short story, I certainly didn’t know what I was going to make of my life, but I hoped it might have something to do with language.

So it was with great interest that I discovered “Words Matter Week” (WMW) a few years ago, brought to you by the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (NAIWE). This year’s WMW features a question each day, and NAIWE is actively seeking bloggers’ and writers’ ruminations on the power and prominence of words in our lives. I encourage you to participate all week long, March 2-8, 2014.

Monday
Writers craft words into memorable phrases, stories, poems and plays.
What writers make your heart sing? Why?

Unfortunately, I am limited in that I can read in only two languages, so I haven’t had the opportunity to touch all corners of the globe with this informal “Authors I Love” list. Naturally, I am open to your suggestions and will enjoy reading meditations on how words matter to you.

To prevent eyestrain, I will only briefly explain why each author has exploded my consciousness, thus reshaping my world.

In no particular order, here are some writers worth getting to know:

  1. William Shakespeare: A shroe, a shroe, my dingkom for a shroe! But seriously, hands-down, the Maestro Wordsmith.
  2. Charles Dickens: Character-driven, highly descriptive, and conflict-laden. Simply put, the best character-namer in the business.
  3. Mark Twain: Huckleberry Finn and the “damned human race.”
  4. Flannery O’Connor: Gothic, Southern, conflicted. One of the best short story writers in the English language.

    flannery-oconnor3

    Photograph from the Southern Literary Trail

  5. Stephen King: Abandon all hope, ye who attempt to write as well as the King of Horror (as I did in my callow youth).
  6. Anne Carson: Faces pointed at me like knives. The surgeon’s skilled touch, but with words.
  7. Jean Auel: Research meets a strong female heroine or two.
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien: Language, lore, elves, and more.
  9. Harlan Ellison: Angry candy, a paladin of the lost hour, screaming without a mouth.
  10. Ray Bradbury: The writer’s writer; Martians, book-burnings, and pricked thumbs.
  11. William Faulkner: Eating toothpaste, dirty drawers, Yoknapatawpha, “Barn Burning,” and the “human heart in conflict with itself.”
  12. Tennessee Williams: Streetcars, lobotomies, tragedies, menageries.
  13. Marianne Moore: Imaginary gardens with real toads in them.
  14. T.S. Eliot: A modernist metaphysical poet whose music resonates into my time-present, time-past, and time-future.FourQuartets-book cover
  15. Wallace Stephens: Things as they are were changed upon Stephens’ blue guitar.
  16. e.e. cummings: listen, i dont pity one bit this überabsurd, underappreciated helluva good universe-creator.
  17. Toni Morrison: Haunting, harrowing.
  18. Julie Otsuka: Incisive, like a scalpel.
  19. Samuel Beckett: We are all born astride the grave.
  20. Dean R. Koontz: Three words: Watchers (the book).
  21. F. Scott Fitzgerald: Gatsby‘s partial people.
  22. Sherman Alexie: His works are at once human(e) and humorous. Pathos and black humor at their finest, and all “absolutely true”!
  23. (Poet) Allison Funk: At the epicenter.
  24. Langston Hughes: Sadly, we all defer dreams sometimes.
  25. O. Henry: Hometown boy, short-storyist and master of the “twist” at the end.
  26. James Baldwin, whose writing reflects back to me constantly and is rather like “a great block of ice [that] got settled in my belly and kept melting there slowly all day long”
  27. Vladimir Nabokov: I ooze with disgust for and loathing of Humbert Humbert (well done, Mr. Nabokov), but the writing is unparalleled.
  28. Maryn McKenna (science writer): Infectious diseases, you gotta love ’em.
  29. Carl Zimmer (science writer): Parasite rex and more.
  30. Piers Anthony: Wordplay and swordplay; dub me a Fanthony, but there’s nary a Mundaneday with this guy around.

Who bears your cup of literary nectar? I’d love suggestions of other authors and works.

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6 thoughts on “Atomic Words and the Authors Who Exploded My World

    • Yeah, I didn’t either at the time, though I think there might have been a picture with the word. That’s the thing, I fell in love with the sound of the word (or trying to figure out the sound of the word). As to the lengthy list, I probably should have whittled it down, but I’m an overdoer! 🙂

    • Thank you for thinking of me, Swoosie Que. You are too, too kind. I’m really sorry to hear you’ve been feeling sad, though. I hope things are starting to (or will start to) look up for you this week.
      I’m down with the flu (feeling better than earlier, fortunately), but I probably won’t have the chance to check out this award process and what it means for a few days. Thank you again; stay well and best wishes!

      • No pressure, John “awarded” this to me back in December 2013 and it’s now March 2014, so, there is definitely no rush!

        Feel better soon!! 😀

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