The value and truth of literary influence

In parodying over 100 writers Louisiana Alba both celebrates and critiques them, adding value and re-igniting fiction of twentieth and twenty-first century fiction. In”Uncorrected Proof” Alba asks implicitly: what is a novelist? What does his creative memory and craft truly and uniquely comprise of? Is there such a thing as isolated originality? Are writers unconsciously, even consciously, guided and influenced by writers before them so much so that literature forms a continuity of technique and content?

Shakespeare borrowed story, plot, ideas and craft from his predecessors. He only wrote one play entirely from his imagination – The Tempest. It is hard to see how he could have written so much over time at such a high level without ‘borrowing’ material. Effectively he wrote a play every six months while he co-managed a theatre company and occasionally acted in productions.

Louisiana Alba parodies and cites style creating his own story and writing style . Alba’s style is unique yet at the same time he recognises that the writers he enjoyed and admired in the last century or so of novels also influenced him.

James Joyce parodied earlier writers and followed the Odyssey. In The Waste Land T.S. Eliot borrowed… mercilessly.. not exactly citing as much as raiding in most instances, and not quite telling us the whole story on all the works and writers he visited, many of them unknown from his own era, only how much he borrowed from the distant past.

A writer who isn’t influenced by earlier writing, if there is such a writer, probably hasn’t read anything.

– See Jonathan Lethem’s essay The Ecstasy of Influence in Harpers for more on this subject.

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