In the surprisingly interesting Reader’s Guide at the back of Dan Chaon’s Await Your Reply, Chaon writes:
As a writer, I feel like I’m always in conversation with the books that I’ve read.
Yiyun Li, the author of The Vagrants, feels the same way: “I believe a writer writes to talk to his/her masters and literary heroes.” About William Trevor, she wrote:
I write stories to talk to his stories. And a story can talk to another story in many ways–a line, a character, a few details, or sometimes it is the mood of the story, the pacing and the music of the story…”
I found two of these nods by Chaon as I was reading Await Your Reply. When I found two, I got such a warm feeling inside. Here they are:
On page 81: “She might’ve been a good mother, Miles thought, if their father had lived.” >>>Flannery O’Connor, from “A Good Man is Hard to Find:” She would of been a good woman,” The Misfit said, “if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.” [Here’s a very cool link to Flannery O’Connor reading “A Good Man is Hard to Find” at Vanderbilt University in 1959–amazing]
On page 203: “Your jitters are starting to rub off on me. I’ve got the fucking fantods, man.” >>>David Foster Wallace throughout Infinite Jest.
A lovely practice.
~2nd in a series
~cross-posted at Contrary Blog
Love those echoes. Yes—the writers paying homage, their stories talking to stories. My son keeps telling me of David Foster Wallace’s tribute to Blood Meridian in Infinite Jest, and McCarthy’s riff on Moby-Dick in Blood Meridian.
That reading by Flannery is indeed priceless.
By the way, Flannery echoes Frost in “A Good Man”: after the wreck she comments on the bordering woods which are “dark and deep.” I can’t remember if I noticed that when I read it (I think so), but it really jumps out in her reading.
Those words do stand out in her reading, don’t they, Richard? And thanks for pointing out the Frost echo. Stories talking to stories… a story chain. I love it.