Generally my least/most favorite part of any interview with any artist, and interviews with writers in particular, is when s/he’s asked “who are your influences.” It’s my most favorite because I’m a sucker for superlatives, all those kinds of “favorite book/food/animal” type inquiries. But it’s my least favorite because the answer is often a let-down, or something bordering a cliche, or someone so far-flung that I find myself questioning the subject’s veracity. Which I don’t really want to do. I mean, it’s an interview, not an interrogation, and I’m no arbiter of anything, as much as I might want to think I am.
In any case, I think there are interviewees who probably feel pressured by that question–they want to sound smart, and interesting, and relevant:
“Well, lately I’ve been reading a lot of Derrida with Yo Gabba Gabba on mute, and the overlaps are pretty incredible…”
“Obviously I owe a debt to Pynchon, and to a certain extent, Dostoevsky. But I’d be dishonest if I didn’t credit Bazooka Joe in some way…”
“Oh, I’ve been in an all-consuming back-of-cereal-boxes phase. General Mills, mostly. And I’m re-reading Proust’s A la Recherche for the fourth or fifth time.”
You get it. That mix of high and low, theory and novel, pop and baroque, that says I’m an intellectual, I’m legit, I’ve read things, but I also know how to breakdance.
I’m thinking about how DFW watched a lot of television as a kid.
I’m wondering what we mean, exactly, and Eliot/Bloom notwithstanding, by influence. Beyond the page, beyond the book, beyond all art, what informs your work, that you are conscious of? Do you ever try working against those forces? What’s your objective correlative, and how does it function? Like the bay leaf in the pot that flavors everything vaguely but needs to be removed before eating? You could eat it, but it wouldn’t taste very good? But maybe it needs to be eaten and it needs to not taste good, so that it can be evacuated?