Stylistic inspiration

Periodically some awful person will take it upon themselves to send me a link to Cracked.com.  Then I’ll go read some irreverent, informative, dubiously authoritative list about history or science or pop culture, and when I get to the end their pitch perfect recommendation engine will tell me what else I might like.  And so I’ll click that and start over, and so on, until my brain can handle no more entertainment and enlightenment.  For months after I break myself out of that loop, I’ll refuse to click on any link to Cracked because there just isn’t enough time in the world to go that deep down the rabbit hole at a single website.  Eventually I’ll break down and go back, resuming the cycle.

Most recently, I capped out at this list of styles that define their eras that were completely invented by movies.  While I do remember having heard before that the mafia actually ripped off The Godfather for their style, I had no idea biker gangs had found similar inspiration in The Wild One.  Apparently before that movie showed them how much fun lawlessness could be, they just rode around enjoying nature and singing songs about kittens.  (I may have made up that last part.)

I’m impressed that films can actually invent an aesthetic or cultural sensibility so well that life starts to imitate art to the extent that we just assume art was imitating life from the get go.  I’m now convinced, however, that books must be able to do the same thing.  Surely in twenty years time, all the vampires are going to be sparkly because they think that’s how it’s done, right?  Books don’t have the benefit of a consistent visual image, but they so often provide our only glimpse into worlds we don’t otherwise know, just as films would have done for disco and the mob.  (Admittedly, literature, or at least Puzo, must deserve some of the credit for the mafia as well.)  I don’t know a thing about 19th century England that wasn’t taught to me by the likes of Dickens and Austen, presumably much to the chagrin of my history teachers.

So help me prove that literature is just as powerful as film!  Is there anything culturally pervasive and era defining that was actually invented out of whole cloth by an author so convincingly that everyone forgot what had come before?  Indirectly, once adapted into film, this is probably not uncommon, but there must be a direct influence as well.  There’s got to be something that never happened till Shakespeare said everyone had always been doing it, right?

And if not, would one of you please make it your goal to insert small but convincing false details into a supposedly realistic work so that some person many, many years from now can find this blog entry and let us know about it?  How much fun would it be to be able to take responsibility for an entire subculture?  Maybe not a menacing, lawless one though.

6 Responses to Stylistic inspiration

  1. Twenty years in the future, all vampires might be similar to Twilight vampires, but even they were inspired by literature, right? DRACULA started the romantic obsession, but it was really Anne Rice’s books that took them and made them sympathetic characters, undoubtedly inspiring every vampire romance that’s come since.

  2. Ryan Field says:

    Jack Kerouac helped inspire the Beat Generation with On the Road.

    And Anaïs Nin helped inspire a great deal of erotica, although it’s a smaller subculture.

  3. How about Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein?

    Washington Irving’s work has been very influential in several bizarre ways as well. I think it’s pretty funny that his first major work, The Sketchbook, was based in part on experiences he had in Europe, and when it became a hit in the U.S. and Europe, the Europeans thought The Sketchbook reflected typical fashion and behavior in the U.S. If anything, it was a combination of Irving’s globe trotting experience and Dutch folklore he’d grown up with. Go figure. Also, who hasn’t heard of headless horsemen?

    Also, you mentioned Charles Dickens. Oh my goodness! It’s almost impossible to speak or write English without inadvertently using Dickens-isms. I love clean, tight, concise writing, but I’m also totally in love with Dickens. None of my friends understand, but I can’t fault the guy. He had a way of writing that really resonated with people.

    Anyway, where would the movies be without writers? We all know we’re the brains behind the operation 😉

  4. Jude Hardin says:

    I’m sure The Catcher in the Rye stoked rebellion in more than one schoolboy back in the day. It’s an interesting example, too, because it was never (and never will be) adapted for film.

  5. golden pen says:

    In all things imagination comes before invention.
    Read any Si-Fi and you will fill your pockets with so many examples that the weight of them will make your pants fall down: expeditions too the moon; vending machines; submarines; slap-head as a fashion; communism; budgie-smuggler underpants; at least a thousand different types of uppers; DNA; Kindle; computers; video conferencing, how many do you want….
    coming to a store near where you are, very soon; soylent green.

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