May 10, 2016
Martin Seay’s Top Two (plus one more)
by Melville House
To mark the launch of The Mirror Thief, we asked the author, Martin Seay, to tell us about the top two books that influenced and inspired him as he was planning and writing his novel.
All the Pretty Horses, by Cormac McCarthy
Although I haven’t read McCarthy in years, I’m pretty sure I can still quote passages of this novel from memory. It’s the book that made me (and, to be sure, a lot of other people) want to write novels. Aspects of it—particularly the way that McCarthy’s descriptions of landscapes gradually spell out a philosophical argument about the nature of the world—ended up being unexpectedly influential while I was writing The Mirror Thief.
The Optical Unconscious, by Rosalind E. Kraus
Although I wrote The Mirror Thief as a literary thriller, I also wanted it to have a sturdy conceptual armature underneath—something that readers feel more than see—and in keeping with the book’s focus on the mirror, I wanted to be rooted in ideas about the ways our eyes do and don’t help us understand the world. Kraus’s brilliant book is densely-argued and packed with theory—if I had to take a quiz on it, I would probably fail—but it’s also beautifully written, and at times movingly personal. It’s extremely ambitious, as well, setting out to undercut the unexamined idealism of a half-century of art criticism in favor of a fresh perspective rooted firmly in the human body.
The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler
About a third of my book is set among Beat poets and juvenile delinquents in the shoreline slums of Los Angeles in 1958, and as I was trying to work out the rhythms of these sections, I kept coming back to Chandler. He’s one of the world’s most imitable and imitated writers, of course, so at a certain point I had to step away; one of the many rewards of finishing the book was the freedom to read him again. His first novel, The Big Sleep, is still my favorite: the most technically accomplished use of first-person narration in American literature, and surely among the most enduringly entertaining.
The Mirror Thief is on sale now. You can buy your copy here or at your neighborhood independent bookstore.