I studied Religion in undergrad. In fact, I had enough classes that I could have probably done a triple major instead of the double one I ended up with. I was only missing some of the overview courses. I was able to take classes like “Perspectives on Evil and Suffering in Worldwide Religions” and “The Millennium: Apocalypse or Utopia?” Great classes for a future in horror writing for sure.
One of the unexpectedly interesting sections of one, I think it was the History of Early Christianity or one about the development of Judaism and Christianity, involved how the Bible was made canon. There were many more books out there than the final 66 that made it in. I learned of the Book of Mary, among others, that were not deemed as canonical.
Back then, I was an ignorant young college student. I think part of the purpose of college nowadays is just to grow the hell up a bit, have your eyes opened. Then, later in life, you can reflect on what you did and actually realize the purpose. Because I didn’t realize how the creation of canons of literature happens all the time. It was in every class I’ve taken, and later ones I have taught. Sometimes the book hits and it sticks with you. I remember the greatest compliment I got as a professor was when a student in one of my graphic novel memoir classes came up to me after class and said, “Professor, I love this book so much, I’m not going to return it after class is over.” That book was Epileptic, by the way. It’s amazing. It’s part of my personal canon.
Because I think we develop our own personal canons as we go by life. As people, as well as writers. The books that influence you and your work. The books that you live by and can’t live without. The books that you return to year after year, day after day, and look to for guidance, or companionship, or comfort, or faith, or to feel that special feeling you feel each time you read it, to time travel back to that specific moment when you read that first line and realized your life was about to change.
Some of the books in my personal canon include the before mentioned Eplipetic by David B, along with 100 Demons by Lynda Barry, Oranges are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson, The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle, Momo by Michael Ende, and the DragonSinger series by Anne McCaffrey. There are many more that helped to create my literary soul, but these are a good start.
I don’t have a specific book by Stephen King I turn to, like those above, but he is also in my canon- more as a figure than a specific page to turn to. I wrote a different blog post about my feelings toward Stephen King, and they can be found here: On Stephen King and Accepting Yourself As a Writer
Tell me, what books are in your canon? Where do they take you, what part of you do they serve?