So excited for a new release from Matthew Chabin! Happy book birthday. I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about what has been his writing inspiration be it books, movies, and authors. Come back and check out my review in a few days too!
So Matthew enlighten our audience! What are your TOP 10 inspirations in writing?
1) Joseph Campbell.
My grandmother gave me my first Campbell book when I was a teenager and his work has been a real touchstone of my intellectual life and spiritual life. It is particularly inspiring to read life as mythic narrative, and Campbell makes the case for why this is not only a legitimate outlook, but a vital one if we are to find meaning in the modern world. He has his detractors, but for me his ideas are indispensable.
2) Carl Jung.
My reading of Campbell served as an introduction to Jung (and a lot of others). Jung is somewhat out of fashion with academics these days, and it’s a pity because he was a tremendous scholar. He’s more challenging than Campbell, but to the attentive reader he is like Virgil leading on through infernal pits and supernal heavens of the mind.
3) The Inferno, by Dante Alighieri.
I never get tired of reading this book. Unlike the brilliant but contentious Milton, Dante was assured of certain core beliefs in his readers, and I believe this actually makes his work more accessible to secular readers of today (we needn’t feel personally implicated in “the argument”). Read psychologically, The Inferno is a ruthlessly incisive portrait of the human condition in all its wretched glory. One of the great pillars of western literature between the Bible, Homer, and Shakespeare.
4) William Shakespeare (yes, sigh, Will of Sratford)
My grandmother once asked me what I found inspiring about Shakespeare, and I answered, stammering “…because Shakespeare is…Hinduism!” I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what I meant by that (it’s the subject my current project). I think of the Hindu cosmology with its infinite gods and their infinite attributes, unfolding from an infinite mystery, and I think of Shakespeare’s pantheon of infinitely fascinating characters cast in the human mold, and nothing else in literature compares. Never has a single mind compassed so broad a tract of human experience. And people argue whether Shakespeare was Protestant or Catholic. The idea, that such a mind would not explode such petty, doctrinal squabbles over a breakfast of toast and coffee, is, frankly laughable.
5) The Bhagavad Gita.
I read this one in Navy boot camp (we were allowed one spiritual text to read on Sundays), and it’s stayed with me ever since. The Eastern canon’s Book of Job, it is what I would call a work of anti-religion. That is, if religion, as Carl Jung believed, came about as a means of protecting us from the direct experience of the Divine, then the Gita is an account of that experience stripped of its protective armor. I have a notion that that’s what literature should be. Not conciliatory preaching, but direct, traumatic confrontation.
6) James Joyce.
Another one I came to by way of Campbell, Joyce understood the real nature of myth as a mirror of life. In Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man he demonstrates the soul’s break with everything that society cooks up to clip its wings and curtail its expansion. In Ulysses he explores the fullness of the mythic drama playing out behind the humdrum scenery of everyday life, suggesting the possibility everywhere of breaking through into that heroic stride. In Finnegans Wake….
I don’t know, he may just be fucking with us at that point.
7) Frida Kahlo.
While not a writer, Frida embodies a supreme example of an artistic ideal, the ability to take unbearable pain and transmute it into profound and lasting art. Like many people I’ve included on this list, you can find fault with her for various reasons, but I don’t believe that anything you can say about her detracts from this central achievement.
8) Baruch Spinoza.
My ideal philosopher (and another secret Hindu—shh!), shunned and excommunicated by his Jewish community of Amsterdam, Spinoza paid a terrible price for his intellectual liberty. He lived a lonely, solemn and austere existence until his untimely death from tuberculosis, refusing every consolation of what his rational mind could not accept. Like Job gazing into the whirlwind, he saw only what was there, and affirmed it enough.
9) Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison.
In contemplating the terrible plight of African Americans in mid-20th century America, Ellison refused to settle for writing a mere “protest novel.” Instead he gave us an existential tour de force that is complex, sprawling, challenging, obscure and stingingly poignant. In other words, worthy of its subject of American life. I don’t quite follow all his political allusions and I sense he’s rather far to the left of me, but I believe that if one is to write about politics and race and class, this is the way to do it. The key point here is that, while Ellison is ostensibly championing a pure, Marxist vision of Communism, he does not commit what I consider the fundamental Marxist fallacy of relegating psychological life, the life of the soul, to the dustbin of “false consciousness.” Quite the contrary, the soul is the epicenter of this formidable work.
10) Carlos Castaneda.
After my mother died, my father and I fell into a routine of reading the Don Juan books at bedtime. I was old enough to read them myself, but usually he would read to me, and his voice served as a familiar conduit for those bracing wilderness mysteries. People argue over whether you can have a spiritual life without religion. I find such arguments rather quaint. These stories make it clear that we are born spiritual beings, that the spirit is our native ground. At its best, religion helps us remember this. More often I think it just confuses the matter by setting up arbitrary categories. Anyway…. For an example of spiritual life pursued in a dangerous, freebooting, imaginative vein, read Castaneda.
Author: Matthew Chabin
Publisher: Roane Publishing
Release Date: June 22, 2015
Keywords: Romance, Mystery, Paranormal, Mortality, Literary
Dasan Garret is a disappointed man. Recently divorced and just returned from a traumatic tour of duty in Iraq, he moves back to his hometown of Portland, Oregon only to find himself unexpectedly alone. His old friends are all gone, moved away, locked up, or dead. Women seem to occupy a parallel universe. With no community and few prospects, he takes a job as a night watchman and withdraws ever deeper into the shadows of his mind. Until one day when he meets Edenia, and she lights up his world like a bolt of pure energy. She seems perfect: vibrant, gifted, kind, sexy, a sudden and unlooked-for reprieve from the sad ruin of his life. And yet there remains a nagging sense that something isn’t right. Could it be that he is merely slow to trust the happiness she offers him? Or is there something behind that waver in her laugh, that fleeting look of sadness in her eyes? The mystery deepens when one day Edenia disappears. Dasan believes he must find her in order to go on living. But to find her again, he will have to confront a devastating truth about her life, and his.
AMAZON | Roane Publishing | Createspace
Matthew Chabin was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico and grew up in Portland, Oregon. He served four years in the US Navy as a ship crewman, journalist and public affairs liaison. He studied literature and philosophy at Southern Oregon University. After graduating in 2010, he started teaching English abroad, working in the Czech Republic and volunteering with the Dalai Lama’s affiliate organization, Tibet Charity, in Dharamsala/Mcleod Ganj, India. He currently lives in Nagano Prefecture of Japan with his wife, Marie, and cat, Futa. His work has appeared in Gravel: A Literary Journal, Southern Pacific Review, Piker Press, and Black Denim. He is the author of a memoir, Equaling Heaven, which he hopes to see published in the near future.