Jonathan Lethem, The Ecstasy of Influence
I tore through this. Lethem’s original 2007 Harper’s essay was a huge influence on Steal Like An Artist and probably a bunch of other people. (Heck, David Shields took the method of the essay and turned it into a whole book, although I’m guessing from Lethem’s acknowledgements, their influence on each other is a two-way street.) I had fun in the book version of the essay, highlighting and annotating the passages from other sources, showing the unmarked passages that Lethem wrote as the glue between them.
It’s such a big book (over 400 pages) that it’s impossible to share all my underlines, but this passage from the intro says a lot:
[I pit myself] compulsively against bogus valorizing notions of originality, authenticity, or naturalism in the arts….For if we consent that what appears natural in art is actually constructed from series of hidden postures, decisions, and influences, etc., we make ourselves eligible to weight the notion that what’s taken as natural in our experience of everyday life could actually be a construction as well.
Other than his writing on other writers and influence, I really loved his pieces about musicians. His piece on Rick James, his profile of James Brown, and interview (!) with Bob Dylan are all very much worth reading.
Again, it’s a huge book, not as tight or as focused as The Disappointment Artist, but not meant to be either.