Influence: Three and a Half Metaphors

During my youth, I thought of influence as a type of combat. In the pleasant years of literary apprenticeship, one reads endlessly, and some of the writers that one reads are elevated out of the library and placed in the arena. There, the young writer does battle with his masters, pitting his words against the ages. He undergoes a multitude of false starts: derivative works, displays of words carved out of the masters’ examples; one day, he hopes to forge a weapon with which to slay his influences: words that would emerge as his own. This, I thought, was the history of literature: a history of battles, in which each unique voice conquered all the voices that attempted to speak through it. This is a young man’s dream of writing: influence as metaphorical combat.
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