#atozchallenge – William Goyen Inspires Me


william-goyenI wasn’t introduced to William Goyen until college. I wasn’t overly impressed with the cover of the book I was handed by my professor. It had a blue background with merely a white wooden house on the cover. What did impress me was the title, The House of Breath. The thought of a house breathing intrigued me. As I began to read that book, I was in awe of the beautiful way it was written, like poetry with its rich imagery and repetitive style. It’s themes include home and family, place, time, sexuality, isolation, and memory. The house and the river are not mere objects in this book, but they are characters themselves. It is the one book I have read more than 10 times. I make it a point to read it once a year. It is also my most well-worn book. I’ve had to tape the cover back on several times over the years. I’ve read his other works, which include four other novels, two non-fiction books, his book of poetry, and his collection of short stories. Although all of them are good reads, none of them inspired me as much as The House of Breath. William Goyen’s writing style – stream of consciousness flow, descriptive nature, and repetition, has greatly influenced my own writing. 

Here are just a couple of quotes from the book:

“I wanted to put my hand on this hand and hold it still under mine, made still by his made still. Oh he was bright and I was dark and I gave him all my darkness on that ship; but we joined, for all good things in the world, and to find somethin together; and loved, I never knew I could do it and was afraid; and on the bow of the ship that night that he said, “What have we done Christy?”
I said, wonderin too, “But somethin good will come of this, I know somethin good will come of this…”
Only sorrow came.”
― William Goyen, The House of Breath

“In summer the rich pond water was a vat of ripe simmering fruit, of varnish color: golden in the sun, holding like a rich syrup all the stock and plankton of the woods: loam-wealth, growth richness, leaf and sap goodness, the potlikker of the secret woods—all untouched and rare and gamy. There lolled fat, torpid, safe fish, bobbling languorously over in the thick piny syrup, bubbling their rubbery globules, like plump ripe fruit in their juices.”
― William Goyen, The House of Breath

And here is a poem that I wrote based on a scene in the book:

Through the Window

In the hottest summer’s day
you never opened
the shutters, kept us closed
off from the world

I took my chance to escape
The circus came:
clown and lions and her
Emerald eyes laughed
behind the made-up mask. I beheld
the world through those jeweled eyes
riches beyond the window you wouldn’t gaze
through. And you
you descended into madness
unsure of the day, the hour
the moment I fled
still sure that you heard
my footsteps, my shallow cry
from the well shaft

Now, Mother, your skin is wilted, ashen
your eyes are sunken, deranged
and your hair is sallow, matted
Look, Mother. Look through the window!
That’s where you will find me

© 2011 Lori Carlson. All rights reserved.

Interesting Facts: In 1963, Goyen married Doris Roberts, the actress perhaps best known for her work in Everybody Loves Raymond; they remained together until his death in 1983. His style has been compared to Virginia Woolf, William Faulkner, and Gabriel García Márquez. (source)


Thank you for joining me for the A-to-Z Challenge. If you’d like to see who else is participating, check them out here.
Each day, I will be posting about People Who Inspire Me.


10 thoughts on “#atozchallenge – William Goyen Inspires Me

  1. OK, I think I’m in love here! definitely saving this so I can remember to read this book, which I think I’m going to love!

    Also so that I can remember to catch up on all your posts during the Road Trip this year! =)

    Boldly Going Through the Alphabet!
    Part-Time Minion for Holton’s Heroes
    shanjeniah’s Lovely Chaos

  2. Hello, dear friend! Just going to take some time to visit here today and wanted you to know that these are great posts. I like how you talk about who inspires you and write something also. Good job and almost done with A2Z this week. Yippie

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