It's always interesting to learn about a favorite author and see "the story behind the story."
For example, once one learns about the life of J.R.R. Tolkien, his writings take on a deeper meaning. Mordor wasn't just a place of imagined evil, it existed on earth and Tolkien - along with millions of other soldiers - lived there for a time.
He seems to have been a wonderful father, putting his formidable writing and artistic skills to work to amuse and entertain his children. Certainly his son Christopher has shown a fanatical devotion to his father's legacy.
Of course not all writers make good fathers. The Waugh family, for example, seems to have been a mixed bag. A year or so ago I happened to read Alexander Waugh's "Fathers and Sons." It's something rather unique - a family autobiography. Alexander is the son of Auberon Waugh and grandson of Evelyn, who is one of my favorite authors. The book provides a fascinating glimpse behind what can only be called a literary dynasty.
Alexander lacks the fame and output of his ancestors, but he writes in the same bitingly witty style.
Though he isn't a published author, I owe a tremendous debt to my father. He introduced me to Mark Twain, Vladimir Nabokov and lavishly supported my Tolkien reading habit.
More importantly, he taught me how to write a news release, how to edit my own copy and how to take criticism in stride.
That last part is key, and something a lot of my contemporaries can't do. Too much of today's child-rearing seems to consist of telling kids that what they do is wonderful whether it's good or not.
My father never hesitated to challenge me. I remember lamenting how a professor marked me down for what I thought was a perfect essay. Instead of backing me up he read it through again and said: "It's not as good as you think. Take another look."
For most of his life he worked as a newspaper copy editor and those guys are ruthless in their work. You have to have a thick skin to take what they dish out. My dad gave me that ability and it's been incredibly useful to me. It is no exaggeration to say that I could not have written what I have without him and the quality of my work would be much lower without his guidance.
I may not amount to much as an author, but I've really enjoyed writing. It's a great way to pass the time and work through ideas and reflect on life. I couldn't have done it without my dad, though.