With the winner of the Booker Prize due to be announced this evening, Radio 4 ran a little piece this morning in which each of the shortlisted authors spoke of their literary inspirations. It was all pretty routine stuff - except when it came to Joshua Ferris, author of To Rise Again at a Decent Hour ('an investigation into doubt, belief and the importance of flossing'). His inspiration? Ralph Waldo Emerson, no less. He quoted some lofty utterance of the great man that had apparently convinced him of his literary vocation.
I must say, of all the names I expected to hear in this context, R.W. Emerson was about the most unlikely. Isn't this about on a par with an English writer naming Herbert Spencer as his inspiration? Or is Emerson still a living presence in American literary culture?