The Book That Changed Your Life: Lorimer Shenher

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      The Word Vancouver festival is preparing its 2018 edition with another genre-hopping and inclusive roster of authors, set to appear at venues around the city from September 24 to 30.

      The Straight asked a group of these writers to describe their most memorable and momentous reading experiences. Which books lit up their imaginations? Which ones struck a chord at a crucial time?

      Here’s what Lorimer Shenher told us. He’s the Vancouver-based author of the acclaimed memoir That Lonely Section of Hell. He’ll be reading from his work at 2:30 p.m. on September 30, in the Alma VanDusen Room at the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library.

      I devoured Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream as an eight-year-old who’d travelled through more than 40 States and watched nearly every minute of the Watergate hearings.

      My interest grew from a year in the early ’70s living in the United States. Twentieth-century American writers such as James Baldwin, Pat Conroy, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, John Irving, and Tom Robbins drew me into their web of family and societal dysfunction, leading me to focus on American literature in university.

      Thompson dizzyingly wove truth into quasi-fiction; themes of counter-culture hippie regret, drug and alcohol-fuelled marathons, figurative and literal impotence all exploded into fantastical tales hugely significant to me, a wannabe journalist and outlier.

      I was an already avid reader, but Thompson’s writing ignited my interest in journalism. I attribute my love of political writing, as well as the quirky and darkly whimsical, to Thompson. These surreal, peyote-powered adventures of his journalist protagonist (believed to be Thompson), assigned to cover a motorcycle race with his intrepid attorney through the American underbelly, illuminate a greater picture of American ugliness, the manifestations of which we are witnessing today.