Inspiration comes from many sources, I realized yesterday when I spent a most enjoyable half hour reading a new short story by T.C. Boyle, "A Death at Kitchawank" in the January 18, 2010 New Yorker. Boyle is amazingly prolific and, also almost always, blindingly good. I've been impressed by the way he is able to take small stories gleaned from modern life and transform them into something much bigger.
The story starts out like a view of life from the POV of a middle class woman, who lives with her family in a small all-year lake colony in New England. The way he gets in her skin is unusual for a male writer, and the contradictions of her life are engagingly presented from the sand that is trucked in to make the beach to her prejudices about her neighbors.
What got me as a writer, though, was the way the end of the story was perfectly believable yet seemingly inspired by a completely unrelated event, the accidental death last year of actress Natasha Richardson after a seemingly minor head injury.
How many storytellers read about Richardson, wondered what might be done with it, and then went on to other things because they didn't know how treat the celebrity circus which surrounded her death? Boyle, apparently, worked backwards from the accident, changed the circumstances and the sort of people involved, and came up with a very fine story about ordinary life.
PS. And then I read farther in the magazine to find Woody Allen's "Udder Maddness" which is also inspired by a news story, this one about killings by cows. From the sublime to the ridiculous or almost.