There are three men whose writing has influenced me above all. On the surface, they make strange companions, but there are subterranean connections.
He was a Catholic priest turned social theorist, the author of institutional critiques such as Medical Nemesis (1976), Tools for Conviviality (1973) and Deschooling Society (1970). Those texts mark the height of Ivan Illich's public profile - and Deschooling inspired us to start School of Everything - but some of his lesser-known texts are closest to my thinking.
His later writings on the past and future of the university - 'Text and University' (1991), In the Vineyard of the Text (1993) and 'The Cultivation of Conspiracy' (1998) - offer a map for how we navigate the crisis of the institutions we have inherited. In addition to Illich's own books, David Cayley has published two volumes of interviews - Ivan Illich in Conversation and The Rivers North of the Future - while Lee Hoinacki and Carl Mitcham's collection The Challenges of Ivan Illich (2002) contains essays from many of his friends and collaborators.
The Marxist art critic of the New Statesman in the 1950s and 60s, John Berger made a remarkable TV series called Ways of Seeing (1972; also a book ), and when he won the Booker Prize for his fourth novel, G (1972), gave half the prize money to the Black Panthers as a gesture against the source of Booker-McConnell's wealth. I've written - in 'Death and the Mountain' - about the transformation of Berger's work from the mid-70s, when he settled in a village in the French alps, living and working alongside the last generation of peasants.
My entry into Berger's work came in The Shape of a Pocket (2001). Texts such as 'Steps towards a small theory of the visible', 'The Fayum portraits' and 'Correspondence with Subcomandante Marcos' hit me as a revelation. This was writing to steer by.
Besides the large Selected Essays (2001, edited by Geoff Dyer), these are some of the books I hold dearest among his large and diverse output:
Of these three masters, Alan Garner came first for me. Like many others, I grew up reading his early novels - The Weirdstone of Brisingamen (1960), The Moon of Gomrath (1963), Elidor (1965) - fantasies which, like William Golding's Lord of the Flies (1954), took the conventions of children's literature and struck off in another direction.
After that, years of near silence, until the emergence of Strandloper (1996), a dance with the traces of aboriginal culture in Australia and England; a retelling of the true story of a young man from Cheshire, exiled to Australia, who escaped the prison camp and spent the next thirty years living among an Aboriginal tribe.
Thursbitch (2004) travels further into the entanglement of people and place, and the continuation of wild beliefs and customs in the wilder corners of England, now in the 18th century.
There is also a collection of Garner's talks and essays, The Voice That Thunders (1997), which is itself a lesson in storytelling.