6 books that inspired John Patrick Shanley

The Oscar-winner and Wild Mountain Thyme director recommends works by Knut Hamsun, Franz Kafka, and more

John Patrick Shanley.
(Image credit: Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images)

John Patrick Shanley won an Oscar for Moonstruck's screenplay and a Pulitzer for his stage drama Doubt. Wild Mountain Thyme, a movie he directed and adapted from his play Outside Mullingar, is currently in theaters and available on demand.

The Playboy of the Western World by John Millington Synge (1907).

This is one of the classic plays in the English-language canon, a drama about a young man who runs away from his family's farm and stumbles into a County Mayo pub claiming to have killed his father. It was the first play written in the actual speech of westernmost Ireland. It is also thrilling.

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Hunger by Knut Hamsun (1890).

Three decades before he won the Nobel Prize in literature, Hamsun wrote this semi-autobiographical work about a nameless young man in Norway. The novel takes us into the mind of a person who doesn't know where he fits into society and is struggling to figure that out. He reminds me very much of the character that Jamie Dornan plays in Wild Mountain Thyme.

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka (1915).

If you see Wild Mountain Thyme, you will understand why Kafka's Metamorphosis is such an appropriate companion read. As Gregor Samsa might attest, sometimes you wake up somebody different than you thought you'd be.

Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand (1897).

The tale of the large-nosed French cadet who lends his poetic talents to a handsome dullard in an effort to please his beloved Roxane is one of the classic, romantic, bigger-than-life tales of world theater. The feelings of the main character, that he is in some way deformed or inappropriate, transfer very tellingly to Wild Mountain Thyme.

Collected Poems by W.B. Yeats (1950).

Yeats, another Nobel laureate, is maybe the greatest poet ever generated by Ireland, and he was also a great champion of the theater. I turn to his cadences whenever when I write dialogue.

The plays of August Wilson

(Image credit: Getty Images)

August, who died in 2005, was a friend of mine, and he celebrated his roots to a degree that most of us can only aspire to. In his 10-play Pittsburgh Cycle and in his other work, he turned to his own experience of the places from which he sprang. His example was a beacon I found myself drawn toward as I adapted Outside Mullingar for the screen.

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