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(Credit: Tore Sætre)


From Carl Jung to Kurt Vonnegut: Father John Misty's favourite writers of all time


It’s not often that a songwriter in the mould of Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen comes into the mainstream and makes a timeless impression. Since his first album Fear Fun, it is clear that Father John Misty is a literary sort of man who operates in a similar vein as the two giants above. The indie singer has frequently covered Leonard Cohen and has not been afraid to explore the intersection where songwriting and great literary works collide.

In various songs and interviews over time, the singer has divulged some of his key influences on his lyric writing. Growing up, the singer had a healthy reading habit, starting with the great Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse — his favourite book at 13. His lyrical voice comes from a discerning mind and a watchful, perhaps at times, cynical eye. He has referenced Albert Camus‘ The Stranger as a heavy influence, including Nietchze — two significant existential writers for much of the indie world.

This should come as no surprise as his writing, especially on his album Pure Comedy, are philosophical musings but sharp critiques of the absurdities of humankind. Mr Tillman hints that he is seeking a greater purpose to life, nothing that the naked eye can see, instead we have to go through life’s hardships and make ourselves vulnerable to its mysteries.

Through his moniker, ‘Father John Misty’, Joshua Tillman is able to expose and make his keen observations. As Oscar Wilde once said, “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.” In an interview with, the singer explains his chosen moniker: “Misty, is a horny, drunk, shamanic drifter character offering you a cup of his home-brewed ayahuasca tea.”’

Father John Misty quotes Octave Mirbeau’s 1899 decadent novel, The Torture Garden, in the liner notes of Fear Fun. The French novel is an allegorical critique of the hypocrisies of western civilisations; when the excess of debauchery, as a result of boredom sustained from “refined” living, goes to the extremes, what you get are corrupt politicians and a possessed young woman who loves to frequent and make love at exotic Chinese gardens where plebians and criminals are senselessly tortured.

The surface is pretty, but take a more in-depth look inside, and you will find the ugliness. This is precisely what the songwriter in a lot of his songs, intends to accomplish, as any great writer should.

While Father John Misty’s proverbial “gun” is loaded with plenty of literary ammunition, what is his execution like? It is one thing to possess the knowledge of great works, but having the pristine voice of honesty and poignancy, is another thing altogether. Among the singer’s favourite poems, include Charles Bukowski’s The Genius of the Crowd. In a series of Twitter rapid-fire posts back in March of 2017, John Misty tweeted ‘@JamesBarneyB my favorite poet is Frank Stanford.’

See the full list, below.

Father John Misty’s favourite writers of all time:

  • Victor Hugo
  • Herman Hesse
  • Graham Greene
  • Vladimir Nabokov
  • Shusaku Endo
  • Flannery O’Connor
  • Carl Jung
  • Sigmund Freud
  • Slavoj Zizek
  • Waylon Jennings
  • Douglas Hofstadter
  • Colson Whitehead
  • George Saunders
  • Octave Mirbeau
  • Jean-Paul Sartre
  • Martin Heidegger
  • Plato
  • Charles Bukowski
  • Alan Moore
  • Philip Roth
  • Ray Bradbury
  • Alejandro Jodorowsky
  • Norman Mailer
  • Paul Bowles
  • David Foster Wallace
  • Friederich Nietzsche
  • Albert Camus
  • Joseph Campbell
  • Susan Sontag
  • Neil Postman
  • Robert Crumb
  • Gary Larson
  • Cathy Guisewite
  • Alan Watts
  • Leonard Cohen
  • Leonard Schlain
  • Carl Wilson
  • Frank Stanford
  • George Bataille
  • Henry Miller
  • John Higgs
  • Nick Cave – The Sick Bag Song etc.
  • Jeremy Narby – The Cosmic Serpent
  • Brian Jay Jones – The Jim Henson Story
  • Walker Percy – The Second Coming
  • Miles Davis – autobiography
  • Valerie Solanas
  • Nadja – Andre Breton
  • Legs McNeil
  • Sylvia Simmons
  • Jonathan Franzen
  • Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • Samuel Beckett
  • John Steinbeck
  • Soren Kierkegaard
  • Terrence McKenna
  • Murray Bookchin
  • Michael Chabon
  • Michael Foucault
  • Douglas Adams
  • John Fahey
  • Simone De Beauvoir – The Ethics Of Ambiguity
  • Aziz Ansari