27 April 2008

Great answers to a favorite question

Carolyn Kellogg interviews Steve Erickson (author of the amazing Zeroville) in preparation for this weekend's LA Festival of Books:
Jacket Copy: In "Zeroville," your most recent novel, movies shape the way the main character perceives the world. Are there any books that do the same for you?

Steve Erickson: I'm not sure there's a difference between books that affected the way I see the world and books that influenced me as a writer. The first books I remember having an impact on me when I was a kid were L. Frank Baum's "Oz" books, which were much stranger than the movie, at once rather whimsical and really dark. Later Faulkner's novels made sense to me for the way time was never literal, the way it seemed hot-wired to memory rather than experience, and Henry Miller's early work was revelatory for the way it so willfully assaulted all the formalist notions about literature that get taught in English classes. There was something very punk about Miller's juxtaposition of the transcendent with the primal, the sky with the gutter. When I was 25, during one scorching summer when I was house-sitting for a buddy, I read Emily Bronte's "Wuthering Heights." Dostoevsky is considered the first "modern" writer, but I vote to Emily -- one of the most subversive novels ever made, with a sexually obsessed main character whose object of desire is a dead woman, an utterly unreliable narrator, a structure built on a psychological interior that shifts like a house with moving walls. I had fever dreams that whole month. Gabriel Garcia Marquez influenced me for the way he applied Faulkner to his own landscape. All of these books, I think, were most influential in that, as far-flung as they were, there was something in them I instinctively recognized, something about them that confirmed what I already knew about the world but didn't know I knew.

1 comment:

Utah Seo said...

I stayed up until 1 a.m. last night finishing "Zeroville." Two concepts which struck me the most were, one, that God hates children, and two, that the doorless church is to keep you in, not out.

Having grown up in a staunchly Mormon family, even serving a two year mission for my church - at my expense - I especially resonate with these concepts. In all of the religious studying I have done, it has never occurred me that it is always the children that suffer. Isaac at the hand of Abraham, Pharaoh in Egypt's own son and the sons he sent his soldiers to murder, God sending his own son to suffer, and so on. In word, who can possibly believe in a god who demands a father murder his own child.

When someone is raised in a particular religion, told repeatedly that it is the only true church (as was my case in Mormonism) , it is almost impossible to get out. Not the organization per se, although that is challenging because they just don't want to let you go, but the idea of God, Heaven and Hell, the years and years of brainwashing that has been drilled into your head since childhood. It takes a long time for the guilt to go away. Not the guilt that now you are doing things that we strictly forbidden by the organization, but the guilt of wondering if you were wrong to leave that organization, if it were right after all. If you have turned your back on god. It's the notion and existence of god that is hard to get out of.