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.
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: