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Original Essays | June 20, 2014 1 comment
It's a wild and thundery night. Inside a ramshackle old manor house, a beautiful young girl lies asleep in bed. At the window, a figure watches... Continue »
Steve EricksonDescribe your latest project.
Zeroville is a novel about the Movies. It's not a "Hollywood novel," which is to say it's not a novel about making movies, but about the way movies have become part of our modern nervous system. The novel takes place over the course of the late sixties, the seventies, and the early eighties against the backdrop of a studio system in disarray, a new anarchy in filmmaking, and a punk culture in upheaval. The main character, Vikar, is described as "cineautistic" an ex-communicated theology student who may be a savant or socially arrested or just dim, arriving in L.A. on a bus from Pennsylvania on what happens to be the day of the Manson murders. On his head is tattooed the image of Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift from A Place in the Sun, "the two most beautiful people in the history of the movies, she the female version of him, and he the male version of her." After writing a short story that I wasn't entirely satisfied with for a McSweeney's anthology, I decided the novel should have the pop energy of a movie, told in a linear way, in the present tense, through the externals of action and dialogue and movie references, with jump-cuts from short scene to short scene and chapter numbers I stole from some Godard movie or another (Masculin Feminin?).
Scheherazade though maybe a little less talk.
Offer a favorite sentence or passage from another writer.
What is your astrological sign? If you don't like what you were born with, what sign would you change to and why?
Describe the best breakfast of your life.
What is your favorite indulgence, either wicked or benign?
Who are your favorite characters in history? Have any of them influenced your writing?
Aside from other writers, name some artists from whom you draw inspiration and talk a little about their work.
These are people who apotheosized some way of expression (Sinatra) or opened up my thinking altogether (Dylan), beginning with hearing Ray Charles when I was eleven, a white kid in a white-bread world for whom Charles was a revelation. Some of these people had an impact bigger than their virtues or flaws; yes, I know the Doors were pretentious and self-important but it didn't matter, they introduced me to an L.A. that made more sense to me than Brian Wilson's, even if they weren't as talented as Brian Wilson. Sometimes these people created a world so boldly their own (Cornell) as to challenge mine (Davis) or infiltrate it (Eno). Sometimes they embodied something a perfect rapture (Dreyer) or an insistence on meeting the world on their terms (Welles) or an outlaw existentialism that operated freely within given boundaries (Hawks). I know Van Gogh is a cliché of the consumed artist but he validates the cliché not only by his art but by the memoir into which cohered his letters to his brother; the letters illuminate not just his madness but his clarity. Dusty Springfield is the sexiest singer of all time; I swoon for her. She must bring out the latent homosexual in me until I think of Kim Novak, who haunts not only her movies but all the movies around her by way of the movies' Great Lost Scene, the one we never see, when James Stewart undresses her in Vertigo after she's thrown herself into San Francisco Bay. Hitchcock was disappointed with Novak; he wanted Vera Miles, who had the temerity to get pregnant. But fate had better taste in women than Hitchcock: Would the sight of Vera's naked body have produced the stunned hush of Stewart gazing at Kim in all her wounded carnality, the hush we never hear that transforms the film? Barbara Stanwyck was the movies' greatest rebel greater than Bogart or Brando because she was a woman in their male world, quietly living her rebellion while Katharine Hepburn was busy talking hers. Could or would Hepburn ever have played a character like Stanwyck's in Double Indemnity? Funhouse (the Stooges) is the greatest rock and roll album of all time, unless Astral Weeks (Morrison) counts.
Recommend five or more books on a single subject of personal interest or expertise.
Five Great Novels That Are as Nuts as Their Central Characters...
...by which I mean that the novels not only are driven by the insanity of these characters but that the insanity has seduced the novelist's vision and possessed it.
Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte (Heathcliff)
Moby Dick, Herman Melville (Ahab)
Against Nature, J. K. Huysmans (Des Esseintes)
Journey to the End of the Night, Louis-Ferdinand Celine (Bardamu)
Light in August, William Faulkner (Joe Christmas)
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Steve Erickson was born in Santa Monica in 1950, and has published seven novels and two books of nonfiction. Currently a teacher in the CalArts MFA writing program, a film critic for Los Angeles magazine, and the editor of Black Clock, he received a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation in 2007.