A couple of days ago I took my daughter to the bookstore for what I imagine will be the last time for a while. She browsed the “Teen” section, which is new for both of us, and picked out a few books.
I picked up The Complete Novels of Charles Wright, which collects The Messenger, The Wig, and Absolutely Nothing to Get Alarmed About. I’m generally not a fan of omnibus editions, but I’m not sure how easy it is to get a hold of The Messenger or Absolutely Nothing (the bookstore had another copy of The Wig, which makes me think it’s in wider circulation). This Harper Perennial edition has no introduction, and I’m not crazy about the no-contrast cover, but it’s got a nice texture to it.
I also picked up Steve Erickson’s debut novel Days Between Stations, in part because Thomas Pynchon blurbed it (even though I wasn’t wild about the last novel I read because Pynchon blurbed it, Wurlitzer’s Nog), and also in part because I’m a sucker for Vintage Contemporaries editions, especially ones with covers illustrated by Rick Lovell.
Here’s Pynchon’s blurb:
Steve Erickson has that rare and luminous gift for reporting back from the nocturnal side of reality, along with an engagingly romantic attitude and the fierce imaginative energy of a born storyteller. It is good news when any of these qualities appear in a writer– to find them all together in a first novelist is reason to break out the champagne and hors-d’oeuvres.
Pynchon also blurbed Jim Dodge’s novel Stone Junction (or wrote an introduction for it rather), which I’ve been looking for unsuccessfully for a while now—not because Pynchon blurbed it (which I only found out recently), but because I’ve heard it compared to Charles Portis. I was unsuccessful again this time.
I hope I’ll be able to get out of the house soon, but in the meantime I have more than enough reading material.
I mean, I’ve got my weird neuroses. Like I’m totally—I had this huge inferiority complex where William Vollmann’s concerned. Because he and I’s first books came out at the same time. And I even once read a Madison Smartt Bell essay, where he used me, and my “slender output,” and the inferiority of it, to talk about, you know, how great Vollmann is. And so I go around, “Oh no, Vollmann’s had another one out, now he’s got like five to my one.” I go around with that stuff. But I think, I’m trying to think of any example that …
Bell himself is an outpourer.
I think just: I haven’t read a lot of the new stuff that’s come out over the last few years. Like Steve Erickson, and Tours of the Black Clock—it’s really fucking good. I thought Bret Ellis’s first book, I thought it was very, very powerful. American Psycho—I thought he was really ill-served by his agent and publisher even letting him publish it, and those are the only two things of his that I read. But that’s, I think this is another danger: you get lavishly rewarded for that first book, and it’s gonna be very difficult for him ever to do anything else. I mean there’s gonna be part of you that just wants to do that over and over and over again, so you continue to get the food pellets of praise. It’s one more way that all this stuff is toxic.
Same risk for you?
Sure. Because whatever I do, the next thing will be very different from this. And if it gets reamed, then I’ll think: “Oh no. Maybe Infinite Jest II.” In which case, somebody needs to come and just put a bullet in my head. To be merciful. David Leavitt noose quote: Reviewers will use my first book as a noose to hang my second. I think it often is. Although the nice thing about having written an essentially shitty first book is that I’m exempt from that problem. There were a lot of people who really liked Broom of the System, but unfortunately they’re all about eleven.
From David Lipsky’s book-length interview/memoir Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself; the italicized interjections are Lipsky’s.