Another interview with Stephen Elliott

If you read this site regularly, you’ll know that I was blown away by Stephen Elliott‘s Happy Baby. It’s the best new book I’ve read this year.

In an interview with Craig Clevenger, Elliott reveals that Charles Bukowski was his first literary influence. Other influences include:

James Ellroy, who really started me thinking about the short sentence and the death of the adjective. He also appealed to me because he was so rhythmic. I used to write listening to loud music and you could actually tell, if you knew the song and were reading the page at the same time. That seems ridiculous to me now. I think I have a lot of old poems set to the tune of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond.”

Dennis Cooper, J.T. Leroy, and Michelle Tea all helped me to start thinking about writing sexually transgressive material, so were very important to Happy Baby. Tobias Wolff and Raymond Carver showed me the importance of staying in a scene, keeping a conflict or situation going as long as possible, keeping the actors in the room. So many young writers end their scenes too early. That’s why so many first books are “ensemble books,” because the writers haven’t learned how to stay in scene, yet. My favorite book is Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson. My second favorite is probably Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy, but Blood Meridian screws up my writing for weeks every time I read it….

Be sure to check out his desert island list. It includes some of my own favorites, namely Coetzee’s Disgrace and “all of Hemingway.”


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