The Steve Erickson Party

Last night Ed Champion and crew, which luckily included myself, went to a reception during the AWP conference in honor of Steve Erickson and his new book Zeroville.

I have to confess that I was somewhat obsessed with Erickson's work some years ago, so when I arrived at the building and saw the man walking up, before I could control myself I actually pointed straight at him and yelled "You're Steve Erickson!"

"Yes, I am," he said with good humor.

Later at the party I was able to grill him about some questions that had always bothered me. Specificially, "How can you teach at an MFA program when your own work is so idiosyncratic and wouldn't work in a workshop?"

He looked at me sadly, and said, "I know. And I tell my students that this might not be the best way to write something, I mean, can you imagine Faulkner dividing up his work into 15-page chunks for a workshop? It wouldn't make any sense. But you know, I was getting older and had a kid and I needed a job, and I liked the idea of teaching writing at an arts school."

And suddenly I had much more respect for the man.

I also met Kent Carroll who runs the publishing house Europa Editions which published Zeroville. Not knowing this, I asked him who he was. Turned out it was his apartment and his party. Who knew? (Well, everyone else.)

The interesting thing here is that Erickson used to be published by major presses and apparently they dropped him because he didn't sell. Which is mind-boggling to me because the man is fucking genius. But anyway, he went to a smaller press, Europa, with his new book, and it has been very successful. It looks like the classic example of a writer that the large houses just didn't know how to handle, while a small house who really believed in the work served the author much better.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Lethem showed up and I was about to point at him and yell "You're Jonathan Lethem!" but Ed thankfully stopped me. I then tried to start a completely groundless and spurious rumor that Lethem is gay. Let's be clear, Lethem is not gay. At least not in the traditional sense. However, I did go into the bathroom later and found Lethem in there dressed in nothing but a diaper, bib and bonnet, begging Kent Carroll to spank him. Carroll blanched and left the room, and Lethem turned to me, eyes wide and imploring. Well, let's just say after that he let me into his Fortress of Solitude and leave it at that...