Featured on Grab the Lapels

Eric was featured in the What Readers Keep column of the literary site, Grab the Lapels. Editor Melanie Page digs in deep to discover what Eric keeps on his bookshelf, what he’s currently reading, what he plans to read, his nod to contemporary women authors, and why his favorite books of all time will always have a space on his shelf. Here’s what Eric had to say:
The little slice of shelf you see pictured here is what I could throw together from the topmost boxes packed away in my father’s house, and those that were packed to accompany me to New Mexico. I’m on the road almost as often as not, so I’m constantly culling what comes along for weight, importance, comfort. This mix combines some of my absolute favorites and some volumes necessary for backup and researching my next book.

“I’m on the road almost as often as not, so I’m constantly culling what comes along for weight, importance, comfort.”

I haphazardly organized what I pulled alphabetically and by genre, something I never do when I have a real bookshelf. I prefer the High Fidelity autobiographical route, but that might look like a bit of insanity to you. From the top, you’ve got a section of nonfiction that I’m using for research, and the first evidence of my participation in the Year of Reading Women. I read Didion’s The White Album early this year (preferred Slouching Towards Bethlehem). Beside that is El Sicario, a terrifying volume edited by Molly Molloy, who is the brain behind probably the largest database of information on the drug wars in Mexico this side of the border. If you have any interest at all, look up Frontera List, which aggregates the news of the day on that subject. Ending the nonfiction section is Jesmyn Ward’s new memoir, Men We Reaped, which knocked me flat. Poetry begins and ends swiftly: Byron; my good friend Ricardo Zamorano Baez’s first chapbook, The Fields Darken With Silence; a joint effort from Donora Hillard and Zachary Bush called Covenant; and my favorite book of poetry by Jon Veinberg, The Speed Limit of Clouds.

Fiction, my favored genre, begins with a wedge of Southwestern-themed work, which really is the overarching theme of my shelves on the whole, and a large part of which are coming with me to New Mexico for research. I’m sad to report that Louise Erdrich’s The Plague of Doves is the only title of hers I could find on short notice. I adore her work. Last year I read The Round House, and it ranks fairly easily in the top two or three books of 2013, for me—and one of my top reads of all time. The Hemingway and McCarthy are constant rereads for me, Suttree in particular. Situated next to Suttree is Nina McConigley’s book of short stories, Cowboys and East Indians, which I’m eager to dig into, along with Melinda Moustakis’ similarly location-centric Bear Down, Bear North. Beside Moustakis is Breece D’J Pancake’s posthumous collection of short stories, which I can’t help but mention. Pancake was a tremendous talent, earning deserved but poorly-aimed praise comparing him to Ernest Hemingway. I recommend that everyone pick up this book. He’s not without flaw, but having written most of his work before 27, when he died, there’s no reason to blame him. Beside him is Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres, an incredible novel. I could fall into it over and over again. (Funny sidenote: I saw Smiley at the LATFoB, way back when, and she was on a panel with Susan Straight, another great writer and a professor of mine at UC Riverside. I had no idea who Smiley was, at the time, or I probably would have rushed the stage. Instead I kept wanting her to be quiet so I could hear my professor speak. (And sidenote two: beside A Thousand Acres would be my new novel, Above All Men, were I the kind of person who shelves his own novel, and were I not too lazy/busy to run out to the car to grab one of my copies.)) Another book I’m really looking forward to reading is Claire Vaye Watkins’ Battleborn, which has received all manner of praise. A tough book of stories situated in the desert? I’m in.

“Fiction, my favored genre, begins with a wedge of Southwestern-themed work, which really is the overarching theme of my shelves on the whole.”

It’s early in the year—well, early-ish (the latter half always seems to take longer)—and I intend on spending more time reading women through 2014, and of course thereafter. A friend of mine, Leesa Cross-Smith, has just put out her first collection of stories, Every Kiss a War, and that will be topping my post-research reading list. I’ve been recommended Jane Smiley’s The Age of Grief and Shirley Hazzard’s The Great Fire—which I keep seeing in odd places, probably an ignored sign that I need to read it immediately. I suspect I’ll remedy that problem after I once again pull my stakes, pack my things, and cobble together a new to-read pile.”

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