The cult section of the literary world

Show Me Your Shelves: Brian Alan Ellis

Say what you like about Facebook, but it’s a great place to meet awesome people. One day a book popped up on my feed. The title caught my eye: The Mustache He’s Always Wanted but Could Never Grow. It was written by a guy named Brian Alan Ellis. I reached out. He sent me a digital copy. I read it. It was funny and sad and a bit noir and somewhat bizarro and a hell of a lot of fun. Most importantly, it made me go “Who the fuck is this guy?” Anyway, I reviewed that book for Electric Literature and then stayed in touch with Brian. We haven’t shared a drink/night in jail combo yet, but we became friends because wrestling and books and humor and gnomes (especially Gnome Chomsky). Then he asked me to blurb his next book, and I did. Better yet, I asked him to show me his stuff. He did. Then he also showed me his books. And his bathtub. Anyway, here’s what he had to say and major props to the wonderful Christia Nunnery for the photos.

Who are you and what role do books play in your life?

My name is Brian Alan Ellis, not to be confused with Bret Easton Ellis, Brian Allen Carr, or Karen Allen ofRaiders of the Lost Ark-fame. Books are kind of my thing. I buy them, borrow them, give them away, smell them, chew on them, bathe with them, write them, publish them, etc. etc. I’ll even read them, from time to time.
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There’s a place where wrestling and literature meet. Tell us about that awesome place.

They meet on the corner of Know Your Role Boulevard and Jabroni Drive.

You seem to favor short stories over long novels. Do you hate Russians?

Actually, in my twenties, I read the shit out of Russians. I read all those motherfuckers: Gogol, Dostoevsky,Yuri Olesha, Mikhail Bulgakov, etc. etc. Chekov is my dawg, though. He’s def. one of my main short-story influences, so blame him. As far as novels go, I definitely own more short-story collections. The novels I’ve enjoyed are definitely few and far between. Nothing matches the power or beauty of a killer short story. I’ve gotten more out of reading a 500-word Lydia Davis story about socks than I have from many of those so-called “Great American Novels,” which are generally stuffy and longwinded.

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So what’s the longest novel you own?

The longest novel I’ve ever read was probably Something Happened by Joseph Heller (or maybe a couple of Céline books, I don’t know). Big fan of it. Would you believe that this is the only Heller novel I’ve ever read? I’ve never even finished Catch-22. It wasn’t dark or funny enough. Something Happened is the funniest, darkest book I’ve ever read. It kills all that spooky Stephen King-Halloween-monster shit. See also: The Demon by Hubert Selby Jr.  Also, also: The fattest book I own is probably The Essential Ellisonby Harlan Ellison; the tallest, Henry Rollins’s Get in the Van; the thinnest, Bring Me Your Love by Charles Bukowski (illustrated by Robert Crumb).

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What’s the title of your newest book and why should folks stop reading and go buy it right now?

Something Good, Something Bad, Something Dirty is my latest story collection. It’s so wild I had to give it three titles. Also, it comes recommended by you, Gabino. And everyone knows that your word is law, boss.

[Note: No books were seriously harmed in the making of this article.]

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Gabino Iglesias is a writer, journalist, and book reviewer living in Austin, TX. He’s the author of Gutmouth and a few other things no one will ever read. You can find him on Twitter at @Gabino_Iglesias

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