American Weimar, novelist Steve Erickson’s 1995 essay on threats to American democracy, has always been among Alec Baldwin’s favorite pieces of writing. But last year, when all of the chickens Erickson identified came home to roost, it became clear that the piece, and its author, deserved even closer study. Erickson warned, “Democracy cannot long navigate a sea of national rage. Untempered by rationale and open-mindedness, fury eventually consumes democracy rather than nourishes it.” Today, Americans look back on the 90s as a relatively happy time, but Erickson saw our increasing polarization and our unwillingness to make tough policy choices, and he saw where those failures could lead. Erickson’s updated observations are just as fascinating, and troubling, as the original essay. His latest novel, Shadowbahn, riffs on the same American themes. In funny and moving prose, it captures a fractured people, unable to overcome our troubled past but stubbornly holding out for redemption... as one reviewer put it, “a country with hellhounds on its trail but better angels just over the horizon.” Steve Erickson is a lot of novelists’ favorite novelist. Pynchon says he has a “rare and luminous gift;” Rick Moody says he’s in a league with Pynchon. Murakami’s a fan. David Foster Wallace (in a presumably rare lapse into cliché) deemed Erickson “the cream of the crop.”Erickson’s own novels employ a wild range of genres and narrative devices -- from the Hollywood farce Zeroville, currently being turned into a movie featuring Will Farrell, to the meditative Shadowbahn, a family roadtrip through alternate American histories, featuring Elvis’s stillborn twin brother. Erickson’s exuberant mashups feel natural and even spontaneous, but he is also a professor of Creative Writing, so in his other life he has the near-impossible task of teasing out and precisely naming the building blocks of great fiction. And he has to decide which books best model each one for his students.During Alec Baldwin’s conversation with Erickson on the latest episode of Here’s the Thing, he asked Erickson for the reading list he provides to his Creative Writing students at UC Riverside, matched to which writing-tool each one can help budding novelists master. Below (in the order in which it came), is that list. Unreliable Narrative: Wuthering Heights by Emily BrontëMixed Textual Media: Cane by Jean ToomerThe Interior Vision: To the Lighthouse by Virginia WoolfStructure: Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald & Light in August by William FaulknerVoice Driving the Narrative: Tropic of Cancer by Henry MillerLandscape as Character: The Sheltering Sky by Paul BowlesSocial Commentary Posing as Genre: The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler (crime) & Ubik by Philip K Dick (science fiction)Integrity of Worldview Posing as Anarchy: V. by Thomas PynchonFiction of Ideas: Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges, Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino, & The Names by Don DeLillo Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.comSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.