19 July 2018

‘Bang: Crudo was born’: five books that inspired Olivia Laing's debut novel

Posted by Olivia Laing

Our Author of the Month for July, Olivia Laing, introduces her debut novel Crudo via the works that inspired it.

After Kathy Acker by Chris Kraus
I read Chris Kraus’s biography of Acker in Italy last summer and was very struck by her account of how Acker appropriated other people’s books, putting them into the first person and transforming them utterly. What would happen if I appropriated my own life and times, I wondered, and put them into the Kathy Acker person? Bang: Crudo was born.

Kathy Acker
Five years ago I might have said Kathy Acker was a thrilling writer from a very different time. Not now. She reports on a fractured, frightening world, her themes are terrorism, misogyny, abortion and hyper-violence. She speaks to us directly.

Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood
In Goodbye to Berlin, Isherwood combines the story of his own sexual liberation with a cool, chilling account of the rise of the Nazis in Berlin. The collision of the public and the private, the way the domestic continues even during times of grotesque violence: this was exactly what I wanted to get at with Crudo.

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
The question of how to write about the present moment drove Woolf throughout her career. How to catch it, in all its inconsequentiality and bafflement, to avoid the temptation of arranging random matter into narrative, to allow the chaos and unknowability to remain visible, even if it seems messy or confusing? Now: that’s the thing, ghosted by the past, full of terror about the future, the moment as it happens.

Three-Month Fever by Gary Indiana
People keep calling Crudo auto-fiction but I prefer non-fiction novel. There are plenty of extraordinary precedents, from Truman Capote's In Cold Blood to Born Yesterday: The News as a Novel by Gordon Burn. My pick of the bunch is Gary Indiana’s lapidary, viciously honest account of the Versace murderer, Andrew Cunanan. What really happened: so much weirder and more interesting than making it up.

Olivia Laing is our Author of the Month for July. Read more about her work here.