by Gabino Iglesias
Cody Goodfellow. Man, I don’t know what else to tell you people about Cody Goodfellow. I’ve interviewed him and reviewed his work because what he does is the kind of rare thing that actually deserves attention. If you don’t get it by now, you probably never will. However, I’ll give some of you the benefit of the doubt (hey, maybe you have better things to do than check out every little thing I publish) and say this again: if you’re not reading Goodfellow, you’re reading wrong. Anyway, enough from me.
GI: Who are you and what role do books play in your life?
CG: Books allow me to do and think and experience everything that I’m not.
So Cody wrote that as an answer, but he also sent me a short essay before I even sent him my questions. Here’s My Book Problem:
I have a book problem. If all the shit I’m driven to do could fill a room, I’d have to live in a mall, in a tent in the parking lot. I come from hoarders, but I can throw away anything but a book.
I started collecting books with my first trip to the library. Several years later, the library made me give all those books back and I moved onto the Scholastic monthly order form habit. Bunnicula, The Monster Club, Dynamite Magazine, The Shadow Over Innsmouth… I worked at the library in elementary and junior high, went on the annual bookbuying trips. In high school, I spent more on books than on drugs. And I really liked drugs.
The other day, I read a Harry Crews novel for the first time that I bought on impulse while standing in line to buy my textbooks my freshman year of college. I worked at Barnes & Noble for six years, and at Iliad, a righteous used bookshop in North Hollywood, for three, and I bought an armload of books with every paycheck. I self- published my first two novels with a buddy back in ’99 and ’03, so I still have a couple hundred copies of each in my garage and a cargo container on my parent’s lavish country estate down south.
GI: The house is on fire. You have a small backpack and three minutes to stuff it with your favorite tomes. Which books go in the bag?
CG: A signed Barker that he did a fantastic drawing in… My Arkham House Lovecrafts, that damn Lovecraft Centipede Press art book, the deluxe Secret Teachings Of All Ages, my Giger art books and a portfolio of my oldest daughter’s drawings… but by then, I’d be on fire, so fuck it, I’d just sit down and reread Wein-Wrightson-era Swamp Thing until I’m incinerated.
GI: You know words and stuff. I think reading’s for nerds. Can I write one of them novel things without reading books?
CG: The odds are against you, but if you’ve lived through a lot and you can imagine a story, then you can tell it. And if you can think about it coherently enough to tell it all the way through and don’t eat your own brain, then you may be a writer. And if you’re bigger than most readers, you might be able to make them read it.
GI: How many forbidden tomes are in your possession?
CG: All of them, I think. My first wife forbade all new books, so I had to disguise them as food.
GI: Why should everyone drop what they’re doing right now and go buy a copy of Repo Shark?
CG: It’s fast, it’s fun, it removes embarrassing stains from contoured sheets. Seriously, it’ll probably take you longer to read it than it took me to write it.
Wanna try to figure out everything you’re looking at in each pic? Here’s Cody’s guide:
Today, we’re only looking at the hardback library in my office and the stacks of mostly unread stuff I keep in here to annoy myself. The paperback and nonfiction aisles in the garage, where most of my shit is, are still in a state of chaos. As difficult as it may be to make out many of the individual titles, I had to rearrange a lot just to get at what you can see, and in so doing blocked off the door, so I’d finish the same day.
This isn’t everything I read or even a lot of it, but these are the things I care about and have buried myself with, so it’s safe to generalize that I love almost all forms of pulp more than life.
So… the office fiction shelves are maybe 1⁄4 of my hardcovers, but the stuff I like to watch slowly deteriorate in what little sunlight leaks into the room. In the first bay, A-G, you’ll see a lot of Bacigalupi, Ballard, Barker, Blaylock, Blumlein, Cain, Campbell, Crews, Dick, Eco, Ellison, Ellroy, Gaiman, Gibson and a lot of Hot Wheels cars.
On the second bay, things get messy, but if you can see past the action figures and novelty bongs and preschool tchotchkes, there’s a lot of Hodgson, Howard, Hunter, Huston, Jeter, a lot of (old, mostly good) King, Laidlaw, Lansdale, Leiber, Ligotti, and almost all the Lovecraft. The old selected letters are absurdly expensive, but opening one anywhere is like kicking in a cellar window and peeking into a haunted house.
McCammon, Mieville, Moorcock, Newman, Niven, Palahniuk and some Partridge in a Powers tree… Prominently displayed, you might notice the Manuscript Found In Saragossa that I said I was going to read for the Bizarro Central Summer reading list. It turned out to be more of an autumnal book. Right now, I’m rereading Hour Of The Dragon by Howard.
On the third and final bay, beneath my Halloween mask collection, a lot of Schow, Shepard, Shirley, Simmons, and then Clive Barker’s stupid bondage action figures get in the way. I kind of wanted to see if I left them there for several years, would their silhouettes get burned onto the faded spines. This experiment is far from completion. A lot of Michael Shea, Simmons, Clark Ashton Smith, George Browning Spencer, Stableford, Stephenson, Stross, Sturgeon, Thompson, Wagner and Wolfe. Cut off underneath, the anthologies runneth over, indifferent to posterity.
Sideshow attractions include the Really Huge Mound of Unread Graphic Novels, which takes up about 30% of my floor space. This seemingly unfortunate mess actually serves the vital purpose of hiding all my really special art books (nudge, wink, please kill me) from the hostilities of sunlight and the vice squad.
The graphic novel bays hold most of the comic books I have read, including a rather alarming set of EC and Warren reprints, all too many Marvel Masterworks volumes, and a pallet of Spectrum and Expose and Juxtapoz, for when even rudimentary sequential art becomes too mentally taxing. Also included is the nonfiction shelves of stuff I’m supposed to be reading for my next couple books. A lot in there about urban blight, private prisons,
mercenaries, the Great Depression and stage magicians. Up top, keen-eyed readers might notice my short reference shelf, including the dictionary my grandmother gave me for my tenth birthday, French and German dictionaries, Harms’ Encyclopedia Cthulhiana and the most invaluable tool in any writer’s box, Plotto.
So, I own my book problem. Meanwhile, my pioneering research into an effective way to smoke books continues apace…
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