After graduating from UCLA in 1993 with an economics degree, Erik Quisling wrote a book. An accountant by day, he wrote “The Angry Clam” in pen, photocopied it at Kinko’s and sold it to local bookstores.
The book, about a clam hindered by creative impotency searching for meaning in life, started selling out. Quisling began getting weekly orders for more copies. So he shopped it to publishers, told them of his success, and got a deal with Warner Books, officially publishing “The Angry Clam” in 1998.
“The Angry Clam” now appears as the first of three fables in Quisling’s newest title, “Fables from the Mud,” the other two fables follow an ant and a worm. Though they center around small subjects, the stories reflect the greater human experience.
“The books are really about a search for meaning in life,” Quisling said. “Ultimately, the underlying theme is the absurdity of taking life too seriously.”
The pages in “Fables” are unlike a typical novel, as they are mostly white space with small black and white line drawings and text in a handwritten style using all capital letters.
But while the pages appear simplistic in style, the book is philosophical in the way it deals with life experience. Quisling drew his ideas from his own experience as a UCLA student.
“The process of just being in school ““ you’re kind of under the gun to come up with a career choice ““ makes a person philosophical,” he said.
In the book, the invertebrates struggle through failed religious conversions, pseudo acid trips, and a race to suicide to find enlightenment. Yet Thomas Monteleone, Quisling’s publisher at Warner Books, asserts that the book has uplifting qualities.
“I think the book’s strongest point is that he appeals to your sense of humor as well as your intellect,” said Monteleone. “I think the artwork, obviously, is meant to be sublimated to the message and to the humor.”
Quisling found the humor from the very beginning with his inspiration for “The Angry Clam.”
“For some reason I woke up in the middle of the night with this idea of a ticked off clam in my head. And I for some reason thought it was extremely funny.”
While humourous, however, Monteleone believes that “Fables” targets a more intellectual crowd.
“I think it’s going to appeal to a lot of people who like literature and a lot of people who like philosophy,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to go over real big with people who don’t read. It’s going to go over less well with people who don’t think.”
Since “The Angry Clam,” Quisling has been actively writing. In 2003, he and writing partner Austin Williams combined their passions for writing and music with their book “Straight Whisky: A Living History of Sex, Drugs, and Rock “˜n’ Roll on the Sunset Strip,” also published through Warner.
“Everything just gives me something to pull from,” Quisling said. “It gives me a pool of information and experience that enriches my writing and makes it universally accessible.”
Quisling writes his offbeat characters with the hope that they will inspire.
“If I can make people think and laugh and be an inspiration for them to explore their own creativity and self-expression, then I feel my life will have served a good purpose.”