Want to write something that's both weird and gorgeous? That pushes the boundaries of storytelling and includes moving, relatable characters? Then you should read the masters of this odd not-quite-genre.
In an interview with The Millions, acclaimed author Karen Russell discusses her novel Swamplandia!, and lists her influences:
When writing Swamplandia! I ended up teaching Geek Love, this amazing novel by Katherine Dunn that I picked up in high school. It's a dark carnival tale about a family of actual freaks – it's just nightmarish, I've never read anything like it. I'm positive that if I hadn't read that book, Kelly Link's short story collection (Pretty Monsters) and George Saunders, that I wouldn't feel free enough as I do to write weird. They expanded my idea that you can have a literary book, a book that's interested in sentences and the poetry of language, and it can also have Arty the Flipper Boy or a Civil War ghost.
When writing the Kiwi sections of Swamplandia!, if I ever felt like the tone was off I would read Saunders because he always makes me want to write. He reads like he's having such a good time and I love his humor so much. I think you write better if you're reading good people.
Elsewhere in the interview, she also praises that Saunders manages to tell "moral, moving stories" with a setting that's "insane and absurd." [The Millions]