Books by Steve Erickson

SHADOWBAHN by Steve Erickson
Released: Feb. 14, 2017

"Think Philip K. Dick on smoother acid and with a more up-to-date soundtrack, and you've got something of this eminently strange, thoroughly excellent book."
The sleep of reason produces monsters, said Goya—including monsters of architecture and history that meet, most uneasily, in the pages of Erickson's (These Dreams of You, 2012, etc.) latest. Read full book review >
THESE DREAMS OF YOU by Steve Erickson
Released: Jan. 31, 2012

"With this book, set against the backdrop of Obama's ascendancy to the presidency, Erickson weaves a complex and imaginative literary tapestry about family and identity."
In Erickson's (Zeroville, 2007, etc.) latest, the lives of Zan and Viv have imploded in the wake of their adoption of Sheba, an Ethiopian toddler "supernaturally cognizant beyond the span of such a short life." Read full book review >
ZEROVILLE by Steve Erickson
Released: Nov. 1, 2007

"A novel that will especially appeal to cinephiles, for Erickson (Our Ecstatic Days, 2005, etc.) makes more allusions to film, starting with his Godard-like title, than perhaps any novelist you've read."
Standards of verisimilitude don't apply to this dreamlike novel of obsession and movies. Read full book review >
OUR ECSTATIC DAYS by Steve Erickson
Released: Feb. 1, 2005

"Ecstatic disorientation is the trademark of Erickson's work but, despite the labor involved in connecting each glimmering strand, his latest effort itself rarely adds up to more than a beautiful ash heap."
Erickson continues to ruminate on the millennial obsessions that preoccupied him in The Sea Came in at Midnight (1999), this time in a lush, profoundly disorienting story saturated in metaphors of birth and apocalyptic decadence. Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1999

38097766.499 Erickson, Steve THE SEA CAME IN AT MIDNIGHT A sometimes disorienting novel from Erickson (American Nomad, 1997, etc.) weaves together the lives of a handful of people confronting the millennial apocalypse both personal and cosmic. Set mainly in Los Angeles and Paris over the course of four decades, from the "50s to the present, the story displays Erickson's trademark obsession with underground, unnoticed lives and the ways they are conducted. He assembles a dozen or so chronicles of extremity, the central one belonging to Kristin, who at the last minute drops out of her role as the 2,000th participant in a strange cult's New Year's Eve 1999 mass suicide. Landing in Tokyo, she works as a "memory girl," hired to listen as patrons tell the stories of their lives. (These need to be told because Japan's collective memory has been evaporating since the Emperor abdicated his divinity in 1945.) Left with some empty time when a client expires one evening, Kristin begins to tell her own story, which involves poverty, trauma, and nearly a month of uninterrupted nudity in an empty house. The house belongs to "the Occupant," who meets Kristin through a personal ad and introduces her to the Apocalypse Calendar, his own strange creation establishing a new schedule for the millennium based on the idea that the catastrophes that go unnoticed (e.g., assassinations in the developing world) are highly relevant, while the high-profile catastrophes that most of us hear about (say, the shooting of President Reagon) are trivial in the grand scheme of things. The calendar tells the story of the Occupant's life, which folds into the lives of Mitch, Marie, and other equally alienated souls. In this haphazard collective biography, occasionally powerful epiphanies glimmer amid the cultural junk cluttering the social trash-heap through which these characters walk. Yet the distractingly complex plot sometimes doesn't even make nonsense. And the taste for a naked young woman's spiritual rejuvenation during sexual intercourse performed on her as she dangles blindfolded from a rope is, undoubtedly, an acquired pleasure. Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 1997

Fired from his job covering the 1996 presidential campaign for Rolling Stone, novelist Erickson (Amnesiascope, 1996, etc.) decides to stay on the candidates' trail and comes to some sobering conclusions about our country and its political legacy. Erickson attacks left, right, and center with equal abandon. Part rant and part serious analysis, often hysterically funny, American Nomad argues in a variety of ways that we have, in routinely choosing style over substance in our politicians, sold our Jeffersonian birthright for a mess of pottage. Take, for instance, his ``Sane Man/Crazy Man'' theory of electoral politics, wherein the most sane candidate wins the primaries, only to be defeated by the crazier candidate in the general election. This can get tricky, Erickson concedes, as in 1960 when the presidential race involved ``two undisputed psychotics.'' Erickson applies the same scrutiny to himself and to a palpably neurotic Jann Wenner, to whose caprices Erickson is subject until he is finally sacked. Deciding to stay on the campaign trail, Erickson becomes an American nomad, but this moniker carries a heavier connotation. It also represents those who are ``possessed by their country's dangerous fever and estranged from their country by that fever.'' Fellow travelers, in this sense, would include (according to Erickson) Whitman, Elvis, Nixon, and Philip K. Dick. A peculiar but ultimately rewarding digression on Nixon has Erickson playing with the reality of the last 17 years, suggesting an alternate universe where Carter has won reelection in 1980, and a slew of successors, including Ed Koch, have brought the country to even greater ruin. If American Nomad ranges widely (and wildly), plenty of actual election coverage, from the New Hampshire primary through the general election, is also mixed in. Erickson's saga operates brilliantly as both a political chronicle and a zany memoir. (Author tour) Read full book review >
AMNESIASCOPE by Steve Erickson
Released: May 1, 1996

The resident surrealist of L.A. (Arch D`X, 1993, etc.) uncorks a magnum of post-apocalyptic champagne: a long New Year's Eve of the Soul (sex, drugs, paranoia) that turns into a rather flat confessional about the life of a writer who bears more than a passing resemblance to the author himself. In previous novels, Erickson took a flier on a certain kind of sexy, psychedelic, futuristic surrealism, and this one starts no differently—in a Los Angeles post-Quake, post-Riot, post-New Paragons (a Gingrichian politician movement). For the first quarter of the book, we follow the narrator as he makes a hedonistic playground in the ruins of the city, which is ringed by nightly backfires—the ultimate Angeleno driving challenge. While out picking up strippers and gorgeous creatures of the night with sculptor-girlfriend Viv, he riffs incessantly in a Chandleresque voice. But, as the title hints, this is a story about memory, chiefly the narrator's recountings of countless couplings, sexual predations, and one lost love, Sally. At times this James Cain-like sexual heat is enough to drive a reader onward, and the author's intention to paint a portrait of L.A. through its women, Ö la Durrell's Alexandria Quartet, is certainly a goal worth shooting for. But an abundance of tired subplots—will the editor of the narrator's hip newspaper be fired? what is the mystery about the impossibly lovely Jasper's father? will the little hooker ever move out of the narrator's apartment?—come off as sketches, their deadly flatness reeking of autobiography: ``Last time I caught a glimpse of my career as a novelist, before it disappeared altogether in the dark.'' Erickson is the Martha Stewart of decadence: When he's on, nobody does it better. But in this sortie, despite a number of classic riffs, he seems to be running short of material. Or perhaps it's just the competition provided by an increasingly surreal America. Read full book review >
ARC D'X by Steve Erickson
Released: April 1, 1993

A bold and occasionally brilliant interpretation of American history—but marred by a too obvious cerebration that numbs, turning original ideas into mere conceits. Appropriating the rumored liaison between Thomas Jefferson and the slave Sally Hemings, Erickson (Tours of the Black Clock, 1989, etc.) makes that relationship not only a recurring event in the following centuries but uses it as a metaphor for a conflict between the heart and history. For Erickson, this relationship personifies Jefferson's inability to separate history—the need to further human freedom—from the ``pursuit of happiness''—the needs of his heart. This, the novel suggests, is the same conflict that has also shaped America's destiny. And beginning with Jefferson's childhood memory of a slave burned at the stake and ending as the millennium threatens cataclysmic disaster, this conflict is repeatedly reenacted and dissected. In settings that include revolutionary Paris; a sinister city-state ruled by the Primacy; and a millennial Berlin abandoned by most of its inhabitants, characters resembling the original lovers repeat their first encounter. There's a rape that becomes a lasting but flawed love reminding Jefferson of his dereliction of ideals, and Sally of her connivance in her continued enslavement. All encounters, whether in the Fleurs d'X, a bar in the red-light area of the Primacy, or in a deserted Berlin hotel are explorations of the intersection—the arc of x—between ``history's denial of the human heart,'' on the one hand, and, ``on the other, history's secret pursuit of the heart's expression.'' Which makes for relentless intellectualizing and even more constrained characters as America and the lovers never quite resolve their destructive contradictions, and the ``pursuit of happiness'' remains ``the most forbidden artifact of all.'' Much fine writing and many provocative ideas, but nothing connects—ever—even at the many proffered intersections. Clever but cold. (First serial to Esquire) Read full book review >