RUBICON BEACH by Steve Erickson


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Here, Erickson (Days Between Stations, 1985) does a vague parroting of Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury, with the elusive girl, here Catherine (instead of Caddy), serving as an icon for human passion. We begin with the monologue of an idiot, Cale, recent parolee, who keeps seeing Catherine decapitating an unnamed victim. And finally we begin to learn just who this mystery woman is. Born in the jungles of South America, Catherine has one of those faces that haunts everyone, including herself ("". . .she was awakened in the middle of the night by something moving like a web across her eyes. . .she realized her face was alive. . .a large flesh spider attaching itself to her and spinning a web in her hair""). Through the course of the book, her painfully attractive face gets her: thrown out of her village, kidnapped by a river gambler, spared by midget cannibals, adopted by an archeologist, discovered by an actor, and taken in as an unpaid maid by a Hollywood scriptwriter. Of all the characters who run into Catherine, the scriptwriter, Llewellyn, has the hardest time. Unable to look Catherine in the face, he turns to poetry (""My love is like a red rose pose"") and thankfully dies before he can write more. Erickson's style can be virtuostic, but often pumps air into the void by elevating the obvious (Cale contemplates suicide: "". . .keys in a coat pocket, I had a contraband radio in the other. I might cast one or more overboard. I might or might not remove them from my pockets before doing so""), and at other times plays howlers on itself completely unawares (Llewellyn comes home to find his wife at the bottom of the stairs, visibly upset. ""She was shaking as she held the bannister. 'She's losing her grip,' Llewellyn said to himself grimly""). Undistinguished work.

Pub Date: Sept. 18th, 1986
Publisher: Poseidon/Pocket Books--dist. by Simon & Schuster