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AMNESIASCOPE by Steve Erickson

AMNESIASCOPE

By Steve Erickson

Pub Date: May 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-8050-3503-6
Publisher: Henry Holt

 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.