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.
As it opens, Kristin, who appeared in Sea, is a former rough chick made tender by motherhood. She lives in a hotel with her young son Kirk (short for Kierkegaard), on the edge of a lake (called Lake Zero, as in, you know, Ground Zero) that suddenly appeared and overtook much of downtown Los Angeles at the turn of the millennium. Mysterious letters arrive, addressed to a woman named Kristin, whose author may be a Chinese man once photographed standing in front of a tank in what is likely Tiananmen Square. He refers to his lover as his “labial jewel.” Kristin somehow discovers that the intended recipient may be another, older single mother also named Kristin who lives a gondola ride across the lake from her. Then one evening, obsessed with the idea that the lake will take her son from her, Kristin rows into the middle of it and dives down. Soon thereafter, a woman emerges on what (may) be the other side of the lake: she calls herself Lulu Blu, works as a dominatrix at the Chateau X, and has as a client a Chinese man (his e-mail address: Falsemartyr@4june89.net) who has memories of being a woman named Kristin—a woman who lost her young son. There’s also a phantom daughter named Bronte who emerges in several guises and a cipher who announces, “The Age of Chaos is here.” No kidding. And the moment Kristin dives into the birth canal of the lake, on page 83, a single sentence begins that runs through the middle of every page of the novel thereafter up until page 313. Not surprisingly, it’s supremely difficult to figure out what is actually going on.
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.