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.