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ZEROVILLE by Steve Erickson

ZEROVILLE

By Steve Erickson

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2007
ISBN: 978-1-933372-39-6
Publisher: Europa Editions

Standards of verisimilitude don’t apply to this dreamlike novel of obsession and movies.

In 1969, Vikar Jerome arrives in Hollywood, a holy innocent of sorts, fresh from seminary studies and out from under his rigidly Calvinistic father. He’s recently seen his first movie, and one of his first reactions to this stunning experience is to shave his head and have images of Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor (“the most beautiful woman and the most beautiful man in the world”) tattooed on his lobes. We mark time in the novel by cultural events (Vikar briefly finds himself accused of the Sharon Tate murders when he’s holed up in a cave in Laurel Canyon) and by cinematic experiences, both films being released in the ’70’s (e.g., The Long Goodbye, Apocalypse Now) and classic movies (especially Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc) that Vikar catches in various art theaters around L.A. Vikar moves through many of these experiences much as a child would, for he has little knowledge of the mean streets of the city, but he also shows himself capable of violence, for one of his first acts is to hurl a food tray at a hippie who mistakenly takes the figures on his head for James Dean and Natalie Wood. Ultimately, Vikar finds himself rubbing elbows with an assortment of Hollywood denizens who seem like refugees out of a David Lynch film—he becomes obsessed with Zazi, young daughter of a star of lesbian-vampire movies—and he also winds up becoming an Academy Award–nominated editor with, needless to say, a quirky approach to montage. At the end of the novel, dream becomes reality when a disturbing image of one of Vikar’s recurrent dreams turns out to be a frame inserted into almost every movie ever made.

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.