Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Steve Erickson, Days Between Stations (1985)

Steve Erickson, not to be confused with Stephen Erikson (note that C-less surname) who writes interminable fantasy series. Easy mistake to make. I bet people have ordered books by the former while looking for the latter and been confused as hell. Well. Erickson's interesting in that he's published ten novels, and every single one has an amazon description that makes me think WOW THAT SOUNDS COOL. Also, his first novel, this one, has a quite good blurb from Thomas Pynchon. However, I suspect Foul Play: go to Erickson's website and look under "contact," and you'll be directed to his literary agent, the Melanie Jackson agency. Huh. Why do I know the name Melanie Jackson? BECAUSE SHE'S PYNCHON'S WIFE, THAT'S WHY. What kind of sneaky quid pro quo is going on here, anyway? It'll disqualify him from running for President, if nothing else.

Okay, let's not be idiotic. I think the real reason I'd never read Erickson was because there was no obvious place to jump in.  But his excessive praise of that novel about oranges did nothing to dampen my enthusiasm, and now, I've just decided to start at the beginning. La. Days Between Stations is about a love triangle, sort of. There's Lauren and her constantly, matter-of-factly philandering husband Jason, who live in California. And then there's Michel, a Frenchman with amnesia who comes to visit his uncle on account of having nothing else to do. And it transpires that he's the grandson of an obsessive silent filmmaker named Adolphe Sarre; there's a lengthy flashback to his upbringing and his efforts to make film about the Death of Marat (a theme that runs through this book is that of a kind of hidden reality behind the apparent one. This is most clearly evident in Adolphe, and the way he thinks of film), which was never finished and is now legendary and lost. Oh, and also, in the novel's present, the world appears to be kind of ending in the background (this book would go in the elusive slipstream genre): power is intermittent, massive sandstorms assault California's cities, water is inexplicably drying up. This may or may not be one of them there objective correlatives with the emotional ebs and floes of the novel, but I think there's at least some sense in which it's actually happening.

This is one of those books that seems to resist analysis: what does the emphasis on duality mean? What if anything is the significance of the film's subject? But it's mostly pretty riveting anyway. I say "mostly:" the whole flashback sequence is just great; really compelling and interesting stuff. The present-day material is a bit of a mixed bag. There are so many interesting ideas and little weirdnesses here, but the thing is, as far as character goes...I'm not sure. I thought the triangle was the least interesting thing in the novel, and it's resolved in an annoying and unconvincing manner. That's what I think! But I don't want to let that overshadow everything else, because there is a lot to like here, and if you think I'm not going to read more of Erickson's novels, MORE FOOL YOU. This first one, at least, is definitely My Kind of Thing.



Anonymous Gabriel pontificated to the effect that...

Thanks for writiing this

6:38 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home