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Asking a Good Bookseller Friend of Mine, Becky, of The Book Frog, if She'd Ever Read any Steve Erickson

Have you ever read Steve Erickson?

What a mysterious and mystical marvel of a man -- or at least Steve Erickson, the writer -- he is. You should see what your bro, Tom Pynchon, wrote about his first novel, Days Between Stations, the one I'm deep into right now.  Pynchon has blurbed several of Erickson's novels -- and that's a feat unto itself.



Here's how Pynchon blurbed Erickson's first published novel:


"Steve Erickson has that rare and luminous gift for reporting back from the nocturnal side of reality, along with an engagingly romantic attitude and the fierce imaginative energy of a born storyteller.  It is good news when any of these qualities appear in a writer -- to find them all together in a first novelist is reason to break out the champagne and hors-d'oeuvres."
~ Thomas Pynchon (1985)


After having read so many interviews with Steve Erickson over the past month, and in talking to Alex Austin, who once worked with him at Westways (a surprisingly cool magazine to this day published by The Auto Club of Southern California) where they collaborated on punk rock concert reviews during that short-lived but gloriously iconic punk heyday along the Sunset Strip in the late '70s and early '80s, it's crystallized for me that Erickson is one of those singular visionary writers who have somehow flown under my reader's radar for far too long and who must be read now in published order from his first novel, Days Between Stations (1985), to his second, Rubicon Beach (1986), and on through the rest of his inimitable oeuvre -- Tours of the Black Clock (1989), Arc d'X (1993), Amnesiascope (1996), The Sea Came in at Midnight (1999, my favorite of the four novels of his I've read so far), Our Ecstatic Days (2005), Zeroville (2007), culminating in his latest, the soon-to-be published, These Dreams of You (Feb. 2012), to truly extract the most from his haunting writing, as his novels are so interconnected it's almost like he's been composing one long novel for the past three decades....  


Reading Steve Erickson from start to finish is a reading project I've just embarked upon for 2012, a year laden with potential apocalypse....  The impending apocalypse seems only apropos considering the apocalyptic content inherent in so many of Erickson's mesmerizing novels....


That Erickson writes almost exclusively about Los Angeles (not always, but a lot) -- and a decaying Los Angeles at that whose freeways are often empty, overrun as they are by encroaching sand dunes from the menacing Mojave Desert; an L.A. where strange springs gush out of manholes, creating impromptu lakes that appear overnight out of nowhere (read Our Ecstatic Days) and soon lap into the first floors and shaky lives of mystified apartment dwellers up and down Sunset Boulevard; an L.A. whose spooked and restless citizenry, moreover, experience constant blackouts, both of the space-time continuum variety and of the electric currency kind almost daily, and who in response to the internal and external native tumult, construct "moon bridges" out into these moonlit alchemical waters that have infiltrated their concrete lives, in fact flooded their lives to such interminable degrees that, in increments, as the intruding waters and even marauding sands erode entire neighborhoods and leave little behind in their inexorable wakes except for a palpable but unnameable aura of dread, the very essence of these residents morphs into century-old lives existing in the pre-Industrial age, people from some parallel past who've nevertheless lost their faith in the technology of a parallel future, and consequently seek altars or lovers to bow before, on their quests for answers and meaning in an incomprehensible parallel present laden with a subtle but unmistakable doom....


Paying homage to the moon on their homemade "moon bridges" helps these characters cope with the curious changes in their environments they can neither fathom or control; helps them, that is, better learn how to commune, maybe, with the forces greater than themselves; with the enveloping night that's falling all around them even in the muted light that remains, engaged in self-styled rituals that are neither madness or superstition for them, but some intrinsic spiritual exercise acknowledging, perhaps, the inconsequence of their humanity next to the always looming natural disasters and forces that are swiftly transforming their once ordinary and decadent Los Angeles realities, if not into nightmares per se, then into the sweetest of nightmares, addictive nightscapes they can't resist -- and that it's all mostly centered in the streets and clubs of Los Angeles just compels my interest even more, having grown up here in the L.A. environs and lived the dream-nightmare myself for so long....


What I've described doesn't even include the black cats that may have telekinetic powers in these, Steve Erickson's rabbit holes otherwise known as his novels (namely his first, Days Between Stations); these metaphysical cats that can communicate more than meows with certain select hyper-feline-sensitized individuals -- people maybe even you, the reader, know or vaguely recollect out of some can't-quite-place-the-memory or deja vu....


And then there's the clocks that have all stopped -- perhaps the most significant motif in understanding the artistic aims of Steve Erickson's novels -- so that time and space and life itself have all become interchangeable, interwoven, existing in the past, present and future simultaneously somehow ... in these magical and imaginative and evocatively stirring scenarios Erickson's character's lives unravel in that would have made a modern day Rod Serling proud, I'm convinced.  


What can I say more except that Steve Erickson is quickly becoming the most exciting, living writer I've yet encountered, since first bumping into the late great David Foster Wallace more than a decade ago ....

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