Do you love movies? Is your DVD copy of Lady From Shanghai at the front of your movie collection? Do you use Adam Sandler movies for coasters to protect your eclectic furniture from the annoying rings left by a vodka tonic? Do you have a scene from A Place In the Sun tattooed on your shaved head? Did your father look like Montgomery Clift? Before or after the automobile accident?
If you answered yes to any two of these questions, then you must read Steve Erickson’s novel, Zeroville (even if you scored a zero you should still read it).
First, if you remember L. A. and Hollywood in the Sixties, this book is full of fun remembrances (including the UCLA campus for any old Bruins out there). And the underlying theme of Zeroville is the movies. Erickson cleverly fails to name most of the films he includes but gives enough of a description or plot so that you will usually recognize them. For example:
… another steeple dream, no crazy nuns but this private-eye guy, in love w/ this girl he’s following who thinks she’s like this reincarnated chick, then she jumps off this old mission steeple & he thinks she’s dead, then he meets another girl who reminds him of the FIRST & theres more but the main thing is the private-eye is just really VERY FUCKED UP
Too easy, right?
The plot of Zeroville revolves around Vikar, a strange character who shows up in Los Angeles, goes to a lot of movies, has a deep interest in Montgomery Clift (and a tattoo too), befriends a few prototypical Hollywood types, gets involved in editing movies, and has a weird, reoccurring dream (Hint: the dream is also the quest).
This was a fun novel to read but it was also a serious psychological treatment so don’t expect to laugh-out-loud too much. Erickson is a smooth writer, shows a firm control of his narrative, and interests me more than enough to check iBook for further titles.
If you pick up Zeroville and flip through the pages you will notice that each episode, some as small as a single word, are numbered, going up to 227 where the author writes:
Vikar doesn’t know it, but everything now has been reset to zero.
and the episode numbering then counts down to the last entry, which is Number 0. Why? Is it like a film where the scenes are never shot in order but must be placed into the correct (or best) order by the editor? Vikar does emphasize the lack of causality in film where no scene depends of an earlier scene or sets up a later scene: all the scenes of a film exist at the same time. How does this theory relate to the novel?
Steve Erickson is a little younger than me, grew up in the Los Angeles I remember, and was educated at UCLA (like me) so there is (so far) a familiarity in his writing that I might appreciate more than, say, a reader from the Russian steppe. Still, Erickson was highly recommended to me years ago when I then read Arc d’X and I must agree, he’s definitely worth reading.
This is the bibliographical information from Wikipedia but I expect this author will be adding additional entries as the years go along:
Days Between Stations (1985)
Rubicon Beach (1986)
Tours of the Black Clock (1989)
Arc d’X (1993)
The Sea Came in at Midnight (1999)
Our Ecstatic Days (2005)
These Dreams of You (2012)
Leap Year (1989)
American Nomad (1997)