Hitler’s Pornographer


Here’s what they say at the Library Journal about Steve Erickson’s powerful but ultimately flawed fantasy of the Twentieth Century, Tours of the Black Clock:

Featuring the improbably named Banning Jainlight, a burly, brutish, cunning writer, this fast-paced narrative makes bold jumps through time and place as it moves from Pennsylvania to Manhattan to a 1930s Vienna in the violent throes of early Naziism. Here Jainlight plies his trade—pornographer to Hitler—and here he learns that “the black clock of the century is stripped of hands and numbers. It is a time in which there’s no measure of time that God understands.” While the book has the delicacy to give a fine portrait of an aging Hitler living out his life in an Italian basement, even sophisticated readers may be confused by the kaleidoscopic vision of our century. — Peter Bricklebank

I was one of those readers that regularly got confused, re-oriented the shifting narrative, and then proceeded to get confused all over again. When the author broke the narrative and reattached it to a different (parallel?) reality, I didn’t get lost as much as I imagined the fantasy taking a different direction. This is a terrible confession for me to make: I was attempting to re-write Erickson’s novel as I read along.

black clock

Erickson is a good writer but he sometimes creates narrative that he cannot adequately control and Tours of the Black Clock is probably a good example. An unfortunate result of the apparent overreach of the author is that what generally is a well-composed and very readable novel tends to get stuck in a muddy rut of plot complexity and narrative confusion.

Still Erickson is an entertaining read and I will keep trying his novels in hopes that he gets his act together and writes something truly great. But for now, be assured that anything by Steve Erickson will tickle your little gray cells.

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