on life, music etc beyond mainstream


Martina’s kind invitation to enter the worlds of Steve Erickson


In 2018, Steve Erickson is interviewed and asked to name a single theme that all of his books have in common. „Um …“ he says with a laugh, pauses. Then he continues: „Chaos. The chaos of the world, the chaos of time and place. The chaos of sex and the self, of nature and the quadrants. Of memory and what it means to remember.“ Steve Erickson’s third novel, Tours of the Black Clock, published in 1989, begins by quoting William L. Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. It recounts a detail of Hitler’s private life. In the late 1920s, Hitler loved his niece, Geli. At the end of the summer of 1931, the arguments between the two of them became more and more violent. Geli committed suicide. Hitler was inconsolable for months. Like Erickson’s other books, Tours of the Black Clock borders on the disjointed. As one crosses the twentieth century, one is lost in time and space. Reference points have disappeared. Vienna is flooded. Critics have mentioned postmodernism, magic realism, science fiction, surrealism, and mythology, but no label fits. Erickson’s work builds a consciousness of its own. It is not part of our common logic thinking systems. Where in the universe am I? Some chapters are written by an omniscient narrator, but large parts are written in the first person. Then that person changes identity, so you have to rethink the perspective. Some characters die, but they reappear later. You feel a chill under your skin from the subtle color palette: Herds of silver buffalos are on the move, destroying everything in their path. A boy with natural white hair. A girl in a blue dress. Dancing. She danced and men died. A blueprint rolled up in an old saddlebag. The map of a family home, the map of the 20th century. Banning Jainlight is born in 1917 and turns out to be precocious and addicted to sex when he grows up. He destroys his home, travels to Europe, Paris, Vienna, Berlin. He writes extraordinarily successful pornographic stories, well paid. Some of his clients make special demands on the staff of the stories. One of his clients is Hitler. However, his name is never mentioned in the novel, so as not to confuse a fictional character with a historical one. Hitler ends up in an Italian prison and manages to escape as an old man. Toward the end of the book, the radio in the motel does not work. In all of Erickson’s novels, there are deep experiences of love. And there’s a fundamental, unbearable loss. Tours of the Black Clockis the darkest of Erickson’s novels that I have read so far. However, The Sea Came in at Midnight, Rubicon Beach, and Amnesiascope are also pretty dark stuff. Actually, I started reading Tours of the Black Clock around three years ago, I got stuck on it, and it took about half of the book to get to the point where I couldn’t put it down. In contrast to Amnesiascope, there is almost no dialogue, and I don’t remember any of those kinds of reflective sentences that you can think about in a general way beyond the lecture. Most of the novel is narration, which makes reading a bit monotonous. Still, you end up having experienced a unique kind of depth. From a daytime perspective, the novel makes no sense. But our nocturnal side understands it completely.





This is my first reading impression of Tours of the Black Clock, on April 29th 2020.
This is my review about Amnesiascope (04-20-2018).
For Michael’s radio show I translated a piece from Amnesiascope into German.
My reading process of „Das Meer kam um Mitternacht“ (The sea came in at Midnight) was paused even for 12 years. I wrote about the reasons here, more than 8 years ago.

In a  way, I’m addicted to Erickson’s world, because of the way he deals with time and space. The next book I’m going to read is Zeroville. Journalist Jim Knipfel summed it up this way: „God hides a secret movie in every movie ever made.“ (From: Conversations with Steve Erickson. Edited by Matthew Luter and Mike Miley)

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