Steve Erickson’s Days Between Stations

Having only ever read The Sea Came In At Midnight and detect a fluid, yet discursive narrative style that I’m eager to see whether it casts across his writing in general.  The books were written fourteen years apart (published, rather, 1985 vs. 1999) and the narrative digressions are breezier with the earlier book.  There’s an amazing concatenation of character strands that fascinated me in The Sea Came In At Midnight (as much as it didn’t quite satisfy as a whole) that suggests a more mature writer.

Days Between Stations was his first novel, and I don’t mean to say the digressions are leaden.  Not at all, but it is certainly moored, another way to say made heavier, by a silent-film centered around the death of Marat.  The book centers around this, in multiple eras, and joins Paul Auster’s The Book of Illusions in a kind of sub-industry of novels dealing with faded, near, alternative, shadow stars from the early days of cinema.  (And both are pleasing in the same way.)

So, I came in expecting one thing, something along the lines of  to the well-travelled, skimming brevity of lonely yet vibrant lives and ideas of the later novel, and got something more dreamlike and strange.  This isn’t Erickson’s fault, although the title suggests road trips, discovering America, buttes and deserts.

The oneiric portions roll off me, however, and it feels he’s straining for affect.  The portions in the Paris brothel early on feel too cooked-up to be impactful, the digression with the Montreal youth and his father (and the flintlock!) too narratively frothy to sink in, and the Adrien/Michel, eyepatching, love triangle stuff too ungrounded to really sing to me.  (I remain a guy who hates to hear about other people’s dreams.)

This feels like apprentice-work, but unlike most novels of the kind, it’s far too assured and unique to be dismissed out of hand.  He remains a writer I find very intriguing and I look forward to reading more.

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