These Dreams of You, by Steve Erickson

The cover image is the young character wrapped in the American flag. The last word is “america.” The last paragraphs are a haunting hymn to the idea of America. Is my writing cliché?

I was drawn into the novel, with its cosmopolitan and literary sensibility. By the middle, though, I lost interest and started to be unable to escape thinking of it as a long whining story about two people making dozens, seemingly, of bad choices, wrapped in a vague ideological slant that somehow something has betrayed something. What? I found it incoherent, as I moved along. All on me though, because Erickson;s conceit is to fracture and loop, just like Joyce and Bowie?

A long digression on David Bowie and Iggy Pop in Berlin, as they are handled by a young woman who was a short-lived bestie of Robert Kennedy, was, however, tedious. Musings about being a white author with a Black character in his novel likewise popped up every so often, without going anywhere. Literary noodling about if you had a paperback version of Ulysses and went back in time, could you be famous like Joyce? A bit of forced coincidence and missed opportunities.

I am sure you could get your yarn, pushpins, corkboard, single-light-bulb room and make one of those connect the dots montages with the novel. Maybe someday I’ll change and think, “Wow isn’t that cool, that this character moving through time said this thing to that person.” But probably I’ll be more like, “So people say Low is a masterpiece and super revolutionary in terms of a narrow genre of pop music that a certain class of hipster listens to and we never would have had Gary Numan without Low? But honestly… I never really thought much of it.”

So if you really like literary novels, DeLillo/Pynchon style I guess, maybe this is for you. It wasn’t for me.

About mkevane

Economist at Santa Clara University and Director of Friends of African Village Libraries.
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