cover image Amnesiascope


Steve Erickson. Henry Holt & Company, $23 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-3503-2

A postmodern flaneur in a spectral, futuristic L.A., the narrator of Erickson's foggy, metafictional fifth novel is a former novelist known only as ""S."" Self-absorbed, verging on paranoid schizophrenia, S delivers a sustained, often hypertheoretical monologue on the nature of cities and memory, on the compulsion to write and have sex and on particular movies and people who may or not be figments of his imagination. S's L.A. is a surreal city of ruins, divided into dozens of time zones and lit in concentric rings by official ""backfires"" meant to separate it from the ""new America"" to the east. S lives in a dilapidated art-deco hotel and works for a newspaper that operates in the bombed-out Egyptian Theater, but spends much of his time with his girlfriend, Viv (""my little carnal ferret""), trolling the bohemian demimonde-a fanciful realm of voluptuous prostitutes, tortured artists, drug addicts, strip joints and bookstores. What S ultimately seeks is love and redemption; yet he's trapped in a kind of psychological Mobius strip, as the city itself, the fires that consume it and the people who walk its streets appear to be nothing more than projections of his own musings on entropy and lost identity. Haunted by imagery from Erickson's previous novels (Arc D'X, etc.), this book's ravaged apocalyptic lyricism is finely tuned. Yet the futuristic scenario remains sketchy, and the plot, more a solipsistic slice of life than a full-blooded story, doesn't sustain enough urgency or novelty to make up for its lack of closure. Rights (except electronic): Melanie Jackson. (May)