Pete's picture
Pete from Detroit is reading Red Dragon March 1, 2012 - 6:50am

'These Dreams of You' by Steve Erickson

Discussion has officially started for this selection!

Synopsis:  One November night in a canyon outside L.A., Zan Nordhoc--a failed novelist turned pirate-radio DJ--sits before the television with his small, adopted black daughter, watching the election of his country's first black president.  In the nova of this historic moment, with an economic recession threatening their home, Zan, his wife and their son set out to solve the enigma of a little girl whose body is a radio, broadcasting a future rhythm & blues that circles the sphere of time.  Scattered across two continents, the family meets a mysterious stranger with a secret who sends the story spiraling forty years into the past, from '60s London to '70s Berlin, from the ground zero of civilization to a New World mid-air in its leap of imagination.

About the Author:  Steve Erickson is the author of nine novels and two books about American politics and popular culture that have been published in ten languages. His work has appeared in publications such as Esquire, Rolling Stone, and the New York Times Magazine. He currently is the film critic for Los Angeles Magazine and the editor of the literary journal Black Clock, which is published by the California Institute of the Arts where he teaches. He has received a Guggenheim Fellowship and the American Academy of Arts and Letters award in literature.

It's been a long time since I've read any of Steve Erickson's books.  It's one of those things where I've been meaning to, and then I end up reading something else.  So I'm really excited about this one.

Discussion has officially started for this selection!

Order the book here!

Read our interview with Steve Erickson

So yeah, get to reading!

 

wickedvoodoo's picture
wickedvoodoo from Mansfield, England is reading stuff. March 1, 2012 - 7:40am

This is the next book I need to buy then eh?

Hmm, you are on a roll Pete, another author I haven't read before but have heard plenty of good things about. I hear this is quite a departure from his usual style. If that is the case, then which other novel should I check out by the guy? What's his best book? It sounds like it might be worth reading a couple by him before deciding if I like his stuff.

Pete's picture
Pete from Detroit is reading Red Dragon March 1, 2012 - 8:17am

Well after this one of course - I would say to read his stuff in order.  So grab Days Between Stations next.  :)

J David Osborne's picture
J David Osborne from Portland, OR March 1, 2012 - 3:18pm

Started reading this a few days ago.  It's real good.

OtisTheBulldog's picture
OtisTheBulldog from Somerville, MA is reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz March 1, 2012 - 3:26pm

Nice - I believe I'll join in on the fun for the first time since joining the community. This is something that wouldnt of come across my radar so I'm looking forward to it. 

.'s picture
. March 5, 2012 - 11:56pm

Arpil?

Pete's picture
Pete from Detroit is reading Red Dragon March 6, 2012 - 3:03pm
.'s picture
. March 6, 2012 - 3:17pm
Arpil? 

Typo Pete. haha. 

Pete's picture
Pete from Detroit is reading Red Dragon March 6, 2012 - 3:29pm

Dope! Good catch!  Fixed.

edit - funny that this got shared and reposted and front paged, and nobody noticed.  lol

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading Stories of YOUR Life March 6, 2012 - 5:38pm

Finally! Something I've already read.

@wickedvoodoo: I feel like this book continues in the style of Erickson's last novel, Zeroville. A little more linear than his older stuff, but still fantastic. If I were you, I'd probably start from the beginning and read his stuff in order, as he tends to reference his previous work. That being said, Zeroville is def one of my favorites. It's like a puzzlebox for film buffs.

.'s picture
. March 7, 2012 - 6:53am

I may read this...

Hey Josh.......

Wheres the Lit Recapper?!

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading Stories of YOUR Life March 7, 2012 - 8:44am

LitRecapper was fun in the beginning, but soon became repetitive and boring to write. It may resurface from time to time (say, for out upcoming 6 month anniversary) but I think you're the only one who misses it.

.'s picture
. March 7, 2012 - 8:50am

Just sayin...who doesn't love a shout out for breaking into the top 5 on the workshop leaderboard. 

Besides that, I haven't seen ANY of your articles. Whats up with that dude?

Something about the book club selection. I got nothing.

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading Stories of YOUR Life March 7, 2012 - 9:08am

Ha. That's why you like it. Because you kept getting mentions.

And what do you mean, you've never seen any of my articles? They're all there for the reading.

.'s picture
. March 7, 2012 - 9:35am

Ahh you got me.

No, I mean here lately. I know you're the editor but no more articles?

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading Stories of YOUR Life March 7, 2012 - 9:47am

I write two a month, buddy. But let's not derail the Erickson discussion, here.

Pete's picture
Pete from Detroit is reading Red Dragon April 2, 2012 - 2:42pm

Discussion officially started yesterday.  So let's hear what you guys have to say.

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading Stories of YOUR Life April 2, 2012 - 3:24pm

Wait, where is the actual discussion?

Pete's picture
Pete from Detroit is reading Red Dragon April 2, 2012 - 3:55pm

Right here.

OtisTheBulldog's picture
OtisTheBulldog from Somerville, MA is reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz April 2, 2012 - 5:32pm

Oh shit - I've been slacking! I'm only about half way. I should hopefully finish it up this week. I'm digging it though - but I'll ignore this thread until I get through it.

Pete's picture
Pete from Detroit is reading Red Dragon April 2, 2012 - 5:40pm

Hey, I'm still reading too!  We have all month to discuss it.  :)

Andrez Bergen's picture
Andrez Bergen from Melbourne, Australia + Tokyo, Japan is reading 'The Spirit' by Will Eisner April 2, 2012 - 6:14pm

I'll have to procure myself a copy and see if I can contribute my 2 cents' worth... ;)

Pete's picture
Pete from Detroit is reading Red Dragon April 2, 2012 - 6:15pm

Do it!

Andrez Bergen's picture
Andrez Bergen from Melbourne, Australia + Tokyo, Japan is reading 'The Spirit' by Will Eisner April 2, 2012 - 6:21pm

Ha Ha Ha - it's just finding the time, isn't it? I think time has done a runner, absconding with R&R. But I'll definitely try to squeeze this one in - sounds cool.

Jay.SJ's picture
Jay.SJ from London is reading Warmed and Bound April 3, 2012 - 4:05am

Got this for my birthday, will crack on with it so I can take part.

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading Stories of YOUR Life April 3, 2012 - 1:39pm

So... anyone here actually read the book yet?

Pete's picture
Pete from Detroit is reading Red Dragon April 3, 2012 - 2:34pm

Sorry, I've been so swamped with school work lately.  But I'm on spring break right now, so I'm pushing to finish it this week.

Boone Spaulding's picture
Boone Spaulding from Coldwater, Michigan, U.S.A. is reading Solarcide Presents: Nova Parade April 7, 2012 - 7:14am

Meh. Good writer, book not working for me right now. It's very highly-recommended and I enjoyed the prose. Not so much the "book" - it seemed like a long Rolling Stone or Esquire article that overstays its welcome. As I wasn't reading this in a magazine, I had to switch-off to other books constantly as the story became a chore...

Due to all the praise for Erickson, I'll consider These Dreams Of You one that didn't work for me but exposed me to a master prose-man. I'll look for Erickson's work in the future and check out his back-catalog...

OtisTheBulldog's picture
OtisTheBulldog from Somerville, MA is reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz April 7, 2012 - 7:34pm

I read 110 pages off and on today to finish this, and I have to say, it felt like a bit of a chore. I was digging it until about halfway through. Once it changed stories for a bit and focused on Jasmine and her meeting with RFK, the chance meeting with Zan, etc, etc it just seemed a) jarring to the flow; b) way to drug out; c) self-indulgent. And from there on out, I just pretty much stopped caring about the story.

Up until then, I was enjoying the story of Sheba, Viv's search & disappearance and the introduction of Molly, the nanny who came from nowhere. But like I said, the change of direction and page after page after page after page. After page of it took me out of the story way too much. Too many nights the book sat by my bedside where I didn't have the urge to pick it up. I think Boone's comment "overstays it's welcome" is spot on (as is the rest of his review).

With that said, some of the passages & writing is beautifully done. While I know the overall tone of this post is mostly negative, there were plenty of positives & thought provoking passages in this read. Enough so that I wouldn't write of Erickson and would be willing to give another one of his novels a try. 

I'll be interested in hearing everyone's thoughts on this one.

Boone Spaulding's picture
Boone Spaulding from Coldwater, Michigan, U.S.A. is reading Solarcide Presents: Nova Parade April 8, 2012 - 6:51am

^ What Otis said - and, might I add, the very well-written passages about crushing financial debt might have been too painful for me to enjoy the book.

The prose? Masterful.

The book didn't take for me as a whole - the Sheba parts were the most enjoyable...

Pete's picture
Pete from Detroit is reading Red Dragon April 8, 2012 - 7:54am

You know, until the narrative shift, this book didn't feel like an Erickson book at all to me.  I can't comment on the ending yet, because I still have about 100 pages left.  But, yeah, most of Erickson's novels are all over the place, time and settings wise, with tons of little connections. That's one of the things he does.

Have you guys ever read an Erickson novel before?  I'm just curious because I don't think this book would be a good introduction to his work.

OtisTheBulldog's picture
OtisTheBulldog from Somerville, MA is reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz April 8, 2012 - 2:08pm

I have not read one of his novels before. What would be your recommendation as an intro? 

Pete's picture
Pete from Detroit is reading Red Dragon April 8, 2012 - 8:14pm

I've always heard it's better to read them in order with Erickson.

So, I started with:
- Days Between Stations
- Rubicon Beach

I started to read Tours of the Black Clock, but I'm not sure I was in the right frame of mind for it. I quit and ended up reading something else. I've been meaning to give it another shot.

I do remember really enjoying those two that I read. His style has tons of recurring themes and imagery.
 

wickedvoodoo's picture
wickedvoodoo from Mansfield, England is reading stuff. April 9, 2012 - 4:29am

I am a little bummed that I never got round to reading (or even buying) this yet. Have been so busy this past couple of weeks. I may very well come back to this thread in the future tough.

Good news is I will be in the thread more for next months pick. I have that one already and will be reading it over the next week or so.

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading Stories of YOUR Life April 9, 2012 - 9:22am

To quote myself:

I feel like this book continues in the style of Erickson's last novel, Zeroville. A little more linear than his older stuff, but still fantastic. If I were you, I'd probably start from the beginning and read his stuff in order, as he tends to reference his previous work. That being said, Zeroville is def one of my favorites. It's like a puzzlebox for film buffs.

For those who don't like the narrative shifting, I don't see how you're gonna like his earlier stuff. Some of his early works feel like they just stop halfway through and pick up with a whole new story. But if this book is too 'normal' for you, definitely start at the beginning of his catalog. It's a great way to catch all the cool little references Erickson makes to his own work.

Personally, I like how subtle Dreams is compared to previous Erickson. And he is one of the few authors who can write about race, religion and politics without making my eyes roll into the back of my head. I love the way he weaves together RFK, Obama's presidency and his own personal experience with being a white, adoptive father of a black child. Maybe the book doesn't have the most satisfying narrative, but thematically it comes full circle in a very profound way for me. And to give a novel like this a more defined ending or climax would only serve to diffuse it of that profundity.

Pete's picture
Pete from Detroit is reading Red Dragon April 10, 2012 - 4:21pm

What do you guys think of his vagueness with the descriptions of famous people?

I thought it was pretty cool, I liked trying to piece them together.  Though if you just waited, it got more and more obvious who was who.  I was way off with "Bob" at first.

But, yeah, we had "Bob," the musician "D," and the man who promised hope and changed history by becoming president. I think there were a couple more than I can't think of off the top of my head.

I'll be finishing the book tonight hopefully.

Pete's picture
Pete from Detroit is reading Red Dragon April 10, 2012 - 4:26pm

Also, what did you think of all of the coincidences?  Did they flow naturally or seem forced?

Having these moments (or coincidences) that tie two or three story-lines together is one of Erickson's trademarks. Sometimes it works really well, and sometimes it feels forced.

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading Stories of YOUR Life April 10, 2012 - 4:49pm

I dig the vagueness, even though most of them are pretty obvious. Loved the Bowie stuff.

He really uses this to great effect in Zeroville. He uses a bunch of famous actors, filmmakers and musicians as characters, but doesn't explicitly tell you who they are. He also describes famous, classic and foreign movies without giving their title. Part of the fun, especially since I'm a film and music buff, was figuring out all the references.

As for the coincidences, I like those too, although I felt they were a little too obvious in Dreams. That's one of my only complaints. I kind of saw where he was going with the babysitter/Sheba's mother the whole time. I don't mind coincidence, but I don't like it to be too telegraphed.

Pete's picture
Pete from Detroit is reading Red Dragon April 10, 2012 - 4:56pm

It sounds like I would really like Zeroville, because I really dig all that stuff too. Some of my favorite stuff in the novel were the side stories. The main story was good, but I really liked when he talked about Jasmine or X.

I still need to read Tours of the Black Clock. I think it was Clevenger or Baer who said that was their favorite. But I've never been able to get into that one. But like I said before, I don't think I was in the right frame of mind the 2 times I tried.

Pete's picture
Pete from Detroit is reading Red Dragon April 10, 2012 - 7:25pm

Ok, so I just finished it. Unsure how I feel about the ending.

I also wish he would have done more with the crossing plot-lines. I mean, it was all pretty cool. I don't know, maybe it was perfect. Maybe it would have felt forced if he did more.

I liked the last few lines of the story though. That was nice.

OtisTheBulldog's picture
OtisTheBulldog from Somerville, MA is reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz April 10, 2012 - 7:51pm

I thought the second taxi/limo collision was pretty lame but the rest of the coincidences were ok with me - I mean, it's fiction. The woman who helped Zan was drinking at the same pub meets RFK and bangs Bowie who begats the mother of Sheba. Fine, it's fiction. It's fun. 

I liked the vagueness of the well known figures as well, especially being a music fan and all that. I feel like I need to track down a copy of Tezeta as well (I've been to lazy to look it up).

I thought the ending was fine, they lose the house, they're sleeping in a abandoned rail car (or something) but they're together and they're a family. So that worked - the last 2/3 of the story was about reuniting and finding one another and having Sheba feel secure and moving forward as a family, so I'm good with that. I found that to be fulfilling. 

My only main gripe with this one was that a lot of it could have been edited down. I found a lot of the writing to be a little to self-gratifying wankery - like a Trey Anastasio solo. It's good. But enough. We get it. 

(if that makes sense. And that's only my taste)

Pete's picture
Pete from Detroit is reading Red Dragon April 10, 2012 - 7:58pm

Is this the right Tezeta you think?

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs April 10, 2012 - 8:24pm

I didn't care for this book, but I am pretty obsessed with almost all of his novels. It's not one of my favorites, but Zeroville his his most accessible novel besides this one, so it would be a good introduction. If you're okay with trying something that's not as accessible, I'd go with his first novel, Days Between Stations, instead. All of his novels before Zeroville go together while Zeroville is related in a very minor way and I don't think anything is lost if you read it first. You'll also really like it if you're a movie aficionado.

OtisTheBulldog's picture
OtisTheBulldog from Somerville, MA is reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz April 11, 2012 - 6:06am

Pete - I don't doubt it's a standard, I need to go actually do some work with the day job but I'm going to research it a little later. In any case, that's a great recording. It made my morning web browsing that much more enjoyable. I love the subtle rhythm guitar going on in this.

Pete's picture
Pete from Detroit is reading Red Dragon April 11, 2012 - 6:10am

I'm glad you mentioned looking it up. Throughout the whole book I kept telling myself to look it up. And then I finished the book and completely forgot about it. haha

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading Stories of YOUR Life April 11, 2012 - 6:57am

@Pete: If I remember correctly, Tours is the one about Hitler's pornographer (amongst many other things). Great stuff. I also really like The Sea Came In At Midnight and Our Ecstatic Days. Those two kind of go together and make a great back-to-back read. Days has a sentence that starts on page 83 and runs through the text of the remaining pages, for the duration of the book, so you have to decide whether to finish the sentence before you finish the book proper. It sounds annoying, but is actually kind of cool.

Damn, I gotta go back and read his early stuff.

Pete's picture
Pete from Detroit is reading Red Dragon April 11, 2012 - 7:45am

This book really sparked a want in me to go back and read his first two books and slowly make it through the rest of them.

I barely remember his first books.

And you mentioning The Sea Came Out at Midnight reminds me - I think I read that one too.

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading Stories of YOUR Life April 11, 2012 - 8:02am

What did everyone think of the Sheba stuff? I thought it was laugh-out-loud funny. Don't you tell me what to do! I'm a professional! 

When I interviewed Erickson, I asked how much of it was actually based on his adoptive daughter. He said his editor made him take stuff out because, even though it had happened, no one would believe a 4 year-old was that precocious. I want to meet that kid.

Pete's picture
Pete from Detroit is reading Red Dragon April 11, 2012 - 8:22am

Cool fact, I didn't realize he adopted.  Also, would have never guessed that child was based on a real child.

Sheba was great. I liked the throat slicing motion she did throughout.

Pete's picture
Pete from Detroit is reading Red Dragon April 11, 2012 - 8:23am

I really would have thought more people would be discussing this book. I saw tons of people say they were looking forward to it...

Pete's picture
Pete from Detroit is reading Red Dragon April 19, 2012 - 6:07am

What happened to all the people that said they were reading this, or were going to read this. Geez, it's Steve Erickson! I really thought that this was going to have a lot more discussion.