four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
33-Mar-Apr-2008
user_rating: 
0

A-ZerovilleDivinity school dropout Vikar Jerome is obsessed with movies: film clips play inside his shaved head, which is tattooed with a close-up from A Place in the Sun. Arriving in Los Angeles in 1969, he is wrongly detained after the Manson gang murders Sharon Tate at Roman Polanski’s house. Thus begins a series of close encounters with the surreal world of Hollywood. Vikar finds work building sets, becomes a film editor, and eventually picks up an Oscar nomination and an award at Cannes. Along the way, he meets a cinephile burglar, falls for an actress without a conscience, and is kidnapped and forced to edit a propaganda film, all the while maintaining his focus on what matters most: the movies.
Europa Editions. 329 pages. $14.95. ISBN: 1933372397

NY Times Book Review 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Zeroville, with its dizzying, in-the-know, name-and-place dropping (and its incessant allusions to famous movies and their stars, both cryptic and explicit) is a kind of novelistic refutation of [Peter Biskind’s book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls]. … Terse, fanciful, dreamlike and sometimes nightmarish, this remarkable novel will test you and tease you and leave you desperate to line up at Film Forum (or hunt down Erickson’s top 150 on DVD) so you can submit yourself to the celluloid bonds that hold Vikar and his creator such willing captives." Liesl Schillinger

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"[Erickson] manages to wipe clean the presumptions typically guiding the Hollywood Novel, which suggest either that Hollywood is irredeemably corrupt or that moviemaking is a tainted beauty requiring the ministrations of a pure artistic vision to recover its virtue. … At root, Zeroville is a novel about the nitty-gritty mysteries of the artistic process and about the evolution of an enthusiast into an artist." Christopher Sorrentino

Philadelphia Inquirer 4 of 5 Stars
"Just when you thought that the Hollywood novel had fizzled out with all the eclat of an inebriated Mickey Rourke driving through Miami on a Vespa, another writer has come along with high-octane fuel for the form." Edward Champion

St. Petersburg Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Anybody who has seen even half the movies Erickson references will love this novel in spite of the narrative murk at the end." Kit Reed

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"Zeroville is funny, sad and darkly beautiful, built around short chapters that allow the author to capture the essential moment and move effortlessly through time." Jeff VanderMeer

Critical Summary

An underappreciated writer who has been compared to Vladimir Nabokov, Don DeLillo, and Thomas Pynchon, Steve Erickson often writes challenging and sometimes impenetrably surreal fiction. Zeroville, his eighth novel, seems poised for commercial success: although intelligent and playful, Zeroville is more straightforward and accessible than his earlier novels. Critics found much to praise and little to condemn, and the New York Times extolled the book as Erickson’s best. Zeroville, with its countless cinema references, will appeal most strongly to film enthusiasts, but there’s something for everyone in this odyssey through the world of American moviemaking in the 1970s and ‘80s.

Cited by the Critics

Easy Riders, Raging Bulls | Peter Biskind (1998): Biskind interviews the movers and shakers of early-’70s film to provide a raw, behind-the-scenes look at the era. They’re all here: Scorsese, Spielberg, Coppola, Beatty, Lucas, and others.