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Amnesiascope: A Novel Paperback – May, 1997

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Set in apocalyptic post-earthquake Los Angeles, this new novel from the author of Arc D'X (LJ 3/15/93) is a study in contrasts: science fiction without the science but with the philosophical and time-defying bent; cinematic but highly experimental; and simultaneously lyrical and graphic-"I love the ashes. I love the endless smoky twilight" is in the same paragraph with "Viv, my little carnal ferret, devours me on her knees." Cynical, sentimental, hypereroticized, and romantic and driven by style, incident, and humor rather than plot, Amnesiascope is recommended where quality fiction-from-the-edge is popular.
Robert E. Brown, Onondaga Cty. P.L., Syracuse, N.Y.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt & Co (P) (May 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805053611
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805053616
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,432,050 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Steve Erickson is the author of nine novels including 2012's THESE DREAMS OF YOU and two nonfiction works. His books have appeared on best-of-the-year lists in Newsweek, the Washington Post BookWorld, the Los Angeles Times, the Village Voice and the New York Times Book Review. He is the editor of the literary journal Black Clock, published by the California Institute of the Arts, and he teaches writing at the University of California Riverside; he also writes about film for Los Angeles magazine. He has received the American Academy of Arts and Letters' award in literature, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Lannan Lifetime Achievement Award.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By raffledorf@aol.com on July 19, 1998
Format: Paperback
This is a great book, my personal favorite of Erickson's. The style is more confessional and deals more with the emotions of the charachers than the events of the story, which are typical of Erickson: shattered time zones and the chaos of a city caught in the aftermath of an apocalypic earthquake. The book reads like a dream and when you're done you can't remember what world you are meant to be a part of, you won't recognise your own house or your oface in the mirror. Reading this book, or any Erickson really, will completely redefine everything you ever took for granted. You'll never think the same way again. And it's worth it.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Minsma on December 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
I liked this novel about as well as any I've read in a long time--though if you are looking for heavily plot-driven fiction, this may not be the book for you. Things *do* happen in Amnesiascope, conveyed through the narrator's hilarious, pathetic, decadent but conscience-ridden monologue, but this is a novel which is less about plot and much more about voice and place. Erickson's romantic-cynic narrator explores what's left of a millennial L.A., where strange, warped things exist without ever being quite fully explained, and the rest of the world goes on unchanged.
Stories involving a noir, Apocalyptic L.A. can sometimes be boring and cliched these days, but L.A.'s noir side works with bittersweet absurdity here. That is because it is written from within the heart of L.A., fully cognizant of the city's flaws, but with a crazy grief and a crazy love that goes deeper than the surface perceptions of this city often portrayed by the media. Amnesiascope (and L.A. and the narrator) is demented, cynical, and heartbreaking, but also a place where individuality flourishes; it is hallucinatory and real; erotic and kinky, but with a deep and struggling romanticism buried beneath the wreckage of the narrator's life and his ruined city. Because ultimately, this novel is a heroic call to keep living life on your own terms, to say the things that need to be said, to reinvent yourself every time a part of you is killed off, and most romantic of all, to keep trying to be free in a society that wants to box you up and define you by its own boring cliches.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mac Tonnies on January 31, 2001
Format: Paperback
Erickson's dark, quirkily romantic future L.A. has the resonance of one of J.G. Ballard's apocalyptic landscapes. Like voyeurs, we're ushered into a world of flickering volcanic fires, leaking hotels and anxiety-run-rampant in the tradition of DeLillo's "White Noise" and Pynchon's "Vineland."
"Amnesiascope" is far more than a meditation on nightlife. Erickson's meticulously wrought characters are what propels this odd, gorgeous book. At once experimental and character-driven, "Amnesiacope" succeeds in its well-honed balance between landscape and psyche, empathy and urban detachment. There wasn't a moment I didn't like; "Amnesiacope" stands as one of the most moving near-future novels to have graced the genre.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 7, 1997
Format: Paperback
Steve Erickson is a literary heavy weight, destined to be mentioned amidst names such as Thomas Pynchon, John Barth, Vladmir Nabokov and Richard Powers. His books are uniquely intrigueing, informative and essentialy novels of ideas. Amnesiascope is not his most complex novel, nor his most thought-provoking. It does, however touch on ideas and philosiphies that are interesting and is a pleasure to read. Spellbinding and captivating, The book was an absolutely enjoyable experience to read
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Sean C. Scott on August 30, 2004
Format: Paperback
Existential entropy is the dominant theme of Steve Erickson's sixth book, a meditation on the persistence of memory, the disappearance of the real, and the no-man's-land between fact and imagination.

With limber, hypnotic prose and vivid imagery, the nameless narrator leads us through a landscape of paranoia, sex, and decay. Though this no-man's-land takes the shape of L.A. early in the next century, the novel's axes are psychology and identity, not society and technology.

One of the narrator's obsessions is what he calls the Cinema of Hysteria: "movies that make no sense at all - and we understand them completely." Similarly, this tale seems plotless; but, as in Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49, the arbitrary oddities slowly coalesce into a haunting whole. Erickson has spun a cunning web - less a book of laughter and forgetting than a seductive insomniac nightmare of hysteria and amnesia.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Robert Moore HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 21, 2002
Format: Hardcover
It is a shame that this book is out of print, because it is one of those books that I would love to recommend to friends to read. The book is many things at once: provocative, sexy, imaginative, fun, sad. The back cover features a blurb comparing him to Pynchon, Nabokov, and DeLillo. Although I don't see the comparison to Nabokov, I would add my own comparisons: J. G. Ballard (especially books like CRASH and VERMILLION SANDS), William S. Burroughs, and even Neal Stephenson. The authors mentioned would prepare a would-be reader for the unexpected and the unusual; it might not prepare the reader for the beauty of his prose.
I fully expect this book to be in print again in the near future. Until then, I would urge any fan of literature to search this book out and read it. It is often beautiful, frequently haunting, and always original.
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