Friday, December 14, 2007

Zeroville, Must Read

A strange, trippy, absolutely un-put-downable novel, Steve Erickson's Zeroville is a must-read for anyone with more than a passing interest in movies and movie history. The tale of an idiot savant cineaste ("cineautistic" is how he's described) who wanders west from Philly to the bright lights and backlots of Hollywood, Zeroville abounds with references to pictures known and forgotten, revered and obscure: First off, Vikar Jerome, the hero, has a tattoo of Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor, from A Place In the Sun, etched on his shaven head. (Ignorami in the book -- plural for ignoramus, right? -- mistake the movie duo for James Dean and Natalie Wood .)

Bunuel, Bogart, Antonioni, De Palma, Gary Cooper, Godard, the softcore Emmanuelle
series, Wim Wenders, Bergman, Altman, Chandler, Mallick, Pam Grier, Houston, Hawks, Bresson, Sturges, Joan Crawford, Eastwood, D.W. Griffith, The Battle of Algiers, The Shining, Elephant Man, Disney's Pinocchio, Mosumura, Black Narcissus, In a Lonely Place.... The films, the stars, the directors swirl around in the consciousness of the disturbed but brilliant Vikar, as Erickson leads the reader on a journey through the dark, glitzy L.A. universe, from the late-'60s on.

On top of being simply a great read, Erickson's deconstruction of the editing of George Stevens' A Place In the Sun, has to be some of the best analysis of filmmaking and film theory ever put to print. Zeroville, By Steve Erickson (Europa Editions, $14.95).


Anonymous Margaret B-F said...

Hi Steven,

I vaguely remember reading a review of this book when it came out, and I'll definitely keep your recommendation in mind the next time I'm at the bookstore. Your post lead me to think of a few other "novels for movie lovers" that I enjoyed. Someone more industrious than I should draw up one of those "Let me tell you 'bout _____" lists that always flank the book reviews on Amazon. Anyway, I think I had a similar experience when I read Zadie Smith's 'Autograph Man' a few years ago. I really enjoyed the constant film factoids and anecdotes, even though I had some problems with the novel itself. I also really like Kenzaburo Oe's 'A Quiet Life'. The plot has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with film, save for one--really long--chapter where two of the main characters have an extended discussion about Tarkovsky's 'Stalker.' I know that sounds completely dreadful, but I actually enjoyed it. The rest of the book is nice, too.

take care!


4:07 AM  
Anonymous Utah Seo said...

I stayed up until 1 a.m. last night finishing "Zeroville." Two concepts which struck me the most were, one, that God hates children, and two, that the doorless church is to keep you in, not out.

Having grown up in a staunchly Mormon family, even serving a two year mission for my church - at my expense - I especially resonate with these concepts. In all of the religious studying I have done, it has never occurred me that it is always the children that suffer. Isaac at the hand of Abraham, Pharaoh in Egypt's own son and the sons he sent his soldiers to murder, God sending his own son to suffer, and so on. In word, who can possibly believe in a god who demands a father murder his own child.

When someone is raised in a particular religion, told repeatedly that it is the only true church (as was my case in Mormonism) , it is almost impossible to get out. Not the organization per se, although that is challenging because they just don't want to let you go, but the idea of God, Heaven and Hell, the years and years of brainwashing that has been drilled into your head since childhood. It takes a long time for the guilt to go away. Not the guilt that now you are doing things that we strictly forbidden by the organization, but the guilt of wondering if you were wrong to leave that organization, if it were right after all. If you have turned your back on god. It's the notion and existence of god that is hard to get out of.

10:33 AM  

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