Book review / A hoax in reel time

Amnesiascope by Steve Erickson, Quartet, pounds 9

Although Amnesiascope is Steve Erickson's fifth novel, it's his first with Quartet, which is also reissuing his 1985 debut, Days Between Stations. The new novel represents an exciting new development in an inspired series of fictions. Quartet is effectively relaunching the career of this most courageous and adventurous American novelist.

Amnesiascope is Erickson's funniest and most accessible novel to date. The narrator, S - not a million miles from the character of Erickson, the American writer who featured in the third novel, Arc d'X - is a film critic for an LA newspaper. As a joke he writes a piece about The Death of Marat, a long-unseen silent masterpiece by the legendary French auteur Adolphe Sarre. Sarre doesn't exist and neither does his film, but S assumes that either his editor or the fact-checkers will kill the story. They don't, of course, and soon people are talking about Marat as if it were a real film. But the people who only read reviews and never see the movies are only one of Erickson's satirical targets; his others include critics, publicists and himself.

When S overhears people discussing Marat, its specific lighting and camera angles, he knows it's gone beyond a joke, especially when they start criticising his review. The business with Marat is only one strand in a busy narrative, but fairly typical. Although set in a post-cataclysmic LA, Amnesiascope does not subscribe to any existing eschatological tradition. Its intentions and curiosities have little in common with the dystopian visions of science fiction. We learn about S's relationships with women and his friendships with men, his views on art, his thoughts on mortality and America. He agrees to help his girlfriend Viv make a pornographic film about an artist who paints nudes.

Running low on inspiration, S (one of whose jobs is to write the script) sits in a bar where he talks to a big, blonde woman called Jasper, who tells him about the time she and another woman made love to a bound, blindfolded man, thereby gifting S his story line. In the Ericksonian universe, there can be no surprise when, during casting sessions for the film, Jasper turns up to audition for the part of ... herself. Nor should we be surprised when Jasper relates a personal experience previously encountered in the pages of Arc d'X.

To read Amnesiascope - as with all of Erickson's work - is to be constantly astonished by his powers of invention, by an authorial imagination which plays with time and space and the conventions of fiction as if they were rubber toys. If you buy only one novel this autumn, make it this one. Amnesiascope is quite unforgettable.

Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Arts and Entertainment
U2's Songs of Innocence album sleeve

tvU2’s latest record has been accused of promoting sex between men

Arts and Entertainment
Alison Steadman in Inside No.9
tvReview: Alison Steadman stars in Inside No.9's brilliant series finale Spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk