Our Ecstatic Days

( 2 )


In the waning summer days, a lake appears almost overnight in the middle of Los Angeles. Out of fear and love, a young single mother commits a desperate act: convinced that the lake means to take her small son from her, she determines to stop it and becomes the lake's Dominatrix-Oracle, "the Queen of the Zed Night." Acclaimed by many critics as Steve Erickson's greatest novel, Our Ecstatic Days takes place on the forbidden landscape of a defiant heart.

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Our Ecstatic Days: A Novel

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In the waning summer days, a lake appears almost overnight in the middle of Los Angeles. Out of fear and love, a young single mother commits a desperate act: convinced that the lake means to take her small son from her, she determines to stop it and becomes the lake's Dominatrix-Oracle, "the Queen of the Zed Night." Acclaimed by many critics as Steve Erickson's greatest novel, Our Ecstatic Days takes place on the forbidden landscape of a defiant heart.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Huge scope...invention, feeling and humor...with love as an abyss of motion, terror, ecstasy. The richest of Erickson's visions to date."

— Joseph McElroy, The Believer

"Erickson and his latest novel are clearly sui generis. Our Ecstatic Days is an extravagant, outsized accomplishment...in which chaos almost — but never quite — wins, in which primal human connections keep us going in the face of catastrophic loss. A baroque, visionary novel rooted in fundamental truths."

— Bill Sheehan, The Washington Post Book World

"Our Ecstatic Days may be a great one."

— David Bowman, Bookforum

"There's no one in the world writing like Steve Erickson."

— Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times Book Review

Bill Sheehan
Our Ecstatic Days is an extravagant, outsized accomplishment filled with extravagant, outsized flaws, which include a persistent weakness for gaudy, overheated metaphors ("Every honeymoon twilight, across the house's threshold the lake is carried by its lesbian groom the moon, with a bridal train of small dead animals . . . ") that undermine the narrative. But for all its convolutions and stylistic excesses -- and for all the demands it makes on the reader's patience -- it is the work of a serious writer with a singular, deeply personal vision. By the end, this messy, ambitious novel pulls itself together, illuminating a society in which chaos almost -- but never quite -- wins, in which primal human connections, particularly the connection between parents and children, keep us going in the face of catastrophic loss. Our Ecstatic Days is a baroque, visionary novel rooted in fundamental truths, and is well worth the considerable effort it requires.
— The Washington Post
Library Journal
Erickson is a creative author of surrealistic experimental fiction. Sadly, his last experiment, The Sea Came in at Midnight, and this sequel are muddled messes of mismatched elements. Protagonist Kristin returns, as does Lulu Blue, formerly a snuff film director, now a dominatrix who may be a different version of Kristin. Among countless things forcing the suspension of disbelief to a new high-water mark are the sudden appearance of a lake filling most of Los Angeles that Kristin believes wishes to steal her three-year-old son, Kirk; Kristin's diving into the lake to save Kirk as he is being snatched from a gondola by owls; and the hero of Tiananmen Square as part of the resistance (to what?) or perhaps as "Tribulation" (I, II, or III?) but definitely as the client of Lulu Blue, who is succeeded by Bronte, whom Kristin (Lulu?) believes to be her daughter and Kirk's twin. Flashes of brilliant writing and trenchant observations on "the male wangie" do not help one comprehend or care about the swirl of unsympathetic characters and silly events. What a waste of Erickson's considerable skills. Only for comprehensive fiction collections and literary masochists with dominatrix fantasies. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/04.]-Jim Dwyer, California State Univ. Lib., Chico Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Erickson continues to ruminate on the millennial obsessions that preoccupied him in The Sea Came in at Midnight (1999), this time in a lush, profoundly disorienting story saturated in metaphors of birth and apocalyptic decadence. As it opens, Kristin, who appeared in Sea, is a former rough chick made tender by motherhood. She lives in a hotel with her young son Kirk (short for Kierkegaard), on the edge of a lake (called Lake Zero, as in, you know, Ground Zero) that suddenly appeared and overtook much of downtown Los Angeles at the turn of the millennium. Mysterious letters arrive, addressed to a woman named Kristin, whose author may be a Chinese man once photographed standing in front of a tank in what is likely Tiananmen Square. He refers to his lover as his "labial jewel." Kristin somehow discovers that the intended recipient may be another, older single mother also named Kristin who lives a gondola ride across the lake from her. Then one evening, obsessed with the idea that the lake will take her son from her, Kristin rows into the middle of it and dives down. Soon thereafter, a woman emerges on what (may) be the other side of the lake: she calls herself Lulu Blu, works as a dominatrix at the Chateau X, and has as a client a Chinese man (his e-mail address: Falsemartyr@4june89.net) who has memories of being a woman named Kristin-a woman who lost her young son. There's also a phantom daughter named Bronte who emerges in several guises and a cipher who announces, "The Age of Chaos is here." No kidding. And the moment Kristin dives into the birth canal of the lake, on page 83, a single sentence begins that runs through the middle of every page of the novel thereafter up until page 313.Not surprisingly, it's supremely difficult to figure out what is actually going on. Ecstatic disorientation is the trademark of Erickson's work but, despite the labor involved in connecting each glimmering strand, his latest effort itself rarely adds up to more than a beautiful ash heap.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743285100
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 1/28/2006
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Steve Erickson is the author of six other acclaimed novels — including Days Between Stations and Tours of the Black Clock — as well as two books about American politics and popular culture. The editor of the literary magazine Black Clock, he also writes about film for Los Angeles and teaches at CalArts.

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Read an Excerpt

Sometimes I'm paralyzed

by my love for him. He calls me from his bed in the middle of the night and, you know, I can't resist. It's the way he calls, not sleepy or frightened or crying, but determined and aware and awake....


and I can hear the question mark so insistent it isn't a question...it would break my heart not to answer.

In my heart he opens the door to this vast terrain of fear. It's a fear stretching out beyond these young years of mine when mortality is supposed to be so inconceivable. How have mothers down through the ages survived their love for their kids? The thought of his mortality is abysmal to me....

One afternoon we were at the fair down by the lakeside, and a vendor had in captivity one of the owls that have invaded the city ever since the lake first appeared three years ago. She was explaining to some other mom's kid how, far up in the sky, the owl can hear a human heartbeat, and even at that very minute I thought to myself this owl could hear Kirk's little heart as I stood there holding him in my arms. Could it hear his heart when he was still inside me three years ago? Was that my first betrayal of my boy — his birth, exposing him to the peril of owls that hear heartbeats? Every night I wait for the sun to set before writing this, there it goes now, slipping down

behind the San Vicente Bridge that

crosses the lake to the northwest, I see it from my window...sun goes down, sky goes dark, lake goes black, and owls swoop across the rising moon like leaves blown loose from some phantasmagoric tree twisting up out of the ground

and my voice rises from the crypt of my consciousness shaking words off like topsoil. Kirk and I are bonded by a cord of blood that runs from his heart to my thighs. Menstrual waves crash against the inner beach of my belly.

Copyright © 2005 by Steve Erickson

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Customer Reviews

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( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2013

    Duststar and kits to icestatic

    I need a check up for my kits.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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