The Sea Came in at Midnightby Steve Erickson
Steve Erickson is a visionary novelist whose time has come. Considered by many the secret heir to Pynchon and DeLillo, he has steadily acquired a passionate following of readers over the course of five previous novels. Now, with The Sea Came at Midnight, Erickson delivers a masterwork of intense feeling, scope and poweran intimate epic of late twentieth-century civilization in free fall, an unforgettable young woman's revelation amid the ruins.
In the final seconds of the old millennium, 1,999 women and children march off the edge of a cliff in Northern California, urged on by a cult of silent men in white robes. Kristin was meant to be the two-thousandth to fall. But when at the last moment she flees, she exchanges one dark destiny for a future that will unravel the present.
Answering a cryptic personals ad for a woman "at the end of her rope," Kristin finds temporary haven in the Hollywood Hills with an older, unnamed man as obsessed as he is spiritually ravaged. In a locked room at the bottom of his house, he labors over his life's work: a massive blue calendar the size of a tsunami that measures modern time by the events of chaos and pinpoints the true beginning of the new millenium as not midnight December 31, 1999, but the early hours of one May morning in 1968. This calendar is shot through with the threads of other lives-those searching for a small measure of redemption and an answer to the question, "What's missing from the world?"
From a ritual sacrifice in the name of salvation to a ritual sacrifice in the name of pleasure, from an ancient haunted Celtic tower in Brittany to the revolving memory hotels of Tokyo, from a cinematic hoax in Manhattanthat costs five women their lives to a mysterious bloodstained set of coordinates tacked to the wall of an abandoned San Francisco penthouse, The Sea Came at Midnight is a breathtaking literary dance of fate and coincidence. And, unknown even to her, at the center of that dance is the seventeen-year-old.
Author Biography: Steve Ericksons previous novels, including Days Between Stations, Rubicon Beach, Tours of the Black Clock, Arc dX and Amnesiascope, have been published in ten languages throughout Europe and Asia, and his work has appeared in such magazines and journals as Esquire, Elle, Rolling Stone, Spin, San Francisco, Conjunctions and Salon.
The New York Times Book Review
- HarperCollins Publishers
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- 1ST PERENN
- Product dimensions:
- 6.02(w) x 8.06(h) x 0.69(d)
Read an Excerpt
I want you at the end of your rope, lashed to the mast of my dreams.
Now she laughs when she reads it. She's trying to remember if she thought it was as ridiculous four months ago, back in L.A. Maybe not; she was a little more desperate then. But now she's almost eighteen, and it just seems very funny to her. That's what a little age and wisdom and perspective will do for you.
The first line from a personals ad that ran in the newspaper just after the New Year. Crumpled and yellowed as though much older, the ad is now tacked to her hotel room wall.
Also tacked to the wall are articles from travel magazines about mysterious cities such as Budapest, Dublin, Reykjavik and San Sebastian, cities she's always assumed she will never see. But then she never thought she would see Tokyo either. There are also articles from literary journals and art magazines about Flannery O'Connor and Uumm Kulthum and Ida Lupino and Sujata Bhatt and Hannah Höch and Big Mama Thornton and Hedy Lamarr and Kathy Acker and Asia Carrera.
There's also, along with the ad that ran in the personals, a piece from the same day's newspaper that tells how exactly two thousand women and children marched off a cliff in Northern California on New Year's Eve at the stroke of midnight. Or anyway, the piece says it was the stroke of midnight, although the paper isn't quite right about this, and some other things. it wasn't, for instance, quite the orderly mass suicide the newspaper suggests. It also wasn't exactly two thousand. The seventeen-year-old American girl who lives in this hotel room knows this because she was there, number two thousand herself; and now she's here in Tokyo, and,well, anyone can do the math.
A month ago, after arriving in Tokyo but before she moved into this room on the top floor of the Hotel Ryu, Kristin lived for a couple of weeks in a ryokan over near the water.
In her little room in the ryokan, she would tack her news clippings and articles to the wall much like she does here, above the little tea table in the corner. Every day the maid would take them down. The maid never said a word to her, nor did Kristin to the maid, the two of them just locked in a silent battle of wills over the articles tacked to the wall. The maid clearly considered the decor unseemly, but Kristin hadn't come all the way from California so someone could tell her what she could or couldn't put on the walls.
Then Kristin moved into the Ryu, one of the revolving memory hotels of Tokyo's Kabuki-cho section, amid the surrounding bars and brothels and strip joints and massage parlors and porn shops. Since she never dreams, she's particularly aware in her sleep of the hum of the hotel's revolution. It's not exactly the hum of machinery or clockwork, it feels and sounds more like the vibration of a tuning fork, in the walls of her room and in the floor beneath her tatami mat. When the revolving cylindrical hotel slides into alignment with one of the outer exits, it opens up into one of the passages that lead to random neighborhoods of the city. Depending on the time of day, the long pulsing blue corridors sometimes deposit Kristin on the Ginza, and from there she walks to the bay not far from the outdoor market where the boats bring in fresh tuna in the early-morning hours.
Her first couple of weeks in Tokyo, when Kristin was living at the ryokan, she would go down to the market every morning and breakfast on fresh sushi with extra wasabi, the strong green horseradish she prefers to the fish. Now that she lives at the Ryu she still sometimes goes down to the wharves, like this morning when, realizing the vendor was out of wasabi, she gravely rejected the sushi and pushed it back across the stall counter uneaten. Sorry, she shook her head, and the seething vendor exploded in highly indignant Japanese. They got into a heated argument despite the fact that neither actually understood anything the other was saying. "But don't you see that the whole point of the sushi is the wasabi?" she kept trying to tell him; he was what Kristin, back in the States, used to call a point-misser.
In the gray day, the gray city disappears. It's possible an empirical investigation would reveal that, during the day, there in fact is no Tokyo, only people wandering an empty plain over grown with tufts of fog that take the shape of shops, homes, hotels, temples. But at night the city blazes like an aquatic arcade surfacing up through black water, and in the most labyrinthine city in the world, Kristin fixes herself to the cityscape by humming a song, any song, since Tokyo exists in a vibrating lull-a maelstrom of frantic motion in complete silence, no honking cars, no hawkers of goods, no obscenity-screaming pedestrians, just the hum of the Yamanote subway like the sonic spine of Tokyo consciousness, or a hum in the air like the whirring revolution of the Hotel Ryu that Kristin hears in her sleep. The song Kristin sings to herself these days is "April Skies," by an English band from the 1980s. Maybe she sings this particular song because it happens to be April now: Hand in hand in a violent life, making love on the edge of a knife, and the world comes tumbling down. At the shores of Tokyo Bay she watches on the other side of the water the bright beacon of light that attracted her attention the first night she was here; she has no idea what makes this light, or where it comes from. At night it's too bright to be a window, too close to be a star. In the daylight neither the light nor its source can be seen at all.
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