Erickson (Zeroville) follows middle-aged Caucasian Alexander “Zan” Nordhoc’s adoption of a four year-old Ethiopian girl, beginning on the eve of Barack Obama’s election and leaping back 50 years and forward to a newly cross-cultural world. Daughter Sheba’s arrival coincides with Zan’s family’s personal recession (soon joined by the nation’s). A former professor of pop culture and former novelist, Zan broadcasts underground blues radio from his home in L.A. while his wife, Viv, searches in vain for photography work. “The little girl who talks like she’s twenty” brings issues of race and identity to the center of this family. In danger of losing their house, they are soon dealing with charges of human trafficking and illegal adoption. While Zan ferries Sheba to London for a rare paying lecture gig, Viv goes to Addis Ababa to try to sort out the adoption. But when Viv and Sheba both disappear, Zan is forced to examine his youthful mistakes and misconceptions and confront his dissonant reality. Told in a series of short, punchy sections, Erickson expertly weaves together themes of music, politics, and idealism in a modern story where preconceptions are outdated. Agent: The Melanie Jackson Agency. (Feb.)
"Over his entire career Erickson has challenged readers with a fiercely intelligent and surprisingly sensual brand of American surrealism."
"Erickson has established a reputation as a daring, lyrical writer with a strong following among other novelists and a distinctive brand of cultural taste: West Coast, genre-bending and earnestly experimental."
From the Publisher
"Over his entire career Erickson has challenged readers with a fiercely intelligent and surprisingly sensual brand of American surrealism." — Washington Post
"It's simply impossible to explain the intent and direction of this funny, disturbing, daring and demanding novel-Erickson's best. The set pieces in Zeroville are particularly breathtaking." — The New York Times
"Erickson has established a reputation as a daring, lyrical writer with a strong following among other novelists and a distinctive brand of cultural taste: West Coast, genre-bending and earnestly experimental." — LA Times
“With this book, set against the backdrop of Obama’s ascendancy to the presidency, Erickson weaves a complex and imaginative literary tapestry about family and identity.” — Kirkus (starred review)
“Told in a series of short, punchy sections, Erickson expertly weaves together themes of music, politics, and idealism in a modern story where preconceptions are outdated.” — Publishers Weekly
Los Angeles novelist Zan Nordhoc begins this novel in trouble: he is broke, his house is underwater and on the verge of repossession, and he hasn't completed a novel in years. Life, he learns, can get much worse: his wife disappears in Ethiopia, and his adopted daughter vanishes with a babysitter in England. Throughout his compounding crises, Zan manages to compose a novel in his head in which a man is beaten in Berlin, finds a copy of Ulysses, travels in time, and encounters a woman who worked for both Bobby Kennedy and David Bowie. The characters in Zan's imagined novel overlap with people in his real life, including himself and the biological mother of his missing daughter. Somehow, Erickson (Zeroville) pulls these implausible elements together and creates an intriguing book about the past, politics, and the nature of fiction. VERDICT With family drama and cameos by the famous to keep readers' interest, this imaginative hopscotch through modern history will appeal to fans of contemporary literary fiction. [See Prepub Alert, 8/8/11.]—John Cecil, Austin, TX
In Erickson's (Zeroville, 2007, etc.) latest, the lives of Zan and Viv have imploded in the wake of their adoption of Sheba, an Ethiopian toddler "supernaturally cognizant beyond the span of such a short life." Alexander Nordhoc--Zan--is a novelist, but he's written nothing new for years. Instead he teaches and works as a disk jockey at a pirate radio station. Viv is a gifted photographer, one whose most prominent work was plagiarized by a celebrity poseur. Viv is indifferent. The Nordhocs are also too broke to sue. In fact, they face foreclosure on their California home, a house that's also, and symbolically, rat-infested. Into this mess comes a missive from J. Wilkie Brown, occupier of the J. Wilkie Brown Chair of the University of London, and Viv's one-time lover. Brown offers Zan £3,500 to lecture on the "Novel as a Literary Form Facing Obsolescence in the Twenty-First Century." Too little to rescue them, the money is also too much to refuse, especially since Viv, white-angst guilty, wants to accompany Zan to England and fly on to Ethiopia and find Sheba's mother. Chapter-less, a stream of interconnected vignettes, Erickson's narrative segues toward surrealism while mimicking the chaotic interior emotions of real life. Threads and characters serendipitously stumble through a missing-link chain of coincidences, with mazes and labyrinths both real and imagined. Erickson even references Mussolini's use of mustard gas and a pizza-delivery mugging evoking Do the Right Thing, all while Zan dreams in parallel of a novelist who plagiarizes the future. The story is dense with cultural references and there's a beautiful, elegiac remembrance of Robert Kennedy, his campaign and assassination, from Jasmine, a grey-eyed Ethiopian woman whom RFK met while in London. Later, Jasmine will work for a Bowie-like rock musician, during which time she becomes pregnant with Molly, who becomes Sheba's temporary nanny during the Nordhoc's sojourn. With this book, set against the backdrop of Obama's ascendancy to the presidency, Erickson weaves a complex and imaginative literary tapestry about family and identity.
Viewers have proved quite capable of processing the overlapping narratives and complicated timelines of movies such as Crash. But almost a century after Ulysses, any novel that plays with multiple points of view or challenges strict chronology is still slapped with that off-putting label, "experimental." With his exuberant ninth novel, These Dreams of You, Steve Erickson wears the label proudly…His jagged, jazzy voice is his own, as are his saucily surreal urban settings…the novel's energy more than compensates for its occasional lapses.
The Washington Post