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Tours of the Black Clock: A Novel Paperback – Feb 1 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (Feb. 1 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 074326570X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743265706
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 14.4 x 20.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 295 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #767,144 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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There was always a moment, sailing between the boat-house on shore and Davenhall Island, when neither was in sight. Read the first page
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Amazon.com: 8 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Twilight trip to an alternative version of the 20th Century July 30 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Steve Erickson claims kinship with authors Philip K. Dick and Thomas Pynchon, and its easily to see why. Like those authors, he subtly twists the nature of reality and history until it resembles the inner (both philosophical and pyschological) landscapes of his characters. This novel is about white-haired Marc and his mother, who live on a small island in the middle of a fog-shrouded river in the Pacific Northwest. They have an estranged relationship with each other, stemming from the fact that Marc doesn't know who his father is, and his mother will not speak to him about her past. One day, he comes home and finds her with a dead man at her feet. The image so disturbs him that he will not set foot on the island for about 20 years. He takes over the ferry that shuttles tourists back and forth. He finally goes back to the hotel where his mother lives, in search of a mysterious girl who has not stepped back onto the return ferry to the mainland, and runs into his m! other. The ghost of the dead man is still at her feet, and he tells both mother and son of his strange history. Banning Jainlight was the bastard son of a farmer and his Native American slave mistress in the earlier part of the century. He ends up burning down the farm, killing one of his half-brothers, and crippling both his father and his step-mother for the cruelty they inflicted on him. He runs away to New York City, and several years later, ends up in Vienna, Austria, where he writes pornography for a powerful client in the newly ascendant Nazi Regime. He bases his writings on the strange, surreal sexual encounters he has with a young woman who lives across the street from him. In his writings, he transforms her features and her name to resemble those of the client's -- who is, of course, Hitler -- long lost love. Bear in mind, that this is just a brief description of this novel. Jainlight's story sparks off the no-less compelling story of Marc's mother, that mov! es from pre-Revolutionary Russia, sub-Saharan Africa, and P! ost-war New York City. Moving across dreams and reality, fantasy and history, this dense novel weaves together such unlikely themes as relationships between lovers and parents; the nature of good and evil; and the quest for identity. The images and instance in this novel are numerous and unforgettable: a woman who can kill men with the wild beauty of her dancing and menstruates flower petals; a city that's in the middle of a lagoon, and covered by blue tarps; a burial ceremony where the dead are hung upside-down on trees until they can speak their names; a herd of silver buffalo who run through the plains of Africa and North America. The writing is lovely and lyrical. This is a great novel!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Mesmeric modern fiction at its best - poetic, haunting, brilliantly original May 25 2011
By bobbygw - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
For some unfathomable reason - and no doubt also to other devotees of his early novels - Erickson has gained only a small readership, although he has garnered some impressive reviews by a number of critics both in the US and Europe. Sadly, I just don't think Erickson has ever been marketed or promoted properly or with any real understanding of how amazing and original a novelist he is.

`Tours of the Black Clock' is his third novel, and should have been the key to his literary stardom; his `breakout' fiction that should have, but didn't, take him to new and more popular heights, following his marvellous Rubicon Beach and equally wonderful Days Between Stations. Sadly, this has not been the case, and his novels since, while still gaining some excellent reviews, have led him to a readership that is tiny by comparison to many other more popular `literary' novelists. For this fiction at least, there is no doubt that Erickson deserves more attention and celebration, and popularity. His fiction has a stark, poetic and haunting brilliance, reminiscent of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Toni Morrison (at her most intense; i.e., with her novel, 'Beloved'). It is a fantastic, fantastical work that cannot - should not - be ignored and is a wonderful alternative modern history twist and take on key events/people in the 20th century.

The novel begins with Banning Jainlight, who is found dead in a boarding room, along with Dania, the obsession of his life, and Marc, their son - a product of surreality itself. Dania's and Marc's presence acts as a sort of catalyst, enabling Banning to narrate his story and, by doing so, reveals the myriad and complex memories that connect them and shape their histories.

Banning's life is experienced in a non-linear way; chronology and space become multi-dimensional as one memory merges with another. At the same time, his thoughts often assume a physicality, shaping the history of Dania's life, and extending and weaving the web of characters and stories that are being told.

Without his at first realising, Banning becomes a writer of erotic, strange stories for Adolf Hitler's consumption during WW2; stories which - unbeknownst to Banning - fuel Hitler's megalomaniac passions. History overturns itself, becoming a nightmarish Wonderland, and the world becomes bleak and decidedly Orwellian in this alternative reality.

The last several lines ending this tour de force are a match for (and an homage to) James Joyce's ending in his most famous short story, The Dead, from his collection, Dubliners, when the main character Gabriel watches the snow fall. The sentences are brilliantly, beautifully written and moving.

This is truly mesmeric modern fiction at its best. It portrays an overwhelming knot of obsessions of voyeurism, erotic desire, of the licentious nature of power unchecked, and of the pain and anguish that make up the absurd time (black clock) that ticked away on the face of the 20th century. Amazing.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Prose or fiction? Sept. 19 2002
By Damon Anderson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
As a poet Steve Erickson was transformational for me. There are chapters in this book that compare, for me, to some of the greatest poetry ever written. This fact alone makes this book well worth reading, but the story itself merits a second glance as well. Reality is layered, overlapping, runs paralell, perpendicular, through time, through fantasy. There are few fiction writers brave enough to make so tangible and palpable their characters turmoil, being too anchored to what they feel is real. But writing fiction opens up possibilities that even fewer writers truly ever tap. Steve Erickson has done just that. And does it magnificently time and again. As magnificent as Arc d'X is I would have to call this book, Tours of the Black Clock, Erickson seminal work.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The use of language is commendable, the contents are fantastic (in the best sense of the word) Feb. 22 2014
By Niklas Pivic - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a compact book. The contents seem effortlessly written, and read like watching water flowing. There's no hardship in reading this book, apart from the contents; I won't go into details that may spoil this for you, but it's big, and I actually felt as though two books had finished by the time I was 11% into it.

The author's use of language is commendable, as it's easy to read and digest, while the characters and their inner thoughts are less palatable (to me, at least), but are so interesting, that I kept wanting more and more of the book. After half of it, interest waned, but picked up again after circa 70%.

I'll recommend this to all; it's a two-punch book, first for the use of language which I've seldom seen, and second, for the contents; the plot twists, turns, churns and is truly imaginative. Shan't say more. Go read.
Not my cup of tea.... March 27 2014
By Robert J. Stava - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have to say I really did not care much for this novel, and didn't really get the attraction. I kept hearing what a great novel this was but couldn't escape the feeling I was in the midst of an 'Emperor's New Clothes' scenario. The writing style was poetic, in a stream-of-consciousness sort of way, but that was about it. The whole 'alternate history' thing carried little weight or authenticity, the characters seemed to drift through the meandering plot with no tangible insights as to their motivations or inner thoughts and I found myself skimming whole sections towards the end just to see if something...anything...was really going to happen. It kind-of-sort-of-maybe-did.

Maybe that was the whole intent. If it was, it was lost on me.

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