Tours of the Black Clock: A Novel Paperback – Feb 9 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
With the surreal effects of William Burroughs, Erickson spells out a nightmarish vision of the seedy underbelly of the Twentieth Centurya phrase that's portentously capitalized throughout this wildly uneven phantasmagoria. Its anti-hero, Banning Jainlight, raised on a Pennsylvania ranch, has sex with an Indian housemaid who turns out to be his real mother; so he throws his father out of a window and escapes to sleazy New York where he churns out porn novels. His Austrian mentor bids him to Vienna, where he ends up as Hitler's secret pornographer, writing tawdry scenes to slake the Fuhrer's obsession with a real-life niece. Jainlight's first-person spiela torrent of drunken poetry, erotic longing and cynicismis intertwined with the stories of Dania, a Russian dancer living with her half-mad father inside a revolving crater in Sudan, and of Zeno, an old ferryman who shuttles tourists to an anonymous Chinatown. Suddenly it's 1967 and our shy pornographer is holed up with Hitler in a dank Italian prison, plotting escape. Erickson ( Rubicon Beach ) overextends himself here, but before this powerful, haunting fantasy falls apart it insinuates itself into the reader's mind through its reckless confrontation with evil.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Featuring the improbably named Banning Jainlight, a burly, brutish, cunning writer, this fast-paced narrative makes bold jumps through time and place as it moves from Pennsylvania to Manhattan to a 1930s Vienna in the violent throes of early Naziism. Here Jainlight plies his tradepornographer to Hitlerand here he learns that "the black clock of the century is stripped of hands and numbers. It is a time in which there's no measure of time that God understands." While the book has the delicacy to give a fine portrait of an aging Hitler living out his life in an Italian basement, even sophisticated readers may be confused by the kaleidoscopic vision of our century. Peter Bricklebank, City Coll., CUNY
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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 continuing to gain some excellent reviews, have led him to a readership that remains tiny by comparison to many other more popular literary novelists.
Still, for this fiction at least, there's no doubt that Erickson deserves more attention, 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.
Maybe that was the whole intent. If it was, it was lost on me.
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.