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Arts and Entertainment

Starring LA: Our Ecstatic Days

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Steve Erickson's new novel Our Ecstatic Days is set in a lyric, hallucinatory Los Angeles, where a spreading lake begins to take over the city, setting characters adrift. At Barnes & Noble's full-house reading last night, hosted by KCRW's Michael Silverblatt, it was apparent that Erickson's terrific writing is finally getting its due. Early reviews have been unapologetically adoring (Bookforum, CityBeat, Washington Post). Erickson's looping, time-twisting plotlines have long entranced readers who try to figure out how he does it; Silverblatt would ask about intention, and Erickson would return to intuition. "This isn't Finnegan's Wake," Erickson said. "It's not meant to be deciphered."

A Los Angeles native, Erickson's childhood house wasn't there when he was born, and had been destroyed to make way for a freeway by the time he was 17. "The identity of Los Angeles is constantly amorphous and shifting," he says, although he had to spend time in Europe before he saw how that was unique to LA. "It's a landscape that I intuitively understand. It's a blank slate against which people can write their own stories."

Not only is LA a character in Steve Erickson's latest work, it's also his home (he teaches at CalArts). He reads again on March 8 at Dutton's Beverly Hills; Our Ecstatic Days is available wherever excellent books are sold.