Zeroville is a 2007 novel by Steve Erickson on film’s upheaval in the 1970s. It was named one of the best novels of the year by Newsweek, the Washington Post BookWorld and the Los Angeles Times Book Review among others, and in winter 2008 was one of the five favorite novels of 800 novelists and critics in a poll of the National Book Critics Circle. The novel was also shortlisted for the Believer Book Award.
Ike Jerome, a 24-year-old architecture student inspired by the few films he has seen, rides the bus into Hollywood. Jerome is initially portrayed as violent and short tempered, his social ineptitude is slowly revealed as borderline autistic. With a tattoo of Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor as they appear in The film A Place in the Sun on the back of his head which he keeps shaven. His appearance is anachronistic and jarring to most of the people he encounters in 1960’s LA. He gets his first job in the industry as a set builder during which time he meets an aging film editor, nicknamed Vikar, whom he befriends and begins a dreamlike journey into the world of films that eventually ends in tragedy and almost horrific discovery.
Zeroville discusses the supernatural power of films over people and how films become like gods in our worship of them. Vikar’s bizarre discovery of the frame found in every film ever made confirms this. Zeroville is partially a critique of the ways movies and Hollywood changed in the 1970s, as the old studios are taken by young renegade filmmakers (symbolized by the veteran editor Dotty Langer). Vikar laments on the disappearance of film from Hollywood: “‘I’m in the movie capital of the world,’ Vikar says, ‘and nobody knows anything about movies'”. Zeroville’s plot is woven with two older stories or myths, that is, Abraham’s sacrifice and the legend of Perceval. (via Wikipedia)
When I heard about Zeroville, the book I was intrigued and then I managed to see a trailer of the upcoming film version online as well, which became the trigger to get the book. Steve Erickson has written a novel that stands out for sure, but his film obsession via Vikar Jerome becomes almost a bit too much in the end and you are almost forced to know the many movie references to be able to extract the layers in the book. And the constant presence of something supernatural would be fine if Erickson had handled it a bit more intriguing in my opinion. What is Erickson´s main purpose with the book? I red another review were this question were also stated, is it only for the already initiated or does he want to invite the reader to become as much a cineaste as the antisocial antihero Vikar? Yes, it´s kind of cool to follow Vikar´s journey into the real Hollywood and the collapse of the studio system and the temporary marriage of the independent film spirit with big studio money, but at the same time you do feel that the story sort of fades out the longer you come into the book to sort of fizzle in the end. Zeroville wants to be smart and different, but at the same time it feels like Erickson is snickering in the background of his own smartness, that others might only feel a bit confused by. Zeroville is like the bastard child of David Lynch and Chuck Palahniuk, but the satirical metaphysical set up never really reaches those heights I was expecting at least.