Join us

Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Newsletter

Time Out Chicago: "it takes a savant like Vikar to unlock the mystical key at the center of Zeroville, an idea funny and dizzy enough that it counts as both spoiler and beyond easy description, so we’ll keep our mouths shut."

Date: Dec 15 2007

Vikar Jerome arrives in 1969 Hollywood on a bus from Philadelphia. That alone is enough to make him an outsider among the hippies and burnouts, but there’s something even more peculiar about Vikar: His head is shaved, and on his scalp are Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor, tattooed with their lips almost touching, a scene from the classic A Place in the Sun.
 
In short order, Vikar’s life takes strange and exhilarating turns. He’s arrested in Laurel Canyon, suspected of being a member of the Manson Family. He’s burglarized by a Black Power acolyte who may be his only match as a film buff. And he lands a job as an editor and falls in with a screenwriter he calls “Viking Man,” who takes him to Spain to work on a picture, where he’s subsequently kidnapped by revolutionaries to direct a film about Generalissimo Franco’s death.

All the while he freaks people out with that tattoo on his head.

Erickson takes his readers on a surreal ride alongside Vikar, who at the beginning of the novel is a man-child, a virgin film buff who, at one point, is described by a friend as “cinéautistic.” But by the middle of the book he’s an accomplished film editor, even if, socially, he’s still tone deaf. But it takes a savant like Vikar to unlock the mystical key at the center of Zeroville, an idea funny and dizzy enough that it counts as both spoiler and beyond easy description, so we’ll keep our mouths shut.

Erickson is able to keep the plot moving with numbered, bite-size chapters, some that fit three to a page. The obvious corollary is that Erickson uses the format to ape the clipped pacing of film frames, and it’s fitting that at some points in the book the chapters whiz by and others are long shots that stick with Vikar. In either case, Erickson did a masterful job of writing a cinematic novel, told in Technicolor.

— Jonathan Messinger