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Rubicon Beach

4.09 of 5 stars 4.09  ·  rating details  ·  410 ratings  ·  27 reviews
The second, highly imaginative novel from this much-acclaimed, young Los Angeles writer. This story is a warning to those who lack the courage to cross the Rubicon of their imaginations. By the author of Days Between Stations.
Paperback, 300 pages
Published September 12th 1987 by Vintage (first published 1986)
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…I’d come to the geographical and temporal longitude where and when anything was possible, and that the accompanying latitude was in me: I was a walking latitude, finding its conjunction with the world’s last longitude…

Some writers sit down at a typewriter and bleed. Others sit down and dream. Nothing to it. Steve Erickson casts his nets within far and wide, transmitting captured dreams through his fingertips out into the world at large. A web of shadow prisms infiltrate receptive frequencies wi
My introduction to the murky and surreal dreamscapes in which the novels of Steve Erickson unfold; abrupt shifts between person, time, gender, and identity are the hallmarks of the Los Angeles native, along with rich symbolism and a wickedly dark and understated sense-of-humour. Rubicon Beach begins with a man named Cale witnessing the unfolding of his own murder in a no-where-no-time Los Angeles that has been apocalyptically rendered into a community of islands, and from there the drugs get str ...more
'Rubicon Beach' reminded me of those old point-and-click adventure games. Your character wakes up in his room and goes on to explore the world beyond, moving between the scenes- one more surreal than the other, chatting up pixelated characters rooted to their respective spots, programmed to look like they are doing anything but waiting there for you.

Even though following the first anemic sub-chapters is a relatively familiar storyline, the whole book maintains that air of digital two-dimensional
Paul Eckert
With a book like Rubicon Beach, the story is what you make of it. Few events are clearly defined, character histories bleed into the dreams of other characters, and it’s almost impossible to tell what’s real. Sometimes this method of storytelling can be aggravating and is the defense of many a bad storyteller. But Rubicon Beach at least makes sense internally. Any confusion is not so much a deliberate attempt to confuse the reader with faux profundity as it is a landscape where the boundaries of ...more
Ned Hayes
Rubicon Beach was a book I read in my 20s, and I living a post-college hand-to-mouth existence in the same Los Angeles Steve Erickson lived in (he worked as a film reviewer for the wonderful-at-the-time L.A. Weekly -- I taught school and wrote for a less prestigious alternative weekly).

I was reading a lot of Joan Didion at the time, alongside some old fashioned Robert Heinlein and Ray Bradbury SF. I was also writing my first novel, modeled after Pete Dexter's crystal-clear and lucid prose. So th
Josh Luft
Thomas Pynchon's dead-on when he says Steve Erickson knows "the nocturnal side of reality." The action and imagery of Rubicon Beach--specifically the first part--is exquisitely dream-like. The passage about the water of a flooded, dystopian Los Angeles creating ever-changing music with the bombed-out buildings, and its presence and effects on the inhabitants, is one of the greatest images I've ever read. Rubicon Beach reminds me a little of Alan Garner's Red Shift, a novel as three stories, illu ...more
Karen Uchic
Steve Erickson is my new favorite writer. Rubicon Beach walks the line between fantasy and reality, if there is, in fact, such a line. The three sections of the book take place in different times and settings, and with different characters. Or do they? I had to pull out a pen and paper to take notes as I read, trying keep track of the similarities and recurring themes. Erickson's surreal style may not appeal to everyone, but to me, it's pure bliss.
Incidentally, this was not an easy book to find
Jon Glazer
I just re-read this novel after having read it at least twice in the 1980s. The first two sections are truly outstanding, but the last section was somewhat less powerful -- at least until the end. I just wasn't as emotionally engaged with the protagonist in that section of the book.

One of the most memorable events was when Catherine crosses an imaginary border into America at the intersection of Wilshire and Vermont in Los Angeles. I'll have to head up there soon to make my own journey across th
The first three novels by Erickson are dark, compelling, twisted fantasies of sex and death and lost dreams. The next three novels are pale imitations of the same thing. After that I lost track. But all you need to know is that this is one of the first three novels. Read it, or someone very like me might come out of the mist one day and chop off your head.
I delayed writing this review because I thought perhaps a couple of hours would let me digest the novel and understand it/what it did to me a little better. It didn't work.

These narratives move through a claustrophobic and murky darkness, once in a while rearing their heads so you can see the lightning flashing overhead before they sink back under. They occasionally meet in places past space and time, making impossibly beautiful and horrible links and crosses that make your brain hurt looking a
Wow-- I was impressed with this dystopic novel-- truly a unique and vivid addition to the genre.
An amazing book by an amazing, underrated author. Highly recommended.
Kyle Muntz
Absolutely brilliant writing and a lot of strengths I'll elaborate on whenever I've read more Erickson. This book has three parts--the first two were incredible, but the third, unfortunately, felt like a big step down for me, in a way that made the first two sections feel less satisfying. (As so few of the narrative threads from earlier are resolved.) Still, though, this is the best example I've seen in quite a while of unifying style and strong storytelling, and I'm looking forward to reading m ...more
Rich Gamble
Rubicon Beach is a book that will divide opinion (or would’ve in the 80’s before it faded into obscurity). Sometimes Erickson creates haunting and surreal scenes that stay with you hours after you have read them and other times the passages feel flat as if he is simply recounting his dreams in a ‘this happened, then this happened’ kind of way. Sometimes it feels like Erickson knows exactly what he is doing and is building up to a greater purpose, dropping scenes so vivid and twisted they will me ...more
I'm embarrassed to admit that for the entire time of reading I'd been thinking of Styx instead of Rubicon. The story made so much more sense to me then. Now I'm just confused.

I really enjoyed reading it though. Erickson's writing has the same quality I've always admired in Calvino — that of making everything into a tale that sounds familiar like a myth or a parable yet stays entirely unpredictable.

There's a circularity to the plot that I'm still trying to figure out.
Loved the first act. Enjoyed the second. Scratched my head through the third. Not that a surrealist novel about people whose lives intersect in dreamtime has to make sense, but Erickson seems to have wanted to go in a sense-wise direction, and then either changed or lost his mind along the way. I'm not going to go as far as the Library Journal and say that "This contrived, humorless mishmash of pseudo-fantasy and mystery leaves one hopelessly confused." But I will say that it made about as much ...more
Erik Wyse
It took some time for me to adjust to Erickson's style, as well as the fully-realized world presented here, only to get fully lost in the wonder of it all. A great contemporary exercise in magic realism, with some haunting imagery and characters.
I really like Erickson and went to this book after "The Sea Came in at Midnight," which I really loved. This one didn't do it for me though. It was dark and spooky but too meandering in its vague and abstract bleakness. I will keep reading his works and even read "Zeroville" after this one and I certainly love "Zeroville." I think this is a fluke of Erickson's. He is better than this. If you like it you have only up to go in pursuing his other works.
Danny Lindsay
Only great writers like Erickson can pull off jarring digressions this beautifully. Some of the scenes in this novel were described with such skill and power that I am still carrying them around in my head. No doubt I will one day confuse them with my own memories.
Tom Griffith
I didn't actually read this. I accidentally selected it for my bookshelf. I have no idea what it is about, who wrote it, or whether it is a pile of crap or not. Disregard this comment as it is completely useless.
Erickson is one one of the great, great living writers. This is his 2nd book. Dreams, foreboding, insight--it all drwas you in as you cross the Rubicon.
Pretty damn crazy. I won't pretend I got all of it, but it is a great read... provided you can wrap your head around it. Which I don't think everybody can.
Postmodern magical realism that sort of wanders all over the place. Tasty writing but not for everyone.
Slightly better than some of his other work, but still utltimately too discursive to be of any value."
Charles Baudelaire
Definitely worth reading...dark & mysterious.
Brilliant.... if you like this sort of thing.
My favorite Erickson book, I think.
Kathryn marked it as to-read
Nov 23, 2015
Katie marked it as to-read
Nov 19, 2015
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Stuttered as a child, a motif which often appears in his writing.

Began writing stories at age seven. Began publishing as a teen. Wrote first novel at seventeen.

Studied film and journalism at UCLA.

Received Guggenheim Fellowship in 2007.

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“I began composing the next poem, the one that was to be written next. Not the last poem of those I had read, but the poem written in the head of someone who may never have existed but who had certainly written another poem nonetheless, and just never had the chance to commit it to ink and the page.” 11 likes
“By the plain form of my delirium I will blast the obstruction of every form around me into something barely called shadow. I sail. I swim to you. I know the water.” 7 likes
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