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Arc d'X

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  527 ratings  ·  39 reviews
Thomas Jefferson's love for, and enslavement of, his mistress, Sally Hemings, forms the center of an exploration of the American spirit. ...more
Paperback, 298 pages
Published September 1st 1996 by Henry Holt & Company (first published 1993)
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Average rating 3.96  · 
Rating details
 ·  527 ratings  ·  39 reviews

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fulfilling my 2019 goal to read (at least) one book each month that has been digitally moldering, unread, on my NOOK for years and years and years.

i think i would have liked this more if i had read it a) many years ago (probably when i first bought it as a physical book BEFORE i re-bought it as an e-book) and b) if i had read it under better circumstances with fewer distractions and a calmer brain.

steve erickson is not an author you want to be reading when you are in a distractible headspace. i
Jan 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bringing the whole bag of weird and eerie goodies back into the Eighteenth Century, which means identity slippage and evaporation, heated sexual trysts with hierarchies of dominance and submission that dematerialize under close or extended observation, powerplays and pursuits, ghostly resonances that emerge like flickering fireflies to wreak their time-enchained destinies upon semen-sown reincarnations, and—most excellently of all—working in Mr. Deist himself, Thomas Jefferson, Founding Father a ...more
May 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: heartstopping
Oh, just -- quiet, rain storm: let me think.
Pathetic fallacy is a literary device that suggests a connection between human qualities; emotions, and the weather.

There is no pathetic fallacy in Steve Erickson. Nothing so formal; nothing so easy to interpret.
There are no literary devices. Not here.

There is a black sense of something seething out from between the cracks. There is history, restructured and reviled and revered; characters that social justice fighters would claim have been defiled or v
May 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Best book ever. I'm not kidding. It's the book I wish I had the talent to write anyway. It's surreal and chaotic and brilliant. Thomas Jefferson's in it and Thomas Pynchon thinks it's like the Declaration of Independence. It's essentially a surreal tale about the kinds of slavery we engage ourselves in at the then-cusp of the millennium but filtered through a crazy lens that includes Sally Hemings at the core of it. Etcher's pain moved me to bits. It's awesome. I can't praise this book enough. ...more
Ian Scuffling
Do you like alternative histories (and futures)? Do you like post-apocalyptic alternate universes? Are you interested in the surreal and its use as an absolute formal structure the shapes an entire novel? Have you ever seen Inland Empire and wondered how a film like that might work as a novel?

Beginning at Thomas Jefferson's first rape of his slave Sally, the novel uses Sally's soul, or spirit, as a kind of time-wanderer through the wastelands of alternative America. The novel then follows a kind
Nov 29, 2011 rated it liked it
Great premise and opens like a shotgun blast. I was with him for the first first character shifts, but after a while it seemed like he was doing it just for the hell of it. I couldn't care less ebout Etcher, Georgie or Erickson, and the book sort of meanders past the point with clumsy allusions to History Slavery and Sex. The writing is also quite purple at time. You can only call someone's cunt her 'vacancy' for so long before I have to chuckle. I give it a three for the great writing that is t ...more
Sep 02, 2008 rated it liked it
This was a reread. Wasn't really working for me this time around, though, so I put it down. I'd still recommend to anyone who hasn't read Erickson. This or any of his other 3 early novels (Rubicon Beach, Days Between Stations, Tours of the Black Clock). Very much takes you into mesmerizing alternate dream-realities, usually somewhat post-apocalyptic. He has a fine hypnotic writing style. He can get pretty heavy-handed and repetitive with the metaphors, but he's much more accessible than, say, th ...more
Mar 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
Like taking a Pynchon novel and stripping out the coherent bits and the humor to create an extended disturbing hallucination. Multiple storylines, each weird on its own, may or may not intersect (who can really tell?) but not in a coherent way that is apparent to me. What does it mean? I don't know but I like it a lot. I first read this a few years ago and am glad I decided to return. ...more
May 29, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
Good writing, cool atmosphere, too much sex (I'm definitely not a prude but it was a bit gratuitous). In the middle it seemed like it was going nowhere but the way he linked all the characters together at the end was fabulous. ...more
May 21, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tough to think of a place to start here. I had come to this because I was kind of fascinated by Erickson's short story (which I guess is now a novel?) Zeroville, and this was the only book of his I ever seemed to find (and it had a glowing blurb from William Gibson, which, that's certainly something).

I finished this book and didn't feel that I enjoyed it. This reviewer: and I seem to be mostly on the same page - I almost want to email this person and trac
May 03, 2019 rated it liked it
Unlike the novels of Pynchon and Auster and the films of Lynch, I just wanted this to end as quickly as possible. I love the parallel identities, intricate metaphors, and worlds that Erickson creates, but his prose ultimately becomes too dense, repetitive, and boring to will the reader to do the mental gymnastics required in piecing together a piece of literature of this type.

And as an aside, Erickson is so under-read that there is almost no critical analysis of the novel that posits different
Nov 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
About five years ago I read Erickson's first novel, "Days Between Stations," and I loved it. In my Goodreads review I wrote - "Must read more Erickson!" And then I guess I forgot. Fortunately, last month, someone I don't know liked my old review, and I was reminded of my promise and did something about it. Thank heavens, because I liked this book even better (I should have realized I would when I saw on the back cover that it's blurbed by Thomas Pynchon and William Gibson) A fantasia of American ...more
Jul 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Weird but good in it's way

I don't even know how to respond to this book. It was confusing and weird. I like weird Nd confusing though. I think that I would have to read it again to grasp all the details i missed along the way which were brought up again near the end. The part in Germany i didn't really understand what was going on,
I think my mind blanked on something that came before that may have made it more clear.
Stephen Toman
Jul 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
The first time I read Erickson (Zeroville) was like a bomb going off in my head and I’ve been working my way through his bibliography ever since. This one is similar to Days Between Stations and Rubicon Beach, sharing some characters. These early novels, with their sudden leaps between characters and places, remind me of the novel Snoopy was working on throughout Peanuts.
Mar 19, 2017 rated it it was ok
I pushed through this novel about a character named Sally Hemming who was raped by a man named Thomas. The novel follows a strange logic from revolutionary France through emptied out Berlin and a hypocritical religious state. At the heart of the novel is an exploration of "the pursuit of happiness." The novel disturbed me as it worked to provided agency for the raped Sally in her relationship with Thomas, and the other men who desire her through out Erickson's structure of history. Her agency de ...more
Sep 11, 2017 rated it liked it

I am not at all sure I understand anything about this book.
Brandon Wicke
Nov 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
"there are only three things you die for. Love, freedom, or nothing." - pg 296 ...more
Kim Zinkowski
Dec 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
My first I am a big fan. I've read this twice, not sure of the dates. Maybe its time for another read! ...more
Dec 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is without a doubt one of the best books I’ve read. The depth, complexity and emotion of it. How this started moved and ended, brilliant.
Erik Wyse
Mar 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Further proof of the depth Erickson explores in his fiction, a depth that few novelists even consider.
Oct 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
More than anything else, this book brought into focus the failings of the five start rating system for me. Not because I had a particularly strong opinion one way or the other that five measly categories couldn't possibly manage to summarise, but rather the opposite.

Reading through the other reviews of this book (all twenty two of them), I was struck by how I empathised with them all. From the people who couldn't make it through the first one hundred pages because it was too uncomfortable - if u
Aug 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book appeared in a box of things I owned; I have no memory of how I found it, which is quite fitting. Arc d'X was nothing if not fascinating. This book of loose narratives tended to rise and fall like waves, collapsing unresolved into new narratives. Characters walk through walls only to appear in the past. It was like reading Philip K. Dick by way of Terry Gilliam, where the bleak and surreal intertwine. The themes of race and sexual power did not age well, as Erickson is writing from a pl ...more
May 25, 2007 marked it as to-read
From Library Journal
Powerful but at times difficult, this book begins as a historical novel but soon becomes surreal and startlingly visionary. In Paris as the French Revolution seethes around him, Thomas Jefferson is torn between his lofty ideals and his undeniable passion for the quadroon slave Sally Hemmings. Sally's spirit reappears with dire consequences in Aeonopolis, a grim totalitarian city outside time because it sits beyond "the X of the arcs of history and the heart." Erickson's idios
Aug 13, 2011 rated it liked it
Erickson is a master at the psychological/mythological, though I think he works out more inventive prose in his later novels. Sometimes this book is trying/hard to grasp, moving through all the different incarnations of Sally/Thomas/Erickson ect...and sometimes the over-dramatic metaphors of love/freedom/history can move from on-point to just overdramatic and trying on one's patience. Lots of interesting narrative about the function of memory and freedom and the relationship between freedom and ...more
May 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Pynchon on ARC D'X (1993):

Mind-warping in its vision, absolute in its integrity, Arc d'X is classic Erickson--as daring, crazy, and passionate as any American writing since the Declaration of Independence.
Jul 10, 2015 rated it liked it
Sometimes you write even though you're tired, or you just woke up, or you're not in the mood, just so you can meet your daily work count. Weird things come out. Later you're like hmmm that didn't work out at all. Other times it works out better than you could have planned. ...more
Aaron Clark
Aug 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorites by Steve Erickson. It's a shame it's out of print... ...more
k. tauches
better than pynchon. . .more than post-modern fiction.
senator jensen
Mar 06, 2009 rated it liked it
Really wild. Quite the subterranean journey in time and space.
Brent Legault
Apr 28, 2009 rated it it was ok
I couldn't slog through this one. I thought that the whole Tom & Sally thing was drab and confining, a grey straitjacket of prose. And stylistically bland as well: overstocked with stock phrases. ...more
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Steve Erickson is the author of ten novels: Days Between Stations, Rubicon Beach, Tours of the Black Clock, Arc d'X, Amnesiascope, The Sea Came in at Midnight, Our Ecstatic Days, Zeroville, These Dreams of You and Shadowbahn. He also has written two books about American politics and popular culture, Leap Year and American Nomad. Numerous editions have been published in English, Spanish, French, Ge ...more

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“When the thing that emerged from the collision of sex and freedom, called love, collided with the thing that emerged from the collision of time and memory, called history, the dreams began to come.” 4 likes
“He had thrilled to his own power only in the throes of sex, when he didn't have the presence of mind to know that pleasure wouldn't last forever, and in the flush of freedom, when he was too innocent to know he wasn't free.
Now he seized the power that came from that collision of sex with freedom called love.”
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