Shadowbahn review ¹ eBook or Kindle ePUB

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Dy hears a different song A rumor overtakes the throng that someone can be seen in the high windows of the southern structure On the ninety third floor Jesse Presley the stillborn twin of the most famous singer who ever lived suddenly awakes driven mad over the hours and days to come by a voice in his head that sounds like his but isn't and by the. I am not even going to pretend the premise isn t crazy Twenty years after they fell the Twin Towers reappear in South Dakota They are as they were before 911except they seem to be singing and they are also completely devoid of people save one Jesse Garon Presley the twin brother of Elvis who in our reality died at birth I KNOW RIGHT It s bonkers But than just a bananapants premise it s a gorgeous novel of loss and alternate history deeply tied into American culture I was transfixedBacklist bump Zeroville by Steve Erickson This has my favorite ending of any novel everTune in to our weekly podcast dedicated to all things new books All The Books

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Shadowbahn

Memory of a country where he survived in his brother's place Meanwhile Parker and Zema cross a possessed landscape by a mysterious detour no one knows charted on a map that no one has seen Haunting audacious and undaunted Shadowbahn is a winding and reckless ride through intersections of danger destiny and the conjoined halves of a ruptured natio. There s music coming out of me that s not mine There s singing in my head that s not meThis was my first exposure to Steve Erickson astonishing given that the author has nine previous novels and has won both a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Lannan Lifetime Achievement Award I m not so enad of his method that I ll immediately hunt down the other nine novels but Shadowbahn represents such an odd representation of 21st century America I ll be trying to figure out what his visions mean for a long long timeMany reviews have focused on the explicit details of the novel how the Twin Towers of Sept 11 have magically reappeared in the South Dakota Badlands in 2021 and will make a habit of reappearing in random locations every 20 years henceforth How the stillborn twin brother of Elvis Presley has somehow taken the place of his brother but become a member of the Warhol Factory rather than a rock and roll pioneer How a brother and sister driving to Michigan have somehow become the central object of hatred of a fractured America dividing itself into Rupture zones with rebellious citizens somehow convinced that the sister has somehow stolen the collective music of America merely by playing her father s playlistsIt s a dazzlingly strange story all right made stranger by the fact that some sections of the book could be shuffled into random positions with the resulting novel still as coherent as the novel before us It s not just that Erickson provides us a nonlinear and dreamy narrative it s that the book is less a narrative than a series of prose poems resembling the linked stories of solitary living on the Irish coast in Claire Louise Bennett s Pond for example or resembling the odd specific and haunted essays of poet Mia Alvarado Erickson has given us a definite dreamscape as nothing stays the same for long And since most sub chapters last less than a page leaving plenty of white space in the book s layout the feeling that this is prose poetry is reinforcedPopular music is central to the book but popular defined in odd ways The overture and hit single for the book is Laurie Anderson s O Superman given its prescient reference to planes arriving Or maybe it s Oh Shenandoah Or a French chanson O Souverain Depends entirely on the dream you choose The reviewer in The New York Times Book Review admitted to being a wrong target for the book because an obsessive focus on music did not inform the reviewer s daily life I stopped dead in my tracks reading that admission I had thought a love for books and literary pursuits necessarily implied a deep obsession with music obviously shared by Parker and Zema s father and by Erickson himself Since this is my natural state of being no musical reference in the book was challenging to me and I should have realized that not every MFA or rabid devourer of books was also a music wonk But why should that not be so And why should not every MFA be a lover of higher order mathematics Since music and math are the most highly perfected languages it only stands to reason What s that tune and where is it coming fromIt s tempting to give this book the highest possible ranking because of the experiments in perception and music listening Erickson wants us to make yet sometimes his choices seem less than optimal For example he wants us to grasp the shadow twin or doppelganger nature of the Hugh Everett many worlds theory how just a slight shift can make histories radically change But why would he choose such trite and well worn culture heroes as Elvis JFK and Andy Warhol to make his points In his musical playlists he s not afraid to throw in Brian Eno and Goldfrapp so why not aim for something a little stranger than Valerie Solano and the Velvet Underground I understand Erickson wants to bring shadow histories to extremely well known culture heroes but I think a slightly obscure reference could have been found I m always harping about why we must have yet another history of the battle of Gettysburg when so many interesting histories of James Garfield s assassination or Franklin Pierce s political movements could be written Someone will inevitably answer that Gettysburg sells But the historian should dive into the shadow corners of history to illuminate secret events not seek to follow Bill O Reilly into the massively popular realm of fake historyErickson wants to preserve plenty of mysteries in his book but we often don t get anything close to a clear sense of why the Towers keep reappearing why music keeps vanishing or where the shadow highways are supposed to lead Yes these are the kind of cryptic passages that can make a novel haunt us for months but there often are too many gaps in the knowledge within Erickson s storyThe last 15 pages of this novel corresponding to Tracks 24 and 25 of the Infinite Playlist are a critical distillation of what Erickson wants to tell us Even if he does not make his intent clear we can clearly hear Laurie Anderson s voice in the background When justice is gone there s always force When force is gone there s always mom here come the planes they re American planes made in America so you d better get ready We somehow were ready for Sept 11 2001 long before it took place but we ve somehow also never recovered In the movie Arrival based on Ted Chiang s short story Story of Your Life it is clear in the non linear wholistic cursive language of the aliens that they are telling us that we must abandon linear time to move forward that the only way we become greater being is by remembering forward sacrificing a little of that imaginary free will to accept the totality of the trajectory of our lives and eventual death as one Erickson makes veiled references to this abandonment of time but ties it to the higher language of music which is always there and never there all at once And all of it has deep ties to the continued racial divides in the nationIn a traditional vein one can say that the ultimate book on race relations music and escapes from time s limitation is Richard Powers magnum opus The Time of our Singing Erickson s book is by contrast a brief and minimal poetic volume It has jumped out of the time constraints used by Powers It does not always make optimal use of the prose poem format and it does not always make clear what the continuing ghost of Sept 11 means and what those songs are that remain stuck in our head The book makes little attempt to explain what the shadowbahns really are and where they might take us But the music provided along those secret highways preceded our individual egos It was there in the womb before we took our first breaths and the soundtrack will continue after we leave Erickson s book is a travel map and tour guide for those secret singing highways not exhaustive or even very coherent but a fine collection of poetry

Steve Erickson × 3 read

When the Twin Towers suddenly reappear in the Badlands of South Dakota twenty years after their fall nobody can explain their return To the hundreds then thousands then tens of thousands drawn to the American Stonehenge including Parker and Zema siblings on their way from LA to visit their mother in Michigan the Towers seem to sing even as everybo. This was a brilliant collage of short narratives on America as ephemeral dreamscape and one man s attempt to envision and incarnate its essence by songscape The structure of the assembly mostly involves the twining of three strands connected by interfaces with the crystalizing event of the 911 devastation The sudden appearance of the Twin Towers in the Badlands in a near future 20 years after 911 captures the attention of millions The buildings are empty except for Jesse Presley who emerges very confused in a parallel universe where he was the stillborn twin of Elvis instead of the vice versa we experience Everyone hears music around the Towers but each hears something different Among those who visit are a brother and sister driving across country to seek reconciliation with their father the second thread to that of Jesse s adventures The father has sent the siblings his white son Parker and adopted daughter Sheba from Ethiopia recordings of a twin set of playlists to inspire them on their journey Notes for each pair of songs make up the third major set of narrative pieces Soon it becomes apparent that things are different in this world aside from it being 2021 and the transtemporal visitation by the Twin Towers The US now includes nations of Union and Disunion John Kennedy never became president and was assassinated But this is not really an alternative history fantasy or sci fi portrayal of how parallel universes might operate The absurd premise of the plot context should not put off prospective readers One should take them as a poetic metaphorical way to explore the vacuum of the American Dream in this century and a look to music as the medium to find our way In this light all the short episodes of narrative usually 1 2 pages make for a fun and spritely ride The play of twin ness makes for a lively uber theme twin towers twins siblings paired playlists and flip sides of 45 singles not to mention the dual universes dual nations white and black races and lots of mirroring reflections and shadows Most readers will have knowledge of only a small fraction of the music referred to but the father s assessment of song pairs in his list is elouently elaborated and comprehensible without direct knowledge I felt I was getting some significant glimpses as to how a song is so embedded in the culture at a particular time and place as to embody both the travails of the past within the present and hopes ambitions and projections for the future I loved these pieces for the way they connect disparate music and make reflections on how the songs both capture and predict the travails and aspirations of the American peopleFor example here is the shortest entry for song notes A Change is Gonna Come and What Becomes of the Brokenhearted The first song because any national discography that excludes it invalidates itself and the second because when the singer sings As I walk this land of broken dreams it becomes clear that the thing breaking his heart is the very land itself that he walksAs another example this excerpt pairs a song of Duke Ellington with that of Mile Davis Black and Tan Fantasy is part witty funeral march interspersed with a twilit summer stroll down Lenox Avenue as though the body on its way to an eternal resting place in a Harlem cemetery lets loose its spirit for one last jaunt around the neighborhood The deep Harlem grave is a portal to forty years later when a St Louis dentist s son with a horn leads an expedition to the end of African exile the exodus not from slavery to freedom as in the Old Testament but the other way around Miles Runs the Voodoo Down isn t just three centuries of a people s history in fourteen musical minutes marked by wail smolder outburst and flying dutchman phantasmatoons adrift on the shoals of reef smashed chords it s the response from the damned America to the call of that America that might still be redeemed in Black and Tan Fantasy as the spirit of America takes off from its body on its way to being interred for one last jaunt around all the possibilities that the country once imagined for itself even as those possibilities were betrayed before the country began As well running down the voodoo the horn player a man of no small ego now pursues and sets to music his own oblivion the sound of his own nothingness the sound of something beyond burial The piece continues with a distillation of how Jimmie Hendrix is intermediary between the two with songs that shadow bothThe purpose of the siblings father in creating a national playlist is to somehow address how wealth and power is the only American idea left If the evil of the attacks on that September morning could be set aside and of course it could not nothing better presented America with the opportunity to reimagine itself This was at once an opportunity at once botched and fulfilled with on the one hand a war of worse faith than anything the country has done in a hundred years and be the election on the other hand of a man the color of African orphans all followed by hope s collapseNow that is something I can get on board with If it s going to be a mindtrip on the order of Pynchon or Delillo it helps the pleasure meter if there are some graspable and relevant themes fun along the way and that it s not a megabook As it gets harder and harder to have pride in America as a political identity it s refreshing to hope in its continued nurturing of wonderful music as a way we might find an identity within the cosmic map I refrain from saying anything about the engaging missions of Jesse and the ParkerSheba siblings But they do travel a lot and sweep you along somewhere in the lanes between On the Road and Electric Kool Aid Acid Test Sheba reflects at one point near the Dakotas that there have been no exits on the Shadowbahn that hurtles them onward through the shadowcountry and through the shadowcenturyTo whet your interest further I can say there is an intriguing puzzle about a song which warns of danger from planes in NYC before 911 and its connection to Elvis and the song Oh Shenandoah The education about that song was a delight in itself as it has enough multicultural adaptations from a French trader love song to his Indian bride to a black spiritual version check out Robeson s take on YouTube that makes a perfect national song I plan in the future to listen to songs from the playlists which I see is available on Rhapsody under the titles Shadowbahn and Shadowbohn2 as well as Spotify The writer Fiona Maazel in her review found a lot of satisfaction from exploring the songs New York Times Feb 10 2017 The trouble is that we often don t know the singer or performance is being referred to eg Brokenhearted mentioned above and the playlist may undergo changes as time goes on Slippery when wet it seemsI think a key factor is whether this book is for you is how well you tolerate play with elements of synchronicity For me I need some vehicle to deal with the potency of 911 in terms of impact Such an out of the blue to our sensibility of safety and integrity and awful in the escalation of death through the wars it spawned and growth of xeno and Islamophobia The events is worthy of an allegorical warping of space time At the same time a successful attack seems so desirable to our many enemies and thus so predictable So much chance in its success and yet almost miraculous to the totality of the Tower s destruction from a strike up in the sky In the absence of a faith in God sometimes I can t help drifting into some sense of everything being connected to everything and peek into my mental closet of inadeuate knowledge of uantum physics Books like Crying Lot of 49 or Underworld prey on that hunger to look for lessons in reality I know it s chance but I still feel eerie to see the plane flying near the Twin Towers in this cover of Delillo s book published in 1997


10 thoughts on “Shadowbahn

  1. says:

    the music became inextricable from the paroxysms of his country Did his country lead him to the music or did the music lead him to his country?i was so excited a few months back to hear that steve erickson had a new book coming out and so titillated by jonathan lethem's saying of it in granta wayyy back in december 2015 It’s my best of the year but you can’t read it yetI’ve read every novel he’s ever written and I’ll still never k

  2. says:

    See Toldja that whole Beatles Man or Elvis Man dichotomy was bullshit I am in both camps which means that Steve Erickson believes I am one of many molecules holding together the fabric of the Western cultural cosmos I found an LP copy of Big

  3. says:

    This was a brilliant collage of short narratives on America as ephemeral dreamscape and one man’s attempt to envision and incarnate its essence by songscape The structure of the assembly mostly involves the twining of three strands connected by interfaces with the crystalizing event of the 911 devastation The sudden appearance of the Twin Towers in the Badlands in a near future 20 years after 911 captures the attent

  4. says:

    Premise the Twin Towers mysteriously appear on the Badlands of South Dakota from them comes a stream of music and everyone

  5. says:

    Did not finish gave up at 47% Couldn’t get into it although the premise is so interesting However the very short chapters – one o

  6. says:

    I am not even going to pretend the premise isn’t crazy Twenty years after they fell the Twin Towers reappear in South Dakota They are as they were before 911except they seem to be singing and they are also completely devoid of people save one Jesse Garon Presley the twin brother of Elvis who in our reality died at birth I KNOW RIGHT? It’s

  7. says:

    Boy I didn't like this book The firsthalf I'd say it was a strong 3 stars towers mystery brosis driving toward it their story was really compelling Then at approximately the halfway point the bookdevolved? It became of series of se

  8. says:

    Steve Erickson's Shadowbahn is deliciously out there You won't read anything else like it this year From its startling premise to its beautifu

  9. says:

    There's music coming out of me that's not mine There's singing in my head that's not meThis was my first exposure to Steve Erickson astonishing given that the author has nine previous novels and has won both a Gu

  10. says:

    So what to make of Steve Erickson’s Shadowbahn It’s already been described as the first post Trump novel which is a tad ironic given the President – not named – in Erickson’s near future the book is set in 2021 is female and it’s under this female President look we know it’s Hillary that America fractures into a “disunion” Not even Erickson for all the weirdness that occurs in Shadowbahn could imagine a Trump P