Review: 'These Dreams Of You'

Although it starts out as a seemingly conventional novel, These Dreams of You by Steve Erickson gradually becomes experimental fiction as the plot turns on a series of improbable coincidences. Alan Cheuse, who teaches writing at George Mason University, has a review.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish. Experimental fiction is not everyone's cup of tea, but our reviewer Alan Cheuse recommends picking up the latest novel by Steve Erickson. It's called "These Dreams of You." It's an experimental journey that starts out in a conventional way.

ALAN CHEUSE, BYLINE: The novel opens on that night in 2008 when Barack Obama won the presidency. Gathered in front of a TV screen in Los Angeles and cheering enthusiastically, a family on the verge of bankruptcy: Zan Nordhoc, an obscure and impoverished novelist; his artist wife, Viv; 12-year-old son Parker; and 4-year-old Ethiopian-born adopted daughter Zema, whom they call Sheba. With the bank about to foreclose on their house, an old English boyfriend of Viv's offers Zan a large honorarium to give a university lecture on the fragile state of the novel.

Off the family flies to London. Viv, obsessed with finding Sheba's birth mother, continues onto Addis Ababa. From that moment forward, the seemingly realistic narrative turns on a number of major coincidences. On the eve of Zan's talk, an African woman named Molly appears at their hotel room, and Zan engages her as Sheba's nanny for the night. Molly has a past that strangely coincides with that of a character in Zan's current work in progress.

African Molly's mother may be a woman who rescued young Zan from being trampled at the political rally where Robert Kennedy was assassinated. In this loopy but hypnotic story, more and more coincidences pop up. Time twists around. The arc of the story bends back to history, to the Gospels, to celebrating African music and American jazz and politics and the novel. This novel emerges as a still powerful literary form that ultimately makes us wonder and cheer enthusiastically about the strange and more than coincidental thing we call life itself.

CORNISH: Our reviewer Alan Cheuse recommending the novel "These Dreams of You" by Steve Erickson.

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