Days Between Stations (novel)
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First edition cover
|Publisher||Simon & Schuster|
|April 12, 1985|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
|Pages||253 (first edition, hardback)|
|LC Class||PS3555.R47 D3 1985|
|Followed by||Rubicon Beach|
Days Between Stations is the first novel by Steve Erickson. Upon publication in 1985 it received notable praise from Thomas Pynchon and has been cited as an influence by novelists such as Jonathan Lethem and Mark Z. Danielewski. It has been translated into French, Italian, Russian and Japanese. Several stories intersect in this novel: Lauren and Jason's unhappy marriage, Lauren's love affair with Adrien-Michel, and a lost silent film titled The Death of Marat.
Lauren falls in love with Jason as a girl, living in the Kansas fields, but when they move to San Francisco and later Los Angeles, she learns that they have much different ideas about how to be in love. Jason is a cyclist, training for the Olympics, and when he is away, as he is frequently, he sleeps with other women, many of whom call Lauren, and Jason asks her to brush them off. Although they have a son, Lauren enters a dissociative fugue one night, and blames herself when their child later dies.
In Los Angeles, they meet a mysterious man, with an amnesia of his own, who calls himself either Adrien or Michel, depending on which eye he covers with an eyepatch. He believes he sees differently from his two eyes, much to the consternation of his uncle, a film producer in Hollywood. Although never explicitly stated, Lauren and Adrien-Michel met before, when he raped her while she was lost in the fugue state. Adrien-Michel eventually falls in love with Lauren, and saves her from the sandstorms that engulf Los Angeles. The two travel to Europe, where Jason is set to compete in a bicycle race in Venice.
The focus then shifts to tell the story behind The Death of Marat, and the story of its director, Adolphe Sarre. Adolphe was born with a twin, although the two were separated at birth, and Adolphe was raised by his adoptive mother, a prostitute, in a secret room inside her brothel. Eventually, his adoptive mother gives birth to a daughter, who Adolphe falls in love with. He eventually must leave the brothel when he is discovered by the owner's son, and Adolphe tries to kill him by throwing him out the window.
He begins working for Pathe Studios, and becomes a prodigal talent. Adolphe eventually is allowed to work on his own project, set during the French Revolution, titled The Death of Marat. He goes to a tiny French village named Wyndeaux, and brings his lover from Paris to live with him. Eventually, he is told that she must return, by the brothel owner's son, who is still very alive. Adolphe tries to keep her as long as possible, by continuing to work on the film, even after the crew senses that their work is finished, but eventually, she is taken. The loss crushes Adolphe, and his masterpiece is never released.
Years later, the son of an artist, Graham, discovers that his father's greatest masterpiece has been plagiarized from a frame of this film. He searches for Adolphe Sarre, and finds him in Paris. Eventually, he discovers that Adolphe has completed the film, but cannot stand to show it, due to his feelings of guilt. Graham takes what he thinks is the final reel of The Death of Marat from Adolphe, only to learn that it is a student film by the filmmaker's grandnephew, Adrien-Michel. Graham eventually learns that this student film is as important to Adrien-Michel as completing The Death of Marat has become to him. They trade reels, and Graham arranges for his premier.
The novel returns to Jason, Lauren, and Adrien-Michel, who at this point has told Lauren that he has always been Michel. Jason knows that Lauren has come to Paris with Michel, and despite his many dalliances, he feels hurt that she would ever leave him. He asks her to come to Venice, where he is racing, and she agrees. They have to leave Paris, since riots start at the premier of The Death of Marat. Lauren takes a boat, piloted by the lost twin brother of Adolphe Sarre, who dies along the way, but eventually, Lauren gets to Italy. Michel instead takes a train, and becomes trapped in a seeming loop of time, where the other passengers have disappeared, and he keeps entering and leaving the train station in Wyndeaux.
In Venice, Lauren, Jason, and Michel negotiate about the future. The bicycle race starts before they come to a conclusion, and during the race, the riders are lost. The canals are empty, due to the retreat of the sea, and after days of searching, the riders are finally found. After Jason returns, Lauren asks for time to make a decision. Lauren tells them that despite being in love with Michel, she has to stay with Jason, and so Michel leaves, heartbroken.
Michel returns to Wyndeaux, where he grew up as a child. He gets some of the men in the village to help him dig two coffins up, where he thinks his twin brothers are buried. The coffins are empty.
The novel ends with Lauren having returned to Kansas, where she works with foster children. She and Jason lived together for a while, until he was killed in an accident. One of the foster children believes that she was in love with Jason, but hears her calling to Michel one night.
Relationship to Other Works
The Death of Marat appears again or is alluded to in Erickson's novels Amnesiascope and Zeroville, and several of the characters that Erickson writes about here also appear in other works including Tours of the Black Clock, Arc d'X and The Sea Came in at Midnight.