Literary novel with trailers joined in a circle
May 13, 2013 6:54 PM   Subscribe

Identify this book. Literary novel, probably a first novel, published between 1994 and 1997, written by a guy who had taught writing at Harvard. The only thing I remember in it is an obsessive character in the desert who has welded multiple trailers or mobile homes in a circle so he can obsessively walk in circles inside them.

The book seemed really bad to me at the time, but in retrospect it seems like it was a good kind of bad (or maybe it wasn't actually bad). What I remember of the book reminds me a bit of the style and stories of Don Delillo and Steve Erickson. Delillo's Point Omega reminded me a bit of this book.

But the trailers-joined-in-a-circle in the desert is the only detail that has stuck in my mind. The guy who paces in the trailers was probably not the main character or narrator, but I think was a friend, kind of a disturbed visionary I think.
posted by Unified Theory to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
In John Updike's novel S, the protagonist, Sarah, goes to the Arizona desert to join an Ashram led by a charismatic figure. The facilities consist of a bunch of trailers welded together with doors haphazardly cut between them.
posted by carmicha at 7:28 PM on May 13, 2013

Response by poster: No, that's not it. It's definitely not Updike; it was someone fairly young (in his twenties I'm pretty sure) in the mid-nineties. Funny that Updike's has the trailers-in-a-circle thing too.
posted by Unified Theory at 7:38 PM on May 13, 2013

Any possibility it is Magnus Mills' "Three to see the king" ? There is a lot of walking in circles, and a lot of building houses from tin sheets, and it definitely covered the obsessive and disturbed visionary aspects. The characters do not actually walk in circles inside the houses, though.

(Even if it is not the one you are looking for, you might like this one anyway)
posted by whatzit at 8:50 AM on May 14, 2013

Response by poster: No, that's not it but thanks for the recommendation, sounds very interesting. If nobody comes here with the title I'm going to pull out the big guns and go to the library and search book reviews. This is driving me crazy and I'm not sure why.
posted by Unified Theory at 9:55 AM on May 14, 2013

OP - If you find out or remember, please do update us. It sounds like it could be a Denis Johnson trope, but isn't.
posted by third rail at 10:15 AM on May 14, 2013

I thought maybe Alan Lightman? Works/ed at MIT, wrote Einstein's Dreams. But I remember this crazy/not great novel from the early 90's that had a odd title like " the Fuzziness of Existence" or " the Ineluctable Transcendence of Floating Light". Or something else equally mushy. It was about an 'autistic' child and his relationship with his white trash mom... (Trailer homes, Harvard author). I've been beating my head over this all day...
posted by From Bklyn at 1:08 PM on May 14, 2013

Best answer: Found it! The book is Zero Tolerance by Thomas Richards (NYT) (Amazon)

The visionary genius with the trailers welded together in a circle is, I think, the character named Petard Davidson who is mentioned in the Amazon plot summary.

Posting this question really cranked up my obsession with figuring this out. So I Googled, and Googled, and Googled some more, which got me nowhere, and then I started going through the archives of the NYT Book Review, which I could only access back to January 1997. Fortunately the book was published in 1997.

Thanks everyone!
posted by Unified Theory at 1:16 PM on May 14, 2013

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