Station to Station
Stacey D'Erasmo's new novel depicts a onetime rock star's return to music
by Stacey D'Erasmo
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
$22.00 List Price
When Anna Brundage, the heroine of Stacey D’Erasmo’s Wonderland, was three years old, her father sawed a train in half and pushed it over a cliff. It was 1972, and the art world was rocked: Critics declared that he had reinvented sculpture. A postcard of the gored, upended car became a dependable seller in the MoMA gift shop. But like any creative breakthrough, Roy Brundage’s sawed-in-half train is its own kind of curse; he will spend the rest of his life attempting to recapture the unassuming wildness of that piece. He tries, prolifically, muscularly: He breaks an abandoned Texas prison in half; he bashes gaping holes into a lighthouse. (His wife, also an artist, paints on a slightly more delicate medium: glass.) More than thirty years later, when Roy drops dead of a heart attack, his two daughters come home to his studio to assess the pieces he was working on in his last days. They’re appalled. The man who spent his life “laboring to open a seam in the world” and loved to knock Monet for “pandering” (“If I ever do that,” he tells a young Anna as they stand in front of Water Lilies, “shoot me”) had taken to painting tepid, Thomas Kinkade–grade landscapes. As an artist herself, Anna is particularly shaken by what she sees. Is creative decline inevitable? How could someone who once knew how to make rubble and twisted metal sing die with—she flings this phrase with disdain—“a mouth stuffed with wildflowers”?
When Wonderland opens, it’s 2014, and Anna Brundage is a forty-four-year-old musician who was once “a certain kind of famous”—a minor rock star with an influential