Nice bit from 10 years ago on The Believer by a ‘Brian Evenson’ (who are these people? what happens to them? google search: he’s written a lot of fiction, including pseudonymously with Rob Zombie) discussing Steve Erickson, man of the last waning hour, as a po-mo dude, and why he’s not placed among the shortlisted luminaries DeLillo and Pynchon and… well, those are the big ones left to be mentioned, eh?
It’s a lot to digest. He maintains that Erickson’s romanticism and dreaminess runs at odds with those other writers, which is true. I suppose what underlies the inquiry for me is why he has to be considered postmodernist at all. I suppose that’s Evenson’s point: consider him separate. Those two stalwarts are much more technical in their obsessions, the tinkering, endless riff-raff of war and survey in Pynchon, and DeLillo’s almost more literal technica (shown most obliquely in his strange tectonic, clashing dialogues).
What emerges from a provocative essay, alongside the fruitfulness of comparing one writer to his or her near contemporaries, or rather running lurkingly beneath it, is the problem with canon formation. How groups of writers, groups of thoughts, groups of art/novels/musical pieces, get boiled down to a handful of exemplars for better digestion. To wit: I am increasingly interested in Steve Erickson and Richard Powers, but they will never be as well known as DeLillo and Pynchon. Those two are great doors set into the wall that remain closed.