The PoMo Historical by Nick Abrahamson

Photo of Nick Abrahamson

Postmodern seems to be one of those words academics love to throw around, while others might see the term at best as nebulous or at worst intimidating.  Like the prefix ‘meta-’, or perhaps an art movement, it can mean many things simultaneously: postmodernism has its hallmarks, some elements that reappear across works within the tradition.  But it doesn’t have to be scary.  Think of Post-rock, also a very vague term for a music genre that is mostly defined by long instrumentals.  This can refer to movements of Bach-ian complexities.  Or a cinematic band such as Explosions in the Sky that specializes in rapturous crescendo after crescendo, effortlessly evocative by employing euphoric peaks and valleys.  Below are postmodern novels with a strong historical theme/narrative.

Underworld by Don Delillo
Under the pallor of Cold War paranoia, Delillo delivers a riveting novel about the intersection of lives.  Delillo seamlessly toggles between the macro, panoramic perspective and the clear, detailed lives of his characters.  Fragmentation and nonsequential chapters maintain the unexpected while exploring many lives at once.

City of God by E.L. Doctorow  
City of God has an apparently infinite supply of characters at the ready, all passing through the perspective lens of the protagonist.  Using historical New York in all its multitudes Doctorow delivers a ‘dazzlingly inventive masterwork…a defining document of our times, a narrative of the twentieth century written for the twenty-first.’ 

Zeroville by Steve Erickson
Vikar Jerome enters the vortex of a cultural transformation: rock and roll, sex, drugs, and-most important to him-the decline of the movie studios and the rise of independent directors. Jerome becomes a film editor of astonishing vision. Through encounters with former starlets, burglars, political guerrillas, punk musicians, and veteran filmmakers, he discovers the secret that lies in every movie ever made.

Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
Winner of the 1973 National Book Award, Gravity's Rainbow is a postmodern epic, a work as exhaustively significant to the second half of the twentieth century as Joyce's Ulysses was to the first. Its sprawling, encyclopedic narrative and penetrating analysis of the impact of technology on society make it an intellectual tour de force.


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