In reading Daniel Lindsay's superb, unputdownable, master's thesis Years Between Stations: The Dream of America in Steve Erickson late into the night last night, I was reminded that Steve Erickson's childhood home in the San Fernando Valley was bulldozed to make way for the then new 118 Freeway being constructed at the time.
Early in Days Between Stations, Lauren and Jason (who's just back from Vietnam: "The smell of Asia was always in the air ... He had no real sense of relief, because he wasn't wise enough to understand he could die...") leave Kansas for California. In San Francisco "they lived on a secret street, which was entered through a small hallway at the top of a series of steps that ran up a hill." The secret street Lauren and Jason reside on hasn't been plotted on any street maps of the city that Lauren can find. Strange.
Two years later, they move to L.A. and, coincidentally, land on a street they'll call home in the Hollywood Hills that is likewise entered through an even longer series of obscure steps.
"Three summers later," after Jason has left her for some distant station of his own, Lauren returns to San Francisco. She spends three hours trying to find the street she once lived on. But "the steps were nowhere to be seen". She asks mail carriers, shop keepers in the area, policemen, about the steps and her street, but not one of them knows or recollects what the hell she's talking about. It was as if the street and her home had never existed.
Likewise, Erickson's street and home from childhood no longer exist, having been razed for that damnable freeway. I just wonder if that loss of his -- a part of his childhood gone forever, destroyed -- was transformed through his imagination into "the secret street" of Lauren's and Jason's in his first published novel, Days Between Stations?
Not many writers or critics have ever before attempted to map the imagination of Steve Erickson. Read just one, any one, of Steve Erickson's fabulist, fantastic novels (and that's "fantastic" in every meaning and nuance of the word), and discover yourself how daring and dynamic, how complex and convoluted, is the cartography of Steve Erickson's inimitable imagination. I applaud Daniel Lindsay and the astute insight of his master's thesis, Years Between Stations: The Dream of America in Steve Erickson, which sets in lucid relief the occasionally (albeit purposely) opaque yet always captivating -- even if it is sometimes cryptic, sometimes challenging -- unique artistry of an author, Steve Erickson, long overdue recognition; long overdue like Anna Kavan is long overdue; like William Gaddis and Philip K. Dick were once long overdue... or ... even overdue like Herman Melville once was, long before them.