Having long grown accustomed to the fact that his experimental, intellectually challenging novels will probably never find a popular readership, Thelonious Ellison is nevertheless dismayed by the relative success of those African American fiction writers who, in his eyes, exploit cultural stereotypes and reinforce a monolithic vision of the African American experience. When his sister is murdered by a fanatical anti-abortion activist, Thelonious is forced to take a leave of absence from his college professorship: With his sister gone, he must move back into his family home in Washington, D.C., to take primary responsibility for his increasingly disabled mother’s health. Ellison thus finds himself with no money and plenty of time. Dismayed by the twentieth rejection of his latest fictional work, in which two ancient Greek dramatists murder a rival and “then contemplate the death of metaphysics,” Ellison writes a parody novel, initially entitled My Pafology, that embraces all the “demeaning and soul-destroying drivel” that he finds in most supposedly realistic depictions of contemporary inner-city life.
Most of Erasure takes the form of Ellison’s journal—interrupted by the text of a paper on experimental fiction that the main character delivers at an academic conference under his own name and by the ten-chapter manuscript of My Pafology, penned under the pseudonym Stagg R. Leigh. Patterned in part after Bigger Thomas...
(The entire section is 487 words.)