Sunday, December 03, 2006

Modernist, postschmodernist

"[T]he narrative is constantly shape-shifting. Readers, if they are to survive, must surrender completely to the undertow of its myriad jostling currents. 'Modernist' is precisely what Against The Day isn't" says Jonathan Keates, as if the first two sentences necessitated the mitigation of the third. But it's explained in the fourth.
The cumulative effect of Pynchon's performance is one of aching nostalgia for the expansiveness of the novel form in its 19th-century glory days.
Novels were expansive only in the Victorian era you see. Tristram Shandy was actually written in 1880. Tom Jones a year later. And Don Quixote really was written by Pierre Menard.

Sarcasm aside, if Keates is right about the origin of that effect, then it rather supports my suspicions about the essential conservativism of much "cult" fiction. We need to face up to it: a terminal loss of confidence can't be masked even with 543 sheets of paper.

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