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.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous2:39 am

    I think post modernism isn't so much about absence of plot, but more the notion of what plot can do when we understand its multiperspectival strivings. What I mean is, a breakthrough postmodern novel like As I Lay Dying (interestingly so much more accepted in Europe than in the States at the time of its release. Not many people release that during his own lifetime Faulkner's reputation in the states was minimal and dwarfed completely by so-called "giants" like Fitzgerald and Hemingway who followed a conventional story line.

    Sadly, it seems still to be the case in the US that postmodern type novels haven't really caught on -- with the exception of a few people like Gass, Pynchon, Gaddis, etc. The latest crop from the 90s onwards while allowing the form to percolate -- particularly impressive in this lot is Carole Maso who tears up maps of the stars and gives birth to prosaic sculpted utterances -- for the most part are still holding to the three act structure of conflict, struggle, resolution.

    When WILL the USA catch up???



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