Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Put a Fork in PostModernism

I've done my penance. I've read Gravity's Rainbow, V., Giles Goat-Boy, Infinite Jest, The Runaway Soul, Underworld and plenty of other weighty, witty bricks that constitute much of the so-called PostModern canon.

I certainly admire the sparks and flashes thrown off by its talented illusionist/practitioners. But while I'm not going to say they all read alike or that I am any kind of expert in the field, I can at long last say despite favoring Don DeLillo's work in particular and the nonlisted-above Sot-Weed Factor by Barth (a singular work), that I just don't find real sustenance in PostModernism.

I do like novels of ideas. Iris Murdoch, for instance, has always impressed me with her ability to spin tales of physical and psychological mayhem that include meaningful doses of philosophy and mystery. However I think the whole problem with PM is rooted in the faulty notion that not just novels but we ourselves can credibly become untethered from our own histories.

By positing that we can shape-shift; can become something else than what we seem, can carapace ourselves in multiple identities, is not only manifestly false, it is a ruse. Of course you'd wish you hadn't said all those things last night drunk. But you did (fictionally speaking). And if you choose to elide that fact, you're left wandering in the murky, unconnected outer circle of hell where the uncommitted spend eternity.

PM fiction lives and breathes the notion of no-commitment. There is no commitment to character, for certain. There is little emphasis on putting a three dimensional human being in-situation. There is much deconstruction of the integrity of the individual, as if to perform that parlor trick were really an option and not just a wild hope for the dissolute and the fearful.

LIve up to ideas, I say, and embody them in character. Let ideas be couched in the squishy, sloppy places we call home. Let us come down from the wobbly pinnacle where literature posits us as not real things at all, but just a happenstance of traits and cartilage.

In its failure to do so, PostModernist literature seems an amusement, but a disconnected one (necessarily) and in the end, pretty thin soup.


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