Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 27

LECTURE 8 - Classical & Postmodernist Novel Writing Survey Course Instructor: Mihai Mndra Saul Bellow, Seize the

ize the Day (1956) /Humboldts Gift (1975) John Updike, Separating (1974; Norton) / Rabbit Run (1960) Norman Mailer, The Man Who Studied Yoga (1959; Norton) Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952) Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five (1969) / Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (1955) John Barth, Life Story (1968), The Floating Opera (1956) Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49 (1966)

Classical & Postmodernist Novel Writing: Bellow, Updike, and Ellison Classical; Mailer & Vonnegut pre-postmodernists; Barth & Pynchon postmodernists. Classical Novel Writing Saul Bellows Gadfly Principle: History and Individualism Ralph Ellison: African-American Existentialism Introspection and Sociological Assessment: John Updike Pre-postmodernism: Norman Mailer (The Man Who Studied Yoga) S. Bellow (1915 2005)

Lionel Trilling in his essay Manners, Morals, and the Novel (The Liberal Imagination, 1950):

A true fiction of manners to be impossible in America because the texture of American social life is too thin to grant manners more than a passing interest in our lives. Novel of manners: work of fiction that re-creates a social world, conveying with finely detailed observation the customs, values, and mores of a highly developed and complex society (e.g. Edith Whartons House of Mirth)

However, Trilling failed to notice that this kind of fiction had already been written (e.g.: Henry James, Edith Wharton, F. S. Fitzgerald, etc.) & was being written at the time: Saul Bellow Born in Quebec (French-speaking province of Canada) to Yiddishspeaking parents recently fled from Russia learning to live in between

two cultures (or more) his genius in portraying manners, particularly in 3 books:

Seize the Day (1956) Herzog (1964) Humboldts Gift (1957)

Ego (emotions; mood) & the World (History) create the main conflict in his novels It is the dialectic of feeling & character that creates the tension in Saul Bellows novels (one moves along the lines of an emotion):

In Dangling Man (1944), the style created by the way Joseph gives in to his depression (involuntary petulance turned into a principle of aloofness) The Adventures of Augie March (1953) Augies discovery that elation is a form of patriotism

Humboldts Gift (1975) Humboldt implicating all of history in his manic & depressive moods From this point of view, in this battle between the highly charged emotional Ego & the World, Bellows books can be sorted generally into:

Depressive books, i.e. the Self giving in to the World: Dangling Man (1944), The Victim (1947), Seize the Day (1956), Mr. Sammlers Planet (1970) Expansive books, i.e. Feeling & the Self overcome the World and come to terms with it.

Henderson brings home a cub instead of a lion; the comedy of the Self End: self-transcendence [ parodied in Kerouacs Big Sur, and Mailers Deer Park] Parody of the questing bourgeois Self speaking of love but more concerned with its own improvement & fulfillment egotistic quest

Humboldts Gift (1975) Von Humboldt Fleishman and Charles Citrine - are based on Delmore Schwartz (1913 1966 brilliant American poet and fiction writer) and respectively Saul Bellow himself.

Humboldt wants to affirm (like Augie, Herzog) the meaningfulness of human life; irony & compassion Humboldt sees himself as sinful & unworthy of his place Guilt He is afraid of the death of his Self.

S. Bellow (1915 2005)

Bellow is a moralist: his heroes ability to face up to what is given (historically or psychologically) is usually the moral point of view of each book

E.g.: one measure of Von Humboldt Fleischers failure: his compulsion to let the world in on his pathology

The Bellowian hero is modernist, as he internalizes the conflict and the world; confronted by his inner choices and his emotions Thus, WW II, the Holocaust, the decline of the west, which could be approached socially and which are the main themes of Dangling Man (1944), The Victim (1947), Seize the Day (1956), Mr. Sammlers Planet (1970) are interior realities whose influence upon the emotions of the heroes is their point of entry into fiction. Reflect a repressed rage toward history that has no means of venting itself these men settle for being out of sorts & out of the world A Chronological Survey of Bellows Novels

Dangling Man (1944)

Set in Chicago, Joseph is waiting to be drafted A communist sympathizer in the pre-war years (quest for Self & World peace at times of war) Seeks grace the quest goes inward (from social life into his own room) World here as politics, human relations & the city do not fulfill the Self

Disharmony leading to modern soul-searching (Dostoyevskys underground man, Kafkas K (The Trial,1925) Sartres La nause (1938), Camus Ltranger (1942); the last two recently published & with strong impact on U.S. intellectual life)

Practically, it is a confrontation of the ideology of the Thirties & modernist alienation: Joseph is suspended between the need for social activism & an empty inner freedom, so he enters the army stoical decision: movement toward engagement with community Self-conscious mode of narration powerful self-analysis; everything reflects aspects of itself; reflections also mirror & discuss the general human condition A diary (preoccupation with the Self) modernist The idea of dangling afforded Bellow a limbo-like state for the protagonist; this technically leads to disarrangement of temporal & spatial perspectives. Undifferentiated time transforms ordinary procedures into contingency: there were formerly banking days, washing days, days that began events and days that ended them; It is difficult to feel Tuesday from Saturday Spatial dimensions also touched: the room as cage, trap & refuge; his sense of things, his perspectives end in the walls

Joseph as desacralised is a modern character facing death only with the power of his terror-filled Self (war = absence, killing & being killed) Conclusion Joseph insists on life; shows mans humanity, choice, survival with reason. As far as the questions of individual vs. social survival as concerned they are the real world. The war will not be of essential / lasting value; what is crucial is what occurs to the individual destiny, the singular spirit, the ethical modes by which we guide our lives as separate beings The moral struggle to preserve oneself against all the traps & snares. A strange mix: Kierkegaardian woe (Sren Aabye Kierkegaard (b.1813, d. 1855) , Sartrean nausea, Camus rebellion of the Self, American spatiality & temporality, Emersons organic community, & Kafkaesque enclosure.

Ironical end: long live regimentation; J. is drafted: inner freedom gained at the expense of outer regimentation. The Victim (1947)

Set in New York Asa Leventhal (Jew) gains a sense of himself only when he is hounded by guilt feelings embodied in the person of Kirby Allbee (Gentile) [ a sponger, drinker, and a loser feels wronged by Leventhal] Leventhals life gains significance to the degree Allbee violates it (~ Dostoyevsky) Allbee > All-be(ing) as a persistent gadfly Consequence: Leventhals intensification / deepening (5th Chapter). Having lived without full awareness, Leventhal is set for redemption through suffering & by way of becoming responsible for every one of his acts. Near the end Leventhal asserts it came into his head that he was like a man in a mine who could smell smoke and feel heat but never see the flame >> Platonic image: the average man must be brought to understanding, and this is possible only by accrual of disasters So, Bellow transforms the large-scaled disasters of Jobs predicament into the trivialities of contemporary life, not less essential to the growth of awareness (Leventhals wife is away in the south, his nephew dies, accused by Allbee of having destroyed his life, works in a place where the other employees make antiSemitic remarks etc.) The hatred of his brothers wife & mother-in-law.

The Adventures of Augie March (1953)

Responses to the counterfeiting of ideas & feelings that developed in the decade after the war This time: although Augie, a picaresque character ( a Huck Finn of the 1940s), confronts the World and does not allow it to ensnare his Self. He proves that the individual will can become hostage to the very energies feeding it (important for the post-war American novelists)

Augie in the depression years in Chicago (1929-1934) & grown up in 20 years Bellow is here a social & moral observer: growth of the nation (coming to terms with it). Augie slides away from any decision in which he must engage himself fully (resists adoption, cannot be brought up, acts so that his rich lover has to reject him, does not take his brother Simons practical advice)

Augies dilemma is that he must leave himself open to experience insistence on life as against theories (Augie refuses other peoples versions of life). He tries to discover what is Real Existence. Seize the Day (1956)

Novella Middle-aged man lament for his lost youth & opportunities Lived amidst dreams greater than life: career as a movie star, a rich man, a vice-president of a business company. Actually:

His movie career was a farce: he barely became an extra His marriage was destroyed when he left his wife for a Catholic girl who loved him His job a salesman

Now: as a child (lack of experience, outside life); he lives with his father in a hotel; formal act of independence: changed his name from Wilhelm Adler to Tommy Wilhelm (symbol of his counterfeiting life) he is a selfinvented romantic hero. Tamkin confidence man, magician & trickster teaches him the philosophy of seize the day Tommy is fascinated by this version of reality, but he cannot live up to it. Avoidance of experience in extremes T.W.s withdrawal to the relation child/son father (regression) Small son protected by gigantic father; rejected by Dr. Adler archetypal situation in modern literature: Kafkas Letter to His Father (the son victimized by the fathers need to humiliate him).

However, this is also human condition & when T.W. cries, at the end of the book, at a strangers funeral, he does it for his failure & for mankind.

Herzog (1964) ores Herzog, a suffering joker, distressed Jewish scholar and intellectual, alone in his big old house in Ludeyville (ludey-ville) immersed in self-analysis, writing letters, never to be sent, to the world located on ground shared by: underground man, Oblomov, Nietzsches last man, Sartean nauseated man, Camus stranger, Ellisons invisible man, Kafkas K., Prousts Marcel. Self feeding on World World as perceived by Herzogs sensibility; World as a prolongation of his Self narcissistic; letters as tubes connecting Herzog to the World. At the other end: those who give him life. Images of Self (the shaping is internal): room, house, books, mirror reflections Self in love with itself; an intense adversary experience, anarchistic & even nihilistic Nietzsches last man, expedient survivor in the bourgeois dung heap. Herzog as the eternal child rejected as child by Madeleine (makes demands on house as a full person), so he presents her as the classical American bitch emasculator, parasitic.

Sono (Japanese) mother Ramona (Hispanic) mother Wanda (Polish) mother

Herzog, according to his memories, seems to be alternately trapped (by the Self) & trying to find refuge from this entrapment. Suffering as an antidote to illusion the circuity of Self.

Humboldts Gift (1975)

Mass culture and the poetical self surviving (Charles Citrine) or getting destroyed (Humboldt) Ch. Citrine (playwright, biographer & journalist) recalling his old friend & mentor Von Humboldt Fleischer, who has set Charlie on the path to literary success, but has died himself in flophouse Now (the seventies) there is monetary and artistic chaos. Citrine, an older version of Herzog despite former success, moving inexorably toward ennui; the soul is exhausted (the atmosphere of the 1970s intelligentsia) Comic realism the narrative develops through the consciousness of Charles Citrine (his own point of view), incorporating episodes from the past & reflections & philosophical digressions reveals the protagonists past experience with Humboldt His current problems + flashbacks the relevance of memory to the present

J. Updike (1932 2009) Novels of domesticity = novels of social anxiety & secular unease

What in Marry Me (1976) he calls the twilight of the old morality;

moral hunger & Domestic realism:

family of John OHara (1905-70) & Sinclair Lewis (1885 1951) novelists of modern bourgeois matrimony.

Very precise formalism mixed with historical concern looking for aesthetic revelation in the contingencies of life Early works: Rabbit Run (1960); The Centaur (1963)

the theme of lost sacramentalism a foil into a shabby secular world redemption through action, love, awareness.

Built up a clearly delineated world of modern couples epiphany found in marital & sexual, in the happenings and contingencies of daily domestic life; defying the emptying of life in the age of religious loss through the use of small domestic forms & rituals.

J. Updike & S. Bellow Note:

Domesticity as a source of revelation of humanity (see

Bellow), opposing a world devoid of God

Bellow & Updike: the technical traditional framework of the

novel presented together with the belief in man NO UNDERMINING of novel structures as no disbelief in mans patterns J. Updike (1932 2009) Couples (1968)

Troubled world where against the backlash of historical disturbance adultery becomes the revelation & sacrament as religion collapses Marry Me (1976)

Set in the Kennedy era

Divorce as the new ritual of the age Middle-aged couples attempt to recover through sex as sacrament, through Bodily Ascension

the old mystery a theme which passes into his stories of the seventies (Too Far to Go: The Maples Stories, 1979)

Transcendental needs under the pressure of a compelling & disquieting history. Rabbit Run (1960) The story of Harry Rabbit Angstrom, former basketball player in a high school team 3 years: lost limelight Rabbit runs to recapture the Eden of those days a response to the 1950s malaise

(with Rabbit Redux and Rabbit Is Rich a social history of middle class North America from the 1950s into the 1980s)

It overlaps with Malamuds A New Life (1961), Philip Roths Goodbye, Columbus (1959), Kurt Vonneguts Player Piano (1952): a character who has refused his role, who is attempting to discover himself by running away

Novels based on the feeling that to escape is to live whereas to remain is to accept death quintessential American point Malamud: Jew in the Northwest amid Gentile enemies Roth: the younger Jew amid the affluence & expectations of his elders

Vonnegut: protagonist struggles for life against organizational role in a machine made world Note. theme: Run for life (American Quest); running as sex (life) dilemma: chaos created as opposed to staying (marriage; Janice) Order (as death): in the last Rabbit novel (Rabbit Is Rich) economic instead of soul coexistence [transfer: reification]

Rabbit: voice of common sense his mundane adventures backlighted by contemporaneous events in political and cultural history (a response to them). Personal Social Rabbit: 26, Korean War veteran, married to Janice Springer (carrying his child), intelligent, did not attend college, demonstrator of kitchen gadgets formerly: prowess in the high school basketball court Sordid domestic scene: Harry flees, seeks refuge to former basketball coach Marty Tofhew; meets Ruth Leonard, moved to her apartment (kept woman, affectionate) Befriends Jack Eccles, rector of the Episcopal church, attended by Janices parents Father = prosperous car dealer; finds steady win for Harry in the garden of an elderly widow.

Ruth pregnant with child Technique

Birth of Rebecca Janices baby Harry back Janice still her old self Harry leaves Accidentally Rebecca drowned by drunk Janice

Narrative present tense with occasional shifts in point of view; free indirect discourse (borrowed by Joyce from Flaubert)

Social realism (Sinclair Lewis, John OHara); evocation of rural

Pennsylvania The young generation of the 1950s, both liberated and alienated by its potential freedom. Rabbit Redux (1971)

36; reconciled with Janice Redux = restored Operator with father (printer), by 1969 jobs threatened by automation; employed by Janices father in the Toyota dealership Janice: affair with Charlies Stavros, Springer Motors top car salesman; she moves to share Stavros apartment Events: landing of American astronauts on the moon (on TV); war in Vietnam (discussions), street riots, racial disturbances, convulsion in morals. Brewer (little town) microcosm of America Rabbit now: mirror of the 1960s war mongering, frustrated, right wing Youthful counterculture: Jill Pendelton (Zen practices, sex), rich 18year old (hippie) runaway from affluent Connecticut family + Skeeter, black militant, fugitive from justice

Nelson (13 years old) crush for Jill (concomitant affairs with Harry & Skeeter)

House burns with Jill inside (possible reaction of Harrys middle class neighbors)

Moral burden increased memory of Jill & Rebecca; grief & resentment short of the Angstroms adulthood Janice & Harry in time, back together

Informative & thoughtful chronicle of the turbulent late 1960s author expresses before Watergate case on Nixons presidency. Rabbit Is Rich (1981) Harry is bourgeois, co-ownership (with Janice & her mother) of the Toyota dealership Relationship; adult marriage as economics Rabbit: 46, increasingly concerned with the idea of fatherhood: young blonde glimpsed by the Toyota dealership imagined to be his daughter by Ruth Leonard + anxiety over Nelsons uncertain future Harry Nelson = seriously flawed relationship Current events: President Carter, Afghanistan, the Iran hostage crisis; Harry takes advantage of recent changes in the U.S. fiscal policy and gets richer Nelson (student & then leaves): mistress & secretary (same class representation of Harry Janice relationship) Teresa Lubell; marriage, child Nelson runs, comes back, wife delivers.

Pursuit of American values: Updike shapes cars to the form of the

American dream / nightmare (the Toyota mirrors the economic reality Japan U.S.A.)

The passing of the American motor car paradise lost (lost American dream)

Elements of Puritanism: Sex (chaos) life; Religion & Society =

Order Death

Belief in an underlying principle of order; Harry is representative (not exemplary) as mocked

Ruth mother figure Jill flower child Rural Pennsylvania and its ethnic types: those of German extraction Janices and Harrys parents

Satirical tone; the two Episcopal clergymen ineffective: Jack Eccles & his successor Archie Campbell (apparent homosexual) caricature They highlight Harrys authenticity; religious faith as experience not teaching (~ Transcendentalism)


An entertaining record of U.S. history during the years of Harrys life Harry (born during the same month Franklin D. Roosevelt became President of the U.S.A.) as a product of historical forces; record of American society in transition Elevated polished style After the death of OHara (1970), the only chronicler of small-town America

African-American Writing Turn of the century, 1920-30, the Harlem Renaissance -- emphasis on the African heritage of the American blacks (New York Citys Harlem); ethnic modernists; trying to get into the canon (jazz opened their access to mainstream art) .

Details in Lecture 5.
The 1930s - the Great Depression badly influenced their economic and social situation;

Ku Klux Klan, lynching and beatings; failure of the National

Association for the Advancement of Colored People (founded in the 1920s) 1940s 1950s: fight for civil rights (1950s mainly against segregation); 1940: Richard Wright (1908 1960)s Native Son

The violent criminality with which a Chicago Negro opposes an

oppressive social order

Black desperado venturing an act of resistance (Bigger Thomas)

Offering a depraved, inhuman monster as the comprehensive

image of the American Negro (wholly captive to the envenomed abstractions of the racial myth)

Extremist and melodramatic, feeding on such themes: alienation,

violence, and fear.

A warning: if black men are not soon granted decent justice,

catastrophe. The obsession of being hard the angry black man.

To be black: an outsider in sociological and moral sense; the

mission of the outsider: to disclose the human city to be something like a jungle: all the disciplines and restraints of civilization are but screens wherewith man seeks to conceal the disorder that seethes beneath the surface.

A mission entailing some form of terrorism; an inarticulate

proletarian; getting outside of history through an act of consummate violence / revenge. According to James Baldwin: the tragedy of Bigger Thomas, that he has accepted a theology that denies him life; he admits the possibility of his being subhuman and feels constrained to battle for his humanity according to the brutal criteria bequeathed him at birth. The Wright School (according to Robert Bone in The Negro Novel in America, 1965): dominated by the procedures of documentary naturalism, the tag ends of the naturalism of the 1930s. James Baldwin (1924 1987) Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953)

Has grasped this: he can step out into the universal only by fast
going through the narrow don of the particular (Cleanth Brooks)

In an essay at the end of the 1940s Everybodys Protest Novel -rich, complex individuality, of the human individual (as typical of the protest novel)

So: instead of the raging, accusing novel a Bildungsroman: his

own Harlem boyhood, the experience of black proletarians living amid the wilderness of New York City. A sensitive black boy (John Grimes) who has to find his way toward some liberating sense of his own human possibilities in the repressive

atmosphere of a primitive religion of Jesus and Satan fervently celebrated in his Harlem church (The Temple of the Fire Baptized) The dream in Central Park: an exultation and a new power to make it (the American Franklin Dream) But: swept by great need for reconciliation with his family and his ancestral community his fever of spiritual convulsion in the Temple of the Fire Baptized: father, mother, aunt their lives become for him a living reality their desolation becomes his ; he knows that only as he passes through their darkness will he find his right course.

Existential crisis solved through History and Human Commitment Pilgrimage involves an ascent of the Mount of Primal Pain;
passionate gesture of identification with his people. Ralph Ellison (1914 1994) Invisible Man (1952)

From covered, inauthentic existence, through crisis (unwillingly bought into try Reality as Chance situations: e.g. he exposes unintentionally a visiting white trustee from the North to the local Negro gin mill and the incestuous entanglements of a Negro farmers family) to authentic, frontal, active existence.

Until then, choices imposed (the role of the good Negro); now on his way to his existential making (Puritan & Transcendentalist [selfreliance] & Existentialist tradition: Natty Bumppo, Huck Finn). The mainstream executive power ordains his racial invisibility. Tries to wrest his visibility from white mainstream and black major groups: the acquiescing and the politically engaged. Roles:

A scab in labor violence in a Long Island paint factory. Inadvertently

involved in chancy social mess. No awareness prompted attitude or direction. The part offered/imposed to/on him by the Brotherhood after a spontaneous impassioned speech stirred by the Negro familys being evicted. Manipulated by the Brotherhood. Used to organize Harlem (POWER inducement). Existential crisis follows (identity awareness): in the middle of a furious race riot (aggressive POWER pressure). He dives through a manhole down a cellar, for a period of existential hibernation.

He has been looking for a way into American mainstream/minority culture as a cog in the technological machine by attaching himself to leftist politics to achieve visibility. He becomes an underground man (physically and spiritually): he decides to stay in his cellar, to steal electricity (by way of a tapped line) from Monopolated Light and Power

rejection of establishment culture, refusal of roles for integration >

a first necessary step towards IDENTITY > voluntary exile, his own choice, illumination of SELF. Step outside the narrow borders of what men call reality and you step into chaosor imagination

ART as the organizing principle of LIFE; structuring it from within. Through VISION the demented/chaotic world/life is redeemed and

Survival through the BOOK, creator of VISION leading to spiritual

perception of the SCARRED VALUE OF MAN.

Reading the book, accompanying the writer to the underground of

his deep vision you may start SEEING your neighbors, brothers > a spiritual & human experience. Existentialist value:

The humanity of the Negro (skin pigmentation irrelevant: general human condition applies).

Gaining the capacity to exist through rejection of roles and

awareness of ones identity.

The Negro as emblematic: from a RACIAL to a METAPHYSICAL

EXISTENTIAL value > everyone should necessarily go through the Negro stage (self-exile) fighting for vision.

Realizing that otherwise people dont SEE each other, but they USE
each other in a COUNTERFEIT world. Self-scrutiny (Puritanism) and self-reliance (Transcendentalism) as major American roots of this vision; American fiction predecessors: Huck Finn, Holden Caulfield, Augie March. E.g. of existentialist statements:

But live you must, and you can either make passive love to your
sickness or burn it out and go on to the next conflicting phase.

Please, a definition: A hibernation is a covert preparation for a

more overt action. African-American Writing 1960s: assassination of Martin Luther King (1968);

No peace and harmony possible between the whites and blacks:

they must separate and develop their own voice great no. of neo-slave narratives. E.g. Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, a.o. (Lecture 9) N. Mailer (1923 2007) The Man Who Studied Yoga (1952, short story)

Fictional evidence of the series of ideological disappointments of American intelligentsia, preceding Postmodernism. The invisible protagonist (Cassius OShaugnessy, mentioned/quoted by other characters, never directly presented) has been involved with every major movement of the 20th century:

serving in WW I helping to found DADA (avant-garde) after the war becoming a Marxist a Communist an anarchist a pacifist during WW II.

The liberation from political/ideological narratives portending Postmodernity, while Cassius is meditating in India, hinterland away from History: My navel had begun to unscrewI turned again, and my navel unscrewed a little moreI turned and turnedafter a period I knew that with one more turn my navel would unscrew itself forever. At the edge of revelation, I took one sweet breath, and turned my navel free.

Mailer tells the story of his own political involvements:

A member of the Progressive Citizens of America organization (1946-48), an organization of dissident liberals, trade unionists, veteran Communists denouncing monopoly and racial segregation, the growing red-scare and its assaults on civil liberties. Worked on Henry Wallaces 1948 presidential nominee campaign of the Progressive Party. Renounced both later saying that Russias system of government was as debased as that of the United States.

Before Postmodernism: The Wastelanders

Waste Land instead of the Promised Land in the American novel of the 1960s theme taken by T.S.Eliot in his poem The Waste Land (1922) from Jessie Westons From Ritual to Romance, including the notion of the Fisher King whose wound rendered his land sterile (the Christian Grail legend). The poem deals with the sterility and chaos of the contemporary world, the postwar era. The Institution some concrete representation of the mysterious, occult forces which seem to manipulate the ordinary mans existence opposed by a Grail hero, a quester and a redeemer, a liberator. He confronts an authority figure. Examples: One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest (1962), Ken Kesey Randle Patrick McMurphy vs. Head Nurse Ratched. Giles Goat-Boy (1966), John Barth George Giles vs. WESCAC-West Campus Automatic Computer Catch-22(1961), Joseph Heller Captain John Yossarian vs. the military. Naked Lunch (Paris-1959/New York-1962), William Burroughs William Lee against the authority within [based upon the authors notes during a period of addiction to drugs]. The Conspiracy the ruling force no longer symbolized by some concrete entity: vague ominous, too large to be contained, abstract threat, difficult to identify and fight, so heroes are passive, no single authority figure

to offer concrete opposition and define the poles of his dilemma ; growing sense of helplessness. V.(1963) [Benny Profane as a protagonist] and The Crying of Lot 49 (1966) [Oedipa Maas-protagonist] by Thomas Pynchon. The Lime Twig (1961) [Banks as a protagonist] by John Hawkes. The Fable Illusion as a way of dealing with a life which lacks values not escape but understanding through momentary suspension of disbelief and moral conclusions Some mythology that will help us to live together. E.g. Kurt Vonnegut : Cats Cradle (1963)- Late Dr. Felix Hoenikers invention of a crystal named ice-nine that will freeze anything aqueous with which it comes in contact, an autocratic ruler Earl McCabe, Papa Monzano, a dictator, Bokonon, a religious spiritual leader preaching Bokononism, catastrophy (by accident ice-nine congeals almost everybody) as typical characters and themes of the age. Fantasy and science fiction. Apocalyptic vision of the world. Not huge political events but the small things of science will transform society Politics will follow science and technology unless humanistic concerns prevail (e.g.. Bokonons philosophy of kinship) Achievement in relating real and fantastic material John Barth: the contamination of reality by dream; about the work of Jorge Luis Borges in The Literature of Exhaustion (in The American Novel Since World War II, ed.Marcus Klein, New York: Fawcett, 1969). Barth associates two special qualities with this paradigm : the effect on the reader: the fictitious aspect of our existence -- like regressus in infinitum in Slaughterhouse-Five (e.g. the ceaseless and fruitless work on the famous Dresden book referred to in terms of the song about Yon Yonson. the use of moral paradoxes: in Cats Cradle where Bokonon advises the reader to live by foma, useful lies, but also to close that book at once (one of the imaginary Books of Bokonon) as it is nothing but lies. These are manifestations of Vonneguts response to the apolcalyptical feelings of his peers.

Slaughterhouse-Five (1969)

the same incorporation of science fiction stratagems into realistic fiction. Multilayered fictional matter: e.g. the fire bombing in Dresden has political, human, personal, universal implications. Apocalyptic Anti-novelistic aspect as disbelief in novel and truth genre theory and science are rejected as un-human there is just humanity and no definite explanations or literary structures are able to render it, but only to diminish, distort and even destroy it. Realism is artifice and convention as suggested by the Tralfamadorians attempt at setting up a perfectly typical human environment for the earthlings in their zoo, using furniture stolen from Sears. Vonneguts statement in Slaughterhouse-Five: There are almost no characters in this story, and almost no dramatic confrontations, because most of the people in it are so sick and so much the listless playthings of enormous forces. One of the main effects of war, after all, is that people are discouraged from being characters.

Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977)

Lolita - 1955, Paris (New York, 1958). According to Brian McHale, in Postmodernist Fiction, 1987

with Nabokov the crossover from modernist to postmodernist writing ...occurs during the middle years of [his] career, specifically in the sequence Lolita, Pale Fire (1962), Ada (1969). Humbert Humbert of Lolita belongs to the tradition of unreliable modernist narrators The America in the novel is a construction of the European immigrant writer. His language is also a construct, a fictional American, never used before, or later on by another American writer.

Lolita herself, as a nymphet, proves later on in the plot of the novel to have been a construct of imagination. Vonneguts book seems to assert that there is no sense in history

The German cabdrivers words in his postcard to the narrator, if the accident will, summaries the novelists view on what makes history happen An ironical interpretation of traditional American history movers like Manifest Destiny, Progress or Providence. History is also interpreted as sinful : it is about mans fall from timelessness and purposeful action into history as chance and coincidence. A definite loss of grace in Puritanical terms. Constructionism: reality constructed in the story world of a mind which generates and pervades it. Immanence is also to be found here. Self-less-ness as self-effacement and self multiplication, as reflection; motif of the double.

the pseudonym of the narrator Humbert Humbert, and its fictional

evil double, Clare Quilty. Decanonization - as a burlesque of the Romantic Doppelgnger . With the same device one finds elements of intertextuality : complex relationship between Humbert and Clare Quilty.

In modelling Quilty on the Doppelgnger of the Gothic tale,

Nabokov invokes R.L.Stevensons Dr.Jekyl and Mr.Hyde, Hans Christian Andersens The Shadow and Poes William Wilson.

Poe is everywhere in Lolita : Humberts lost love is called Annabel

Lee and he often identifies himself with A.Gordon Pym. Humbert calls himself once Edgar H.Humbert. Clare Quiltys mouldering mansion, Pavor (Lat. for panic) Manor burlesques Poes falling House of Usher.

In the same postmodernist spirit Nabokov has rejected a romantic

or trans-cendental notion of self ; another of Humberts jocose appelations is Jean Jacques Humbert. The unified, definitive self is a joke to Nabokov.

He accepts the fragmentation, and he lets Humbert define

himself however he must. John Barth (1930) The Floating Opera (1956)

mainly his skepticism concerning man capacity to perceive history

otherwise than as a series of fragments, aleatory bits of a puzzle he will never be able to solve

History as narrative of reality becomes for the novelist story as

narative of reality and the impossible mimesis

in a nutshell, his presentation of the postmodern version of the

novel : It always seemed a fine idea to me to build a showboat with just one big flat open deck on it, and to keep a play going continuously. The boat wouldnt be moored, but would drift up and down the river on the tide, and the audience would sit along both banks. They could catch whatever part of the plot happened to unfold as the boat floated past, and then theyd have to wait until the tide ran back again to catch another snatch of it, if they still happened to be sitting there. To fill in the gaps theyd have to use their imaginations, or ask more attentive neighbors, or hear the word passed along from upriver or downriver.(FO, P.7) The narrator is actually interested in the meaning of the history of his own fathers death and his relationship with this father Human history, life can only be perceived, honestly as fragmentation, as described in the above presentation of the show on the moving ship and fiction, to be honest and truthful should only try to make the message faced and understood. self conscious fiction, that is metafiction, where a self-conscious first person narrrator, Tom Andrews tells about how you cant tell a story when you dont know who you are. self-less-ness, the unpresentable and unrepresentable.

the structure of the novel, in the spirit of an existentialist

version of postmodern reality, imitates unrepresentability :

4th chap. back to 1937 the book is an inquiry into Todds life:

1st chapter in 1954 (age 54) 2nd chap. Todds plan for suicide 3rd chap. an interrupted explanation

existential reverberations, intertextuality as Kiekegaard and Camus are somehow alluded

to, and Sterne in point of technique.

skeptical inquiry suggesting postmodern epistemological


also an inquiry into the sense of narrative, the life of the novel, an
attempt at avoiding the counterfeit classical mimesis. although undergirding his study with verifiable information, punctuating his memoirs with dates, documents, notes and outlines of twenty years past, Todd recognizes the limited aid these tools can afford in reconstructing the past He understands that in order to derive any significance from his fathers past he must make a leap from factual examination to speculative causation. He is fully aware that causation is never more than an inference; and any inference involves at some point the leap from what we see to what we cant see (p.214) Todd remains attuned to the subjective element behind any biographical study.

Bellow and Barth: Existentialism Seize the Day and The Floating Opera : both published in 1956 In both existentialist issues raised by first person narrator (also variably 3rd person narrator in SD).

Tommy Wilhelm: in his middle forties (Norton II, 1985, p. 1903) Todd Andrews: 37 (New York: Anchor Books, 1988, p.9)
Time unit: one day (existentially decisive) Location: both protagonists live in hotels at the time of the great existential day. TW : Hotel Gloriana, New York. TA: Dorset Hotel, Cambridge the seat of Dorchester County, Eastern Shore of Maryland. Time: SD: 1950s (returned from WW II, mention of the Cold War?); FO: 1937. Existentialist issue:

TW: personal drama tightly connected to father and past. Made the
Bellowian wrong major choice of building his life on responses to other teaching selves: Dr. Adlers, his former wifes, Dr. Tamkins (whose philosophy of seize the day, however, takes Tommy to the right direction of simply reacting spontaneously to life).

TA: Discovers his whole life had been built on abstract stances.
Also determined and obsessed by father (suicide) in direct relationship with personal existential choice and life (see his dedication to his Inquiry) [p.16] Major difference: TWs final choice is humanistic (becoming aware of the Other); TAS skepticism and death oriented thought makes him Postmodernist/antihumanist.

Bellow: a humanist existentialist Barth: a rationalist existentialist.

Similar existentialist issue (taking masks on and off): Ralph Ellisons Invisible Man (1952). Thomas Pynchon (1937- ) Cornell University in 1958; met Vladimir Nabokov noticeable influence as far as one of his techniques is concerned: innovative fantasies that use themes of translating clues, games, and codes. Pynchon's fiction is similarly structured:

A vast plot is unknown to at least one of the main characters,

whose task it then becomes to render order out of chaos and decipher the world.

This project similar to the job of the traditional artist;

nevertheless Pynchons novels resist ultimate closure (i.e. the ability to integrate all details into a consistent & coherent whole).

the reader must follow along and watch for clues and meanings paranoid vision extended across continents and time itself:
Pynchon employs the metaphor of entropy, the gradual running down of the universe.

masterful use of popular culture -- particularly science fiction and

detective fiction.

The Crying of Lot 49

short work, deals with a secret system associated with the U.S.
Postal Service.

Resists interpretation understood as the effort to tease out a

unitary and more or less comprehensive account of the novels message the novel interrogates (postmodern) reading strategies. Criticism contradictory opinions as to the texts readability: Debra Castillo total openness:

mainly due to a network of metaphors and allusions

What happens if we as readers conceive the narrative as a

progressive and strictly uninterpretable distortion () What if we were to make no claim to understand the linguistic forces and movements of The Crying of Lot 49 but merely to read the ion trails of their passage? (39) Robert N. Watson finite structure, not by far open:

The novel is a coherent book, with an ethical message underlying

its narrative shape and its theological analogies, rather than a mere cluster of amusing games, patters and allusions. (59) The novel has been read both

as an exemplary postmodern text (Castillo 39) And as a parody of postmodernist interpretative strategies (David
Bennett 38). Such oppositions due to the novels concern with binary oppositions; the novel introduces many polarities which are allocated a number of (sometimes contradictory) meanings. the novel allows for multiple readings.

E.g. Mrs. Oedipa Maas

Is this reference to Oedipus to be taken straightforward i.e. that this character is to be read through Sophocles narrative and / or Freuds later reading of the classical text?

OR Is this a way of subverting / mocking at the readers willingness to endow this name with meaning?

The answer to this question may result from another question: Is

Oedipa Oedipal?

Various critical answers. Few however managed to find oedipal

meanings attached to this character

In Pynchons texts names do not operate as they do, for example, Fielding in which Thwackum or Allworthy are or do exactly what their names indicate Character and identity are not stable in his fiction, and the wild names he gives his characters, which seem either to signify too much (Oedipus and Newton indeed) or too little (like comic-strip figures), are a gesture against the tyranny of naming itself. (T. Tanner, 178) Pynchons text - similar proposition to Lacans statement that we are at the mercy / constituted by language (we are given a name before we are able to speak)

Pynchon thus questions the authority of naming. At the heart of the novel: Pynchons concern with intellectual inertia that seemed to characterize that decade (J Kerry Grant xv).

Oedipas search for a source of energy that would revitalize her

life / mainstream America

She needs to go beyond her closed system in which most of the

resources are being used up (Mexico, for instance).

Oedipas possible liberation from her Rapunzel-like life rendered

in religious overtones: she became sensitized as to the potential existence of the direct, epileptic Word, the cry that might abolish the night (Pynchon 118), and which may provide a cure for the unvarying gray sickness (Pynchon 14) that infects the whole culture.

However, Oedipa is finally unable to determine whether the

revelations are genuinely intrusions from some other realm of meaning and possibility, or whether they are simply manifestations

of Pierces own desire to avoid the inertia of death. (J. Kerry Grant xv)

Oedipa -- trapped in a world defined by unreconciliable binary oppositions; powerless in between of Muchos nihilsm and Pierces total determinism (the possibility that he may have created the Tristero network).