Btb3
Beyond the Blurb: On Critics and Criticism. Published by Cow Eye Press
Readingscroppedfinal
Critical Essays, Reviews
Critcimcropped
Literature, Literary History, Literary Study

« My Reading Year | Main | Furies »

12/16/2009

Comments

arthur

And yet it seems to me that Wallace was a writer highly concerned with "saying something".

Dan Green

I've never read in him in that way. Whatever impulse he had to "say" something was luckily overridden by his skill in doing something, in literary performance.

LML

Why does it have to be either/or? Arthur's right about Wallace, and almost all of the top-shelf postmodernists (certainly Gaddis, Pynchon, Barth, DeLillo) have lots to say, in many cases things that hadn't really been said before, or not quite in that way. I share your impatience with topical books or books that don't try to do anything but explicate a theme, but I don't see why saying something is incompatible with literary performance. For me, the best books both say something and make an event out of the saying.

Dan Green

"in many cases things that hadn't really been said before, or not quite in that way"

I just don't agree they hadn't been said before. Capitalism is a runaway machine (JR)? The American judicial system is fucked up (A Frolic of His Own)? Western technology is dangerous and oppressive (Gravity's Rainbow)? Platitiudes. The "not quite in that way" is everything in these writers.

LML

Those one-sentence synopses are hardly the totality of what those authors say about the subjects, though. Sure, JR and Gravity's Rainbow support those statements, but they also fracture them into a million little shards, each of which reveals some complicating facet of the subject or at least has fun with some complicating facet of the subject. This is not just verbal performance, it is an investigation of meaning. And this is one of my favorite things about Wallace when he's at his best: he sets up an exploration of meaning that endlessly folds in on itself, so that you come away feeling that you have experienced the irreducibility of an idea, the inability to simplify virtually any idea that is explored at enough length.

Dan Green

What is the fracturing of meaning into "a million little shards" if not a verbal performance? The exploration of meaning is not the same thing as the assertion of meaning.

LML

"What is the fracturing of meaning into "a million little shards" if not a verbal performance?"

I already said it is a verbal performance, and that it is other things besides. An exploration of theme, for example, in the cases of Gaddis or Pynchon or Wallace.

"The exploration of meaning is not the same thing as the assertion of meaning."

Agreed. And I further agree that books existing only to validate an idea generally suck. Is that all you were saying?

I thought you were saying that the authors we've mentioned actually don't say anything interesting about life, culture, art, etc., and that their books must be appreciated somehow separately from their explorations of theme. I would strongly disagree with you on this point.

Dan Green

Fiction that attempts to validate an idea, yes, but also that attempts to "comment" on or "observe" this or that, as well. I do think that fiction needs to be appreciated separately from its explorations of theme, or it's not aesthetically successful *as* fiction.

Richard

"The exploration of meaning is not the same thing as the assertion of meaning."

Where do you get the idea that only the latter constitutes a "saying" or a "something said"?

Dan Green

I didn't claim only the latter constitutes a something said. "Saying something" isn't necessarily the same thing as a something said. The latter might occur without the author having intended to say anything at all.

Finn Harvor

"The latter might occur without the author having intended to say anything at all."

Unlikely, tho'.

Dan Green

Writers like Federman and Sorrentino believed that to the extent their fiction "said" anything at all, it was a saying that emerged from the composition of the text, not from some antecedent, intended meaning.

Frances Madeson

In Double or Nothing, the liberties Federman takes, and offers, with deliberate “misspellings” in words such as “responsability” “goodby” and “handfull” make this very point about the practical relationship between composition and meaning in all of its pluridimentionality (his mouthful of a word).

Writ rather larger, late in the book there is also the explicit statement that “…in a system of double or nothing everything that is doubled or duplicated is automatically erased or negated for indeed everything that produces a forward movement also produces a backward movement and therefore what is said is never really said since it can be said differently…”.

Why else describe a character’s hard-on as “the erected dick” if not to direct reader attention (and even excitement) to just this perspective?

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

Jp3
The Art of Disturbance--Available as Pdf and Kindle Ebook
Deweylp1
Literary Pragmatism--Available as a Pdf