<= 2001.03.20

2001.03.22 =>

ineluctable modality of the marginal

Here's that song. California Dreaming, mp3, 1902592 bytes. I recorded it back in December when all the winter imagery was much more apropos, but I was lazy about mixing it down.

Here's another review of Rick Moody's Demonology. I don't know whether it's an accurate reflection of the book (it's hardcover, I'm poor), but it hits a serious question in current fiction spot-on:

Moody’s not alone here: the other New White Guys -- as Wallace has dubbed the group that includes him, Moody, Jeffrey Eugenides, Jonathan Franzen, Donald Antrim, and for good measure, let’s throw in that upstart Dave Eggers -- have almost had the same trouble. Schooled in the late ’70s and ’80s by English departments and creative-writing programs in which narrative deconstruction and paranoid irony was the rage -- Moody’s mentor was Robert Coover, perhaps experimentalism’s sleekest, coldest customer -- and understandably unwilling to follow the inimitable path of Raymond Carver, these writers find themselves swimming in postmodernism’s backwash, not quite sure how to make their own way. It’s an old Oedipal story -- younger writers trying to write themselves free of their forebears -- and so far, Wallace is probably the only one to find his way to shore, and that’s because he’s the only one who’s managed to make postmodern innovation organic to his work, and even that took a while. Look at Eggers, for instance: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, his smash memoir, is split right down the middle between heartbreaking pathos (a realistic description of Eggers’ mother’s death) and pop-metafictional showoffiness (the rest of the book). Both sides are intriguing, but the chasm between them is ominous.

Ha, and that's what I wrote about Eggers two days ago, kind of. See how smart I am? Reviewers agree with me! This also connects to that entry from a while ago about the problem with modern male novelists. But I find this to be a serious question, sitting down to write in the second year of the twenty-first century, having gotten to the point where I can string a competent sentence together: whither now? What kind of things do I want to write? And I'm finding myself caught in the same dilemma that the article above attributes to Moody. On the one hand, character-based fiction is honest and genuine and somehow inherently moral in a way that I feel to be important, but can't quite articulate. On the other hand, acrobatics with language and form are so much more fun, and make one's writing more immediately distinctive. I don't want to write more earnest little coming-of-age stories where people have sex and/or go to bars and/or think about their parents and/or have epiphanies while in the car. It's been done over and moreover. There are piles and piles of published stories like that, all well-crafted and ultimately forgettable.

I want to write fiction with intellectual depth and weight; something that seriously treats the era in which we live; something the ramifications of which go beyond its own plot. And I have nothing against those old warhorses on which fiction is built -- sex and death and intergenerational conflict and what have you -- but it shouldn't stop there. Anyone can stop there. I want to dig deeper.

Ambitious? Yes. Beyond ambitious: pretentious, elitist and grandiose? I know. Hypertrophied head (as critics of Pynchon et al. charge) combined with failure of heart? Might well be. Simple immaturity: inability to see beyond linguistic flash? How the hell should I know? I'm 22 and I'm trying to write a book and I desperately want it to mean things, but I see how it could end up torn apart by the same chasm that reviewer sees in Eggers' book. It would look like this:

Aimless college students
Love triangle
Drug-induced mental collapse
Post-child prodigy trauma
Being lost and afraid in Central America
Parent diagnosed with schizophrenia
Suicide and related guilt
Silicon Valley money vs. ideals conflict


Self-referential book-within-book and play-within-book
Cantor, Gödel, transfinite math and the continuum hypothesis
The neuroscience of dreams
U.S.-Latin American relations, post-1950
Purposely obvious use of archetype (e.g. a mother named María vs. a whore named Salome)
Theory of narrative using Joyce and Beckett as opposite poles
The implications of globalization

So who knows? I have to put on some pants.


<= 2001.03.20

2001.03.22 =>

up (2001.03)

The Warm South
The Roof Rat Review