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:
Moodys 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, lets 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 -- Moodys mentor was Robert Coover, perhaps experimentalisms sleekest, coldest customer -- and understandably unwilling to follow the inimitable path of Raymond Carver, these writers find themselves swimming in postmodernisms backwash, not quite sure how to make their own way. Its 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 thats because hes the only one whos 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 mothers 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:
HYPERTROPHIED INTELLECT PART
So who knows? I have to put on some pants.