Reminiscence and Re-creation in Contemporary American Fiction
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The world reflected in post-modernist fiction is one of chance and randomness, devoid of historical intelligibility. Stacey Olster challenges this view by distinguishing American post-modernism--with respect to the views of historical processes that its practitioners share. Arguing that their experience of communism proved instrumental in shaping the historical perspective of novelists who began writing after World War II, Olster examines their change in perspective in the 1950s after historical events forced them to acknowledge the failure of the communist ideal in Russia. Focusing on Norman Mailer, Thomas Pynchon, John Barth, Robert Coover, and E.L. Doctorow, Olster portrays the idiosyncratic--but consistent--model of history that each began to construct in his work in order to preserve the illusion of an ordered sense of time. The author defines the qualities the writers share that form a common sensibility: a vision of historical movement taking the shape of an open-ended spiral, a refusal to accept the inevitability of apocalypse, and a conscious return to the traditions of earlier American authors.
Papers 151-60; Thomas Pynchon, "Mortality and Mercy in Vienna" 208; Joseph Heller, Catch-22 293; John Barth, The Friday Book 51. Norman Mailer, Advertisements for Myselj"351; Heller, Catch-22 184. Norman Mailer, Cannibals and Christians 220; Barth, The Friday Book 159; Robert Coover, as qtd. in Gado, First Person 148. Robert Penn Warren, All the King's Men 436. Chapter 1 A Disruption of Sensibility 1 John Reed, Ten Days That Shook the World 13; Norman Mailer, Barbary Shore 89; John Dos Passos,
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entrepreneurial process up-to-date. Pierce Inverarity, California real estate mogul and "founding father" of Yoyodyne aerospace industry, buys human bones to be reprocessed as cigarette filters (14). A modern-day Winthrop Tremaine, this time - sells swastikas in government surplus outlets. Finally, Pynchon recasts this Puritan vision of America over the entire history of the world. The image of early Slothrops killing off trees in Gravity's Rainbow becomes paradigmatic of the way in which an
continuity. God still stood as the center of control. Although any disruptions that occurred - such as crop failures, epidemics, Indian raids, even unworthy children - had to result, by definition, from God's will, they were punitive in order to be corrective, "Fatherly Chastisements," as John Higginson put it, intended "to prove us, whether, according to our Profession, and his Expectation, we would keep his Commandments, or not" ("Attestation" 65, 69). Thus, when a great tempest of wind and
crying. The screen goes blank in Gravity's Rainbow, but the Rocket does not yet strike - it remains a delta-t away. And, ultimately, whatever is actually withheld does not matter very much. History will not end if Benny finds V. or Oedipa uncovers Tristero or the Rocket hits the theater because of what these events would signify. The magic here is metaphor, countering ruin with rebirth. Vheissu becomes a "gaudy dream" and a "dream of annihilation" (V. THOMAS PYNCHON: AN INTERFACE OF HISTORY