Re: RARA-AVIS: One of Miker's favourite bugaboos (another definition to argue about?)

From: Michael Robison (
Date: 24 Sep 2007

Kevin Burton Smith wrote:

What do you mean exactly when you say post-modern, anyway? When did it start? Is there a clear date?
  You often slam things for being post-modern, but I'm not sure what you mean by it most of the time.

**************** The postmodern movement began around 1969. Eagleton cited that date and I've seen several other references to it. It's a form of extreme scepticism coupled with sophistry. In literature postmodernism generally gives literary realism a thumbs down on the basis that it is deceptive and false, so a pomo fiction writer is very likely to interject himself into the story and ad lib on just about any subject in order to remind you that it is, after all, just a story. In In the Hand of Dante the author chose to talk about how much he made on his writing and financial arbitrations with the publisher. In The Things They Carried O'Brien included comments on the truth or fictive nature of his stories. As some others have pointed out, many authors did this before realism became popular.

Common also in pomo fiction is a stout disregard for the narrative process. Scenes are disjointed. Characters come and go with little or no explanation on their bearing on the text, with none of it resolving itself out in the end. A pomo mystery is likely to remain a mystery at the end, like in Barnes's Arthur and George. Real conclusions are oh-so-no-pomo. If there is a conclusion, they are likely to offer an alternative ending, as in The French Lieutenant's Woman.

Pomo dislikes cause-and-effect, too. If the criminal takes a beating at the end, it probably will have little to do with the crime they committed. Absurd events occur that strain credibility. Ray kills indiscriminately in Barry Hannah's Ray with nary a glitch.

Pomo doesn't like causes so you're not likely to get any heroes, tarnished or otherwise. In order to not come off like they are backing some purpose as worthwhile, pomo authors generally have their characters wandering around doing not much of anything, and God forbid any good come of their actions.

I have posted all the above in better detail in past posts, but I'm not much on searching the archives so I wouldn't want to point you in that direction either.

As far as your aversion to reading books about reading books, that is cool. But there is no reading without criticism. None.


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