I was delighted to come across this essay by Nick Ripatrazone in which he says that Pynchon is ‘difficult, dated, and frustrating’, with sentences that ‘are labyrinthine and recursive: full of noise. As his sentences become paragraphs, and his paragraphs span pages, the novel becomes a whirlwind of paranoia; a test of a reader’s endurance and patience.’ Having been eager to read The Crying of Lot 49 based on McHale’s critique of the book, I had nearly wept with frustration when I had to put it away, right next to Ulysses on a shelf of books that I mean to return to, someday.
‘The Crying of Lot 49 makes students consider what happens when a work of art might not have any traditional secrets to reveal’, says Ripatrazone, adding that ‘Pynchon’s fiction is like a literary workout that forces them to build from the ground up as readers. When students read easier works of literature, they might become deluded into thinking that all language is employed in the service of clear communication. Pynchon’s paradoxes make them return to other, non-literary texts with a bit more skepticism and independent thinking.’
Yet another book on that shelf is the verse novel The Distance Between Us. As I look at the shelf, a pattern begins to emerge. Art created for its own sake, that rejoices in itself and somehow remains at a distance from the reader.
Enjoyed reading this essay on how the technique of using footnotes in fiction has evolved over the years. Another example is Book: A Novel by Robert Grudin, a work of pure metafiction in which the footnotes try for a while to dominate and take over the main narrative.
“In fact, what all of these works show—from Nabokov and Wallace to Danielewski and Boully—is that experimentation quickly stops being experimental when it works well, and gives way to progression … Footnotes, once the hallmark of pedantry and pretension, have now entered the realm of craft. More than a trick, footnotes can be technique. We’ve seen how they can be used to comment on a narrative or to create a new one, to overlap separate narratives, to evoke character in new ways, and to dig into difficult parts of who we are. Footnotes, in other words, no longer merely support a story; now, they can be the story.”
Jonathan Russell Clark, ON THE FINE ART OF THE FOOTNOTE
“I think of the postmodern attitude as that of a man who loves a very cultivated woman and knows that he cannot say to her “I love you madly”, because he knows that she knows (and that she knows he knows) that these words have already been written by Barbara Cartland. Still there is a solution. He can say “As Barbara Cartland would put it, I love you madly”. At this point, having avoided false innocence, having said clearly it is no longer possible to talk innocently, he will nevertheless say what he wanted to say to the woman: that he loves her in an age of lost innocence.”
― Umberto Eco
Professor Eco does have a point. But but but… (rhetorical question) would a cultivated woman ever read them, those candy pink paperbacks?
“Depression is the illness of post-postmodernism“, says Professor Patricia Waugh. A quote which suits the characters in the genre, and sometimes their writers as well…
I really enjoyed listening to this lecture.
On a cold afternoon at Rewley House, this agent approaches me and my classmate with a broad smile.
‘So, what do you write?’ she asks us warmly.
I give her a thirty-second elevator pitch on something I am working on, and mention that it is metafiction. Accessible metafiction, I want to qualify my statement. Because as a reader and as a writer, I believe in telling a story first and telling it well – ensuring that my characters are beings who breathe in the world inside the pages and who take their own decisions, irrespective of what my plot outlines want them to do. I also believe that the novelist’s pleasure of playing with the form is worth only if it reflects in the reader’s experience of the book. Above all, I believe that any story worth telling must reach out and speak to any kind of reader. All fiction is metafiction, at one level. I want to tell her all this, and more.
But she looks away at the sound of the M-word. I blink and when I open my eyes, she has vanished. I spot her at the bar at the far end of the room and wonder if she had been real.