y450-293In Praise of the New Modernists |
Literary Hub

More recently—say, in the last 20 years or so—numerous so-called postmodern novels have contained this distinctly non-postmodern quality—not that the characters feel so much as the reader. The cumulative effect isn’t necessarily a fully fleshed-out character but a fully emotional experience. Think of Jonathan Safran Foer’s strong sentiments in the face of the Holocaust and 9/11; think of the alligator-wrestling family at the heart of Karen Russell’s Swamplandia!; think of the way Ali Smith works her linguistic magic in order to convey the complexities of love and relationships; or the heart-breaking wallop of David Levithan’s The Lover’s Dictionary; think of Reif Larsen’s I am Radar, of Zadie Smith’s NW, of Téa Obreht’s The Tiger’s Wife. Can these books truly be considered postmodern when the most prevalent aspect is emotion rather than thought?

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6759Has Anyone Actually Read Infinite Jest? | Lit Hub
Has Infinite Jest become the kind of book that people own but haven’t read? Is it like War and Peace or The Recognitions or Gravity’s Rainbow or Middlemarch or The Magic Mountain or The Man Without Qualities? Why has Infinite Jest, supposedly such an influential novel, become a paper weight, a talking point, a bench-mark of high- and low-brow intellectuality? Why has no one (or, more accurately, why does everyone think that no one) actually read the thing?

GenoaGenoa (1965) by Paul Metcalf | Northwest Review
We as a nation would do well to follow the lead of Paul Metcalf, an experimental writer who died in 1999. His 1965 novel Genoa, reissued by Coffee House Press to celebrate its 50th anniversary, contends with exactly these kinds of forces. The present action of the novel is pretty bare bones: Michael Mills, a man with a medical degree but who can’t bring himself to practice, sifts through the detritus of his attic while his children watch television downstairs. That’s really it. Throughout, Michael quotes Melville and Christopher Columbus for various reasons and in various ways; a good chunk of the book is made up of quotations. But the novel is really about the convergence of three threads: 1. Paul Metcalf’s relation to Herman Melville (he was Metcalf’s great-grandfather), 2. Columbus’s relation to America, and 3. the character Michael’s relation to his brother Carl, who was executed for murder. These three notions intertwine and correspond in complex ways throughout the novel.

fsg4_nowhereHappy Birthday, Gary Larson! | Literary Hub
For exactly 15 years—from January 1, 1980 to January 1, 1995—Gary Larson wrote and drew The Far Side, a comic strip so funny and daring and biting that it cleared the path for the likes of Matt Groening and Trey Parker in the 1990s. Larson’s humor relished irony, hypocrisy and stupidity, and his view of humanity was, ultimately, a bleak one. He was one of my heroes growing up. Here’s to you, Gary, on your 65th birthday!