Thursday, April 22, 2010
I'd be willing to bet that "weird for the sake of weird" is how many people view postmodern literature as well. In fact, most people (me included) don't really understand exactly what postmodern literature really is. It's certainly one of those overused phrases often bandied about by faux intellectual hipsters trying to appear more intelligent than they really might be.
There are a few writers usually mentioned as the prototypical postmodernists: Thomas Pynchon, David Foster Wallace, Jorge Luis Borges and Don DeLillo. But that doesn't really answer the question of what postmodern literature is, or what all those writers have in common. In my mind, in a word, postmodern literature is complex -- often needlessly so, a general reader would say. Wikipedia helpfully supplements that notion by telling us that postmodern literature relies heavily on "fragmentation, paradox, questionable narrators, etc."
That's still pretty general, but in my limited experience with postmodern literature (mainly, DFW's Infinite Jest), that description hits the nail on the head. And I bring this up now because I'm still grappling mightily with Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow. It is really, really difficult, and saying I'm enjoying it wouldn't be precisely accurate, but I am enjoying parts of it. When I put in the necessary work to understand a passage, and come out on the other side with a sense that I really get what Pynchon is trying to do, I'm elated. I feel like the hard work is worth it. But there are other times when I read a passage, reread it, reread it again and just have to put the book down, throw up my hands, and send some expletives Mr. Pynchon's way. I guess what this boils down to is that I really have to be in the right frame of mind to truly enjoy the novel. When I get it, I love it, but when I don't, I'm really frustrated.
So what's your take? What's your sense of what "postmodern literature" really is? Are you a fan? Why or why not?
Posted by Greg Zimmerman at 7:14 AM