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The only thing appealing about the L.A. Times’ Postmodern list is its cute little icons

Sure. As mentioned many and more times, lists are a fun and easy way to attract and rile up readership, and, if you’re lucky create a bit of caustic banter. Jacket Copy’s succeeds because it is so… irritating, in large part because so too is the term Postmodern literature. 

As Mr. Wikipedia, in quite a extensive summary, tells us:

The term Postmodern literature is used to describe certain tendencies in post-World War II literature. It is both a continuation of the experimentation championed by writers of the modernist period (relying heavily, for example, on fragmentation, paradox, questionable narrators, etc.) and a reaction against Enlightenment ideas implicit in Modernist literature. Postmodern literature, like postmodernism as a whole, is hard to define and there is little agreement on the exact characteristics, scope, and importance of postmodern literature. However, unifying features often coincide with Jean-François Lyotard‘s concept of the "meta-narrative" and "little narrative," Jacques Derrida‘s concept of "play," and Jean Baudrillard‘s "simulacra." For example, instead of the modernist quest for meaning in a chaotic world, the postmodern author eschews, often playfully, the possibility of meaning, and the postmodern novel is often a parody of this quest. This distrust of totalizing mechanisms extends even to the author; thus postmodern writers often celebrate chance over craft and employ metafiction to undermine the author’s "univocal" control (the control of only one voice). The distinction between high and low culture is also attacked with the employment of pastiche, the combination of multiple cultural elements including subjects and genres not previously deemed fit for literature. A list of postmodern authors often varies; the following are some names of authors often so classified, most of them belonging to the generation born in the interwar period: William Burroughs (1914-1997), Alexander Trocchi (1925-1984), Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007), John Barth (b. 1930), Donald Barthelme (1931-1989), E. L. Doctorow (b. 1931), Robert Coover (1932), Jerzy Kosinski (1933-1991) Don DeLillo (b. 1936), Thomas Pynchon (b. 1937), Ishmael Reed (1938), Kathy Acker (1947-1997), Paul Auster (b. 1947)[1], Orhan Pamuk (b. 1952).

Considering however thatas is pointed out in comments stirred by the LATlist – Don Quixote, often cited as the first, and by many, the best, novel (post-modern or otherwise) ever written, doesn’t even appear, despite preempting virtually all claims by list-making parvenus to any kind of originality, one really can’t take this journalistic foolishness seriously. Don Quixote nailed the playful-innovative-absurdist-self-referential-commentary-on-fiction-life-its (non) meaning-and/or-depiction genre more than five hundred years ago, and it is yet to have been bettered.
 
This list exercise comes off as just…irritating, especially when you consider that in addition to Cervantes, Joyce, Woolf and Beckett aren’t even included as ‘progenitors’. After Sterne’s Tristam Shandy, Kafka’s Metamorphosis, Joyce’s Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, Woolf’s Orlando, Beckett’s Plays and Novels, Calvino’s "If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler" perhaps, and Nabokov’s Pale Fire (I’m kinda partial to Conrad’s unreliable Heart of Darkness narrator too)…you’d be hard pressed to find anything significantly ‘new’ that anyone on the lalalist has contributed…unless you consider responding to changing technology or science or current events, significant…Plato, for instance, couldn’t write about the Internet, or Michael Jackson’s death, whereas Philip Roth of course, could, if he were so inclined.
 
No. The best, the only thing appealing about this list is that it is accompanied by cute little icons.
 
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4 Responses to “The only thing appealing about the L.A. Times’ Postmodern list is its cute little icons”

  1. Art Durkee Says:

    I think the distinction made in some of the comments between what was genuinely PoMo and what is derivative—in fact, working “within the stream” of PoMo writing—is a very good one. That distinction helps me clarify why I’ve never been drawn to the authors the comments listed as derivative, such as Eggers. As in “intentionally PoMo” isn’t; or at least isn’t as interesting.

    I’m glad Borges was mentioned, but in my opinion, not mentioned enough on a list like this. One of the inventors, actually.

    I’ve often thought that post-Modernism was in fact Late Modernism, not actually anything new. It’s very reactionary, in a way. Anything that includes “Modernism” in its very label hasn’t really gotten over Modernism, has it?

  2. Nigel Beale Says:

    No it hasn’t. Very difficult to out experiment the Modernists…without drawing attention to whatever conceit is being played around with…without damaging and interfering with the reader’s all important connection with character and narrative.

    btw Art, I was back at our favorite bookstore, the Phoenix. A nice lady there told me about another barn full of books nearby. Will post pics shortly.

  3. tui Says:

    Where does the distinction made in that article leave us with respect to something like DeLillo’s “The Body Artist”, which incorporates both modernist and postmodern qualities? Not to mention the casually-tossed-in piece of unexploded ordnance which is “Infinite Jest”, which, depending on one’s point of view is modernist, post-modern, post-post-modern, or (in my opinion) all three at once, which of course makes a mockery of the entire exercise. A set of labels simply isn’t sufficient.

  4. Art Durkee Says:

    Something to look forward to!

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