The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon is a postmodernist novella, published in 1966. The protagonist is Oedipa Maas who unearths the centuries-old conflict between two mail distribution companies, Thurn und Taxis and the Trystero (or Tristero). The former actually existed and was the first firm to distribute postal mail; the latter is Pynchon’s invention.
Wittgenstein’s Mistress by David Markson is one of the strangest novels that I have read in recent times. It is a monologue by a woman who is the epitome of the unreliable narrator. There are numerous allusions o culture, both high and low. It is a bizarre book but entertaining. It also draws on feminist issues of daughters and sons who have been erased by history.
“One’s language is frequently imprecise in that manner, I have discovered.
Actually, the story of Turner being lashed to the mast reminds me of something, even though I cannot remember what it reminds me of.” (12)
“I am not particularly happy about this new habit of saying things that I have very little idea what I mean by saying, to tell the truth” (58). Continue reading
The term ‘postmodernism’ “is more strongly based on a negation of the modern, a perceived abandonment, break with or shift away from the definitive features of the modern, with the emphasis firmly on the sense of the relational move away” (3).
“The French use of modernite points to the experience of modernity in which modernity is viewed as a quality of modern life inducing a sense of the discontinuity of time, the break with tradition, the feeling of novelty and sensitivity to the ephemeral, fleeting and contingent nature of the present” (4).
Jameson: “the transformation of reality into images and the fragmentation of time into a series of perpetual presents” (5). Identifies (1984b) two basic features of postmodernism as (1) the transformation of reality into images and (2) a schizophrenic fragmentation of time into a series of perpetual presents” (42).
We should “focus upon the actual cultural practices and changing power balances of those groups engaged in the production, classification, circulation and consumption of postmodern cultural goods´(5).
Cloud Atlas (2004) by David Mitchell is a postmodernist novel that has been adapted into a film.
Postmodernist themes: different narrators and narrative techniques (journal writing, letters, mystery-novel, and interview; also newspaper clippings), simulacra and simulation, intertextuality (the stories are interconnected and mentioned), allusions (real and imaginary) to other literary works, consumerism (Sonmi narrative) and historicizing the characters.
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel is a graphic novel memoir of the author, set in rural Pennsylvania. It focuses on Bechdel’s relationship with her father, Bruce, who was killed by a truck on July 2, 1980 when he was crossing the road. There are different versions of this story, an element of alternate endings, a postmodernist feature. The versions include that Bruce committed suicide by purposely putting himself in front of the truck, and that something startled him and he jumped backwards to be hit; he may have been startled at the sight of a snake, one that she had once seen in the woods when she was a child.
Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware is a strange story. The main story revolves around Jimmy meeting his father for the first time, unknown to his mother. There is also the history of the past generations of the Corrigan fathers who pass on abuse to their sons.
Postmodern elements. Elements in JM by Forrest Helvie in SeqArt: history through the four generations of the Corrigans, minimal narrative (panels and structure and fragmentary), capitalism (fast food restaurants and hospitals), simulacrum (Superman comes to the shop and dies by jumping from a building),
Ghost World is a graphic novel about two teenage girls, best friends Enid Coleslaw and Rebecca Doppelmeyer; both are cynical and pseudo-intellectual, and at the same time concerned and clueless about the future. The novel is set in the 1990s in an unnamed American town, filled with shopping malls, urban sprawl, and fast food restaurants. They have just graduated from high school and spend their time wandering, and criticizing the people and popular culture. They are close and entertain the idea that they maybe lesbians. They drift apart when Enid decides to go to college. Both are also attracted to their common quiet friend, Josh.
The Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibson is considered to be one of the top ten graphic novels (Time). The narrative has twelve chapters (in picture panels) interspersed with reports of different kinds. The non-comic narratives are: Holis Mason’s autobiography (Under the Hood), Professor Milton Glass’s report (Dr Manhattan: Super-Powers and the Superpowers), Ch 5 of the Treasure Island Treasury of Comics, prison and psychological reports of Rorschach, Drieberg’s “Blood from the Shoulder of Pallas (Journal of the American Ornithological society), excerpts from the newspaper (New Frontiersman), news articles, fan mail and interview about Sally (Silk Spectre), Viedt’s correspondence on figurines of Ozymandias, and interview with Veidt (“After the Maquerade”).
Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami is a parallel narrative set in two worlds: End of the World and the contemporary world. This is not surprising as Murakami often sets his stories in parallel worlds and alternate universes.
The narrator has arrived at the End of the World to read old dreams. His shadow realizes that “There’s something wrong with this place. People can’t live without their shadows, and shadows can’t live without people. Yet they’re splitting us apart” (63). The Gatekeeper on the End of the World, “Nobody leaves here. … If you endure, everything will be fine. No worry, no suffering. It all disappears. Forget about the shadow. This is the End of the World. This is where the world ends. Nowhere further to go” (109). The food in the Town is different than elsewhere, as the Librarian describes to the narrator, “We sue only a few basic ingredients. What resembles meat is not. What resembles eggs is not. What resembles coffee only resembles coffee. Everything is made in the image of something” (224).
Hopscotch by Julio Cortazar, published in Spanish in 1963 and in English in 1966, is a strange novel. It is considered revolutionary but reading it from a now perspective,it seems pretentious or the other possibility is I am ignorant (which I am, of numerous things). It read like a discourse on life, relationships, knowledge, and feelings.
It is a postmodernist novel in its use of narrative voices (first person, third person, and stream of consciousness) and techniques. The novel has 155 chapters, the last 99 designated as “expendable,” some of which fill in the gaps while others add information or simply record random musings (almost journal and blog-like). Morelli, a writer, appears in these chapters that also have footnotes. The novel, as suggested by the author, can be read in two ways: as a linear narrative from chapters 1 to 56 or by “hopscotching” through the entire set of 155 chapters according to a “Table of Instructions.” The reader can also choose his/her own path through the narrative.
Hopscotch is an account of the life of Horacio Oliveira, an Argentinean intellectual. He experiences life in Paris in the 1950s. The other characters consist of La Maga and a band of bohemian intellectuals who call themselves the Serpent Club. The other members of the Serpent Club are: Ossip Gregorovius, a rival for Lucía’s affections, the artists Perico Romero and Etienne, Etienne’s friend Guy Monod, Wong, and Ronald and Babs (who are married). There is jazz, walking in Paris, and intellectual discussions (too many). Continue reading