Can’t Stop the Signal

I was puzzled by some of the posts I read talking about the graphic novel form as comical or simplistic – I never carried those expectations, so to me what “Shooting War” felt most like was pulp fiction or even young adult fiction. While the content was adult and somewhat explicit, the style of writing was hackneyed and the characterization and narrative were rushed and incomplete. I heard that the authors were asked to expand this novel from the first two chapters, and if so, that accounts for what I felt as a confused narrative arc with an ending that I can only call… pasted on. (Also, wow, I hope those blog posts were meant to be whiny and annoying …because they were.) Not only was Jimmy’s redemption unbelievable in terms of his previous actions (With so much previous introspection there was surprisingly little immediate insight into what made him upload those clips.), it was unbelievable in terms of the world he lived in. With such a media splash with those Youtube clips, there’s no way he would be allowed to be freelance and not get snapped up again! Maybe I just wasn’t reading closely, but does anyone know what happened to his people at Global? And what was up with the sanctification of Yoda Rather? Is he some kind of hero to the Left that I don’t know about? I felt in general like I was watching a made-for-TV movie with cut and paste bildungsroman characters.

The art style, however, was arresting and very effective at conveying the aesthetic message, I thought. I particularly enjoyed the skull and cross that formed the maskfaces of the soldiers. Talk about anti-religion! Overall, while the story gave a good framework for the art’s scope, I didn’t feel like each carried the other to its full potential or to a true marriage.

I did fully enjoy the alternate universe aspects of the novel, however, as science fiction works best when it is scarily plausible. McCain and the eminent domain struck a chord in me, as some have pointed out in their posts, but I still don’t see what the solution to fight back against the Evil Oppresors is. I suppose we should all become vloggers and keep information flowing constantly?

“In the Shadow of No Towers,” on the other hand, was very charming and effective. I was a bit taken aback by the extreme leftist views of the text. No matter if I share those views, it’s disorienting and strange when literature and propaganda/advertising explicitly overlap. Of course I was charmed by his references to his own work when the mouse appeared. I liked the image of his family running away from the disaster paralleling his own running away temporally to the old comics. It’s strange how influential these comics were but how we don’t typically read them either as part of the canon or as popular ad-packaged entertainment. The traces of their influence on pop culture and literature is all that’s left, so that’s one reason that I was excited to see some of the original works (especially Little Nemo and Upside-Downs).

Postmodern Magical Realism

The essay by Flores was really shocking to me in its own unquestioned assumption of authority, scathing critique, and, well, stereotyping. Is this just a ’50’s thing?? It was hard to get past for me. The history of magical realism and its evolution as a reaction to realism is useful, however, in putting magical realism into a larger context among genres, and in putting The People of Paper in a larger context of magical realist works. When Flores states that “The practitioners of magical realism cling to reality as if to prevent ‘literature’ from getting in their way, as if to prevent their myth from flying off, as in fairy tales, to supernatural realms” (191), it seems as if it is only a matter of prose style that separates magical realism from both literary dreck and other genres such as urban fantasy. (Although in the case of urban fantasy, the markers of elves and fairies would probably force it to be categorized as such, even if it were written in the most bleak and spare realist style.)

Recently, my friend got into an impromptu conversation with another girl about what qualifies a work as magical realism. My friend was frustrated that she could not explain to the girl that no, Harry Potter did not qualify as magical realism. I suggested to her that if the characters defined something as magic, then the text wasn’t magical realism, which seemed to work as a guideline for me. However, reading Flores and his more stylistic definition, I wonder how he would differentiate between magical realism and fantasy – or science fiction, which is often written in a more realist style but can still contain unexplained prophesying like Baby Nostradamus’. Apart from the typical content markers of science fiction and fantasy (space ships, wizards, etc.), one of the things that sets them apart from magical realism is their attempt at explanation of the impossible (through magic and science). Flores highlights how Kafka and Camus and other magical realist writers never explain the impossible premise of their tales, but simply move on with the realistic implications of that premise.

Apart from these signs of magical realism, The People of Paper’s postmodernist markers of multivocality, heteroglossia, intrusion of the author, foregrounding the narrative construction, and playful spirit are all present in the style. I found this multivocality much easier to read than House of Leaves’, and especially the ending, with Little Merced and Frederico de la Fe walking off the page (with Baby Nostradamus’ assurances that he knew all the characters’ lives outside the bounds of the novel) made me feel more invested in their characterization. It was odd but when the author revealed himself halfway through I began to feel frustrated, as if the fate of the characters somehow didn’t matter anymore because their construction was *foregrounded*. (Of course all fiction is constructed, but I guess I like to pretend?) However the end seemed to revert to Plascencia as an unreliable narrator with an incomplete view, paradoxically declaring victory only to be distracted by thoughts of his lost love and giving characters the power to walk off his page. As an aside, Saturn and Frederico’s view of men spurred to great achievements only because they suffered the pain of a lost love reminded me of what Russ said about the Whileawayans’ lifelong achievements motivated by the childhood pain of being separated from their mothers.

Tropic of Orange and Cognitive Mapping

Tropic of Orange was a very accessible read for me, so right away I knew something was wrong. The use of magical realism was charming, but that didn’t seem to jibe with what I thought I knew about postmodernist style. Adams’ article was very helpful to me in defining postmodernism by defining what it is not. She made a good point that the label of postmodernist loses any meaning it had when it is applied so liberally. Part of the reason I think we all feel so confused sometimes about what constitutes postmodern (aside from the fact that no critics can really agree either) is that the adjective is applied to such different-seeming texts. One thing I liked about Adams’ article was that she framed both postmodern fiction and contemporary fiction in more positive terms. Not only did she define postmodernism by what it’s not, she defined it by what it is. The “post” terms for schools of thought are somewhat troubling to me because they seem to define the wave only as a reaction to what came before, not as something in its own right. Of course all trends in intellectual thought are reactions to what came before, so it seems as if postmodernism should be able to come up with a descriptive definition for itself the way that other waves have done, instead of a temporal placeholder of a name. Adams terms postmodern fiction as Cold War literature, and contemporary fiction as the literature of globalization, which seem useful definitions to me.

Although she says it would be premature to label aesthetic and thematic trends in the literature of globalization (Is that a cop-out?), she does identify multivocalism as one stylistic trend in Tropic of Orange. I found myself reminded of House of Leaves’ multivocalism, but when I stopped to think about House of Leaves in terms of her definition of a postmodern text, it did seem to have the requisite “preoccupation with paranoia and conspiracy, radical skepticism about foundational truth and authority of all kinds, deft mixing of genres, distrust of received historical knowledge, and confrontations with the sublime and apocalyptic” (Adams 3). Tropic of Orange does mistrust the government, the army, the police, the newsmedia, but at least there does seem to be room for change. In a world where such acts of magical realism are possible, attitudes and ingrained cultural processes can surely also be extraordinarily transformed. What’s more, I did believe that the characters in Tropic of Orange themselves believed in the possibility of change.

It would be interesting to view Tropic of Orange, The Crying of Lot 49, and Adams’ article in terms of Jameson’s cognitive mapping. He decribed the alienated city as “a space in which people are unable to map (in their minds) either their own positions or the urban totality in which they find themselves” wherein cognitive mapping should work to “enable a situational representation on the part of the individual subject to that vaster and properly unrepresentable totality which is the ensemble of society’s structures as a whole.” It was the beginning map of the character’s voices throughout the novel that reminded me of cognitive mapping, in addition to Adams’ focus on the geographical spaces in the novel. But in Tropic of Orange, at least some of the characters seem to have both psychological and metaphysical maps working and intact. Excluding perhaps Emi and Gabriel, Buzzword, Archangel, and even Bobby (with his barrio surfing) seem to be sure of their literal and figurative place in the world. Buzzword in particular seems to be an activist on behalf of cognitive mapping, wanting people to get outside and walk to connect themselves more intimately to the places they live in. Archangel as well was establishing a place for his people. Manzanar perhaps is with his symphony establishing cognitive maps for those who can hear, integrating the different voices of the city into a coherent living, functioning whole.

Mediated Narrative

sara flood’s post about how our experience of the world is mediated through and filtered by a biased visual news media reminded me of Googlezon’s EPIC, the concept of a future where there would be no pretense to impartiality and generalized information.  Such increasing specialization in the news and media we consume would seem to lead to increasing fragmentation of geographical societal units in terms of the cultural references we share.  Yet it also leads to bridging of cultural gaps among people in many different geographical areas.   Of course the internet has enabled some progress along these lines, but even Mao II, which is set before the internet became a part of people’s lives, foregrounds the distortion and authorship present purely in the medium of still photography.  Reality is filtered through Brita’s lens, through her decisions made in a single moment. In addition, DeLillo implies that reality is created by its mediation, that the hostage’s freedom “is tied to the public announcement of his freedom” (129).

Complicating the authorship and ownership of photographic images, however, is the chance that is always an aspect of their capture.  Especially before the days of digital previews and easy photo editing, when a photographer clicks the shutter, s/he is never quite sure how the picture will turn out, and has no opportunity for the constant crafting and revisions of an author of written media.  Gray thinks that “a writer creates a character as a way to reveal consciousness, increase the flow of meaning” to “reply to power and beat back our fear” (200).  So if written fiction (and all narrative can be called fiction) is meant to add meaning to the world (although Osteen thinks Gray is being disingenuous), what is the purpose of photography?  Does the chance inherent in photography leave more room for a plurality of meanings than writing does?

With the addition of the internet and 24 hour news, has society been reduced to “blur and glut” where we don’t know whom to “take seriously” among the cacophany of specialized voices – and is the only one we take seriously the “lethal believer,” as George asserts? (157)  Gray states that on the contrary, the terrorists themselves are just as implicated in the aims and narratives of their own backing groups and do not stand outside the crowd at all, and Osteen adds that terrorists are not individual authors but dependent upon the media for shaping and conveying their message.  I was intrigued by the “mass mind” that Osteen identifies Brita as being a part of, how Brita notices that “everything that came into her mind […] seemed at once to enter the culture” (165). Terrorism was linked to both narrative and brainwashing, but what is its relationship to the mass mind?  Is the mass mind simply the consequence of our certain globally shared cultural references?

Osteen identifies Gray as representing the individualist in combat against the mass mind, and I thought maybe this is where his strange focus on bodily excretions comes from.  The workings of his individual body are uniquely his creation and possession, as “He urinated.  He shook the last drop of pee off his dick.  This was his life” (212).  Earlier Gray muses that a real biography of him would be a catalogue of his bodily workings – with a catalogue instead of a narrative, there is less room for others to insert their own meanings into the text.

Overall, Mao II seems concerned with different media of narrative (writing, photography, terrorism, brainwashing) and which is the appropriate one for our current society.  The arguments about the different forms of course expose the assumptions of the speaker about what narrative should accomplish.  To Gray, it should be the art of a novel, something “so angelic it makes your jaw hang open” (159), to George it should be the political change of terrorism, a “model that transcends all the bitter history.  Something enormous and commanding” (158), to Rashid it is the extension of the great leader by brainwashing to give people “identity, a sense of purpose” (233), to Brita it is a record and a clue to the mysteries she can’t grasp, and for Osteen it serves the goal of remaking social order by operating within that social order.

Re-creating Reality

Although the narrative was much easier to follow reading it for the second time, I remain very confused about exactly what Beloved herself is. The text from Beloved’s own point of view exacerbated rather than cleared up my confusion, as, apart from the interesting form that Davis comments on, I could not understand the content, or the point. Davis mentions that Beloved’s sections reference the slave narratives of the middle passage, and I didn’t catch that at all when I read it, but now I see the references. If there are references, does Beloved then become the spirit of African American history? Is she the mythical “presence” that Morrison is quoted as saying African Americans possess?

Even the other characters in the novel seem confused about what she is. Once another character identifies her as probably a girl that had escaped being imprisoned by a whiteman. When she vanishes from the porch, some characters see her as fat, some as thin, and later a boy reports seeing a woman with fish for hair in the woods. Morrison herself says she blended Beloved from the murdered historical child and a woman in a photograph murdered by a jealous lover.

With all these different interpretations of her, it’s no wonder Beloved has trouble keeping herself together. Beloved mentions trying to keep herself intact, each part of herself, as if the integrity of her form was a function of her concentration, and if she let herself drift for a moment, she would all fall apart. This vulnerability to self-fragmentation is seen in Sethe as well, and it reminded me of the conscious re-creating of one’s reality the travelers in the hallways of House of Leaves had to do. Beloved’s own narrative is also fragmented, and she seems to see Sethe’s face as both the face she lost on the middle passage and her own face.

What is this ambiguity accomplishing? What is Morrison communicating that she felt Beloved would be the best medium for? And why do Davis (and apparently I) care so much about Morrison’s intent? I am fond of the imagery of Davis’s “wheel,” ever changing and adapting and never repeating – perhaps these are also the characteristics of the water from which Beloved came. Beloved herself is always changing, her form varying both over time and with the viewer. Yet in the end, no one can remember her and she seems to diminish in form to a kind of nature spirit, hiding in the forest. What does this development signify? Davis mentioned a theory that Sethe’s proactive reeactment of the past broke the hold of the past (in the form of Beloved) on her, making Beloved vanish and allowing Sethe to come to terms with her past in a way that still allowed her to live in the present.

In the normal ideal of a sane person in our society, the sane person clearly separates memory and imagination and the present, and also remembers all important events in their life. The characters in this novel clearly do not always fit that ideal, and even at the end when Sethe has been “liberated” from the past, she and others can not really remember Beloved, even though she played such a large role in their lives. Does this leave them functioning but insane? Does this ending shed some light on the way we construct our societal ideal of a functioning productive member of society?

Assumptions and Cyborgs

What impressed me most about The Female Man was the way Whileaway made me aware of my own habitual assumptions.  Every time Janet would describe another aspect of life on Whileaway, describe another work category, I would have to stop short and reassess my automatic subconscious default provisional assignment of male gender.  When Janet described riding on a train and mentioned the engineer, I assumed the engineer was male (80).  I don’t know why it was so hard for me to remember that everyone was a woman – no really, everyone!  But my brain kept trying to revert to the provisional assumption of masculinity for any person whose gender was not explicitly stated.  Of course, one other solution to this assumption of maleness is to make the category of man available to women as well, as Russ asserts on page 140: “If we are all Mankind, it follows to my interested and beady little eyes, that I too am a Man and not at all a Woman.”  This statement reminds me of the way that Susan B. Anthony by trying to vote herself challenged the implicit male assumptions in the categories of “person” and “citizen” in the Fourteenth Amendment’s granting of the right to vote.

One thing that puzzled me about Jael’s world was how the women still gave male babies to the men.  Assuming the women have some kind of semen stockpile and have not advanced to genetic engineering, why would they give their enemy the very means of continuing themselves?  The only answer I could see was that the women had an essential view of men as enemies – even baby men were still men and therefore enemies.  Therefore nurturing them and indoctrinating them would presumably serve no purpose.  Except for Davy (and who knows how common he is) and perhaps commerce, the women are not portrayed as desiring or needing the opposite gender or perpetuating gender roles like the men are.  In making the male society so crude and disagreeable, Russ is creating a parody of the normal state of gender roles.  Taken to the extreme, it’s easy to see how gender roles are only perpetuated by the males who benefit by them.  Yet the women are no saints either, and their hatred leads first to the creation and perpetuation of the awful male society and ultimately, as Jael implies, to genocide.

Whileaway society definitely echoed aspects of Haraway’s cyborg utopia, and certainly the skill with induction helmets and other aspects of technology reflected the “intense pleasure in skill, machine skill, ceas[ing] to be a sin , but an aspect of embodiment” (180).  Although Haraway’s vision of a cyborg worldview seems a utopia, she convinced me pretty well that cyborg imagery is a good place to start to escape the divisive use of dualisms and navigate our discourse more effectively and happily.  Perhaps with a cyborg worldview, I wouldn’t make those assumptions of provisional male gender.  Although cyborg theory itself is a totalizing theory (which Haraway condemns) in that she implies that everyone can be a cyborg, the extremely adaptive nature of cyborgs mean that cyborg theory in Haraway’s view will never be limiting or exclusionary.

Expectations and Disintegrations

Many of the posts so far have explored the “So?” question of House of Leaves.  The “what’s the point?” question.  But I think that a lot of this question is coming from the way that HoL breaks genre conventions.  Why don’t we ask “what’s the point?” of any literature we read?  Because we’re accustomed to genre conventions, we automatically accept normal genres of literature as fulfilling the functions of education and/or entertainment.  I think what HoL is doing is forcing us to reexamine our own genre assumptions and conventions.  This process of reexamination forces us to ask the questions: “What is the purpose of literature?” and “How do we determine and construct that purpose?”

By foregrounding the process of the construction of the text, HoL does not allow us to fall back into our normal mode of reading literature along genre conventions.  Some of the conventions I mean are: a book has a clear and authoritative narrative voice; there is one overarching story arc; characterization is consistent; there is a demarcated line between fiction and nonfiction; there is one font used throughout; there are chapters; there are page numbers; footnotes are denoted with numbers; text is arranged in a rectangular block and read all in the same direction and orientation; there are paragraphs, and they are indented and spaced; except for dialogue, spelling and punctuation are standard; illustrations are pertinent to the story; the text aims to enlighten or entertain the reader.  I’m just spelling out a random few, mostly determined by what conventions HoL has broken.  Perhaps it is this last one that is so disturbing.  HoL doesn’t seem to care much about the reader. Indeed, the anti-dedication warns us away.  Yet for a text that seems to ignore the reader’s desires and frustrate her expectations, it encourages great participation on the part of the reader.  The fact that the forum and the album were released along with the book contributes to the view of HoL as encouraging active reading.  But to what end?  Why bother to shake us up?

By highlighting different aspects of “what makes a book a book”, HoL exposes the fact that any book is merely a house of leaves – the sum of its component parts.  The concept of “book” itself is a kind of constructed cultural narrative.  Perhaps by becoming aware of the constructed nature of “book” and not taking its existence as a naturally coherent whole, readers will be able to participate more actively in the construction of meaning around them.  By viewing critically and strategically the various sites of cultural construction, readers can then learn to influence the reiteration of those constructs toward an iteration more favorable to themselves.

I would have to read more of Danielewski’s interviews on his own motivations (if indeed he reveals them), but this type of awakening agents of political change could be one answer to the “So?” question.

Real Echoes

I was intrigued by the passage in The House of Leaves that defined and related the history of echoes. Echo’s voice “has life. It possesses a quality not present in the original, revealing how a nymph can return a different and more meaningful story, in spite of telling the same story” (42). Of course the series of echoes is found in the construction of the text itself, Zampono’s voice filtered through at least two other voices, and Truant even admits to changing Zampono’s “heater” into “water heater,” in order to make Truant’s echo of Zampono’s story more meaningful to Truant. The echo therefore is real and has meaning in its own right, independent from the original sound. This independent meaning of the representation parallels Baudrillard’s phases of the images, where a simulacrum can exist with no relation to reality, and the invented character of Navidson, who would perhaps fit in at number three of the image phases. Of course it’s silly for literature students to debate whether or not fiction/lies/simulacra have meaning, but by inviting the reader to imagine the book as a true story, Danielewski makes the reader more actively involved and invested in the story. Baudrillard suggests that simulation is dangerous because it implies that everything is a simulation. The reader, confronted with such a skillful simulation of a critical discussion about a film, will then somewhat question the existence of the “real” critics and films s/he reads or has read about.

The main episode where echoes play a large role is when Navidson, lost in the passageway, keeps calling out to find his way through space, and his daughter’s response to his calls is a kind of echo that (it would appear) saves his life. Navidson’s adventure in the passageways echoes the imagery Zampano uses to describe (what Truant thinks is) his own experience with echoes: a word “flung down empty hallways long past midnight” (48). The only evidence of the beast in the passageways with Navidson is aural as well, the growling noises reverberating in the silence. Even the beast itself seems to only echo the awareness of it. Lude hasn’t detected anything wrong with reality. Zampono’s foreboding final emphasis on how Daisy’s “Always” echoes “hallways” seems to give great weight to echoes, but to what end? (73) Is the beast the reality that everyone’s simulacra are working to hide? Or is it the truth that there is no reality?

Truant also seems happier with Thumper’s “image feeling permanently fixed within me” than really getting to know the real girl with the tattoo (54). Something strange is going on with his repeated “can’t write the word”s, and also his “Known some call is air am” is a kind of textual echo of the Latin, purposefully leading the reader on an involved quest for its meaning (72).

Calisthenics of Perception

In The Crying of Lot 49, toward the end Oedipa lays out four choices to try to make sense what is going on around her.  She has stumbled upon real Tristero, a vast underground network; she has hallucinated “it”; she is the victim of a plot to deceive her; or she is insane.  When she considers the first option, she equates with the reality of Tristero “a real alternative to the exitlessness, to the absence of surprise to life, that harrows the head of everybody American you know, and you too, sweetie”.  It’s interesting that she does not equate hallucinations with insanity here, and jkathrynfulton’s point about Oedipa’s perception divided into perhaps real or perhaps dreamed events highlights the inability or unwillingness on the parts of both Oedipa and the narrator to clearly differentiate between the two for the reader.

But of course, just at the climax of a traditional detective story when the “crime” and “criminal” are about to be revealed and explained, the novel ends.  We never do get an answer from the story about which of the four options it was.  In Holquist’s exploration of The Voyeur, he points out that the detective story cliché of the power of the rational mind to conquer all is reversed, and that the reader becomes a detective only to discover the cipher zero of the poster title, which parallels the crying of lot 49 – something unheard, unfinished, which the reader must perform.  The solution lies not in the book, but “in the experience of the reader himself” (151).  “It is not a story – it is a process,” Holquist asserts (153), and this process of “strangeness” (155) is a “kind of calisthenics of perception” (153).  This wording recalls Jameson’s exhortation for the experience of art to alter our outdated “perceptual habits” so that we are able to comprehend the global capitalist reality (80).

However I am still unclear on exactly the crime or mystery that is to be solved here.  Holquist references “cosmic detectives, who wish to solve the crime of their own existence” (154) and says that in metaphysical detective stories it is life rather than death that is to be solved.  Jameson cites a “breakdown of temporality” and breakdown in relationships between signifiers creating an overwhelming sensation of the signifier in isolation (73).  This description of the signifier in isolation echoes the Word that Oedipa can never quite get a grasp on, as well as her hallucinatory states.  Failure of communication is a recurring theme in The Crying of Lot 49, but I was never sure what exactly is trying to be communicated.

When I was talking to my friend about Jameson, my friend retorted that he personally had no void to be dramatized, no gap in perception.  I reflected that I didn’t either – that I knew of.  And how could people living in the postmodern age ever know anything else to compare our lived experience to?  Even the seemingly idyllic past can supposedly never be accessed in the postmodern age as anything but simalcra, so is this comparison just a straw man?  Or is Jameson outdated and my friend now fully evolved into a perceiving being, plugged into his internet feed?  To what extent does the “violence to our flabby habits of perception” (156) exacted by the experience of postmodern art depend on the subject having perceptions formed in the modernist age?

If the problem is the overwhelming sensation of the isolated signifier, the description of that experience is reminiscent of medieval religious experiences, so does that sensation qualify as the new violence without that the violence within of the new art is supposed to protect us from? Jameson implies that this evolution of perception is part of a long historical process of humanity evolving to comprehend the changing world.  So why is this a problem now?  Why do we have to do something about it?

I was struck by the part in Hassan’s piece “POSTmodernISM” about “Periods.”  I am trying to wrap my head around periods as well.  This short post sorted out some of my confusion with Realism, Naturalism, and Modernism, but considering that those three movements came over the span of only 60 years, it stands to reason that individuals were alive and writing over multiple literary periods, and perhaps in multiple literary styles.  Hassan asks, “Does modernism stretch merely to stretch out our lives?” (7)  I would be interested in knowing the reactions of authors historically to shifts in literary trends.  Do they welcome the change, or try to “stretch out” the old period?  Hassan says that the avant-garde should “serve as the agent of change, which is recognizable when still newer change is in progress” (10).  Can we really not recognize change as its happening enough to name it?  Will post-modernism acquire a new name after something else takes its place?  It’s strange that although Realism, Naturalism, and Modernism all reacted to each other and were more or less chronologically progressing, we don’t call Naturalism “Post-Realism,” etc.  (What did they call Naturalism while it was happening?) So why is postmodernism called postmodernism?  The name is almost a negative space – a sign: “Reserved for the name of the period after Modernism.” Does postmodernism have no defining characteristic of its own other than that it defies categorization?  And seeing as many authors neither knew nor cared what literary period or style they were writing in, how useful are these literary categorizations – and to whom are they useful?

In a related development chronicled in the article “Modern Book Publishing and Book Culture – TIME, the publishing industry seems to be shifting into a more postmodern form. So not only literary movements are shifting, but literary media are shifting as well.  As we discussed in class, postmodernism is a product of new technology. I liked the lip service to fandom, but it was a little vexing that the author implied that fandom’s postmodern activities only started recently with the Internet.  The article’s vision of the future of publishing – amateur writers blazing new trails while professional writers lay back and watch – reminded me of Hassan’s view of critics “Taking few risks, the best known among them wait[ing] for men of lesser reputation to clear the way” (9).

The DeLillo piece I found extremely offputting at first, but as the narrative became faster and more ridiculous it caused a sort of Brechtian-alienation shift within me to not only become aware of the component parts of narratives but also to become aware of the component parts of our visual experience of society. By starting in a more conventional, slow-moving narrative style and then moving toward the more extreme style, it also exposed my own assumptions that stories are supposed to “make sense,” characters are supposed to be developed, and actions are supposed to be motivated.  At the end, I found myself wondering if the soldiers that they killed would be soldiers if they had been out of uniform, and if the women that they raped would be women if they weren’t wearing skirts and dresses.

Link’s “Some Zombie Contingency Plans” was one that I loved at first – I found Soap’s internal narrative hilarious.  That’s why I was so taken off guard by the kidnapping at the end.  I felt like I had missed some sign earlier – a clue that this was going to happen.  A big clue, of course, is the painting.  It is at the center of what caused Soap’s life to change so dramatically by going to prison, and Soap shows a strange attachment to it that even he does not understand. Its shifting identity parallels Soap’s and Carly’s own shifting identities.  It changes depending on how the viewer looks at it.  So too do Carly and Soap’s identities shift depending on how another person perceives them.  Soap’s name was given to him by others, and the reader only realizes Carly’s “friend of the family” identity is false when Soap points it out.  Given the extent to which the reader sees the inside of Soap’s head, it’s amazing that I just didn’t see the kidnapping coming.  This lack of real internal access, coupled with the emphasis on outer identity implies that there IS no real internal identity, that we are all shifting constantly like the painting, made up of “stuff that isn’t the same every time you look at it.”