fictions present

… without shame or concern for etymology: 11 September in Thomas Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge

2014-08-03

In “…without shame of concern for etymology,” Hanjo Berressem discusses Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge in the context post-9/11 fiction. In contrast to narratives of posttraumatic melancholy, Berressem argues that Bleeding Edge is a “Jeremiad about the fall and the sins of America.” The result is an essay that makes a powerful case for Pynchon as a prophetic, if brutal, witness to American society turning towards security and control in the shadow of tragedy.

Against an Aesthetics of Disappearance (review of Timothy Melley's The Covert Sphere)

2013-12-27

According to Fabienne Collignon, Timothy Melley’s refusal to submit “clear vectors of resistance” to “so-called democratic states” in The Covert Sphere is far from a shortcoming of the work, and instead marks its distinct quality. The absence of clear political solution, Collignon contends, informs The Covert Sphere’s achievement as a call for a change of mind in a population who, wittingly or not, have “participated in, and continue to collaborate with, a system of pretended innocence and victimization.”

The Archeology of Representation: Steve Tomasula’s The Book of Portraiture

2013-12-01

Shoba Ghosh contends that in The Book of Portraiture, Steve Tomasula’s exploration of how artists in specific historic moments narrativize uncertainty in the constitution of the subject illuminates the conceptual framework that produces a number of significant global dynamics. According to Ghosh, Tomasula demonstrates that the contemporary subject’s body has become “no more than an agglomeration of brands” that can be “fashioned in the image of desire,” though at the same time, “desire also seeks to deterritorialize itself.” For Ghosh, Tomasula’s aesthetic treatment of that subject-defining tension ultimately assists in “track[ing] the loop by which Empire and Terrorism, State and Extremism, America and its ‘other’ produce each other simultaneously.”

And the Last Shall Be the First

2013-07-08

Ralph Clare sees the new essay collection on William Gaddis as engaging a growing reassessment of the novelist’s work. Taking up the task of moving the scholarship past the postmodern theories that framed and determined it for some time, Clare argues that ‘The Last of Something’ turns out to be the beginning of something more. Approaches in the collection range from new forms of biographical and contextual criticism, to theories of data storage and “bare life,” but the nuance and ambition of the scholarship re-asserts the relevance of Gaddis.

Of Pilgrims and Anarchists

2013-07-08

Time to get anarchic! Ralph Clare’s review of A Corrupted Pilgrim’s Guide, the first scholarly take on Thomas Pynchon’s 2006 Against the Day, zooms in and illuminates the novel’s anarchist framework as the major claim and long-term contribution of the collection. The aesthetics and ethics of anarchism turn out to be not merely a theme in the novel’s setting - the late ninetieth to early twentieth-century - but the way it impinges on our current situation.

Revealing Noise: The Conspiracy of Presence in Alternate Reality Aesthetics

2013-01-22

Adam Pilkey argues that the ARG Year Zero’s use of “revealing noise” allows and encourages the audience to help in the building of the narrative by becoming participants in a conspiracy theory within the ARG. Pilkey argues that “The Presence” found in the Nine Inch Nails album and corresponding ARG, Year Zero, symbolizes and denies a truth, which in turn provides a means that furthers the resources that constructs conspiracy theories in this alternate reality.

Review of Karin Hoepker's No Maps for These Territories: Cities, Spaces, and Archeologies of the Future in William Gibson

2012-09-03

The good news in Alex Link’s review is that Karin Hoepker’s No Maps for These Territories begins the necessary work on spatiality in William Gibson’s first two trilogies. Still, much remains to be done. Link points the way to a critically productive analysis built on Hoepker’s opening moves.

A Video Interview with Steve Tomasula by Jhave

2012-08-23

Steve Tomasula in Conversation with Jhave. Recorded at the Banff Centre, Alberta, Canada. 2012-02-21.

Tech-TOC: Complex Temporalities in Living and Technical Beings

2012-06-28

Katherine Hayles uses Steve Tomasula’s multimodal TOC for a significant engagement with the temporal processuality of complex technical beings. Drawing on Bergon’s “duration” and its elaboration in recent theories of technicity and consciousness, Hayles explores the complex temporal enfoldings of living and technical beings, showing that Tomasula’s new media novel narrates and materially embodies such assemblages.

Languages of Fear in Steve Tomasula’s VAS, an Opera in Flatland

2012-06-28

Is literature a medium for handling our fears? Anne-Laure Tissut argues that the polysemous multimedial procedures of Steve Tomasula’s VAS collapse body and text in a way that both amplifies and cushions fears of mortality, instability, and otherness.

Pierre Menard with a Pipette: VAS and the Body of Text

2012-06-28

Like a text whose every rewriting is a reinterpretation, the body changes each time its “naturalness” is re-articulated anew. This is the spiraling history traced by Steve Tomasula’s VAS, which depicts the body, according to Alex Link, as “the place where cultural work is naturalized, and where the natural is worked.”

Looking for Writing after Postmodernism

2012-06-28

House of Leaves may be on everyone’s shortlist of postmodern media-savvy novels, but are we ready for a retrospective collection of essays on Mark Z. Danielewski? According to Daniel Punday’s review, Joe Bray and Alison Gibbons’ collection says as much about the current state of (post) postmodernist writing as it does about Danielewski’s scant oeuvre.

“You’ve never experienced a novel like this”: Time and Interaction when reading TOC

2012-06-28

Steve Tomasula’s TOC is hard to explain, according to Alison Gibbons. You’re better off experiencing it in all its multimodal and multimedial complexity. Using human computer interaction and narrative theory, Gibbons shows that the emergent, singular, fractured temporality of reading TOC raises the bar for the new media book.

Flatland in VAS

2012-06-28

Lila Marz Harper shows the many dimensions of intertextuality between Edwin Abbott’s Flatland and Steve Tomasula’s VAS. From typography to narratology, Tomasula’s “opera in flatland” follows Abbott, in a geometry of fiction that interrogates the biopolitics of today.

The Latest Word

2012-04-14

Can a corporate-dominated Web become an environment conducive to literary activity? The novelist, essayist, and cultural critic Curtis White is skeptical. Responding to criticisms of his account of the devolution of literary publishing and reflecting on the prevalence of market-driven values in online exchanges, White doubts whether literature can distinguish itself in the noisy new media ecology, which he likens to a high-tech prison house.

New Media: Its Utility and Liability for Literature and for Life

2012-03-07

This formulation by Joseph Tabbi is being reprinted with permission from the University of Minnesota Press’s remixthebook. The original online version can be found here: http://www.remixthebook.com/new-media-its-utility-and-liability-for-lite…

"Is this for real? Is that a stupid question?": A Review of Dennis Cooper's The Sluts

2012-01-23

Dennis Cooper’s disorienting novel, The Sluts, complicates reader expectations about subjectivity and identity. As a result, Megan Milks notes that it “is either the most honest or the most dishonest literature I have come across.”

Epic at the End of Empire

2011-12-07

In The American Epic Novel, Gilbert Adair presents a “State-of-the-Empire address” that interrogates the epical form in a time where authors no longer talk of writing “The Great American Novel.” As Joseph Tabbi finds, such an exploration goes beyond expanding the canon and presents “a new, compelling context for ‘the literary’ itself.”

Due Diligence

2011-10-25

Too much about too little, and too little about too much. Reviewing the new critical collection Against the Grain: Reading Pynchon’s Counternarratives, this critic finds evidence of overproduction in the “Pyndustry.”

A Review of Brian Lennon's In Babel's Shadow: Multilingual Literatures, Monolingual States

2011-10-24

Literature joins the living dead. A critic illuminates Brian Lennon’s “scene” of literature today: both suspended and emergent in the world system.

How to Fail (at) Fiction and Influence Everybody: A Review of Penthouse-F by Richard Kalich

2011-10-17

Richard Kalich’s latest protagonist is Richard Kalich, but one critic views this postmodern occupation of the novel as an opportunity - even an encouragement - to forget about him.

Late Light in the House of Sounds: Joseph McElroy's Night Soul and Other Stories

2011-09-02

Gregg Biglieri offers some advice on reading McElroy: jettison one’s habitual grammars and adopt the grammars of time and timing. Become an expert in sound. Become all ear.

Hysteria and Democracy: Exfoliating Difference in Lynne Tillman's American Genius, A Comedy

2011-08-09

Citing the narrator’s radical ambivalence about time, history, and the flesh, Maureen Curtin argues that American Genius, A Comedy represents the hysteria of the contemporary “post-political” moment.

How to Write the Present Without Irony: Immanent Critique in Lynne Tillman's American Genius, A Comedy

2011-07-25

Contrasting Lynne Tillman’s text with the “complicitous critique” of Donald Barthelme and other postmodern ironists, Sue-Im Lee argues that Tillman’s narration displays the “mobility” of Adornian cultural criticism, in which contradiction is not a problem but a mode of interrogating the present.

Lynne Tillman and the Great American Novel

2011-07-24

Most recent “Great American Novels” are not great, but merely big. Lynne Tillman’s American Genius, A Comedy, by contrast, is designed with scale, not size, in mind. So argues Kasia Boddy, who reads the novel as a critical engagement with book reviewers’ favorite cliché for ambitious social fiction. Instead of resisting cultural obsolescence through sheer assertion, Tillman’s book examines how the cracks and contradictions of American ideology have imprinted themselves on the individual body, bearer of the national disease: sensitivity.

Skin Deep: Lynne Tillman's American Genius, A Comedy

2011-07-24

“Like skin, the comma both connects and divides.” Peter Nicholls traces Tillman’s endlessly subordinating, endlessly equivocating sentences, showing how their quest for historical and social clarity passes through an interminable sequence of deferral and denial.

Post-Prognostics

2011-05-17

How does one write science fiction when the atom bomb (and later 9/11) makes the future seem impossible to predict? Justin Roby reviews Paul Youngquist’s Cyberfiction: After the Future, which explores how postwar “cy-fi” critiqued life in the age of cybernetic control systems.

Going Up, Falling Down

2011-04-07

Can the rising cost of cosmopolitan real estate have brought the New York City novel to a low point? Tom LeClair measures recent fictions from and about New York City - including three “9/11 novels” - against the Systems Novel of the mid-1970s.

Lydia Davis Interviews Lynne Tillman

2011-03-26

Two innovative contemporary writers discuss the relationship between encyclopedic narrative and notions of gender and writing, the body as the physical embodiment of memory, and the unique syntax of Tillman’s American Genius, a Comedy. The novel’s prose depicts the way “thought, when you’re not thinking, happens.”

"Essential Reading": A Review of Daniel Punday's Five Strands of Fictionality

2011-03-12

Anthony Warde traces Daniel Punday’s analysis of the intertwining strands of contemporary “fictionality,” the different modes - from “myth” to “assemblage” - by which invented stories are legitimated. Punday’s work implies that the active construction of ‘life-fictions’ is becoming more significant in contemporary technoculture, a view that runs counter to the more pessimistic view of agency in Baudrillard’s Simulacrum America and other accounts of a wholly ‘virtual’ reality.

David Shields' Reality Hunger: A Manifesto: A Review in the Form of a Memoir

2011-01-10

David Shields is hungry, but not hungry enough. So says Curtis White, who argues that by ignoring anti-realism’s past and present, Shields writes as if “New York” and “now” are the only contexts that matter.

Cognition Against Narrative: Six Essays on Contemporary Cognitive Fiction

2011-01-02

In his introduction to the Cognitive Fictions cluster, Joseph Tabbi suggests that reflexive, non-narrative literature plays a critical role in the new media ecology. Postmodernist writing by Joseph McElroy and Italo Calvino, the posthumanist thought of Cary Wolfe, and the emerging forms of electronic literature each occupy a position between narrative modes of consciousness and “object-oriented” computer and cognitive science.

Phantasmal Fictions

2010-12-30

D. Fox Harrell considers how a media theory of the “phantasmal” - mental image and ideological construction - can be used to cover gaps within electronic literary practice and criticism. His perspective is shaped by cognitive semantics and the approach to meaning-making known as “conceptual blending theory.”

Fictions of the Visual Cortex

2010-12-30

Stephen Burn connects Don DeLillo’s fifteenth novel, Point Omega, with the author’s long-running investigation into the structures of the mind. Using an elusive narrative architecture, images from a slowed-down film, and moments of second- and third-order observation, the novel dramatizes the mind’s pre-conscious fiction-making processes.

Liquid Ontology

2010-12-30

In this review-essay, James J. Pulizzi reads Joseph McElroy’s 1977 novel, Plus,
as a Bildungsroman for the posthuman: instead of tracing the development of a subject, the novel traces the development of processes that call the very idea of a subject into question. As a human brain adjusts to its new housing in an experimental satellite, the text unfolds in a series of re-entries and re-mappings, an unfolding that necessarily implicates the reader.

Water on Us

2010-12-30

Excerpted from a forthcoming nonfiction book on water, Joseph McElroy’s essay ponders (among other questions) the relationship between the physical waters of the world and brain and the phenomenal waters of the mind. “I meant to ask, ‘What has water to say on the subject of us?” - i.e., on its own without prompting? Dumb question, it tells me.”

The Binding Problem

2010-12-30

Minds bind - make coherent meaning from distributed processes - and narratives do, too.
The means by which they do so remains a mystery, however. Kiki Benzon suggests that this mystery is at the heart of Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves, a text whose layered structure, typographical blending, and central metaphor - a house much bigger than the sum of its parts - enact the problem of binding on multiple levels.

Tillman's Turbulent Thinking

2010-12-05

Eric Dean Rasmussen explores Lynne Tillman’s “cognitive aesthetic,” suggesting that her work is powered by the generative disconnect between asignifying affect and signifying emotion. He argues that her 1998 novel, No Lease on Life, examines the role of affectively sustained universal values in responding politically to the neoliberal city.

Gaming the System

2009-07-31

In the wake of massive shifts in the function and purview of the University in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, Brian Lennon considers two recent texts on the system of higher educational institutions and the academic practices that supports it.

Review of A Companion to Digital Literary Studies

2009-04-28

Scott Hermanson considers the Companion’s success in negotiating its own position between digital literature and print media.

Tom LeClair's Passing Trilogy: Recovering Adventure in the Age of Post-Genre

2009-01-16

Surveying the decline of adventure as a culturally relevant theme, Steffen Hantke argues that Tom LeClair’s Passing Trilogy finds new ways of revalidating adventure for a millennial world of bourgeois security and moderation.

Senseless Resistances: Feeling the Friction in Fiction

2008-12-06

Eric Dean Rasmussen introduces a gathering of twelve essays on literary resistances that imagine how a materially engaged and affectively attuned literary culture might play a more transformative role in the emergent network society.

Intensifying Affect

2008-10-24

Marco Abel reads recent affect theory and suggests, via discussions of fiction by Don DeLillo, Brian Evenson, and Cormac McCarthy, how literature can cultivate the reader’s receptivity to these pre-subjective bodily forces.

A Language of the Ordinary, or the eLEET?

2008-10-21

Dave Ciccoricco reviews Michael Joyce’s novel of network culture, Was.
Seeing an inversion of Russian formalism in Joyce’s work, Ciccoricco explores how Joyce’s novel attempts to “reconcile the polylinguistic, stylistic, and ludic difficulty” of the text with an “affinity for the
quotidian.”

Brain Drain Against the Grain: A Report on the International Pynchon Week 2008

2008-07-31

Bruno Arich-Gerz reports from Munich on International Pynchon Week, 2008. Finding a retreat to traditional reading strategies, Arich-Gerz wonders whether we have lost more than we gained in the turn against theory.

The Novel at the Center of the World

2008-07-21

John Limon surveys the boundaries of the global novel in this review of John Newman’s The Fountain at the Center of the World and Naomi Klein’s Fences and Windows. Limon traces the trajectory of plot, character, and argument in the genre, as he reads “perhaps the first great global novel.”

Postmodernism Redux

2008-06-29

Stephen Schryer contrasts narratological and postsecular readings of postmodernism in a review of Gerhard Hoffmann’s vast study, From Modernsism to Postmodernism (2005), and John McClure’s narrower but more pointed exploration, Partial Faiths (2007).

Paranoid Modernity and the Diagnostics of Cultural Theory

2008-05-18

A review of John Farrell’s magnificent Paranoia and Modernity: Cervantes to Rousseau, in light of contemporary literary criticism: Where Brian McHale declares an end to postmodernism, and where many discount paranoia as a passing literary interest, reviewer Tim Melley sees postmodern paranoia everywhere. As long as corporations are regarded by law as ‘individuals’ and conspiracy is the preferred way of understanding political and social systems, it seems that we’ll remain in the longue duree of the postmodern moment.

Devoted to Fake

2008-03-26

Brian Willems reads a number of fictional and critical texts, from ebr essays to William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition, to argue that they all point toward the dissolution of the borders among humans, animals, and machines.

Middle Spaces: Media and the Ethics of Infinitely Demanding

2008-03-25

Simon Critchley’s study of ethics has been prominently reviewed by literary and cultural theorists, though most treatments accept the premise that ethical relations are primarily among people, that ethics depends mainly on intersubjective relations. This review by Daniel Punday resituates “Infinitely Demanding” in a networked context, one that is constructed by “media, by global flows, and by the larger network swarms which themselves take on an identity.” For Punday, an ethics for our time is best found, not by the study of identities and localities, but rather by authors of contemporary fiction such as Jonathan Letham, Susan Daitch, Ishmael Reed, and Toni Cade Bambara.

Utopia's Doubles

2008-03-19

Nichoas Spencer argues for the importance of “anarchistic and spatial factors” in twentieth-century utopian thought despite the resistance to them in the Marxist texts under review by Brown, DeKoven, Jameson, and Puchner.

Home: A Conversation with Richard Powers and Tom LeClair

2008-03-09

Scott Hermanson presents a dialogue he conducted with novelists Richard Powers and Tom LeClair, at the University of Cincinnati in 2005. Moderated by Hermanson, the novelists discuss the intricacies of writing about nature, the role of history in the novel, and their fictions’ use of imitative form.

Parasitic Fiction

2008-03-09

Stephen Burn considers Tom LeClair’s recent novel through the lens of the latter’s own critical work on postmodern fiction, while also excavating the novel’s relation to Faulkner’s tale of racial empire building, Absalom, Absalom!

Electronic Media, Identity Politics, and the Rhetoric of Obsolescence

2008-03-09

Anthony Enns questions Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s link between an anxiety about the displacement of male privilige and the fear of new media technology in postmodern fiction.

Nothing Lasts

2008-03-04

In “Nothing Lasts,” Stephen Schryer considers Tom LeClair’s Passing On and The Liquidators as paired novels, one immersing the reader in the maelstrom of the social and economic systems that shape contemporary life, the other shielding the reader from those systems. Unlike the massive novels from the seventies that fascinated LeClair the critic, Schryer finds the novelist a “literary miniaturist,” seeking “concise synecdoches for the larger systems” his books evoke.

"A realm forever beyond reach": William Vollmann's Expelled from Eden and Poor People

2008-01-22

Jeff Bursey argues for a coherent, if unlikely, set of predecessors for William T. Vollmann: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Blaise Cendrars, and John Cowper Powys. In the process of tracing this genealogy, Bursey defends Vollmann against critics who attack his alleged objectification of his subjects - prostitutes, the poor, and victims of violence.

Black Postmodernism

2008-01-10

Amy J. Elias reviews Madhu Dubey’s second book Signs and Cities: Black Literary Postmodernism and gauges the argument that we can locate within literary history a distinctive African American strain of postmodernism.

What Was Postmodernism?

2007-12-20

Brian McHale looks back on the movement in “What Was Postmodernism?” He contrasts postmodernism’s canonization with critical constructions of modernism, and moves through contemporary painting to reflect on intersections between the violence of recent history and postmodernism, as the postwar world lived “in the ruins of our own civilization, if only in our imaginations.”

Plagiarism, Creativity, and the Communal Politics of Renewal

2007-09-21

As Christian Moraru argues here that the new is still the objective in contemporary writing. But writers and artists make it by making it anew rather than new (“Get it used,” Andrei Codrescu invites us), a new not so much novel as renovated, reframed and reproduced rather than produced, which by the same token redefines and advertises authorship as deliberate plagiarism.

Seeking

2007-08-01

Rob Swigart’s “Seeking” is a clever and funny story whose roots lie in the materialization of internet interdating connections. Moving through the technological and media reductions of desire, Swigart parallels the overarching theme of “seeking” with a form that is itself punctuated with questions.

Geek Love Is All You Need

2007-05-14

Steven Shaviro reviews Shelley Jackson’s Half Life, the first print-based novel by a pioneering hypertextualist.

Fictions Present

2006-11-11

Joseph Tabbi introduces the thread and gathers prior essays by fiction writers on fiction writing.

Long Talking Bad Conditions Illinois Blues: A Report on &Now, A Festival of Innovative Writing and Art

2006-11-03

Ted Pelton writes an in-depth account not just of the &Now Conference at Lake Forest College but of the state of experimental writers and small press publishing.

Dispersion

2006-10-29

“Dispersion” is a short-story by Rob Swigart.

Life Sentences for the New America

2006-10-29

Tim Keane reviews David Matlin’s Prisons: Inside the New America.

The Eternal Hourglass of Existence

2006-10-20

Sascha Pöhlmann reviews Lance Olsen’s 2006 novel Nietzsche’s Kisses.