[NOTE: A somewhat different version of "The Final Measurement" appeared as my preface to the "Postmodern Fiction" special issue I guest-edited of the online literary journal, Postmodern Culture, in the Spring of 1993.]
(1) Larry McCaffery
(1.1) Box 916
(1.2) Borrego Springs, Ca. 92004
(1.3) Phone: (unlisted by request of editor); Fax (after 1 pm.) : 619-767-4714.
(1.4) 900-Number (CANCELED)—Use Fax # (above) to show your vote for the best fiction selection
(2.1) For Ronald Sukenick and
(2.2) William T. Vollmann
(2.3) (Cancelled) Dedication to Final "Final Measurement" Version:
For Stephen Wright M.I.A. (see Appendix 9.16)
(4.1) Was there no end to anything? When would he reach the final measurement?—William T. Vollmann, Fathers and Crows
(4.2) As writers—&
in the sense
I mean here—
try to intensify
our relationships by considering
how they work; are we putting
each other to sleep
or waking each other up;
and what do we awake to? Does our writing stun
or sting? We can try to
bring our relationship with readers to
that the site of reading becomes a fact of value
—Charles Bernstein, Artifice of Absorption
(4.3) "You see what's happening here you take a few things that interest you and you being to make connections. The connections are the important thing they don't exist before you make this. This is THE ENDLESS SHORT STORY."
—Ronald Sukenick, The Endless Short Story
(5) Preview of Coming Editorial Attractions
(1) Editor's Name:
(1.1) Editor's Mailing Address
(1.2) State, Country, Zip.
(1.3) Phone and fax information.
(1.4) 900-Number (later canceled)
(2.1) Ronald Sukenick
(2.2) William T. Vollmann
(2.3) Stephen Wright (for revised "Final Measurement" only)
(4.1) From Fathers and Crows, William T. Vollmann
(4.2) From Charles Bernstein, "Artifice of Absorption"
(4.3) From Ronald Sukenick, from Ronald Sukenick, The Endless Short Story
(5.0) Editor's Preview of Coming Attractions (Summary of Discourse)
(6.0) Editor's Prefatory Note (9-23-92, Boulder, CO.)
(6.1) Waist Deep in a Big Editorial Muddy: Prefatory Note Interrupted (9-24-92, Los Angeles, CA.).
(7.0) This Is Not the Introduction: Games that Fiction Anthology Editors Play—Towards a Consideration of the Aesthetic Conventions of the Fiction Anthology as a Literary Genre.
(7.1) " . . . Unusual formal principles and aesthetic features . . ."? ". . . despite the inherent fascination involved . . . "?
(7.2) List of Fiction Anthology Categories and Potentially Useful Postmodern Applications
(7.3) Additional Bonus For Critics Also Interested in the Postmodernization of Contemporary Music.
(7.4) Establishing the nature of the collaboration process between anthology's editorial introduction and fiction selections (a process which joins these two seemingly different forms of discourse into an aesthetic unity; summary of the absurdities, limitations, and inherent deceitfulness that arise from following out-dated approaches to such introductions; sequential listing of the topics resulting from adhering to these conventions.
(7.5) Listing of Formula Elements of Editorial Introductions (Editor's Example of Formulaic Introduction—See Appendix 9.5)
(7.6) Wreck on the Highway: Editor's Note (see Appendix 9.6)
(8.0) (Now Canceled) Introduction (See also, Editor's Apology, 8.1 and Appendix 10 and 11)
(8.) Editor's Apology: Call It A Parade
(8.2) Schematic Listing of Fiction Selections Coded for Postmodernist Features
(8.3) Contributors' Notes
(9) Appendices: In the Beginning
(9.1) Earliest Extent "Wish List" of Authors and Materials which the Editor Hoped toIncluded in Postmodern Culture's Fiction Issue (Dated 2-11-92)
(9.2) "Finalized" Selections for issue, as of 6-27
(9.3) Selections for issue, as of 9-12
(9.4) List of new authors being considered for issue during 9-12/9-19
(9.5) Unrevised fragment from earlier draft of Editor's (Now Canceled) Introduction (see 8)—numbered sections corresponding to list of formula introduction materials (discarded, see 7.5)
(9.6) Discarded fragment of editor's unrevised draft of concluding comments regarding the relationship of editors and editorial introductions to postmodern authorial practices and texts resulting thereof (see Section 7.5)
(9.7) Discarded draft of conclusion to Section 7.5
(9.8) Discarded Manifesto for Postmodern Editorial Introductions
(9.9) Discarded Fragments of Overview Discussion of Individual Author's and their Selections from (Now Canceled) Introduction
(9.10) Discarded bridge in (Now Canceled) Introduction (see 8.0), linking Vollmann's "Postmodernist" treatment of point-of-View with that used by anthology editors (see also EDITOR’S NOTE: Wreck on the Highway, 7.6 EDITOR'S APOLOGY, 8.1):
(9.11) Found Poem—Discarded fragments from (Now Canceled) Introduction's overview discussion of stylistic tendencies found in this anthology's selections and how related to larger patterns in Postmodernism
(9.12) Editor's (Now Canceled) Defensive Explanation Regarding 5-1 Ratio of Male/Female Selections
(9.13) Discarded commentaries about Kathy Acker written earlier by Editor for a different project (Now Abandoned) and examined for possible sampling/appropriation purposes in the (now Cancalled) Introduction
(9.14) Unrevised remarks about Robert Coover's Lucky Pierre which would have established the recurrent pattern of media-induced confusion, reality decay and loss of individual identity evident in several of the anthology's selections
(9.15) Fragment of discussion to be used in the (Now Cancelled) "Introduction" regarding the recurrent motif of Machine-Recording-Images-of-Invisible-Abstractions (memory/the past, emotions, dreams and other inner states), the dead, etc.); why this recurrent is notable, how it relates to postmodernism generally, other recent examples (Winders' Until the End of the Earth, David Blair's Wax), how displayed in the current Issue (with supporting quotes)
(9.16) Reluctantly discarded draft of Editor's comments regarding Stephen Wright's "Getting Happy," which the editor had hoped to include as the “centerpiece” in this issue, preceded by Editor's Question
(10) Final Editorial Note: With Every Wish There Comes a Curse (9-24-92, Los Angeles)
(11) Afterword to Editor’s Final Note: These Are Better Days, Borrego Springs, CA, 3-10-93
(12) FICTION SELECTIONS:
(12.1) Robert Coover, "Title Sequence for The Adventures of Lucky Pierre"
(12.2) Rikki Ducornet, from Birdland
(12.3) Mark Laidlaw, "Great Breakthroughs in Darkness (Being Early Entries from the Secret Encyclopedia of Photography")
(12.4) Kathy Acker, "Obsession"
(12.5) William T. Vollmann, "Incarnations of the Murderer"
(12.6) Ricardo Cruz, "Five Days of Bleeding"
(12.7) Rob Hardin, "Dressed to Kill Yourself"
(12.8) Annemarie Kemeny, "Attempts on Life"
[For Contributor's Notes: see 8.3]
(6.0) EDITOR'S PREFATORY NOTE (9-23/92, Boulder, CO.):
I began writing some of the following material for this introduction in late May and early June 1992, just before departing San Diego for a nine-week stay in Tokyo where I was to begin work on a project ("Postmodernism in Japan") funded by an N.E. H. summer research fellowship. Although traces of that initial draft are embedded in the current version (mostly in the various appendices), what readers now have before them differs so significantly in content and approach from my earlier drafts that for all practical purposes the two are completely different texts. During that May-June period when I originally began to develop my editorial introduction, I had already accepted five pieces of fiction for the issue—this out of the total number of six or seven selections, a number agreed upon by myself and Eyal Amiran, Postmodern Culture's General Editor, when I accepted his offer to guest-edit a focus of his journal devoted to Postmodern Fiction. [see Appendix 9.5]. Thus I began my editorial introduction assuming that I had only to make an additional one or two selections for the issue, insert a few extra remarks regarding the relevance of the new material to the issue as a whole into the already-completed template of my introduction, contact the authors when I returned from Tokyo on 8-31 to make certain they had sent Eyal their selections on computer discs, and then my duties as guest editor would be completed.
I recall that when I departed for Tokyo on 6-27 I was feeling quite confident and optimistic that these duties would be discharged successfully, and the template I had developed for my introduction reflected these feelings. There were good reasons for this optimism. The material I already had in hand for the issue was strong, both individually and in the ways their stylistic and thematic concerns represented various key features associated with postmodernism. Moreover there was also an interesting mixture of authors and works: a selection from one of the already-canonized authors from the 60s "boom period of postmodernism" (Coover); work from two authors who had begun work in the 70s—Kathy Acker (who was now widely recognized as a central and controversial arrival on the postmodernist scene, and Rikki Ducornet, a writer whose works were now beginning to be recognized and praised; a piece by Marc Laidlaw, whose mid-80's novel, Dad's Nuke, was recognized within genre science fiction as a major cyberpunk novel, but whose overall literary accomplishments had been obscured or distorted by his association with genre writing; and one relatively anonymous young author (Ricardo Cruz) whose garish, surrealist depictions of urban ghetto life seemed to me to be the most original black fiction I'd seen since the early Ishmael Reed. The selections also included several different types of postmodernist innovations ranging from Coover's typically outrageous forays into myth, media, sex and death, to Ducornet's delicately rendered, magical realist fable, Cruz's "rap fiction," and so on. Finally I was taking with me to Tokyo several other promising works by authors whose work I respected [See Appendix 9.3 for list of options that I was considering], plus I was expecting to receive submissions for several authors I had written but never heard back from].
During my stay in Tokyo I periodically re-read the materials I had brought with me, as well as a few intriguing possibilities that were sent to me by Eyal (incidentally I had considerable editorial input from Eyal at each step of this project's evolution); by the time of my return to San Diego on 8-31, we had narrowed down our options to the selections by Doug Rice, Rob Hardin, and Patrick Kessel. Eyal and I set a tentative date of Sept. 12 for having the final selections made for the issue; this would give me the week of September 12-19 to complete my introduction and take care of the final details for the issue (9-19 was my personal deadline, since I would be leaving that day for nearly two weeks of travel, first to Boulder, Colorado to take part in the Novel of the Americas Conference being held during the week of 9-19-to 9-26, then to Los Angeles to attend the first four West Coast shows of Bruce Springsteen's "Lucky Town/Human Touch" Tour—the latter being part of the research I'm currently doing for Nothing But Road, a critical work I'm doing about Springsteen, rock music, American culture, and postmodernism). However, upon arriving back in San Diego, ripples began to appear on editorial waters that had been up to now extraordinarily smooth. Within a week, a real storm was brewing. The forces responsible for this were various, some relatively minor (there were problems getting discs from the authors) and some . . .
(6.1)[WAIST DEEP IN A BIG EDITORIAL MUDDY: PREFATORY NOTE INTERRUPTED (9/24/92 Los Angeles).
I regret to say that I now find it too painful from a personal standpoint to continue with this summary except to say to my readers that the labyrinthine series of darkly humorous events that unfolded from 9-5 until 9-19—which involved everything from financial issues, misconnections and miscommunications, dozens of fax's, phone calls (including ones to Crete, Serajevo and Switzerland), numerous 1 and 2 day mail deliveries, confusion by agents and publishers about how the new literary "space" of electronic data should be categorized—all these were . . . beyond the pale.]
(7) THIS IS NOT THE INTRODUCTION: GAMES THAT FICTION ANTHOLOGY EDITORS PLAY—TOWARDS AESTHETICS OF THE FICTION ANTHOLOGY
Like all other literary forms, anthologies are language games—structures of words with distinctive generic properties which arises due to a system of conventions and semiotic rules that govern its operations. As with the rules and systems of transformation in all games, those at work in anthologies not only set boundaries on what can (and cannot) occur but also channel its operations into certain patterns of recurrence. The principles underlying the anthology game are, of course, usually only vaguely sensed by readers (if at all) and even most anthology editors are themselves aware of them only intuitively. Given the primacy afforded artistic "originality" in Western aesthetics, it's not surprising that (to my knowledge) no one has ever given any serious attention to studying the anthology as a literary form. Not only is the "final product" of an anthology, as well as the editorial process involved in its creation, essentially collaborate in nature, but the different functions played by editor and contributor have encouraged people to see the roles as being essentially separate. The result is that most readers and critics have regarded anthologies less as literary forms in their own right and more as simply an arbitrary structure that "contains" literary objects.
Without belaboring the point, and admitting the fact that having spent a lot of time and energy the past several years putting together fiction anthologies devoted to various topics (see Editor's Final Note, Appendix 10, below), let me just suggest that now is the appropriate time for someone (though the time is definitely not appropriate for me) to develop a serious discussion exploring the aesthetic of anthologies generally—and of the fiction anthology as a literary genre in particular. The timeliness of such an exposition results from the unusual formal and aesthetic features of fiction anthologies, the rich series of topics such an analysis would need to delve into, the ways that such a discussion can be linked to concepts operating in postmodern fiction and in poststructuralist and deconstructive critical theory—not to mention the fact that it hasn't occurred to anyone to develop such an essay, this despite the inherent fascination involved in developing such an essay.
(7.1) " . . . unusual formal principles and aesthetic features . . . "? . . . despite the inherent fascination involved . . ."?
Consider the enjoyment and intellectual stimulation involved in working out a definition of the fiction anthology as a genre, working up a typology the best describes the different sub-categories and permutations that comprise the genre, the satisfaction of gradually beginning to recognize how much FUN it will be for you to take this hitherto despised form—a form that in fact is usually not even recognized as a distinctive literary genre until your essay burst onto the academic scene—and then being able to show off your critical skills by applying an barrage of complex-and-trendy of terms and implications drawn from recent critical theory, the secret satisfaction you'll derive throughout the entire process of developing your essay by anticipating the ways that your peers' initial sense of derision and bewilderment at your choice of topics will gradually be transformed, first to a begrudging respect then later to astonishment, and eventually to a sense of shame and embarrassment that they ever doubted you. Just to get the ball rolling with some of this, consider the following (the categories that applied to this current anthology are indicated in bold):
|(7.2) Listing of categories, subcategories, other variable that determine specific aspects of the form and content found in any individual anthology (incomplete)||Aspects of PO MO aesthetic practices and critical theory that can be used in developing a theory of the formal properties of fiction anthologies (incomplete)|
Anthology's scope and eventual length is left open to editor or restricted to a maximum of (100, 200, 300, 400 or more) pages, or limited to (3-5, 6- 8, 8-10, 10-15, 20 or more) contributors
Selection to include previously published fiction or restricted to unpublished works
To include works by women or men or both
To include authors only of specific racial, sexual, or ethic orientations or not
To include any form of fiction that fits the focus or to include only specific genres (SF, Regency Romance, Detective, Western, etc.) or a mixture?
Anthology's focus to be based on commonalties in theme or aesthetic tendencies or on links with specific periods or literary movements
Anthology to appear as a book or as a special issue of a lit journal which you are guest-editing or regular editor
To be published by a commercial house or small small press or university press
Audience whose reading tastes and interests the anthology is aimed for is mass market (male or female or both), academic, "serious" readers, cult audience (many options)
Editor is professional (with no, some, a lot of) experience or doing this on the side
Contributors to be paid (no money, some money, major bucks) for contribution
Editor to be not paid (paid small or middling or large flat fee) or in royalties (or in royalties plus an advance) which is small (medium, large).
The deadline for the editor to have completed all aspects of his role is (less than 6 months, 6-12 months,1 year or 2 years, more than two years), or no fixed deadline.
Citation of the relevancy of such works as Pale Fire (Nabokov), Ficciones (Borges), If on a Winter's Night a Travelers Night a Traveler (Calvino).
Strategies of appropriation, collaborations and inter-textuality;
Denial of familiar categorical opposition between subject/objective, "creative"/vs. non-creative
Valorization of non-creative writing questioned
Imagination as plagiarism
Death of the Author Strategies
Endless play of signifiers
The changes in meaning that result from moving a text from one context to another
Denial of author as originator of discrete meaning
Sampling as central po mo aesthetic
Strategies of misreading and mistranslation
Foregrounding of the process of creation, emphasis on the contingencies and multi-plicities of aesthetic creation
Willingness to reveal that seeming "natural" seeming "natural" or "objective" patterns or conclusions result not from any relation- ship to any truth or actual (i.e., exterior) state of affairs but from subjectivelyprojected patterns and personal choices
(7.3) ADDITIONAL BONUS PROVIDED TO CRITICS INTERESTED IN THE POSTMODERNIZATION OF CONTEMPORARY MUSIC
Consider developing an extended discussion that suggests how the aesthetic issues you're describing for fiction anthologies are analogous to those found in the recent appearance of so many "cover" albums (and there are many categories of such "anthologies" of musical materials)—e.g. The Coolies Dig Pussy Galore's Exile on Main Street, Ciccone Youth's The White Album, and the series of "cover" albums produced by Hal Wilner.
Since processes and products related to sampling is so central to rap and postmodern music generally, feel free to explore the implications of its use in terms of such concepts as intertextuality, originality, the effect of cut-and-paste methods on meaning, etc. Develop the analogy of anthology editors to rap master DJ's behind the board, mixing and cutting, using their intuition and audio memories to mix and match sounds, riffs and phrases in ways that open up new aesthetic and thematic aspects of prior materials, that communicate to knowledgeable audiences via reference and intertextuality. Perhaps point out the more subtle point that the role of anthology editor would really be analogous to a DJ only if the anthology being assembled contains only previously published fiction. If it included only new fiction, you'd need a slightly different analogy. Be sure to note the sorts of interesting issues raised by the aesthetics underlying rap and fiction anthologies. I.e., is "borrowing" unfamiliar materials "more creative" than sampling materials people should know? Is it possible for a musician to not borrow materials? In what sense? Should strategies that fundamentally rely on appropriation, sampling, or collaboration be considered "creative" at all? In what ways does the recent tendency to problematize authorial originality and the distinction between "literary" and "critical" writing link forms of thinking provide ways of thinking about fiction anthologies as literary forms?
(7.4) PALE FIRE: Establishing the process of collaborative interactions between the anthology's editorial introduction and fiction selections (a process which joins these two seemingly different forms of discourse into an aesthetic unity; summary of the absurdities, limitations, and inherent deceitfulness that arise from following out-dated approaches to such introductions; sequential listing of the topics that result from adhering to these conventions.
The options available in assembling interesting fiction anthologies are virtually unlimited—even anthologies with a fairly narrow focus offer editors possessing the right blend of imagination, literary background, and contacts an almost unimaginably rich series of possibilities. Unfortunately, there are considerably fewer options available to editors once it comes time to write the editorial introductions to accompany such anthologies. As with book reviewing, editorial introductions are essentially written according to a formula that controls the overall structure, tone and content of the discourse—a formula whose main features have evolved primarily to serve the private interests of editors, their publishers, and readers rather than serving any essential generic function. No matter how complex or unique the anthology's focus, how much creatively and flexibility the editor has used this focus in the selection process, no matter how much originality the fiction selections are in terms of formal innovation or thematic complexity—in the end, nearly all editorial introductions follow a sequence of presentations that can be listed as follows:
(7.5) (UNREVISED) LIST OF FORMULAIC FEATURES IN EDITORIAL INTRODUCTION
1.) Attention-grabbing opening paragraph that establishes why the anthology's theme or focus is particularly important now, usually accompanied by references to the inadequacies of other anthologies with a similar focus.
2.) Details introduced regarding the background of the anthology, how this editor became involved in the project (here modest indications of how the editor's professional background and other credentials make him or her particular suited to put together such an anthology), what the anthology's original aims were (and hence what sorts of considerations were involved in the selection process), summary of how these aims changed or remained consistent as the volume began to take shape. [See Appendix for “out-takes” drawn from the Editor's Original (But Now Canceled) Introduction which he intended to correspond to Items 1 and 2.]
3.) Brief, "punchy" overview of the anthology's contents.
4.) Presentation of information regarding the authors lives, citation of previous major publications, literary movements associated with, etc.).
5.) (Optional) Roll call of other authors considered for the anthology (if supplied with indications of reasons why any expected figures aren't represented, (if necessary) comments designed to blunt charges of the anthology's imbalances (gender, race, etc.), justifications for any political incorrectness that might be perceived in selections, followed by with suggestions of what misreadings on the part of the reader created such perceptions.
6.) Citations regarding the appropriateness of the selections in terms of the anthology's focus, justification for any pieces that at first glance seem very much out of focus.
7.) Overview of notable themes and stylistic features (examples and textual quotations to support this list), followed by favorable comparisons of this anthology compared with what is found in any rival anthology which might have immediately preceding this one.
8.) Claims made for the overall significance of the anthology material, pronouncements about how the individual aesthetic and thematic features found in the anthology's fiction relate to broader trends within and outside of literature.
9.) Concluding paragraph which reveals ways this anthology's selections indication rich possibilities, new directions, etc.
10.) Final sentence designed to get the reader to turn the page as quickly as possible.
[For ex-sample of formulaic editorial introduction see Appendix 9.5 (Now Canceled)]
The point here isn't that these formulaic elements are all trivial or inappropriate On the contrary, insights about the editor's intentions for the issue, information about the anthology's contents, indications of which patterns of theme or style within the anthology are important (and how they relate to larger literary and cultural patterns) are all significant topics that any editorial introduction should include. The problem here is the formulaic nature of the formula, along with the tendency of editors to pass off hastily made and usually self-serving conclusions based on inadequate samplings of evidence as objectively arrived at. Rather than following the lead of so-many postmodern authors in trying to develop methods that permit them to find patters and systems of order and significance but which do so honestly by acknowledging their own subjectivity and actual experiences, most editors feel it necessary to adhere blindly to a formula whose elements encourage dishonesty, misrepresentation, superficiality and manipulation. At least regarding anthologies introducing new work by serious fiction writers, such introductions are nearly always the product of bad faith—the bad faith of editors who know better deliberately attempting to reduce rich and ultimately uncategorizable works to "trends," "patterns," labels", the bad faith of literary guides who've been living inside this rich literary terrain for weeks and months, and who's been damn excited about how different and untranslatable this stuff is, and how resistant it is to the kinds of paraphrases, overstatements and easy generalities s/he's required to make in formula introductions. This isn't to say that editors shouldn't present their views and point out whatever patterns they can identify—after all, finding a pattern in the stars may be primarily an act of the creative imagination imposing order on randomness, but such patterns do help people locate themselves and find out where they're going. Rather what editors should be striving for is to express their opinions in a performative, creative act that strives to break through the discursive screens of traditional editorial representation to the repressed, authentic data of the material at hand.
Such creative approaches, of course, run directly counter to conventional demands of editorial introduction, with its emphasis on making fiction fit into pre-sorted slots, its need to link individual works both to each other and to larger patterns of literary and cultural movements—and the way all of this is used to disguise the subjective, random, intuitive and purely personal factors that are always present when an editor assembles any fiction anthology.
(7.6) EDITOR'S NOTE: Wreck on the Highway, (9-24, Los Angeles):
As explained in the EDITOR'S APOLOGY in Section 8.1 (see below), circumstances—most notably, my looming deadline— made it impossible for me to complete certain sections of this Editorial Introduction (see also EDITOR'S PREFATORY REMARKS, Section 6 , above); these unfortunate cancellations include the conclusion I was about to draw in this current section concerning the role of editors and editorial introductions in light of postmodernism, as well as the “actual” Editorial Introduction itself. I am, however, able to provide readers with certain discarded fragments of the conclusion I was developing for this section (see miscellaneous Appendices below). These delirious, surreal, seemingly incoherent fragments are offered here as editorial equivalents of “found poems” that collectively suggest what I would have said, or might have said, in the remainder of my introduction if circumstances were different.
(8.0) Editorial Introduction (Now CANCELED)
(8.1)EDITOR'S APOLOGY: Call It A Parade (9-24, Los Angeles)
Due in part to the time and energy required to develop the earlier sections of his remarks concerning the need for an aesthetics of fiction anthologies, partly due to other personal, editorial, and chemical circumstances beyond his control, and partly because he doesn't wish to risk the bad faith referred to earlier (see end of Appendix 7.5), the editor regretfully acknowledges that he will be unable to supply the editorial introduction he had originally intended to write. To compensate for this, and to provide readers with easy access to understanding the relationship of these works, he is providing in lieu of an introduction a coded listing of the anthology selections marked with a handy series of coded-symbols whose meanings care explained below. He is also supply contributors' notes for each and every author (these supply valuable information about the authors, but because they are usually supplied at the end of an anthology and hence often overlooked by readers); for readers interested in what the editor might have said in the (Now Canceled) "Introduction," he is also including a series of appendices containing rough drafts and fragments of various materials originally intended to be included in the "Introduction" (See Appendices, below)
(8.2) LISTING OF ANTHOLOGY SELECTIONS (WITH EASY-TO-USE CODED REFERENCES FOR READER ACCESS TO THE SELECTIONS’ POSTMODERN FEATURES):
Robert Coover, "Title Sequence for The Adventures of Lucky Pierre": A(1,2,3),
C, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, O(1,2), P, R, S, T, U, V, Z.
Rikki Ducornet, "From Birdland": C, F, H, I, K, N, 0(2),R, T.
Kathy Acker, "Obsession": A (1,3), B, C, E, F, G, H, J, K, L, M, N, O(2,3), P, Q, S,
T,U, W, X, Y.
Marc Laidlaw, "Great Breakthroughs in Darkness (Being, Early Entries From
The Secret Encyclopedia of Photography"): C, D, E, F, G, K, N, O, Q, R, S, T,
U, V, Z.
William T. Vollmann, "Incarnations of the Murderer": B, C, E, F, G, K, N, O(2,3),
P, Q,S, T, U, W, Y.
Ricardo Cruz, "Five Days of Bleeding": A(1,2,3), E, F, G, H, I, K, L, M, O(1), P, Q,
R,S, T, U, W, X,Z..
Rob Hardin, "Dressed to Kill Yourself": C, D, E, F, H, J, K, O(2), P, Q, R, S, T, U,
W, X, Z..
[EDITOR'S NOTE, 9-23, Boulder, CO.: Annmarie Kemeny,'s " Attempts on Life" could not be included in this chart because the copy faxed to the editor from Eyal Amiran on 9-23 could never be located.]
Explanation of Symbols:
A(1) Avant-Pop—appropriation of pop culture content.
A(2) Avant-Pop—appropriation of pop cultural stylistic features.
A(3) Avant-Pop—appropriation of style and content of pop culture used to subvert pop culture.
B. Strategies of confounding the usual distinctions between author/character, fiction/autobiography, "real" history and invented versions.
D. Cyberpunk features
E. Non-linear methods of presentation.
F. Process over product
G. Collision of different worlds or planes of reality motif.
H. Radically idiosyncratic voices and idioms employed.
I. Magical realism
J. De-naturing of the body motif
N. Historicity rather than History
0(1). Self-as-Media Construct
P. Extremes of violence and sexual "depravity"
R. Reproductive technologies (cameras, video-cameras, xerox machines, etc.) capable of reifying the past, emotions, memory, the dead, and other non-substantial entities
S. Cultural logic of late capitalism displayed
U. Lack of closure
V. Simulacra motif
W. Digressive or improvisation narrative structure
X. Lack of causal links
Y. Gender roles collapsed, confused, crossed
Z. Introduction of non-novelist genre features
(8.3) CONTRIBUTORS’ NOTES
Kathy Acker’s most recent publications include: Portrait of the Eye (a collection of three early novels) and In Memoriam to Identity (1990>.The selection included in this issue is from a forthcoming novel to appear by in the Spring of 1993. She is also recording an album featuring her work set to music that Hal Wilner is producing and rides a 750 Honda.
Robert Coover recently spent two years developing teaching applications for using Hypertext in creative writing courses (this pilot program was sponsored by MacIntosh). Professor of English at Brown University, he is the author of numerous novels and stories—including his most recent publication, Pinocchio in Venice (1991). The fiction selection included here is part of long experimental novel, The Adventures of Lucky Pierre, which Coover has been working on now for over twenty years.
Ricardo Cruz's fiction has appeared in various literary journals, including Fiction International and Black Ice Magazine. His first novel, Straight Outta Compton (Fall 1992, Fiction Collective Two), was recently named winner of the Nilon Award for Excellence in Minority Fiction. Currently "out and about" in Bloomington, Illinois, he is completing work on his Ph.D. in English at Illinois State-Normal.
Rikki Ducornet is the author of six volumes of poetry and a tetralogy of novels—The Stain , Entering Fire, The Fountains of Neptune and The Jade Cabinet. —that will all appear from Dalkey Archive Press . Also known for her work as an illustrator of such works as the limited edition of Robert Coover's Spanking the Maid and Borges' "Tlon Uqbar and Orbis Tertius," Ducornet currently is professor of Creative Writing and Literature at the University of Denver. A forthcoming issue of The Review of Contemporary Fiction will be devoted to her work (The Guest-Editor of this issue, Larry McCaffery, wishes it to be known that he is currently seeking materials for this issue)
Rob Hardin is a writer and musician living in NYC who reports that writing is the way of :”getting linear dissonant counterpoint—the chamber music nightmare and empty addicts—out of my system.” His poetry has appeared in numerous magazines, including Mississippi Review, Atomic Avenue, and Flagellation. His recent album credits include The Lost Boys and Billy Squire’s Here and Now.
Marc Laidlaw has spent most of his adult life in office buildings, writing on company word processors. His works included an early cyberpunk, Dad's Nuke (1985), a SF novel about Tibet, Neon Lotus, and a forthcoming novel,
Larry McCaffery is co-editor of Fiction International, American Book Review, Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction and editor of Storming the Reality Studio: A Casebook of Cyberpunk and Postmodern Science Fiction. Two new books will appear in 1993: Interviews with Radically Innovative American Authors (University of Pennsylvania Press) and Avant Pop: Postmodern Fiction for the 90s , which appear in the new Black Ice Books Series (Normal, Il.: FC2 1993).
William T. Vollmann's recent publications include Whores for Gloria, An Afghanistan Picture Show, Thirteen Stories & Thirteen Epitaphs, and Fathers and Crows (the third of Vollmann's projected septology of "Dream Novels").
Research for his books have taken him recently to Cambodia, Mexico City, Sarajevo and the Magnetic North Pole.
Appendix 9: In the Beginning . . .
Before the word was the grant application requesting funds to offer contributors and an editor of a special issue of Postmodern Culture devoted to "Postmodern Fiction."
1-92. Grant in hand, Postmodern Culture's general editor, Eyal Amiran, contacted me, Larry McCaffery (for his background as an editor and critic associated with postmodernism, see contributor's note II.b below), early in 1992 to discuss my willingness to guest edit this special issue. I agreed and we set up a basic game-plan: I would arrange for the appearance of approximately half dozen pieces of previously unpublished (in the U.S.) that, in my view, illustrated significant formal and thematic tendencies within postmodernism; to this end, my selection process would avoid narrow or prescriptive definitions of what constituted "postmodernism," with the quality of the material being emphasized over "name recognition;" although I would attempt to include at least some fiction by canonical figures already established with postmodernist practices (Pynchon, Le Guin, Sontag, Gaddis, Coover, Barth, Abish, and Burroughs were all specifically mentioned in our preliminary phone conversations, and, indeed, were subsequently invited by me to submit fiction for the issue); I would also try to include writings by some of the most significant recent authors; I would supply an introduction which would place my selections within a general framework of postmodern aesthetics generally, and which would clarify whatever significant differences and similarities characterizing the older and younger generations of postmodern authors. Deadline for my having all the materials in their hands would be mid-September, with the issue going out on-line in early October.
Appendix 9.1 : Earliest Extent "Wish List" of Authors and Materials which the Editor Hoped to Include in Postmodern Culture's Fiction Issue (Dated 2-11-92):
Coover, from Lucky Pierre
Gass, from The Tunnel
Ron Sukenick, from Mosaic Passage
Acker, George Bush section of new novel
Vollmann, story or novel excerpt from new works
Appendix 9.2: Selections "Finalized" for Postmodern Fiction Issue as of 6-27:
Kathy Acker, "Dreaming Politics," Robert Coover, "Title Sequence of The Adventures of Lucky Pierre," "Ricardo Cruz, "Ebony Man," Marc Laidlaw, "Great Breakthroughs in Darkness," Rikki Ducornet, "From Birdland"
Appendix 9.3: Selections for the Postmodern Fiction Issue as of 9-12 (acceptance deadline):
Coover, "Title Sequence from Lucky Pierre," Cruz, 'Five Days of Bleeding," Laidlaw, "Great Breakthroughs," Ducornet, "From Birdland.
Appendix 9.4: Additional authors whose selections were being Considered from 9-12 to 9-16:
Stephen Wright, Annmarie Kemeny William Vollmann, Cris Mazza, Rob Hardin.
Appendix 9.5: Unrevised fragment from earlier draft of Editor's (Now Canceled) Introduction (see 8)—numbered sections corresponding to list of formula introduction materials (discarded, see 7.5):
1.) . . . I agreed to accept his invitation to edit because I felt the process of putting together such an issue would contribute to the process of re-evaluating my own views about postmodernism that I was already engaged in. This process started several years ago, when now, and has grown out of a series of recognitions in the mid-80s about the limitations and strengths of the implications of my earlier positions about post-modernism, that I was already fully was already working on such pretty certain that whatever in part no question that the literary sensibilities one encounters in the best writing coming out of the younger generation of vital, innovative American authors has been shaped by a very different set of cultural circumstances and aesthetic considerations very different indeed from those that gave rise to the first wave of postmodern experimentalism back in the mid 60s . . . one generation's daring metafictional explorations about the relationship between author and text becomes the most effective tool of the 90s realist attempting to depict a world in which "signs," "texts," and various other fictions have proliferated to such a degree that they form the most substantial aspect of most people's existence.
2.) . . . no attempt was made to fill pre-designated slots or categories. . . what was surprising was the sheer volume of quality fiction written by the generation of innovative writers who have grown to maturity in the 80s and 90s . . . half-way into my selection process, Eyal Amarin had agreed with my suggestion that we aim less for a balance of fiction by younger and more established and concentrate instead on foregrounding work by emerging writers, using selections from the canonical postmodernists by way of showcasing aesthetic and thematic continuities or divergences between the two generations.
Appendix 9.6: Discarded fragment of editor's unrevised draft of concluding comments regarding the relationship of editors and editorial introductions to postmodern authorial practices and texts resulting thereof (see Section 7.5)
the Postmodern texts often begin by introducing a familiar narrative situation which is then undermined, played with, mocked and otherwise deconstructed. In particular, postmodern authors have relentlessly developed strategies designed to undercut the traditional realist’s position of authority and to confound the framing devices separating author from story process from product etc. The reasons behind such approaches are, of course, numerous and complex, but all of them share the an awareness of the limits of desire to revise the referential system of traditional fiction, breaking down its norms of selectivity, unity and verrverisimilitude. challengeunderlying nearly of them isthey all share a desire to expressifind a more honest means of telling storiessentially realist fiction's illusion of authority and objectiviit have to do with the desire to somehow expose the illusion of objec ivity and authority evoked in traditional realism (fcourse editorintroductionial prefaction as well)
and a stance that traditionalrecognition of the fraudulence implied inreal traditilimitations andbyby postmodeauthors thatas well as the implicationsevolted in ofof course, variousnd the full implications of their impplications Such approaches, of course, run directly counter to conventional demands of editorial introduction, with its emphasis on making fuctional fiction fit into pre-sorted slots, linkindivual works botched patterns of of history and cultural movements.
I have therefore decided to mevote the remainder of these opening remarks to providing readers with a sense what actually was involved involved in putting together this anthology. thSuAs will soon be evident, Such a description shouldith a sense of how actuality evolved. Directly and indirectly would like to spend the seems undeniable (for these readers who feel uncomfortable if an editor abandoned them to a sink-or-swim approach to reading this anthology, I will, howver, provide most of the comforts found in conventional introductions, (See Editorial Lifejacket, #1-9 below). eems undeniable manifesto in line with make strengtheditors mightythey should be regarded, new guidelines wouldare sodicuss address morethat I should (Items 1-9, blowe
readers note interested in this topic can now "jump" (as it were—these metaphors having to do with the book mode are going to have to be replaced or supplmented, now that we are reading and writing in computer-space) book
Appendix 9.7 Discarded draft of conclusion to Section 7.5:
The real problem has to do with the tendwaystheRather arereaders are likely to find useful and which the editor should make every effort to explotroduction. The in heren't problem here is that such is at Rather the problem his eare ofarea which the editorareas significant likely toof-there's no question that such things are at least potentially very userful in blindly attempting to following istic themes and formal patternssupply a sense of the fictionindicating what some of thesupplyingside information about the authors and the a sense of the authorswhat ma note of presentingobservations about information about the fiction and authors (though some of the items are exactly that)definitely that—indeed, all the items about this formula isn't that all the elementsit's trivialuch a formula.
Yes, they are inherently bad. And, yes, I mean inherently bad.
(unless he's a hypocrite hyping something he doesn't believe in), and whoeen thrilledcriticaartoon-likethe uniqueness and placethat reduces the unqiueness ofbased upon deliberate misrepresentation, overstatements, announcements of "patterns" that are assumes that assumes that readers prefer to have misleading maps than tramping around and getting a feel for the territory themselves.
Appendix 9.8: (Discarded) Manifesto for Postmodern Fiction Anthology Editors:
V. A Manifesto on Postmodernist Approach to Editorial Introductions
1.) Become as informed as possible about the crisis of representation that helped give rise to the set of aesthetic and thematic tendencies that are today loosely associated with the term "postmodernism."
2.) In particular, grow to recognize what parallels exist between an editor's role in creating an introduction to an anthology and that of an author creating a work of fiction. Before attempting to write another anthology introduction, editors should make sure that, at a bare minimum, they have carefully read some of the major works by the first wave of postmodernist innovators (Borges, Barth, Nabokov, Kundera, Doctorow, Barth, Sukenick, Federman, Gass, Marquez, Fowles, etc.). Nabokov's Pale Fire is, of course, particularly useful.
2a.) Of more recent postmodernists, the works of William T. Vollmann are particularly revealing and interesting examples of the ways that contemporary writers are attempting to deal with the crisis of representation.
3.) For all their differences in approach and content, most postmodern fiction writers share an interest in redefining their role as suppliers of "truth" or convincing illusions. These redefinitions have often resulted in works of fiction that foreground (rather than hide) their subjectivity, that encourage readers to recognize the ways that art results from actual historical and personal events combine with the mystery of writer'sartistic at fictional narratives a
4.) ttheir ownusually involve some sort of foregrounding of
2.) Be more willing to acknowledge those personal, subjective and intuitive factors that are involved in editorial decisions; be honest as well about whatever other biases, professional interests, personal contacts and any other features that influenced the anthology you edited.
5.) Find a means of acknowledging the actual processes involving in the creation of your introduction—the kinds of things involved in your editorial process that made you especially attuned to certain features of the stories you've included, features you're discussing in the introduction, although you're aware there are others you've been blind to.
6.) In general, then: avoid falling into the voice and persona of the Supreme Editorial Creator responsible for the birth of this particular literary universe ex nihilo, and hence the one who knows all the inner workings of this universe, the forces responsible for its creation. This doesn't mean you should avoid drawing conclusions, noting parallels and differences that seem important, or testing out theories about all of some of this relates to larger literary and social eventws outside of literature altogether. Just be more honest about your role in all of this. Readers appreciate informed opinion, careful analysis. But you want to avoid is intimidating readers, doing anything that will discourage them from accepting your conclusions as being definitive rather than relying on their own.
7.) Clue your readers in to how much fun it is to read fiction, think about it, speculate, invent categories. Somehow find a way to gain their interest respect for what you're saying in your Intro while indicating they should draw their own conclusions and be suspicious of any system of "authority."
Appendix 9.9: Discarded Fragments of Overview Discussion of Individual Author's and their Selections from (now Cancelled) Introduction:
a selection from perhaps the most versatile stylist, ventriloquist of all quirky American dialects, bad jokes, willingness to push a trope or metaphor until every aspect of it had been squeezed try Lucky Pierre an excerpt from legendy blue movie special, now over twenty years in the making. More than most other 60s figures, Coover's best work from the 60s shared direct links with writers like DeLillo, Leyner, the cyberpunks and the later breed of authors whose work is so often drenched in a kind of constant breath surrealism and inter-textual play, and whose prose is so frequently drenched in a kind of techno-media poetics.
Cruz, appropriate that when his interrelated sequence of stories about life in the ghetto finally came together into a novel,Straight Otta Compton appro0-priate on several levels—the sheer intensity and sensuousbness of his voice, the sheer vitality and anger and low-down ache of passion and the mixture of surprise, delight and playfulness with which they respond to the set of asurprises that ghetto life has in store for them moment-to-moment. Cruz is the first black writer I've encountered who seems to have integrated rap's developed a prose voice, narrative
Laidlaw, Alpbetical structure, near science fictional tale of, associated with c-p but possesses a lyricism, verbal control, and intellectual delicacy that has more in common with Calvino or Steve Erickson (a non-appearance that is regretted), introduction of key image of image-making (cf. cyberpunk, Baudrillard, Sontag, Jameson, po mo generally and Ducornet, Wright, Coover, all in this issue). Black hole genre writers and their works are sucked into, with nothing—not even the "light" of genuine literary quality—ever escaping
William Vollmann, "Incarnations of the Murdered." This isAlthough the new generation of 90s postmodernists have only just begin the process of shitfting gears into a decade that almost certainly is going to pick up speed and recklessness of the millennium approaches, but from this vantage point there's no question that William T. Vollmann has got a headstart over everyu other member of his generation in terms of opening up new narrative opportunies and laying aside the termerity and failure, hesitation, and general figure of will that seemed to lie heavy over the generation of authors appearing in the late 70s and early 80s. Certainly no American author since the arrival of the canonized behemoth Thomas Pynchon in thehas appeared with the combination of reckless ambition, verbal gifts, and a intuitive feel for inventing narrative strategies capable of rendering this vision.
"Incarnations of the Murderer" displays many of the tendencies that makes Vollmann's work seem so original and fresh. As is typical of most of his other work, "Incarnation" deals with violence, brutality, and those troubling emotional regions where extremes of passion and love are transformed their equally vivid oppsoites; as is also typical, Vollmann never allows a scene or a motif to remain static; instead, his imagination is constantly at work transorming the scenes and characters into variations designed to present new insights into materials that more traditional story-telling methods would make us feel comfortable we have ujnderstood its essence. "Incarnation" also displays Vollmann's characteristically prismatic handling of point of view—having matured in the aftermath of the postmodernist experiments pioneered by writers like Burroughs, Mailer, Voonegut, Coover,, Vollmann has taken the integration of authorial experience, collaboration with prior texts, and pure narrative invention to new levels. The risks he has managed to take at this point, both personal and narrative, are astonishing—and for all the attention paid to presenting even the most ugly and poignant scenes and people even-handedly, there is a deeply moving sense of Vollmann's personal engagement, his sense of moral outrage while witnessing the cruelties and stupidities human beings can inflict on each other. The risk of insisting upon personally witnessing such acts of human folly as he documents in his fiction are burn out, having one imagination or aesthetic judgment be overwhelmed by the human emotions that flow from such experiences. For now, though, at least in terms of this reader, the sense of personal risk and danger has served Vollmann admirably. Surely if nothing else, Vollmann is helping to dispell the sense that postmodern Amwerican fiction has flounded under the weight of its own selfconsciousness.
Appendix 9.10: Discarded bridge in (Now Canceled) Introduction, linking Vollmann's "Postmodernist" treatment of point-of-View with that used by anthology editors (see also EDITOR’S NOTE: Wreck on the Highway, 7.6 EDITOR'S APOLOGY, 8.1):
As I hope this "traditional" portion of my Introduction indicates, one can be fully informed about the ambiguities and limitations of any speech act, and the tendency of all authors to try to mask their confusion and personal insecurities behind a barrage of phony rhetoric. That doesn't, however, relieve the author of the responsibility of attempting to draw conclusions about issues that matter that might be of some use to others. It also doesn’t mean that the process of engaging one's mind regularly about challenging and complex topics can't be fun—or that tghe onlyh options available to a writer who wishes to present the conclusions one has made about topics one cares about deeply are the adoption of the hypocritical or smug stance of the know it all or embarrassed apologies of the .displays of theis to adopt the ideas and get people to think for themselvesone has to be either adopt either the hypocritical stance of the or the hanghyupocritical finding a way to present what your conclusions are and how you arrived at them has to be—your conclusions and attitudesthat one can't expressand ones words withothers migwith as much mean, however, metaphors well asaware of the limitations of an individual to draw conclusionsonesand the postmodern seems torisks havepleasurethe risks have been worth itevident—pursuing this itye"breakthrough" in terms of casting off the illusions of god-like authority and objectivity, and priviledgedthatof authorialtaking off on the perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Vollmann's writing in terms of postmodern aesthetics—namely, his treatment of point of viewworkIn terms of
Appendix 9.11: Found Poem—Discarded fragments from (Now Canceled) Introduction's overview discussion of stylistic tendencies found in this anthology's selections and how related to larger patterns in Postmodernism:
In order to give language the opportunities to stretch out muscles it rarely uses, the narrative structures in these selections tends to be flexible, open-ended, the "plot" capable of veering off suddenly into several possible directions. Ironically, such stricstructures can be seen as presenting a palpable and "realistic sense" of our postmodern world, with its constantly shifting series of signs systems and cultural codes producing surreal juxtapositions, a sense of media overload . . .exhilaration and confusion. From an aesthetic standpoint, cartoons offer the story teller a wonderful flexible means of uncovering ways to place one set of familiar narrative elements and associations into a wholly unexpected context; the resulting collision of such narrative contexts is often highly volatile, delightful new combinations and mutimages, words. These sorts of surprising interactions among contexts, forms, genres, styles and so on, has been cited by nearly every critic . . . motivations for such approaches vary, but certainly it is undeniable that since the mid-60s, the prodigious expansion of the media culture provides even ordinary citizens with a hugely expanded potential for creating exactly these sorts of "postmodern effects"—a potential that can be realized only if they recognize that they don't have to rely on the versions provided by the media-scape, if they are somehow managed to learn the liberating effects of exorcising one's imagination, etdf/.
to commentaryverbalash of expectations, the strangesurreal fusings of wherenothern equally familiar butnother context that is equally familiar butthe familiar elements drawn from differentcontexts into strange antidifferent sorts ofAestheticsQuestiolns of "realism" aside, however, using the free flowing narrative structures ofbarrthe sorts ofemiotic excess andthe constantly shiftingexploring its itself shared conviction that language's ability to transform our consciousness, a certain confidence that fiction's potential to create illusions that can shock and awaken, that language can enlight and . . .
put in the service of confront banality counterability buildin language's power to that fiction in the powerabsorbed lessons of 60s literary radicalyounger the strength ofanew critical categories and terms arise with accelerating frequency in an attempt to keep pace with the appearance of the "new," the "exotic," and the "now" . . . fueled by a hysterical denial of the inevitability of bodily decay, old age and death, full of self-loathing for physical imperfection, obsessed with preserving ones experiences into images and sounds that provide the closest approximation of immortality allowed postmoderns, deeply suspicious of anything that cannot be soothingly controlled, "captured," replayed, most American have almost gladly accepted a life of banality in exchange for the creature comforts provided by its Daydream Nation; as reading becomes less central to the process whereby people are educated and understand each other, its significance retreats generally . .. on any given evening in America, the number of people sitting transfixed by game shows, their vestigal instinct toward self-improvement satisfied by the random bits of data occasionally tossed their way, outnumbers all the Americans who will read a book this year by a factor of 10 to 1. comforting reassurances that the American Dream of instant transcendence is real . . . you gotta believe your own eyes, right? the postmodern spectacle of the Rodney King trial, in which our citizens deeply felt intuition that they can't really trust the images comprising their postmodern world . . .
are insubstantila, trickssuspicions about the illusory , awhat you see iwhichmindless people comfort themselves and serious writing becomes increasinglytheandretreated into a dangerously somnolent or anything else that cannot be controlled or rationally the powerful difference—a relentless and ferocious pursuitanything that postindustrial captialism, with it's relentless difference engine continues toproduced by thesodemanded by the logic of jaded consumers awashare relentlesslyas the logic of postindustrial capitalism's difference engine, help distributors and bookstore ownerfocus the consumption of fiction and other art "products"direct the somnolent readers waiting patiently for the latest poll to let them know what they think or feel about something,epheality ofdifficulty
Appendix 9.12 Defensive Explanation of the 5-1 Ratio of Men to Women in the Issue (Composed 9-17):
Two of the very first selections made by the editor were works by women. Only a few days before the deadline for the selection process, the works of one of the woman's authors had to be withdrawn from consideration at the advice of the author's new agent.
Appendix 9.13: Discarded commentaries about Kathy Acker written earlier by Editor for a different project (Now Abandoned) and examined for possible sampling/appropriation purposes in the (now Cancalled) Introduction:
About Kathy Acker and "Obsession":
Like her fiction, Kathy Acker is a bundle of contradictory parts that combine to create the jagged unity of a Raushenberg collage. Street-wise gutter snipe and radical feminist critic, motorcycle-outlaw and vulnerable women, cynic and visionary idealist, Acker's series of experimental, shocking, and highly disturbing novels present perhaps the most devastating (and wickedly funny) critique of life under late capitalism since William Burroughs' mid-60s works.
These works include her early small press publications (The Childlike Life of the Black Tarantula, by the Black Tarantula ; I Dreamt I Became a Nymphomaniac!: Imagining ; The Adult Life of Toulose Lautrec, by Henri Toulouse Lautrec [1975-76]; and Kathy Goes to Haiti ); her "re-writes" of of classical Western novels Great Expectations  and Don Quixote  , as well as works that pastiche a broader variety of prior literary works: Blood and Guts in High School (1984), Empire of the Senseless (1988), and In Memoriam to Identity (1990). .
"Obsession" offers a perfect illustration of the ways Avant-Pop authors appropriate, sample, and otherwise collaborate with prior texts drawn from the realms of both "high" and "pop" culture; it also showcases Avant-Pop's tendency to blurr the distinction between author and character—a device which emphasizes the individual's imaginative role in constructing any version of "reality" and the interaction of "fiction" and "fact in our media-soaked environment. In "Obsession," Acker—in one of her typically bold narrative maneuvers—adopts the roles of Cathy and Heathcliff, the passionate and ultimately doomed lovers from Emily Bronte's 19th century masterpiece, Wuthering Heights.
But as Avant-Pop authors so often remind us, "re-telling" a familiar story within a contemporary context permits readers to re-think the assumptions and "meanings" they bring to such materials. "Reanimated" by Acker's surrealist imagination and fiercely political vision, the elements of Bronte's novel are transformed into a nightmarish vision of the sexual longings, gender confusions, and injustices to be found in contemporary society.
Also typical of Acker's work is her focus in "Obsession" on the body as a literal and symbolic cite of struggle between individuals seeking self-empowerment and the forces of patriarchal control that seek to regulate people's lives. This emphasis is grounded in more than abstract political concerns. As a real woman and not just a narrative person, Acker is her own text, her own gallery. Embedded in one of her front teeth is a jagged chunk of bronze. She's a body-builder in more than the usual way: her muscles animate spectacular tattoos, a combination that she feels allows her to seize control over the sign-systems through which people "read" her. Past mistress of the cunning juxtaposition and the Fine Art of Appropriation, Acker's fiction betrays a multitrack outlaw intellect. And she doesn't shrink from mining outlaw "low culture" genres like SF, pornography, and detective fiction. The net effect of her work is not merely to deconstruct, but to decondition.
Appendix 9.14. Unrevised remarks about Robert Coover's Lucky Pierre which would have established the recurrent pattern of media-induced confusion, reality decay and loss of individual identity evident in several of the anthology's selections:
One of the features that distinguished work by the 60s generation of postmodernists was their willingness to confort ashad to do with their of the brash band of
Back in the early to mid-1960s, as Thomas Pynchon, John Barth, Susan Sontag, Joseph Heller, Kurt Vonnegut, Donald Barthelme and others were making it clear that a new generation of American writers were in their ascendancy, one particularly fresh angle of their work had to do with their presentation of technological change generally and "pop culture" in particular. And the writer no otherrelationir take on area direction their work area of shared interest that made their work seem to fresh and genuinely "new" had to do with their exploration of how technological change and pop culture was transforming American life—and the new art forms arising to meet this transformation. Most of these writers had experienced the thrill of Saturday afternoon serials and cartoons (followed perhaps by a Gene Autry Western or Hardy Boys movie), had collected bubblegum cards emblzoned with British and American fighter planes; they could recall Truman's announcement that a new weapon had been used against the Japanese in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and they recognized the significance once their family radios were replaced by a television set. There was something profound about such changes, of course, because in addition to transforming the physical space they were inhabiting, these developments were having deep and largely untheorized affects on their imaginations, what they dreamed of and were frightened bye. affecting perception itself—movies taught writers how narrative materials could be cut-uxtaposed, what could be eliminated, tv ads information-dense materials economically, didactic without tipping your hand too obviously,how principlesIn short, the 60s generation to begin to explore the Media Scrape more of American's attention, its dreamslifeaffectingThese developments wereAll this first time they saw television memories of the vast transformations that accompanied the war, old enough to remember a time when the family gathering around the radio each evening was still a novelty,evening radio authors who had grown up immersed in the Media Culture , how popular new terrain they began to stake out the mediamutual concern of the key areas the first brash band of postmodern fiction writers bursting the relatively staid American lite scene, Coover quickly estabhimself as among the brashest
Appendix 9.15: Fragment of discussion to be used in the (Now Cancelled) "Introduction" regarding the recurrent motif of Machine-Recording-Images-of-Invisible-Abstractions (memory/the past, emotions, dreams and other inner states), the dead, etc.); why this recurrent is notable, how it relates to postmodernism generally, other recent examples (Winders' Until the End of the Earth, David Blair's Wax), how displayed in the current Issue (with supporting quotes):
Then, by means of a piece of glass painted over with tar and placed in his camera obscura, he was able, centuries before the world at large would learn of such a thing , to capture an instant in time. . . . His next attempt was to create an image in three dimensions. Nuno Alpha y Omega's ocularscope was not only the first stereoscope in Pope Publius, but the first one in the universe.
—Rikki Ducornet, from Birdland.
Recurrent references to the proliferation of images created by cameras (including video and movie cameras), the sense that photography is akin to magic in its ability to allow humans visual access to that which is normally invisible (the past, the dead, inner psychic states), the more ominous implications that by giving such previously ineffable or abstract states of being a tangible existence has created an entryway through which illusion, the dead, and the past will soon overrun "real" and the living and the present.
Inventor of the praxiscope technolgoy (which see), Professor Aanschultz believe that close observation of phyusiology and similar superficial phenomena dcould lead to direct revelation of the inner or secret processes of nature. Apparent proof of this now discredibed theory was offered by his psychopraxiscope, which purposed to offer instanteanous viewing of any subjects thoughts.
—Marc Laidlaw, "Great Breakthroughs in Darkness"
Postmodern Authors living in a contemporary world dominated by Media
Scape, simulated experiences, Virtual-and-Hyper Realities often literalize the metaphorical components of previous eras attempts to poeticize the mysterious nature of truth and falsehood, life and death, reality and illusion, originality and duplication. Thus, Robert Coover's places his hero Lucky Pierre into a cinematic arrative realm which "All the world's a stage, and each must play his part, etc."
Our world are in torment, you see, this urgent clamorous asylum of the senses and that silent maject Other realm, grinding perpetually against one another like great invisible tectonic plates, and, as the sun declines, the barriers are attenuated, pared daily by knives in darkness, until wall is reduced to member and membreane to rupture and the dead are permitted to mingle freely among us and we, if we possess the knwoledge and so choose, may pass through into the land of the death.
—from Stephen Wright, "Getting Happy"
As technolgoies of reproduction create counterfeit worlds that become increasingly lifelike and offer an ever-expanding array of simulated experiences, the fleeting "real time" experiences of individuals begins to seem increasingly less substantial precisely because they cannot be replayed.
The Supernormal Picture Society taught that the dead lived near to us, in an un known world. This world could be made visible to us by the cincematographer, who could see through the haze of our world to the darkness beyond.
—David Blair, from the screenplay of Wax, or the Discovery of Television Among the Bees.
Appendix 9.16 Reluctantly discarded draft of Editor's comments regarding Stephen Wright's "Getting Happy," which the editor had hoped to include as the “centerpiece” in this issue, preceded by Editor's Question:
EDITOR'S QUESTION: Is a book that has no hard copy a 'book'? Is a literary journal distributed on a disc still a literary journal? (9-22, Boulder, CO).
Unfortunately, there was some confusion about who controlled the permission rights for this material. Normally first serial rights would have been controlled by Wright's agent, while the anthology rights would be controlled by the publisher he was under contract with to do the novel. In this particular case, it would seem a simple matter of obtaining first-serial rights (which refers to publication in a journal or magazine—and Postmodern Culture, despite it "on-line" status, is clearly a literary journal. The complication had to do with the Postmodern Culture's recent arrangements with Oxford University Press to distribute a disc version of their issues—a distribution arrangement that perhaps could be seen as changing the status of the issue to an anthology.” At any rate, late on Friday 9-18—the absolute deadline necessary for McCaffery to complete his introduction and for Eyal to arrange to have the materials readied for release, and with the status of permission rights still not settled, McCaffery reluctantly withdrew Wright's story from the issue. During the late evenings of 9-16 and 9-17, when he still assumed that the Wright fiction would be included in the issue, he had, however, written what follows for this Introduction—an introduction my patient readers are by now all too aware was never completed, in part due to all the time he had wasted trying to settle whether or not “Getting Happy” would be included in the issue.
The most extended fiction selection in the issue, Stepehn Wright's "Get Happy"—a chapter from Wright’s work-in-progress, Going Native— propels his central character on a wild , riveting journey to a postmodern version of kind of postmodern version of a Boscian nightmare, or a Hollywood Babylon dream ala Coover's Gerald's Party. Constructed as a carefully ascending series of episodes, each contributing to a sense of postmodern unreality, the video-camera that accomplices serves as it does for so many other younger writers, as a magical mirror possessing the power to preseve the past, illuminate and momentarily petrify human truths that usually evaporate under life's process of perpetual change, Ultimately, though, the video-camera serves to denurture experience, separating.
Wright's ability to present convincingly a sense of the primal, messy, bodily-driven irrationality of human consciousness, blended together with an equally sure feel for suggesting the addictive and distorting power produced by technological change derived from devices like guns and videos into a vision of postmodern life that seems, at least to this Editor, exemplary in its appreciation of how technological change has made our lives so radically different (what exactly does "intimacy" mean in an age where "intimate" moments can be videoed or photographed and replayed for us—and for anyone else, of course). If we can reify our past, even the most intimate moments of our past, into real-seeming images, —and yet how much remains the same, the mystery of sex and death somehow remaining irriducible, no matter how many times we try to capture its esse on film so that it can be controlled, played back.
Appendix 10: Final Editorial Note: With Every Wish There Comes A Curse, 9-24-92 Los Angeles.
“He tried to do his best but he could not . . . “—Neil Young, “Tired Eyes” (Tonight’s the Night)
During the period I was assembling materials for this Postmodern Culture fiction issue, my refusal to face the consequences of having agreed to complete work on over a dozen different other book-length scholarly and editorial projects should be taken as a symptom of an illness (self-diagnosed as “hypomania,” although self-medication has no doubt been a contributing factor) that can have fatal professional and personal consequences if left untreated.
Appendix 11: Afterword to Editor’s Final Note: These Are Better Days, Borrego Springs, CA, 3-10-93.
For those who might have grown alarmed by the previous note, Larry McCaffery would like all his well-wishers to know that he was recently able to receive help for his condition during a one week's stay at the Betty Ford Professional-Work Addiction Center. "It wasn't easy going cold turkey from work," McCaffery has written in one of the letters of resignation he's been drafting, “but it had to be done. My advice for everyone working in my profession is to write up a final measurement of what projects you’re working on and if it adds up to anything like what mine did, then do something about it."