By Warner Berthoff
Probes postwar American writers' abandonment of distinguishing good points of literary workmanship in writings considered as testaments of private survival and displays at the clients of literature in a time of cultural obstacle and float
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Extra resources for A Literature Without Qualities: American Writing Since 1945
I a m for voices. ''20 At a higher intentional level the narrator of Joyce Carol Oates's Expensive People ( 1968) speaks to the same justifying principle as he launches upon his macabre deposition. or even an act of confession seeking to establish credit of another sort. Rather it is life itself ''This story is my life'' -a life he can't otherwise imagine himself continuing in. ''It took me years to start writing this memoir, but now that I'm started, now that those ugly words are typed out, I could keep on typing forever.
The experience is even more disorienting for be ing, day by day, upholstered with incidental plea sures and benefits. A great many of us in fact are living in the late 1970s n1ore advantageously than we first expected to; direct injury and material dispos session are (within the class that writes and reads) less and less characteristic of individual life and for tune. Yet who now trusts this relative comfort or takes personal satisfaction in it? In a quite literal sense we find ourselves, as we look around, unable to define and pursue any private interest, or imagine taking part in any scheduled act or event, that cannot quickly enough be shown to have unbreakable con nections with something elsewhere in the world that is intolerable to consciousness.
A hundred years forward, electronic metaphors have becorne dominant, as with the "roar of relays," the telephone dial's "ten million possibilities," the "twinned zeroes and ones" of a giant computer, in the last nightmare of the heroine of Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49. Ma1ep111an. il aa1opcK111M npaaoM 44 A Literature Without Qualities new publications on every level of assumed value as the very principle of their organization, or lack of it. Here, irresistible in its simplicity, is the introduction by the novelist Peter S.
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