Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Find Out What It Means To Me

I'm currently, sporadically, rereading Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49, and trying to figure out why I'm largely convinced that he (as per Kaiser's first post here) "gets it".

I don't know much about the reigning discourse around Pynchon and/or the novel and, at the moment, I want it to stay that way. Why I'm so pleased to remain ignorant has to do, maybe unfortunately, with the after-effects of 3 years of University English and Art Studies. It's not that higher education's turned me into a "just feel it, man!"-type that insists that receiving (a deceptively passive way of putting it, I think) an artwork automatically trumps any critical thinking/writing that happens during or after the fact, or that attempting to figure out how the art does what it does inevitably muddies the sublimity of the thing itself (but, having a blog, I wouldn't think that, would I ?). It's just that it's taken me two years of studying Postmodernism in two disciplines to realize that I know little (maybe less than that even) about it. What I do feel that I've covered pretty thoroughly, are po-mo's sales pitches and talking points. I know it's about shifting surfaces, and I've barely scratched any of them.

What this has to do with Lot 49 and 'getting it', well, I'm trying to untangle that as I type. Turns out my appreciation of what Pynchon does well (I'm gonna get to that soon, too, I promise) is actually very dependant on a 'surrounding critical framework' (or even worse, a mere suspicion of one!). It seems I've, probably wrongly, tied my (sometimes) superficial education to a bunch of texts that seem proudly postmodern in a similarly glib and shallow way. For the purposes of this post, let's pretend I was right in doing this. You see, it's not that I demand depth all the time, but I don't appreciate folks misunderstanding my favourite cultural artifacts. It might be that I fear that there's a secret Modernism at work behind a lot of these texts (Which texts exactly? I want to say, I dunno, Coupland but I haven't read him. Martin Amis? But I haven't read him either. It's turning out that my enemies are all straw-writers ...). A Secret Modernism? Y'know, taking postmodernism's assumed modus operandi of affording everything an equivalent worth(lessness), you can safely invoke and then dismiss large chunks of pop culture at a whim while covertly affirming the same uninterrogated assumptions that those big, bad ol' Grand Narratives made about high and low and worthiness and trash.

So how does Pynchon avoid these problems? I think he genuinely respects the integrity of the pop/mass (I know I'm asking that forward slash to do more work there than it probably should, but it's a device I like and it's getting late and I want to go home) culture he references (Stockhausen, B-Movies, radio DJs). I get the sense he's awake to the possibilities of interaction and relation offered by newness and novelty (with condemning his characters or readers to decentered Baudrillardian doom or simply, smugly, disparaging the apparent tacky plastickness of postwar America). This 'respect' comes maybe less from textual evidence of Pynchon's 'attitudes', and more from his comic timing, the attention paid to his craft (the perfection of child-actor Metzger/Baby Igor's "My Daddy, My Doggy and Me" doesn't happen by accident, y'know). I think the same might be said about Tarantino - at his best anyway. Is this partially what "getting it", is, in part, about? respect? Theres more to say, but unfortunately I respect getting home and eating dinner more than I do forming tight conclusions or writing balanced posts.

2 Comments:

Blogger jermaine noble said...

"partially... in part"! doh.

7:01 PM  
Blogger Kaiser Gestalt said...

I've been asking around for someone to lend me Pynchon - surely evidence of a successful review.

2:14 PM  

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