By Adam Kelly
American Fiction in Transition is a learn of the observer-hero narrative, a hugely major yet severely overlooked style of the yankee novel. during the lens of this transitional style, the ebook explores the Nineties on the subject of debates in regards to the finish of postmodernism, and connects the last decade to different transitional sessions in US literature. Novels by means of 4 significant modern writers are tested: Philip Roth, Paul Auster, E. L. Doctorow and Jeffrey Eugenides. each one novel has an identical constitution: an observer-narrator tells the tale of a major individual in his lifestyles who has died. yet each one tale is both in regards to the fight to inform the tale, to discover enough skill to relate the transitional caliber of the hero's lifestyles. In enjoying out this narrative fight, each one novel thereby addresses the wider challenge of old transition, an issue that marks the legacy of the postmodern period in American literature and tradition
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Additional info for American Fiction in Transition: Observer-Hero Narrative, the 1990s, and Postmodernism
Making an extended comparison to Graham Greene’s The Quiet American—an archetypal elegiac romance/ observer-hero narrative that, like Didion’s novel, features an American protagonist displaced to the “squalid tropics” (47)—Merivale claims that A Book of Common Prayer is by far the more difficult novel to interpret: “the elliptical style and deliberate ambiguities of both author and narrator make plot, let alone significance, less than instantaneously accessible” (45). In The Quiet American, Thomas Fowler tells his story of Aiden Pyle for clear reasons—complicity, contrition, confession, in Merivale’s summary—and the form of the novel is straightforward: “Fowler simply writes a book, which is, in itself, a quite unproblematic activity for him” (52).
The complex temporalities at play in each novel—where the hero’s decision both pre-exists its narrative articulation but is simultaneously shaped into the decision it is by the narrative decisions of the observer—figure in literary form the temporal paradoxes that underlie Derrida’s philosophical explication of undecidability. A problem of periodization remains. Derrida’s conception of the decision, as presented above, does not involve a historical claim about how decision works in any particular era, but a claim operational on a (quasi-)transcendental level.
As a consequence, the 34 American Fiction in Transition figure of Abraham induces not catharsis but shock or awe in the observer, and offers a pronounced challenge to reading, writing, and thinking: “I think myself into the hero. I cannot think myself into Abraham” (33). Fear and Trembling constitutes one long meditation on the impossibility of thinking oneself into this kind of hero. Kierkegaard’s text is haunted by the silence that comes of the observer’s attempt to articulate the paradox of faith at the heart of Abraham’s story, even when this silence issues, as it would in a Beckett novel, in an endless stream of words.
American Fiction in Transition: Observer-Hero Narrative, the 1990s, and Postmodernism by Adam Kelly