Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Literature Gone Askew


For someone like myself who came of age reading the great works of the 20th-century modernists -- writers like Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, T.S. Eliot and Marcel Proust -- the highly ubiquitous postmodernist movement, which was spawned by the excesses and political shenanigans of the 1960s, has generally been an irritant to me. Whether it's Andy Warhol's soup cans or deconstructionist literary theory, which dominated academia for the past 30 years, postmodernism has either indulged in a dead-pan jokiness aimed at the concept of art as a serious endeavor or has directed an implicit, humorless critique at all language as base and empty, mere signs without meaning.

Postmodernism, at least as it was wielded in the academy (and I use the word wielded purposely, since the theory was utilized as a political weapon), gave rise to the culture wars that have raged over the last three decades, and that continue to rear their ugly head whenever certain groups of people feel their worldviews being threatened.

And yet, of all the writers I've gotten to know and truly admire over the course of the last several years or so, Roberto BolaƱo -- a tried-and-true postmodernist -- has struck me not only as an exciting presence, but perhaps one of the most profound artists of the second half of the 20th century. >>MORE

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