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Safdie Joseph <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Ezra Pound discussion list of the University of Maine <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 14 Jan 1998 14:20:14 -0800
text/plain (303 lines)
(I've taken the liberty of copying Robert Kibler's attachment as some of
you seem to have had trouble getting it -- it's worth the large screen
space, it seems to me, but apologies to those who may be paying by the
word, as it were).
Joe Safdie
> ___________________________________________
>  Geraldo, Eat Your Avant-Pop Heart Out
>  HOBOKEN, N.J. -- JENNY JONES: Boy, we have a show for you today!
>  Recently, the University of Virginia philosopher Richard Rorty made
> the
>  stunning declaration that nobody has "the foggiest idea" what
>  postmodernism means. "It would be nice to get rid of it," he said.
> "It
>  isn't exactly an idea; it's a word that pretends to stand for an
> idea."
>  This shocking admission that there is no such thing as postmodernism
> has
>  produced a firestorm of protest around the country. Thousands of
> authors,
>  critics and graduate students who'd considered themselves
> postmodernists
>  are outraged at the betrayal.
>  Today we have with us a writer -- a recovering postmodernist -- who
>  believes that his literary career and personal life have been
> irreparably
>  damaged by the theory, and who feels defrauded by the academics who
>  promulgated it. He wishes to remain anonymous, so we'll call him
> "Alex."
>  Alex, as an adolescent, before you began experimenting with
>  postmodernism, you considered yourself -- what?
>               Close shot of ALEX.
>  An electronic blob obscures his face. Words appear at bottom of
> screen:
>  "Says he was traumatized by postmodernism and blames academics."
>  ALEX (his voice electronically altered): A high modernist. Y'know,
> Pound,
>  Eliot, Georges Braque, Wallace Stevens, Arnold Schoenberg, Mies van
> der
>  Rohe. I had all of Schoenberg's 78's.
>  JENNY JONES: And then you started reading people like Jean-Francois
>  Lyotard and Jean Baudrillard -- how did that change your feelings
> about
>  your modernist heroes?
>  ALEX: I suddenly felt that they were, like, stifling and canonical.
>  JENNY JONES: Stifling and canonical? That is so sad, such a waste.
> How
>  old were you when you first read Fredric Jameson?
>  ALEX: Nine, I think.
>  The AUDIENCE gasps.
>  JENNY JONES: We have some pictures of young Alex....
>  We see snapshots of 14-year-old ALEX reading Gilles Deleuze and Felix
>  Guattari's "Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia." The AUDIENCE
>  oohs and ahs.
>  ALEX: We used to go to a friend's house after school -- y'know, his
>  parents were never home -- and we'd read, like, Paul Virilio and
> Julia
>  Kristeva.
>  JENNY JONES: So you're only 14, and you're already skeptical toward
> the
>  "grand narratives" of modernity, you're questioning any belief system
>  that claims universality or transcendence. Why?
>  ALEX: I guess -- to be cool.
>  JENNY JONES: So, peer pressure?
>  ALEX: I guess.
>  JENNY JONES: And do you remember how you felt the very first time you
>  entertained the notion that you and your universe are constituted by
>  language -- that reality is a cultural construct, a "text" whose
> meaning
>  is determined by infinite associations with other "texts"?
>  ALEX: Uh, it felt, like, good. I wanted to do it again. The AUDIENCE
>  groans.
>  JENNY JONES: You were arrested at about this time?
>  ALEX: For spray-painting "The Hermeneutics of Indeterminacy" on an
>  overpass.
>  JENNY JONES: You're the child of a mixed marriage -- is that right?
>  ALEX: My father was a de Stijl Wittgensteinian and my mom was a
>  neo-pre-Raphaelite.
>  JENNY JONES: Do you think that growing up in a mixed marriage made
> you
>  more vulnerable to the siren song of postmodernism?
>  ALEX: Absolutely. It's hard when you're a little kid not to be able
> to
>  just come right out and say (sniffles), y'know, I'm an Imagist or I'm
> a
>  phenomenologist or I'm a post-painterly abstractionist. It's really
> hard
>  -- especially around the holidays. (He cries.)
>  JENNY JONES: I hear you. Was your wife a postmodernist?
>  ALEX: Yes. She was raised avant-pop, which is a fundamentalist
> offshoot
>  of postmodernism.
>  JENNY JONES: How did she react to Rorty's admission that
> postmodernism
>  was essentially a hoax?
>  ALEX: She was devastated. I mean, she's got all the John Zorn albums
> and
>  the entire Semiotext(e) series. She was crushed.
>  We see ALEX'S WIFE in the audience, weeping softly, her hands
> covering
>  her face.
>  JENNY JONES: And you were raising your daughter as a postmodernist?
>  ALEX: Of course. That's what makes this particularly tragic. I mean,
> how
>  do you explain to a 5-year-old that self-consciously recycling
> cultural
>  detritus is suddenly no longer a valid art form when, for her entire
>  life, she's been taught that it is?
>  JENNY JONES: Tell us how you think postmodernism affected your career
> as
>  a novelist.
>  ALEX: I disavowed writing that contained real ideas or any real
> passion.
>  My work became disjunctive, facetious and nihilistic. It was all
> blank
>  parody, irony enveloped in more irony.
>  It merely recapitulated the pernicious banality of television and
>  advertising. I found myself indiscriminately incorporating any and
> all
>  kinds of pop kitsch and shlock. (He begins to weep again.)
>  JENNY JONES: And this spilled over into your personal life?
>  ALEX: It was impossible for me to experience life with any emotional
>  intensity. I couldn't control the irony anymore. I perceived my own
>  feelings as if they were in quotes.
>  I italicized everything and everyone. It became impossible for me to
>  appraise the quality of anything. To me everything was equivalent --
> the
>  Brandenburg Concertos and the Lysol jingle had the same value. ...
> (He
>  breaks down, sobbing.)
>  JENNY JONES: Now, you're involved in a lawsuit, aren't you?
>  ALEX: Yes. I'm suing the Modern Language Association.
>  JENNY JONES: How confident are you about winning?
>  ALEX: We need to prove that, while they were actively propounding it,
>  academics knew all along that postmodernism was a specious theory.
>  If we can unearth some intradepartmental memos -- y'know, a paper
> trail
>  -- any corroboration that they knew postmodernism was worthless cant
> at
>  the same time they were teaching it, then I think we have an
> excellent
>  shot at establishing liability.
>  JENNY JONES wades into audience and proffers microphone to a woman.
>  WOMAN (with lateral head-bobbing): It's ironic that Barry Scheck is
>  representing the M.L.A. in this litigation because Scheck is the
>  postmodern attorney par excellence. This is the guy who's made a
> career
>  of volatilizing truth in the simulacrum of exculpation!
>  VOICE FROM AUDIENCE: You go, girl!
>  WOMAN: Scheck is the guy who came up with the quintessentially
> postmodern
>  re-bleed defense for O.J., which claims that O.J. merely vigorously
> shook
>  Ron and Nicole, thereby re-aggravating pre-existing knife wounds. I'd
>  just like to say to any client of Barry Scheck -- lose that zero and
> get
>  a hero!
>  The AUDIENCE cheers wildly.
>  WOMAN: Uh, I forgot my question.
>  Dissolve to message on screen: If you believe that mathematician
> Andrew
>  Wiles' proof of Fermat's last theorem has caused you or a member of
> your
>  family to dress too provocatively, call (800) 555-9455.
>  Dissolve back to studio.In the audience, JENNY JONES extends the
>  microphone to a man in his mid-30's with a scruffy beard and a
> bandana
>  around his head.
>  MAN WITH BANDANA: I'd like to say that this "Alex" is the single
> worst
>  example of pointless irony in American literature, and this whole
>  heartfelt renunciation of postmodernism is a ploy -- it's just more
> irony.
>  The AUDIENCE whistles and hoots.
>  ALEX: You think this is a ploy?! (He tears futilely at the electronic
>  blob.) This is my face!
>  The AUDIENCE recoils in horror.
>  ALEX: This is what can happen to people who naively embrace
>  postmodernism, to people who believe that the individual -- the
>  autonomous, individualist subject -- is dead. They become a
> palimpsest of
>  media pastiche -- a mask of metastatic irony.
>  JENNY JONES (biting lip and shaking her head): That is so sad. Alex
> --
>  final words?
>  ALEX: I'd just like to say that self-consciousness and irony seem
> like
>  fun at first, but they can destroy your life. I know. You gotta be
>  earnest, be real. Real feelings are important. Objective reality does
>  exist. AUDIENCE members whoop, stomp and pump fists in the air.
>  JENNY JONES: I'd like to thank Alex for having the courage to come on
>  today and share his experience with us.
>  Join us for tomorrow's show, "The End of Manichean, Bipolar
> Geopolitics
>  Turned My Boyfriend Into an Insatiable Sex Freak (and I Love It!)."
> --
> Cynthia Virtue, Manager, Sales Operations               650-919-6239
> Network Computing Devices, Mountain View, CA         [log in to unmask]
> ====================================================================
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> mainly fresh food (except for bait) which includes crabs, clams,
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