Sunday, January 22, 2006

The People of Paper

Salvador Plascencia

I couldn’t do it. It is meant to be startling and original and daringly hypertextual, typographical, marvelous and weird, and I am meant to have loved it and been astounded by it, according to the reviews, but I fucking hated this, and I had to stop reading. I actually had to make myself stop reading it. I realized I was hating it and dreading picking it back up, and it took a lot of talking-to, to make myself admit that I was a grownup who didn’t have to finish anything I don’t want to finish, and which makes me so unhappy.

It made me so unhappy. I hated the typographical gimmicks, and I hated the gimmicky characters who were mechanically propelled by faux postmodern, cheap-ass attempts at magical realist “whimsy” and bullshit, instead of a true-feeling, true-sounding voice. Plascencia was far too involved with his shtick to worry about his characters, and it shows. I tried to keep reading it, and it just continued to infuriate me with its ridiculous, self-conscious posturing. Finally, I put it down and I walked away.

But I have to wonder what I am missing, and if there is anything wrong with me, when I read the glowing reviews.


Blogger Mike said...

There's absolutely nothing wrong with you. And this, coming from a virtual stranger, should mean double.

Postmodernism is mostly bad for writing. Your Saramagos and your Kunderas and your Ishiguros (and sometimes Margaret Atwood when she isn't pissing me off with her robot arm) -- they're what's good about postmodernism. Everyone else is bad. And the writing is bad. And they're ideas are bad. And it's all just: bad.

I think that's why I love 19th century literature so much. There wasn't this sense, then, that the novel is dead; or that they have to brilliantly original; or that novels should be written without the letter "e." They just wrote stories that kicked ass; and now modern writers hate them.

Stick with Trollope. He loves you and wants to make you happy.

12:19 PM  
Blogger JM said...

You know, everyone in my MFA program is going apeshit about Plascencia, and I just don't get it. Glad to hear I'm not the only meathead.

3:08 PM  
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