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Reviews139 essarily complicates his semiotics, but I agree with Brooks that the portmanteau category "irony" does not answer the problem. Marcel Cornis-Pop argues for a mimetic function in poststructuralist American novels, "a form of radical hermeneutics, ... a delayed 'analytical codification' " that shifts attention to "the discursive layering of cultural 'reality'" (p. 130). Joel Black's incisive and entertaining essay on "Mixed Signals in the Body Languages of Sexual, Commercial , and Extraterrestrial Discourse" focuses on the disparity between the ubiquitous nonerotic discourse ofsexuality and the violendy sexy "disembodied image" that the body has become. Jerry Herron gives Black's semiotics another habitation and a name. His "Mailing of the Semiotic" traces the ramifications of the shift in the cultural market paradigm from a university and department store dominated "downtown" to a placeless flux oftelevision and mall simulacra. Both essays are feats of media-theoretical info-tainment that do not have to be entirely followed to be enjoyed. In nine capable hands the hegemony of the sign proves worryingly—and exhilaratingly—alive. Princeton UniversityStanley Corngold Borrowed Lives, by Stanley Corngold and Irene Giersing; 189 pp. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991, $44.50 cloth, $14.95 paper. "Moment upon moment, pattering down, like the millet grains," one of Beckett's characters muses, "and all life long you wait for that to mount up to a life." Borrowed Uves, a recent novel in the SUNY series, The Margins of Literature, is written very much in the spirit of this grave assessment. Corngold and Giersing tell the story of Paul van Pein, an uneasy history professor who responds to an advertisement by Margot Stevens in the New York Review ofBooks concerning a house for rent in the south of France. Having decided to spend his sabbatical leave in the house, the protagonist relies on letters from Margot in mapping his unfamiliar surroundings. Her instructions are detailed and virtually exhaustive, including a guide to local social life and the best places to shop for French wine. The increasingly mysterious Margot whose letters seem to anticipate Paul's every thought and emotion becomes something of an obsession for the professor whose friend observes that Margot has literally "possessed " him. Paul's attempts to organize experience into meaningful and livable taxonomies are vividly depicted as his epistolary relationship with the subtly manipulative Margot becomes entangled in his—at times quixotic—quest for 140Philosophy and Literature creative originality, stable identity, carnal pleasure, and a readable life unmarred by threatening inauthenticity. Borrowed Lives brilliandy allegorizes themes and problematics of current literary theory and philosophy, playfully engaging bones of critical contention such as the possibility of centered subjecthood, the ideology of creativity, the notion of endless textuality, and the viability of a self-conscious metafiction. Faced with the vicissitudes of selfhood in private as well as in the memorably satirized academic marketplace, the protagonist's life is dictated by the demands of his peculiar interdependence with an epistolary other, a constellation that constandy threatens to undermine the vivacity of that precious "honey of experience " (p. 21). The futility ofthe protagonist's spiritual and intellectual quest calls into question the text's own mode of original production by pointing to the impossibility of endowing the subjective life with concrete or material existence . The tendency within contemporary critical theory to posit an omnipresent textuality is also problematized by Corngold and Giersing when Paul, in a hilarious reverie, casts proponents of this orthodoxy as "oblates who sang together at the Litde Church of Deconstruction around the corner: ? believe, yea, I believe: all is Textual' " (p. 36). In other moments the authors foreground current literary themes. In one such scene Paul is physically and emotionally overpowered by an international gang of surreal riffraff who engage him in a sadomasochisticorgy, ceremoniously liberating Paul from his inhibited existence by cutting his skin and destroying Margot's house, a literalized metaphor of her body or "surfaces." This narrative gesture evokes the final scene of Patrick Stiskind's masterpiece of postmodern pastiche, The Perfume, in which the unloved protagonistJean-Baptiste, having achieved his foremost ambition in life, the construction of identity through the acquisition of an odor, is finally cannibalized by a riffraff troop of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 139-140
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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