Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv

Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-x

An earlier version of chapter 2 appeared in Clio: A Journal of Literature, History, and the Philosophy of History (2008), and a shorter version of chapter 4 (Copyright © 2011 The Johns Hopkins University Press) appeared in ELH 78, no. 3 (Fall 2011). I’m grateful...

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Introduction: On Endings

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pp. 1-22

No one encountering a book review that castigates an author as the “worst writer of his generation” would be surprised to find further incendiary claims, but Dale Peck’s poisonous 2002 review of Rick Moody’s...

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1 /Institutionalizing Postmodernism: John Barthand Modern War

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pp. 23-41

Holding distinctly antagonistic visions of the nature of fiction during the different phases of his career, John Barth exemplifies the metafictional turn in American writing during the 1960s, and provides a perfect case study for understanding some of the social and political pressures that contributed to the...

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2 /The Crying of Lot 49, circa 1642; or, Pynchon, Periodicity, and Total War

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pp. 42-58

A third of the way through Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49 (1966), the mystery deepens. Oedipa Maas’s quest to untangle the confusion surrounding a dead lover’s estate has sent her to see The Courier’s Tragedy, a barely known (and in reality nonexistent) Jacobean...

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3 /The Time of the Nation, the Time of the State

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pp. 59-75

Early in Robert Coover’s The Public Burning (1977) the reader gets another shock. We’ve already had to process that Richard Nixon narrates much of the novel, that the Rosenbergs are going to be executed in Times Square during a giant public party, and...

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4 /Unthinking the Thinkability of the Unthinkable

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pp. 76-103

In Tim O’Brien’s 1985 novel The Nuclear Age, the increasingly hysterical protagonist has only one “practical” response to his fear of imminent thermonuclear war: he digs a big hole in his backyard in the hope of completing a fallout shelter for himself, his...

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5 /Trying to Understand End Zone

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pp. 104-123

“I became fascinated by words and phrases like thermal hurricane, overkill, circular error probability, post-attack environment, stark deterrence, dose-rate contours, kill-ratio, spasm war. Pleasure in these words. They were extremely effective, I thought, whispering...

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6 /The Dominant Tense: Richard Powers andLate Postmodernism

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pp. 124-148

Born in 1957, Richard Powers is the most publicly visible heir to the tradition of postmodern self-reflexivity outlined in the preceding five chapters, and his stature as one of the most important writers of his generation now seems assured: his honors include a MacArthur “genius” grant...

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Afterword: Critical Conventions / Postmodern Canons

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pp. 149-162

In the third chapter of Democracy (1984), Joan Didion tells us that the novel she is “no longer writing” was to have been “a study in provincial manners, in the acute tyrannies of class and privilege by which people assert themselves against the tropics,” focusing...

Notes

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pp. 163-178

Bibliography

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pp. 179-190

Index

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pp. 191-196