The Anxiety of Obsolescence
The American Novel in the Age of Television
Publication Year: 2006
Published by: Vanderbilt University Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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Any text such as this one owes its existence to countless individuals and institutions that have supported its coming into being, and any expression of gratitude seems destined for inadequacy. Such an inadequacy in what follows should be understood as a failure in the expression, rather than the absence, of sincere emotion. ...
Introduction: The Anxiety of Obsolescence
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The world is going to hell in a handbasket, and has been since the invention of television. So, at least, seems to be the argument made by a range of cultural critics, both from the Right and from the Left, both academics and public intellectuals, both those who publish in highbrow venues and those who publish in more popular locales, both those who write fiction and those who write nonfiction. ...
1: Three Discourses on the Age of Television
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“The death of the novel is here again,” writes Natasha Walter in a 1996 report on the state of the British publishing industry. “It’s a standing joke among newspapers’ literary editors trying to find a story. Shall we commission the ‘books are out’ piece, or shall we commission the one that proves ‘books are back’?” (Walter). This endless—and ostensibly meaningless—circulation and ...
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At an early moment in Thomas Pynchon’s V., the reader is introduced to the members of the Whole Sick Crew, a loose coalition of alienated youth cavorting about 1955 Manhattan. As the narration emphasizes, each member of the Crew participates in an “exhausted impersonation” of bohemian artiness, a kind of Beat-lite, in which aesthetic and social rebellion fail to find either a stable position to revolt against or a sufficiently shocking “new.” Slab, for ...
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David’s television, which has drawn him in, and holds him fast, acts in a manner quite different from Pynchon’s television, into which the couch potatoes of the past are physically wired. Here, the television’s “meshed effect” produces a new kind of intertwining of human and television set, one that functions “as if ” human perception were required to complete the broadcast. In this ...
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Fergus Mixolydian in Pynchon’s V. and David Bell in DeLillo’s Americana, in their peculiar relationships to the television set, reveal the anxieties about mechanicity and visuality explored in the novel of obsolescence; each allows the novelist room to explore the putative threat that television presents to the novel’s future, while simultaneously valorizing the novel for its resistance to ...
5: Obsolescence, the Marginal,and the Popular
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Throughout this book, my intent has been to explore a particular group of postmodern novels by arguing not merely for a specific way of reading these texts but for a particular kind of hermeneutic in the textual encounter. This interpretive method looks to cultural studies in its exploration less of specific artifacts than of the circulation of discourses and ideas about those artifacts. By structuring my argument about the anxiety of obsolescence as a fruitful mode ...
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Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2006