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Spanish Fiction in the Digital Age: Generation X Remixed by Christine Henseler (review)

From: Arizona Journal of Hispanic Cultural Studies
Volume 16, 2012
pp. 331-332 | 10.1353/hcs.2012.0020

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Imagine a book that provides a detailed account of the fiction by so-called Generation X writers and post-Generation Xers (my term, not Henseler’s) while at the same time giving you a hands-on feel for the porous, interactive aesthetics in which the writers engaged. Spanish Fiction of the Digital Age: Generation X Remixed is such a book. Christine Henseler’s imaginative, collaborative, remixed text assays a new kind of literary criticism in which the scholar participates in an ongoing dialogue with other scholars, with the fiction writers, and with herself. Henseler includes sidebars (in shaded boxes) on nearly every page that contain responses to her ideas from other critics and from the authors she analyzes, as well as pertinent material from and links to the Internet. This practice upends typical academic quotations, which are filtered through the author’s viewpoint to bolster an argument. Henseler’s discussion exists on the same plane as comments by others without reducing them to a single point of view. It is perhaps the closest one could come in the traditional print media to an interactive chat room, simulating what some writers attempted to achieve in their fiction: “it is through non-traditional means such as blogs, literary magazines, videos, or fanzines that Mutantes must insert their critical voices and break down barriers between authors, readers, and critics” (Henseler 152).

Amazingly, Henseler accomplishes this feat without sacrificing sound scholarship. Spanish Fiction of the Digital Age is exceptionally well researched. Henseler knows the primary literature (not only in Spanish but in other languages—particularly English and German), the secondary literature, and a great deal about the media (MTV, video games, the Internet, and reality TV) that underpin the aesthetics of a sector of recent Spanish fiction. She cites all the significant bibliography on Generation X, such as Cristina Moreiras Menor’s Cultura herida: Literatura y cine en la España democrática, whose final chapter is devoted to the phenomenon, Carmen Urioste’s Novela y sociedad en la España contemporánea (1994–2009), which covers the same period from a more socio-political perspective, and the seminal articles included in Generation X Rocks: Contemporary Peninsular Fiction, Film, and Rock Culture that Henseler edited with Randolph Pope. Henseler’s own approach is more akin to Eva Martínez Navarro’s La novela de la Generación X, which “examined the role of television, video, and music on Gen X novels’ themes, structures, and parameters” (Henseler 3).

Henseler’s interpretation of Spanish fiction in the digital age draws on these sources, but she deepens our understanding of how new technological media function and how writers with similar experiences with this media differ significantly in their literary appropriation of it. She makes an important distinction between “early” Generation X writers, like José Ángel Mañas and Ray Loriga, the so-called “dirty realists” who focus on drugs and rock and roll, and a later group, for which she suggests several names: “the ‘Nocilla Generation’ based on Agustín Fernández Mallo’s trilogy Nocilla Dream (2006), Nocilla Experience (2007), and Nocilla Lab (2009); the “After-Pops,” in line with Eloy Fernández Porta’s much acclaimed critical work in After-Pop: la literatura de la implosión mediática (2007); and the term [she] prefer[s], the “Mutantes,” as best expressed in the short story volume Mutantes: Narrativa española de última generación (2007), coedited by Juan Francisco Ferré and Julio Ortega” (8). The latter are more cosmopolitan and project a less pessimistic view of life and media than the earlier writers.

The book is divided into six chapters that follow a chronological format. Most center on a particular media phenomenon with an in-depth analysis of one work that exemplifies it. Chapter one surveys the history of the term Generation X. Chapter two focuses on the background to José Ángel Mañas’s (by most accounts) watershed Historias del Kronen, including La Movida, Punk, and Avant-Pop, to conclude that Historias is Afterpop. Chapter three provides a comprehensive history of the rise of MTV and a detailed analysis of Ray Loriga’s Héroes as an example of video-clip literature. Chapter four...

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