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117 5. Ewan Morrison: The Non-Place of Fiction At the other end of the spectrum from James Robertson’s emphasis on history’s problematic but fertile connection with the present, and presenting yet another facet to the definition of the postnational constellation, an angle which takes into account the increased globalisation of our sense of the local itself, is the work of Ewan Morrison. Morrison came to fame as a writer with the publication of his 2005 collection of short stories The Last Book You Read which, as evidence of its popularity, is now available as an e-book. The collection was praised by Berthold Schoene (2007: 14) as ‘embracing globalisation as the new human condition’ in a vision that provided ‘a strong sense of planetary commonality’. Indeed the stories, as well as Morrison’s three subsequent novels, Swung (2007), Distance (2008) and Ménage (2009), and the generically hybrid Tales from the Mall (2012), show the author’s overwhelming, constant concern with the place of the human in a globalised world. Morrison defines the globalised world as a world taken over by American-style consumerism, and its attendant rampant commodification of everything including the human, a state of ‘inauthenticity’ which he parallels with what he sees as the false construction of a (Scottish) sense of identity: The construction of an authentic Scottishness is totally phony: the reality of daily life anywhere in the western world is that it is saturated with ‘inauthentic’ globalised media-generated images and experiences.1 The globalised world described by Morrison is the world which sociologist Zygmunt Bauman characterises as the world of ‘liquid modernity’, a world which, like fluids, ‘neither fix[es] space nor bind[s] time’ and in which modernity has filtered down from the ‘macro’ level of society as an organised system to the ‘micro’ level of social cohabitation, resulting in an increased burden for individuals to make sense of themselves in an unstable and unstoppable – an ‘underdetermined’ – environment.2 For Bauman (2000: 7−8), ‘[o]urs is, as a result, an individualised, privatised version of modernity, 118 the space of fiction with the burden of pattern-weaving and the responsibility for failure falling primarily on the individual’s shoulders’. In the world of liquid modernity, Bauman continues, it is only solids which ‘are cast once and for all’ (2000: 8). The result for Morrison is a fiction which, according to Garan Holcombe, takes the shape of ‘compelling narrative essays on fear and emptiness’ with characters ‘desperate for identifiable meaning’,3 while Schoene somewhat more optimistically describes the collection of short stories as showing the ‘indispensable necessity of personal relationships’ (2007: 14). In Morrison’s own words, human relationships are the last retreat in a world that invests heavily in signs to be consumed, the author claiming that ‘in the absence of all other values, relating to another person is perhaps all there is to go on’.4 And indeed, what his three novels have in common is the sense of a problematised intimacy, an exploration of sex, of ‘orgasm as the most intimate physical expression of love [that] has become part of a transaction that might drain rather than fulfil the self’.5 Like many objects and symbols of consumption, the human in Morrison’s fiction is placed at the centre of a nexus of separate, sometimes contradictory drives, which raises issues not only related to the creative process, or the process of writing fiction, but also to anthropology and sociology. It is therefore a reflection on space in many senses which is conducted in the three novels this chapter focuses on, on the meaning and values of space and place, the space of the human, as well as the space of fiction. In order to tackle these issues, this chapter will be based on the critical and theoretical thinking of Zygmunt Bauman, Marc Augé, Jean Baudrillard and Guy Debord. Virtual space, non-place, no-place Distance, as its title indicates, is very much about space, as well as about the intricate connections that can be woven between space and time. The two lovers, with a continent between them, try to make sense of an impossible spatial equation, while the organisation of the novel as a countdown to their eagerly-awaited reunion translates the spatial dimension into a temporal one. Tom and Meg live very much in time, and the space that they create to bridge the physical gap between them is made up of transcribed phone conversations, text messages...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781908980120
Related ISBN
9781908980090
MARC Record
OCLC
909456906
Pages
232
Launched on MUSE
2015-05-19
Language
English
Open Access
No
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