It made me very happy to read the various responses to Part 1, posted last Monday. Today I want to continue this brief digression into asking what, if anything, the New Sincerity was, as well as what, if anything, it currently is. (Next Monday I’ll return to reading Viktor Shklovsky’s Theory of Prose and applying it to contemporary writing.)
Last time I talked about 2005–8, but what was the New Sincerity before Massey/Robinson/Mister? (And does that matter?) Others have pointed out that something much like the movement can be traced back to David Foster Wallace’s 1993 Review of Contemporary Fiction essay “E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction” (here’s a PDF copy). I can recall conversations, 2000–3, with classmates at ISU (where DFW taught and a number of us worked for RCF/Dalkey) about “the death of irony” and “the death of Postmodernism” and a possible “return to sincerity.” Today, even the Wikipedia article on the NS also makes that connection:
ToBS R3: Daily facebook updates of what you ate while writing today v hating on Jonathan Safran-Foer
[matchup #54 in Tournament of Bookshit]
Last night I had a dream that I was talking to a really attractive girl at a bar in an airport. We were having a great conversation, and I felt really good. Somehow I had already seen the movie version of whatever J.S. Foer’s novel is called, and somehow this came up as a topic of conversation. I laughed to myself and said, “You know what? I liked that movie. I really enjoyed watching it.”
The girl stared at me and said “why are you laughing?”
I said, “You know… because it’s that novel… by that guy.” READ MORE >
[Matchup #16 in Tournament of Bookshit]
You meet a woman and wake up to her bookshelf:
• 30-50 copies of Elle
• [something by Chuck Klosterman]
• Everything Is Illuminated
You say, “Okay,” to her while she sleeps. READ MORE >
Tree of Codes
by Jonathan Safran Foer
Visual Editions, 2010
285 pages / $40.00 Buy from Powell’s
Rating: [ ].5
Note: This review was written by excising words from Michael Faber’s review of Tree of Codes in The Guardian.
 [ ] [ ] all-time favourite [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] Cinnamon [ ], retitled [ ] [ ]  [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] translated [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] . [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] passive [ ] [ ] vanity [ ] , [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] compulsion [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ]. [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] love [ ] [ ]? [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] No, [ ] [ ] already done [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ]  [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ]  sadly [ ] here. So, [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ]fresh [ ]? [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] dream [ ] mutterings faithfulness [ ] bankroll [ ]?
September 22nd, 2011 / 12:06 pm
Jonathan Safran Foer . . . do you consider yourself a postmodern writer? In the New Republic, Dale Peck recently said you were upholding the high literary postmodern tradition, a tradition Peck claimed was bankrupt.
Jefferey Eugenides On the issue of postmodernism, Dale Peck and I would agree more than he thinks. I don’t see myself as a high postmodernist. I always say it like this: my generation of writers grew up backwards. We were weaned on modernism and only later read the great 19th-century masters of realism. When we began writing in high school and college, it was experimental fiction. I think now that a certain kind of academic experimental fiction has reached a dead end. Middlesex is a postmodern book in many ways, but it is also very old-fashioned. Reusing classical motifs is a fundamental of postmodern practice, of course, but telling a story isn’t always. I like narrative. I read for it and write for it.
Recently I was reading an old panel discussion from 1975 called “The Symposium on the Future of Contemporary Fiction.” Almost 30 years ago now, but they were basically debating the same thing. How do you make something new in literature? How do you move it forward? This discussion took place among Grace Paley, Donald Barthelme, William H. Gass and Walker Percy. Barthelme and Gass, at the apex of their careers back then, kept going on about creating new voices by means of theoretical exertion. But it was Grace Paley who turned out to be right. It didn’t appear that she was right, but now we can see she was. She said that new language rises again and again from human voices, not just new theories. If you look back now, you see that postmodernism hit a dead end, and what took over were the kinds of books—call them multicultural or whatever you want—that Paley was prophesying.
If there’s anything new in Middlesex, it’s not a matter of formal or theoretical development but closer to the new human experience Paley was talking about. The content in the book is new. The narrator, Cal Stephanides, is a real living hermaphrodite, not a mythical creature like Tiresias or a fanciful one like Orlando.
Foer As long as we’re talking about contemporary writing… Who’s your favorite contemporary writer?
Eugenides Right now my favorite writer is A. A. Milne. Let me give you a sample of why:
Rabbit leant over further than ever, looking for his [stick], and Roo wriggled up and down, calling out, “Come on, stick! Stick, stick stick!” and Piglet got very excited because his was the only one which had been seen, and that meant that he was winning.
“It’s coming!” said Pooh.
“Are you sure it’s mine?” squeaked Piglet excitedly.
“Yes, because it’s grey. A big grey one. Here it comes! A very . . . big . . . grey . . . Oh, no, it isn’t. It’s Eeyore.”
And out Eeyore floated.
“Eeyore!” cried everybody.
Looking very calm, very dignified, with his legs in the air, came Eeyore from beneath the bridge.
“It’s Eeyore!” cried Roo, terribly excited.
“Is that so?” said Eeyore, getting caught up by a little eddy, and turning slowly round three times. “I wondered.”
1. If you haven’t been following the discussions at Montevidayo, a new group blog run by Johannes Göransson, you should start now. Recent posts include Joyelle McSweeney on the Bourne Identity, Johannes on atrocity kitsch, and at least 3 posts on the mechanics of Shutter Island.
2. @ The Awl, an interesting allegation made in finding similarity between Jessica Soffer’s story “Beginning, End” from Granta and Jonathan Safran Foer’s recent publication in the NYer, “Here We Aren’t, So Quickly.” Apparently Soffer was a student of Foer’s wife Nicole Krauss, and the similarity between the stories is mmm. I personally don’t give a crap about stealing, or allegations thereof, because I think all words are words, but still, take a whoop.
3. A friend of mine compared the new Matthew Dear album, Black City, to a Talking Heads for the 00s. He may be on to something.
As Jonathan Franzen solemnly graces the cover of TIME magazine, we got to thinking who of his peers were also deserving of a cover on other magazines, and what those magazines might be. Here are our top picks:
August 17th, 2010 / 4:17 pm