By Warner Berthoff
Probes postwar American writers' abandonment of distinguishing gains of literary workmanship in writings considered as testaments of private survival and displays at the customers of literature in a time of cultural situation and waft
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Extra resources for A Literature Without Qualities: American Writing Since 1945
M npaBOM 48 A Literature Without Qualities find it stamped on the text. Has there been, for example, a more precise rendering of the cir cumstances Jameson evokes than, halfway through our period, John Updike's Rabbit, Run of 1960, in the account it too develops, but quite without sociological underscoring, of the ''atomization and disintegration'' of all the old supports to personal life: family, work, marriage, neighborhood and community, church and common faith? That is the burden, equally, of the novel's classically simple story and of nearly every one of those passages of miniscule description Updike falls back on in filling out its narrative space.
An<;l it will be seen that in first reaction to this decisive face about, critical partisans and antagonists alike have felt compelled to raise the question of whether the texts that result really belong to the category litera ture as commonly understood. * It appears rather as a Doppler shift along that structure's visible spectrum, to the point eventually of requiring measuring instruments with qualitatively differe11t tolerances. ntle of achievement. Even those who aimed, after 1945, to say something radically original attached them selves so far as possible to workshop motives and purposes dating back to 1900 and 1912.
Bill expatriates in Paris in the early 1 950s when, after struggling all day with their Thomas Wolfe or James T. Farrell novels of adolescent life in various benighted and fast-van ishing American neighborhoods, they came together in the cafes to recover their spirits with ex-grad uate-student parodies, nostalgic burlesques of old radio and movie scripts, or passages from the por nographic texts they were concurrently writing, un- Ma1ep1>1an. oM A Generation in Retreat 33 der pseudonyms, to make money-until some of them had the wit to realize that these diversions were not only more entertaining as performances, and certainly more marketable, but somehow more authentically accomplished.
A Literature Without Qualities: American Writing Since 1945 by Warner Berthoff