The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon is a postmodernist novella, published in 1966. The protagonist is Oedipa Maas who unearths the centuries-old conflict between two mail distribution companies, Thurn und Taxis and the Trystero (or Tristero). The former actually existed and was the first firm to distribute postal mail; the latter is Pynchon’s invention.
Wittgenstein’s Mistress by David Markson is one of the strangest novels that I have read in recent times. It is a monologue by a woman who is the epitome of the unreliable narrator. There are numerous allusions o culture, both high and low. It is a bizarre book but entertaining. It also draws on feminist issues of daughters and sons who have been erased by history.
“One’s language is frequently imprecise in that manner, I have discovered.
Actually, the story of Turner being lashed to the mast reminds me of something, even though I cannot remember what it reminds me of.” (12)
“I am not particularly happy about this new habit of saying things that I have very little idea what I mean by saying, to tell the truth” (58). Continue reading
The term ‘postmodernism’ “is more strongly based on a negation of the modern, a perceived abandonment, break with or shift away from the definitive features of the modern, with the emphasis firmly on the sense of the relational move away” (3).
“The French use of modernite points to the experience of modernity in which modernity is viewed as a quality of modern life inducing a sense of the discontinuity of time, the break with tradition, the feeling of novelty and sensitivity to the ephemeral, fleeting and contingent nature of the present” (4).
Jameson: “the transformation of reality into images and the fragmentation of time into a series of perpetual presents” (5). Identifies (1984b) two basic features of postmodernism as (1) the transformation of reality into images and (2) a schizophrenic fragmentation of time into a series of perpetual presents” (42).
We should “focus upon the actual cultural practices and changing power balances of those groups engaged in the production, classification, circulation and consumption of postmodern cultural goods´(5).
The Great Indian Novel by Shashi Tharoor is a retelling of the Mahabharata in the context of the Indian political scenario, roughly from before Independence till about the middle of the 1980s.
Incidents and characters in Mahabharata that appear: Jayprakah Drona (Minister of State for Adminstrative Reform) and his son, Aswathaman; shooting the target and other ideas as shown by Arjun (here, an English politician), Eklavya but refuses to cut off his thumb (“I’m sorry, sir, but I cannot destroy my life and my mother’s to pay your fee” (199)); Draupadi as Draupadi Mokrasi; the exile of the Pandavas (292 onwards), Hidimba, and Draupadi’s swayamvar, and game of dice.
English language by Sir Richard, “these native languages don’t really have much to them, you know. And it’s not as if you have to write poetry in them. A few crucial words, sufficient English for ballast, and you’re sailing smoothly” (37).
“There is, in short, Ganapathi, no end to the story of life. There are merely pauses. The end is the arbitrary invention of the teller, but there can be no finality about his choice. Today’s end is, after all, only tomorrow’s beginning.” (163)
“We are all in a state of continual disturbance, all stumbling and tripping and running and floating along from crisis to crisis. And in the process, we are all making something of ourselves, building a life, a character, a tradition that emerges from and sustains us in each succeeding crisis. This is our dharma.
Throughout this unpredictable and often painful process of self-renewal, despite the abrupt stops and starts of the cosmic cycle, the forces of destiny remain unshaken in their purpose. They are never thwarted by the jolting and jarring of history’s chariots. The vehicles of human politics seem to run off course, but the site of the accident turns out to have been the intended destination. The hopes and plans of millions seem to have been betrayed, but the calamity turns out to have been ordained all along. That is how a nation’s regeneration proceeds, Ganapathi, with several bangs to every whimper.” (245)
Shashi Tharoor, The Great indian Novel
Cloud Atlas (2004) by David Mitchell is a postmodernist novel that has been adapted into a film.
Postmodernist themes: different narrators and narrative techniques (journal writing, letters, mystery-novel, and interview; also newspaper clippings), simulacra and simulation, intertextuality (the stories are interconnected and mentioned), allusions (real and imaginary) to other literary works, consumerism (Sonmi narrative) and historicizing the characters.
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel is a graphic novel memoir of the author, set in rural Pennsylvania. It focuses on Bechdel’s relationship with her father, Bruce, who was killed by a truck on July 2, 1980 when he was crossing the road. There are different versions of this story, an element of alternate endings, a postmodernist feature. The versions include that Bruce committed suicide by purposely putting himself in front of the truck, and that something startled him and he jumped backwards to be hit; he may have been startled at the sight of a snake, one that she had once seen in the woods when she was a child.