David Foster Wallace on Postmodernism

Friday, 8th February, 2013

Oh, yes,yes,yes!! This says just what I wanted to say about Postmodernism (but 20 years before I thought it!). Do you agree or disagree?

lifted from:


A Conversation with David Foster Wallace
From "The Review of Contemporary Fiction," Summer 1993, Vol. 13.2

By Larry McCaffery

DFW: This is a double-edged sword, our bequest from the early postmodernists and the post-structuralist critics. One the one hand, there’s sort of an embarrassment of riches for young writers now. Most of the old cinctures and constraints that used to exist—censorship of content is a blatant example—have been driven off the field. Writers today can do more or less whatever we want. But on the other hand, since everybody can do pretty much whatever they want, without boundaries to define them or constraints to struggle against, you get this continual avant-garde rush forward without anyone bothering to speculate on the destination, the "goal" of the forward rush.

DFW: For me, the last few years of the postmodern era have seemed a bit like the way you feel when you’re in high school and your parents go on a trip, and you throw a party. You get all your friends over and throw this wild disgusting fabulous party. For a while it’s great, free and freeing, parental authority gone and overthrown, a cat’s-away-let’s-play Dionysian revel. But then time passes and the party gets louder and louder, and you run out of drugs, and nobody’s got any money for more drugs, and things get broken and spilled, and there’s a cigarette burn on the couch, and you’re the host and it’s your house too, and you gradually start wishing your parents would come back and restore some fucking order in your house. It’s not a perfect analogy, but the sense I get of my generation of writers and intellectuals or whatever is that it’s 3:00 A.M. and the couch has several burn-holes and somebody’s thrown up in the umbrella stand and we’re wishing the revel would end. The postmodern founders’ patricidal work was great, but patricide produces orphans [what about mothers? HH], and no amount of revelry can make up for the fact that writers my age have been literary orphans throughout our formative years. We’re kind of wishing some parents would come back. And of course we’re uneasy about the fact that we wish they’d come back–I mean, what’s wrong with us? Are we total pussies? [don't be a dork man HH] Is there something about authority and limits we actually need? And then the uneasiest feeling of all, as we start gradually to realize that parents in fact aren’t ever coming back–which means “we’re” going to have to be the parents.

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Iiiiiinteresting. I will have to ponder further.

In 1987 I started a Master of Arts at Canterbury in English literature: luckily before the first month was out - when you can drop courses without permanently tarnishing your academic record - I'd met Messrs Derrida and Foucault, then somehow managed to trip over the feminist studies department, and decided prudence lay in leaving quietly (unfortunately falling mistakenly into accountancy degrees). The slipperiness of language in the pen of an artist is a great thing; in the hands of that lot, a dead end. Random thoughts. You're still beating me in the damned blog stats despite a completely disproportionate effort ;)