So we're wrapping up in class tomorrow, and I'm trying to anticipate how we might pull all the books together. I think that the whole idea of World War II as a focal point for post modern novels is a cool one to discuss, but what I really want to know is what is POST post modern? Is Cryptonomicon post post modern in its linearity? And why are the critical texts of post modernism all so long?
I ran accross this quote in an article I was reading called "Aesthetics and Post-Politics" and it reminded me of the highway killer scenes from Underworld, as well as the general topic of techo-media culture in all the books: "Like the video game, a clip completely constructs its reference; it does not produce its estrangment form the concrete particular by abstraction but rather through recourse to fragmentation and to what could be called simulated narrative. This refers to syntax of fragments that operates as if they were narration without really being it, not because they openly negate narrative diegesis but because they present an action that lackds both progession and repetition, overall structure and indivudal characters, spatial-temporal relationships or the negation of these, and a hypotactic system or any other kind of subordination.
I've just thought of another way in which all four of these novels are connected. There seems to be a running motif of murder and violent attack, but the kind of attack that's unexpected and unprovoked. Reading about the Digibomber (and the Finn That Got Blown Up) reminded me of the Texas Highway Killer, which made me think of the A.F.R. and other Quebecois terrorists, and, to a lesser extent, the random and violent nature of the V2. Since all of these novels also deal in some way with war, I find all these instances of violence occurring close to home and without warning terribly fascinati
This is a fascinating update on black baseball players. It is 60 years since Jackie Robinson and yet, for all sorts of reasons, only 9% of MLB players are black. Any sharedness of baseball that DeLillo may have been suggesting (Cotter and Waterson or Nick and Sims) is vastly diminished in today's version of the game. Not only are there few black players, there are only 2 black managers, few front office types, and a dwindling fan base. Two teams, the Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves, have 0 black players. There are more players from the Dominican (81) than African Americans (68) and the MLB invests 5 or 6 times more money in player/youth development programs in Latin America than in the urban U.S.
I was captured by the Lenny Bruce line "We're all gonna die" and its inverse.
I've been reading a few papers recently about the role of the comedian Lenny Bruce in Underworld (woohoo! finally feeling inspired), and switched gears for my paper.
According to Elizabeth Rosen's paper, "Lenny Bruce and His Nuclear Shadow Marvin Lundy: Don DeLillo's Apocalyptists Extraordinaires" (2006), DeLillo's descriptions of Bruce are spot-on stylistically but not historically. Rowan's thesis is that DeLillo has created a 'historically inaccurate' Bruce shouting the line "We're all gonna die!" in response to the Cuban Missile Crisis to support the apocalyptic tone as a prophet figure.
I noticed that Nick's character bothered me more and more as I went on through the novel. I feel like I would have been fine with him and his act if it hadn't been for his years in prison and at the Jesuit school, where he seemed legitimately repentant and as if he would mature more softly. After examining his whole arc, as an acting, calloused middle-aged guy and basically and asshole kid, I was confused by what DeLillo intended by his Jesuit years.
On page 805 Nick mentions that "they are making synthetic feces in Dallas. They have perfected a form of simulated waste in order to test diapers and other protective garments. The compound comes in a dry mix made of starches, fibers,resins, gelatins, and polyvinyls. You add water for desired consistency. The color is usually brown". Earlier on the blogs we were talking about one's fecal matter being the most private, individual thing. We keep it secret because of what it says about ourselves. However, what does this mean about society nowadays if our most secret part of ourselves-- something that makes us us-- can now be made with powder and water?
In class we've talked a lot about things that are defined solely by the abscence of something else. I suggested that J Edgar Hoover likes his white room because he knows that black exists, which only makes his room whiter in comparison--that white only exists because black exists. On page 699, Rosemary is speaking about what it was like when Jimmy left the family. "The trick was, the thing was he was not the center of the family when he was here. She was the center, the still center, the strength. Now that he was gone, she could no longer make herself feel still, or especially central. Jimmy was central now.
I thought it was really interesting how DeLillo explicity connects Sister Edgar and J. Edgar Hoover as "Sister and Brother. A fantasy in cyberspace and a way of seeing the other side and a settling of differences that have less to do with gender than with difference itself, all argument, all conflict programmed out." Both characters exist in insular worlds without outside contact, yet cyberspace ultimately links them together albeit as only a "single fluctuating impulse now, a piece of coded information" (826). I'm not entirely sure as to what DeLillo means, but the ending seems very ambivalent, maybe intentionally so in order to mirror the increasing lack of a divide between what he calls cyberspace and the world.
I found the section that finally describes how and when Nick killed to be surprisingly disturbing and haunting. It starts on page 778 and ends right before the epilouge of the book. This scene is supposed to be the climax of the novel, even though it happened before most of the action. Underworld does follows the classic structure of a novel (intro, rising action, climax, falling action, conclusion), except for the movement of time.
Anyway, I think this is probably the most emotional scene in the book, which would make sense as this is what forms Nick's character and estranges him from his brother, and makes him a "country of one". The description of George, "the little brightness in his eye", is startling. And obviously we ask- did he want to die? Was he playing Russian roulette- almost daring Nick to pull the trigger? Certainly seems like that, and Nick thinks so too. The repetition of "the way the man said no when he asked if it was loaded" and "first he poined the gun at the man's head" simulates Nick's thoughts- over and over and over- what just happened? This section is very well written and it shows more personality insight than we get in most of the rest of the book.