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Constructing Postmodernism.

Brian McHale owns postmodernism: his 1987 book Postmodernist Fiction remains the best introduction to this slippery term and the multitude of devices and strategies it encompasses, and now comes Constructing Postmodernism, which refines and extends the arguments of the earlier book and offers exemplary readings of a variety of problematic postmodern novels. As his title indicates, defining "postmodernism" is a project always under construction, never finished, and any critic's definition of the term is to be judged by how accurately it recognizes the historic continuum of which any novel is a part (no text is an island) and by how useful that definition is in allowing the critic to say interesting things about a work. McHale rigorously tests earlier definitions - finding Dick Higgins's little-known version more coherent than John Barth's better-known one - but isn't so dogmatic as to dismiss anything that's useful in earlier formulations.

Two introductory chapters are followed by readings of Ulysses, Gravity's Rainbow, Vineland, The Name of the Rose, Foucault's Pendulum, Women and Men, and the novels of Christine Brooke-Rose. Two chapters on cyberpunk fiction conclude the book. (Most of these chapters appeared first in literary journals, but all have been revised for the book.) In the text and in the notes, McHale makes reference to a huge number of other novels; this is so heartening at a time when most critics seem to read only other critics, and even the best-read among us will have several interesting novels to explore thanks to McHale's voracious reading. For once, the publisher's prediction on the back cover is accurate: "Constructing Postmodernism will be essential reading for all students of contemporary literature and culture."
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Author:Moore, Steven
Publication:The Review of Contemporary Fiction
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1993
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