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I pass a field on the way to work--or almost anywhere--that has been planted in sunflower seeds about about every other year. It's very lovely and cheerful for a time, but then becomes a scene of utter misery. Now every vestige of life has been removed from the field. Pretty soon it will be all over houses.

I'm going to have to go another way to work soon because the traffic on that two-lane road is going to be horrendous.


There are subtle hints in Ozu's movies about the occupation, and in one, the Father is talking to someone and mentions that his daughter has regained the strength she lost in the work camps.

The thing that really strikes me about the Ozu movies is that they chronicle the change from Eastern to Western dress and furniture and ways of life. The business world was very Western even before the war. You see this particularly in one of Ozu's pre-war silent films.

Good Morning, which is one of my favorites, takes place in a village, and you can see the initial resistance to and gradual acceptance of things like washing machines and television.

Yesterday, I watched a Chinese movie from director, Edward Wang, called Yi-Yi. It takes place in Taiwan, and you could easily have substituted Western actors for the Chinese and made no difference in the story whatsoever. Except for a bit of decoration, you would not have even know you were in an Eastern city. One thing I found interesting was that when the Chinese and Japanese business men were speaking to one another, they spoke English.The Typist

I am looking forward to reading


I'm not sure how The Typist leapt up into the previous line, but at least I didn't commit italics.


The same thing is happening around here with development--the fields turning into subdivisions, the roads getting more crowded. The automobile was just a big mistake. I like zipping around on my own as much as anybody, but it's a bad thing.

I haven't watched that many of Ozu's films--only two. The only reference to the war I remember is that one of the sons in Tokyo Story was killed in it.

"Dear Prudence" was very high on the list!

That list is like potato chips. I need to be working but I keep going back and reading one more entry.

I do like postmodern and post-postmodern literature, though I am not prepared to argue their merits beyond my enjoyment.

What is it? I mean, you're talking about fiction, right, not philosophy & criticism? Give me an example.

Right, fiction only for me. I think that Thomas Pynchon, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf ... are all good examples of postmodern fiction. They say that Tristram Shandy (Laurence Sterne) is the first example of postmodernism, even though it was written in the 18th century.

There are tropes such as: metafiction, magical realism, irony, black humor, etc. which are widespread in postmodern lit.

Post-postmodern are these new writers: David Foster Wallace, Dave Eggers, Jonathan Franzen, etc. Other than being "after" postmodernism, I'm not sure that post-postmodern has any real distinction.

I know. Once you have abandoned truth and reason, where do you go from there? Maybe back in the right direction, but I don't see much of that.

A novelist has to portray the truth of real things even if he doesn't intend to if he wants to have any story at all.


I think Catch-22 was the first truly postmodern piece of writing I was exposed to. It was all ironic deconstruction.

But Joyce and Woolf are counted among the great modernists. Or at least they used to be. Maybe they got retrofitted when postmodern became the thing. Pynchon and Heller, yeah, I can see them being labelled postmodern. The more recent ones I haven't read, though I know Wallace in particular is very highly regarded by some people whose judgment I respect.

There seems to be some mistake in that Beatles list. The #1 song is listed at #138.

#42 of the 213: "It turned out that nothing could withstand the force of the Beatles, not even the Beatles themselves." Very good line.

"The #1 song is listed at #138."

[cry of anguish]

I finally got through all 213. Of course I disagreed with a lot of the choices but overall I thought it wasn't bad. And a pretty good tour of the Beatles' work. I haven't heard a lot of that earlier stuff since the '60s, or in a few cases maybe never heard it at all.

Interesting Beatles list. I agree that with some very impressive exceptions the lyrics are not worth writing home about. I tend to like McCartney's fluffy stuff better than this guy.

Woolf is modernist not postmodernist

I don't think Joyce is, either. Especially not Ulysses, which is ultra-naturalistic, just executed in a very different way.

I don't necessarily dislike McCartney's lightweight stuff, but I certainly agreed with this guy about some of it. For instance "Rocky Racoon" which I pretty much hate.

It's cultural appropriation for postmodernists to claim Woolf and Joyce.

Oh. I agree about Rocky Raccoon and such ilk. It is for to play, though. Maybe i can do one of those things where you put Christin lyrics to a popular song.

I love Rocky Raccoon! I really love The White Album. I guess I need to review it so I can read all of Mac's ire. :)

Okay, maybe I don't know what Postmodern Literature is. I'll just listen to Rocky Raccoon again while having a cocktail!

Listening to Rocky Raccoon while having a cocktail would undoubtedly lead to another cocktail, so it wouldn't be all bad. :-)

Ok, I'll be gathering my negative thoughts for your review. Actually I was thinking last night that part of the negative feeling is the memory of the disappointment when it came out. Remember this was "real time" for me, unlike most of you. Expectations were really high.

Since I'm not a Beatles fanatic, some of the stuff in that 213 list about the circumstances at the time was new to me. The fact that they were pretty unhappy, fighting a lot, etc., sheds light on the sort of anxious, depressed vibe of the album.

Going back to Janet's comment from yesterday: "Once you have abandoned truth and reason, where do you go from there?"

For large elements of western civ, the answer seems to be "You roll over and die."

Even a Beatles fanatic back then would not have quite known what was going on, Mac. We keep thinking that "yesterday" was like "today" in that we know everything about everyone all the time - mostly with celebrities, of course.

While in Arizona I watched with a friend there 5 HOURS of an ESPN special on the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers and I was amazed at so many things I didn't know about those two teams in the 80s (Magic Johnson and Larry Bird). I was a big Celtics fan, watched everything I could, read everything I could in the Miami Herald newspaper. And yet ...

Different time periods. Hopefully my example makes sense. My brain may be ahead of my fingers ... another problem with the modern age!

Stu - in modernism the 'subject' is at the centre of things and that's how we get stream of consciousness novels - all about what's going on inside Mrs Dalloway etc.

In postmodernism the 'subject' is said not to exist, or be dissolved.

What a great definition, Grumpy. Thanks! That explains Pynchon, Barth, et al

"Even a Beatles fanatic back then would not have quite known what was going on, Mac. We keep thinking that "yesterday" was like "today"..."

No, "we" don't. :-) In the remark about Beatles fanatics knowing a lot I wasn't referring to the time of the albums's release, but to all the years since, with tons and tons of information coming out and which serious Beatles fans probably know all about. I mean I've never paid much attention to that flood of information.

I remember the years of the Beatles' heyday very clearly and we definitely didn't know what was going on. There were rumors ("Paul is dead!) and I guess there may have been some news stories suggesting problems, but not much that was specific or trustworthy. Though you could tell from listening to the album that all was not well--most of the songs were either obviously John songs or Paul songs, for instance, not much apparent collaboration.

I have never seen that picture of the young Beatles that's on the page with that list. I can't believe that because I had every magazine, every bubblegum card, every everything that came out about the Beatles.


Take it up with this guy, maybe?:


We keep thinking that "yesterday" was like "today" in that we know everything about everyone all the time - mostly with celebrities, of course.

We knew a heck of a lot, though, because they were all over TV on the nightly news, the morning shows, the late-night shows. My favorite was the news coverage of John and Yoko's "bed-in" in 1969.

But I didn't have a TV. I did hear about the bed-in and maybe saw a picture in a newspaper or magazine, but that was all. It's almost strange to recall now that if something appeared on TV and you missed it, it was gone. There was no way to access any sort of recording. Forget the internet--the VCR was yet to come.

Once you've abandoned truth and reason you cease to be able to talk with those who haven't about anything important. You after hermetically sealed one of my coworkers when I worked at a law firm was like that. He was new agey. He explicitly rejected reason as I white male European means of oppression.

I've ordered 'The Typist' from the library. I gave up on the current novel I was reading due to its unnecessary hyper-realism, of which more anon.

re: the Beatles, I think I've discovered a reason for my indifference, and it has to do with my age. I was born in 1961 and thus was a fairly young child throughout their heyday. I can remember my older cousins being smitten with some measure of Beatlemania, but I was a little too young.

By the time I started listening more seriously to music in the mid-70's the Beatles, while still loved by slightly older fans, were, like much 60's pop music, considered somewhat "out-of-date." And not enough time had gone by for them to be appreciated retrospectively like they would be by somewhat younger listeners.

I find this to be true of most of my friends. No one in the 50-59 age group is a Beatles fan. The fans are the guys who are 60+ (original fans) and younger than 50 (retro fans). So might we posit a sort of "Beatles gap" wherein people are too young to be part of the heyday, but too old to catch on retroactively?

For comparison sake, it's perhaps interesting to note that the first pop artist I liked and paid any real attention to was Elton John, and that this was his early stuff (1971-1975). By the time I entered high school in 1977 I was mostly listening to what they used to call AOR -- "album-oriented rock."

"He explicitly rejected reason as I white male European means of oppression."

I often hear this view attributed to certain academics and their fellow travelers, and can't help thinking it's an exaggeration. But I guess it's not. Aside from your testimony, right there in the Cambridge quote in the post. These people will certainly create a wonderful world if they really get control.:-/

Interesting thought about the Beatles gap. Makes sense. Possibly the general reaction that produced punk has something to do with it too.

Elton John--ugh. I did sort of like his first album, but it didn't take long for him to wear out his welcome completely for me, notwithstanding his gift for appealing tunes.

Interesting experience a few nights ago: watching the last episode of The Americans with captions on, with "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" on the soundtrack, I encountered, via the captions, lyrics beyond the title and something about a penthouse for the first time ever, despite the fact that I worked in a record store when it came out and heard it a hundred times. I never had one moment's curiosity about the lyrics, which I guess is indicative of the extent to which I'd written him off.

I will take this moment to express how GREAT the Elton John concert in Mobile was about a year and half ago (I think). I never thought I would see a 68 year old put on such an amazing show, in front of 10,000 people in this sleepy Southern town.

I want to thank you for that yellow brick earworm.


"Elton John--ugh."

Well, yeah, but don't forget that I liked him from about age 10 to age 14! The last song I can remember liking was "Someone Saved My Life Tonight," which came out in the summer of either '74 or '75. I didn't like 'Island Girl' much, and I pretty much stopped paying attention to him after that.

I still like some of those old tunes, but it's related more to nostalgia than anything else. I don't listen to them now like I listen to some of the other early 70's stuff I still like - America, Steely Dan, etc.

I freely admit that my dislike of EJ is completely subjective. It starts with the sound of his voice. Obviously he's very talented.

You're welcome, Janet. If it's any consolation, I have it too.

I'm 58. I became interested in the Beatles in 1974 when I started high school and a friend of mine was a fanatic. There is a small group of us Beatles gappers who did become fanatical.


A funny story. 2003 was the 100th anniversary of Harley-Davidson. Hundreds of thousands of Harleys descended upon Milwaukee. The noise was horrendous.

The celebration was to culminate in a huge concert where all the Harley riders would listen to a great group that epitomized Harleyism. The CEO chose the group, but kept it completely under wraps until the concert itself. You can see where this is going.

So, the lights came up and out came--Elton John!

There was almost a riot. You can hardly conceive of an artist whose ethos is so antithetical to Harleyism. It was a real dud at the end of an excited week.

I absolutely did not see where that was going, even though we were just talking about him. I was expecting Ted Nugent.

I have to say that it would not in the least surprise me to learn that H-D is active in gay rights etc etc. It's what corporations do now.

I mentioned above that I had stopped reading a novel due to its hyper-realism. It's called The Quickening Maze, by Adam Foulds, and is about the English poet John Clare and the brother of Alfred Tennyson, Septimus, who were apparently in the same insane asylum at the same time. I'm a great fan of Clare's poetry so I thought the novel might be interesting, especially since it received a lot of praise in the UK and was a Booker finalist.

Well, in the first 50 pages we get two rather crude and explicit references to oral sex, a three-page account of a mental patient receiving an enema, and an unnecessarily graphic account of the butchering of a deer.

My question is, why is this sort of repulsive detail necessary? Isn't simple basic realism good enough without going into all the "gory details"? If Clare in his insanity had a fixation on oral sex do you really have to describe it? Or can't you just say that another mental patient had an irrational fear of going to the bathroom, without describing in loving detail how the asylum staff had to deal with it? This is one aspect of modern literature I just don't get.


As promised, not in the least surprised.

Not surprised by the "hyper-realism", either. I mentioned The Americans earlier. In the same episode there's a scene where somebody is listening to a clandestine recording that's mostly useless irrelevant conversation. We see him fidgeting, pacing, etc., because he's bored. But we also see him going to the bathroom. Not just going in, but standing there urinating, and of course we get to hear it too. This is *extremely* frequent now. It's like the directors go out of their way to work it in. In another series, I'm not sure which one now, there was a scene where a conversation is taking place between a man and a woman who have just ******. "Made love" doesn't exactly desribe it. There's absolutely no artistic reason why part of the conversation has to take place with the woman sitting on the toilet, but there it is.

It seems self-evidently some kind of Statement, but I find myself unwilling to dwell on it long enough to try to figure it out.

I guess it's a good thing I never got around to writing a piece about Goodbye Yellowbrick Road.

Go ahead--just because I don't like it doesn't mean other people don't. Or can't. :-)

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is a great album! :)

I watched Silence last night, and though it was probably longer than it needed to be I thought it quite powerful. I was wondering if anyone had seen the 1971 Japanese version, since you all are big on Japanese movies. Scorsese did not show anyone relieving themselves.

No, there was no relief in Silence at all.


I am not convinced about the 'Beatles gap.' Certainly, as a 57 year old, I'm a bit unusual since I grew up listening to the Beatles in my mother's Greenwich Village shop. But in my 1970s English boarding school, a number of people had Beatles tapes and people listened to it. Certainly, it was not the biggest thing teenagers listened to it in the 1970s, but it was there and people liked it.

Elton John: my confession is that I never bought an EJ album in my teenage years because it was insufficiently grungy. I didn't like the sequins phase of pop music - I didn't like Bowie either. I liked Neil Young and grungy stuff. Today I get Pandora on my phone and I have to say I do enjoy EJ's songs. I enjoy 'I hope you don't mind' and 'Tiny Dancer' got stuck in my mind for ages.

Rob G wrote: My question is, why is this sort of repulsive detail necessary? Isn't simple basic realism good enough without going into all the "gory details"? If Clare in his insanity had a fixation on oral sex do you really have to describe it? Or can't you just say that another mental patient had an irrational fear of going to the bathroom, without describing in loving detail how the asylum staff had to deal with it? This is one aspect of modern literature I just don't get.

I once heard a good talk at a Stratford Caldecott Conference in Oxford about this. I hesitate to say the speaker was Debra Murphy, because she may have just been the only speaker on the bill whose name I recollect. Whoeveritwas gave a paper on hyper-realism, and said the direct purpose of it is to convince the reader by saturation that empirical reality is all there is. It was a kind of fictional vanguard of the new atheism, from the 1990s onward. I thought that was such a great point. If empirical reality is all there is, then describing every pork chop in a Butcher's window is just what a fiction writer needs to be doing.

Janet said that the agricultural land around her house is being turned into an estate. That happens so much in South Bend - its as if the town simply eats the land around it.

It happens around every town or city where people want to live. That's natural but the way life is organized around the automobile makes it very objectionable. Point B is ruined because it's between points A and C and people want to get back and forth between them easily. It really infuriates me to see people essentially lose their homes for the convenience of drivers.

That's a fascinating explication of hyper-realism. I had never heard the term before Rob used it here a while back.

I didn't like the glitter era of pop music, either, but EJ's association with that only sealed his fate for me, as I didn't much like him even before that side of him became prominent. I don't know..it's irrational and I can't really explain it, but somehow his music seemed unreal to me.

the main thing I remember of the explanation is that he did air piano to Lovely Rita.

This is telling us something about teaching with vivid illustrations.

the Butcher shop illustration is from a novel by Antonia Byatt.

Things have been going that way for some time. Joyce followed Bloom into the outhouse.

I would benefit from your father's explanation, probably. But I see there are about a hundred YouTube videos about it.

I have not seen Silence btw. I sort of feel like I don't need to because I've read so much about it.

"I am not convinced about the 'Beatles gap.'"

I'm thinking now that it might not just be an age-related thing, but also a social one, in that the gap wouldn't be as notable if you had older siblings, parents, etc., who influenced your listening. I was flying on my own so to speak, and in my adolescence the Beatles were just another 60's band that one heard on the radio from time to time.

That is a good explanation of hyper-realism, and I'd say it includes the modernist (post-modernist?) inability and/or unwillingness to differentiate between the beautiful and the ugly, the attractive and the repulsive, etc. -- the idea that beauty is a purely subjective category.

The idea was that the senses simply fill and saturate our experience, because sensation is all there is. But its a *saturation* with physical sensations that the new atheist hyper fiction writer is aiming for, as a way of showing that sensation literally fills the picture and there is nothing else. In a sense, it's not a subjectivist move. Its not showing that subjectivity or consciousness is all there is. Rather the reverse. All there is is this objective flow of empirical data into the recipient of empirical data.

Consciousness or subjectivity is all too close to a 'soul' for the hyper realist. But for this kind of naturalist, the subject receiving the sensations isn't what matters. Its the lamb chops with the white frilly paper in the Butcher shop window. Its a kind of photo-realism.

Photo-realism is the opposite of the subjectivism of, say, Impressionism or Virginia Woolf.

This is a naive question, I know, but: do the practitioners of this kind of fiction actually think in these terms? Or are they just following a fashion? It seems to me that to some degree this fits in with the "privileging" of the visual that's been a broad movement in both fiction and poetry for more than a century now.

I don't know much about art but had the impression that photo-realism was something of a reaction to abstraction.

Yes I think its very plausible that London based novelists like Antonia Byatt or Ian McEwan or (and perhaps especially, the most brilliant practitioner of hyper-realism that I have read) Hilary Mantel are deliberately presenting a naturalist and naturalized world. They know enough to do that.

I just substituted photo-realism so I didn't have to keep writing hyper realism

They knew what they were doing. England is a small place and London is smaller. Those writers would know each other and know people like Christopher Hitchens.

I was just thinking of Philip Roth as an American author who's doing the same -- "deliberately presenting a naturalist and naturalized world" -- and then found this article on him by A.S. Byatt, no less -- "The dying animal: In the post-religious world of Philip Roth's fiction, humans do not have immortal souls":

Philip Roth is the great recorder of Darwinian Man - "unaccommodated man", who is no more than "a poor, bare, forked animal", as old King Lear observed. Roth has understood what it means to be a conscious creature, driven by sexual desire towards the death of the body, nothing more.
More of that uplifting stuff here.

"In a sense, it's not a subjectivist move. Its not showing that subjectivity or consciousness is all there is. Rather the reverse. All there is is this objective flow of empirical data into the recipient of empirical data."

Right. But if it's all empirical then there can be nothing inherently different between the beautiful and the ugly. A materialism of that sort would seem to reduce to a working solipsism -- an aesthetic dead end which would be hard to differentiate from complete subjectivity, at least in its final result. Black metal ends up being equal to Bach, even if you get to that conclusion via a different route.

Hyper-realism is not necessarily a feature of post-modernism, then. The grand materialist-empiricist narrative doesn't fit with post=modernism if the latter is about subverting grand narratives of any sort. The aesthetic leveling (black metal = Bach) is another story. But there are strains of modernism that could very easily accomodate that (Dada etc.)

Yes, Marianne, when I read Ron's post about hyper-realism, I immediately thought of Roth. Portnoy's Complaint was, I think, my first experience of anything like that.


I just read the Roth review that Marianne linked to. Wow, I can't wait to read that novel. :-/

"The aesthetic leveling (black metal = Bach) is another story. But there are strains of modernism that could very easily accomodate that (Dada etc.)"

True -- there has been a fair amount of discussion over the years about whether postmodernism represents a break from modernism or is simply modernism gone to seed. It seems to be both, but it clearly varies in the way it plays itself out in relation to modernity's different elements.

My first exposure to that sort of extreme realism was in some of the horror fiction I read in the 80's (Stephen King, Peter Straub, etc.). At the time I didn't give it much thought, assuming that it was just part of the territory. As time went on, however, I grew to dislike it, and eventually learned to avoid authors who wrote that way.

What surprised me was coming across that sort of writing later on in contemporary literary fiction. I think my first exposure in that vein was in one of Pat Barker's novels from the 90's. I didn't read a lot of contemporary fiction at the time, and coming across that in Barker's work was an eye-opener.

Without taking the time to actually analyze it, this whole hyper-realism thing reminds me of Swift. Like "The lady's dressing room."

What makes literary fiction so interesting is the author presenting a different worldview for the reader (I think). I am a huge Philip Roth fan, along with Saul Bellow and John Updike. They are all similar, and different, sexual themes along with religious themes. A New Jersey Jew, Chicago/Canadian Jew, and Northeastern WASP. You don't find a lot of women who read them, but in my recent trip out to NM a female friend of mine had almost an entire shelf of Roth! ????

I haven't read much of any of those, mainly because I wasn't much taken by what I did read.

I'm very much inclined to think that postmodernism is just the last exhausted phase of modernism.

I think the "cloacal obsession" which some judge attributed to Joyce in Ulysses (I think)--the determination to include excretory details--is somewhat distinct from hyper-realism in general. As in the Swift poem, it's not just a desire to include all the data, it's also specifically a desire to shock or startle, though at this point the effect is fairly mild. I feel pretty sure that that's part of the intent in tv an movies anyway.

I love Bellow - one of the greats. To me, certainly he has a lot of sexual themes, but its not comparable to Roth banging on and on and about oral sex.

I've read either two or three of Bellow's, can't remember for sure, and wasn't enthusiastic. No real objection, but they seemed sort of colorless. I would probably like Updike better if I gave him more of a chance (Stu mentioned him, too). I like some of his early short stories a lot.

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