This week, a colleague asked me for novel recommendations (sic) of postmodern literature. But what is postmodern literature in 2021? Characters aware of a narrative while doing lots of self-reflection? Surviving late capitalism? Bafflement? Malaise?
I’ve seen Clarke’s Piranesi on a list of postmodern novels, along with books by Rushdie, Egan, Mitchell, and Whitehead. I look at such a list, though, and think: “Isn’t that just ‘literary fiction or literary sci-fi’?” And then I post-modernly step back from my question and wonder what I’ve just done to the rest of fiction and sci-fi by excluding it from being literary.
After reflecting on these, I reviewed my running list of books I’ve read, and thought, “Why don’t I recommend what assumes the reader is going to participate in some meaning-making, while the author has crafted a modern world that may not be quite real (or is hyper-real), while characters have some sense of something being off?”
And here’s a short list of recommendations for my colleague, in no particular order:
- Observatory Mansions – Edward Carey
- Trash – Andy Mulligan
- Sweetland – Michael Crummey
- She Weeps Each Time You’re Born – Quan Barry
- The Dream of My Return – Horacio Castellanos Moya
- Love Slaves of Helen Hadley Hall – James Magruder
- My Year of Rest and Relaxation – Ottessa Moshfegh
- A Cure for Suicide – Jesse Ball
- This Town Sleeps – Dennis E. Staples
- My Cat Yugoslavia – Pajtim Statovci
Would you consider the above books postmodern? Are we already in the neomodern literary movement, and that’s where some of these land? Let me know, here or elsewhere.
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