POSTMODERNISM AND LITERATURE (or: WORD SALAD DAYS, 1960-90) BARRY LEWIS

POSTMODERNISM AND LITERATURE (or: WORD SALAD DAYS, 1960-90)
BARRY LEWIS

The dominant mode of literature between 1960 and 1990 was postmodernist writing. Afew inaugural and closing events can be aligned with these dates (give or take a year or soeither way).
The assassination of John F. Kennedy […].
The erection and demolition of the Berlin Wall.
Philip Roth's essay 'Writing American Fiction' (1961) and Tom Wolfe's'Stalking the Billion-Footed Beast: A Literary Manifesto for the New Social Novel' (1989).
The killing of Kennedy, and […] provided two sinister book-ends for a period of history that was rife withterrorism and doubt. The Berlin Wall was the most potent symbol of the Cold War and itsaccompanying suspicion. This was a world uneasy with  rapid technological change and ideological uncertainties.
The essays by Roth and Wolfe indicate how literature responded to this climate. Roth's piece declared that the daily news was more absurd than anything fiction could render.This gave hundreds of novelists the go-ahead to experiment with fantasy and self-consciousness. Wolfe's manifesto, on the other hand, was a rallying-cry for a return to realism. He claimed that postmodernist novelists had neglected the task of representing the  complex life of the city. His own work Bonfire of the Vanities (1988) was an attempt toredress  the balance by applying the journalistic methods of Balzac and Thackeray to the urban New York jungle.
Another plausible set of benchmarks for this postmodern period involves Naked Lunch(1962) by William Burroughs, a novel that challenged every norm of narrative unity anddecorum upon its original French publication in 1959. The Boston Superior Court createda sensation when it concluded that the book's portrayal of the hallucinations of a drugaddict was nasty and brutish (and not particularly short). Few
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eyelids were batted, however, in 1992 at the release of the feature film Naked Lunch(directed by David Cronenberg). Despite its lurid depiction of talking anuses and virulentcockroaches, the movie met with apathy and not apoplexy, disdain and not disgust. This suggests not only a rise in schlock- tolerance levels, but also a change in attitudes towardstransgressive fictional forms.
Indeed, the aura formerly attached to the avantgarde is now fading. When an offbeat television series such as David Lynch's Twin Peaks is as popular as Peyton Place was in itsday, it is certain that the demarcation between mainstream and fringe art has eroded. Theprinted word can no longer compete with the visual media as far as surrealism isconcerned.
Is, then, the literature of exhaustion (John Barth's phrase for the lastgasp attempt of thenovel to achieve preeminence in the electronic global village) now itself exhausted? DeVillo Sloan, in his essay 'The Decline of American Postmodernism' (1987) thinks it is:'Postmodernism as a literary movement…is now in its final phase of decadence'. MalcolmBradbury and Richard Ruland, in their sweeping survey From Puritanism toPostmodernism (1991) think so too: 'Postmodernism now looks like a stylistic phase thatran from the 1960s to the 1980s.' Therefore a large proportion of writing published after1990 which is dubbed 'postmodernist' is really 'post-postmodernist', or 'post-pomo' forshort.
Bradbury has done much to chart the territory and promulgate the perception ofpost-1960s writing as a self-contained period. He admits that the problems of mappingcontemporary literature are considerable, and that its diversity presents problems for thewould-be cartographer. Postmodernism is, of course, only part of the total landscape, butlike a mountain-range it looms over everything else, and plodding over its peaks andvalleys is no easy task. Luckily there have been other intrepid explorers whose treks canassist our tours of its contours and reliefs. The most useful guides are Patricia Waugh'sMetafiction (1984), Larry McCaffery's Postmodern Fiction (1986) and Brian McHale'sPostmodernist Fiction (1987). Also aiding orientation are dozens of more local sketches ofindividual writers and their works.
Postmodernist fiction is an international phenomenon, with major representatives from allover the world: Günter Grass and Peter Handke (Germany); Georges Perec and MoniqueWittig (France); Umberto Eco and Italo Calvino (Italy); Angela Carter and SalmanRushdie (Britain); Stanislaw Lem (Poland); Milan Kundera (former Czechoslovakia); Mario Vargos Llosa (Peru); Gabriel Garcia Márquez
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(Colombia); J.M. Coetzee (South Africa); and Peter Carey (Australia). Yet, despite thiscosmopolitanism, Malcolm Bradbury has quipped that 'When something calledpostmodernism came along everyone thought it was American-even though its writershad names like Borges, Nabokov, Calvino and Eco.' This is because the number ofStateside writers who can be placed under the postmodernist rubric is large. Here are twenty names usually included in such lists:
Walter Abish    Raymond Federman
Kathy Acker    William Gass
Paul Auster    Steve Katz
John Barth    Jerzy Kosinski
Donald Barthelme    Joseph McElroy
Richard Brautigan    Thomas Pynchon
William Burroughs    Ishmael Reed
Robert Coover    Gilbert Sorrentino
Don DeLillo    Ronald Sukenick
E.L. Doctorow    Kurt Vonnegut
Raymond Federman states in 'Self-Reflexive Fiction' (1988), that 'it cannot be said thatthese writers…formed a unified movement for which a coherent theory could beformulated'. It is difficult to disagree with this, as the novels and short stories of theseauthors vary a great deal. However, they do have certain things in common. Some of thedominant features of their postmodernist fiction include: temporal disorder; the erosion ofthe sense of time; a pervasive and pointless use of pastiche; a foregrounding of words asfragmenting material signs; the loose association of ideas; paranoia; and vicious circles,or a loss of distinction between logically separate levels of discourse. Traits such as theseare encountered time and time again in the bare, bewildering landscapes of contemporaryfiction. John W. Aldridge puts it like this in The American Novel and the Way We LiveNow (1983):
In the fiction of [postmodernist writers]…virtually everything and everyone exists in such a radical state of distortion and aberration that there is no way of determining from which conditions in the real world they have beenderived or from  what standard of sanity they may be said to depart. The conventions of verisimilitude and sanity have been nullified. Characters inhabit a dimension of structureless being in which their behaviour becomes inexplicably arbitrary and unjudgeable because the fiction itself stands as ametaphor of a derangement that is seemingly without provocation andbeyond measurement.
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The following brief survey will concentrate on the characteristic derangements of contemporary novels and short stories. Postmodernism has influenced all the literaryforms. Yet, as Chris  Baldick observes in The Concise Oxford Dictionary of LiteraryTerms, '[it] seems to have no relevance to modern poetry, and little to drama, but is usedwidely in reference to fiction'. For this reason, this introduction will focus onpostmodernist fiction, although it is possible to find many of the features it discerns inother types of contemporary writing.

TEMPORAL DISORDER
Postmodernism, according to Linda Hutcheon in A Poetics of Postmodernism: History,Theory,  Fiction (1988), is a 'contradictory enterprise: its art forms…use and abuse, install and then  destabilize convention…[in] their critical or ironic re-reading of the art of thepast'. She argues further that postmodernist writing is best represented by those works of'historiographic metafiction' which self-consciously distort history. This can beaccomplished by several means, as Brian McHale notes in the study mentioned earlier: apocryphal history, anachronism, or the blending of history and fantasy.
Apocryphal history involves bogus accounts of famous events. Take Kazuo Ishiguro's TheRemains of the Day (1989). This novel implies that a butler in a stately home played asmall but significant role in the appeasement policy adopted by Britain towards Germanybefore the Second World War. Anachronism disrupts temporal order by flaunting glaringinconsistencies of detail or setting. In Flight to Canada (1976) by Ishmael Reed, AbrahamLincoln uses a telephone, and his assassination is reported on television. Tom Crick, aschoolteacher in Graham Swift's Waterland (1983), blurs history and fantasy bycombining his account of the French Revolution with personal reminiscences andunsubstantiated anecdotes about his own family history.
Postmodernist fiction does not just disrupt the past, but corrupts the present too. Itdisorders the linear coherence of narrative by warping the sense of significant time, kairos,or the dull passing of ordinary time, chronos. Kairos is strongly associated with thosemodernist novels which are disposed around moments of epiphany and disclosure, such asJames Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916). Postmodernist novels suchas Gerald's Party (1986) by Robert Coover chuckle at such solemnities. The sheerabundance of incidents that occur over one night (several murders and beatings, thetorture of Gerald's wife by the police, and the arrival of an entire theatre group)
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distends time beyond recognition. Realist writing specialises in chronos, orcommon-or-garden clock time, and this too is ridiculed in some postmodernist texts.Nicholson Baker's The Mezzanine (1990), for instance, comprises a series of extendedmeditations on why the central  character's shoelace snapped during one particular lunch time.
Postmodernist writing is full of these kinds of temporal disorder. As Coover writes in ThePublic Burning (1977), 'history does not repeat… there are no precognitions-and out inthat flow all such assertions may be true, false, inconsequential, or all at the same time'.Or, as Inspector Pardew, a character from Gerald's Party, remarks about time: 'It's thekey to it all, it always is, the key to everything!'

PASTICHE
The Italian word pasticcio means 'A medley of various ingredients: a hotchpotch, afarrago, jumble' (OED), and is the etymological root of the word 'pastiche'. Pastiching anindividual writer is rather like creating an anagram, not of letters, but of the componentsof a style. Pastiche is therefore a kind of permutation, a shuffling of generic andgrammatical tics.
The mere presence of pastiche in postmodernist writing is not in itself unique. The infancyof the novel form itself was marked by a succession of parodies, from Samuel Richardsonto Laurence Sterne. Yet as John Barth points out in his essay The Literature ofExhaustion' (1967) and its sequel 'The Literature of Replenishment' (1980), there iscertainly something peculiar and distinctive about the contemporary mania for impersonation.
Barth's earlier essay epitomizes a mood in the late 1960s, when critics such as SusanSontag were busy greatly exaggerating rumours about the death of the novel. Thetraditional devices of fiction seemed clapped-out, unable to capture the complexities of theelectronic age. At first it was thought that Barth, by stressing the exhaustion of both realism and modernism, had not only joined the novel's funeral procession, but wasvolunteering to be chief pall-bearer. However, the critics overlooked his claim (reassertedin the later essay) that the corpse could be revivified by stitching together the amputatedlimbs and digits in new permutations: by pastiche, in other words.
Pastiche, then, arises from the frustration that everything has been done before. As Fredric Jameson notes in 'Postmodernism and Consumer Society' (1983), 'the writers and artistsof the present day will no longer be able to invent new styles and worlds…only a limited
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number of combinations are possible; the most unique ones have been thought of already'.So instead of honing an unmistakable signature like D.H. Lawrence or Gertrude Stein, postmodernist  writers tend to pluck existing styles higgledy-piggledy from the reservoir ofliterary history, and match them with little tact.
This explains why many contemporary novels borrow the clothes of different forms (for example: the western, the sci-fi yarn and the detective tale). The impulse behind thiscross-dressing is more spasmodic than parodic. These genres provide ready-made forms,ideal for postmodernist miscegenation. The western, as Philip French observes, is 'ahungry cuckoo of a genre…ready to seize anything that's in the air from juveniledelinquency to ecology'. In other words, it is already a bastardized form. Examples of thepostmodern western include The Hawkline Monster (1974) by Richard Brautigan, YellowBack Radio Broke-Down (1969) by Ishmael Reed, and The Place of Dead Roads (1984) byWilliam Burroughs. Science-fiction is another popular source for postmodernist pastiche.Some critics assert that it is the natural companion to postmodernist writing, because oftheir shared ontological occupations. (See especially Solaris (1961) by Stanislaw Lem,Cosmicomics (1965) by Italo Calvino, and Slaughterhouse-Five (1969) by KurtVonnegut.) Lastly, the detective genre is another candidate for the post of truecompanion of postmodernism. The pursuit of clues appeals to the postmodernist writerbecause it so closely parallels the hunt for textualmeaning by the reader. The mostpopular postmodernist detective fictions are The Name of the Rose (1984) by UmbertoEco, The New York Trilogy (1987) by Paul Auster and Hawksmoor (1985) by PeterAckroyd.

FRAGMENTATION
John Hawkes once divulged that when he began to write he assumed that 'the true enemies of the novel were plot, character, setting and theme'. Certainly many subsequentauthors have done their best to sledgehammer these four literary cornerstones intooblivion. Either plot is pounded into small slabs of event and circumstance, charactersdisintegrate into a bundle of twitching desires, settings are little more than transitorybackdrops, or themes become so attenuated that it is often comically inaccurate to saythat certain novels are 'about' such-and-such.
'Too many times, ' as Jonathan Baumbach observes in a short story in The Return ofService (1979), 'you read a story nowadays and it's not a story at all, not in te traditionalsense.'
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The postmodernist writer distrusts the wholeness and completion associated withtraditional stories, and prefers to deal with other ways of structuring narrative. Onealternative is the multiple ending, which resists closure by offering numerous possibleoutcomes for a plot. The French Lieutenant's Woman (1969) by John Fowles is the classicinstance of this. The novel concerns the love of respectable amateur naturalist CharlesSmithson (engaged to the daughter of a wealthy trader) for Sarah Woodruff, an outcastrumoured to have been scandalously involved with a French lieutenant. Although thebook is set in Lyme Regis in 1867, and follows several love story conventions, it is far frombeing a regular historical romance.
Fowles disrupts the narrative by parading his familiarity with Marx, Darwin and others.He directly addresses the reader, and even at one stage steps into the story himself as acharacter. The multiple endings are a part of these guerrilla tactics. Fowles refuses tochoose between two competing dénouements: one in which Charles and Sarah arereunited after a stormy affair, and the other in which they are kept irrevocably apart. Hetherefore introduces an uncertainty principle into the book. He even dallies with a thirdpossibility of leaving Charles on the train, searching for Sarah in the capital: 'But theconventions of Victorian fiction allow, allowed no place for the open, the inconclusive…'
Another means of allowing place for the open and inconclusive is by breaking up the textinto short fragments or sections, separated by space, titles, numbers or symbols. Thenovels and short stories of Richard Brautigan and Donald Barthelme are full of such fragments. Some authors go even further and fragment the very fabric of the text with illustrations, typography, or mixed media. As Raymond Federman puts it in theintroduction to Surfiction: Fiction Now…and Tomorrow (1975): 'In those spaces wherethere is nothing to write, the fiction writer can, at any time, introduce material(quotations, pictures, diagrams, charts, designs, pieces of other discourses, etc.) totallyunrelated to the story.'
Willie Masters' Lonesome Wife (1967) by William Gass does just about all these things inits  sixty odd  pages, and is a postmodernist text par excellence. The pages themselves comein four different colours: jotter blue, khaki green, strawberry red and glossy white. Thenude woman lounging full-frontal on the title-page is Babs. She is a frustrated spouse whofiguratively embodies the language/lovemaking  equation examined by Gass. The layout isso eccentric it might have been designed by Marshall McLuhan on mescaline. Multipletypefaces (bold,
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italic), fonts (Gothic, script), characters (musical symbols, accents), and miscellaneousarrangements (columns, footnotes) jostle for air alongside some visual jokes (coffee-cupstains, huge asterisk). In a review, Ronald Sukenick called it 'a cloudburst of fragmentedevents'. 'Monsoon' is nearer the mark.
With works such as these by Fowles, Brautigan, Barthelme and Gass it is difficult not to bereminded of the famous epigraph to E.M. Forster's Howards End: 'Live in fragments nolonger. Only connect…' We can counterpoint this with an utterance by a character inBarthelme's 'See the Moon?' from Unspeakable Practices. Unnatural Acts (1968):'Fragments are the only forms I trust'  These two statements evince a crucial differencebetween modernism and postmodernism. The Forster phrase could almost be modernism'smotto, as it points to the need to find new forms of continuity in the absence of the oldlinear plots. Conversely, Barthelme's gem hints at postmodernist fiction's wariness ofwholeness.

LOOSENESS OF ASSOCIATION
Another means by which many postmodernist writers disrupt the smooth production andreception of texts is by welcoming chance into the compositional process. The infamousThe Unfortunates (1969) by B.S. Johnson, for instance, is a novel-in-a-box which instructs the reader to riffle several loose-leaf chapters into any order. Only the first and last chapter are denominated, otherwise the sections can be freely mixed. The point of thiscontrived format is not just to perform a cold, technical experiment. Rather, Johnsonwishes to recreate the unique disposition of his thoughts on a particular Saturdayafternoon, when reporting a football match in Nottingham for the Observer. It was thefirst time he had returned to the city since the death of his friend, Tony. The peculiar formof the novel mirrors his churning feelings. So, ironically, the loose-leaves of TheUnfortunates are not intended to be random at all, but strive to render the workings of themind more naturally.
William Burroughs also forays frequently into serendipity. The arrangement of thetwenty-two individual sections of Naked Lunch (1962) was regulated solely by theadventitious order in which they happened to be sent to the publishers. Indeed, theuntidiness of the room in which the manuscript was assembled sometimes disturbed thesequence of pages. Small wonder that Burroughs confessed that 'You can cut into NakedLunch at any intersection point'. Burroughs wields chance less randomly in three novelsfrom the 1960s which are often
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grouped together as a trilogy: Nova Express (1966), The Soft Machine (1967) and TheTicket That Exploded (1967). These books make methodical use of the cut-up. The cut-upis the brainchild of the artist Tristan Tzara, who envisaged it as a verbal equivalent to thecubist and Dadaist collages in the visual arts.
Further extensions of the idea can be traced through the poetry of T.S. Eliot and EzraPound, and the newspaper pastiches of John Dos Passos. The cut-up was taught toBurroughs by Brion Gysin. It involves placing excised sentences from a range of texts intoa hat or other container, shaking them, then matching together the scraps of paper whichare picked out at random. This rigmarole has prompted sceptical critics to makeunflattering comparisons between Burroughs and monkeys with typewriters.
Another chance technique favoured by Burroughs is the fold-in, in which a page of text isfolded vertically, and then aligned with another page until the two halves match. Just asthe cut-up allows writing to mimic cinematic montage, the fold-in gives Burroughs theoption of repeating passages in a specifically musical way. For example, if page 1 isfolded-in with page 100 to form a composite page 10, phrases can flash forward and backlike the anticipation and recapitulation of motifs in a symphony.
The fold-in, like the cut-up, strains to evade the manacles of ordinary fiction. Few textsdirectly borrow these techniques, but Burroughs' spirit of chance-taking is decidedlycongenial to the postmodernist writer. In this respect he is rather like the musician JohnCage, who opened up tremendous ground for exploration by later composers, although hisexperiments with dice and the I-Ching proved to be unrepeatable. Nevertheless, as JulianCowley noted in an essay on Ronald Sukenick (1987), in both music and writing'Readiness to ride with the random may be regarded as a characteristically postmodernattitude…'

PARANOIA
Paranoia, or the threat of total engulfment by somebody else's system, is keenly felt bymany of the dramatis personae of postmodernist fiction. It is tempting to speculate thatthis is an indirect mimetic representation of the climate of fear and suspicion thatprevailed throughout the Cold War. The protagonists of postmodernist fiction often sufferfrom what Tony Tanner calls in City of Words (1971) a 'dread that someone else ispatterning your life, that there are all sorts of invisible plots afoot to rob
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you of your autonomy of thought and action, that conditioning is ubiquitous'.
Postmodernist writing reflects paranoid anxieties in many ways, including: the distrust offixity, of being circumscribed to any one particular place or identity, the conviction thatsociety is conspiring against the individual, and the multiplication of self-made plots tocounter the scheming of others. These different responses are immanent in three distinctareas of reference associated with the word 'plot'. The first meaning is that of a piece ofground of small or moderate size sequestered for some special purpose, such as a plot forgrowing vegetables or building a house. A stationary space, in other words, intimidating tothe postmodern hero. Randle McMurphy in Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest(1962), Yossarian in Joseph Heller's Catch-22 (1962) and Billy Pilgrim in Kurt Vonnegut'sSlaughterhouse-Five (1969) are each confined to their own 'plots' in this sense by theauthorities. McMurphy is committed to a mental hospital, Yossarian is conscripted to theair force, and Billy Pilgrim is interned in a German prisoner-of-war camp. A vindictivebureaucracy controls these mavericks by medication, red tape or the force of arms.
In each instance the imprisoning of the individual by outside powers propagates a panic ofidentity. So McMurphy's protests that he is sane prove his insanity. Pilgrim's belief that heis the subject of an experiment is belied by the offhand way his German captors treat him.To compensate for the hopelessness of their predicaments, these paranoids long for a stateof complete fluidity and openness. However, their impulse towards freedom is tainted bothby their terror of the actual open road and their cynicism about possible escape.McMurphy, Yossarian and Pilgrim are simultaneously safe and insecure in their 'plots' ofthe Oregon Asylum, the Pianosa air-force base, and the Dresden slaughter-house.
A second meaning of 'plot' is that of a secret plan or conspiracy to accomplish a criminalor illegal purpose. The protagonist of the postmodernist novel sometimes suspects that heor she is trapped at the centre of an intrigue, often with some justification. McMurphy isright to be afraid of  Nurse Ratched and the Combine, who eventually force him toundergo shock treatment and an unwarranted lobotomy. Yossarian's parachute is stolenby Milo Minderbinder and replaced by a useless M&M Enterprises voucher. GeneralPeckham sends Yossarian's squadron out on dangerous bombing missions simply toobtain decent aerial photographs for the magazines back home.  Nately's whore stabsYossarian, in the belief that he killed her lover. In Slaughterhouse-Five,
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Billy Pilgrim also correctly perceives that others wish to control his welfare. His daughtercommits him to a mental institution and Paul Lazarro later kills him as a revenge forallegedly allowing Roland Weary to die.
There's but a small step from these private apprehensions to a more distressingspeculation. Perhaps the whole of the society is a plot against the citizen. What if all themajor events of history are really side-shows orchestrated by unseen ringmasters forhidden motives? This is known as paranoid history. Thomas Pynchon is enthralled by thetopic. Stencil in V. (1963), Oedipa Maas in The Crying of Lot 49 (1966), Slothrop inGravity's Rainbow (1973), and Prairie in Vineland (1990) each stumble uponsubterranean schemes and cabals which threaten the rights of the individual. As Pynchonremarks in Gravity's Rainbow, their multiplying anxieties are triggered by 'nothing lessthan the onset, the leading edge, of the discovery that everything is connected, everythingin the Creation'.
The third, more mundane, meaning of plot is, of course, that of a plan of a literary work.In an interview, John Barth called this 'the incremental perturbation of an unstablehomeostatic system and its catastrophic restoration to a complexified equilibrium'. Thishumorous definition suggests that a plot has a particular shape: somebody is challenged,certain obstacles are overcome, a new state of affairs is reached. Plot is shape, and shape iscontrol. Several postmodernist writers proliferate plot, as if to prove through zealousmastery that they are free of the straitjackets of control by outside forces. The best of thesemaximalist works are Foucault's Pendulum (1988) by Umberto Eco, Life: A User'sManual (1978) by Georges Perec and Letters (1979) by Barth himself.

VlCIOUS CIRCLES
Vicious circles arise in postmodernist fiction when both text and world are permeable, to the extent that we cannot separate one from the other. The literal and the metaphoric almerge when the following occur: short circuits (when the author steps into the text) and double binds (when real-life historical figures appear in fictions).
The short circuits which plague postmodernist fiction rarely occur in other forms offiction. In realist literature, for example, there is an unbroken flow of narrative 'electricity'between text and world. The author never appears directly in his or her fictions, other thanas a voice that indirectly guides the reader towards a 'correct' interpretation of the
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novel's themes. Conversely, much modernist fiction is motivated by the desire to expungethe author from the text altogether. Think of James Joyce's image of the artist standingbehind the work, paring his fingernails. This again ensures that there is little chance ofconfusing the world inside the text with the world outside the text. In the postmodernistnovel and short story, however, such confusion is rampant. Text and world fuse when theauthor appears in his or her own fiction. The best examples of this occur in RonaldSukenick's The Death of the Novel and Other Stories (1969) and Out (1973), andRaymond Federman's Double or Nothing (1971) and Take It or Leave It (1976).
The double bind is a concept elaborated by Gregory Bateson and others to explain aninability to distinguish between different levels of discourse. When a parent chastises achild, for instance, they may undermine the punishment by smiling as they smack. Ifthese kinds of contradictory messages are repeated obsessively, it may lead to the child'sbreakdown. The boundaries separating the literal and the metaphorical will never fullyform, and any moves to resolve matters result only in further entanglement. It is wellknown that schizophrenics often confuse fact and fantasy in their delusions. The patientwho thinks he is Jesus Christ manifests a typical symptom of the illness.
The equivalent of the double bind occurs in postmodernist fiction when historicalcharacters appear in a patent fiction. We are used to the idea of the historical novel, whichshows famous people from the past acting in ways consistent with the verifiable publicrecord. A common alternative is to sketch in the 'dark areas' of somebody's life, and againcare is usually taken not substantially to contradict what we already know about them. Inpostmodernist writing, however, such contradictions are actively sought. So in MaxApple's The Propheteers (1987), the motel mogul Howard Johnson plots against WaltDisney. In Guy Davenport's 'Christ Preaching at the Henley Regatta' (1981), BertieWooster and Mallarmé stand on the banks watching the boat race. In E.L. Doctorow'sRagtime (1975), Freud and Jung go through the Tunnel of Love together at ConeyIsland. These are just some of the many derangements of postmodernist fiction.

POSTMODERNIST WRITING ANDLANGUAGE DISORDER
The comparisons between the derangement of postmodernist writing and insanity are appropriate. Some major poststructuralist thinkers enlist ideas connected withschizophrenia in their diagnoses of postmodern society. Jean-François Lyotard, forinstance, employs the
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metaphors of fragmentation in The Postmodern Condition (1979) to convey thesplintering of knowledge into a plethora of incommensurate discourses. He states in 'TheEcstasy of Communication' (1983) that 'we are now in a new form of schizophrenia'.Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari speak of 'schizoanalysis' in Anti-Oedipus (1977). For all the recondite terminology, their rhetoric makes a surprisingly everyday equation between mental breakdown and the contemporary moment. Lastly, Fredric Jameson'sfull-length study Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (1991) employs schizophrenia as an analogy for the collapse of traditional socio-economicstructures.
This recurrent linking of mental illness, the fractures of late capitalist society and thelinguistic experiments of contemporary writing is not accidental. Temporal disorder,involuntary impersonation of other voices (or pastiche), fragmentation, looseness ofassociation, paranoia and the creation of vicious circles are symptoms of the languagedisorders of schizophrenia as well as features of postmodernist fiction. It is in thisalignment that we can find the primary contrast between the  modernists and postmodernists.
A possible objection to a postmodernist poetics that emphasizes elements of style is thatthese characteristics are not unique. Modernist writers such as James Joyce, VirginiaWoolf and Marcel Proust also experimented with distortions of narrative time, pastiche,fragmentation and so on. This cannot be denied, but perhaps we can argue that thederangements of works such as Ulysses (1922), To the Lighthouse (1927) and Remembrance of Things Past (1913-27) have different motivations. These were homeopathic attempts to protect culture against the chaos of technological change andideological uncertainty in the wake of the First World War. Following the Second WorldWar, writers faced a situation which R.D. Laing would no doubt call 'radical ontologicalinsecurity'. Postmodernist authors between 1960 and 1990 no longer believed that the oldcultural values were recoverable  after the Holocaust. They simply gave up the struggleand delighted in delirium. The alienation  effects of their fictions express the effects ofalienation upon themselves.
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Routledge Companion to Postmodernism. Contributors: Stuart Sim - Editor. Publisher: Routledge. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 2001.

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