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Archive for January 15th, 2008


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I’ve read an astounding amount of Don DeLillo in the last two weeks – more than is healthy. White Noise, Mao II, Libra, and I’m just this short of finishing Underworld. My first time through for many of these, somehow. I’ve loved all of it except for White Noise, which I’ve read many times before. In fact, I sort of detest White Noise, and while it’s clear why, I’ve been trying to come up with a concise term to explain my antipathy.

Came this morning. There is nothing that I hate more in American fiction than the zany. OK – that’s a bit too much. But do you know what I mean when I say that? Underworld is not zany; Libra isn’t either; White Noise is nothing but. Almost nothing but – there are a few good spots – but even these are tinged with it.

Pynchon is zany through and through, and that’s why I don’t like him. Most of the obsolescent “postmodern” novelists are zany.

David Foster Wallace is very, very zany – zany to the max – but for some reason I can tolerate him at times. Not Infinite Jest – whose very title proclaims the zane right from the book shelf – but Oblivion was quite good. I’ll have to think about why this is so…

This is zany too, and it goes down a bit easier than the print equivalent.

But I’d be probably pretty gaggy were I to get the same in a film about the current or recent police actions. This, for instance, bothers. Not just this scene in particular, but the whole of the film.

The word zany comes from the Italian for, what is it, zanni or zanno, the servant character in commedia dell’arte. And there is something servile about it, something no man’s a hero to their valet, and everyone’s a valet, so throw the Beach Boys on the car radio and roll with it. But there aren’t servants in America, right? So…

Oof. Sorry about that picture. Scares me too. It’s a zanni, or a christmas-treasure statuette of one, available at the website that kindly stamped their image with their addy.

Anyway, sorry, free-associating away, priming the pumps toward full on blog return. But perhaps these are initial notes toward a project on the politico-aesthetics of the turn to and away from the zany. Featured topics will include psychedelia, pranksterism, Kurt Vonnegut (not that I’ll read it or anything, but I’m sure it’ll come up, and the hickup or hangup or tic that makes a candycolored mash (or M.A.S.H.) of grave things like war. Oh, and said project will also take up whatever has replaced the zany here and now, which is the unnamable thing that informs sentences like the following:

Barring a nuclear war or a full-scale economic collapse due to climate change, robot sex is very likely in the cards. (Flak Magazine)

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January 15, 2008 at 8:01 am

Posted in america, novel