Chinese Box World

‘With the metaphor of the Chinese box Brian McHale in his book Postmodernist Fiction explains a frequent phenomenon in postmodernist literature. The phenomenon whereby a story-line is interrupted by another story, thus creating a discontinuity that may be subtle as in the case of Hamlet’s play-within-the-play, where each story represents a different ‘world’. The purpose of these novels-within-the-novel; still-photographs-within-the-novel; films-within-the novel in modernist literature “serves as a tool for exploring issues of narrative authority, reliability and unreliability, the circulation of knowledge, and so forth.” In postmodernist literature these different interrupting worlds/narratives are so frequent that the original narrative sometimes gets lost. Attention is drawn to the fact that we can never know the complete truth, we are only capable of knowing a truth, and different Chinese boxes will give us different (sometimes conflicting) information about different worlds.’

– McHale, B. 1987. Pöstmödernist Fiction London, United Kingdom: Methuen Inc. p. 113

On Good Fiction

“Good fiction provides more truth about the world, about life, and even about the reader, than can be found in non-fiction.”

– Clark Zlotchew

Characteristics of Postmodern Fiction

‘One might summarise some of the key characteristics of postmodern fiction as follows. Postmodern fiction often shows:

  1. a preoccupation with the viability of systems of representation;
  2. the decentring of the subject by discursive systems, and the inscription of multiple fictive selves;
  3. narrative fragmentation and narrative reflexivity; narratives which double back on their own presuppositions;
  4. an open-ended play with formal devices and narrative artifice, in which narrative self-consciously alludes to its own artifice, thus challenging some of the presuppositions of literary realism;
  5. an interrogation of the ontological basis of and connections between narrative and subjectivity;
  6. an abolition of the cultural divide beween high and popular forms of culture, embracing all in a mélange;
  7. an exploration of ways in which narrative mediates and constructs history: e.g. Graham Swift’s preoccupation with the relationship between story and history in Waterland (1983);
  8. the displacement of the real by simulacra, such that the original is always already linguistically constructed: novels incorporate ‘historical’ fictions as fact.’

– Tim Woods Beginning Postmodernism, 1999: 81-2

Six Word Stories

Torched the haystack. Found the needle.

Sorry soldier, shoes sold in pairs.

“Male?” “It’s an older driver’s license.”

Painfully, he changed “is” to “was.”

Simulated beings realize they’re simulated.

Strangers. Friends. Best friends. Lovers. Strangers.

First sentient robot: “Turn me off.”

Voyager still transmitted, Earth did not.

The smallest coffins are the heaviest.

My dads met at Bible Camp.

Brought roses home. Keys didn’t fit.

I’m beside myself; cloning machine works.

She was lovely. Then things changed.

A penny saved, a whim squandered.

Apathetic prophet makes a pathetic profit.

She loved cigarettes more than life.

I went travelling, found my home.