Deep in my heart, I’d like to believe that no one truly likes post-modernism. And for those things that somehow slip under that moniker (i.e. Roberto Bolano), it seems that critics just haven’t found a better or more accurate term, but I’ll get to that in a second. Here are some of the reasons I hate “post-modernism”:
1. Post-modernism is a dumb name. They obviously couldn’t come up with anything that would suggest the movement than “after modernism.” This also creates a blanket effect. Anything can be made to loosely fit. Oh, lazy critics.
2. What comes after post-modernism? Post-post-modernism?
3. Ok, I’ve already run out of most of my arguments, but I think what upsets me the most about this term is the amount of literature that proclaims it is “post-modernism,” but is really just postering under bad taste. A book like Don DeLillo’s White Noise, a paramount of post-modernism, starts out as some sort of epic satire. But in the course of the book, it rapidly falls apart, moving from satire to the ridiculous, and yet never having fun in the process. In writing this, I realized what bothers me the most about post-modernism: they take themselves too seriously. One could make the same claim for modernists but at least their palette allowed for the silly.
What also makes a figure like Don DeLillo a victim of his own ideology is that in the course of his “flashes of brilliance,” his prose suffers. We lose what what makes any trivial idea or mundane course of events art. He is so utterly conscious of his point of view and authorship, he has lost the soul of the artist. He is no longer an artist, but a politician, bombasting us with his ideologue in the guise of literature.
To sum this up, a post-modernist like DeLillo is really just another critic trying to produce art. (It’s sort of like the saying “those who can’t do, teach.” Those who can’t be an artist, musician, etc. are the critics.) Like the surrealists before them, the ones who created the manifestos and ideologies around art needed the basis of a theory to structure their art. For true artists, it is the opposite – it is their art that structures criticism. Post-modernism is a mere cop out, but until history unfolds, we have to sort of the chaff from the wheat. Or we can just wait for a new literary manifesto to emerge with a better name.