By Warner Berthoff
Probes postwar American writers' abandonment of distinguishing beneficial properties of literary workmanship in writings considered as testaments of private survival and displays at the clients of literature in a time of cultural predicament and flow
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Additional resources for A Literature Without Qualities: American Writing Since 1945
M npaBOM 36 A Literature Without Qualities Again, the changes being described, the wide spread abandonment of the stricter disciplines of modernism, have not been absolute. Most frequently the new work proceeds by an extrapolation of one or another secondary gesture formalized during that earlier epoch. '' If in the process these writers seemed to turn the writing of poems into some sort of ''mug's game," insisting with Frank O'Hara that "the silliest idea ac tually in [one's own] head was better than the most profound idea actually in somebody else's head,"13 that was no more than what Mr.
JaU11>1U1eHHblii1 asropcK1>1M npasoM A Generation in Retreat 39 . Bello\v and Pynchon as well as Heller and Willia1n Gaddis). Beat writers, expectably, it \vould be sealed as a sacred principle: combatively championed by Ginsberg as ' 'native wordslinging''; analytically explained by Kerouac as a blowing out, jazz fashion, of sentences and para graphs that end only as you happen to run out of breath. 1 7 And it is an abundance and volubility which seem to license a lapse of interest in good writing in the traditional sense-an interest that by contrast Beck ett stubbornly clings to-and an indiffere11ce to the qualities demanded of an art meant to be in some fashion independent of its producer's sa11ctioni11g presence.
In a quite literal sense we find ourselves, as we look around, unable to define and pursue any private interest, or imagine taking part in any scheduled act or event, that cannot quickly enough be shown to have unbreakable con nections with something elsewhere in the world that is intolerable to consciousness. We begin to see how Ma1ep111an. il aa1opcK111M npaaoM 42 A Literature Without Qualities everything that happens, everything it is now possi ble to satisfy personal curiosity about, can become an exclusionary advantage for son1e people and a cause of new misery for masses of others.
A Literature Without Qualities: American Writing Since 1945 by Warner Berthoff