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Who loves ya, baby?
There's something very definite about this book. What he's saying doesn't seem too open to interpretation. The references and allusions are all very specific. They definitely mean certain things that he's trying to communicate to you. I'm starting to get the distinction between modernism and postmodernism on a bit more of a gut level now.
 

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Who loves ya, baby?
There isn't the same sense of the entire foundation being in flux or up for debate like there is in Pynchon. There's some sort of absolute truth, but the characters just can't quite get at it. The beach Stephen walks on's definitely there, whether he shuts his eyes or not.
 
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catalog

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The thing that struck me most was that so much of it is characters in conversation with one another, there's so much dialogue, particularly the last few chapters. So you do get quite a good sense of the differences of opinion between them. I'm not so sure about the modernism/postmodernism issue, more that he seems to be trying to cover literally everything on a given subject, with all the different views at the same time, or after one another.
 

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Who loves ya, baby?
I'm not so sure about the modernism/postmodernism issue, more that he seems to be trying to cover literally everything on a given subject, with all the different views at the same time, or after one another.
'McHale's primary thesis is that modernist fiction is one concerned (primarily) with an epistemological dominant. That is, modernist fiction is concerned with what knowledge is, how it's produced, who is producing it and who is receiving it and why, etc etc. Postmodernist fiction by contrast is concerned (again, primarily, but not singularly) with an ontological dominant. It will be concerned with what world we (or the characters) are in, how they were put there, the dissolution of the boundaries/binaries separating worlds. The most obvious example of this if it's hard to conceive of is the distinction between the world of the novel and the world of the author. In Pynchon's V., the author is content to remain behind a Wizard of Oz curtain. In his later novel Gravity's Rainbow, on the other hand, the author visibly attempts to, well, fuck with the reader, really. The author is a presence in the novel despite inhabiting a different world.

Another example I actually like to use to elaborate on the difference between an epistemological and ontological dominant is the Jim Carrey movie The Truman Show. In it, Truman (Carrey) has been observing over and over that the way in which he receives information is suspect ... show lights fall from the sky, the weather seems to interrupt him at suspiciously inopportune times, he starts to see "behind the scenes" (or, behind the curtain mentioned above, as it were), and so on. By the end of the movie, he's fully aware that he is within an epistemological dominant - the things he knows are subject to something outside of his control. What is the correct knowledge? Who has it? Who is giving him this made-up knowledge? These are the epistemological questions. At the end of the movie, he reaches the end of his fake town, which is in actuality a gigantic studio dome - he reaches the edge of the dome, which is just a painted-on sky that he feared to reach due to a fear of water/the sea (which was an epistemological injection - the studio fabricated a scenario in his childhood which associated "open water" and "fear"). There is a door, which he opens, and leads only to a dark rectangle. The movie ends.

You can map this really, really well onto Pynchon. Many of the characters in V. have that assumption, Truman's paranoia, that the knowledge they have might be some sort of grandly crafted conspiracy, crafted outside of their realm ... or, outside of their world, outside of their ontology, outside of the town-dome of Seahaven (The Truman Show again). Post-The Crying of Lot 49 Thomas Pynchon shifts from questioning the epistemology of the world we inhabit, and starts to question the boundary between worlds. In V., the characters almost aimlessly trail a conspiracy and we end the novel uncertain of any of the knowledge we've acquired, given Pynchon's predilection for utilising his, well, encyclopaedic wealth of ideas and knowledge. In Gravity's Rainbow and onward, we and the characters are fully aware of the concept of the Truman Dome - the uncertainty starts to become, are we in the Dome, or outside of it, or somewhere else entirely? And, who the hell put us there and why?'
 

catalog

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I mean, I've not watched the truman show, or read V, but yeah, when you put it like that, I think Ulysses is a pretty straight narrative. The bits of cleverness and all of that, it's definitely inside people's heads, within the world of the novel's story. I can't really remember enough of gravity's rainbow tbh, been such a while since I read it.
 

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Yeah, there's some confusion due to the overlap of the internal and external, but there's a limit to the ambiguity and questioning, i.e. the characters are who we're told they are, they're definitely doing and thinking certain things and they're definitely in Dublin. You can't be so sure of that in GR.
 

catalog

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Yeah deffo. I liked that about Ulysses, it's narratively quite tight and straight, I quite like that. It means there's quite a lot of emotion by the end. And yeah, the main thing I remember about GR is that I can't remember any of the characters particularly well, and it goes all kabbala at the end (which I also loved)
 

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I haven't come across a reference or allusion in Ulysses yet where I couldn't work out why it was there once I learned what it was. There's still stuff in Pynchon where I'm not sure what he's trying to say, e.g. a bit in V. where Wittgenstein's first proposition gets picked up on radio equipment.
 

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Yeah deffo. I liked that about Ulysses, it's narratively quite tight and straight, I quite like that.
I like it too. It stops it getting as diffuse - as luka put it - as GR. A bit like the eye of a storm. There's a solid point of reference/foundation for everything to whip around which keeps it all together.
 
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