Shopping in Space

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Over the last ten years America has produced the most innovative, radical, fresh fiction in the world - fiction that is an accurate reflection of contemporary urban life and the sensibilities of a new generation. Books like Jay McInerney's Bright Lights, Big City and Bret Easton Ellis's Less Than Zero have caused controversy, been immense popular and commercial successes, and made their authors as famous as pop stars. But once these books became hits the media dismissed the writers and their work as mere products...
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Overview

Over the last ten years America has produced the most innovative, radical, fresh fiction in the world - fiction that is an accurate reflection of contemporary urban life and the sensibilities of a new generation. Books like Jay McInerney's Bright Lights, Big City and Bret Easton Ellis's Less Than Zero have caused controversy, been immense popular and commercial successes, and made their authors as famous as pop stars. But once these books became hits the media dismissed the writers and their work as mere products of hype. There has not, in America, been any serious critical discourse on what the work means. Now two young British critics, Elizabeth Young and Graham Caveney, offer an incisive, provocative commentary on these writers, who, they argue, represent a significant shift in contemporary American literature. Starting with the work of McInerney, Ellis, and Tama Janowitz and continuing through that of Mary Gaitskill, Michael Chabon, Dennis Cooper, Lynne Tillman, David Wojnarowicz, and others, Young and Caveney utilize a combination of cultural analysis and literary criticism that reveals these books to be illuminating critiques, not merely products, of a society shaped by consumer capitalism and media saturation. This, they argue, is the fiction of firsthand experience - it arises from within postmodern culture and, in content as well as style, demonstrates an absolute mastery of the semiotic codes (pop music, television, advertising) that compose our society. Shopping in Space is an important book of literary and cultural commentary. E. M. Forster once said that what literature can do that objective history cannot is render "the buzz of implication" of an era. This fiction - of urban depravity and moral decay, of sexual excess and simulation - certainly render the buzz of our times.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Bret Easton Ellis, Jay McInerney, Tama Janowitz and Lynne Tillman are among the young American writers examined in this collection of essays. British critics Graham and Caveney, who deem the contemporary literary scene in England insular and petrified, are downright fawning in their admiration of U.S. authors whose work is infused with references to drugs, music videos, advertising and other manifestations of popular culture. The essays are engagingly written, and the authors correctly assert that a wide but needless gap exists between abstruse scholarly criticism and book reviews in the general media. However, they myopically believe that only fiction emanating from or set in New York City or Los Angeles speaks for or to today's youth. Moreover, there is a good deal of critical sloppiness: Graham and Caveney don't attempt to judge whether some of the writers are more talented than others, and comparisons with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Samuel Beckett and Nathanael West are overstated. A provocative but flawed study. ( Apr. )
David Cline
In this collection of essays, two British critics take on such bad boys and girls of recent pop fiction as Bret Easton Ellis, Jay McInerney, Lynne Tillman, and Tama Janowitz. Arguing that the books they examine were subject to incredible media hype and controversy but little serious reflection, Caveney and Young aim to give these writers the thorough analysis (read respect) they feel is deserved. The novels discussed include Ellis' "Less than Zero" and "American Psycho", Mary Gaitskill's "Bad Behavior", and Michael Chabon's "The Mysteries of Pittsburgh". Caveney and Young argue that these books, steeped in MTV, fashion labels, and youthful disenchantment, move the English language on by stripping it to the bone and effectively reflect an exciting period in American history. But Caveney and Young admit that not all is wonderful here. They conclude that writers such as Ellis and Janowitz, whose first work was fresh and stylistically innovative, later worked themselves into name-dropping corners. Written in a style that weds traditional criticism to the fast-paced language of the novels themselves, "Shopping in Space" nearly makes it to its stated goal of bridging "the widening gap between academic literary criticism and the everyday coverage of books in the media." Recommended for both critics and general readers.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780871135421
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/21/1993
  • Pages: 288

Table of Contents

Introduction
Children of the Revolution: Fiction takes to the streets 1
Vacant Possession: Bret Easton Ellis, Less Than Zero 21
Psychodrama: Qu'est-ce que c'est?: Jay McInerney 43
French Kissing in the USA: Michael Chabon 75
The Beast in the Jungle, the Figure in the Carpet: Bret Easton Ellis, American Psycho 85
Notes Degree Zero: Ellis goes West 123
A City on the Kill: Joel Rose 130
Library of the Ultravixens: Tama Janowitz; Mary Gaitskill; Catherine Texier 142
Silence, Exile and Cunning: The writing of Lynne Tillman 194
Crashing in the Fast Lane: Gary Indiana 211
On the Road Again: David Wojnarowicz 217
Death in Disneyland: Dennis Cooper 235
Notes 265
Bibliography 281
Index 285
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