"If postmodern play is literature’s equivalent to Disney World, then Dewey introduces us to authors who work against the glitz, who try to find something worth committing to in a world of simulacra."Kathryn Hume, Distinguished Professor of English, Pennsylvania State University
"A vivid and engaging account of American literature produced during the Reagan Era . . . intelligent, thoughtful, and accessible."James A. Schiff, University of Cincinnati
Introducing the term "spectacle realism," Joseph Dewey analyzes eight contemporary novels that extend the current understanding of American literary realism, the authors of which possess a moral energy and compassion often obscured in postmodern writing.
For nearly 100 years, Dewey says, American realism produced novels that treated most bleakly the major events in people’s lives—like falling in love or facing death. Focusing on the Reagan era, Dewey examines a group of popular novelists (Joyce Carol Oates, John Irving, Reynolds Price, T. Coraghessan Boyle, William Kennedy, Robert Ferro, Anne Tyler, and Richard Powers) who departed from that traditional realism. Their characters move beyond disillusionment to affirmation, finding that engagement with the signature events of their lives brings rewards rather than punishment.
In addition to presenting a compelling picture of the cultural values of the 1980s, Novels from Reagan’s America shows how significant writers have begun to reclaim for fiction the traditional right to illuminate our lives.
Joseph Dewey, associate professor of contemporary American literature at the University of Pittsburgh, Johnstown, is the author of In A Dark Time: The Apocalyptic Temper in the American Novel of the Nuclear Age and of articles in the Mississippi Quarterly, the Hollins Critic, and the Review of Contemporary Fiction.