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The Cafe Irreal: Irreal (Re)views

American irrealism and the cult of experience

by G.S. Evans

The birth of irrealism can be traced to the time when literature, influenced by the increasingly empirical world view of the 18th and 19th centuries, moved toward realism, and yet still occasionally felt the need to confront the unknowable, indefinable or unimaginable. What might have previously been, in myth, legend or religious allegory, explained away as the province of the divine or by using a creative metaphysics was now addressed within the conventions of the realist story and the empirical worldview, highlighting the existential ambiguity of human existence and the limits of human knowledge. So if irrealism was born in the confluence of tension and conflict between the real and the unreal, it is hardly surprising that Nikolai Gogol, the man who wrote the first irreal story, has also been called the first realist. Gogol earned the latter distinction for his biting portrayals of government bureaucrats in works such as Dead Souls or his play, "The Government Inspector." And yet when he strove to present the generalized anxiety that was so integral to his life, he created stories such as "The Nose," in which by undermining reality he was able to better express this anxiety. Such a pattern, i.e., a certain number of writers use irrealism as an occasional device more than as a defining style, has been typical since Gogol's time in most of the world's literatures. (In America, though, irrealism has struggled to exist at all; the reasons why this might be so, and their influence on the contemporary scene, are the subjects of this essay.)

Thus it is important to note the anomalous nature of irrealism as a literary style. There are, for instance, really only two "major" authors of whom it could be said that the bulk of their output was irreal: Franz Kafka and Kobo Abe. Even some of the authors cited in these pages as being irreal are, in fact, only irreal in a part of their output: some number of Jorge Luis Borges' stories were irreal, more of them, though, could be more properly described as metafictional; Luisa Valenzuela and Julio Cortazar's short stories tend to be irreal, their novels not. Gogol typifies another phenomenon, for though "The Nose" may well have been the first irreal story, most of the rest of his work is certainly realist, though often of a rather quirky nature. More recently Kazuo Ishiguro shocked the literary world when he wrote The Unconsoled, quite possibly the best and most quintessentially irreal novel since Kobo Abe's The Secret Rendezvous; the shock came not only as a result of the irreal nature of the work itself, but also because it was in such contrast to his most famous work, The Remains of the Day.

Thus, irrealism has largely been an outgrowth of other styles and tendencies in literature more than it has been a movement in its own right (though The Cafe Irreal is attempting to rectify that somewhat). As Dean Swinford put it, "Irrealism is a term which does not define an entire genre, a single species or family, but a group of characteristics adapted by different cloth-bound creatures." In general it might be said to represent the most enigmatic aspect of a particular style--whether it be the expressionism of Kafka or the children's literature of Lewis Carroll. But irrealism can't be the outgrowth of just any style of literature. A literature must allow something of the fantastic or allegorical before it can produce irreal works--the fantastic because irrealism goes beyond the here and now and allegory because it uses symbols in the form of a personal symbology culled from the dream state.(Footnote 1)

The fact that the fantastic and allegory have generally been precluded from American literature does much to explain the dearth of irreal works in our literature.

The cult of experience

Indeed, given America's history and cultural background it can sometimes seem surprising that an irreal story has ever been written here, as we would seem to lack any cultural context for it. The fact that we were a settler state preoccupied with subduing native peoples and nature was a bad enough start, and then there was the fact that we were ideologically informed by the Puritans. The Puritans, with their belief in "right reason and faith;" emphasis on rationality and distrust of emotions; and avoidance in literature of "sensual" forms of expression such as alliteration, exoticism and fanciful metaphors contributed much to the general suspicion against the intangible that has remained a cultural mainstay of America. The Puritans' direct influence long ago faded, but America has since gone on to happily embrace what could be called an anti-philosophy (analytic philosophy) as its leading academic philosophical doctrine and pragmatism as its leading home-grown philosophy. (Footnote 2)

Nonetheless during what is often called "The American Literary Renaissance" of the mid-19th century a counteracting influence was also present. Early American literature was heavily influenced by European literature, which was often regarded as an ideal by the nascent American intelligentsia; thus, writers of the American Literary Renaissance were more concerned with expressing uniquely American themes than they were with finding a uniquely American voice. Both Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville used as their main vehicle of literary expression the romance, a European form about which Hawthorne stated: "When a writer calls his work a Romance, it need hardly be observed that he wished to claim a certain latitude, both as to its fashion and material, which he would not have felt himself entitled to assume had he professed to be writing a Novel. The latter form of composition is presumed to aim at a very minute fidelity, not merely to the possible, but to the probable and ordinary course of man's experience. The former--while, unpardonably so far as it may swerve aside from the truth of the human heart--has fairly a right to present that truth under circumstances, to a great extent, of the writer's own choosing or creation." Naturally such an overtly allegorical form allowed, in American literature, the same kind of initial first stirrings of irrealism that informed Gogol. Thus Hawthorne, in 1836, could write a story such as "The Minister's Black Veil," in which the Reverend Mr. Hooper causes consternation among the residents of his parish by simply and inexplicably donning a black veil (his behavior is otherwise unchanged), causing endless and fearful speculations as to why he has done this. "Thus, from beneath the black veil, there rolled a cloud into the sunshine, an ambiguity of sin or sorrow, which enveloped the poor minister, so that love or sympathy could never reach him. It was said, that ghost and fiend consorted with him there." [p. 154] Though not irreal per se, the focus of the story on the parishioners' reactions to the mystery of the minister's action, the black veil itself, and the minister's reticence about it strongly presage the ambiguity characteristic of the irreal.(3) Similarly, in Herman Melville's "Bartleby the Scrivener," written in 1853, the title character is taken on as a copyist at a law firm and proves to be a prodigious copyist, though curiously refuses to do any of the other duties traditionally expected of a copyist, saying in a mild, but firm, voice, "I would prefer not to," to any such request. His employer overlooks this strange behavior in light of Bartleby's talents as a copyist. Eventually, however, Bartleby refuses in the same way to do any copying either and, further, his employer learns that Bartleby has been staying in the office late to do more than work, that he has been actually living in the office as well. The employer, though sympathetic, tries all sorts of methods to remove Bartleby from his office and life but, in the end, must move to another office to accomplish this. Bartleby sometimes seems to be a phantom and yet the supernatural is never suggested in the story; in the process we learn little about Bartleby but learn much about the ineffectiveness of his employer and the people around him.(4)

In the years following the Civil War, after years of an often self-conscious search, American writers began to feel as though they'd found their voice; in a real sense, American literature was born at this time. Not surprisingly the discovery of this American voice was consistent with the stance against the intangible and the impractical typical of American culture in general, and in their place was posited in literature what the critic Philip Rahv has described as "the cult of experience." In Rahv's view, after struggling for some time to find its true voice, "since Whitman and James the American creative mind...has found the terms and objects of its activity in the urge toward and immersion in experience." [360] This work exhibits "a singular pattern consisting, on the one hand, of a disinclination to thought and, on the other, of an intense predilection for the real: and the real appears in it as a vast phenomenology swept by waves of sensation and feeling. In this welter there is little room for the intellect, which in the unconscious belief of many imaginative Americans is naturally impervious, if not wholly inimical, to reality." [361] Thus, "it is through this preoccupation ... that one can account ... for some of the peculiarities of American writing ... the unique indifference of this literature to certain cultural aims implicit in an aesthetic rendering of experience--to ideas generally, to theories of value, to the wit of the speculative and problematical, and to that new-fashioned sense of irony which at once expresses and modulates the conflicts in modern belief."[360] Rahv, writing in 1940, concluded: "bare experience ... the leitmotiv of the American writer ... is virtually exhausted. At bottom it was the theme of the individual transplanted from an old culture taking inventory of himself and of his new surroundings. This inventory ... is all but complete now ... but what lies beyond it is still unclear ... [but] whereas in the past, throughout the nineteenth and well into the twentieth century, the nature of American literary life was largely determined by national forces, now it is international forces that have begun to exert a dominant influence."

In this last regard Rahv has been proven wrong. The leitmotiv of American writing that he was describing, which extended from Whitman and James through the naturalism of Dreiser and the regionalism of Faulkner, and what he perceived to be its creative exhaustion in the wake of Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, had not yet run its course. Indeed, a number of fine works were still to be written; these included the compelling depictions of the African-American experience by writers like Richard Wright and James Baldwin; the evocation of alternative life styles and youth culture found in Beat novels such as On the Road; the experiences of the middle-class teenager found in J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye; Jewish-American life as found in Phillip Roth's novels; and then, starting in the late 1970's, the major boom of multi-cultural works by writers such as Alice Walker, Maxine Hong Kingston, Amy Tan and Sandra Cisneros, which helped to find and publish new voices among America's plethora of racial and ethnic groups, striving above all to describe their experiences in America even when in a magical realist context.(5) Indeed, more than ever the experiential mode remained the basis of American literary orthodoxy as innumerable creative writing classes in America's expanding college and adult education system during the 1970's, 80's and 90's emphasized the slice of life writing style. In addition, and not unrelated to the American tradition of verisimilitude, a great emphasis was placed on what is called fine writing, meaning the detailed, but elegantly written, description of a place, person or situation. Such detail runs counter to both the dream-like quality of irrealism and the idea-oriented focus of allegory.

At the same time, however, Rahv was correct: a different literary approach was beginning to make itself felt, one that was in fact influenced by "international forces." The first indication that change was afoot could be seen in the immediate aftermath of World War II, with the short story, "The Enormous Radio," by John Cheever. In this story a typical middle-class family of the time buys a new radio. They soon discover, however, that the radio can somehow pick up conversations in the apartments around them. The wife, especially, becomes obsessed with the contrast between the happy, normalized public face presented by her neighbors and their tired, unhappy, and dishonest domestic reality. Her obsession partially stems from a desire to convince herself that her marriage and family are different, which in the end they don't prove to be. Cheever, by interposing an element of the fantastic (a radio that could somehow pick up conversations in other apartments) into the real without any further explanation, rationale or metaphysics, created a sense of the irreal. Though the allegorical implications were very clear, and sociologically specific, it remains difficult to conceive of a writer such as Hemingway, Lewis or Dreiser even considering the use of such a device, much less actually using one. Further indications of change could be found in the popularity of an outright allegory in the form of Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" (1949); to this we could add, among others, the absurdist elements present in Ralph Ellison's The Invisible Man, the telling of tales as opposed to stories by Paul Bowles, and the work of Kurt Vonnegut and Thomas Pynchon. What united these writers, or at least united them in the minds of readers and critics who called their writing "post-modern," was an eschewing of the conventions of realism. In various ways, including Vonnegut's use of science fiction and absurdism and Pynchon's attack on narrative structure, these writers all showed dissatisfaction with the limited parameters of American realism. They, however, still remained focused on the experience of life in America. Vonnegut, for all of his imagination and creativity, is essentially a satirist of contemporary America, and Pynchon's desire to directly subvert contemporary cultural symbols and mores also placed him in the tradition of satire and parody. Thus Pynchon, in The Crying of Lot 49, gave his characters names like Oedipa Maas, Mucho Maas, and Dr. Hilarius, all of whom lived in the proximity of the city of San Narcisco--names that represent the conscious punning of the satirist, not the subconscious punning of the irrealist. Such satire and parody neither evoke the dream state nor undermine reality--their intention, rather, is to question specific cultural or political realities by highlighting their more absurd, grotesque or contradictory elements.(6)

Indeed, the cult of experience has had such a strong influence that even our more unusual and imaginative writers still feel compelled to write specifically about our nation's politics, cultural icons, geography, and class (as part of that grand, all-consuming attempt to understand and carve out an identity for "America"); writers in other nations are generally more hesitant to do this with their own politics and cultures for fear that it would take them too far away from more universal themes.(7) Besides Vonnegut and Pynchon we could also mention in this regard Don DeLillo, who opens his novel Underworld at the famous Dodgers versus Giants game that featured Bobby Thompson's "Shot Heard Around The World," and numerous iconic American personalities, such as J. Edgar Hoover and Frank Sinatra, in the crowd. Then there's Jonathan Franzen, who titles his most ambitious work The Twenty-Seventh City because, as he explains in the novel, St. Louis (where the novel takes place, and where the author himself grew up) is now the twenty-seventh largest city in the the U.S., though it was once the fourth largest; the city's decline is one of the novel's themes. Even Paul Auster, whose New York Trilogy is one of the few truly philosophical novels in contemporary American literature, tells us on the opening page of his novel Mr. Vertigo that the action takes place "in 1927, the year of Babe Ruth and Charles Lindbergh" and, in Leviathan, informs the reader that "The era of Ronald Reagan began," and devotes nearly a full page to the implications of this specific historical phenomenon for the protagonist, Benjamin Sachs. (8)

The only real exception to this would be Donald Barthelme, who in works such as Dead Father and the short story collection City Life proved himself to be the most consistently irreal writer in American literary history. More will be written about him in later issues of Irreal (Re)views, but for the purposes of this essay it is sufficient to say that his resistance in much of his work to expressing the specificities of American experience and culture has not proven to be influential.

The 1990's: Whitehead, Antrim, and Danielewski

Recently, however, at least one work has appeared that suggests a possible resolution in the conflict between lived experience and the distanced, allegorical style typical of irrealism. The Intuitionist, by Colson Whitehead, openly addresses the African-American experience in America and yet is among the most irreal novels written by an American writer.

Like any irreal work, it strives to both to keep a narrative distance and undermine reality. In the first regard, even though the city where the action takes place, "the greatest city in the world," whose harbor "disgorged hundreds [of immigrants 'to the grand new country'] daily," is clearly New York City, and the country is clearly the United States, these things are never stated as such, and Whitehead is careful not to mention any specific places in that famous city (e.g., Central Park or the Empire State Building). In the second regard Whitehead strives hard to create a 1940's atmosphere in the work--news reporters dress in pinstripes and wear fedoras, the urban world is still an amalgam of ethnic city neighborhoods, not of sprawling suburbs, and African-Americans, referred to as "coloreds," are still in the first stages of their fight for integration into the trades. And yet the reader is still not sure exactly when the novel takes place. For instance, one important building in the novel "hunkers down on the northern edge of Federal Plaza in the renovated section of downtown." [p. 16] However, building federal plazas to help renovate downtowns was a practice that started in the 1960's and 1970's; in the time Whitehead seems to be describing, downtowns hadn't yet started to decay, much less need renovation. The dispute between the competing schools of elevator inspectors, both of whom are struggling for control of the city's Department of Elevator Inspectors, could also be mentioned in this regard. The theories of the Intuitionists, who are opposed by the Empiricists, read like the writings of an esoteric Eastern religion, or like a theory derived from some of the more abstract aspects of quantum and chaos theory. (One example would be "The Dilemma of the Phantom Passenger" which asks what happens to the elevator that has been summoned by a passenger who departs, perhaps opting for the stairway, before the elevator arrives; another example would be the search for the plans to the perfect "black box" elevator.) In other words, these are distinctly "post-modern" approaches that one wouldn't expect to find in a time and city that epitomized the height of modernity. Beyond this, of course, lies the basic irreal absurdity that such schools of thought would be doing battle in a city's Department of Elevator Inspectors at all, and that the battle would have the continual, far-reaching political consequences that the novel describes.(9)

And yet, within this basic irreal premise, we find much that is socially and politically concrete. First of all, the protagonist, Lila Mae Watson, is among the first African-American elevator inspectors in the city. Further, her position in this regard is integral to the complex political intrigue that permeates the Department of Elevator Inspectors. Ultimately, the issue of racial equality ties into the search for the design plans of the perfect elevator because that elevator's inventor, and chief theoretician of the Intuitionists, turns out to have hidden his identity as an African-American in order to be taken seriously. Thus the question of race in the American context becomes central to the novel's premise and one of the possible implications of the elevator's symbolic "verticality." Whitehead succeeds in presenting these issues without losing the sense of irreality by consistently situating these questions within the irreal premise of the novel, and by presenting them abstractly. If the novel reflects a concrete experience, then it does so in something of the manner a dream might. (Of course all dreams reflect, on some level, concrete experience, as does irreal literature. Kafka certainly reflected, in his writing, the experience of being a Jew in Central Europe even if a Jew, as such, seldom if ever appeared in his fiction. Whitehead, in this work, has succeeded in making the experience a level or two less abstract.)

This work, though, stands alone in these regards. No other American work can be said to combine experience with irrealism in such a successful fashion. This certainly includes the recently published John Henry Days, Whitehead's latest novel. The specificity of the novel's location (West Virginia), time (the year 1996), and protagonist (J. Sutter, a journalist whose experience and background seem very similar to Mr. Whitehead's) situate the novel much more specifically than was the case with The Intuitionist; further, its sweeping attempt to link the experience of a legendary, iconic African-American of yesteryear with a contemporary African-American places it much more in the mainstream of contemporary American fiction.

Donald Antrim, whose The Hundred Brothers is certainly the most purely irreal novel written by an American author during the 1990's, is less successful at maintaining an irreal effect when he introduces more concrete examples of the American experience in the other two works from the same trilogy. Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World, though very funny and creative, is like much of Vonnegut's work--very concrete in what it is describing and satirizing (suburbia) even as it describes it outlandishly. The last work in the trilogy, The Verificationist, also has a very concrete subject, middle-class professionals--in this case, as seen by a hallucinating narrator undergoing a nervous breakdown. What differentiates these works from The Intuitionist (and The Hundred Brothers) is that the reader is left, in the end, with little doubt about what is being addressed. It is true that one could interpret The Intuitionist as simply being about the African-American experience in America, just as one could interpret Kafka's work as being about the Jewish experience in Europe, but one could also legitimately interpret The Intuitionist, like Kafka, in a myriad of other ways; indeed, the intended symbolism often isn't all that clear to the author, in the same way that the symbolism of a dream isn't always clear to the dreamer. It is a fine line to straddle and, given the emphasis in American literature on experience and the natural tendency in the process of writing to concretize and make experience more specific, a balance that clearly is hard to maintain.

The tendency of American authors to use highly descriptive prose, seemingly at odds with the dream-like, distanced narrative typical of irrealism, has also found its way into some irreal works in the last decade. Whitehead, like Antrim, does this by keeping his narrative distance in the context of general description (i.e., we get only the most basic of descriptions of the characters and spaces they live and work in) but then overwhelming us with description, even to the point of absurdity, in very specific areas. In The Intuitionist we find such description in the area of Lila Mae's specialty, elevators. The fact that Whitehead, in his acknowledgments, cites the technical manual American Standard Practice for the Inspection of Elevators is hardly a surprise to the reader, given the extensive technical descriptions of elevators and their operation. Thus, even during a chase scene we read: "The elevator's door opens, conjured from tranquil quiescence, the vehicular ether, by Lila Mae. She slams her palm against the Lobby button (black mottled with gray, sure and firm plastic, Arbo Floor Button, Motley Black, City Series #1102), sees John [the man pursuing her] emerge, rubbing his head, from around the partition, she reaches for the Door Close button (initiating a signal to the selector in the machine room a hundred feet above through the amiable copper of the traveling cable inside the Arbo Router, City Series #1102) and leans against the dorsal wall of the Arbo Executive." [p. 212] Indeed, such obsessive focus on selected details while ignoring most others suggests aspects of the dream state in and of itself, in which sometimes one thing, of seemingly little consequence, can suddenly and inexplicably loom large over other, seemingly more important things.

Antrim, on the very first page of The Hundred Brothers, introduces both the irreal premise of the novel and lots of relevant/irrelevant information by having the narrator list of all of his 100 brothers, aged from 20-something to 93, and providing, about some of them, much detail; thus we learn on that very first page that brother Sergio's "scathing opinions appear with regularity in the front-of-book pages of the more conservative monthlies..." and that George, the "distinguished urban planner," shocked and amazed "everyone, absolutely everyone, by vanishing with a girl named Jane and an overnight bag packed with municipal funds in unmarked hundreds." The reader might assume that this detail is somehow directly relevant to the novel, but neither of these brothers is mentioned again. Antrim achieves the same effect later on when the novel's protagonist knowledgeably and systematically describes the stretching exercises that he does to warm up for the "corn dance" that he will perform for his brothers--here the irreal effect comes from the contrast between the methodical, modern description of the warm-up and the absurd and primitive rite he is warming up for. Antrim does not use these occasional outpourings of detail, however, to describe how any of the brothers look or even to give us a thorough description of the house itself; what might, from a realist perspective, be considered important details are omitted, while we are flooded with details that might be considered trivial.

Similarly Mark Danielewski, in his House of Leaves, surrounds the central plot of the novel, which concerns a couple who find an inexplicable void in their house that resembles a barren dreamscape intruding into reality, with reams and reams of metafictional detail that, in the end, explain nothing. The reader, in fact, is left uncertain as to whether the events of the novel are supposed to have taken place, or if the narrative is the treatment for a film script.


For the most part, American writers still refuse to concern themselves with universal problems in the European manner, which, according to Rahv, "makes for a fundamental difference between the inner movement of the American and that of the European novel, the novel of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, Flaubert and Proust, Joyce, Mann, Lawrence, and Kafka, whose problem is invariably posed in terms of life's intrinsic worth and destiny." Instead, American literature continues to be preoccupied with the cult of experience, and the American philosophical novel largely remains an oxymoron. Similarly, American irrealism, when it occasionally appears, operates within a very limited range and doesn't, for instance, exhibit that quality of desperately sought but forever forestalled transcendence that Kafka (influenced by Kierkegaard) worked so hard to express.

However, just as Paul Auster proved, with his New York Trilogy, that a philosophical American novel is possible, first John Cheever and then Donald Barthelme proved that American writers could again, after nearly a hundred year lapse, write in an irreal manner. More recently, Whitehead and Antrim have successfully incorporated aspects of the experience-focused American style of writing into irreal works, though neither has continued this trend in his latest work. Still, it would seem that irrealism is once again a possibility in America. Whether it will, against the overwhelming force of experience and verisimilitude in American letters, succeed in establishing a small foothold is another question. It is our hope, though, that The Cafe Irreal will be of some help in this regard.


(1) See Alice Whittenburg's "On International Imagination", though Swinford argues, "... the Irreal work differs from traditional allegory because it indicates the extent to which the language of allegory, and therefore the function and exegesis of allegory, is altered by unprecedented changes in the physical world." Back to the text

(2) The former is conceived as an instrument whose purpose is, in part, to destroy anything perceived as metaphysical and the latter's leading theorist, John Dewey, emphasized inquiry as an active participation, not a passive beholding. Interestingly, his teachings were so enthusiastically received in American education that he found himself fighting a retrograde battle with educators who wanted to dispense with ideas all together. Back to the text

(3) The real-life inspiration for the story, a Mr. Joseph Moody of York, Maine, was very forthright as to why he'd donned a veil. Back to the text

(4) Naturally we should also mention Poe, though he was more concerned with the fantastic on its own terms, and therefore we might assume with him that there would have truly been something hideous underneath the minister's veil, and that Bartleby would truly have been some sort of a phantom. Back to the text

(5) We could, in this regard, also mention writers usually regarded as being more "experimental" such as Thomas Pynchon who, with his extensive use of bathroom humor and juvenile references to sexuality, wanted to remind the reader that these are also areas of experience, and William Burroughs who, in The Naked Lunch, strove to bring the drug experience and aspects of homoeroticism into print -- no matter how fantastic the descriptions are, the reader knows that this book refers to real experiences and lives. Back to the text

(6) Another major concern of many of the post-modern writers, such as William Gass and Pynchon, was narrative. But undermining reality, not the narrative, is the priority of the irrealist. In fact, to the extent that irrealism strives to bring the dream state into the waking world, it doesn't want to undermine narrative since dreams, after all, tell a story, no matter how unusual that story may be. And many of the writers interested in undermining traditional narrative, dating back to James Joyce and Virginia Woolf, saw traditional narrative as an artifice and considered other forms, such as stream of consciousness, to actually be more realistic. Back to the text

(7) An exception, curiously enough, would be the work of certain nationalist or regional writers who generally only enjoy a high level of recognition at times of national crisis or tension vis-a-vis their nation's identity--see, for example, "The National Revival" in Czech literature, in which writers such as Alois Jirasek helped to redefine Czech identity as the nation re-emerged after centuries of Austrian domination. Back to the text

(8) Mention should also be made of the science fiction "new wave" of the the 1960's and 1970's that, in the works of writers like Harlan Ellison, Ursula LeGuin and Joanna Russ, flirted occasionally with the irreal; American science fiction, however, long ago succumbed to a combination of commercial pressures and the perceived need to create the same kind of "believable" and "fleshed out" characters of American realism in order to get the respect it apparently craved (a rather incongruous approach if we accept, as Joanna Russ once did, that science-fiction is inherently a didactic form of literature.) Back to the text

(9) And, importantly for the sense of the irreal, this absurdity is simply a given in the world described and unfolds logically from its own, illogical premise. Back to the text

Primary Works Cited

Antrim, Donald. The Hundred Brothers. New York: Crown, 1997.

Cheever, John. The Stories of John Cheever. New York: Knopf, 1979.

Danielewski, Mark Z. House of Leaves. New York: Pantheon, 2000.

Rahv, Philip. Literature in America. New York and Cleveland: Meridian, 1957.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. Young Goodman Brown and Other Tales. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987.

Melville, Herman. Shorter Novels. New York: Liveright, 1978.

Whitehead, Colson. The Intuitionist. New York: Anchor, 1999.

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