English 245: Modern Fiction

a collaborative exploration of pervasive tropes, themes, and concepts in contemporary fiction



Excuse villains, condemn heroes

Amy gives a hell of a speech about cool girls. Very passionate. She really does feel she is wronged by the people in her life. We feel, for a moment, like she may be worth sympathy. Then you snap back. She is trying to frame her husband for murder. And then kill herself. Her villainy removes the sympathy, but it’s still there, in the back of your mind, like a sore you can’t stop poking at.

We do the  opposite with our heroes. Someone did something great once. But now, come to find out, they also did evil things. Or at least bad things. Philandering, racism, hate. Now we step back. Does their wickedness take away from their great deeds? A (relatively) recent example: Thomas Jefferson. Enlightenment thinker, writer, revolutionary. Or, slave owner and bigot. Can a man so entrenched in slavery and the idea that blacks were less able than whites be forgiven in light of his achievements? Do the scales balance? How much good outweighs how much evil? How much evil outweighs how much good?

If Amy was a battered wife, would we feel she was justified in her plot, even a little? Does her description of how Nick hates her qualify as abuse, and therefore make us hesitate when we see Nick struggle to accept his possible incarceration and execution? Does any of it matter, in light of her strange sociopathic tenancies?


Now, I guess.

That’s the feeling I get from the show thus far. Moods and ideas and feelings change very quickly. Even within conversations, I get the feeling that the right thing for Dev is always in rapid flux. It’s a felling of “Now.” Marriage is good, then bad, then good. Kids are great then bad. Cheating is bad, then okay, then not good, but this-one-time-it’s-okay. Its all very amusing, but the stand-up style delivery makes it difficult to accept that anything Dev does is serious. Maybe that’s the point.

Diet Apocalypse

As we near the end of the book, I have to say, the world here is much less destroyed than most post-apocalypse media I have consumed. Mad Max’s deserts and Cormac McCarthy’s road are both bombed out hellscapes. I imagined that sort of landscape when Fan left B-mor and was summarily hit by a car. Upon further reading, it really seems like Armageddon came with a whimper, and that if you took a picture of the Fan’s world, it would match up fairly well with ours.

I imagine the setting could be the result of a few different things: commentary on economic/environmental policies today, a style choice to allow for fan to traverse the world easier, or something obvious that I’m missing. What do you guys think?

Through Cynicism, Darkly

So, during class, as we were asked to discuss our favorite parts of “The Tenth of December,” I held back. I found the ending, the most obviously likable part of the story, to be my favorite. Molly and Eber reunited after this intense near death experience, the hopeful light of tomorrow shining through his depression and her sadness. It’s all so sweet. And I didn’t want to say that. Gosh, I thought, how old fashioned and dumb, to enjoy something warm and human and tender. The normal response, it seemed to me, ought to have been a mocking barb against depth of feeling, a roll of the eyes and a wry grin, ‘oh, isn’t it all just so Disney.’

But I didn’t feel that. I felt good about the ending. I felt that these characters could face whatever troubles they might have in their fictional lives together, heads held high. And that seemed so childish to think in such a public setting. So I said nothing, and we moved on. But I cannot help but still think what I thunk before. That sweetness, that depth of feeling was good and true and right.

So I wondered why I oughtn’t say anything. Why did I feel so compelled to voice only the cynical? I feel like the answer is in the interview with Wallace. It talks about the age of the cynic. How, in the end, I gets us nowhere on its own. After everything is deconstructed and ridiculed, what comes next? You can’t simply point at the old and point out its imperfections forever. There’s nothing new there. I sometimes feel suffocated by my own cynicism. When I see something genuinely moving, it’s a shaft of light, obscured by that cynical fog. I’d like to think Wallace was right, that now we can move to a newer appreciation of what makes us human. Maybe that’s optimistic, or at least, not so cynical.

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