26 June 2006

the californication of history

In light of our recent discussion of the postmodern (please, oh please, note: I always eschew the ugly ism and everything it suggests) and feints in the direction of a conversation about innovative fiction and history, I thought some of you might be interested in a guest column I wrote called "Twenty Digressions Toward the Californication of History" for the current issue of PIF magazine.


  1. Back in Nam, I was one of those guys they called the Tunnel Rats—the ones small and thin enough to shinny down the camouflaged holes in the Cu Chi jungle and crawl on their bellies through the marshy-hot burrows twisting in near faultless darkness in a seventy-five-mile-long maze, rattle and pop of automatic fire above them, millipedes skittering over their arms.

    One June morning in 1970, I took a deep breath, clicked off the safety on my .45, and dropped down to find smack in front of me this ungodly

    No. Wait.

    Or was that the History Channel?

  2. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, the Red Hot Chili Peppers about Californication: Space may be the final frontier/ But it’s made in a Hollywood basement.

  3. What I mean to say is that, despite frequent claims to the contrary, innovative fiction is neither necessarily ahistorical nor dehistoricized. Rather, it continually questions our culture’s suppositions about what constitutes historical knowledge, embracing the counter-intuitive recognition that texts are simultaneously self-conscious linguistic and formal systems shut off from the world and active participants in larger sociopolitical contexts.

  4. Once upon a time, Linda Hutcheon about postmodern fiction: It knows it cannot escape implication in the economic (late capitalist) and ideological (liberal humanist) dominants of the time. There is no outside. All it can do is question from within. It can only problematize what Barthes has called the "given" or "what goes without saying" in our culture. History, the individual self, the relation of language to its referents and of texts to other texts—these are some of the notions which, at various moments, have appeared as "natural" or unproblematically common-sensical. And these are what get interrogated (xiii).

  5. In the good old days, of course, we had heard all this stuff before. That’s no longer the case.

For the full version of the essay, click here.