Fables of Representation
[The photo of Adorno with headphones was found online]
My book of essays, Fables of Representation, was published by University of Michigan Press in 2004. The title essay on the New York School was made possible by series editor David Lehman, who, on seeing that the manuscript had only a few short newspaper reviews of Kenneth Koch and others, suggested I write an essay on the entire group. His own critical study and history of the NY School, The Last Avant-Garde, is of course definite. After I wrote the 50-page essay, it became the major feature of the manuscript and we lent its title to the entire volume. I don't recall if the following exam from the book has been published online, but here it is anyway.
The Postmodern Era: A Final Exam
True or False / Multiple Choice (two points each):
1. Art of the postmodern period is:
e. all of the above
2. The filmscript operates at the speed of attention, novels at the speed of history, poetry at the speed of myth, and myth at the speed of time.
3. The past is conditional, the future absolute, the present open to negotiation.
4. The past is ungendered, the future impotent, the present having an operation.
5. Transgression is sentimental.
6. The closer writing comes to theory, the more narrative it becomes.
7. Without language, the world would vanish.
8. Nature is bored with the truth.
9. Photography relies on the unfamiliar.
10. Polaroid photos of snow are more poetic than snow itself.
11. Poetry tells fewer lies.
12. Irony is the best disguise.
13. Apples can no longer be understood.
14. Music at its most social resembles literature; literature at its most hermetic resembles music.
15. There is no difference between a censorate and an aesthetic.
16. Bad art is central to the concept of pleasure.
17. There is no tyranny like that of "the new."
18. The best poets of the avant-garde are those who most betray its mission.
19. Poetry is the science of the irrational.
20. "The inarticulate voice makes a real place disappear" (Greil Marcus).
21. "The brand-new arrives already worn out" (Vincent Canby).
22. The answer to America's problems is:
a. corporate enrichment poverty programs
b. corporate diversity whitewash spokesmen
c. holistic cappuccino overdose remedies
23. Obsessional repetition assumes classical proportions--the music, for example, of Philip Glass.
24. Mothers are transparent, fathers opaque.
25. The future is bright for dead white men.
26. The moon's authority is on the wane.
27. Which is true?
a. "The source of all writing is boredom" (Marguerite Duras).
b. The source of all boredom is writing.
28. Imagination is voyeuristic.
29. Nothing is less mimetic than a mirror.
30. Equality of mediocrity has been achieved.
31. Choose one:
a. "An image is a stop the mind makes between two uncertainties" (Djuna Barnes).
b. A photograph is a pause between two eternities.
32. The deepest point of postmodern attention is the pause button on a VCR.
33. Watching television is a pastoral experience.
34. The beauty of trompe l'oeil, like life, is when it starts to decay.
35. Pomposity is necessary to any aesthetic.
36. "There is no great idea that stupidity cannot put to its own uses" (Robert Musil).
37. The greatest writers have the worst characters.
38. The future isn't what it used to be.
39. America lacks a folk culture.
40. Things are useless without their metaphors.
41. Theory has completed its mission.
42. Scientists and engineers are the poets of our time, the poets its cultural technicians.
43. The speed of attention is altered by language.
44. Everything "new" in literature had its exact precedent in 1898.
45. Banality was once an original concept.
46. The only way of "proving" a poem is to test it on one's nerves; in this, it resembles sex.
47. Only the poor have gods; only the rich achieve redemption.
48. Multiculturalism is the white woman's burden.
49. Every force restrains a form.
50. Disjunction heals all wounds.