By Gilbert Sorrentino
Borrowing its name from a William Carlos Williams poem, A unusual Commonplace lays naked the secrets and techniques and desires of characters whose lives are intertwined by means of twist of fate and necessity, possessions and experience.
Ensnared in a jungle of urban streets and suburban bed room groups from the boozy Nineteen Fifties to the culturally vacuous current, strains blur among households and buddies, violence and love, desire and melancholy. As fathers attempt to hook up with their teenagers, as writers fight for credibility, as other halves stroll out, and an outdated guy performs Russian roulette with a deck of playing cards, their tales resonate with poignancy and savage humor—familiar, tragic, and cathartic.
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Additional info for A Strange Commonplace
In Jameson’s Political Unconscious, the possibility of a critical postmodernism is predicated on a social totality that is itself the scene of perpetual struggle, so that without any recourse to the fantasy of an “outside,” utopian projections of very different kinds might emerge from within what is understood to be a single system or mode of production, whereas in Hutcheon’s reﬂections on what amounts to the same problem, this critique from within is best accounted for through the expression of determinate negations.
On this point, Hutcheon would concur with Jameson’s analysis. For Hutcheon, postmodernism is to be deﬁned by its preoccupation at all levels with “the presence of the past,” so that the dynamic of postmodern historiographic metaﬁction, the best example of this preoccupation, is simply paradigmatic of the logic that she ascribes to postmodern cultural production generally (Poetics 4). In Hutcheon’s account, history and ﬁction are currently both deeply implicated in a contemporary crisis in representation, which, although often argued in epistemological terms, is really an ideological battle about authority and meanings, and it is this struggle that comes to the fore in postmodern historiographic metaﬁction (Politics 74).
But the ideologeme is more than simply a unit in some partial superstructural expression of the dynamics of historical materialism, for if there is no escape from ideology, then every cultural artifact is at once a representation of class interest and at the same time, to the extent that it is socially conditioned, a representation of some collective imagining. Moreover, Jameson persuasively maintains, to the extent that every artifact is the representation of a collective interest or fantasy, it is in its expression of that collective desire a form of utopian imagining, if we understand, as Jameson insists, that “[t]he achieved collectivity or organic group of whatever kind— oppressors fully as much as oppressed—is Utopian not in itself, but only insofar as all such collectivities are themselves ﬁgures for the ultimate concrete collective life of an achieved Utopian or classless society” (Political 291).
A Strange Commonplace by Gilbert Sorrentino