Fiction's Present

Situating Contemporary Narrative Innovation

Edited by R. M. Berry & Jeffrey R. Di Leo

Subjects: Literary Theory, Philosophy Of Literature, Fiction
Paperback : 9780791472644, 311 pages, November 2007
Hardcover : 9780791472637, 311 pages, November 2007

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Table of contents

R. M. Berry and Jeffrey R. Di Leo
Introduction: 12 Theses on Fiction's Present
R. M. Berry and Jeffrey R. Di Leo
1. Fiction's Present: Brief Notes
Samuel R. Delany

2. Innovative Fiction and the Poetics of Power: Gertrude Stein and Christine Brooke-Rose "Do" Language
Christina Milletti

3. To Have Done with Postmodernism: A Plea (or Provocation) for Globalization Studies
Timothy S. Murphy

4. Fiction's Present without Basis
Leslie Scalapino

5. Convinced by Fiction, Convinced by History: Three Novels
Joseph McElroy

6. American World-Fiction in the Longue Durée
Joseph Tabbi

7. Post-postmodern Discontent: Contemporary Fiction and the Social World
Robert L. McLaughlin

8. Toward the Edge of the Hermetic: Notes on Raising Fiction from the Dead
Lidia Yuknavitch

9. The Self-Deceiving Muse: Fiction and the Rationalistic Dictates of the Present
Alan Singer

10. Notes on Fiction and Philosophy
Brian Evenson

11. James, Cather, Vollmann, and the Distinction of Historical Fiction
Robert L. Caserio

12. Fourteen Notes toward the Musicality of Creative Disjunction, or Fiction by Collage
Lance Olsen

13. Mount Rushmore: Four Brief Essays on Fictions
Michael Martone

14. Recognition as a Depleted Source in Lynne Tillman's Motion Sickness
Sue-Im Lee

15. A Modality
Percival Everett

16. Critifictional Reflections on the Pathetic Condition of the Novel in Our Time
Raymond Federman

17. Henry Miller to Henry James
Ronald Sukenick

18. In Their Own Words: The Collective Presents Itself
Jerome Klinkowitz

19. World Book
Carole Maso

Afterword: Two Presents
Brian McHale

About the Contributors


Fiction writers and critics engage the aesthetic, political, philosophical, and cultural dimensions of contemporary fiction.


Combining creative and critical responses from some of today's most progressive and innovative novelists, critics, and theorists, Fiction's Present adventurously engages the aesthetic, political, philosophical, and cultural dimensions of contemporary fiction. By juxtaposing scholarly articles with essays by practicing novelists, the book takes up not only the current state of literature and its criticism but also connections between contemporary philosophy and contemporary fiction. In doing so, the contributors aim to provoke further discussion of the present inflection of fiction—a present that can be seen as Janus-faced, looking both forward to the novel's radically changed, political, economic, and technological circumstances, and back to its history of achievements and problems.

Editors R. M. Berry and Jeffrey R. Di Leo contend that examinations of fiction's present are most informative not when they defend philosophical distinctions or develop literary classifications, but when they grapple with elusive topics such as the meaning of a narrative present or the relation of fiction's medium to its representations of context. As the essays reveal, this process, when pursued diligently, breaks down traditional divisions of academic and intellectual labor, compelling the fiction writer to become more philosophical and the theorist to become more imaginative. The value of this book is not in the exhaustiveness of its treatment, but rather in the seriousness of the criticism it incites. The present materializes in quarrel, and it is toward such a beginning that the writings in Fiction's Present work.

R. M. Berry is Professor of English at Florida State University and author of the novel Frank. Jeffrey R. Di Leo is Associate Professor of English and Philosophy at the University of Houston at Victoria and editor of the American Book Review and symplokē.


"This is a lively, provocative, and extremely timely collection that explores the role of serious innovative fiction in our current cultural 'present' in which literature seems increasingly marginalized." — Larry McCaffery, author of Some Other Frequency: Interviews with Innovative American Authors