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Tracing the networks of postmodernity : media and technology in the novels of Martin Amis and Don Delillo Thomson, D. 2001

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TRACING THE NETWORKS OF POSTMODERNITY: MEDIA AND TECHNOLOGY IN THE NOVELS OF MARTIN AMIS AND DON DELILLO by DAVID THOMSON B.A., McGil University, 1989 M. A., The University of British Columbia, 1991 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in „, THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES Department of English We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard THE UNIVERSITY (^BRITISH COLUMBIA July 2001 © David Thomson, 2001 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. Department of ^ ^ l ^ L -The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada Date *[ Oc\ro\>6<- 7Loo( DE-6 (2/88) Abstract This study discusses works by Martin Amis and Don DeLilo in the context of several key scientific and technological transformations that occur in the aftermath of the Second World War. I begin by revisiting one of the most-discussed aspects of DeLilo's work: the curents of conspiracy and paranoia that recur in his novels and, he claims, pervade the wider culture. By demonstrating how paranoid naratives strive to accommodate contemporary technologies, I create a context in which the paranoia addressed in works such as Libra and Underworld becomes inteligible as a response to the specifc technological character of surveilance and control in the post-War period. The sciences of information and cybernetics also cohere in the years folowing the War, and the second chapter explores the creative tension between metaphors of entropy and information in Amis's fiction as wel as DeLilo's. The third chapter focuses on television as a constiutive element of postmodernity, and traces how DeLilo and Amis adopt narative strategies that enable them to represent subjects who have grown accustomed to living within an environment mediated, to an unprecedented degree, by visual imagery supplied by or formated for television. Another product of postmodern technology, commercial air travel reconfigures relationships to place and to time for inhabitants of industrialized countries. Both the liberating and limiting consequences of living in the later half of the century of flight are addressed in the fourth chapter. The final chapter ofers an assessment of the role contemporary media and technology play in establishing the characteristics associated with postmodernity, and concludes with a brief discussion of the role the internet might play within the context of the specific technologies discussed in the body of the thesis. TABLE OF CONTENTS Abstract ii Acknowledgements iv INTRODUCTION The Technology in the Text 1 CHAPTER ONE Chief Shaman? Don Delilo's Paranoia 27 1.1 Paranoia and Interpretation 31 1.2 Paranoia and the Paranoid Style 38 1.3 The Consequences of Conspiracy 53 CHAPTER TWO The Logic of Decay and the Promise of Renewal: Amis and DeLilo Considered as Systems Novelists 67 2.1 "Everything Is Winding Down" 73 2.2 Order and Ordure 81 2.3 Literature and Open Systems 86 2.4 Don DeLilo: Chaos and Renewal 92 2.5 "When You Deal with Crowds, Nothing's Predictable".. 108 CHAPTER THREE Novelists on Television: Amis and DeLilo and Postmodern Theory 117 3.1 Worst-Case Scenarios 128 3.2 The Author as (Film) Producer 146 3.3 Artists in the Marketplace 157 CHAPTER FOUR "Somebody Somewhere Else" 172 CONCLUSION The Network of Networks 196 WORKS CITED 210 iv Acknowledgements This dissertation would not have been completed without the strong support and encouragement of my supervisor Michael Zeitlin. I owe him a great debt of thanks for making sure I saw it through to completion. I would also like to thank John Cooper and Adam Frank for agreeing to join the thesis commitee at a late stage, and for providing inteligent and iluminating commentary on the dissertation draft. Graham Good and Patricia Merivale contributed valuable insights and suggestions in the early stages of my research, and Wilhelm Emilsson provided timely advice and assistance regarding the preparation of the final product. I gratefuly acknowledge financial assistance in the form of graduate felowships from the University of British Columbia and the Social Science and Humanites Research Council. Technology in the Text 1 Introduction The Technology in the Text "Post-1945 life is completely diferent from everything that came before it. We are like no other people in history." (Martin Amis [quoted in McGrath 188]) \ \ "What I try to do is create complex human beings, ordinary-extraordinary men and women who live in the particular skin of the late twentieth century." (Don DeLilo [quoted in Begley 304]) Martin Amis and Don DeLilo, authors of the novels discussed in this thesis, are primarily concerned with representations of, respectively, contemporary British and American society. What initialy drew me to their work was the connection between the stories they told through their fiction and the stories unfolding in the world around me. It seemed as though each author was atempting an unsystematic analysis or patchwork sociology of the postmodern world through his fiction. Each seemed particularly atuned to the wide range of contemporary discourses that, in the words of Arnold Weinstein, make up "the private jargons and codes of today's technocratic society" (289). Though I wil argue DeLilo and Amis write fiction specificaly concerned with capturing their particular historical moment, each writer can, without difficulty, be positoned within various literary traditons as wel. James Diedrick finds Amis's Money to be an updating of the Russian skaz novel, of which "Dostoyevsky's Notes From Underground is the master-text" (70). Douglas Keesey finds DeLilo folowing "the Technology in the Text 2 distinguished tradition of Henry James" (117) in The Names. For his part Amis cites Vladimir Nabokov as a literary influence, while in interviews DeLilo routinely refers to James Joyce as a model. Without seeking to detract from the importance of literary influences, this thesis examines influences of a diferent kind. Specificaly, I argue that the particular historical conditons and developments a novelist confronts and responds to in creating a work of contemporary fiction are crucial to a critical understanding of the work. To that end I focus on certain technical innovations that, in my opinion, work to define the curent environment Amis and DeLilo write about. This thesis in no way forecloses alternate approaches. I am not proposing it as an exhaustive or necessarily complete interpretation, but rather as an investigation growing from a long-standing interest in the cultural consequences of new technologies. Such an interest in the way certain contemporary novelists developed a narative vision informed by contemporary technology could easily lead to discussions of writers other than the two I have chosen here. Thomas Pynchon and James McElroy are obvious American examples of authors whose work is deeply informed by contemporary technological issues, while JG Balard and Ian Sinclair could serve as British writers in this vein. Younger writers like Iain Banks and David Foster Walace, Wil Self or Kathy Acker: there is no shortage of writing about the impact of technology on contemporary life. My decision to focus on Amis and DeLilo is motivated by the productive comparisons to be made between them as wel as by the way each is individualy suited to my project. By choosing a writer from each side of the Atlantic I want to stress that literary works which engage contemporary forms of technology are not limited to the United States. Additionaly, I choose these particular novelists because they inhabit a gray zone Technology in the Text 3 between practioners of experimental, avant-garde literature and the formulaic conventions of genre fiction writers. They are accessible yet remain distinctive stylists and original writers. Martin Amis demonstrates a consistent interest in the impact of post-War social and political change on the way individuals live, think and feel in curent society. In one interview he aludes to the way novelists atempt to trace such changes when he observes "that when a writer of twenty-five puts pen to paper he's saying to the writer of fifty that it's no longer like that, it's like this" (Rivieri 115). As a novelist for over twenty-five years (and now himself "the writer of fifty") Amis has spent a career trying to come to terms with "what the contemporary moment feels like" (Rivieri 115). This interest is even more evident in his journalism and other non-fictional works. A short book from 1982 caled Invasion of the Space Invaders, for example, combines a brief essay on the video-game phenomenon with a straightforward survey of the most popular games of the period. The 1984 short-story colection Einstein's Monsters opens with a non-fiction essay that explores the psychological efects of nuclear weapons and their proliferation, and this topic along with another inescapable postmodern technology, television, is a central concern in the 1986 novel London Fields. Across the Atlantic, his contemporary DeLilo has produced an equivalent volume of work in almost precisely the same period of time (Amis's first novel appeared in 1973, DeLilo's in 1971). Like Amis, DeLilo has set each of his eleven novels within the time-frame of his own experience,1 and in their totality they suggest "some giant composite 1 Excluding Ratner's Star, which is set at an unspecified time and place somewhere in the near future. Technology in the Text 4 plan . . . , an al-encompassing scheme that, when completed, wil bear witness to how we lived, worked, played and sounded in the second half of the twentieth century" (Weinstein 288).2 Due in part to my engagement with these themes through the novels of Amis and DeLilo, I became interested in the influence specifc technological innovations might exert on contemporary culture, especialy those created or promoted in the "long postwar boom" (Harvey 124) of economic development and consumer demand folowing the end of World War II. This dissertation is largely an atempt to understand the impact of these technologies on the act of producing fiction about this "contemporary moment," about living in our "particular skin." It is my belief that works of contemporary literature can shed light on the extent to which the products and discourses of our curent technologies determine the way in which, as Amis suggests, "it's no longer like that, it's like this" (Rivieri 115). A standard strategy for separating "that" period of the twentieth century literature from "this" period is to use the Second World War as a dividing point. For example, in his encyclopedic Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism Fredric Jameson aligns the shift from modernism as the cultural dominant to postmodernism with the emergence, in the period folowing World War II, of a third stage in capitalism's development. He quotes from Ernest Mandel's Late Capitalism in identifying the "machine th production of electronic and nuclear-powered apparatuses since the 40s of the 20 century" as the latest "general revolu[tion] in technology engendered by the capitalist mode of 2 Weinstein's comments are somewhat prescient, as his description of DeLillo's work up until Mao // is echoed in many of the comments made by reviewers upon the publication of Underworld, which Technology in the Text 5 production" (35). Certainly Jameson's thesis, both in its initial form as a 1984 article published in New Left Review and in the extended form of the 1991 book, received wide critical atention and commentary. The ensuing debate focused less on the validity of the periodizing principle than on Jameson's historical materialist claims that the economic order after 1945 accounted for the emergence of postmodernism as a new "cultural dominant" (4). The validity of the central point Jameson borows from Mandel, namely that economic developments after World War II represent a new stage in the history of capital, seems to meet with a kind of general consensus. Put another way, the question of 1945's signifcance is epistemological rather than ontological. that the war's consequences represent something important is universaly conceded; what it represents continues to be the subject of considerable debate. In The Condition of Postmodernity David Harvey disagrees with the equation Jameson draws between postmodernism as a cultural phenomenon and late capitalism. His book argues that postmodernism is a later development, emerging in the aftermath of a general crisis that afected Western economies around 1973. Stil, he seeks to amend the "late capital" thesis rather than reject it outright. Timing aside, Harvey's account of the cultural consequences of his version of postmodernity echoes Jameson's in two important ways. First, the economic transformations he identifies are explicitly linked to "the rise of a series of industries based on technologies" (132) that come out of the post-War period. Second, Harvey shares with Jameson a pluralistic strategy in the way he appropriates cultural objects from a range of sources and subjects them to a critical gaze. In each case "span[s] fifty years and the entire continent" (Begley 29). Technology in the Text 6 their observations regarding late capitalism's implications range across fiction, architecture, film, art, television, and philosophy. By addressing a range of cultural products, these two critics suggest that the efects of the kind of economic organization identified as postmodernity are generalized across the cultural sphere. For Harvey the primary efect is the wholesale commodifcation of cultural products under postmodernism; for his part, Jameson observes, "the intervention of the machine, the mechanization of culture, and the mediation of culture by the Consciousness Industry [culture packaged as a commodity, in other words] are now everywhere the case" (Jameson 68). Postmodernism has forced us to become aware, Jameson says, of the "fundamental materiality" of culture, and as a result we have adopted a word that has tended to displace the older language of genres and forms — and this is, of course, the word medium, and in particular its plural, media, a word which now conjoins three relatively distinct signals: that of an artistic mode or specifc form of aesthetic production, that of a specific technology, generaly organized around a central apparatus or machine; and that finaly, of a social institution. (Jameson 68) In this formulation, then, literature becomes one kind of medium amongst others, including cinema and television. The reinscription of literature as a medium in the wake of technological developments is a fundamental part of the work of the German critical theorist Friedrich Kittler. In Discourse Networks 1800/1900, he polemicaly identifies historical transformations in both the theory and practice of language with developments in specific Technology in the Text 7 technologies. He defines a discourse network as "the network of technologies and instiutions that alow a given culture to select, store, and produce relevant data" (389), and argues that "the discourse network of 1800 depended upon writing as the sole, linear channel for processing and storing information" (Gramophone xxiv). Around 1900, Kitler believes, three technical innovations served to diferentiate information processing and storage and consequently transform that era's understanding of the nature and function of speech and writing. He describes how the inventions of the typewriter, gramophone and film camera introduced new possibilties for the storage and processing of information, and suggests that these possibilties undermined writing's privileged positon and reduced its importance within the reconfigured discourse network. In additon Kitler has discussed the role miltary research played on the development of media technologies after 1945. Virtualy al the media technologies that proliferated after the war, he finds, owe their existence to technology developed during it: FM radio from the VHF technology of Germany's Panzer divisions, tape cassete machines from war technology developed by BASF and AEG, and so on (Gramophone 107-109). Kitler has not proposed that post-World War Two technologies have efected as radical a transformation of the discourse network as those of 1900, but his analysis is necessarily incomplete. As John Johnson explains, "methodological constraints determine that an event inaugurating another discourse network can only be identified retrospectively" (Johnson 6). Stil, in the shift from analog to digital signal processing, from film to video technology, and from typewriters to computer workstations there seems to be the outline of a comparable "discourse network of 2000" though it cannot yet be described, according to Kitler ("Interview" 736). For the present moment, I am content to Technology in the Text 8 borow Kitler's emphasi  on media technologies in drawing atention to a number o f postmodern media forms that find their origin in the research and development programs of the Second World War. Though he exhibits a similar materialist bias and pays close atention to historical context, Kitler's positon is distinct from Jameson's or Harvey's in that his analysis is not grounded in anything resembling a Marxist narrative. He is, in a sense, expounding a form of technological determinism in order to situate aesthetic and philosophical discourse within a horizon bounded by materialist considerations — namely, the irreducible materiality of literary works. The demystifcation o f literature described in Discourse Networks 1800/1900 is associated with and compounded by the development o f other media, in Kitler's view. There is ample evidence that the proliferation of media technologies after the war reduced the status o f literature, already diminished within the discourse network of 1900, to that o f one media channel among many. John Johnston suggests the process has intensified when he observes that, Whereas the modernist novel arises in a context defined by the appearance of new recording and storage media (film, phonograph, typewriter), [post-War novels] register the efects of these media more directly, even as their own context is being transformed by the mas  media, global communications networks, and computer technologies. (13) th In contrast to literature's situation within the relative monopoly of print media in the 19 Century, its relative stature was diminished within the post-War cultural environment by the incredible success of television and the continued presence of radio and film. In addition, perhaps as a corolary of the previous point, the ascendancy of the primarily Technology in the Text 9 commercial form of television strengthened the popular identification of cultural products as just another kind of commodity, and further undermined the artistic (as opposed to commercial) claims of literary texts.3 From this relatively diminished positon the novelist gains the benefit of perspective and, ironicaly, a privileged location to observe the spectacle. This at least is the view of DeLilo, who "doesn't think that the increasingly marginal status of the serious novelist is necessarily awful.... [I]f the social novel lives, but only barely, surviving in the cracks and ruts of the culture, maybe it wil be taken more seriously, as an endangered species" (quoted in Remnick 48). Although his tone seems pessimistic, DeLilo goes on to insist that "we need the writer in oppositon, the novelist who writes against power, who writes against the corporation or the state or the whole apparatus of assimilation" (290). Certainly Bill Gray, the novelist DeLilo creates in Mao II, seems to embody the image of a writer as an oppositonal, reclusive figure operating on the margins. Amis too has commented on the efects of the market economy and consumer culture on the author. His conclusions are similar to DeLilo's, judging from his short story "Career Move." This brief piece, published in the June 29, 1992 issue of the New Yorker (and subsequently reprinted in the short story colection Heavy Water [1999]) inverts the normal hierarchy of writers to contrast the jet-seting lifestyle of Luke, a highly-paid poet whose works are made into motion pictures, with Alistair, an obscure young screenplay writer trying to get his latest work, "Ofensive from Quasar 13," published in a smal journal caled the Little Magazine. The entire piece parodies the idea of a literary work as a 3 Andreas Huyssen traces this anxiety in After the Great Divide: Modernism, Mass Culture, Postmoderism. Technology in the Text 10 commodity and a writer as a celebrity, ideas that are worked out in much greater depth in his 1997 novel The Information. There, the contrast is between a serious, "dificult," and entirely unsuccessful novelist and a pandering, commodity-friendly author who achieves fame and fortune. Despite the apparent critical stance towards the efects of commodifcation Amis and DeLilo present through their fiction, they are inevitably implicated in the process. As Joe Moran reveals in Star Authors: Literary Celebrity in America, it is no longer just the books that have become commodites; authors themselves are "inescapably caught up in a process by which the 'sign-exchange value' of their name circulates competively as part of marketing and publicity" (67). The author's function now extends past the compositon process, and participation in the marketing of the 'product' is expected — often as part of the publisher's contract. DeLilo received a large advance for his novel Underworld, and when the book was published in 1997 he agreed for the first time to participate in a world-wide book tour, explaining that he wanted to do his part to help sel the book. Amis describes "the peculiar pleasures of the contemporary American book tour" in an article for the 26 June 1995 issue of the New Yorker. His book tour was organized in support of the novel The Information, which itself contains a lengthy and satirical account of an unsuccessful British author's experiences on a contemporary American book tour. In themselves reading tours are not, of course, postmodern phenomena. Yet the contemporary author's relationship to the commodity he or she has created — or more accurately, helped to create — is mediated by a constelation of cultural and technological factors that influence the reception of the work (an entire promotional tour spanning several continents can be completed in less time than it took Dickens to travel across the Technology in the Text 11 Atlantic to commence his reading tour of America and Canada in 1842). The complex ironies that develop from the intersection of Amis's own literary celebrity and the extended treatment literary celebrity receives in The Information brought critical atention in the form o f two recent journal articles on the subject. In "Artists and Verbal Mechanics" Joe Moran suggests the novel seems to touch on "anxieties about the survival o f authorship as a meaningful activity in an age of the corporate ownership o f ideas and images" (316). Juliet Gardiner considers the marketing of the paperback editon of The Information in similar terms in "What Is An Author," concluding, "the author has no performative role in the publication o f paperbacks. His or her function has been commodifed into the book and totalised in its design" (74). Moran and Gardiner adopt the perspective of the publishing industry in their analysis, and conclude that the author serves as an adjunct to the marketing process from this perspective. From a marketing perspective Amis has a much higher profile than DeLilo, but in academic terms he is very much a junior partner to DeLilo when it comes to critical atention. Published material on Amis is limited to two book-length studies, a monograph, several dozen articles in academic journals and a large number of newspaper reviews and stories. In contrast, there are eight book-length studies of DeLilo's work, along with over fifty chapters within larger works, three special issues of academic journals, in excess of a hundred academic articles, and several hundred newspaper reviews.4 Part of this discrepancy can be atributed to the disproportionate interest paid to post-War American literature in general, but the lack of critical atention paid to a figure routinely identified as 4 These figures are taken from the Don DeLillo Society's on-line bibliography, compiled by Mark Osteen and maintained by Phil Nel at <> Technology in the Text 12 one of the leading writers of his generation5 is slightly mysterious. Perhaps Amis's fascination with sex and violence and his dyspeptic view of contemporary culture is, within academic circles, less palatable than DeLilo's more clinical prose. Whatever the reason, there is curently a clear imbalance in the academic interest directed at the two novelists. New technologies have played a role in fostering atention to each author's work. Curently the World Wide Web, representing the high water mark of the ideal of instantly accessible, interconnected information, provides a wide variety of resources for scholars, critics and other readers interested in Amis and DeLilo. Sites devoted to their work provide exhaustive information and are updated almost daily.6 Siting at a computer typing these words, I have Don DeLilo's voice speaking in my ear. This is not a coy metaphor; it's literaly true. The New York Times On the Web provides a link to a digitized recording of DeLilo's conversation with NPR radio host Tery Gross from 1997. Accessible in a "streaming audio" format, the sound file is being fed from a central computer somewhere in the United States to the speakers on the monitor in front of me. In the interview, DeLilo has just stated that he doesn't spend much time on the Internet, but that he sees it as a logical symbol of "the vast number of systems connections that takes place beyond our comprehension and the direct connection in this decade between technology and paranoia." The New York Times web site also ofers samples of DeLilo reading from Libra and Mao II in New York ("Featured Author: Don DeLilo" np). 5 In a typical review piece, for instance, Amis is characterized as "by far the most talented and daring English writer of his generation" (Foreman 64). Technology in the Text 13 Why am I listening to audio and not watching video? The answer comes in two parts, and each part is related to much of the preceding discussion: 1) Sending video signals over the Internet is possible but bandwidth issues make it a complex and unsatisfying process. This wil change in the future, but curently the manner of DeLilo's visitation is controled by the technological limitations of the medium; 2) There is only one recorded instance of DeLilo appearing on a TV show to discuss his or any other writer's work (Moran 130). Martin Amis, a more visible public figure by many orders of magnitude, has appeared on television a number of times, but the preponderance of his readings and interviews for the electronic media is likewise audio-only. Writers, or more specificaly novelists, are thus positoned by the consumer market at a certain echelon where their cultural value is dictated by their abilty to sel airtime to commercial advertisers on the various media outlets. The relationship of novelists to other media forms is an important indicator in the more abstract consideration of the "role" of literature in contemporary culture. The impact of mainstream media on literature is acknowledged by the admission that a book's success is almost guaranteed by a positve review in the New York Times Book Review (Moran 40), or in the way Oprah's Book Club has become the novelist's version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? The situation of literature as a historical object of study is another important motivating force behind this thesis. Amis's case in particular lays bare the strange intersection of media celebrity and 6 Curt Gardner maintains "Don DeLillo's America" (URL:; the "Martin Amis Web" (URL: was started by James Diedrick. Technology in the Text 14 literary reputation. Don DeLilo may have dramatized the figure of the novelist against the backdrop of consumer culture and mas  media in Mao II, but Amis lived it. Thus the twin topics of technology as it relates to literary production and what it means to be a novelist — or what it means to be a novel — on this side of the second milennium organize much of the work of this dissertation. It should be taken as an atempt to participate in the discussions taking place about these large, messy issues — messy in the sense that the boundaries of the discussions endlessly blur into one another. The writer approaching either DeLilo or Amis must be prepared to practice a form of reflexive criticism. The novels in each writer's oeuvre come from a place where the writer is already anticipating the response of both the future reader and the future critic of the work. Charles Highway, the protagonist of Amis's first novel The Rachel Papers, studies literature and keeps his literary pretensions on (self-conscious) display: "Don't I ever do anything else but take soulful walks down the Bayswater Road, I thought, as I walked soulfuly down the Bayswater Road" ( 73). One would expect this, as the author is the son of Kingsley Amis and was at the time of the novel's compositon the literary editor of the London Times Book Review. Amis would have harboured few idealistic notions about the mechanisms of book publication. From the first the complicated process of publishing a book was demystifed. DeLilo, on the other hand, claims to have come to fiction with his naivete and idealism intact. The romanticized image of the artist coloured his perception of what it meant to be a writer, at least initialy. In an interview from the mid-80's, he recals the conditons under which he wrote his first novel (Americana, published in 1971) in the folowing way: 7 See Jonathan Wilson's "A Very English Story" for a full account of "The Amis affair." Technology in the Text 15 I was hurling things at the page. At the time I lived in a smal apartment with no stove and the refrigerator in the bathroom and I thought first novels writen under those circumstances ought to be novels in which great chunks of experience are hurled at the page. So that's what I did. (LeClair 80) Evident in this quotation is an ironic reflection on this earlier, romanticized self, and even by his third novel, Great Jones Street, the character Fenig is a caricature of the romantic image of a struggling writer. Certainly Mao II suggests few ilusions about the commercial nature of the book trade. The progression from Fenig the writer for hire, to the corporate communicator James Axton in The Names, to Bill Gray's convoluted relationships with his novel, his publisher, and his archivist-cum-literary executor (Scot), suggests a repositoning on DeLilo's part of the writer from the center of some magic circle to a link in a technical process. The knowingness of the authors8 sets the stage for a secondary level of reflexive caution. Each writer is aware of his positon as commentator on a general social environment. During a public reading in Seatle, for example, DeLilo was asked what he would have done if he hadn't turned to writing. He responded that he probably would have been an anthropologist or sociologist (DeLilo pers. comm. 20 October 1997). Amis has a long career as a journalist writing on issues ranging from AIDS to American politics to nuclear strategists. Given their interest in the contemporary, both writers work in the knowledge that their medium is constantly in competion — or at least seeking And at the same time there are lapses in the author's control. When, in an article for the London Observer, Maureen Freely pointed out "the stream of lost or wandering daughters" that flows through Amis's novels, the insight seemed to take Amis by surprise: "I felt there was something almost embarrassing about the neatness and obviousness ofthe Freely interpretation." (Experience 280) Technology in the Text 16 coexistence — with other, more glossy narative forms like television and film. In DeLilo's phrase, "the novel itself, the old, slow water-torture business of invention and doubt and self-correction, may seem to be wearing an expiration date that takes efect tomorow" ("The Power of History" np). The argument that American or British novelists might themselves be an endangered species seems untenable given the enormous number of new works of fiction that continue to appear each year in those countries. Still, the sense that novelists and novels might be losing relevance within the wider culture maintains a general curency. The essayist and critic Sven Birkerts invokes this contemporary conceit in the title of his 1995 book The Gutenberg Elegies, while in a 1988 speech to the International Publisher's Association Congress George Steiner concludes with the observation that "[i]t may wel be that the 'age of the book' in its classical sense is now coming to a very gradual end. That age spans, very roughly, the period from the 1550s to the 1950s: 400 very short years" (41). Steiner bases this claim on his observation that "the relationship between books and literature, as we have known it in the European-American communites, arose from an exceedingly complex and inherently unstable concatenation of technical, economic, and social circumstances" (41), and on his belief that this concatenation has been undone in the wake of technological, economic and social change in the post-War period. As social documents, novels register contemporary changes within their naratives, and as "media assemblages" (Johnston 4) they may also register such changes materialy within the context of competing media forms. The Darwinian implications of this rhetoric of competion are unfortunate, as I do not believe the novel is in imminent danger of extinction. How novels might function within the discourse network that constiutes Technology in the Text 17 postmodernity does seem to me to be an important issue, however, and in this dissertation I try to address it by discussing four kinds of "networks" and describing how Amis and DeLilo's fictions respond to and circulate in each of them. In the first chapter the idea of a symbolic network that describes the circulation of political power is discussed in the context of insistent themes of paranoia and conspiracy that run through DeLilo's fiction from Running Dog to Underworld. DeLilo's use of paranoia is particularly interesting against the backdrop of Richard Hofstatder's influential essay, "The Paranoid Style," which traces a specificaly rhetorical strategy through several centuries of American political discourse to suggest the persistence of a particular narrative. What makes paranoia fascinating is the manner in which its articulations shadow larger social and technological developments. As with the perpetual big-budget remakes of Hamlet, the storyline remains essentialy unchanged even as the scene and the stars are constantly updated to suit the latest fashions. Indeed, it is not too far from the mark to credit practioners of the paranoid style as "early adopters" of social and technical innovation. This point is brought to light most comprehensively in Friedrich Kitler's analysis of the ur-text for theories of clinical paranoia, Daniel Paul Schreber's Memoirs of My Mental Illness. Kitler questions the psychoanalytic reading of Schreber's Memoirs that Freud published in 1911, seeing the text instead as a persistently overdetermined account of clinical psychiatry at the moment of Schreber's incarceration. Kittler's analysis suggests how the intimate relationship between paranoia as a comprehensive rhetoric and the constantly updated agents and methods it invokes alows a paranoid narative to function as a weathervane for contemporary fears and desires. By identifying culprits and victims operating within a given social context and atempting to provide an exhaustively coherent Technology in the Text 18 narative structure necessary to maintain the integrity of the social body, the paranoid narative becomes peculiarly sensitzed to the appearance of new elements. Examples of such naratives abound in popular culture to such an extent that they can be plucked almost at random from the shelves of a local video store. Invasion of the Body Snatchers metaphoricaly signaled the Red Menace, The Terminator inscribed fears of automation as a threat to human labour power within a "textbook" paranoid plotline, and recently The Matrix updated the mechanical dystopia to encompass the paranoid potentials of virtual reality. In DeLilo's hands, the paranoid narative dances to a slightly altered tune. Most obviously in Libra, the paranoid style is interogated and shown to be a form of wish-fulfilment or daydream. Nevertheless, I find the prevalence and contemporeneity of DeLilo's deployment of paranoid strategies interesting, and find the double movement, the simultaneous use and frustration of paranoid closure, indicative of his particular conception of an alternate "system-formation" from the hermetic, totalizing strategies found in the clinical paranoid style and its social counterpart, conspiracy theory. In the second chapter the network at issue is a conceptual one, responsible for the circulation of ideas. In particular, I am interested in the way ideas from science are implicated in the narative structure of works of fiction. Amis's use of entropy as a theme and narative principle, for example, must be read in the context of the historical trajectory of that particular scientific discourse: the evolution of nineteenth-century statistical thermodynamics into the contemporary discipline of systems theory. Amis's focus on entropy as metaphor has consequences for social, psychological, and even environmental aspects of his fiction. From the standpoint of the overal periodizing hypothesis proposed Technology in the Text 1 9 in this dissertation, it is intriguing to note the manner in which the nineteenth-century ideas about entropy develop and give rise to a formidable and productive convergence of twentieth-century scientific fields. Systems theory integrates numerous insights to form some of the core scientific and technical disciplines that characterize the post-War period as "the information age." From the use of information theory in molecular biology to the packet-switching relays in the global communications network, the information model that replaces the entropic universe of Victorian science is born, as Katherine Hayles outlines in How We Became Post-human, from the application of statistical thermodynamics to problems of communication. The watershed event in the reconfiguration of entropy's relationship to information is now widely held to be Waren Weaver and Claude Shannon's 'The Mathematical Theory of Communication," published in 1949. This short article is regarded as the foundational interpretation of information as a function of the degree of randomness ("entropy") in a system. The previous year, Norbert Wiener published a book outlining his study of communication and control in automated systems, a study for which he coined the term "cybernetics." In 1950 he published a revised version of Cybernetics entiled The Human Use of Human Beings, a text that suggested the wider ramifcations of his "theory of messages" including "the study of language, the study of messages as a means of controling machinery and society, the development of computing machines and other such automata, certain reflections upon psychology and the nervous system, and a tentative new theory of scientific method" (15). In this volume Wiener discusses living organisms as products and participants in a communications network, and arguably anticipates some of the consequences of modern molecular biology, itself a fundamental reordering of the scientific understanding of the process of organic life using DNA as the Technology in the Text 20 central motor of an information engine. Folowing the identification of the structure of DNA in 1953, the earlier, industrial metaphors of cel assembly and organism growth are supplanted by systems-rich models that stress the information processes and networks that enable cel reproduction. As Hayles makes clear, scientific models are neither value-neutral nor politics-free. The entropic view of universal processes had — and has — tangible consequences when it is invoked in cultural discourse. For Wiener, writing in the aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and in the earliest days of nuclear proliferation, the consequences of the second law of thermodynamics are depressing and inevitable: "it is a foregone conclusion that the lucky accident which permits the continuation of life in any form on this earth . . . is bound to come to a complete and disastrous end" (41). Such a pessimistic assessment of entropy's efects surfaces repeatedly in the novels of Martin Amis, most evidently Time's Arrow and London Fields. As Richard Menke notes, Time's Arrow "betokens a certain postmodern faling-of  of distinctions. Indeed, the very logic of postmodernism, like claims that at the end of the milennium we have reached the end of history, may postulate a thermodynamics of history in which entropy now predominates" (977). Thus one can trace the use of entropy as a metaphor and a rationale for the winding down — the 'decline and fall' — Amis stages in many of his novels. The cultural pessimism that commentators identify in his writing (Adam Mars-Jones refers to Amis's tendency to look "on the blight side" of life [19]) finds justification in his tactical use of thermodynamic principles and related references to astronomy and nuclear physics. With Technology in the Text 21 entropy as a guiding principle, Amis's naratives weave their spiraling paterns of urban decay, physical decrepitude, literary exhaustion, and moral colapse. As I have discussed, information theory makes clear that the efects of entropy are localy reversible, enabling what Wiener cals "local and temporary islands of decreasing entropy" (36) in situations where an energy supply exists to ofset the local increases in entropy. After 1945 much of the work involving information theory was concerned with understanding such local reversals. When Amis's work is redefined in terms of the open systems models discussed in Hayles and elsewhere, a more up-to-date interpretation of culture emerges. The cultural activity of writing can be described in terms of an open system, where the local exchange of information and the creation of new works continualy forestal the general efects of entropy. Such a reinterpretation of the entropic metaphor, in light of post-entropy models that resituate the issue in terms of open systems — of literature as an open system — enable a discussion of the sense of an ending in Amis's novels and what the open-ended narative possibilties of his more recent works might suggest. A clear ilustration of the way a systems-view of culture might address the pessimism of an entropic account can be found in DeLilo's novels. The first book-length study of DeLilo, Tom LeClair's In the Loop, proposed precisely this thesis. For LeClair, systems theory suggest[s] that in an open system, such as literature or language, the arow of change not only point[s] toward exhaustion but could also be reversed or bent. Relativity could become saving mutation, and deconstruction might become reconstruction. (10) Technology in the Text 22 In DeLilo's novels LeClair locates in detail the productive, negentropic circulation of information within the contemporary cultural environment. Whereas Amis's primary strategy describes a center that cannot hold, things faling apart, and anarchy loosed upon the world (the end of Dead Babies enacts this rather graphicaly), DeLilo seems to be working towards a consideration of the generative possibilties of an open system, where local exhaustion or maximal entropy is ofset by the incorporation of entropic systems within generative systems — cultural, informational, linguistic. The possibilty of a creative resynthesis is never foreclosed. The tone is not explicitly celebratory, but against the rigidities of an entropic order much of DeLilo seems to be seeking deeper paterns in contemporary chaos and flux. The debate I stage between Amis and DeLilo operates within a discourse network bounded by entropy's limitations and information's possibilties. What place does literature occupy within the wider horizon of the cultural system? The question cannot be avoided in a consideration of the novels Amis and DeLilo have produced over the last thirty years. In their work television becomes something of a cultural bete noire for literature. Both make use of television, the easiest of targets for comic relief and satirical commentary, but in their negative evaluations one can easily discern a diferent kind of anxiety of influence. Television's abilty to provide endless naratives to a global audience underscores literature's marginal status within the contemporary media system. The network I discuss in the third chapter is at one level a technological system that alows for the global transmission of images, but at another level this global communications system embodies the idea of a postmodern discourse network in Kitler's sense, that is, "the network of technologies and instiutions that alow a given Technology in the Text 23 culture to select, store, and produce relevant data" (Discourse Networks 369). Television, a medium that had barely crawled out of the development stage prior to 1939, has become the dominant force in the discourse network as it is constiuted through the later half of the 20th century. What is the efect of television? How does it function in their novels? In Amis's work as a corosive force, always associated with yob life. In Money the crass, uncultured narator John Self is, fittingly, a producer of television commercials. TV as a cultural force makes both authors uneasy. For DeLilo the television is implicated in the fundamental epistemological rift he believes divides "the American century" in two. The event of JFK's assassination was filmed, DeLilo points out, "but if you wanted to see the Zapruder film you had to be very important or you had to wait until the 1970s when I believe it was shown once on television" (Begley 300). Oswald's murder, on the other hand, took place on television, so "you could watch Oswald die while you ate a TV dinner, and he was stil  dying by the time you went to bed" (300). Television, with its "panting lust for bad news and calamity" (301), dictates "the world narative" (302). My third chapter discusses the ways Amis and DeLilo use their fiction to comment upon and critique the narative emerging from a global television network. Televised images can now circulate among the broadcast networks in a way that enables an efectively instantaneous global narrative, but the post-War years saw the rise of a second form of unified global network which involved the circulation of people, not data. In the fourth chapter the routinization of air travel is discussed as another founding characteristic of postmodernity. I wil argue that commercial air travel, a product of the economic afluence and technological advances in the "long boom" after the Second World Technology in the Text 24 War, has an efect on the way we conceptualize space and time. In conjunction with the advances in data and communication networks, the global range of air cariers has initiated "another fierce round in that annihilation of space through time that has always lain at the center of capitalism's dynamic" (Harvey 293). The compression of time and space has consequences for economic relations, as Harvey mentions, but it has potential consequences for social and cultural relations as wel. Though the colapsed boundaries of the globe inaugurated by routine, accessible travel at speeds in the neighborhood of 1000 km/hr led to the idea of a "global vilage," that cozy formulation is scrutinized in the fiction of DeLilo and Amis. There, the enabling technologies of travel produce a profound sense of dislocation in subjects no longer at home — physicaly or psychologicaly — in their environments. Faciltating air travel on a massive scale does not turn the world into a home, rather it fosters a generalized sense of estrangement. Paradoxicaly, the numbers of political and economic refugees put in motion by the upheavals associated with and folowing the mid-century mark enable the formation of expatriate communites that, according to the essayist Pico Iyer, might become the source of a truly global culture that transcends the fixities of nationalism or geography ("the best thing about contemporary writers — and Canadians in particular — was that no one seemed to know where they were from" [169]). Within and between industrialized countries, a peculiar subset of constant travelers can themselves be said to comprise a community, a society of like-minded individuals fluent in what DeLilo cals "the esperanto of jet lag" (Mao II23). Space and place are atentuated in the face of migrations of people, capital and culture that occur on a larger scale and more frequently than ever before (Harvey 285). Technology in the Text 25 The experience of air travel — that is, the combination of existential dread (DeLilo) and spatial disorientation (Amis) — has important consequences on an individual level, but more generaly commercial air travel accelerates many of the processes of commodifcation routinely ascribed to postmodernism in its most unatractive formulations. Chief among these is the "disneyfication" of everything brought about by air tourism. Just as the truly insidious efects of television are more obvious once televisions are everywhere, the time-space compression occasioned by airfares afordable by the (Western) masses creates a changed (Western) conception of the social and cultural environment. One sign of the change is implicit in the altered connotation of'travel-writing' from the nineteenth century to the present time. No longer ofered as a report of a personal journey to an exotic locale, contemporary travel-writing is largely commercial in nature, and functions to prepare the traveler-consumer in the manner of a restaurant review. In the postmodern world, it is implied, the reader of a travel piece can easily reproduce the experiences of the travel writer. Once again I'm arguing that at a certain point the intensification of a particular feature of culture is brought about through the adoption of and adaptation to specifc technologies — first in the shock of the innovation and then in the way it is accommodated and made commonplace. As examples of what DeLilo cals "social novels" the novels discussed in this dissertation are simultaneously (and necessarily) reactions to and descriptions of the efects of specifc encroachments by forms of technology. As a kind of coda to the first four chapters, in the conclusion I turn to the most recent manifestation of communication systems, the "network of networks" (Gafin np) known as the Internet. In its curent form the Internet represents a synthesis of many of the Technology in the Text 26 key systems discussed in this dissertation, but as the youngest of the technological forces discussed its efects remain the hardest to gauge. From its postwar roots in the nascent science of computer systems (Schriver 119) to its curent role in the crisis of intelectual copyright, this most recent network throws into turmoil many of the assumptions — hidden and otherwise — upon which the culture industry rests. The Internet does not yet figure in the novels of DeLilo or Amis to any great extent, but in their published works each has speculated on the role such a technology might play in postmodern culture. In additon to discussing their responses, I wil conclude by ofering some speculations on the efect such a massive and decentralized discourse network might have on the production and distribution of literary texts, and the consequences for the practice of literary scholarship. Chief Shaman? 27 Chapter One Chief Shaman? Don DeLillo's Paranoia One aspect of DeLilo's fiction that has drawn considerable commentary from critics is the repetiive theme of conspiracy that runs through his novels. DeLilo himself traces his fascination with this subject to the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the consequent confusion and uncertainty that have atached itself to this event, claiming that the assassination's aftermath has led to a "deeply unsetled feeling about our grip on reality" (DeCurtis 48). He acknowledges "a lot of the tendencies in my first eight novels seemed to be colecting around the dark center of the assassination" (DeCurtis 48). Despite the considerable body of scholarship dealing with DeLilo's use of paranoia, I believe one important aspect has been overlooked — an aspect that is similarly under-represented in discussions of paranoia in general. In conversation with Gerald Hower, DeLilo asks, "[w]hat is the relationship of high technology to the way we think and feel?" (np), and in the manner in which his novels respond to his own question I believe DeLilo sheds considerable light on the function and structure of the secret systems, conspiracies, and conspiracy theories circulating both in his texts and in the larger culture. The label "chief shaman of the paranoid school" was applied to DeLilo by Robert Towers in his 1988 review of Libra for the New York Review of Books (6). Perhaps because it is suggestive of something quite fundamental in DeLilo's novels, the label has been Chief Shaman? 28 picked up and repeated by a variety of interviewers and critics since then. I want to suggest that the phrase is misleading, especialy in the context Towers provides, which sees DeLilo inheriting the title from Thomas Pynchon. Conspiracy and paranoia clearly fascinate DeLilo, but nowhere in his work does he suggest the kind of malevolent global power Pynchon describes in, for instance, Gravity's Rainbow. While Pynchon's naratives function as paranoid systems that overwhelm the characters trapped inside, DeLilo ultimately frustrates the secret desires of his conspiracy theorists and paranoids by refusing to align his texts with the careful plotings of their elaborate systems. For DeLilo forms of paranoia — at both the social and individual level — are symptomatic of a desire to engage with history. Lee Harvey Oswald's atempts to make a place for himself within the world narative ilustrate this desire, but as Thomas Carmichael points out, Oswald's "eforts to enter history [are] biterly ironic, as he embraces the tyranny of structure and conspiracy in his frustrated desire for an autonomous subjectivity" (248). In a similar manner the political and economic complexites that DeLilo registers in his fiction overwhelm the conceptual grasp of his characters, who are left adrift in what Fredric Jameson describes as "the impossible totality of the contemporary world system" (38). In DeLilo's fiction this leads to the prevalence of characters who imagine the existence of conspiracies and clandestine organizations in order that they may continue to believe in a coherent and comprehensible world: The point is that a paranoid world is the opposite of an 'absurd' or meaningless one: in the former, every detail, every sparow that fals, the make and model of every car that passes you, people's expressions — al that is programmed in advance and part of the basic conspiracy; the world is if anything too Chief Shaman? 29 meaningful, and there is undoubtedly a deeper consolation here which translates itself into formal pleasures such as those of the theological spy story (good vs. evil) or of fantasies of sophistication and ultimate knowledge such as this one. (Jameson, "Review" 118) By engaging with the manifestations of paranoia that appear in America, particularly those that folow John F. Kennedy's assassination in November 1963, DeLilo is able to approach the unrepresentable space of postmodernism Jameson equates with "late capitalism." In describing the recourse to conspiracy, however, DeLilo is not adopting it himself. He makes it clear that paranoia and conspiracy operate in the culture to provide an ilusory coherence. The conspiracies DeLilo describes are peculiarly postmodern in that, while they recal the forms of older paranoid naratives, they are focused on specific, contemporary subjects. Viewed as exercises in the paranoid style, DeLilo's plots and their obsessive return to the subjects of conspiracy, espionage, and hidden systems of power make sense. His fascination with secret agents and terrorists is not a capitulation to paranoid logic — in an interview he insists "you don't have to be paranoid to write [it], or to understand it" (Connoly 266) — but an exploration of the culture of paranoia as it permeates popular consciousness. From this perspective it becomes clear that there are three levels of paranoia operating in DeLilo's fiction. First, there is no shortage of clinical paranoids, characters whose words or actions reveal a serious and debiltating pathological conditon. The street preacher in Underworld (352-354) and a namelss drunk mumbling about FBI surveilance (Running Dog 88) are examples of this type. In addition, there are numerous practioners of the "paranoid style," that is, individuals such as Richie Armbrister in Running Dog or Chief Shaman? 30 General Ted Walker in Libra who are engrossed in a conspiracy theory that serves tacticaly to further their social or political agendas but who are clearly capable of moving efectively through society on a day to day basis. Finaly, DeLilo's fiction is populated with numerous characters who at times exhibit what Eve Sedgwick cals "narow-gauge, everyday, rather incoherent cynicism," or (borowing the term from Peter Sloterdijk) "enlightened false consciousness" (21). Marvin Lundy (Underworld), Mol Parker (Running Dog), the radio DJ Weird Beard (Americana): each stands in an uneasy relationship to the conspiracy naratives they recite. Of course, not al characters fit unproblematicaly in just one of the above categories, but in general the forms of paranoia that appear in DeLilo's novels can be identified as one of these three forms. In many instances in DeLilo's texts it is not absolutely clear if characters properly belong to just one of the categories proposed above, or if they participate in a couple of them. This chapter proceeds through three stages. In the first section, I wil revisit the historical context which determined paranoia as a psychoanalytic category and draw atention to its central characteristics. The second section explores instances of conspiracy and paranoia in DeLilo's novels according to the three types identified above, and foregrounds their relationship to a specifc articulation of bureaucratic power and to specificaly modern methods of surveilance. In the third, I argue that DeLilo creates paranoid naratives and conspiracy theories in his novels not because he seeks to convince us of their truth, but because he is atempting to account for their prevalence in a culture where, increasingly, "it has come to seem that paranoia and conspiracy theories are everywhere" (Knight 811). In this respect the paranoid naratives operating in Libra, Great Jones Street and Players, for example, are embedded within DeLilo's larger interpretive Chief Shaman? 31 project much as Daniel Paul Schreber's Memoirs of My Mental Illness (discussed below) is embedded within the contemporary structures of neurophysiology with which he had to contend (Kitler 304). ' 1. Paranoia and Interpretation The term "paranoia" ("from Greek meaning wrong or faulty knowledge or reasoning" [Macalpine and Hunter 13]) came into existence as a recognized medical conditon around the middle of the eighteenth century. Its main characteristics, megalomania and delusions of persecution, are clearly identifiable in Daniel Paul Schreber's Memoirs of My Mental Illness, a privately printed book which appeared in Leipzig in 1903. In it he recounts his experiences as a patient in psychiatric clinics, and claims that during these times his body "was gradualy being transformed into a female body . . . , [and that] if confirmed and established as a fact by men of science, new evidence would be provided about.. the nature of God. . . " (5). "Believing himself the sole object of these divine miracles, Schreber felt it was his duty to spread this knowledge" to the world at large (Memoirs 5). Elements of persecution and megalomania run throughout Schreber's narrative, along with a delusion that he is constantly watched by a cruel, omniscient, yet curiously aloof deity. This strange document formed the basis for Freud's major work on paranoia, which appeared in 1911 as "Psychoanalytic Notes Upon an Autobiographical Account of a Case of Paranoia (Dementia Paranoides)." Freud never met or coresponded with Schreber, and consequently his entire analysis is based on the narative contained in Schreber's memoirs. In "Psychoanalytical Notes" Freud defends this atypical methodology by claiming that Chief Shaman? 32 analysis of paranoid subjects cannot proceed from a verbal interview anyway because "paranoids . . . only say what they choose to say": The psychoanalytic investigation of paranoia would be altogether impossible if the patients themselves did not possess the peculiarity of betraying (in a distorted form, it is true) precisely those things which other neurotics keep hidden as a secret. Since paranoids cannot be compeled to overcome their internal resistance, and since in any case they only say what they choose to say, it folows that this is precisely a disorder in which a writen report or a printed case history can take the place of personal acquaintance with the patient. (104) From its initial incorporation within modern psychoanalysis, then, paranoia is characterized not only by delusions of persecution and megalomania, and fantasies of constant surveilance, but by an ireducibly textual nature. Paranoia is best observed by the early Freud as a text, a writen narative to be examined and deciphered. In a later work, Totem and Taboo, he writes that the paranoid system (or narative) "is best characterized by the fact that at least two reasons can be discovered for each of its products: a reason based upon the premises of the system (a reason, then, which may be delusional) and a concealed reason, which we must judge to be the truly operative and real one" (96). Folowing this strategy of detecting the latent meaning of a paranoid narative such as Schreber's Memoirs beneath the manifest delusions it describes, Freud argues that the tremendously complex edifice of Schreber's delusional beliefs arises from a relatively simple inabilty to cope with repressed homosexual desires. Applying his theory of libidinal development to Schreber's case, Freud ofers a reading of the Memoirs which translates it into an alegory of sublimated desire for the father (Freud 150). Chief Shaman? 33 Freud describes the mechanism for the return of the repressed in a paranoid's psychic makeup, a process that "requires that internal perceptions, or feelings, shal be replaced by external perceptions" (166): the unacceptable (repressed) internal propositon is thus projected out onto the external world. This repressed propositon returns "in a distorted form, it is true" (104), and the subsequent analysis consists in reconstructing, from shadows and fragments present in the paranoid text, the image of what the patient refuses to represent. In "Psychoanalytic Notes" Freud proposes that the homosexual basis of paranoia takes the unacceptable propositon "I [a man] love HTM" as the repressed content and efects its return in a) the negated form "I hate HTM," b) the transfered form "I love HER," or c) the projected form "HE hates me." This last, "the most striking characteristic of symptom-formation in paranoia" (Freud 169), is given particular atention by Freud and subsequent commentators because it neatly accounts for the way in which an astute interpretation of the external delusions can point towards the problematic core of the paranoid's conditon. The delusional system is, according to the principle of projection, "the result of an internal perception that is suppressed and . . . its content, after undergoing a certain degree of distortion, enters consciousness in the form of an external perception" (169). It is therefore possible to access the real content of the paranoid's delusions, provided one can perform the corect translation. With its textual underpinnings, the narative of clinical paranoia already resembles the texts produced by practioners of the paranoid style, ful  of convoluted scholarship and the obsessive recuperation of details within a single narative framework. But as Eve Sedgwick notes, the "methodological suspicion" used by the analyst in breaking the textual code of the paranoid's delusional content becomes a case of "the man of suspicion double-Chief Shaman? 34 blufing the man of guile" (5). She quotes Freud's own observation that "the delusions of paranoiacs have an unpalatable external similarity and internal kinship to the systems of our philosophers" (5). The importance of Schreber's Memoirs to twentieth-century theories of paranoia cannot be overstated. According to Ida Macalpine and Richard Hunter, "Schreber is now the most frequently quoted patient in psychiatry" (8). Furthermore, the quotations are largely filtered through Freud's own writings; in other words, as the introduction to the Memoirs explains, only those passages from the, Memoirs that are reprinted in Freud's original study have been referenced in subsequent commentaries (Memoirs 11). Any atempts to interpret Schreber's paranoia as something other than a repressed homosexual wish-phantasy must either corect Freud's interpretation or return to Schreber's original work to develop the basis for an alternate interpretation. Anthony Wilden and Friedrich Kitler are two theorists who have both ofered interpretations of the Memoirs to chalenge Freud's account of Schreber's paranoia as a nervous ilness. They draw very diferent conclusions, yet each approaches paranoia from a perspective indebted to Freud's previous work. In each case their analysis insists on the primacy of Schreber's writing and relies on a careful interpretation of Schreber's work, resulting in findings that are clearly indebted to the concept of projection and maintain the latent/manifest oppositon Freud proposed even as they atempt to refute his original diagnosis. Anthony Wilden interprets the manifest dualism of Schreber's conception of gender as a form of rebelion against the rigid patriarchal order and the "related male obsessions with growth, eficiency, performance, and production" (289). The conventional oppositon Chief Shaman? 35 of thinking man to feeling woman is transcended by Schreber's delusions, Wilden argues, as Schreber claims to possess "nerves of voluptuousness" (Memoirs 204) al over his body whereas ordinary men have them only in their genitals. In his narative Schreber imagines the possibilty of a fuly-eroticized male body, Wilden claims, but in reality this possibilty is precluded by the imperative to be masculine Schreber, as an agent of patriarchal order in his culture, is subject to (296). Schreber's desire to be transformed into a woman is for Wilden a distorted wish to escape the rigid confines of the masculine order, and he finds evidence in the Memoirs to suggest that Schreber believes that to become a woman is to become more fuly human: "Woman for him means something quite diferent from the 'woman' of his time. To be a Woman, for Schreber, does not mean to exchange one set of genitals for another. To be a Woman means to be totaly in touch with the source of human life. TO BE A WOMAN MEANS IN FACT NOTFUNG LESS THAN TO BE A HUMAN BEING" (299, emphasi  in original). In reading "Schreber as a Social Philosopher" (295), Wilden abandons Freud's emphasi  on libidinal drives as the source of Schreber's delusions, emphasizing instead external social forces confronting (and confounding) Schreber. At the same time, however, Wilden continues to employ the idea of a division between the latent and manifest meaning of Schreber's narrative. His analysis (interpretation) ignores the surface text, with its insistent claims of "miracles," "soul-murder," and "divine rays"; instead, he posits these terms as merely elements of a coded "metacommunication" (296) which, properly decoded, constiutes the incisive and emancipatory philosophy latent within Schreber's ravings. Friedrich Kitler's interpretation of the Memoirs, like Wilden's, proceeds from a dissatisfaction with Freud's conclusions regarding the causal connection between repressed Chief Shaman? 36 homosexuality and paranoia. In their place Kitler reveals a fascinating connection between the curious "nerves of voluptuousness" Schreber describes spreading through his body and the historical emergence of the field of neurophysiology, one of whose earliest theorists, Paul Flechsig, was responsible for Schreber's treatment. For Kittler, Memoirs is a concise, alegorical history of late nineteenth-century psychiatric practices, presented as a narative of one individual's desperate struggle against the institutional power of the burgeoning psychoanalytic establishment. To support this claim, Kitler suggests that "the imaginative copyright to [Schreber's] theology, developed from the notion of the epistemological advantages of being a corpse, belongs to [pioneering neurophysiologist] Paul Flechsig" (Discourse Networks 295). According to Kittler, Schreber's paranoid fears have at their root the very rational observation that his psychiatrist's experiments were confined to corpses; Flechsig's contention that "the brain contains 'the key to every natural conception of mental activity'" (Discourse Networks 295) meant that only detailed examination of the cerebrum could shed light on the mental processes of paranoia. Such an examination, of course, could only be performed on dead subjects. (Wilam Niederland makes an analogous point regarding the castration "fantasies" Schreber recounts in the Memoirs. Flechsig's writngs included a paper describing "the use of actual castration in his hospital as a method to be employedfor the cure of serious nervous and psychological ailments" [104, emphasi  in original]). Thus, for Kittler, Schreber's insistence that "within the Order of the World, God did not really understand the living human being and had no need to understand him, because, according to the Order of the World, He dealt only with corpses" (Memoirs 75, emphasi  in original), is a clear indication that Schreber's delusional relationship with God has as its source his actual Chief Shaman? 37 relationship with his psychiatrist. Schreber's opening statement in his Memoirs, that "[t]he human soul is contained in the nerves of the body . . . [and] the total mental life of a human being rests on their excitabilty by external impressions" (45), recapitulates Flechsig's materialist stance and suggests the influence his theories have in the narative that folows. Like Wilden and Freud, Kitler reads Schreber's text in search of clues to a deeper meaning. His conclusions are diferent from theirs because his interpretation is diferent, yet like them he emplots the "false knowledge" of paranoia against a roughly isomorphic outline of real facts and occurences. Kitler's analysis is directed at the way in which Schreber's account reads like a distorted, mythologized rendering of the transformation in the early part of this century from mechanical metaphors for human functions to informational metaphors. When Schreber creates a mythology with Flechsig as chief deity he is reformulating his encounter with psychiatry within a deluded yet logical narrative. Properly decoded, according to Kittler, Memoirs narates the historical process of resituating the soul within the materiality of the human nervous system, a development that is itself part of the general inscription of the once-metaphysical human subject within a discourse network of material texts and codes. Kitler's reading is particularly important for my understanding of DeLilo's use of paranoia and conspiracy because of the way he identifies the material conditons of the paranoid's experience as constiutive elements in the narrative. The network of nervous connections Flechsig investigated in a rational, scientific way (and Schreber adopted for his paranoid text) forms the basis for a new understanding of the way the brain communicates with the body. Subsequent examples of paranoid naratives wil similarly focus on communication systems as mechanisms for covert control. Chief Shaman? 38 2. Paranoia and the paranoid style From the example of Schreber's Memoirs and subsequent commentators it is evident that, along with structural elements of paranoia such as mechanisms of persecution and delusions of constant surveilance, the naratives of paranoid individuals derive their content from their immediate social, economic, and technological context. Paranoia, writen out as coherent narrative, can be mapped back onto the social text whence it came. According to the historian Richard Hofstadter, paranoid texts are common in political discourse as wel as psychiatric discourse, and in his "seminal article" (Hantke 241) "The Paranoid Style in American Politics," he transposes the clinical methods of assessing paranoia in individuals to the task of identifying, in a range of religious and political texts from the 17th to the mid-20th centuries, the manifestations of paranoia in the corpus of American political rhetoric. In documents taken from the public record he identifies exactly those elements Freud locates in the text of the paranoid Doctor Schreber: projection, persecution, and delusions of grandeur. Two complementary characteristics of Hofstadter's examples need to be emphasized. The first is the startling continuity in their tone and form. Compare these brief extracts from the examples he cites: How can we account for our present situation unless we believe that men high in this government are concerting to deliver us to disaster? This must be the product of a great conspiracy, a conspiracy on a scale so immense as to dwarf any previous such venture in the history of man . . . . What can be made of this unbroken series of decisions and acts contributing to the strategy of defeat? (Hofstadter 7) Chief Shaman? 39 As early as 1865-66 a conspiracy was entered into between the gold gamblers of Europe and America . . . . For nearly thirty years these conspirators have kept the people quareling over less important maters, while they have pursued with unrelenting zeal their one central purpose . . . . (8) It is a notorious fact that the Monarchs of Europe and the Pope of Rome are at this very moment ploting our destruction and threatening the extinction of our political, civil, and religious institutions. We have the best reasons for believing that coruption has found its way into our Executive Chamber, and that our Executive head is tainted with the infectious venom of Catholicism . . . . (8) Secret and systematic means have been adopted and pursued, with zeal and activity, by wicked and artful men, in foreign countries, to undermine the foundations of this Religion, and to overthrow its Altars, and thus to deprive the world of its benign influence on society . . . . (9) In these extracts one can see a singular rhetorical tone that remains constant across the two hundred-year span of their compositon. Along with this continuity, however, there is a marked shift in the location of the threat identified in each example. In the first example the threat to the nation is identified as communism; in the second, international bankers and gold speculators (a category which in context suggests a thinly-disguised anti-Semitsm) are the enemy; the third example positons Catholicism as the pervasive and insidious enemy; the last excerpt depicts the Masons as being on the verge of overthrowing the social and Chief Shaman? 40 religious order. In each case the writer purports to have discovered the existence of a commited group of individuals operating at the very highest levels of power to engineer the downfal of an existing order. And in each case the writer has identified a threat that has only recently developed relative to the writer's historical moment. Sedgwick provides an elegant explanation for the acuity of the paranoid style in identifying threats in new social or political developments. Her claim that "Paranoia is anticipatory" leads to the corolary propositon "[tjhere must be no bad surprises" (9-10, emphasi  in original). The unidirectionaly future-oriented vigilance of paranoia generates, paradoxicaly, a complex relation to temporality that burows both backward and forward: because there must be no bad surprises, and because to learn of the possibilty of a bad surprise would itself constiute a bad surprise, paranoia requires that bad news be always already known. (10) The recuperative framework of paranoia requires that any new information be consistent with the pre-existing narrative. "Surprises" or data that do not fit with the pre-existing model threaten the stabilty of the entire conceptual edifice. Hofstadter's examples suggest that, despite its clearly irrational hyperbole, the paranoid style resonates with peculiar power because it responds to the dominant forms of political and economic power circulating within a given social matrix. Hofstadter acknowledges that the paranoid style always departs from hard kernels of real political (and social, and religious, and economic) developments, from "certain defensible judgments" (36). But unlike more moderate forms of political rhetoric "[t]he distinguishing thing about [practioners of] the paranoid style is . . . that they regard a 'vast' or 'gigantic' conspiracy as the motive force in historical events" (29). The naratives Hofstadter considers as examples Chief Shaman? 41 of the paranoid style are thus similar to those of clinical paranoids because, in their drive to contain al events within a single interpretive framework, they rapidly outstrip any realistic evidence for their claims and become irrational or at best wildly improbable fantasies. Fringe holocaust revisionists and alien-abduction believers, two contemporary groups that conform to the outlines of the paranoid style, both insist on a seamless facade maintained for over fifty years, initiated and perpetuated by several governments, with tens of thousands of ordinary citzens acting as wiling accomplices in the deceit. In the face of evidence countering claims about extra-terrestrials or some enormous Holocaust hoax, the paranoid narative must grow and the conspiracy seem to widen to maintain a coherent structure. Like the naratives of true paranoids, the paranoid style possesses both a latent and a manifest meaning, the later composed of a delusional, distorted projection of the content of the former: anti-Semitsm as the repressed truth at the heart of Holocaust denial, displaced religious faith underlying the belief in extra-terrestrials, fear of espionage necessitating ever-greater surveilance countermeasures, etcetera. Just as steam engines have replaced dragons in dreams, and UFO sightings function as the secular equivalent of angelic visitations, the paranoid style is remarkably adaptable when it comes to incorporating new developments within its master narrative. One of the signs that the paranoid style proceeds by the mechanism of projection is evident in the interesting feature whereby the paranoid text exhibits grudging admiration for its implacable opponent. Often, Hofstadter points out, paranoid tracts insist upon the necessity of becoming more like the threatening enemy in order to defeat him, even to the extent of replicating to a large degree the organization and symbols of the system it views as a menace. Thus the object of paranoid scrutiny is both reviled and marked for Chief Shaman? 42 annihilation, and emulated or identified with. Hofstadter uses the example of the John Birch society, a radical right-wing group in the U.S. that duplicates the cel-structure of communist insurgent groups, and the Ku Klux Klan, which expresses pathological anti-Catholic views even as it emulates the organization and hierarchy of the Catholic church, borowing from its iconography and styles of dress (32-33). While Hofstadter does distinguish the "paranoid spokesman in politics" from the "clinical paranoiac" (4), in his analysis he has repeated what I take to be the two central premises of the psychoanalytic approach to paranoia. In the first place he concludes that the external enemy in paranoid discourse is a projection of an inadmissible libidinal desire, and second, by asserting "the possibilty of using [paranoid] political rhetoric to get at political pathology" (6), he suggests that the real content of the paranoid text lies embedded within the laborious account of conspiracy and persecution that makes up the manifest naratives he examines. Hofstadter's idea of a "paranoid mode of expression" (4) available as a rhetorical style creates a context in which paranoia in novels like DeLilo's can be read symptomaticaly. Instead of deciding to accept or dismiss the contradictory truth-claims among the layers of conspiracy that become ubiquitous in DeLilo's novels after End Zone (1973), we can read them as reflections of the paranoid style, and ask with DeLilo why such paranoia continues to flourish in a society purportedly dedicated to free and easy access to ever-greater quanties of information. In Libra there are many paranoid voices, al of them teling diferent and incommensurable stories. The Texan reactionary General Ted Walker is perhaps the clearest representative of the paranoid style; his speculations concerning the "Real Control Chief Shaman? 43 Apparatus" representing "every modern advance that saps the nation's wil  to resist" (282) are entirely consistent with Hofstadter's thesis. According to Walker, the lack of evidence for the Real Control Apparatus9 is precisely the proof of its existence, since "[t]he Apparatus is precisely what we can't see or name" (283). Aspects of a similar paranoia preoccupy the character Guy Banister, who in "his file on the Red Chinese" keeps the "same old rumors and suspicions" about tens of thousands of Red Chinese troops massing along the Californian border (352). Straddling the distinction between paranoia proper and the paranoid style, there is Marguerite Oswald, demanding an investigation into her son's past and insisting that the plot to implicate him in the President's assassination goes back to his high school year book: "The point is how it goes on and on and on. That's the point. The point is how far back have they been using him?" (451). Jack Ruby, on the other hand is ultimately characterized by DeLilo as clinicaly paranoid. Ruby's delusions are the most extreme expressions of paranoia in the novel and establish a horizon for the intimations of conspiracy that precede them: A guard reads the Bible to him. Jack believes this man has a listening device in his clothes. They safely store away al his incriminating remarks and then erase al the remarks that prove his crime was unpremeditated . . . . He believes people are distorting his words even as he speaks them. There is a process that takes place between the saying of a word and when they pretend to hear it corectly but actualy change it to mean what they want. 9 Timothy Melley points out that, given Walker's description of the Real Control Apparatus as "a network of powerful men 'we can't see or name...infiltrating our minds' and controlling our actions," the acronym of this determining apparatus, RCA, "seems more than coincidental" (142). Chief Shaman? 44 He believes the Jews of America are being put in kill machines and slaughtered in enormous numbers . . . . He begins to merge with Oswald. He can't tel  the diference between them. Al he knows for sure is that there is a missing element here, a word they have canceled completely, Jack Ruby has stopped being the man who kiled the President's assassin, he is the man who kiled the President. This is why the Jews are being stufed in machines. It is al because of him. (444-45) Right at the novel's end, DeLilo inserts a catalogue of Ruby's paranoid delusions. After over 400 pages of meticulous historical reconstruction, Ruby's tirade annihilates whatever faith remained in the value of the accumulated testimony. Oswald's voice too is at the last pitched in increasingly paranoid tones. In Libra Oswald is initialy portrayed as a rational figure, albeit one obsessed with the seemingly unbridgeable divide between himself and history. As the 22nd of November approaches, however, DeLilo implies that Oswald's grasp on reality begins to weaken. Reacting to a newspaper story about assassination plots in early September, Oswald becomes obsessed with the idea that "They had plans for him, whoever they were. It was easy to believe they'd been watching him for years, working things around him, knowing the time would come" (329). The sensation is even stronger in a scene from mid-November, when Oswald, watching movies on TV, has "an eerie sense he was being watched for his reaction . . . . It was like secret instructions entering the network of signals and broadcast bands . . . . They were running a message through the night and into his skin .. ." (369). These episodes, simultaneously indications of paranoid reasoning and examples of the contemporary Chief Shaman? 45 technological specificity paranoia exhibits, appear in the closing section of Libra, and raise an interesting question: if DeLilo is the "chief shaman of the paranoid school," why does he spend the final pages of the novel trying to undermine the credibilty of JFK-conspiracy theorists by creating caricatures of conspiracy? The author-surogate Nicholas Branch, an expert in the topic with access to secret CIA files on the assassination, rejects the idea that "a conspiracy is everything that ordinary life is not[,] . . . the inside game, cold, sure, undistracted, forever closed of to us" (440); instead, Branch reaches the conclusion "that the conspiracy against the President was a rambling afair that succeeded in the short term due mainly to chance. Deft men and fools, ambivalence and fixed wil  and what the weather was like" (441). In Libra paranoid interpretations do not succeed in explaining the events surounding November 22nd, 1963. Instead of a coherent, linear narative with no alternatives, we are given Branch's version — a version of branches. DeLilo finds in the assassination of John F. Kennedy the defining moment of the postmodern conditon, the "seven seconds that broke the back of the American century" (Libra 181). In the aftermath of the event, a "sense of a coherent reality most of us share" comes unraveled ("American Blood" 22), DeLilo believes, not just because of the event itself, but also because of the epistemological uncertainty that grows up around the event. Belief in the adequacy of linear narative to explain history is henceforth reserved for the paranoid mind. Paranoia becomes a way of projecting some form of coherence on the uncertainties that spil out from the Kennedy assassination. The cultural hysteria surounding the event is, according to DeLilo, a symptom of the sense that provisional Chief Shaman? 46 truths, made persuasive by our own perceptions, have supplanted any assurances of ultimate Truth. If DeLilo is right in saying that the assassination "in the end is a story about our uncertain grip on the world" ("American Blood" 28), then the subsequent proliferation of conspiracy theories in the wake of Kennedy's assassination represents a pathological response to the "world of randomness and ambiguity" ("American Blood" 22) resulting from this one event: The massiveness of the official investigation itself, the very scope of the inquiry, its wilngness to 'answer, specificaly, every . . . theory and rumour', indicates an uncertainty, or even paranoia, about how far causality might extend -— about how to separate a single incident from the unwriten mass history of everyday life. (Meley 137) In forcing a consistent set of narative elements together to account for the messy and unresolved details of the assassination, the paranoid narative forces an uneasy sense of closure. When, in the postwar era, a diferent form of bewildering diversity is occasioned by the "daily ephemera and vast entanglement of multinational consumer capitalism" (Knight 820), the hermetic logic of the paranoid style operates in this context as an integrative force to counteract the explosive decompression efected by the machinations of capitalism. In a sense, the paranoid naratives of overarching conspiracies can be interpreted as signs of displaced desire for coherence and order. "[T]he public's belief in the secret manipulation of history" ("American Blood" 25) is a recuperative faith aimed against the even greater fear that ultimately there is no controling agency, no "Central Inteligence" (Begley 303). The Chief Shaman? 47 Kennedy assassination qualifies as a peculiarly postmodern moment precisely because it serves as a showcase for al of the elements that make up the mediated experience of postmodernity: " . . . vast spy systems, the literal and symbolic transgression of U-2 planes, electronic devices, 'orbiting sensors' and the like" (Aaron 79) as wel as, among other things, the Zapruder film, the videotape of Oswald's murder, and dictabelt recordings of police radio transmissions in the minutes before and after the assassination. The twenty-six volumes of the Waren Commission Report, "the megaton novel James Joyce would have writen if he'd moved to Iowa City and lived to be a hundred" (Libra 181), stand as testimony to the scope and volume of information bureaucratic instiutions record and colect concerning even seemingly inconsequential citzens in the postmodern era. And yet DeLilo points out that the sheer wealth of data available in the Waren Report has brought the event no closer to a final resolution; in its complex interconnections the narative surounding Kennedy's assassination continues to frustrate al atempts at rational analysis until even the most basic facts are placed in doubt. As I have indicated, Nicholas Branch's role in Libra is to distance the author from the paranoid versions of the Kennedy assassination and provide a narative frame from which to reflect on the conspiracies and conspiracy theories that flourish before and after the kiling. Through this framing device DeLilo can develop paranoid characterizations of Ruby, Oswald, and even Oswald's mother Marguerite without appearing to embrace their positons. Ruby's final days are spent in an asylum, his mind tormented by persecution anxieties and delusions of grandeur. Marguerite Oswald is shown at the end of the novel to be building her own paranoid system, caling into question her son's over-representation in a high-school yearbook as evidence that "they" have had an interest in him for years. Chief Shaman? 48 Oswald himself, DeLilo contends, was in a very unstable frame of mind by November 1963, finding a network of intricate coincidences that spoke to him of an enormous conspiracy to implicate him in the atempt on Kennedy's life. Near the end of Libra, Oswald's obsession with Kennedy, his fixation in their similarities and certainty of their shared destiny suggests a paranoid transference. The idea that "they" are speaking to him through TV movies is a more obvious indication of Oswald's mental deterioration. The structure of the novel reinforces this sense of the inevitabilty of Oswald's actions; as DeLilo remarks, it recapitulates Oswald's sense of his destiny converging with Kennedy's in the way "the Oswald chapters and the conspiracy chapters [which alternate for the balance of Libra] converge at the end of the long New Orleans chapter" (Brick Reader 266). i Real (i.e. clinical) paranoia and the paranoid style are both in operation in Libra, with the debiltating delusions of the former suggestive of the dangers inherent in the pursuit of the later. Yet the conspiracy theories of many of the novel's characters are atempts to forge a relationship with history in which they play an active role. Oswald's involvement in the conspiracy is a response to his sense of irelevance in the narative of history, a sense he describes as being "a zero in the system" (106). His desire to enter into the narative is not very diferent from that of the conspirators who to plan the atempt on the President's life. One character describes his previous undercover existence as living "in a special society that prety much satisfied the most serious thing in my nature. Secrets to trade and keep, certain dangers, an opportunity to function in tight spots, wave a gun in people's faces . . . . You don't want theory and debate. Just impact. Two or three men to do serious things" (63-64). The conspirators afirm their status as historical "agents" through their sense of participating in covert operations. Nicholas Branch's concern that the Agency Chief Shaman? 49 is withholding information from him reveals the contradictory logic of "a theology of secrets" (442): the comfort of being in on a secret is always balanced by a fear that there are stil  more secrets one is excluded from. Within the CIA as DeLilo describes it this spiraling logic fosters universal paranoia and demands interogation and surveilance be caried out on other members of the agency (22-24). The former operative Win Everet, forced into retirement through an investigation of this type, nevertheless admits to his conflicted feelings towards the institution that disgraced and expeled him: "I don't like the kind of double-minded feeling I have about this thing. Despise them on the one hand; crave their love and understanding on the other" (21). Oswald himself occupies a contested space wherein his sense of being watched and his desire to be part of the surveilance apparatus colide. As a marine stationed at the Atsugi naval air base in Japan, he is given a first-hand look at the government's most advanced surveilance technology in the form of the U-2 spy planes operating from the base. The cold war paranoia that drives the demand for surveilance technology like the U-2 provides in turn Oswald's access to a world of espionage and conspiracy (109-16). If DeLilo is right in identifying the Kennedy assassination as "seven seconds that broke the back of the American century" it can hardly be incidental that these seconds occur during a period when conspiracy theories and secret organizations are spreading across the United States (Libra 63-64) and indiscriminate governmental use of surveilance strategies — on enemies and citizens alike — faciltates the adoption of a paranoid style that romanticizes the intersection of an individual life with great historical events. In the context of institutional paranoia, the sheer volume of FBI and CIA material on Oswald, to say nothing of the 26-volume Waren Report, reveals the kernel of truth at the heart of paranoia's worst Chief Shaman? 50 fears. Fredric Jameson suggests that "conspiracy theory (and its garish narative manifestations) must be seen to be a degraded atempt — through the figuration of advanced technology — to think the impossible totality of the contemporary world system" (38). Engaging with, but not adopting, the paranoid recuperations of Kennedy's death, DeLilo evades "the nostalgia for a master plan, the conspiracy which explains absolutely everything" that he discerns in Oliver Stone's JFK (Nadoti 94). Instead, he adopts an atitude that is considerably more ambiguous. Stefan Hantke ofers a useful distinction between DeLilo's positon and the nostalgia evident in, for example, Stone's film by diferentiating between 'conspiracy fiction' and 'conspiracy theory': Reigning in . . . heterogeneity and reinstating the logic of'us versus them,' conspiracy theory generaly tends to trace power to a distinct origin, an evil presence. It personalizes and alegorizes conflict, opening it to the specific ideological inscriptions of any given culture, and thereby makes it tenable. It alows us to reduce politics to personal hostilty and, in the process, conceptualize one form of political conflict by utilizing an outmoded earlier form. Whereas conspiracy theory structures, familarizes, and naturalizes this bewildering diversity, imposing an order that recreates the Manichean simplicity of good versus evil against al beter and more rational political judgment, conspiracy fiction . . . atempts to undermine and subvert the unchalenged assumptions of these theories, expose their political objectives for what they are, and reflect the role they play in the complex networks of cultural and social practices. ( Hantke 222) Chief Shaman? 51 Problematic and troubling evidence is contained in the Waren Report, but for DeLilo its size and complexity are indicative of a degree of uncertainty, not security, present in American culture in the aftermath of November 22, 1963. The spread of paranoid beliefs through the seams of popular consciousness paralels the expansion of centralized governmental control in the years folowing the Second World War, and in the context of Hofstadter's exploration of paranoia as a rhetorical style, it is interesting to note the new culprits tracked in Libra. Unlike the quotations from Hofstadter's text provided above (see pp. 37-38, above), the hidden men behind the scenes are no longer identified by ideological or religious afiliations. They are, as part of the CIA, officialy agents of the government itself. At the same time, however, the monolith of centralized authority seems to dissolve upon close inspection. The description of a typical CIA operations meeting given in Libra presents an "inverted pyramid structure" that "ensures . . . the Agency wil  not do the wil  of any one person and that no single individual has control or even knowledge of the entire structure" (Meley 157). As a consequence, according to Meley, "DeLilo's story suggests that the plot against Kennedy develops because the CIA has no central command and control" (157). The vast aray of conspiracy theories that arise to account for the assassination — even the "lone-gunman" explanation — are for Meley evidence of what he cals "agency panic": the response of a belief system that "cannot dispense with the notion of centralized control" to an event that seems to evade such an explanation (156, emphasi  in original). Libra's unsetling specter of a command structure that can make strategies and decisions without reference to an individuated human subject is contrasted by the centralizing authority of J. Edgar Hoover, presented in Underworld as the ultimate decision-maker within the FBI. Chief Shaman? 52 Yet even here paranoia continues to operate, as Hoover is shown to be driven by a sense of paranoid fear that exactly mirors the conspiracy theories arayed against him and his FBI coleagues by the counter-culture, a doubling or echoing of the discursive curents at play "in the endless estuarial mingling of paranoia and control" (559). Though at the end of the 1950s he is the personifcation of central command and control with his "massive dossiers" filled with surveilance reports, wiretaps, and transcripts, by the time of Truman Capote's Black and White Bal his control is shown to be slipping, as his forces fail to identify or intercept a group of agitators who, significantly, have eluded the FBI to the point where they have yet to be named (576). Hoover's paranoia about the protestors is exactly matched by that of the young woman protestor who dances with Hoover's aide, Clyde Tolson. Her comment that "The state, the nation, the corporation, the power structure, the system, the establishment" are "al part of the same motherfucking thing" (575) is inverted almost immediately by Hoover's claim that "It's al linked. The war protesters, the garbage thieves, the rock bands, the promiscuity, the drugs, the hair" (577). The two formulations miror one another in erecting equivalent paranoid systems where complex and varied phenomena are lumped together into a coherent, malevolent whole. In this respect the two sides mimic each other "by erecting the fantasy figure of a hidden agent, 'the Other of the Other,' secretly puling the strings, a move which posits a hidden order behind the visible chaos . . . " (Wilman 410). At the Black and White Bal the figures associated with the dominant culture and the counter-culture are shown to be part of a mutualy reinforcing cycle of paranoia, an implied miroring/inversion that is maintained to the end of the section as the namelss protestors folow Hoover back to his hotel in an ironic reversal of the term "government surveilance." Chief Shaman? 53 3. The Consequences of Conspiracy Players (1977) is a novel about the psychological efects of routinized paranoia, tracing the activities of Lyle Wynant, an unexceptional stockbroker, as he becomes involved both with a terrorist group ploting to blow up the New York Stock Exchange building and with the FBI agents trying to capture the terrorists. Although Players is clearly working within the conventions of conspiracy thrilers, DeLilo drains away the expected suspense and the heroics associated with the genre. What is most notable in the presentation of terorism in Players is the degree to which it is encoded in cliched, mass media terms: "Gunman, obscure background, dum dum dum, carrying, get this, a bomb on his person, dum dum. Suspected terrorist network. Confusion over identity. Links being sought, dumdy dum. The guy refuses to talk, see a lawyer or leave his cel" (65). The easy cynicism of this report, composed of prefabricated phrases and the fill-in-the-blanks "dum dum dum" suggests a level of cynicism in which conspiracy is so prevalent it has ceased to be worthy of serious atention. One of Lyle's terrorist contacts (Greg Kinnear, who is himself a double agent, feeding information and disinformation to both sides) places blame for this atitude squarely on the shoulders of government, especialy within the triple context of JFK, Vietnam, and Watergate: It's everywhere, isn't it? Mazes, you're corect. Intricate techniques. Our big problem in the past, as a nation, was that we didn't give our government credit for being the totaly entangling force that it was. They were even more evil than we'd imagined. More evil and much more interesting. Assassination, blackmail, torture, enormous improbable intrigues . . . . This is al so alien to the liberal Chief Shaman? 54 spirit. It's a wonder they're bearing up at all. This haze of conspiracies and multiple interpretations. So much for the great instructing vision of the federal government. (104) The expanded presence of the American government, both in the lives of its citizens and in international afairs, the introduction of powerful new surveilance technologies, and a growing public awareness of the role of the CIA and FBI in monitoring the activities of private citizens: these are the "certain defensible judgments" (Hofstadter 36) that become magnifed and foregrounded by paranoid naratives. Lyle's ofhand comment to an FBI agent, "Don't you have my phone wired into the computer that runs the world? " (153), summarizes the new, postmodern orientation of the paranoid style. In an interview with Paris Review, DeLilo admits that conspiracy entered his work with Players because "[i]t was in the air. It was the way people were thinking. Those were the days when the enemy was some presence seeping out of the government, and the most paranoid sort of fear was indistinguishable from common sense" (286). DeLilo's subsequent novel, Running Dog (1978), continues to play with the trope of paranoia as a response to political forces. The paranoid figures in Running Dog are (as Friedrich Kitler's analysis of paranoia would suggest) shown to be in tune with the technological and administrative forces arayed against them. A drunk in a bar, for example, "mumbl[es] something about his landlord working for the FBI. The FBI had placed cameras and bugging devices not only in his apartment but everywhere he went" (62). The wife of a senator spends most of her time in bed, obsessively reading and rereading the 26 volumes of the Waren Report, an activity she has been engaged in for nine years. These examples suggest the development of a specificaly postmodern form of Chief Shaman? 55 paranoia, tailored to meet the specifc social and cultural conditons of a late-capitalist state. In "American Blood" DeLilo claims, "[i]t is possible that technology helps create the clandestine mentality. We al go underground to some extent. In an era of the massive codification and storage of data, we are al keepers and yielders of secrets" (27). Running Dog is a novel upon this theme, and clinical paranoia seems the logical limit-case of responses to such an environment. In the novel a young pornography entrepreneur, Richie Armbrister, descends into paranoid fear of assassination: "There was a sniper somewhere, waitng for the right moment.. Dalas, Richie would say. What am I doing in Dalas .. ." (188-89). His paranoia concerning an assassination plot is compounded by his belief that there would be a police coverup of the murder. What Armbrister and others in Running Dog are responding to is the growing knowledge that covert organizations are a constiutive element of the modern state apparatus — more than this, these covert groups extend beyond the limits of governmental control. In Meley's terms undercover operatives are now "renegades and free agents who are regularly subcontracted and often act on their own" (157-58). His description seems to describe the agents in Running Dog who control "Radial Matrix," "a legaly incorporated firm in Fairfax, Virginia" that is "in fact a centralized funding mechanism for covert operations" (74), yet Radial Matrix itself recals the activities of Air America and anticipates Oliver North and the Iran-Contra hearings by a ful decade. Glen Selvy succumbs to paranoid logic late in the novel, and it is instructive to see how his behavior is transformed. Anthony Wilden writes that Daniel Paul Schreber's paranoid delusions were a response to his inabilty to live as a human within the stringent confines of his role within a patriarchal order. Selvy, secret agent, government assassin, and Chief Shaman? 56 "a soldier without a war" (Osteen 102), abandons contingency for the simpler, linear narative of sacrifice: What it meant. The ful-fledged secrecy. The reading, the routine. The double life. His private disciplines. His handguns. His regard for precautions. How your mind works. The narowing of choices. What you are. It was clear, finaly. The whole point. Everything. Al this time he'd been preparing to die . . . . We are teaching you how to die violently. This is the only death that maters, steel or lead or tungsten aloy, death by hard metal, taking place in secret. To ensure the success of the course, we ourselves wil kill you . . . . Al conspiracies begin with individual self-repression. (182) From the moment of this revelation, Selvy's actions become intentionaly linear. He drives in a straight line to "the Mines," a secret government training ground where he was transformed into a kiler. His physical journey reflects a mental state that has abandoned contingency and "[a]l that incoherence. Selection, election, option, alternative" (192), instead adopting a paranoid stance from which every detail is aligned within an inexorable linear narrative. Selvy's trip to the Mines is also a literal 'return of the repressed' to the site of initial trauma, a homecoming rendered palpable by the arrival at the Mines of an assassination team of ARVN rangers who descend in a U.S. government helicopter. In this gruesome inversion of Vietnam played out on American soil, Selvy's death at the hands of the Vietnamese soldiers completes the fatalistic narative he embraced when he realized the purpose of his training. Through his characterization of Selvy given over to the singular Chief Shaman? 57 goal of his programming, DeLilo demonstrates the fatal consequences of the search for the absolute: Al behind him now. Cities, buildings, people, systems. Al the relationships and links. The plan, the execution, the sequel. He could forget that now. He'd traveled the event. He'd come al the way down the straight white line. He realized he didn't need the blanket he was wrapped in. The cold wasn't geting to him that way . . . . It was perfect cold. The temperature at which things happen on an absolute scale. (192) Paranoia is an escape from contingency and into the comfort of certainty. Contemporary paranoia fixates on the repositories of power and information (largely interchangeable terms at the present conjuncture) in the global system and projects their monstrous images into naratives of conspiracy. If my reading of Richard Hofstadter's examples is corect and the focus of the paranoid style always locates the site of power in a given society, then it makes sense that present-day paranoia identifies the source of power in covert agencies, multi-national corporations, and sophisticated surveilance systems. And indeed al these elements are incorporated (literaly, embodied) in the al-encompassing delusions of the paranoid figures who populate DeLilo's fiction. The clinicaly paranoid and practioners of the paranoid style zero in on this government-corporation-technology nexus. Whereas an earlier rhetoric would point to Masonic Lodges, the Rothschilds, or the Papacy as the figure of some near-omnipotent adversary, postmodern paranoia discovers its aggrandized Other in the postindustrial form of social power. "Our faulty representations of some immense communicational and Chief Shaman? 58 computer network are themselves but a distorted figuration of something deeper, namely, the whole world system of a present day multinational capitalism" (37), writes Jameson, sounding a few paranoid notes himself. He identifies the Other of postmodern paranoid delusions with "a network of power and control even more dificult for our minds and imaginations to grasp: the whole new decentered global network of the third stage of capital itself (37). The efort to imagine one's individual existence in relation to the immense and unthinkably complex global system is presented in DeLilo's novels through the intervention of plots and conspiracies. Alusions to the unrepresentable, Jean-Francois Lyotard might say. There is, after all, a totality — "the world is everything that is the case" — but in its intricate complexity it cannot be grasped. Paranoia rejects true complexity, however, and replaces it with a logical and consistent narative that subsumes al details, no mater how contradictory, to a single explanation. Apparent complexity is revealed by the paranoid style to be a deception concocted by the powerful to obscure their influence. Thus the fascination with conspiracies apparent in DeLilo's texts represents a debased efort on the part of his characters to comprehend the narative they inhabit. Conspiracy theory, along with its alied technologies of surveilance and inteligence-gathering, figure in al DeLilo's novels from Players to Underworld, that the theme of secret organizations penetrating the ordinary, domestic world has appeared in each novel since End Zone indicates the extent to which paranoia has become routinized, "something you [buy] into, like Club Med," according to DeLilo (Begley 287). Yet at the same time that DeLilo invokes paranoia as a readily available narative strategy, he resists succumbing to the totalized vision of a "plan for al mankind" (Mao II 193) or a "computer that runs the world" (Players 153); unable to endorse the concept of Chief Shaman? 59 "Central Inteligence" he is nonetheless sensitve to the profound influence powerful governmental and corporate structures can exert on individuals. If contemporary paranoia merely assembles a caricature of the global system we inhabit, DeLilo's novels The Names and Mao II sketch a plausible and compeling narative about the forces of global capital and their local efects in ordinary lives. The Names is probably DeLilo's most ambitous atempt at representing the interactions of individuals within the larger context of late capitalist culture. The world James Axton inhabits is saturated with the interests of global corporations, government dealings, and the actions of covert agencies. Axton's belated discovery that he has been unwitingly working for the CIA merely confirms a relationship that has been implicit from the moment he provides details about his job as a "risk analyst" (34): his work involves traveling around the Middle East, gathering information on economic and political activities in countries with Western business interests, and synthesizing the data to calculate the probabilty of security risks to Western corporations operating in those countries. In other words, he is a corporate inteligence agent operating out in the open. That the information he colects should be of equal use to corporations and miltary inteligence ofices merely highlights the afinities between the two. Axton recognizes these afinities early in the novel when he considers the vocabulary shared by business and the miltary, although he fails to connect this observation to his own situation: Curious, I thought, how al the regional accents converged on the same set of words. The language of business is hard-edged and aggressive, drawing some of its technical cant from the weapons pools of the south and southwest, a rural Chief Shaman? 60 nurturing in a way, a blooding of the gray-suited, the pale, the corporate man. It's al the same game, these cross-argots suggest. (47) Axton's inadvertent involvement with the CIA stirs up faint echoes of paranoid fears and recals, in an atenuated form, the conspiratorial plots of Running Dog, Players, and Libra. Axton's positon as a risk analyst is a peculiar extension of a technological system that has linked the globe ("I flew a lot, of course. We al did" [6]), and represents a form of pure Western rationality that tries to reduce the interactions of entire nation-states to a set of discrete variables, and subjects their future to statistical analysis. Ironicaly, as James McClure points out, the 'rationalizing' systems of the West have indeed spread across the globe . . . but in doing so they have generated, in a kind of deus ex machina, hitherto unimaginable new forms of intricacy, danger, and mystery: the unthinkably complex web of global capitalism, the covert instiutions designed to extend, protect, and control it. (119) This irony is brought home to Axton when the facade of his objectivity and rational mastery is shatered, first when he learns that his risk analyses are used by the CIA, and then by an assassination atempt that nearly kils a close friend and may — or may not — have been intended for him. Here The Names carefuly provides al of the elements of generic conspiracy fiction, but refuses to assemble them into a paranoid narrative. Axton's sources and contacts, his facts, statistics, and numbers, fail to alert him to the immediate threats to his own security: he works for a conspiracy without knowing it; he is unaware that he has become (perhaps) Chief Shaman? 61 the target of a diferent conspiracy. Axton's response to the shooting of his friend recals the defensive role of paranoid logic in the face of contingency: I want to believe they ploted wel. I don't like thinking I was the intended victim. It puts al of us at the mercy of events. It's one more thing to vex me with its elusiveness, its drift — a fading into distances of human figures and whatever is real and absolute about the light that fals around them. (328) If he was the intended victim then the wrong man was shot: the possibilty troubles Axton less because he might have been the target than because, as a risk analyst, he recognizes that if the shooting was simply the result of a case of mistaken identity, al his careful calculations and statistical projections are washed away in the flux of unpredictable events. A more conventional paranoia exists in The Names in the form of the cult Axton first observes on the Greek island of Kuoros. Composed of a handful of displaced Europeans, the members of the cult, which they cal  Ta Onomata ["The Names"], wander across the geography from which the European languages originated (Greece, Syria, Jordan, Northern Iran). Their literal return to origins complements their desire to force a return to the mythical origin of language, the point at which a thing and its name were coterminous. The cult performs ritual murders when it learns of individuals whose initials match the initials of their geographical location. In this respect they are the antihesis of Axton's technological modernity, and in their mystical devotion to an idea of language that does not suggest but merely is there is a profound madness. They take the convergence of the two names to possess a mystical significance, though they cannot articulate it (208-09). Yet for Axton's friend Owen Brademas, the cult's ritual suggests a brute corespondence: "These kilings mock us. They mock our need to structure and classify, to build a system against Chief Shaman? 62 the terror in our souls. They make the system equal to the terror. The means to contend with death has become death" (308). Brademas'  account of the group's function recals Freud's description of the paranoid's tendency to project. The system of beliefs erected by the paranoid to defend against, and repress, the inadmissible truth is inevitably a source of as much psychic torment as the original, inadmissible fact. For the cult the purity of the original alphabet represents a negation of history, and a guarantee of timeless persistence threatened by the proliferation of connections and meanings. As a repudiation of the intricacies of contemporary life the cult's fixation on reducing connections spirals inevitably to dissolution and death. Here, as elsewhere in DeLilo's fiction, the quest for origins and the elevation of the One over the many leads to violence and death. The ranked crowds of Moonies in the opening scene of Mao II represent a more unsetling version of the efects of a paranoid narrative. The founding belief of the Unification Church is the divinity of its founder, the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, and while there are many critics and many questions surounding the Church, it efectively indoctrinates its members with a paranoid narative that turns al dissenting voices into agents of a powerful, evil force dedicated to destroying both the Church and the world. A similar cult-like atitude seems to operate within the terrorist organization whose leader Brita photographs at the novel's conclusion. What the terrorist group in Mao II has in common with the cult in The Names or the group in Players is (to put it mildly) a dissatisfaction with the contemporary formlessness. Mao II is staged as a confrontation between the values of autonomy, contingency and complexity, and the simplified, totalized visions of the Moonies or the Marxist group in Lebanon whose leader requires his folowers to wear hoods over their faces and t-shirts bearing an image of his face. Chief Shaman? 63 Karen's experience with the Moonie cult is similarly positoned as a conflict between individuality and faceless conformity. However, Mao II similarly destabilzes the cult of individuality, critiquing the over-elaborate shielding of the private self from entanglements with the world. For example Bill Gray's reclusive lifestyle has rendered him incapable of writing, while his seclusion has only magnifed the cult-like aura that surounds his published books. The proliferation of conspiracies and cults as reflected in DeLilo's fiction seems to be a response to larger social forces of economic and political fragmentation, the stable structures of the East Bloc versus the West, for example. In spiritual terms, according to one character in Mao II, "when the Old God leaves the world . . . the unexpended faith" persists, leaving the faithful to seek new certainties and end up "pray[ing] to flies and botletops" (7). In political terms, the breakdown of the central oppositon between East and West, between Communism and Capitalism, deprives conspiracy theorists of a credible threat upon which to develop their paranoia. Discredited, the paranoid style becomes a way of dismissing political realities without having to engage with them on a practical level (Fenster 219). Conspiracy theory as play, or as "a temporary and strategic form of self-reflexive paranoia" in which not even the speaker can be said to believe the plot he or she is describing (Knight 821), reduces the paranoid style to little more than a rhetorical device. In "Everything Is Connected" Peter Knight provides a partial list (818-821) of the many conspiracies and plots described in Underworld, but most are no longer operational in the way conspiracy theories compel the actions of characters in Libra. Instead, a self-conscious and sophisticated expectation of a conspiracy comes both to be taken for granted and held at arms length. One can never be paranoid enough, Chief Shaman? 64 but a secure, single-minded faith in paranoia — either in the form of a McCarthyite political expediency or a countercultural reaction against such abuses of power — is no longer an option. (822) Knight ascribes the shift to the evaporation of the monolithic Other that balanced Cold War paranoia for fifty years, an observation supported in the novel by the casual remark made by a young volunteer on Klara Sax's art project, "the whole thing is a joke to trick the West" (81). The textual nature of paranoia, its peculiar reliance on narrative, makes it easily parodied as a rhetorical style. Underworld "tunes in to the transition in American paranoia over the last four decades from an inflexible and monolithic belief structure in a personalized cabal, to a contradictory, ironic, and self-reflexive appropriation of the language of conspiracy theory as a populist way of making sense of larger social and political changes" (Knight 822). Once again the paranoid style responds to its contemporary environment, but in Underworld the conspiracy theories have grown atenuated and self-mocking. If simplistic theories seeking to explain al events from a single interpretive stance are dismissed by the postmodern inhabitants of Underworld, the novel does reintroduce the troubling truth of economic interpenetration and interconnectedness. This concern appears most explicitly in the concluding section, "Das Kapital": "Capital burns of the nuance in a culture. Foreign investment, global markets, corporate acquisition, the flow of information through transnational media, the atenuating influence of money that's electronic .. ." (785). Beyond the colapsed political binaries and beneath the fragmentation, DeLilo points to a new subteranean movement towards integration in the increasingly unrestricted global Chief Shaman? 65 movements of capital. He does this not from the narow perspective of paranoia, but from a perspective that moves beyond earnest tracts denouncing the Trilateral Commission and beyond ironic and dismissive alusions to "the computer that runs the world." In Underworld, as Peter Knight points out, "[sjometimes the subteranean connections are indeed sinister, combining with other facts and rumors to suggest how decentered and intentionless forces conspire to control people's lives. But these connections also exceed the inexorable stranglehold of power and surveilance" (829-31). The complex web of connections that make up "the people's history" exceeds both rational control and the irrational naratives of paranoia. The prevalence of paranoid voices in DeLilo's novels has caused him to be aligned with conspiracy theorists and opened him up to accusations such as Robert Towers's, yet such accusations seem to be based on an unproblematic decision to equate the author with his texts and situate DeLilo himself alongside the paranoid naratives he creates. Yet to describe a situation or a state of mind is not necessarily to advocate it. Writng about paranoia and conspiracy, DeLilo can assume the paranoid style without embracing it, and articulate the quest for coherence and some semblance of order and purpose his characters express without adopting it as his own. The truly paranoid person, the one who believes in "the master plan, the conspiracy that explains absolutely everything" (Nadoti 94), is always in DeLilo's fiction a deluded figure and often a dangerous one. At the same time, the paranoid voice is a valid articulation, albeit in a debased and distorted manner, of a desire for some unifying, coherent force that DeLilo frequently aludes to but is never able to present in its immediacy within his fiction. Chief Shaman? 66 The tendencies toward paranoia and conspiracy DeLilo identifies in American culture find coresponding prominence in his novels. While these tendencies are part of a tradition at least as old as America itself (as Hofstadter's examples demonstrate), the way their naratives mobilze contemporary innovations in surveilance and control coincides with DeLilo's abiding interest in technology, and serves as an example of his tendency to write "about movements or feelings in the air and in the culture around us, without necessarily being part of the particular movement" (DeCurtis 66). Through ultimately not credulous itself, his fiction demonstrates how technologies of control and surveilance and proliferating modes and channels of paranoid naratives interact, each amplifying the efects of the other and informing the contemporary moment. Closed and Open Systems 67 Chapter Two The Logic of Decay and the Promise of Renewal: Amis and DeLillo Considered as Systems Novelists "By studying literature as an informational system, using a language that comes from science, we both theorize the necessity of interdisciplinarity for literary studies and begin to create the conditons for concrete interdisciplinary work" (Paulson 185). "Systems novelist" is a term coined by Tom LeClair to characterize the work of a smal group of contemporary American novelists including Don DeLilo, Thomas Pynchon, and Wilam Gaddis. For LeClair, an understanding of the fiction produced by this group requires an appreciation of systems theory, itself an interdisciplinary mix of theories of communication, organization, cybernetics and thermodynamics. Though vast in scope and highly technical, systems theory is, LeClair claims, enormously important in that it provides a way of understanding the shift from an industrial mode of production, with its emphasi  on materials, processing and transportation, to a post-industrial mode that focuses on energy, information and communication. Writers searching for the outlines of postmodernity in the changes to underlying social structures folowing the Second World War are forced to confront the reinvention of each of the discourses identified by LeClair according to a new set of assumptions that abandons metaphors of production for metaphors of communication (LeClair 9-12). A new emphasi  on communication and exchange at every level operates within the rhetoric of post-war technological disciplines. Molecular biology, after Crick and Watson's Closed and Open Systems 68 discovery of the role of DNA in genetic inheritance, is a science of communication deeply inscribed with textual metaphors; biologists in turn adopt a language of cybernetics and systems to explain the complex feedback and control mechanisms that govern individual organisms as wel as ecosystems; the colective actions of organisms, up to and including human societies and their products, are subjected to systems analysis, given that "biology supports population fluctuations, and masses of population create traffic, communications systems, and cultural systems, such as literary texts" (Porush 293). What results is a reformulation of the material world as an interlocking hierarchy of systems, one that entirely displaces those biological theories of the nineteenth century which proposed a qualitative break between mechanical and organic systems (the theory of "vitalism"). According to Wilam Paulson, this erosion of the theoretical bariers separating biological from mechanical structures has consequences for literary theories, themselves reliant on notions of textual autonomy derived from biological models (Paulson 115-124). Theories of literary production can, in the wake of an equivalence between social and literary systems, become sensitve to the social construction of the discourse caled 'literature': "To cal a text a text asserts that it is now an informational structure cast into complex circuits of communication and dissemination" (Paulson 184). Pati White makes use of the vocabulary of systems in her study of textual lists in American naratives, Gatsby's Party, and uses a theoretical system that equates the physiological ordering of information in the brain with the textual encoding of print upon a page. In this way information theory is invoked to account for storage and transmission of information in both organic and nonorganic systems.10 1 0 The analogy between memory and structured information is an accepted fact in the discourse of science. For instance, at the end of an article about entropy, entitled "The Direction of Time," Stephen Hawking writes: "If you have remembered every word in this article, your memory will have recorded about 150 000 bits of information. Thus, the order in your brain will have increased by about 150 000 units. However, while you have been reading the article, you will have converted about 300 000 joules of ordered energy, in the form of food, into disordered energy, in the form of heat which you lose to the air around you by convection and sweat. This will increase the disorder Closed and Open Systems 69 Within an environment dominated by a systems paradigm, the writers LeClair terms "systems novelists" construct elaborate naratives that atempt to impart a sense of the underlying unity within seemingly diferentiated systems, emploting characters within a network of discourses: 'Systems man' is more a locus of communication and energy in a reciprocal relationship with his environment than an entiy exerting force and dictating linear cause-efect sequences. If character is constiuted primarily as information or communication, transaction rather than action, the novelist can resituate himself in the world, climbing out of the inwardness to which self-referring postmodernism tended. The novel, like a character or any living system, could be a store of shifting, self-regulating information about man and his environment, 'man-planet.'(LeClair 10-11) From a systems theory perspective, a homology exists between the positon of an individual with respect to the intersecting networks of family, community and society, and the positon of a literary work with respect to its specifc literary context, a more general media context, and in the widest sense, a cultural context. DeLilo and the other novelists LeClair writes about are notable in that they foreground contemporary technology, making it the explicit subject in many of their texts. At first glance Martin Amis's fiction seems quite out of place in this group, as he tends to stress literary influences and privilege conventional novelistic concerns (his literary masters are Below and Nabokov, after al). Still, in writing about the contemporary world Amis cannot avoid writing about the influence of technology; it is therefore possible to characterize Amis as a reluctant systems novelist in at least two senses. ofthe Universe by about 3 x 1 0 2 4 units, about 20 million million million times the increase in order because you remember my article" (49). Here stable units of meaning expressed in terms of bits are shown to correspond to biothermal units; apparently the terminology of information/entropy is sufficiently abstract that it need not distinguish between biological and textual systems. Closed and Open Systems 70 First, as a novelist he is always alert to the interference paterns of competing media; his novels are richly intertextual both in terms of references to other works of literature and in terms of references to the dominant media of his time (this engagement is reflected in the cover art on my Penguin paperback copies of Money, London Fields and The Information. The covers feature representations of, respectively, a reel of celuloid, a pixelated television screen, and the frontispiece of a novel, slightly archaic in design). Second, his texts present a social critique derived from a fundamentaly entropic understanding of time and society. Time's Arrow, a novel composed as a variation on the second law of thermodynamics, is the most obvious example of this concern, but there are other novels, notably the three volumes (Money, London Fields, and The Information) that make up the 'London trilogy,'1 which contain explicit references to entropy. Within the context of the term as defined by Tom LeClair, Amis is a reluctant systems novelist in that he draws disproportionate atention to the efects of entropy on closed systems. Systems principles come into play in the thermodynamic analogies underlying an important part of Amis's social critique, and they are equaly useful for a careful analysis of Amis's (mis)use of thermodynamic principles. It becomes evident that Amis, by overemphasizing the efects of entropy and more seriously, by neglecting the existence of 'anti-entropic' or negentropic processes, constructs in texts like London Fields and Dead Babies an efectively deterministic narative universe where immutable laws of decay predominate. While such a narative universe coresponds conveniently to the patern of social decline Amis aludes to in a number of interviews, it represents a problematic simplification of systems theory, a failure to diferentiate adequately between closed and open systems. 1 1 While the novels lack "continuous characters or an overarching structure," they are similar enough in "tone and territory" to be considered as a complementary set, according to Adam Mars-Jones (TLS 19). Closed and Open Systems 71 In thermodynamics a system is closed if it is considered in isolation from its suroundings, or in other words unable to exchange energy with any other source. In such a system the available energy is finite and, over time, the system wil inevitably tend towards a state of maximum disorder (caled the equilbrium point) in accordance with the second law (Eigen and Winkler 154). So for example a drop of coloured dye introduced into a beaker of clear water wil difuse through the liquid until it has reached a constant concentration throughout the solution, and distinct words formed from Scrabble leters wil dissolve into random sequences of leters when the tiles are returned to the box at the end of the game. An open system, on the other hand, is one in which additonal energy is brought in from outside, and while this may speed the entropic process (heating the solution, seting fire to the Scrabble box), the influx of energy — the interaction with external systems — can also be harnessed to maintain order and delay the arrival at the equilbrium point, and even to create new ordered structures from the disordered material. Thus the random Scrabble leters can be aranged into meaningful words by the intervention of a human hand, whose sorting actions represent the additon of energy to the system represented by the Scrabble box. Thomas Pynchon's early short story "Entropy" demonstrates the diference between closed and open systems, and does so using social and cultural analogies. In "Entropy" two apartments are contrasted. Meatbal Muligan's apartment is the scene of a frenzied, two-day party. It is an open system in that the energy to maintain the party is continualy brought in from outside: throughout the narative guests arrive (some invited, some not) and depart, usualy through a door but sometimes through one of the windows. Nearly overwhelmed by the energetic participants, Muligan considers absenting himself from the party and alowing it to "deteriorat[e] into total chaos," but instead he takes action to Closed and Open Systems 72 increase the level of order and keep the party, "on the threshold of its third day" (84), from faling apart. The other apartment in "Entropy" is a closed system, designed to minimize interactions with the surounding world: "Hermeticaly sealed, it was a tiny enclave of regularity in the city's chaos" (68), designed to ward of the inevitable depredations of entropy through careful maintenance of balance and order. Downstairs, Meatbal Muligan's party contains a wide variety of cultural and ethnic mixes, music from Mussorgsky to Mozart to Charlie Mingus, guests from al over the globe, and range of multicultural, multilngual activities, including "a two-handed, bilngual mora game over by the icebox" (83). Upstairs, there are only two characters, Calisto and Aubade, and Pynchon keeps the cultural references specifc to Europe and High Modernism: de Sade, Djuna Barnes, Faulkner, Stravinsky (79). Through the oppositon of the two locales, Pynchon suggests that Muligan's party, inasmuch as it atempts to engage constructively with a disparate and highly unstable set of social and cultural systems, holds more promise than Calisto's atempts to perpetuate a pre-existing order by resisting change and minimizing influences from the outside. Calisto's atempt to impose an artificial, rigid order is, in his own words, a response to the entropic process conceived "in social terms, [envisioning] a heat-death for culture in which ideas, like energy, would no longer be transfered, since each point in it would ultimately have the same quantiy of energy; and intelectual motion would, accordingly, cease" (74) His atempt to postpone the moment of equilbrium is inefectual and ultimately futile, as Pynchon contrasts the deathly sterility of the upstairs apartment with the vitality of Muligan's 'open house' (including the ludic, and ludicrous musical experiments of the Duke di Angelis quartet). Closed and Open Systems 73 1. "Everything Is Winding Down" A closed system has no potential for renewal. It admits to no outside influence and is therefore inevitably directed towards heat-death: "the isolated system — galaxy, engine, human being, culture, whatever — must evolve spontaneously toward the Conditon of the Most Probable" (Pynchon 73-74). The logic of entropy makes a strong claim for universality, just as the vocabulary of systems theory becomes applicable equaly to a galaxy, a person or a culture. Jean-Francois Lyotard's essay "A Postmodern Fable" employs the universal terminology of systems to construct a single grand narative of evolution, from the birth of the Earth through to the emergence of the first self-replicating organisms on its surface, to their development into more complex species including humans, and our creation of language and society; even beyond the limited life of our sun, Lyotard's fable continues as the principle of systems diferentiation leads to further mutations — humans are themselves superseded by some as-yet unimaginable evolutionary development. In the fable, a single explanatory principle sufices to comprehend the span of the universe. A similar logic is at work in the narative universe of Dead Babies, Amis's 1975 novel, but the regenerative possibilties of the open system are carefuly avoided. Instead, the novel obeys the entropic tendencies of the closed system. Lyotard writes, "The life span of a star is scientificaly determined. A star is a burning ember in the void which transforms its elements while being consumed. It is also, thus, a laboratory. The ember ends by going out..." (237). Dead Babies is also structured like a laboratory, a narative experiment in which the permissive society of the late 60s and early 70s is projected into a satiric future in which order has given way to unmanageable levels of disorder. The structures holding the narative together break down to nothing, finaly reaching a point of exhaustion at the Closed and Open Systems 74 novel's conclusion, at which point, not coincidentaly, the principal characters are al dead or dying. From the title of the opening chapter, "Let's Go," through to the closing image of "green eyes flash[ing] into the dawn like wild, dying suns" (224), the novel catalogues the process of degradation, decay and exhaustion within the restricted narative system Amis constructs. Like the dying sun of Lyotard's fable, Dead Babies obeys the law of closed systems and, having exhausted its narative resources, winks out. In many respects, some thematic, some structural, Dead Babies is organized as a closed system; it is alowed finite narative resources which, once consumed, spel the inevitable colapse of the narative system. Amis's author's note establishes the isolationist mentality which recurs in the novel: "Not only are al characters and scenes in this book entirely fictitious; most of the technical, medical and psychological data are too" (9). Beyond the routine assurance that the novel is a work of fiction, the note also stresses the autonomy of the narative from other discourse systems, social, scientific, or otherwise. Similarly the final phrase of the novel, "dying suns," puns on the book's title to suggest a form of closure in the narrative, joining the beginning with the end to enclose it within a hermetic circle of language. The sense that a patern is being completed is also due to the organization of the novel into a patern of almost geometric precision: six sections encompassing three days, seventy-two chapters coresponding to the seventy-two hours of the narative frame. Furthermore, there is an exhaustive combinatorial logic in operation, as the names of each of the six main characters serve as headings for the divisions which occur at the ten-chapter marks of the novel. Such exhaustive sequencing is appropriate to the lab-like conditons the characters inhabit. Closed and Open Systems 75 These characters form an interactive system documented in the act of consuming itself. The metaphor of scientific experimentation is explicitly realized in the novel by Marvel Buzhardt, one of the visiting Americans, who advocates scientific drug-taking: I want you al to give this drug thing some genuine thought. I don't want to get too mechanistic about it but I've done this sort of project before, in controled conditons . . . . (71) I don't want to get too straight about this but we'l be al out of whack if we do it unscientificaly. (100) Each character is invited to construct a desirable persona, which wil  be realized through the judicious mixing of a number of pharmaceutical products. Marvel himself elects to ingest a concoction caled a "Prospero" whose efect is to make him "feel in control" (103). Amis's own control extends to every detail of the novel to the point that it begins to act as an elaborate mechanism ticking through a finite sequence of possibilties. In additon to the mathematical rigor with which the narative progresses, the action is almost totaly confined to the Appleseed Rectory, a building Amis endows with quite remarkable properties. For instance, it is described as a singularly remote and inaccessible place, tending to recede out of (or into) its suroundings to the point where it could be said to occupy its own private dimension (30). Certainly its isolation is of primary importance to the analogy with a closed system; by excluding the intervention of outsiders, the possibilty that new forms of energy could be injected into the entropic equation is eliminated. Appleseed Rectory's remoteness ensures that there is no danger of the closed system opening up. The building, furthermore, is a site of temporal and spatial instability; it seems to operate by its own physical laws, and these laws are shown to fluctuate and break down as the novel enters its terminal phase. Time telescopes to the point where "everyone is always Closed and Open Systems 76 blacking out at Appleseed Rectory, and they can't remember farther back than a few days" (33). While Amis does provide us with a sense of each character's past, the narative remains strictly focused on the seventy-two hours of the Dead Babies experiment. Appleseed Rectory is an architectural model for entropic time, emulating the efects of a system approaching maximum disorder. Spatial and structural stabilty begin to colapse, resulting in a building where perspective itself is unreliable: "the rooms are without bearing and without certainty . . . , Appleseed Rectory is a place of lagging time and false memory . . . " (33-34). Another feature of closed systems in their final stages of entropic decay is the absence of change observable in the system. The characters in Dead Babies are static in that they remain unchanged throughout the weekend. Although their personalites are explained through flashbacks (we know how they came to be the way they are as they enter the narative process of Dead Babies), they are locked into that state for the duration of the novel. This is signaled from the very first by Amis's unusual inclusion of a 'cast list' which includes for each of the Appleseed gang a brief character description that obtains throughout the text; their inabilty to change or develop reflects the terminal nature of the closed system in which they are trapped. Andy Adorno typifies this characteristic in his choice of mood-altering concoction. He tels Marvel, "I want to feel sexed-up, big-rigged, violent and strong," which is an accurate assessment of his character without any chemical modifcation (100). The same, only more so, in other words. In Dead Babies there is a sense that despite the frantic pace, with al of its excess and flamboyant gestures, time is running out and everything is coming to an end. The curious phenomenon of "lagging time" cuts the Appleseed inhabitants loose from normal temporality: lagging time, with its numbness and disjunction, its inertia and automatism, its lost past and dead future . . . . Closed and Open Systems 77 Now they were al moving to no efect —just moving, just switching things of and switching things on, just picking things up and puting things down and picking things up and stroking the cat and counting the mugs and fighting for air. It seemed that everything they did had already been done and done, and that everything they thought had already been thought and thought, and that this would never end. (150) Amis presents an extreme, pessimistic account of a culture running down, empty of innovation, and bordering on exhaustion or, to borow another term from systems theory, heat death. The end of time and references to death become overwhelmingly present in the final stages of the Appleseed weekend. In its extreme form, entropy suggests that a system in an entirely undiferentiated state, at its point of maximum randomness, is without information and outside of time — Stephen Hawking describes this eventuality in his discussion of what he cals the thermodynamic arow of time and the psychological arow of time; he points out that in the absence of change the psychological sense of time has no referent (151). Indeed, without heat exchange, consciousness itself becomes impossible (the "weak anthropic principle" [Hawking, A Brief History of Time 124]). When Lucy asks Quentin how much of the day remains, he looks at his watch to discover it has stopped: '"Not long,' he said, 'Not long'" (177). The early energy the group takes from reckless sexuality fades too: Keith's "cock doesn't work any more" (188), Andy "hardly wants to fuck anyone these days. I've done al that now" (191). According to the narator, even their body temperatures are dropping (177). Andy senses "things are beginning to slow down . . . I haven't got that far to go" (191). None of them have. The potential energy available to them has been used up, and order gives way to disorder, even to the point where the visible spectrum begins to dissolve, frequencies of light fading into one another: "The blue-and-yelow tiles on the ceilng had receded and blured so that its patern was no longer distinct. Closed and Open Systems 78 Even the plain white of the wals appeared to have become something more washy, more neutral. Colour had begun to drain from the house" (212). What is being set up in the narative is the eschatology of a closed system. While the Christian doctrine of Revelation holds out the promise of a divine influx of negentropy, a sudden and catastrophic (in the etymological sense of a 'sudden turn') impositon of universal order, secular systems theory holds that the fate of a closed system is that which Lyotard ascribes to the burning ember of a star that consumes itself. Running out of fuel, it cools, slows, contracts; its ordered structure degrades and disperses across the cosmos. Dead Babies emulates these processes of a dying sun. Andy again: "In a curiously gentle manner . . . his body seemed to be melting, rendering down to a weaker and less robust version of himself (216). The process of entropy is unidirectional and irreversible. Right before the narative reaches its conclusion and the characters are snufed out one by one, the narator pauses to consider alternatives: "— yes — it would demand smal ingenuity to restore peace [order] to Appleseed Rectory. Unfortunately, though, there is no 'going back' on things that in a sense were never meant, things that got started too long ago" (235). To restore peace would require an influx of information, of energy, of negentropy — it would entail breaking open the closed system. Instead, the narative is permited to run on to its terminus. Andy's observation that "We're al dying here. We're al dying!" (233) is realized almost immediately by the deaths, in quick succession, of Marvel, Celia, Diana, Andy, Roxanne, Skip, Giles, and (presumably) Keith (250-54). In a sense, Quentin is the first casualty, as his identiy is efaced by the resurgence of "Johnny," a suppressed personality who explodes like a 'dying sun,' destroying everyone around him. Reducing a fictional narative to the parameters of systems theory is an inexact, partial process. While there are clearly points of contact between Amis's narative and the narative of entropy (summarized by Pynchon as "you can't win, things are going to get Closed and Open Systems 79 worse before they get beter, who says they're going to get beter" [72]), such a reading ignores aspects of the novel beter understood in the context of literary or social history, or psychoanalysis. Nevertheless, entropy is a fundamental organizational principle within the novel: not in the explicit, programmatic manner Tom LeClair identifies with the work of Don DeLilo, Robert Coover, and others, but as a necessary consequence of the overt cultural critique contained within Dead Babies. In forming a judgment against a society he perceives in decline, Amis loads the dice against the productive interference of outside sources. Achieving much of its satiric intensity by exploitng the efects of entropic processes, Dead Babies can be read as an alegory of cultural entropy in its terminal phase, "a conservative howl of obscene rage at moral decline" (Diedrick 37). As James Diedrick points out, the decision to name one of the characters Andy Adorno suggests a connection to the cultural critques of Theodor Adorno (10). Along those lines, the character Quentin Viliers can be seen as an embodiment of the Dialectic of Enlightenment as conceived by Adorno and Horkheimer: cultured, erudite, and refined, but also savage, merciless and calculating. Dead Babies is Emma writen in the shadow of Auschwitz and Hiroshima, in the sense that it "is a perverse variant on the British genre of the country house novel" (Diedrick 32) updated to account for perceived nihilsm and erosion in the social order; Amis appropriates this literary form only to demonstrate its radical inadequacy in the face of postmodern social realities. He uses a similar strategy in London Fields, as Samson Young parodies the opening section of The Rainbow to contrast contemporary urban squalor with the robust, rural organicism described by D.H. Lawrence (114). Entropy is a suggestive metaphor for cultural critique, ofering a theory of decline that is universal and Closed and Open Systems 80 irreversible; as Norbert Wiener has commented, it vindicates the philosophy of the pessimist,12 providing objective support for the argument that things are geting worse. In Dead Babies not even language is immune to entropic decay: at the end of the novel there are patches in which grammatical structures begin to unravel. Each character experiences moments of confused images, words thrown together without subordination or conjunction, ofered without explanation or comment. With the degeneration of language into undiferentiated noise, the novel seems to claim, communication — and with it al literature — is at an end. Entropy, especialy as it relates to closed systems, suggests a cultural pessimism very much in keeping with the fatalistic tone of Dead Babies, as wel as the later novels Time's Arrow and London Fields (which contains a chapter on the entropic theme "the Death of Love"). In additon to providing a specific narative logic to closed naratives such as Dead Babies and Time's Arrow, the principle of entropy caries larger implications for the application of systems theory to literature. In entirely diferent contexts the physicist Stephen Hawking and the literary critic Pati White point out that the act of reading is at once a negentropic and an entropic process, one that situates the text within an aray of systems constelated within an elaborate circuit of exchange and feedback. While it may seem trivial to consider the act of reading from the point of view of information exchange and entropy, it does have the efect of 'materializing' the reading process, which, after all, is never caried out outside of complex organic and social networks. Time's Arrow atempts to emplot concepts of entropy within a cultural framework to suggest continuites between its own tiny universe and the immeasurably larger — but stil finite — world of human interaction. The corespondence reveals, in Amis's view, a social narative characterized by moral decline and a loss of innocence. 1 2 "The best we can hope for the role of progress in a universe running downhill as a whole is that the vision of our attempts to progress in the face of overwhelming necessity may have the purging terror of Greek tragedy" (Wiener 41). Closed and Open Systems 81 2. Order and Ordure Entropy is explicitly a theme of Time's Arrow, a short novel predicated on the experience of a life lived in reverse, against the arow of time. The novel stands as an ironic answer to Stephen Hawking's question, "why do we remember events in the past, but only dimly foresee what is going to happen" (Hawking, "Direction of Time" 46)? The dilemma of the unnamed narator in Time's Arrow is that while he can remember the future, it is the past that is unknown territory. Born at the instant of "his" body's death, his universe is one in which entropy is constantly decreasing, disorder giving way to order, the future giving way to the past. Amis exploits the idea of reversed time to provide moments of insight and humour in the first part of the novel, but the function of this narative device is to habituate the reader to a reading strategy that is consequently exploited in the later sections, especialy "Here There Is No Why," as he or she must participate in actively reconstructing the crimes of Auschwitz by inverting the temporal processes to decipher the atrocities taking place in the death camp. In many respects Time's Arrow is an ideal example of a closed system in that, just as the physical book is bounded by the front and back cover, the text is tightly bound by the 'birth' and 'death' of the narator. For this reason the formal structure is resolutely closed, a narative as isolated as the consciousness of the narator, who can neither communicate with nor influence his environment. In additon, however, Time's Arrow functions as an autonomous text in Wilam Paulson's sense, suggesting "the presence of as yet unknown codes or levels of meaning at work within the text. . . : what cannot be integrated under a Closed and Open Systems 82 known law of the text is presumed to be operating under another law, as yet unknown, of the same text" (Paulson 135). Time's Arrow foregrounds the unknown law early on, after the mysterious 'birth' of the narator in hospital: "Wait a minute. Why am I walking backwards into the house? Wait. Is it dusk coming, or is it dawn? What is the — what is the sequence of the journey I'm on? What are its rules? Why are the birds singing so strangely? Where am I heading" (14)? The unknown law governing Time's Arrow is, it transpires, the inverse of the second law of thermodynamics: the narator perceives a universe running from a lesser to a higher state of order. Time's Arrow is a narative which, in a perverse sense, literaly reflects the world: everything in it is back to front. Once decoded the social critique, as in Dead Babies, links aging with coruption and therefore privileges the innocence of youth. When, with comic precision, the narator explains that "[a]l life, for instance, al sustenance, al meaning (and a good deal of money) issues from a single household appliance: the toilet handle" (16), the reader who folows the textual logic and inverts the narator's experience is informed that, in our entropic universe, eventualy everything ends in shit. The problem of causality that leads to the narator's frustration with his world is finaly reconciled in the Nazi death camps, locations the narative carefuly abstracts from ordinary temporality — ours and the narator's — and ordinary space. The first sign of abstraction is implied by the huge clock at the Treblinka railway station, where the hands are painted on. A second is implied by a phrase from "the Auschwitz universe" (132): "Hier ist kein warum. Here there is no why. Here there is no when, no how, no where" (128). Later the narator adds, "It covered 14, 000 acres, and it was invisible. It was there, and it wasn't there" (147). Just as the closed system of Time's Arrow functions according to a logic alien to us, the death camps function Closed and Open Systems 83 according to a logic that is doubly unreal, as distant from our comprehension as it is from that of the narator. The Holocaust in reverse becomes a mythical metamorphosi  of ordure, ash and fire into a race of people: the Nazis' task, to the negentropic eyes of the narator, is "to dream a race" (128) into existence. It is left to the reader to undo this involution of Time's Arrow, and confront a separate truth, that Odilo Unverdorben and other medical doctors wilingly participated in the atempt to dream a race out of existence. To the narator's perception, shit is a mystical substance, "from which . . . al human good eventualy emanates" (123) but at "fiercely coprocentric" (132) Auschwitz, the sheer quantiy of excrement suggests to the narator the scale of the project Unverdorben is involved in: "now . . . we'l get a chance to find out what this stuf can realy do" (153). It bears repeating: for the narator, the arow of time points from ordure to order. The shatered cup leaps from the floor to sit intact on the table, leters are born from the flames in a fireplace. The nightime bowel movement leads inexorably to the elegant dinner. In Central Park, the narator witnesses a game of chess, and comments on the progression from a state of randomness to ordered rows: "One final tug on the white pawn, and perfect order is restored" (77). The chess game functions as an emblematic moment in a more general patern of renewal ("After the Moon-shot, I remember, a light went out in everybody's head . . . . Everyone becomes more innocent, constantly forgeting" [98-99]) that, when reinterpreted in the normal forward flow of events, suggests the progression towards greater coruption and decay that lies in the direction of time's arow. The cultural pessimism dominating Dead Babies and Time's Arrow derives support from the second law of thermodynamics: the sum total of entropy always increases; in Closed and Open Systems 84 universal terms any local increase in order is ofset by a larger increase in disorder (the information/heat tradeof Stephen Hawking mentions). These two novels, structured as closed systems or narative universes unto themselves, enact the process and, in Time's Arrow especialy, stress the paralels between narative entropy, social entropy, and individual entropy: the colapse of social order and the decay of the body are for Amis merely aspects of a single process. This tone hardly wavers in his other novels, and, though they are less stylized and more realistic than either Dead Babies or Time's Arrow, the more recent London Fields and The Information continue the theme: a life, a world, a universe trapped in a downward spiral from energy to exhaustion, from health to sickness, from order to chaos. At one point near the end of London Fields Samson Young recals visiting his estranged girlfriend in America, where (he believes) they conceived a child. The next morning he takes a boat out on a nearby pond: At first, the sky looked like one of Darwin's warm little pools, sugary blue, where life would ineluctably form; but the pond itself was tired. It didn't have too long to go now, with the ocean smashing at the dunes to the east and geting yards closer every week. The oars slid through the surface tracery of dead waterskaters. I gave a shout as I saw that the clan of snapping-turtles was stil  in occupation, huddled up among the reeds. In their heyday, when they had discipline and esprit, they looked like the ranked helmets of Korean riot police. Now these survivalists walowed loose and exhausted: soiled bowls in the soup kitchen. . . . For an hour the sky was Cape Cod true blue, with solid clouds Closed and Open Systems 85 grandly gleaming like statuary. After that, just heat, with the sun and the sky slowly turning the same colour. (411) The paragraph is laden with images of entropy; from the encroaching ocean to the "loose and exhausted" snapping-turtles to the merging of the sun and sky, the erosion of order into a disordered, undiferentiated state supersedes, according to the narator, Darwinian, evolutionary, order-generating processes. Every aspect of the environment participates in a conspiracy of decline as perceived by Samson Young. Initialy the narative of London Fields is presented as a closed structure, with the murderous conclusion announced on the opening page ("And I couldn't stop them, I don't think, even if I wanted to. The girl wil  die. It's what she always wanted. You can't stop people, once they start" [1]), and the inevitabilty of what folows a constant source of anxiety for Samson Young. The angst Amis admits to in the prefatory author's note works to bring together a series of escalating crises, including the personal apocalypse Keith sufers, the geo-political standof that runs through the novel, and the astronomical 'crisis' of a fiill solar eclipse; and these synchronous developments are, for Samson Young, signs of a deeper patern, an inescapable principle linking everything: Everything is winding down, me, this, mother earth. More: the universe, though apparently roomy enough, is heading for heat death . . . . Who stiched us up with al these design flaws? Entropy, time's arow — ravenous disorder. (239) The continuity of Amis's critique of culture, communicated through the form of the novels — 'comedies' that end in murder and suicide — as much as by the ubiquitous running commentary on social decay, exploits the universality of the second law of thermodynamics to create such broad corespondences. Ironicaly, in The Information the narator accuses Closed and Opea Systems 86 Gwyn Bary of using astrology to pander to the self-obsessions of his culture (329), but in a similar manner Amis universalizes his own intimations of mortality to encompass the cosmos. Literature is recast according to Amis's awareness of entropy in two ways. First, as Amis put it in a 1988 interview, "literature used to be about gods, then it was about kings, then it was about heroes, then it was about you and me. And now it's about them" (21; a slightly expanded version of this observation appears twice in The Information [92, 328-29] linked to the premise that corelates literature's focus with the positon of humanity in the universal order). Second, the strict order of genres is subjected to mixing, just as discrete solutions in proximity tend to blend into one another: "Among the many mysterious processes under way in this century is a breakdown of genre, so that comic novels can take on prety rugged stuf. It seems clear to me . . . that comedy is a much looser form than it once was" (Hafenden 10). In these two statements Amis is appealing to a form of cultural entropy to defend his own practice as a novelist. The fascination with the worst of humanity at its least admirable is defended as the logical progression in literature's interests; the savagery and despair that go unremedied in Amis's 'comic' novels result from the breakdown of boundaries, inevitable transgressions of generic order. 3. Literature and Open Systems In one sense Samson Young is corect in equating his own private heat-death (also promised on the first page of the novel) with the end of the universe, but this sense only obtains within a narow, highly literary conception of the novel as an autonomous, self-referential and above al closed system. As soon as London Fields is considered in relation Closed and Open Systems 87 to a larger cultural network, the rhetoric of closure (as containment, as ending) is exploded; the text must be reconsidered as a communicative act within a discourse network that is far from the equilbrium point characteristic of heat-death. There is a structural consequence to this rupture in the hitherto closed text. In Dead Babies and Time's Arrow there is a profoundly artificial symmetry to the narrative, one that is linked to the motif of death that dominates the conclusion of each book. London Fields features a more ragged, 'open' conclusion, with the suicide of the narator counterpoised by the troubling but undeniable continuation of other characters. A similar 'softening' is evident in Money, whose subtile "A Suicide Note" eventualy proves exaggerated when John Self becomes that rare figure, a narator who survives an Amis novel. The author's note to Money begins, "This is a suicide note. By the time you lay it aside . . . John Self wil no longer exist. Or at least that's the idea" (i). In this respect it promises the same narative closure that characterizes the other novels discussed here, but Self survives the narrative, albeit in greatly reduced circumstances. What the novels in the London trilogy concede but cannot come to terms with is the negentropic forces at work within their decaying universe. Entropy figured as a sociological axiom results in a model of gradual colapse, and in Amis's novels the social order is indeed shown to be faling apart. But while entropy is a compeling theory of decline, it is entirely inadequate to account for the existence — and, more important, the creation — of complex structures from microbes up to and including human beings and cultural products such as novels. The conflict between entropy's pessimism and the force of Darwinian evolution — a scientific theory that underwrote a very diferent social vision (Porush 284) — was reconciled in the concept of open systems that maintained their structures by absorbing Closed and Open Systems 88 energy from their environment. In this new synthesis, according to Porush, "the biosphere is an island in the entropic stream, or beter, a raft swimming autonomously, inexplicably upstream, gathering flotsam and organizing it into the flotila, against the intractable laws of physics" (285). A cultural product such as a novel can be seen as a similar aggregation of flotsam. In its production, the literary text is formed by the intersection of several systems, each of which in itself appears autonomous: the author's intentions, the social context, cultural traditions, generic expectations, and so on. But it cannot be assumed that the creative process out of which the text arises ever atains complete autonomy. The work may become part of an autonomous system at a very general level, say, a given culture, but nothing in the theory of autonomous systems authorizes the step of taking the individual work as itself wholy defined or delimited by the interactions of its own laws and processes. "The cultural hypersystem" (8) is a term Pati White uses to refer to the system of systems of which literature is but a single component. Like DeLilo and other postmodern writers, Amis gives us a narative account of a cultural system in transition, and the savage irony of his prose can be atributed in part to his recogniton that the transition marks the end of literature's role as the dominant vehicle of cultural tradition.13 Thus Money is about the absurdites of the television and movie trade, and London Fields and The Information present fiction as a worn-out form superseded by television and celuloid. Entropy conceived as an alegory of the systems of culture in decline inevitably results in a pessimistic assessment of literature's place in the social order, as Samson Young's comment Closed and Open Systems 89 on the ilusion of form ("writers always lag behind the contemporary formlessness. They write about an old reality, in a language that's even older" [238]) reveals. Returning to the context of Pynchon's "Entropy," Amis's novels after Success appear to sufer from a split personality. In their thematic insistence on systems in decline and culture in ruins, they appear to conform to Calisto's fears of "a heat-death for culture." At the same time, they are clearly informed by an understanding of the debased features of popular culture that were shown to energize the fluid social space represented by the inhabitants of Muligan's apartment. There is a strong sense that, especialy in the London trilogy, Amis's narative is reliant upon precisely those cultural forms that represent culture's decline. Just as John Self s character exists because of, rather than in spite of, the conflicting voices in his head (Diedrick 73), Money, along with Amis's other fictions, exists as the positve product of Amis's entanglement with money, with movies, with the unredeemed excesses of consumer culture Self so assiduously explores. If, as David Porush argues, the fundamental transition from simple entropy to complex interactions can be summarized as a movement from the science of being to the science of becoming (287), then Amis's structuraly closed novels are diferentiated from the looser, structuraly open novels in that the later are increasingly aware — one might even say threatened — by non-literary culture. Though Amis's thematic and structural emphasi  foregrounds the process of decay at work in an entropic universe, Money, London Fields and The Information are systems novels in LeClair's sense in that they reflexively examine the material conditons of their Kittler's Discourse Networks 1800/1900 makes the argument for the media fragmentation that reduces literature's cultural influence within the context of literary modernism; media developments Closed and Open Systems 9 0 own formation. Money is about "Good Money" and "Bad Money," alternate titles for the film project that occupies John Self for the bulk of the narative (and eventualy for which the character "Martin Amis" writes the script); London Fields is entirely concerned with documenting its own self-genesis (in systems theory the equivalent term is autopoeisis), while it also records the dubious process of television production through Keith's darts experience; The Information is, as Amis says "an awful lot about the subsidiaries of writing, rather than writing itself." In other words, "giving interviews, being photographed, talking to TV crews, everything that gets in the way of writng" (Morison 99). But far from being distractions, these secondary processes form the core of The Information. In a similar sense the 'distracting' voices in John Self s head actualy constiute his character. The plurality of voices in his head indicates that Self s character is not constructed as a closed system (Diedrick 73), and Money is metafictional and intertextual in the way the title recurs within the tale and also in the way the production of a piece of art (the plot device upon which the novel rests) is shown to be (parodicaly, of course) not so much an hermetic act by an isolated producer as a complex process involving many social and economic (and artistic) sub-systems. Literature is not a closed system isolated from the wider culture, Money insists; rather, it is a commodity that can be produced, distributed, consumed, and exchanged for other commodites, including money. In a narative insisting that contemporary consumer culture has overwhelmed the possibilty of art, an aporia develops in considering the positon of the narative making such claims. In The Information literature itself looks very sick indeed: Gwyn Bary and Richard Tul are at opposite ends of the commercial scale, while beneath them lies ever after the War suggest that literature's voice would be still harder to hear. Closed and Open Systems 91 more puerile "trex" and vanity-published "anti-literature" (54). Clearly, The Information asks to be taken as serious literature, but just as clearly, it is adamant that this category has been efaced from the contemporary scene: miltantly, it negates its own conditons of existence. When the alternatives alowed are the banal mediocrites Gwyn Bary creates, and the flawed, torturous novels of Richard Tul, Amis's entropic vision finds expression in cultural terms. Literature stil  exists, but only in reprinted classics. Tul's book reviews reveal another form of exhaustion, as literary criticism has run out of literary figures of note and is reduced to biographies of one-shot Victorians and other obscure writers. Gwyn's ego, though huge, is finaly defeated by another efect of entropy, the sheer volume of publications he must read to find references to himself. A brief parable of systems theory, this scene undoes the narow band of referentiality in the interconnected system of literature and literary reviews, as Gwyn discovers a mention of his name in an article about property values and begins to read publications on a variety of subjects looking for references to himself. "Prety soon — and you could see this coming — he was reading everything about everything" (300). Searching for relevant information in an increasing tide of irrelevant noise, Gwyn exemplifes the postmodern frustration with quanties of information so plentiful they function instead as the noise of culture. While Richard's stubborn refusal to abandon literary modernism guarantees his irelevance within the wider culture and "separates him from the world of readers" (Dern 139), Gwyn's relative success is also compromised: within an environment of diminishing standards and endless textual proliferation, his books are fated to lose curency and fade into obscurity. By adopting the principles of entropy and the closed system as organizing principles for his fiction, Amis is forced to confront the paradox that "authors need to Closed and Open Systems 92 transmit information to achieve immortality, but if readership is decaying, then authorship is also doomed" (Dern 137). The irreversible trajectory of decline proposed in his fiction does not alow for a solution within the confines of the novels. If a narative other than that of decay is to be found, it must come from elsewhere. 4. Don DeLilo: Chaos and Renewal "What we are reluctant to touch often seems to be the very fabric of our salvation." (White Noise 31) In contrast to Amis's focus on the instabilty and potential for breakdown inherent in cultural entropy, DeLilo seems to accept the chalenge of writing about a culture obsessed with novelty and the production of ever-greater quanties of commodites (be they material objects, images, or narratives). Within the clutered cultural environment he finds connections and signifcance where Amis identifies only "trex." In what folows I wil ofer a reading of a range of DeLilo's fictions that atempts to account for two striking features of his work: repeated references to elements of experience resistant to representation and alusive of forces and energies that escape perception, and an ironic but genuine fascination with the forms and objects that constiute popular culture. While these aspects may appear unrelated, I shal argue that they are closely linked, and folow from a rejection of the conceptual oppositon of high culture and low culture and an efort to reconstiute what DeLilo has caled "the people's history" (Underworld 60). In his analysis of contemporary culture Jean Baudrilard claims that in the period folowing the Second World War we have witnessed a revolution in the nature of the sign. Mass media saturation, ubiquitous information technology and the exponential growth of Closed and Open Systems 93 the commodity-form are conspicuous elements in a process that has destroyed the sign's mediating relationship with objective reality, carying us into what Baudrilard terms the "era of simulation" (2). With the proliferation of images comes a crisis in the representational nature of the sign: "It is no longer a question of imitation, nor of duplication, nor even parody. It is a question of substiuting signs of the real for the real. . ." (2). The linguistic sign has moved from a phase where it represented "the reflection of a profound reality" through a phase where "it masks and denatures a profound reality" to its present (and for Baudrilard permanent) phase in which "it has no relation to any reality whatsoever; it is its own pure simulacrum" (6). Such an analysis is hyperbolic and, Baudrilard freely admits, nihilistic, yet in his aversion to the cultural products that characterize our modernity he is expressing prevalent critical atitudes about the impact of commodifcation on culture. Ours is a society without depth, it is claimed; we have lost — or sacrifced — a genuine relationship with the authentic experience and exist now within the vacuous play of empty signifiers. ". . . [T]he whole system becomes weightless, it is no longer itself anything but a gigantic simulacrum — not unreal, but a simulacrum, that is to say, never exchanged for the real, but exchanged for itself, in an uninterupted circuit without reference or circumference" (5-6). Trapped within a moebius-loop of signs endlessly referring to signs, we are cut of from any possible access to mystical or transcendental (irrational) dimensions to language, as the imperative of commodifcation comes to regulate every aspect of our existence. While al discourse is afected, Baudrilard singles out the language of advertising as a particularly virulent example of the devastating efect of the sign become pure commodity: Closed and Open Systems 94 [a]l original cultural forms, al determined languages are absorbed in advertising because it has no depth, it is instantaneous and instantly forgoten. . . . . This unarticulated, instantaneous form, without a past, without a future, without the possibilty of metamorphosis, has power over al the others. (87) While extreme, Baudrilard's positon is far from unique. Adorno and Horkheimer argue that "the culture industry" had successfuly subordinated art and literature to the dictates of commodity exchange and that al but a few esoteric, austere cultural forms were entirely subsumed by the logic of capital. "Works of art are ascetic and unashamed, the culture industry is pornographic and prudish" (140). More moderate in his assessment, Fredric Jameson nevertheless endorses the critique of contemporary culture's commodifed "depthlessness," or what he cals the "waning of afect" (17) in contrast to the art works of modernism. Discussing the superficial aesthetic signs and "pseudohistorical depth" (20) of Lawrence Kasdan's film Body Heat, Jameson claims that "this mesmerizing new aesthetic mode itself emerged as an elaborate symptom of the waning of our historicity, of our lived possibilty of experiencing history in some active way" (21). In general, critical theory has concluded that products of mas  culture possess none of the heroic, oppositonal qualities associated with the 'authentic' artistic products of an earlier modernism. For many years, DeLilo has been exploring in his fiction the complex relation of contemporary language and images to forms of cultural memory and referentiality. A character from Underworld, Sister Grace, could almost be quoting Baudrilard when she speaks of the media: "It's how the news becomes so powerful it doesn't need TV or newspapers. It exists in people's perceptions. It becomes real or fake-real so people think they're seeing reality when they're seeing something they invent. It's the news without the Closed and Open Systems 95 media" (819). In this assessment the dictates of mass-media have grown so powerful that they have been fuly internalized by a subjugated population which is complicitous in the generation of an ilusion; in Underworld this opinion is only one view, however, and it is undermined within the narative precisely because of its inherent cynicism. Aware of the co-opting, corupting influence of media, of advertising, of the sheer inertia of commodites in the American cultural landscape, DeLilo nevertheless rummages through the trash of tabloid news and consumer goods to discover significance, traces of complex ritual and magic, resonating in the abject objects. His version of the cult of the commodity is never celebratory and often ironic, yet he rejects the charges of superficiality and irelevance culture theory levels at products of consumer culture. White Noise asserts that magic and dread remain constants, even if their articulation is a mater of historical contingency, and that in their confrontation with the forces of Enlightenment —- science, capital, secularism: what Horkheimer and Adorno caled Instrumental Rationality — they are not extinguished but driven underground, perhaps out of consciousness yet always perceptible as subtle distortions in the topography of a rationalized landscape. Precisely those debased cultural forms that represent the nadir of signification for Baudrilard are recuperated in DeLilo's naratives as sites of transcendence. In Underworld an advertising bilboard becomes the scene of a possible manifestation of the divine: the image of a murdered girl's face appears in an ad for 'Minute Maid' orange juice when it is iluminated by the headlight of a passing commuter train. A crowd gathered to witness this event reacts to the glimpsed image with "a gasp that shot into sobs and moans and the cry of some unnamable painful elation. A blurted sort of whoop, the holer of unstoppered belief (821). The "empty form" (Baudrilard 93) of advertising is, in DeLilo's text, literaly Closed and Open Systems 96 ( transfigured into a token of fleeting mystical power, activating a deep reservoir of belief in the crowd that has been 'stoppered' (not exterminated, as Baudrilard argues) by the dictates of'Enlightened' modernity. This fictional episode has innumerable analogues in the present culture, instances ranging from onstage miracles of healing to psychic hotlines on syndicated television programs, and regardless of their authenticity they present strong evidence of a subteranean belief system at odds with the doctrine of science and rationality. In The Reenchantment of the World, Moris Berman views such phenomena with trepidation, fearful that when modernity "discounted a whole landscape of inner reality because it did not fit in with the program of industrial or mercantile exploitation and the directives of organized religion," a "spiritual vacuum" was created that "is being filed with al kinds of dubious mystical and occult movements .. ." (132). When Underworld contrasts the dry rationalism of Sister Edgar's systematic Catholicism with the powerful spontaneity of the crowd's belief, it is the later that comes to the rescue after Sister Edgar's faith in "form and proportion," "the serenity of immense design" (817), is shatered folowing Esmerelda's brutal murder. The reality or falsity of Esmerelda's manifestation is not DeLilo's concern; instead he is careful to demonstrate that the event before the bilboard fulfils deep expectations in the crowd. He delineates too the inevitable cooptation of the event by forces of capital eager to exploit the spectacle for profit (823-24). The phenomenon ends when the advertisement on the bilboard is taken down. The removal of the sign coincides with the disappearance of Esmerelda's phantasmal image. The same appreciation for the sublime, or that which escapes representation, flows through White Noise; in this novel, a mysterious energy which does not proceed from , notions of rational utility is ascribed to language, as wel as to commodites. The character Closed and Open Systems 97 Muray Jay Siskind may be presenting an exaggerated version of the author's viewpoint when he speaks of the supermarket as a place that "recharges us spiritualy . . ., a gateway or pathway . . .ful of psychic data" (37), but in an interview DeLilo himself asked that we Imagine someone from the third world who has never set foot in a place like that suddenly transported to an A&P in Chagrin Fals, Ohio. Wouldn't he be elated or frightened? Wouldn't he sense that something transcending is about to happen to him in the midst of al this brightness? So I think that's something that has been in the background of my work: a sense of something extraordinary hovering just beyond our touch and just beyond our vision. (De Curtis 63) And, DeLilo suggests, the extraordinary something hovers just beyond our language (De Curtis 64). In its narative structure White Noise develops an analogy between an economy of objects and an economy of language. Such an analogy has its own history, of course, most obviously in Saussure's general linguistics, which provides us with an early example of language theorized as 'rationalized'("language is a system of pure values which are determined by nothing except the momentary arangement of its terms" [80]) and communication theorized as a transparent operation involving the exchange of tokens. But an equivalence of a diferent kind is at work in White Noise: in place of the hermetic closed circuit of commodity-relations and the analogous self-referentiality of linguistic signs, there is an area in which communication does not function according to a strict logic of exchange. This is the zone of "Toyota Celica," that episode in which Jack Gladney, Professor of Hitler Studies at the University-on-the-Hil, is watching his daughter sleep (a seemingly unremarkable activity he cals the "secular equivalent of standing in a great Closed and Open Systems 98 spired cathedral with marble pilars and streams of mystical light slanting through two-tier Gothic windows . . ." [147]): I sat there watching her. Moments later she spoke again. Distinct sylables this time, not some dreamy murmur — but a language not quite of this world. I struggled to understand. I was convinced she was saying something, fitting together units of stable meaning. I watched her face, waited. Ten minutes passed. She utered two clearly audible words, familar and elusive at the same time, words that seemed to have a ritual meaning, part of a verbal spel or ecstatic chant. Toyota Celica. A long moment passed before I realized this was the name of an automobile. The truth only amazed me more. The uterance was beautiful and mysterious, gold-shot with looming wonder. (154-155) In a recent interview with Adam Begley, DeLilo claims, when you detach one of these words from the product it was designed to serve, the word acquires a chantlike quality . . . . If you concentrate on the sound, if you disassociate [sic] the words from the object they denote, and if you say the f words over and over, they become a sort of higher Esperanto. This is how Toyota Celica began its life. It was pure chant at the beginning. (291) Such assertions indicate DeLilo's belief in a deeper level of signification, approachable by language but ultimately not directly accessible — leading to, obviously, the need for a transcendental mode of knowing. In the above example, words are imbued with a mysterious power that resonates in a manner impervious to rational analysis. Closed and Open Systems gg Reminiscent of Baudrilard's sign-system devoid of referents, DeLilo's commodity-signs can be abstracted from one order of representation, but this does not signal the "superficial transparency of everything" (Baudrilard 87, emphasi  in original). On the contrary, in a context of ritual and magic Toyota Celica, like the Minute Maid bilboard, is shown to transcend the banal limits of the commodity system and signify "a language not quite of this world." In White Noise the air is ful  of helpful and informative voices, yet repeatedly it is the sounds and rhythms of speech, rather than the words themselves, that Gladney finds peculiarly evocative or significant. Conversely, he often experiences an overwhelming sense that what is most urgent lies beyond speech. In either case, the rational utility of language is put in question. White Noise and Underworld are texts trying to demonstrate that contemporary consumer consciousness is not a spiritual void or a psychicaly impoverished wasteland; rather the energy which circulates far beneath the superficial strata of object-relations and commodity exchange continues to erupt and take what form it can, despite the most concentrated eforts of an industrial system that insists upon translating everything it finds into commodites. These energies surface like weeds through artificial turf, resilent because their roots are buried too deep to be deracinated. It might be too programmatic to cal such tendencies of mind subversive, yet simply by enduring they mock the confident rhetoric of a technologized Enlightenment. Thus during the evacuation of the town of Blacksmith, when Gladney's wife Babete is reading aloud from a newspaper tabloid to a huddled mass of refugees, there is a strong sense that the ilusions of progress have been dispeled by a single disaster, and in their place primitive fear and superstion quickly become dominant. Closed and Open Systems 100 Even as the crisis of the airborne toxic event develops, the town is subjected to a series of conflicting radio reports, each authoritative, each couched in terms of certainty and positivism, and each diferent from the previous messages. In the refugee camp, knowledge, belief and information are scrambled in a chaotic melange: supernatural pronouncements drawn from Babete's tabloids are accepted without dispute by her audience, while Heinrich, Gladney's son, points out that with the seeming colapse of a scientific and technical infrastructure, contemporary men and women are on an intelectual level with people of the Stone Age: [Radio signals] travel through the air. What, like birds? Why not tel them ; magic? They travel through the air in magic waves. What is a nucleotide? You don't know, do you? Yet these are the building blocks of life. What good is knowledge if it just floats through the air? It goes from computer to computer. It changes and grows every second of every day. But nobody actualy knows anything. (149) White Noise delivers a subversive message that seems obvious yet merits repeating: faith in science is ultimately just another kind of faith (or, as Michel Seres phrases it, "there is no pure myth except the idea of a science that is pure of al myth" [162]). In caling atention to the persistent echoes of pre-modern elements in an ostensibly modern environment, White Noise and texts like it redefine the postmodern moment and "chalenge the hegemony of secular rational discourse with unprecedented power," seeing it "not simply as a moment of disintegration but also as one in which certain long-discredited (or residual) ways of seeing and saying — both Western and non-western — stage a complex kind of comeback" (McClure, "Postmodern/Postsecular" 148). Closed and Open Systems 101 Certainly, inasmuch as modernity efects what Max Weber caled a "disenchantment of the world" (quoted in Berman 17) by replacing natural, organic systems with artificial, rationalized ones, it promotes the processes of objedification and reification that obsess Baudrilard and other critics of culture. Nevertheless, as DeLilo indicates, the penetration of the process of rationalization is far less successful than pessimistic critics of the mass market suggest. The force of the irrational continues to exert its influence on the system. In the words of Michel Seres, "the more one tries to exclude myth, the more it returns in force . . ." (163). To take one example from White Noise, supermarket tabloids trafic in the paranormal and the "cults of the famous and the dead" (326), creating a commodity from a fundamental human desire for access to something transcendent. It is this irrational force, operating at the limits of language and representation and conventionaly identified with mysticism, that White Noise explores. The connection between trash and transcendence is aluded to throughout the novel (including a playful reference to "Mystic mints" — transcendental junk food? — which appears as the last item in a long list of standardized consumer products in the first paragraph of the novel) but the connection finds its most extended analysis in a scene in which Jack Gladney must confront his family's garbage: I unfolded the bag cufs, released the latch and lifted out the bag. The ful stench hit me with shocking force. Was this ours? Did it belong to us? Had we created it? I took the bag out to the garage and emptied it. The compressed bulk sat there like an ironic modern sculpture, massive, squat, mocking. I jabbed at it with the but end of a rake and then spread the material over the concrete floor. I picked through it item by item, mass by shapeless mass, wondering why I felt guilty, a Closed and Open Systems 102 violator of privacy, uncovering intimate and perhaps shameful secrets. It was hard not to be distracted by some of the things they'd chosen to submit to the Juggernaut appliance. But why did I feel like a household spy? Is garbage so private? Does it glow at the core with personal heat, with signs of one's deepest nature, clues to secret yearnings, humilating flaws? What habits, fetishes, addictions, inclinations? What solitary acts, behavioral ruts? I found crayon drawings of a figure with ful breasts and male genitals. There was a long piece of twine that contained a series of knots and loops. It seemed at first a random construction. Looking more closely I thought I detected a complex relationship between the size of the loops, the degree of the knots (single or double) and the intervals between knots with loops and freestanding knots. Some kind of occult geometry or symbolic festoon of obsessions. I found a banana skin with a tampon inside. Was this the dark underside of consumer consciousness? (258-59) Amidst the manifold alusions to mysticism and transcendence in this scene I want to draw particular atention to the way the items in the garbage encode powerful secrets. In teasing apart Gladney's "ironic modern sculpture" DeLilo implies a depth-model of signification that stands uterly opposed to Baudrilard's moebius-loop transparency. Yet the oppositon is not one of naive celebration, for White Noise remains highly critical of modernity. What reverberates through this scene and through al of DeLilo's work is the insistence that there is a "dark underside of consumer consciousness," that it manifests itself as much in the most inconsequential cultural products as in the anointed icons of high culture, and that the "underside" persists despite the high gloss of modernity. Against the streamlined linear Closed and Open Systems 103 vision promised by Instrumental Rationality (the same "operational" master code [2] Baudrilard must ironicaly hypostatize in order to launch his critique) DeLilo repeatedly invokes culture's materiality and the weight of its complex history. In Underworld Sister Edgar's experience in front of the 'Minute Maid' bilboard is explicitly linked to religious transfigurations witnessed in medieval times. Even her presence, like that of the robed Franciscan monks she finds within the South Bronx landscape of vacant lots filed with years of stratified deposits — "[m]any ages layered in waste" (102) — seems to assert the accretion of history that, compacted and distorted though it is, composes the substance of our cultural modernity. We deny this history at our peril, DeLilo suggests, and nowhere is the peril greater than when we acquiesce to the totalizing claims of modernity. In questioning the ideological basis of modernity DeLilo atempts to peel away the mask of confidence and rational control to reveal the latent irrationalism beneath: "As technology advances in complexity and scope, fear becomes more primitve" (quoted in Begley 286). The seductive simplicity of linear processes is explicitly questioned in White Noise as the narative subverts the value in narative of order, process, linearity — al the halmarks of modernity's rationalized worldview. When, towards the end of the novel, Gladney begins to plan the death of the adulterer Wilie Mink, he is unconsciously fulfiling the earlier dictum he gave his Advanced Nazism class: "Al plots tend to move deathward. This is the nature of plots. Political plots, terrorist plots, lovers' plots, narative plots, plots that are part of children's games. We edge nearer death every time we plot" (26). At about the same time as his decision to track down Wilie Mink, Gladney also tries to clarify his life by throwing away possessions, embarking on a process of austerity and simplicity: Closed and Open Systems 104 "The more things I threw away, the more I found. The house was a sepia maze of old and tired things. There was an immensity of things, an overburdening weight, a connection, a mortality" (262). The final phrases are sneaked in, exposing the human quality of junk, contrasting the organicism of cluter as opposed to the technical, sleek order of the inorganic. Moving in the direction of murder, Gladney himself comes to resemble a machine. He is "[e]legant. . .watchfing] [himjself take each separate step" (304). Much of Gladney's behavior folowing his discovery of Babete's adultery is symptomatic of the ordered mind, or of overly-rational thought paterns which deny complexity in favour of linearity. His 'plot' to kill Wilie Mink is representative of a mental system that segments, creates hierarchies, and limits potentialities, a patern DeLilo parodies in Gladney's obsessive rehearsal of the murder scenario. Earlier in the novel, Gladney had the thought, "May the days be aimless. Let the seasons drift. Do not advance the action according to a plan" (98) — an expression of a philosophy clearly at odds with calculated eficiency. When he begins to plot, however, he reverses this logic, and goes against his earlier insight. With the gun that has come into his possession, Gladney's relationship to his environment undergoes a dramatic transformation: "It was a reality I could control, secretly dominate" (297). Needless to say, he botches the murder atempt. He forgets a crucial part of his carefuly-rehearsed plan and is himself shot. At the moment of the bulet's impact he experiences a colapse of the ordered clarity and simplicity which, I have argued, is representative of a profoundly modern, machinic inteligence, and is returned to a properly human realm of contingency and complexity, a "visual cluter, a whirling miscelany, meaningless" (313). Gladney goes on to recount that, "With the restoration of the normal Closed and Open Systems 105 order of mater and sensation, I felt I was seeing [Wilie Mink] for the first time as a person. The old human muddles and quirks were set flowing again. Compassion, remorse, mercy" (313). What is relevant about this characterization is the stress on the connections between cluter, muddle, and humanity. As a text, White Noise is constructed as a narative cluter, with many orders of discourse clamouring for atention, and many uterances appearing divorced from their context. Pati White aludes to this muddle when she cals White Noise "a metasystemic restructuring of chaos, a recycling of precisely those dispersed and disordered elements which the characters experience as noise" (8). For instance, inserted at random points in the novel are paragraphs consisting of one sentence, the sentence in turn made up of trios of technical terms or product names. Throughout the narrative, voices break into dialogue, voices which originate without context from radios, televisions, and hidden loudspeakers. This reflects the aural cluter of the voices and sounds, especialy of advertising, that invades our everyday lives. Such chater is usualy denigrated as noise polution, but it has the ability, within the narative metasystem Pati White describes, to add complexity and to enrich, through unexpected juxtapositons and ilogical leaps, our discourse. The conflict between the ordered and eficient ideals of modernity and DeLilo's revitalized, valorized irrationalism is staged in a set-piece in the final chapter which functions as a kind of alegory of the imperiled yet tenacious presence of the irrational within a rational environment: Gladney's infant, Wilder (who is literaly in-fans, "speechless"), pedals his tricycle across a busy six-lane expressway. It is a sublime moment, and consequently the witnesses are described as "awe-struck," the boy himself "mysticaly charged" (322). He enters the "broad-ribboned modernist stream" (332-33) of Closed and Open Systems 106 trafic as a little piece of disorder, of noise, in the "serial whoosh" (332) of cars. Wilder's presence is something the drivers "could not quite comprehend . . . . In speed there was sense. In signs, in paterns, in split-second lives. What did it mean, this little rotary blur?" (333). Wilder does not have access to language, which makes him the ideal candidate for this crazy stunt that chalenges and disrupts the powerful linear forces in their ordered rows. Speechless, he literalizes the metaphor of primal irrationality intersecting modern rationality and escaping, almost miraculously, out the other side. Wilder's presence on the highway, transitory and imperiled as it is, suggests that disruptions of modernity's imperatives continue to occur. Gianni Vatimo, writing against modernity's ideal of a 'transparent' society, argues that as "it no longer seems possible to regard history as unilnear" (2), modernity has reached an impasse. For Vatimo, the serial nature of modernity has been superseded by cultural forces that operate in paralel, precipitating "the intersection and 'contamination' (in the Latin sense) of a multiplicity of images . . . circulated by the media in competion with one another and without any 'central' coordination" (7). The cluter and chaos guaranteed by such a decentralized proliferation of media images frustrates the drive for self-transparency that Vatimo atributes to the universalizing — and therefore dominating — imperative of modernity. Instead the multiplicity of interpretations characteristic of postmodernity enables us to "emphasize the plurality of'tales' and put it to use in freeing ourselves from both the inflexibility of monological tales and the dogmatic systems of myth" (26). It is in this spirit that DeLilo's suggestive irrationalism presents itself. The drive for purity/ rationality associated with the Enlightenment project is absorbed and dispersed in the multiple channels and outlets of media and popular culture. In this cultural context it is Closed and Open Systems 107 important to reiterate that DeLilo's delight in junk is genuine. Tidying up, cleaning house — in White Noise these are banal suburban metaphors for a far more insidious process of rationalization which for DeLilo, as for (in a very diferent register) Adorno and Horkheimer in Dialectic of Enlightenment, forms a link in a causal chain that ends in violence and a fascistic drive for reductionist uniformity. Gladney the Professor of Hitler Studies makes, after all, his murder atempt with a Zumwalt automatic, "German-made" (253), in the region of the city known as "Germantown" (300). What thwarts the nightmare vision suggested in Gladney's lapse into an aesthetic of domination (fuly outlined in Dialectic of Enlightenment) is an appreciation of the emancipatory potential in the media and commodites of mass culture (an unthinkable development for the authors of Dialectic of Enlightenment). Unlike the austere criticism of the Frankfurt School and its folowers, the critique in White Noise treats the sign-system of commodites as an ambiguous product of the process of modernity rather than as the telos of that process. The accumulated household objects Gladney begins compulsively to throw away are clearly worthless in themselves, but in their density they constiute a holistic economy in which higher orders of complexity are generated by the accretion of so many simple objects and their resultant relationships; such a holistic economy is also operative within DeLilo's language, ensuring that in its fragmentation and complexity the potential for transcendence emerges and makes imaginable what he cals "a kind of radiance in dailness" (De Curtis 61), as opposed to the bleak, reductive poverty of simple, linear systems. In this context the efects of the drug Dylar symbolize the manifest dangers of the quest for reduced complexity; it is a substance that resonates with Edenic overtones. Closed and Open Systems 108 Developed to relieve humans of their fear of death, it promises to deliver to the user a return to innocence and an ilusion of immortality (recaling promised features of both the pre-lapsarian and post-apocalypse dream). This is not the achieved efect, however; the most notable efect of Dylar is to render the user incapable of distinguishing between words and things. Such a linguistic system is seductive in its simplicity, but the violent use to which it is put and the debiltated conditon of Wilie Mink suggest that what Arnold Weinstein cals the "magic language, turn[ing] words into deeds" (310) is "the very pith of violence and terror" (311), and represents the realization of a nightmare contrasted to DeLilo's "commitment to the network of human players, the clowns who use and misuse the verbal codes" (311) presented elsewhere in White Noise. Don DeLilo has said that his task as a writer is to work toward "making a simple moment complex, and this is not the way to gain a large audience" (Begley 295). In White Noise, that trashy novel, he asks that we too re-examine everything, right down to the garbage in the trash compactor, and be alert for possible "signs of our deepest nature" (259). 5. "When You Deal with Crowds, Nothing's Predictable." In Underworld's opening section "Pafko at the Wal," the complexity of a single moment expands to fill an entire culture. The story presents the events at the Polo Grounds, the New York Giants's basebal stadium, on October 3rd, 1951. The narative describes a cross-section of individual, cultural, and political histories, posited neither as a causal chain nor as a hierarchical system. Though John Duval in "Basebal as Aesthetic Ideology" atempts to inscribe "Pafko" within a reductive Marxist narative of class struggle and sport Closed and Open Systems 109 as ideological mystification, his claim that DeLilo "evokes American nostalgia about basebal and the early 1950s to critique both" (287) elides the celebration of community in "Pafko." As always in DeLilo there is an aspect of critique, most obviously when the white businessmen Bill Waterson lets slip his egalitarian mask in his atempt to claim a prized basebal souvenir from the novela's protagonist, the black fourteen-year-old Coter, but this personal confrontation is but one element in the complex material presented in "Pafko." On the first page of the "Pafko" section the narator asserts, "[ljonging on a large scale is what makes history" (11), and from that moment the reader is asked to consider history less as a series of wiled acts by rational individuals than as an amalgam of "smal reveries and desperations, the unseen something that haunts the day" (11). In the context of Underworld 'trash' comes to signify not just the physical substance of what is discarded but also the abstract idea of waste, detritus and cluter. Jack Gladney confronted by his family's compressed debris becomes a kind of archaeologist of the present, sifting through a random assortment of defamilarized objects that begin to take the form of a primal and ambiguous narrative. "Pafko" (and to a greater extent, Underworld as a whole) is composed the same way, the narative a matrix of individuated histories. Free from a strict logic of coherence, DeLilo can assemble at this one event the avatars of an unfolding cultural hegemony in the figures of Frank Sinatra and Jackie Gleason, and show too the symbol of American political force in J. Edgar Hoover, while presenting the crowd in its totality as a living, responsive entiy in its own right. In their coexistence these public figures, along with the figure of the public 35,000 strong, create a frame that speaks of the latent truth in basebal's claim to be 'America's pastime.' Through Closed and Open Systems 110 this democratizing institution DeLilo is able to do with history what the Life magazine described in Underworld has done to notions of culture: The pages kept faling. Baby food, instant cofee, encyclopedias and cars, wafle irons and shampoos. . . . And the resplendent products, how the dazzle of a Packard car is repeated in the feature story about the art treasures of the Prado. It is al part of the same thing. Rubens and Titian and Playtex and Motorola. (39) Hoover and Sinatra and Coter and Bobby Thomson. The decontextualized pages of Life raining down are shards of America's cultural matrix in the 1950s, at the moment when the ful impact of commodites and advertising was beginning to emerge. However, as I tried to demonstrate in the previous section, commodity proliferation does not signify, for DeLilo, a tragic narative of culture's demise, but rather suggests source material for new cultural forms. In Arnold Weinstein's words, he is scrupulously atentive to the ways in which belief and passion are displaced, renamed, formated, and commodifed in a materialist age perceiving the peculiar poetry of everyday rituals and services, chronicling the mufled spiritual impulses concealed within our mundane comings and goings. (290) 'It is al part of the same thing' expresses a recogniton that to introduce hierarchies of authenticity or autonomy, to imagine one can abstract the purer elements from "the whole enormous rot and glut and blare of. . .culture" (The Names 266) is to "insist on the adversary function of ecriture and of breaking linguistic codes when every second ad bristles with domesticated avantgardist and modernist strategies" a pose caught, as Andreas Closed and Open Systems 111 Huyssen points out, "precisely in that very overestimation of art's transformative function for society which is the signature of an earlier, modernist, age" (210). DeLilo's texts respond to the postmodern conditon of fragmentation and complicity with the market that has come to characterize the cultural and social formations of America. Rather than grieve the passing of hegemonic modernism and modernity's faith in progressive emancipation, his naratives are dispassionate testaments to the adaptive skil  of human beings faced with the peculiar demands of contemporary life — "the curents, the electric stuf of the culture" (Begley 304). In Underworld naratives of positivist history (such as Marxism), objectifiable and explicable, are undermined by DeLilo's leveling narrative; moving in and out of the perspectives composing the story, he renders them al equal in value, paraleling for example Coter's fear of the consequences of identification with the black peanut vendor with Hoover's fear of being subjected to cruel comparisons to a midget basebal player. In A Chorus of Stones Susan Grifin remarks that in conventional historiography there is hierarchy of experience, that "[i]n the steady continuum of history we meet a divide between public and private events. Shifting from one to another, the discourse changes. Even the tone of voice, when entering the world we cal private, slows down, drops a scale, and perhaps softens" (32). Or perhaps we could say, as a corolary, that writing in a diferent register can signal that the subject is part of a private history rather than a part of public history. DeLilo ruptures this continuum by focusing on private moments in public events, or identifying the motive forces of history with the private ("longing on a large scale"). Paul Civelo explains this shift as a response to "the postmodern 'built' environment that has grown in complexity beyond humanity's comprehension . . . . DeLilo's material Closed and Open Systems 112 world is not one of linear causality, but one of interconnecting systems" (4). Personal actions and public forces blend into one another; in their plurality they constiute another kind of holistic economy as a narative emerges from the random play of social interactions. The complexity of the interactions frustrates any atempt to reduce events to a causal chain, however, and each subject "is part of [the] al-encompassing system of mutualy interacting systems" (Civelo 123): Connected by the pulsing voice on the radio, joined to the word-of-mouth that passes the score along the street and to the fans who cal the special phone number and the crowd at the balpark that becomes the picture on television, people the size of Minute Rice, and the game as rumor and conjecture and inner history. (Underworld 32) In this short passage there is a density of connections, a network of interacting networks of communication including individual conversations, radio broadcasts, telephone systems, and also television, itself reflecting the crowd back out into the street converted in the image of a mass-market commodity. In the welter of relations the grammar of the sentence blurs, the subordinate clauses at the beginning tailing of to a string of conjunctions; the result is a sentence with no apparent subject except itself. To respond to such a passage with the claim that what is being described is nothing more than a meaningless diversion, or to argue, as Duval does, that the auratic power of the event is generated by the media spectacle, manipulated by a ruling elite to pacify an underclass — such responses are founded on a premise that significant history can be diferentiated from purely personal experiences, that history is a discrete machine responding to the rational, cynical control of privileged subjects who remain distinct from Closed and Open Systems 113 the objective experiences they manipulate: in short, cultural criticism phrased as conspiracy theory. The systems model of human interactions Tom LeClair describes, on the other hand, does not acknowledge the subject aloof from the object in his or her control. At the opening of Underworld the basebal stadium is revealed as a nexus of histories where the distinctions between private and public blur. The announcer's cough, Coter's souvenir basebal, the visionary images of Hieronymous Bosch, the crowd's delirium when the bal goes in: al these events inform the narative of the event. They are "al part of the same thing:" Isn't it possible that this mid-century moment enters the skin more lastingly than the vast shaping strategies of eminent leaders, generals steely in their sunglasses — the mapped visions that pierce our dreams? . . . This is the people's history, and it has flesh and breath that quickens to the force of this old safe game of ours. (60) History works this way too, according to DeLilo. The plurality of events described immediately before and after the game-winning home run to left field cannot be subordinated within some valid, universal narrative. For the community of Giants fans, the miracle hit in the ninth inning presents itself as an ordering principle for the events of the day, the moment immortalized by the media in the grandiose phrase "the shot heard 'round the world" (itself an ironic echo of the term associated with the opening skirmish of the American War of Independence). For others, perhaps for Hoover, the coincidental news that the Soviet Union exploded a nuclear weapon the previous day becomes the dominant episode in the day's events. Indeed, as Duval points out, Thomson's home run and the Closed and Open Systems 114 Soviet nuclear test share the front page of the October 4th, 1951 editon of the New York Times (293). Despite this equal exposure, Duval immediately asserts that "if October 3, 1951, exists as part of American consciousness, it is for Bobby Thomson's heroics, not Russia's atomic bomb" (294); his reasoning can only be a further example of the dictates of a unilnear historical model (in this case Duval's Marxist theoretical orientation) as the copresence of these events in the New York Times and in DeLilo's text suggest that both remain part of the American consciousness. Where an historical metanarative might seek legitimation for selected, 'significant' elements in constiuting a specifc history, "Pafko" presents a montage of incommensurable experiences, "the sand-grain manyness of things that can't be counted" (70), that constiute a moment in history but do not cohere in their totality. With their interest in the human and material fragments remaindered by the processes of modernity, DeLilo's texts are engaged in a dialogue with the negative critques of commodity culture on the one hand, and the positivist, secular ideology of Instrumental Rationality on the other. Throughout his fiction beleagured figures sufer in their isolation but often escape to the confusing, fluid community of human agents. As McClure points out, redemption consists not in a program of escape and individual immortality, but in one of compassionate identification with a creaturely community that sufers, enjoys, and endures. Thus DeLilo's privileged protagonists — Pammy in Players, James Axton in The Names, even J. A. K. Gladney in White Noise — make their ways down out of isolation, crippling anxiety, and ilusion into Closed and Open Systems 115 concrete, communal spaces that are simultaneously carnal, incomplete, and profoundly, if obscurely, consoling . . . . ("Postmodern/Postsecular" 157) The crowd becomes a refuge for Sister Edgar when her faith in transcendent order is threatened; Jack Gladney's fal  is a fal away from a sense of human solidarity, and his return is signaled by his return to his fractious and voluble family. At the conclusion of The Names, James Axton finds some solace in the crowds when he makes his long-delayed pilgrimage to the Parthenon. His observations sum up DeLilo's response to modernity's pressures: [T]his is what I mainly learned up there, that the Parthenon is not a thing to study but to feel. It wasn't aloof, rational, timeless, pure. I couldn't locate the serenity of the place, the logic and steady sense. It wasn't a relic species of dead Greece but part of the living city below it. This was a surprise. I'd thought it was a separate thing, the sacred height, intact in its Doric order. I hadn't expected a human feeling to emerge from the stones but this is what I found, deeper than the art and mathematics embodied in the structure, the optical exactiudes. I found a cry for pity. This is what remains to the mauled stones in their blue suround, this open cry, this voice we know as our own . . . . This is what we bring to the temple, not prayer or chant or slaughtered rams. Our ofering is language: (330-331) Paul Maltby's claim that DeLilo's "Romantic metaphysics" derives from a "politics of vision" that "serve[s] to afirm an autonomous realm of experience and to provide a standard by which to judge the spiritualy atrophied culture of late capitalism" (275) needs to be reassessed in light of the emphasi  on community and communication DeLilo's Closed and Open Systems 116 emphasi  on language presupposes. Examples from DeLilo's fiction such as Axton's experience at the Parthenon, or Gladney's belief that his family is "a magic act, adults and children together, sharing unaccountable things" (White Noise 34), privilege messy complexity and the protean interactions of many voices talking at once. The productive potential of complex systems and their interactions accounts for the scope of DeLilo's novels and, I'd argue, explains his fascination with waste, trash (in al its forms), and the material excesses of his culture. Entropy, which in biological terms is just another word for death and in cultural terms is a metaphor for decline, is never far from his texts, but moving through the clutered landscape of postmodernity DeLilo is always capable of making new connections. Novelists On Television 117 Chapter Three Novelists On Television: Amis and DeLillo and Postmodern Media "Television is cretinizing me." "Were people this stupid before television?" {Money 27) (White Noise 249) Certainly one of the vectors of postmodernism's trajectory since the end of the Second World War is the explosive growth of what Horkheimer and Adorno labeled the "culture industry." In the years leading up to 1940 a series of media technologies had enabled the material of culture to be processed and commodifed in new and (from the perspective of Horkheimer and Adorno) very dangerous ways. Writng about the efect of commercial radio, film and popular print media, they conclude, the most intimate reactions of human beings have been so thoroughly reified that the idea of anything specific to themselves now persists only as an uterly abstract notion: personality scarcely signifies anything more than shining white teeth and freedom from body odour and emotions. (Horkheimer and Adorno 167) Even if one does not agree with their diagnosis, the cultural symptoms they ascribe to the impact of media technologies are undeniable. Writng prior to the start of World War II, Walter Benjamin describes the efects of "mechanical reproduction" as forces that could prove to be leveling, perhaps even democratizing (Benjamin 221). In opposing the classical Novelists On Television 118 painter with the contemporary film-maker, for instance, Benjamin draws atention to the evaporation of a privileged aura, an aura that is dispeled in two ways: the social relationship existing between the audience and the cultural object is changed, and the object itself loses status as a thing-in-itself and is largely — and visibly — embedded in the technologies of production and reproduction that bring it into existence (Benjamin 232-33). Such a cultural artifact no longer functions as an icon both because — according to Benjamin — the process of assemblage is laid bare in the artificial movements and shot compositon of a motion picture, and because the lack of an original object — a fetish, to use Benjamin's term — prohibits the creation of a mystified, cult-like relationship between object and viewing audience. As the critical essays by Benjamin and others in this period demonstrate, the consequences of "mechanical reproducibilty" and the large-scale industrialization of cultural production were wel-known and much discussed in the earlier part of the century. What needs to be understood is the extent to which the process of cultural commodifcation they describe underwent a massive intensification and acceleration after 1945, and that the material catalyst and figural embodiment of this transformation is the television. Mass media as represented by the popular press, cinema and radio were targets of extensive debate and criticism through the 1920s and 1930s, but the stakes in the debate about culture and commodity rose dramaticaly in the period after the Second World War, when European and American societies were "[increasingly defined by sophisticated information technologies and communication networks and by a vast expansion of entertainment and service industries" (Johnston 11). Novelists On Television 119 Though it is curently almost synonymous with the term "media," television could barely be caled a marginal technology prior to 1945. The technology's pre-history can be traced back to the second half of the 19th century, with the patent issued in 1884 to Paul Nipkow for his mechanical device caled the Nipkow disk. Mechanical television transmiters did not function reliably (when they functioned at al), but a later invention by Karl Ferdinand Braun, a German inventor, advanced the possibilty of a functioning electronic version of TV: the electronic cathode ray tube. In one sense, then, the technology is arguably already one hundred years old. There were a number of other developments in electronics needed to push a working model of a television system towards reality, however. It took almost thirty years, substantial capital investment and a number of technical innovations by two competing American radio manufacturers, RCA and Philco Corporation, to bring a fuly functioning system into existence (Stephens 42). Working for Philco Corporation, Philo Farnsworth demonstrated a television transmiter and receiver in 1927 and received a patent for the device in 1930 (Lubar 245). It was Philco's competior RCA, however, which first developed a model for the public market and presented the device at the World's Fair in New York in 1939. In Britain a paralel series of developments led to the BBC transmission of the royal procession folowing the coronation of King George VI in 1937, but in each country the technology for transmission remained in the developmental stage and, more crucialy, a consumer market for television receivers had not been developed. With the outbreak of war in 1939, al the major industrial producers turned their atention to war materials; as a result, the development of commercial television was placed on standby. RCA's commercialy viable system languished from 1939 to 1945, but Novelists On Television 120 immediately folowing the end of the war the demand for television receivers and television programming began to grow at an exponential rate: Six [American] television stations remained on the air through the war, broadcasting sporadicaly to about seven thousand receivers by war's end. By 1950 the United States had 104 television stations broadcasting regularly to more than ten milion receivers. (Stephens 46) The adoption of the new technology continued at this exponential pace through the 1950s. Half of American homes had television by 1953, and ninety per cent had them by 1960 (Lubar 248). It is a critical commonplace that the first televised debates in a U.S. Presidential election demonstrated the power of the new medium when John Kennedy's image bested Richard Nixon (while radio listeners generaly felt Nixon won the debate), but the observation tends to overlook the technical reality that part of the medium's power was due to its ubiquity in American homes by 1960. Televised debates in 1948 or even 1952 would have had little impact on the general public, as a mas  television audience had not yet developed. Even as the means of receiving television broadcasts spread to virtualy every dweling in America and Britain, the basic machine, the cathode ray tube (CRT) in its wooden or plastic enclosure, came "unhinged," in Peter D'Angistino and David Tafler's phrase: An omnipresence now pervades every facet of daily life; CRTs . . . dot the landscape and occupy the hals of al human activity, from the ofice to the balpark, from transportation platforms to transporting vehicles, from libraries to supermarkets, from ATMs to research laboratories. Television has now become a bank machine, security monitor, information terminal, computer interface, (xii) Novelists On Television 121 It is not dificult to find examples of the ubiquity of television screens. Within the last year some Vancouver branches of the VanCity Credit Union instaled banks of 26" monitors above telers' desks. The monitors are tuned to 24-hr news and sports stations with closed captioning instead of sound. Similarly, TVs appeared at the baggage carousels at the Vancouver International Airport, complementing the monitors showing arrivals and departures with news and sports programming. In each case the sets seem to be provided as a courtesy, a compensation for the waitng around customers are forced to do. The televisions soothe and distract the crowds. They give them something to do. Walter Benjamin wrote about the increasing power of mas  media and the forms of popular culture in the 1920s and 30s, but the insertion of television into al corners of everyday life exacerbates the process. In John Johnston's words, "the manner in which human sense perception and the medium in which it is accomplished are no longer determined only by nature but also by history and technology" (35). As the presence and efects of media technologies become routinized, their influence becomes harder to isolate and thus harder to perceive. In a paradoxical fashion, the ubiquity of television serves to make it less visible. It becomes less and less noticeable, and certainly in terms of private homes it is now the absence of a television that is remarkable, rather than the presence of one. Aided by technical advances in miniaturization, the television set recapitulates the history of its emergence and subsequent withdrawal from the technological spotlight. Writng in Electronic Hearth: Creating an American Television Culture, Cecelia Ticchi traces television's arrival, colonization, and normalization within American homes. She points out that the earliest sets were consciously modeld after the large radio receivers that had dominated living rooms in the first half of the century. The early televisions were physicaly imposing and meant to be Novelists On Television 122 displayed as centerpieces. Later, advertising shifted the focus to the need for smaler sets in other parts of the house, and the earlier positon of privilege granted to television as a rare commodity and marker of a certain economic status gradualy fades as the device is demoted to the status of mere appliance and finaly just another piece of furniture.14 In fact, Ticchi's book includes a 1972 advertisement for Sony televisions that suggests placing a new Sony TV on top of the older console monitor because, after all, the later "is a beautiful piece of furniture" (33). The proliferation of televisions as physical objects makes it increasingly difficult to grasp television as a theoretical concept. Television slips beneath our notice even as it comes to dominate our atention: "Although the term 'television' seems specific in a way 'capitalism' and 'modernity' (not to mention 'postmodernity') do not, it definitely belongs to the same plane of abstraction, the same scope of materiality, and hence to the same theoretical hesitation" (Dienst 3-4). To work with the idea of television is to plunge into a thicket of associations, definitions and connotations. In one sense, television is obviously a technology, a way of transmiting images to remote locations virtualy instantaneously. In this trivial sense the technological potential was recognized almost immediately: Richard Dienst refers to the definition provided by the television pioneer Dziga Vertov in 1925, "a method for broadcasting images by radio" (6). But clearly this is just the beginning of what we mean when we talk about television. The technology has spawned an entire industry on a scale comparable to that inaugurated by the internal combustion engine. Empires of a global scale have been created 1 4 This trajectory is not unique to television, of course. Radio receivers went through a similar arc, especially with the advent of portable transistor sets in the mid-1950s. Similarly, telephones used to be kept in separate rooms Novelists On Television 123 to oversee the production, distribution and consumption of television broadcasts, with a maximum potential audience measured as some multiple of the estimated 600 milion televisions in circulation worldwide. Even the oldest of these empires is presiding over a ubiquitous media network developed within the last fifty years, one should recal. There is something fundamentaly unsetling about the speed and size of television's growth, and the unease is only heightened by the increasing number of mergers and acquisitons that have concentrated media power in fewer and fewer hands. Globaly, national governments tacitly acknowledge the power and potential threat of television networks by imposing stringent controls on the electromagnetic frequencies used in television transmission. Such regulation recals the governmental controls that were once directed against an earlier communication technology: the printing press. At the time, the licensing of presses acknowledged the revolutionary power of the new medium; however, the waning power of print in the age of the televised image can be measured by the lack of interest Western governments show in regulating the printed word. The perception of a shift in the locus of importance within the forms of media is suggested by their careful regulation of the electromagnetic spectrum. It is worthwhile to take the time to expand the term "television" because its comfortable positon within almost every domestic seting in Britain and North America has led to an easy familarity between the device and the audience. Television conceived as a technological 'given' renders al but invisible the labyrinthine complexity of even a simple 15 second public service announcement. The images on the screen atain the status of a found object that appears to the viewer as a finished and comfortably familar artifact. In this to maintain privacy for the users. Cellular phones dispense with privacy almost by definition. Such generalized cases indicate the avenues along which such technological change influences social behaviour. Novelists On Television 124 respect television is extremely good at promoting what Guy Debord (paraphrasing Marx) describes as commodity fetishism: "the domination of society by things whose qualities are 'at the same time perceptible and imperceptible by the senses'" (Debord U.36). Television's impact, and by extension the impact of al the machinery of commodity consumption, is largely felt through the ways it successfuly occludes the very mercenary imperative behind al of its naratives and directs the viewer's atention to the naratives themselves. A novelist atempting to come to grips with contemporary culture would need to address the competing claims on consumer atention made by television; inevitably, novelists need to incorporate television into their own naratives. Not to do so would be as perverse as writing a novel about a contemporary urban situation in Britain or America without reference to cars or electricity. There is, however, an important distinction to be made between having to write about television and having to write about cars or refrigerators. Books and television are competing forms of media, vying in the cultural marketplace for the atention of consumers. Confronted by the most successful communications medium in history, what sort of approach should fiction writers take? David Foster Walace suggests that for writers for whom "TV's as much a part of reality as Toyotas and gridlock" (43) pop culture (read: television) references serve "(1) to help create a mood of irony and ireverence, (2) to make us uneasy and so 'comment' on the vapidity of U.S. culture, and (3) most important, these days, to be just plain realistic" (42-43). DeLilo, born in 1936, can at least refer back to a childhood untouched by television — hardly pre-lapsarian, this world, but definitely prior to television's arrival upon the American cultural scene. Amis was born in 1945, and his grasp of a culture that does not include television is considerably more tenuous: before he was ten years old, televisions had Novelists On Television 125 appeared in the majority of British homes (Wilams 23). As such he barely qualifies as one of those writers "whose ganglia were formed pre-TV," as Walace puts it (43). Is the distinction of pre- versus post-TV signifcant? Clearly it is only as significant as television's impact on the colective and individual consciousness of those for whom it is the primary form of media: "We're not diferent from our fathers in that television presents and defines our contemporary world. Where we are diferent is that we have no memory of a world without such electric definition" (Walace 43). For DeLilo, one way to measure television's impact is by examining a moment of popular culture that takes place prior to television's media dominance. The opening scene of Underworld embodies just such a moment. The final game of the National League pennant race in 1951 and the jubilation that folowed take place as spontaneous, irreducibly public events, as he explains in an essay published in the New York Times subsequent to Underworlds release: I found myself thinking about the event in a diferent way, broadly, in history, as an example of some unrepeatable social phenomenon, and I couldn't shake the impact of the game's great finish — the burst of jubilation in the old Polo Grounds and throughout much of the city when Bobby Thomson of the Giants hit the game-winning home run. ("Power of History" np) One of the central characters DeLilo uses in his recreation of the game in Underworlds opening chapter is the radio announcer Russ Hodges. Hodges is given a voice and personality, while the television crew working in the same broadcast booth remain anonymous and marginal (25-26). DeLilo's emphasi  on Hodges ("he is the voice of the Giants" [15]) is a reminder of the relative importance of the two forms of media in 1951, Novelists On Television 126 though the arrival of the television crew from KMOX intimates in rather literal terms TV's encroachment on radio's turf. The emphasi  on Hodges foregrounds the fact the game is taking place in real time — live rather than on tape. Thus the event's status for DeLilo as an "unrepeatable social phenomenon" is the result of two purely contingent historical facts: 1) that television had not yet reached the critical mass required to dominate media, and 2) that broadcast technology did not yet alow for recording and playback of televised images.15 The social impact of the final game of the Giants-Dodgers series, DeLilo suggests, is due to the fact that the moment cannot become diluted through constant repetion in the media. The period around 1951 is a transitional moment in television's history. DeLilo makes this point in another way by writing Jackie Gleason into the opening chapter of Underworld. In 1951 Gleason is already a TV celebrity, but he is about to increase his fame and create a cultural landmark thanks to the success of a comic skit caled '"The Honeymooners,' to be shown for the first time in exactly two days" (24). His presence at the game suggests the growing prominence of the new medium that, for DeLilo as wel as for Amis, is a fixture of the contemporary urban environment. Within their novels each writer develops extended descriptions of specific characters linked to television in a variety of ways. The lowest common denominator, for both DeLilo and Amis, is the passive consumer of televised imagery — or rather, the individual who actively, even aggressively, consumes television. Characters whose relationship to television is defined by naive acceptance and simple compliance are shown to be contaminated by the 1 5 Recordings of Thomson's home run survive as flickering images transferred from kinescope reels, but video recording technology would not become available to television networks until 1956, and consumer products based on the technology became commercially viable in the early 1970s (Lubar 268-70). Novelists On Television 127 commodifed, fragmented and decentering discourse of TV. Their absorption is efected by the efacement of the frame or screen. In this context naive acceptance equals an innocent belief in the unmediated presence, a confusion of immediate presence with the artifice of mediation that is an ireducible component of televised images. Yet there is another kind of television consumer identifiable in their fictions. This second figure is empowered, to some extent, by an insider's familarity with the medium. In Money Amis turns the narative over to John Self, a director of television commercials who becomes involved in a project to film a movie in New York. DeLilo's first novel, Americana, is the first-person narative of a television producer, David Bel, who defects from his network positon and atempts to find some personal and artistic progress through the creation of an autobiographical film. The transpositon of privileged media terms, film for television, invokes a suggestive media hierarchy but ofers no resolution of the internal conflicts John Self and David Bel experience. Both exhibit a naive belief in the redemptive powers of film against the corupt and counterfeit world of television, though they have extremely diferent concepts of "redemption." And there is yet a third perspective provided by writer-figures who appear in works by each novelist. Authorship itself is a subject of investigation, again explicitly situated in the larger network of contemporary media systems that overlap with the process of writing and publishing fiction. In Mao lithe reclusive writer Bill Gray is gradualy drawn into the image-world. The Information similarly stages a confrontation between a stubborn author clinging to modernist ideals and the hypermediated experience of an American book tour. At the same time, The Information presents a figure of the successful writer in this mileu — the popular, populist hack, Gwyn Bary. Bary's example demonstrates, in a Novelists On Television 128 satirical form, the conditon of literature as it jockeys for positon against the encroachment of competing media forms: movies, TV, the popular press, the Internet. 1. Worst-Case Scenarios What impact does television have on the mind of the viewer? Over time, what happens to the person who spends a typical five to seven hours a day in front of the TV screen? In an essay on the efect of television on younger American writers, David Foster Walace argues that television can be "toxic for writers because it leads us to confuse actual fiction-research for a weird kind of fiction-consumption" (Walace 20, his emphasis). Television invites the confusion of experience with the representation of experience, or in Walace's terms invites us to mistake the observation of real-life with its dramatic simulation. If toxic for fairly wel-educated and self-conscious individuals like writers, what impact does television have on the less sophisticated consumers of mas  media? In London Fields Martin Amis tries to find the lowest common denominator in the character of Keith Talent. Keith is introduced by the narator of London Fields, an American writer named Samson Young, as an uneducated street crook, "a cheat" (London Fields 6), whose primary ambiton is to achieve success through competive darts or more accurately, through "a televised final, a £5,000 cheque, and a play-of, also televised, with his hero and darting model, the world number one, Kim Twemlow" (8). Television is the absolute measure of success for Keith; in certain respects it is what gives him definition. The narator goes so far as to report that Keith's eyes "held a strange radiance — for a moment it reminded you of health, health hidden — sleeping or otherwise mysteriously absent..  His eyes were television" (9). Novelists On Television 129 Against the background of milennial disintegration Samson Young describes Keith as a proletarian everyman whose horizons are measured — and mediated — by television. Keith's eyes are television, and they "[shine] with the tremendous accommodations made to money" (9). What television represents for Keith is simply a window into another, beter world: Television was al about everything he did not have and was ful  of al the people he did not know and could never be. Television was the great shopfront, lightly electrified, up against which Keith crushed his nose. (8) The world displayed on the television screen is shown to be corosive for Keith in that it suggests that an endless gratification of desire is an atainable goal while placing it simultaneously beyond his grasp. Crucialy the world of television is constructed for Keith as an alternate reality, equaly real yet paralel to his own squalid existence. The television screen is an essential figure in this doubled conception, providing the reassuring images of this realm of gratified desires as wel as establishing the physical barier that separates Keith from it. In London Samson is staying in an apartment he swapped for his own New York apartment with another writer, Mark Asprey. When they arrive at the up-market address, Keith is initialy skeptical that a writer could earn the kind of money to aford the location. '"Mostly for theatre and television,' I said. Now al was clear. 'TV?' he said cooly. For some reason I added, 'Im in TV too'" (13). The equation reassures Keith in his sense of how things work. Television is the locus of material wealth and within its world the characters are al acquaintances: "Of course [Keith was thinking], TV people al know each other and fly to and from the great cities and borow each other's flats. Common sense" (13). At a rough Novelists On Television 130 average of six hours a day, the television viewer is invited to watch — but not to participate — in a world that seems to be al about wish-fulfilment. In terms of atributing to them true supernatural assets and desiring to emulate them, it's fair to say we sort of worship them . . . . The characters may be our 'close friends,' but the performers are beyond strangers: they're imagos, demigods, and they move in a diferent sphere, hang out with and mary only each other, seem even as actors accessible to Audience only via the mediation of tabloid, talk show, EM signal. (Walace 26) In the 1980s the television show Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous achieved considerable success simply bringing television cameras inside the homes of media celebrities. Almost without comment and certainly without analysis or criticism, the show celebrated materialism, celebrity, and conspicuous consumption for an audience who, like Keith, pressed its nose against the great shopfront. The consequences of television saturation, of constant exposure to an artificial, paralel universe transmited by the flow of television programming, become apparent in the gradual degeneration of Keith's mental state over the course of the novel. The manipulation of Keith efected by the novel's 'femme fatale' Nicola Six is primarily televisual in nature. Largely through a series of videotapes, she seduces him and keeps him pliant and obedient, beginning with a set of brief excerpts of her from theatre productions and commercial advertisements and progressing to increasingly graphic home-made sex videos. As he sits on a couch beside Nicola and watches her image on the box in front of him, Keith's initial response to "this colision or swirl of vying realities" is one of nausea: "it might have overloaded him entirely if the electric image hadn't clearly belonged to the past" (175). It is Novelists On Television 131 as if Keith needs to keep his fantasies and desires constantly close but always at a distance, and Nicola's ability to traverse the barier of the television screen and be in both worlds at once unbalances him. As the images become more sexualy explicit and, crucialy, begin to intersect with Keith's present moment, his sense of confusion increases, culminating in the interuption of a private screening for Keith of a video featuring Nicola dressed as a witch by her actual appearance in the same costume she is wearing on-screen (427). On this occasion the consequence of the doubling of television with reality leaves Keith sexualy impotent. Nicola's doubled physical and virtual presence proves unsetling to Keith, a fact she ascribes to his "dificulty switching from one medium to another. That's what this whole thing is realy about" (429). "This whole thing" refers to Keith's dream of leaving behind his life on the streets for the televised wealth and fame of competive darts. In preparation for the semi-final match, the television producers behind the the darts tournament try to incorporate Keith's life into the simulacrum, but here as wel the intersection of his life with the flow of images on television proves an intelectual chalenge for Keith. Qualifying for the darts final brings him to the atention of Dartworld executive producers, who phone to arange "a short docu" or feature they create for participants in the match. "You've seen them. Couple of minutes each. So we want to do you, Keith" (398). In response, surveying the "stinking ruin" of his domestic situation, Keith can only say, "'. . . But that's TV" (398). In creating an unblinking addict to the promises of television, Martin Amis also carefuly delineates the mechanism of defered wish-fulfilment and complicity between the producers and consumers of the beautiful, ilusory world on the other side of the screen. As Novelists On Television 132 David Foster Walace recognizes, there is a dangerous underside to TV's unreflective fetishism of facsimiles of experience: [T]he downside of TV's big fantasy is that it's just a fantasy. As a Treat, my escape from the limits of genuine experience is neato. As a steady diet, though, it can't help but render my own reality less atractive (because in it I'm just one Dave, with limits and restrictions al over the place), render me less fit to make the most of it (because I spend al my time pretending I'm not in it), and render me ever more dependant on the device that afords escape from just what my escapism makes unpleasant. (75) London Fields is about a lot of things, but one strand that winds through the novel and knots up tightly with other elements is Amis's carefuly staged concluding scene that engineers, among other things, the destruction of Keith Talent by forcing him to confront the reality that television's simulated world has no existence apart from his own. Early in the novel the narator describes in a brief vignete how one of Keith's many extra-marital afairs begins when a woman obsessed with television personalites, Anilese Furnish, mistakes him for "Rick Purist, of TV-quiz show fame" (49). Keith exploits the resemblance, and the fiction is only revealed when Anilese appears in a tabloid news story under the banner "MY STOLEN HOURS WITH TV'S RICK." Despite her discovery that Keith is not, in fact, Rick Purist, Anilese continues to see him, and on one occasion his unannounced visit surprises her in bed with Rick Purist. Anilese was making amends (she later explained) for the disruption she had brought to Rick's mariage. On came the bedside lamp: Keith and Rick looked Novelists On Television 133 quite alike. Keith stared. He'd seen Rick on the tely! It was one of the strangest moments in Keith's strange life. (50) This minor (though to Keith stil unsetling) instance of transgressive metalepsis16 is a foreshadowing of Keith's experience at the novel's end when his own world and the world on television are forced into contact. As he tries to imagine himself on television for the brief establishing documentary aired before the darts match there is a suggestion of the problems to come: "He was actualy in great dificulty here. Himself on TV: he couldn't work out how the two worlds overlapped. Try as he might, bring al his powers to bear, he just couldn't work it out" (417). Inevitably it is Nicola Six who steps in to provide a solution. Her influence ensures the brief "biodoc" programme elides any mention of Keith's real social circumstances: his wife, baby daughter, and dingy council flat. Instead the television camera discovers a pastiche of cliches to do with money and power. Nicola's apartment and her presence as his "trusty girl Friday" provide Keith with the conventional signifiers of material success, and as a consequence Keith is alowed to project onto the television screen a fantasy-version of his own life that is broadcast to "27 1/2 milion people — in the UK, in Scandinavia, in the Netherlands, in the rockabily states of America, in Canada, in the Far East, and in Australia" (423). Nicola compliments him on the impression the biodoc leaves, but continues, "I only wonder slightly what your wife wil make of it" (424). The transfer through the looking glass, the transition to the other side of the "lightly electrified" shopfront Samson describes at the beginning of the novel is completed at the In Gerard Genette's sense of a blending ofthe diegetic and extradiegetic levels of a narrative [Narrative Disourse, 228]. Novelists On Television 134 novel's conclusion. Keith's fascination with television, its locus as a repository of his material desires, is at first seriously threatened by the appearance of his own image on the screen: "Keith was in a state of near-psychotic confusion at this point. . .. [H]e was stil  clinging to the notion that the biodoc would be screened only at those locations where it had been filmed: [Nicola's] flat, and, of course, [his pub] the Marquis of Edenbery" (424-25). But the paralel universe has at last fuly intersected with his own. Keith Talent is shown the background against which his fantasies screen. The darts final takes place in a soundstage meant to simulate a noisy pub. A sign on the wal of camera reads "NO SMOKING" (487) yet the set makes use of "a cigarete-smoke simulator" to help provide atmosphere during the actual taping (489). Against this background of simulation and disilusionment, Keith is betrayed by Nicola and humilated in the darts match by his "cheat" rival, Chick Purchase. In constructing the arc of Keith's downfal — along with those of the other major characters in London Fields — Martin Amis implicates television as a powerful contributor. In a fundamental way television has altered Keith's relation with reality. The persistent ilusion of access to goods and services is complicated by its importance as ilusion to Keith: confronted by the truth behind television's promise he winds up unfulfiled and betrayed. Amis makes clear that Keith's relationship to his real world is mediated by television on a number of levels. The image of Keith alone in his living room, screening six hours of pre-recorded television on his VCR, suggests a man with a curious sense of time, an impatience with the bits between the specifc scenes of sex, money and violence he searches for within the taped programs. Keith condenses the already intensified dramatics of television with the "Rewind, Slo Mo, Freeze Frame" (165). "The female body got chopped up by Keith twenty times a night: . . . Now the great thumb moved from Fast Forward to Rewind to Novelists On Television 135 Play . . ." (165). Keith's taped six hours is often condensed into twenty minutes of viewing pleasure, according to the narator. It is significant that only a couple of pages later in London Fields Keith imagines forced sex with Nicola Six in identical terms: "My speed. With the Fast Forward and the Freeze Frame and a bit of the old Slo Mo near the end" (169). While it is true that Keith is consistently characterized as a caricature or grotesque literary type, the caricature is not so extreme as to make Keith entirely foreign; he remains recognizable to the reader. There is something Dickensian about Keith, as if Dickens had writen a novel featuring Bill Sykes as the hero rather than Oliver Twist, but in every respect the seting of London Fields is unmistakably contemporary. The narator insists that Keith is "modern, modern" (90) and that his venality and cruelty are products of his modern environment. "His eyes were television," the narator says. Television teaches Keith about values — or at least about the value of things — and it provides him with a convenient miror reflecting and validating his shalow fantasies. The content and form of TV — the images and the technology — ofer him a gratifying if ilusory control: the abilty to focus his atention on images of sex, violence and money by manipulating situations with the Fast Forward and Slo Mo. The fantasies of control do not cary over into his real life, however, so pursuing an opportunity to engage with the seductive ilusions destroys him. Television "told him what the world was" (155). Asked to list his hobbies for the biodoc, Keith struggles and eventualy comes up with TV. It is what he does. "'TV,' he thought, or 'Modern reality' or 'The world'" (55). Samson Young's condemnation of the efect of television on someone like Keith who "[can't] grade or filter it" (55) is, I'd argue, a more generalized swipe at al forms of media. The impact of tabloid journalism is indicated in Novelists On Television 136 Keith's monotone renditon of a soccer match and suggests a colonization of his conscious mind by dead metaphors and pre-packaged formulations: After the interval Rangers' fortunes revived as they exploited their superiority in the air. Bobby Bondavitch's men ofered stout resistance and the question remained: could the Blue translate the pressure they were exciting into goals? In the seventy-fourth minute Keith Spare produced a pass that split the visitor's defense, and Dustin Housely rammed the equalizer home. (91) Initialy the narator supposes this and similar descriptions are memorized segments from tabloid accounts, but upon further reflection and further exposure to Keith's take on the world, Samson concludes this is "absolutely wrong": "Remember — he is modern, modern, despite the heels and the flares. When Keith goes to a footbal match, that misery of stringer's cliche's is what he actually sees" (97-98, emphasi  in original). In creating a television personality (that is, a contemporary character whose personality is formed by television), Amis imagines a state of afairs similar to the conditon described by Jean Baudrilard's concept of the simulacrum, the copy that has no original. For Amis part of "a genuine idea about modern life [is] that it's so mediated that authentic experience is much harder to find. Authentic everything is much harder to find" (quoted in Morison 100). Keith's experience of a footbal match, as an example, is already a cliche-ridden tabloid account. According to Samson Young, Keith sees the representation of the event instead of the event itself. The simulation precedes the event. Increasingly in London Fields Keith is afected by the insinuation of pre-formated categories of success or wealth which begin to erupt through his speech. The folowing examples from the novel indicate Keith's substiution of objects of consumer desire for expressions of belief or desire: Novelists On Television 137 BMW. Mercedes 1905. 2.5-16. Uh, it's up there, mate. (144) 'Seycheles,' said Keith half-absently 'Bali,' Keith added. (173) 'Prestigious, said Keith, shufling stockily across the road with his bag. 'Eurobank. Motorway contraflow. Intercooler.' (252) 'Ride comfort,' said Keith in a low voice. 'Anti-knock rating . . . .' Aeroback. Her sobs of pleasure. Higher take-up. A veritable wildcat. Anti-perforation waranty. Lovejuice . . . .' (338) These are examples of what passes as dialogue for Keith. Samson Young's characterization suggests that Keith is unable to filter the inputs, so he represents the worst-case scenario of media-saturation. And for Keith, "media" is practicaly synonymous with television. The images and phrases I've singled out suggest the extent to which Keith's mind has been colonized, his perception of— to say nothing of his response to — reality modifed by the efects of relentless exposure to television and other media. In a later novel, Amis aludes to this process of colonization in similar terms. The narator in Night Train, Mike Hoolihan, continualy returns to the precession of simulacra as it applies to her career as a police detective. Like Samson Young in London Fields, Hoolihan remains slightly above the scene she is describing, but influenced by it nonetheless. In her investigation of the inexplicable suicide that forms the center of the novel's plot, what emerges is a search for a patern in the face of a totaly unmotivated suicide. Hoolihan's preoccupation with paterns and process appears tangentialy in her observation, early in the novel, of the changing nature of autopsy: "When it's time to get around to you there, you wil  be troleyed out of the walk-in freezer, weighed, and roled onto a zinc gurney under an overhead camera. It used to be a microphone, and you'd take Novelists On Television 138 Polaroids. Now it's a camera. Now it's TV" (34). Television intrudes on this terminal scene, but its impact is registered al along the police procedural path. Paterns of behaviour are absorbed from the constant drama of television, and certain expectations provoked by TV's filter into the general population. The eficacy of the familar good cop-bad cop routine, for example, is abandoned by Hoolihan partly because "Joe Perp is on to it, having seen good cop-bad cop a milion times on reruns of Hawaii Five-O" (57), once again invoking television to account for the devolution of police procedure to cliche. In the context of a police thriler the efects of television drama - or more generaly the ubiquitous cops and robbers dramatic narative - are particularly appropriate as a means for Amis to foreground the way an individual's actions can become imitations of a dramatic simulation. As in Money, his goal seems to be to show "that an individual's consciousness is discursively constiuted to some degree, that one's values and perceptions are colonized by dominant cultural values that may be in conflict with one's identiy .. ." (Edmondson 146). A non-fictional example from a recent issue of Harper's Magazine shows the reflexivity of this mode of self-dramatization. The piece consists of part of the transcript of an FBI wiretap of two suspected Mafia members. Their discussion focuses on the popular television series, The Sopranos, which is about the quotidian afairs of a low-level member of the Mafia. The wiretapped conversation, which sounds like the script from a second-rate Godfather imitation, reveals the two real-life Mafia members discussing the accuracy or fidelity ofthe dialogue in the show ("La Drama Nostra" 16, 18). As a transcript, the document functions as a kind of simulacra when the voices of the real mobsters are mediated by the audience's sense of what gangster dialogue should sound like, a mediation of which the mobsters are criticaly aware. Novelists On Television 139 In an essay for the New York Times Magazine, Don DeLilo makes a similar point regarding this reverberation between actual crime and its mediation through television and film. Near the end of this 3000-word essay he abruptly shifts into the second person to mimic the immediacy of a viewer before a specifc televised moment. He summarizes a video sequence of a botched armed robbery, describing the robbers as "moving with a certain choreographed flair, firing virtuoso bursts from automatic weapons" ("Power of History" np). The language and the adjectives instantly transform the criminal act into a dramatic spectacle, performed as much to entertain the viewers as to achieve some criminal end. The passage continues, "[y]ou wonder if they are repeating a scene from a recent movie," further undermining the transgressive nature of the act by equating it with a self-conscious, mediated rerun: "the culture continues its drive to imitate itself endlessly — the rerun, the sequel, the theme park, the designer outlet.." In the second paragraph writen in the second person , the reader/viewer is specificaly implicated in the mediation process as the videotape shot by a convenience store surveilance camera records the "commonplace homicide" of a clerk by "a shufling man with a handgun." The complicity of the viewer, already suggested in this section of the article by the switch to the second person, is further strengthened by the repetiion of the image in successive newscasts. "Your" complicity in the fact that you "want and need and get sick of and need nonetheless" such sets of images makes you a "passive variation of the armed robber in his warped act of consumption." Violence, money and media consumption come together here just as they do in Amis's image of the inside of Keith Talent's brain, only here the figure on the couch with the Freeze Frame and the Slo Mo is "you." With uncharacteristic pessimism DeLilo ends the brief second-person vignete by Novelists On Television 140 warning that such a display of media violence "separates you from the reality that beats ever more softly in the diminishing world outside the tape." DeLilo employs the second person in a similar manner in Underworld in a section entiled "Videotape." The passage is also shifted into the present tense, giving it a sense of directness and immediacy in the novel that is only echoed in the opening section, "Pafko at the Wal." The identification is intended to heighten the juxtapositon between the two moments scrutinized by these two sections of Underworld, the rebroadcast of a random homicide, and the moment of jubilation that erupts folowing Bobby Thomson's home run. By using the present tense and second person in "Pafko," Mark Osteen contends, "DeLilo indicates a shared history — as if implying that the game continues to take place in the minds of Americans" (219). The narative strategy invites comparison with "Videotape," but DeLilo has been unequivocal in contrasting the impact "the shot heard 'round the world" (as Thomson's home run was dubbed by sports journalists) had on the American consciousness with the "debasing process of frantic repetiion that exhausts a contemporary event before it has rounded into coherence" ("Power," np). The immediacy of the game the young character Coter watches from a seat in the Old Polo Grounds on October 4th 1951 is sharply contrasted with the anonymous murder shown repeatedly on television that features in "Videotape." Though Mark Osteen identifies the unnamed figure identified as "you" as Mat Shay, a minor figure in Underworld, the use of the second person implicates the reader in the scene, which itself explores, in terms that recal DeLilo's essay, the way a video recording of a crime implicates the viewer: "not only does the act of taping inure us to the violence; it also encourages reruns, 'copycat'-crimes — but of course even the first murder is already in some sense a copy of al the cinematic and televised murders previously shown" (Osteen 235). Novelists On Television 141 The terms of Osteen's analysis recal the "mediated" behaviour of the police in Night Train, and this is part of the efect television's constant presence has on the culture, at least in the view of Amis and DeLilo. A further similarity can be adduced between Amis's manipulation of Keith Talent and the career of the Texas Highway Kiler in Underworld, who acts as the absent cause of the videotaped murder. In a later section of Underworld, DeLilo introduces the Texas Highway Kiler in the flesh, sharing with the reader his empty life and his need to kill as a means of connecting with the wider world through the media. Like Amis, DeLilo identifies television as a fantasy-channel for the disenfranchised. The medium seems to provide a way out of insignificance, but for Frank Gilkey as much as for Keith Talent, it presents a dead end in actuality. For Keith, crossing over to the other side of the television screen coincides with the complete disintegration of his social and personal life. For Gilkey, his 'appearance' on TV is only as an absent cause: the shooter whose anonymous actions are caught on anonymous videotape. As Osteen remarks, Gilkey "commits his murders not to take revenge, but to take shape, to create the social life that he otherwise lacks." Ironicaly, his crimes require that he be anonymous, as discovery would mean his certain destruction (especialy in execution-happy Texas). As a consequence, "he remains unfulfiled, ghostly, inefectual, absent; meaning dodges him" (235-36). White Noise is DeLilo's sardonic take on what he cals the "around-the-garden-and-in-the-house" novel ("Talk" 26); it ostensibly focuses on the uncomplicated pleasures of suburban living but rapidly expands to accommodate industrial disasters and confrontations with death and dying. The Gladney household seems entirely unremarkable from a distance, but the ordinary features of the family give way to levels of strangeness as the novel progresses. Novelists On Television 142 Television has a central place in the Gladney home, dominating the living room but also present in a smaler set that travels around the house and into the bedrooms of various members of the family. This physical ubiquity is coupled with the intrusive voice of television, explored literaly in the manner in which television assumes a voice in the narrative, and symbolicaly in the way television's undiferentiated flow of disconnected information resembles the casual dialogue of the Gladney family — or, more accurately, the way their dialogue has come to resemble television. It is not only television that enters the narative in White Noise, however. As they travel through the suburban landscape, the Gladneys encounter voices emanating from the radio and from supermarket intercoms. While the fact of the interuptions seems unremarkable, the overal efect replicates within the novel the cumulative efects media saturation has on consciousness. For instance, when two paragraphs of a description of a supermarket are interupted by a four-word paragraph that reads, "Dristan Ultra, Dristan Ultra" (122), there is no identifying marker for the interjection, but it is clear that the voice emanates from the supermarket loudspeaker system. That the interjection requires no explanation suggests that it is simultaneously registered and ignored, a fragment of language that enters the general narative without context, absorbed yet undigested. Voices on the radio perform a similar function, interupting and fragmenting the conversations and activities of the characters in the novel but not in any way that prompts a reaction from them. While media in general operate in this way in White Noise, television is the exemplary mechanism for the delivery of contextless information for at least two reasons: its technological voice is the most insistent, and the images and stories it transmits tumble out Novelists On Television 143 in an undiferentiated flow that resists incorporation in the larger naratives operating within the family: Stefie came in wearing Denise's green visor. I didn't know what this meant. She climbed up on the bed and al three of us went through my German-English dictionary, looking for words that sound about the same in both languages, like orgy and shoe. Heinrich came running down the hal, burst into the room. "Come on, hury up, plane crash footage." Then he was out the door, the girls were of the bed, al three of them running along the hal to the TV set. I sat in bed a little stunned. (63-64) In this instance a domestic scene (albeit a strange one) is interupted by the presence of the television, as images of a plane crash in New Zealand take precedence over family interactions. While in another novel this scene could have been the start of a diatribe against television, here judgment is suspended; Jack Gladney merely recounts the incident — then goes down the hal to watch the spectacle along with his children. Interior naratives and the substance of a character's consciousness are similarly influenced by the mediated information bombardment. Characters swap trivia, subjects change rapidly, and even their unvoiced thoughts register the efects of media, as the often-cited "Toyota Celica" passage (155) or the folowing exchange indicate: Stefie walked in saying, "I'm the only person I know who likes Wednesdays." Wilder's absorption seemed to interest her. She went and stood next to him, trying to figure out what atracted him to the agitated water. She leaned over the pot, looking for an egg. Novelists On Television 144 A jingle for a product caled Ray-Ban Wayfarer began running through my head.(212) When even an interior monologue pauses for a commercial announcement, it is safe to say that mass media have, as the quotations from David Foster Walace suggested earlier, moved into a new positon of prominence within the culture. While there is an objective, detached quality to Jack Gladney's narrative, the extreme example provided by the character Wilie Mink presents the limit case of television's tendency to eface the diference between things. The cultural critics Gladney works with delight in questioning the relative importance of phenomena (consider Muray Jay Siskind's comment that "a forest fire on TV is on a lower plane than a ten-second spot for Automatic Dishwasher All. The commercial has deeper waves, deeper emanations" [67]), but they retain a sense of structure, of first- and second-hand phenomena, with which to orient themselves. When Gladney finds Wilie Mink, he meets a character who has deteriorated to a point where his own speech has assumed the fragmented, disconnected quality of the discourse of television.17 Mink's conversation is peppered with out-of-context snippets of information identical to the pronouncements of radio and television scatered throughout the novel. It isn't surprising, then, that television oversees Gladney's confrontation with Wilie Mink: a muted TV, high in a metal brace in a corner of the motel room, casts its light on the scene (305). 1 7 The ability to accommodate commercial interruptions in network television is discussed in Wallace's essay "E Unibus Pluram." He points out that the audience's passive response to commercials is exploited by, for instance, Saturday Night Live, which creates detailed parodies of commercials and inserts them into the regularly scheduled commercial slots. For the audience the mock commercial is initially disruptive, but as Wallace points out, the strategy ultimately leads to the audience paying greater attention to commercials in an effort to decipher possible parodic intent. A further twist saw advertisers purposely designing ads that resembled SNL parodies, heightening the impact ofthe commercial message. Novelists On Television 145 In bringing together Mink, Gladney and television, DeLilo demonstrates again his ability to foree the intersection of abstract, theoretical concerns by inventing a dramatic situation that embodies the abstract elements under scrutiny.18 White Noise is primarily a novel about the fear of death and the avoidance of both the fear of death and death itself in contemporary culture. Dylar, a drug invented by Wilie Mink to suppress the fear of death, has the curious side efect of eradicating a subject's capacity to diferentiate between words and things, a breakdown in the order of phenomena analogous to television's tendency to eface distinctions. The combination of these influences seriously disrupts Mink's mind, leading to uterances like this: I see you as a heavyset white man about fifty. Does this describe your anguish? I see you as a person in a gray jacket and light brown pants. Tel me how corect I am. To convert Fahrenheit to Celsius, this is what you do. (308) The efect is that of dialogue from a mind that is constantly changing channels. The argument presented by the motel room scene is that Dylar's efects on the individual reproduce in miniature the wider efects of television on culture. Television, and by extension mass media, acts to unfocus perceptions. Distinctions between what is real and what is simulated are eroded and efaced by the egalitarian nature of the medium. As Walace observes, in this regard television embodies the principles of postmodern theory, though it clearly lacks the later's subversive claims. Wilie Mink is a limit case of television's impact on consciousness, but his exaggerated characteristics must be considered in the context of See the discussion in chapter 1 of the relationship between paranoid power and the equally paranoid counter-culture in DeLillo's "The Black and White Ball" for another example of abstract concepts brought into tangible contact. Novelists On Television 146 Walace's insistence that a person cannot expect to engage with television for an average of six hours each day and escape unchanged. 2. The Author As (Film) Producer The character Muray Jay Siskind is the devil's advocate in White Noise. Charming and earnest in his celebration of supermarkets, television, and car crashes in cinema, he becomes a sinister figure as he advises Jack to consider murder as a means of self-assertion. His celebration of television is resisted by his own students. He advises them to study the medium as children, uncriticaly, but in response they insist TV is "[w]orse than junk mail. Television is the death throes of human consciousness. They're ashamed of their television past. They want to talk about movies" (51). The comment reveals a curious divide that operates as an economic, social and cultural truism (no more than that). Film is often equated with the consumer-culture excesses of television, but in the years folowing Adorno and Horkheimer's atack on "the Culture Industry" the media constelation itself has shifted. Television sufers from an inferiority complex in relation to film; the movie industry operates as a slightly more respectable relation to its dissolute kin, mass-market television. DeLilo has suggested a specific historical moment to theorize the gap: in an interview with Adam Begley for the Paris Review, he asks, "Kennedy was shot on film, Oswald was kiled on TV. Does this mean anything? Maybe only that Oswald's death became instantly repeatable" (299-301). DeLilo points out that the Zapruder film was withheld from the public for over a decade. Only a select few were alowed to watch it. Oswald's death at the hands of Jack Ruby, in contrast, took place on television and was immediately packaged and rebroadcast over and over again. Novelists On Television 147 Film versus television. The technological origins of these media are distinct and their shared history often finds them in conflict, but over time the technology has come to overlap and the industries themselves have become co-dependent. Two moments in Underworld demonstrate the slippage in the oppositon DeLilo poses between film and television in his reference to the murders of Kennedy and Oswald. First, the artist Klara Sax atends a party in New York where an unauthorized print of the Zapruder film has been transfered to film and plays and replays on banks of television sets (488-496). Second, the technical function of home movies is itself transfered to video, as the echoes of Zapruder caried into the anonymous videotape of the Texas Highway Kiler's victim suggest (155-160). As media technologies, film and television can only be truly diferentiated in their modes of distribution, reels versus electronic broadcast. Distinctions based on anything more abstract are unstable and difficult to maintain. In Americana, DeLilo's first novel, the main character David Bel is a dissatisfied television producer who breaks away from the network to explore, through a vanity film project, his own complicated family history. David Bel's personal history is a microcosm of the larger economic forces shaping the culture industry in the 1950s and 60s. His grandfather and father are both minor celebrities in the advertising industry. It is through the eforts of his father (with his powerful advertising contacts) that Bel finds himself working for the network. His atempts at subverting and resisting the corporate imperatives of network television production are caried out with reference to icons of cinema — both its stars and directors. Despite being 'in television,' Bel seeks escape through the icons of heroic masculinity promoted by American films of the period and seeks countercultural authenticity through emblematic directors of the European avant-garde. Novelists On Television 148 As critics from Tom LeClair to Mark Osteen have argued, Americana is a novel about a man searching for authenticity in the media-saturated cultural landscape of America. Bel is a painfuly self-conscious narator, but this self-consciousness is a burden in that it reveals to him the problem that his "whole life was a lesson in the efect of echoes" (Americana 58). Bel revels in cliche, cheap stereotypes and the simplistic naratives of popular entertainment. In response to a dinner invitation from an old friend, he replies, "You know I go bowling with the felas on Friday night, Wendy" (25). His account of meeting, marying, and eventualy divorcing Mery, his wife, is similarly stylized: "it was al there but the soundtrack and I could imagine a series of cuts and slow dissolves working in Mery's mind" (36). In the early pages of Americana this ironic distancing is contrasted with similar passages such as the text of a Christmas leter from Bel's sister (44) or a brief monologue from one of Bel's ofice coleagues (19). In these cases the words seem to reveal atitudes reminiscent of the simple false consciousness of Keith Talent and the characters in White Noise, but Bel is more sophisticated. He is deeply troubled by the emptiness of his profession and the sense that there is nothing original or purposeful in his actions and words or those of his coleagues: There were times when I thought al of us at the network existed only on videotape. Our words and actions seemed to have a disturbingly elapsed quality. We had said and done al of these things before and they had been frozen for a time, roled up in little laboratory trays to await broadcast and rebroadcast when the proper time-slots became available. And there was the feeling that somebody's Novelists On Television 149 deadly pinky finger might nudge a buton and we would al be erased forever. (23) Two pages later this conceit is repeated when Bel says, "there are no old times, Wendy. The tapes have been accidentaly destroyed" (25). Bel's horor at the simulated, pre-recorded quality of his existence is certainly linked to expressions of alienation one might find in industrial or even pre-industrial naratives, but here, crucialy, his frame of reference explicitly links his alienation to the specifc technology of television. The time frame encompassed by the novel underscores Bel's situation, as Tom LeClair points out. "Between the time of Bel's childhood and his career, America was transformed by the centralized power of mas  communication" (48). Bel's central positon with "the network" forestals any possible naive beliefs he might entertain about the potentialy redemptive force of this medium, but in his quest for some form of escape from the life he is living 'in television' he merely shifts media and looks to film as a guiding principle. Bel's early infatuation with popular culture leads him to label Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas "the American pyramids," icons of masculinity (12). At a particular dul moment in a routine ofice day, he tries "to remember if Burt or Kirk had ever acted in an ofice film, one of those dul morality tales about power plays and timid adulteries" (20). Their heroic on-screen accomplishments seem to minimize Bel's ofice existence even further. But additonal references to Burt and Kirk later in the novel suggest Bel's self-consciousness has eclipsed the shalow identification of American masculinity with these archetypal figures. Talking to his ex-wife, he thinks of "al the old Burtian and Kirkesque Novelists On Television 150 characteristics, the clenched emphatic fist, majestic teeth, angry hand brushing the hair.." (59), but he concludes with the comment that "[i]t was a comfortable feeling to be back in the simpleminded past" (59). Osteen argues that, in DeLilo's early work, "characters look to film images for the icons and ideals that wil permit them to rise above their alienation, but these images merely model for them the very aimlessness and fear from which they are trying to escape" (8). Osteen carefuly itemizes DeLilo's references to Godard and other contemporary directors who worked outside the Holywood system, but he suggests the account of Bel's quest for an authentic identiy is exposed "as a chimera, and originality as merely the echo of an echo. Film is revealed not as a magical solution, but as a miror that reflects the distortions of personal and national identiy" (8-9). Bel's autobiographical film is a failure in that it represents an atempt to reach some transcendent insight into his personal history through techniques learned from Godard, Antonioni, Kurosawa, and others (in American Magic and Dread Osteen provides a detailed analysis of DeLilo's alusions to these and other filmmakers [21-27]). The substiution of film for television, and of alternative, anti-commercial directors for empty Holywood icons, suggests a progression of a kind, a suggestion echoed in the montage of images beginning with "Burt Lancaster toweling his chest" folowed by "Bel looking at the poster of Belmondo looking at the poster of purposeful Bogart," and ending with the "old man on the swing, Watanabe [from Kurosawa's Ikuru], singing to his unseen infancy" (Americana 287). Bel's autobiographical film involves scenes with a younger self, who at one point admits that an earlier short film that had given him some pride had come to mean something much less atractive: "I had not celebrated that brother and sister [in the film]. I had mocked them. I had exploited their sorow. I had tried to make them part of a hopeful message on the state of the Union. To be Novelists On Television 151 black is to be the actor. To be white is to be the critic" (286). Through his physical journey across America and a psychological journey through his film experiment, Bel can be seen as a person learning and gaining understanding. At the same time, the novel is carefuly structured (as LeClair argues) to defeat any simplistic celebratory message. We can ask with Osteen, "What does DeLilo think?" and agree with his response, "[h]e remains elusive" (25). What is undeniable is the care DeLilo takes to immerse David Bel in the media environment of his time. DeLilo has indicated films of the sixties, especialy Godard's, are as much an influence on his early work as any literary influences (Anything Can Happen 84). Despite David Bel's atempt to escape the gravitational pul of the consumer culture that nurtured him — of his "twenty-eight years in the movies" (287) — the TV producer/movie consumer remains trapped within the image-culture he tries to reject, returning to New York on a ticket paid for with his American Express card. The final line of the book recals one of the earliest episodes Bel relates in his narrative: "Ten minutes after we were airborne a woman asked for my autograph" (377). The repetiion suggests that for David Bel nothing has changed. Something unspecifed has occured between this closing scene and the compositon of Bel's narrative, however. At the opening of the second and fourth sections ofthe novel's four parts the narative abruptly shifts into the first person as a significantly older David Bel comments on the action of his younger self. In seclusion on a remote island from which he can see "the coast of Africa, the great brown curve of that equatorial loin" (347), the older Bel contemplates the impending milennium (347), the stacks of pages that compose his narrative, and the film reels of which the autobiographical segments that are described in Americana are only a portion — "[f]he whole thing runs nearly a week" (346). The fourth Novelists On Television 152 part of Americana leaves film behind, concentrating instead on literature, a noun Bel inserts three times into the last twenty-five pages. Beginning as a TV producer, atempting to find redemption as a film-maker, David Bel ends as an author. John Self, the narator and main character of Amis's Money, is, like David Bel, a "child of Godard and Coca-Cola" (Americana 269), but he is a distant cousin to Bel and something of a prodigal son as wel. Though vastly diferent in tone, Money and Americana share a number of characteristics. Both are first-person naratives, both are about the fortunes of a figure who gives up a successful career in commercial television to make a film with clear autobiographical elements, and both narators are working to resolve an Oedipal conflict with a hated father and an absent (dead) mother. Unlike David Bel, John Self embraces the artificial world of media culture. He is a media huckster (Diedrick 71) who admits to being "addicted to the 20th Century" (Money 91). Self sees himself as an outsider, desperately trying to solidify his positon inside the media system. He has none of Bel's pretensions or his sense of entilement. Where the narator of Americana is the "extremely handsome," "blue-eyed David Bel" (Americana 11), Self describes himself as "200 pounds of yob genes, booze, snout and fast food" (Money 32). Lacking Bel's ironic detachment, Self also escapes the layers of self-denial that prevent Bel from finding a creative or genuine artistic solution to his crisis in Americana. Indeed, Self s inabilty to deny himself anything is one of his biggest problems in Money. He exists somewhere along a continuum bounded by Bel at one end and Keith Talent at the other. Self is aware of the essential unreality of television, in marked contrast to the media innocence of Keith. In this sense he is a television insider, aware of the dangers of identifying too closely with television: Novelists On Television 153 Television is cretinizing me — I can feel it. Soon I'll be like the TV artists. You know the people I mean. Girls who subliminaly model themselves on kid-show presenters, ful  of false melody and joy. Melody and Joy. Men whose manners show newscaster interference, soap stain, film smears. Or the cretinized, those who talk in buses and streets as if TV were real.... (27) People like Keith Talent, for instance. It is unlikely that Self would end up as a "TV artist" of this sort, as his familarity with the inner workings of the medium — its essential inauthenticity — serves as a kind of inoculation against its power. Self is also inoculated against ilusions related to cinema, however. In this respect his capacity for self-delusion seems smaler than that exhibited by David Bel, who despite his disgust with the commercialized distortion of television seems enraptured by the power of the image when it is packaged as "Burt and Kirk" or "Belmondo looking at purposeful Bogart." For Self, film is nothing but another industry, a process for creating a product that wil generate money. The book is caled Money but it is realy about making movies. But making movies, at least in Money, is realy about making money. I agree with James Diedrick's belief that at least part of the inspiration behind Money came as a result of Martin Amis's involvement with a film entiled Saturn 3 (Diedrick 95). The clearest — and unkindest — consequence of this observation is to turn the novel into a kind of roman a clef with the movie stars in Money standing in for the actors in Saturn 3. As Diedrick notes, "Amis's wickedly comic portrait of Lome Guyland owes something to Kirk Douglas" (103), a portrayal that provides a serendipitous point of contact between Americana and Money, and one which loops back to chalenge the hero-worship Bel indulges in. From Novelists On Television 154 John Self s perspective, the real person behind the movie-star persona is a pathetic and ludicrous figure. Bel's atempt to escape the artificiality of life at the television network through self-expression in film fails because the younger David Bel cannot acknowledge that his use of film is just another form of imitation — another kind of echo. Self sufers no ilusions behind the camera about the complicity between film and consumer culture, but he is obsessed, nonetheless, with using money to recreate himself in the image of the media figures he denigrates. Money is an agent of physical transformation, in Self s eyes, a ticket to an elevated plane of being. He hates who he is, and believes money wil provide the means to achieve his self-transformation: I can see me now. I'm in the design department over at Silcone Valey [sic]. The sun shines but no dust stirs. I move confidently among the technicians, the ideas-men and creative consultants, the engineers and fine-tuners. Someone shows me the rough of my new ears and nostrils. The heart boys double check on my detailed specifcations . . . . We move on to the gene pool, DNA programmers, the plasma bank . . . "Okay boys, now I want to make this absolutely clear. I'm paying top dolar and I expect the best. I don't care what it costs. I want it blue, I want it royal, I want the best blood money can buy. Go on, God damn it, and give me the right stuf this time around. (170-71, emphasi  in original) Like Bel, and perhaps like Keith Talent, in his way, Self dreams of efecting a transformation, but it remains a transformation of appearance, not any deep change in the nature of his character. Novelists On Television 155 The first draft of Good Money, the film Self wishes to make, threatens to be something more than appearance: "a dream script, wonderfuly coherent, with oodles of rhythm and twang. The dialogue was fast, funny, and seductively indirect. The pacing was beautiful" (223). Selfs producer, Fielding Goodney, insists that "GoodMoney wil  be the only film in the year, the decade, the era that wil show the real delirium of film, the nakedness of actors, what it does to —" (226). He does not finish because Self interupts him to say, "You've got the wrong guy. I can't work like this" (226). The problem for Self is that he has no interest in exposing the ilusions of film-making. His career has revolved around seling junk to people, and the goal is to make enough money through this film to escape into the fantasy-land money promises. Money is, in Diedrick's words, "a satirical novel, atacking the dehumanizing influence of capitalism and the specific forms this has taken in the postwar West" (74). Specificaly, capital has created the "society of spectacle" described by Guy Debord in order to mobilze the necessary paterns of spending and consumption that characterize commodity culture. Self is a satirical embodiment of both the cause and efect of commodity culture. He is instigator and victim. A producer of the images that perpetuate the system of commodity consumption, he is not able to resist the alure of the images himself. The satire leveled against film and television in Money could easily be interpreted as the kind of superior dismissal David Foster Walace warns about in "E Unibus Pluram" — the kind that is made possible by an easy oppositon of popular (read commercial) culture to serious (read non-commercial) culture (44). Money confuses the issue by introducing into its plot, again through what Gerard Genete terms "transgressive metalepsis," a writer of "serious" fiction: a character named "Martin Amis." Diedrick is quite persuasive in his claim Novelists On Television 156 that Self s opening words to "Martin Amis" — "Sold a milion yet?" (87) — immediately establish the writer and filmmaker as competing figures who must both "make their way in the cultural marketplace" (UMA 97). By situating himself near the centre of the action in Money, Amis implicates himself and his craft in "the money conspiracy" (262) whether the character "Martin Amis" likes it or not. Indeed, in the hands of "Martin Amis" the incisive and potentialy iluminating script Good Money is watered and down and sugared up to appease the egos of the actors involved ('"You have to give him credit,' Fielding conceded. 'It's the perfect snowjob. It's almost pornographic'" [283]), a reversal and betrayal of the first version signaled in the shift in title to Bad Money (283). As Diedrick notes, "[t]he Amis character's presence in the novel highlights the predicament of the serious writer in a commodity culture where artistic value is often confused with gross receipts" (98). In fact, as the final section of this chapter wil discuss, Amis's exploration of "the predicament of a serious writer in a commodity culture" reaches something of a postmodern apogee in 1995, with the publication of his novel The Information. In Americana, Bel seems to have disengaged from the culture industry by withdrawing to the isolation of a remote island. Self s disengagement is involuntary and personaly devastating. Folowing a failed suicide bid he writes a lengthy postscript that describes the aftermath of his failed movie project. Financialy ruined and unemployed, he contemplates an eventual return to a career in television advertising, but for the first time in the novel he experiences a (brief) pang of remorse: They'l have me back in the end. But sometimes I think, no, I'm not going back. When I watch the ads on the television I feel nausea, right in my soft core. TV Novelists On Television 157 being here, TV being the religion, the mystical part of ordinary minds, I don't want to be working in this sensitve area, I don't want to be seling it things. (384) Given Selfs extensive track record of ethical reversals, there's no compeling reason to read this as some kind of final revelation (note the "sometimes") and repudiation of his role in the economy of commodity consumption, but it is a start, a hint of a new way of conceiving media. 3. Artists in the Marketplace So far I have atempted to show how Amis and DeLilo respond to the chalenge of creating fiction in a culture increasingly dominated by images from popular culture and mass media. Chief among the host of forces making up a "society of spectacle" or the "regime of the image" (Johnston 181), I have argued, is television. Its unprecedented growth and comparatively recent arrival suggest a fundamental cultural shift would be an inevitable consequence, just as the development of cheap and reliable printing presses inaugurated a cultural shift in Renaissance Europe. Issues of representation and self-representation associated with postmodernism folow naturaly from the dominance of television as a communication medium, according to David Foster Walace. As a technology employed to package and market commodites ("The TV set is a package and it's ful  of products" [Americana 270]) the pernicious efects on certain segments of the population are explored by Amis and DeLilo, as I discussed in Section 1. As much as the products themselves, however, television dramatizes the deployment of the goods into ilusory constelations — lifestyles — that create entirely packaged existences valorized and preapproved by TV. What is interesting is that even those involved as producers within the media system are shown to Novelists On Television 158 be vulnerable to the efects of the whole-scale impact of image culture. Considered as a network in the fulest sense, the contemporary media system has recently begun to extend its reach in order to include and overlap with the publishing industry. That is, the system of production that creates, markets and distributes fiction is as much a part of the process of commodifcation as the film and television industries. The truth of this statement is revealed on the material plane by the chains of ownership that bind major publishing houses like Simon and Schuster and Viking Penguin to media conglomerates like Viacom and Pearson PLC that operate in the spheres of television and film as wel. If the consumers and the producers of this advertising-driven media economy are inscribed within its efects, what about those who claim observer status, the critics and commentators? What about the novelists themselves? How are they influenced by the society they inhabit and describe? One of the aspects of Amis and DeLilo that drew me to them originaly was their engagement with the wider culture, and their emphasi  on the contemporary moment. In return, how has the contemporary moment engaged them? Certainly Money makes clear that Amis understands that a novelist exists within the money economy and novels are commodites in a competive marketplace. Similarly DeLilo addressed the conditon of the artist caught up in the world of celebrity in Great Jones Street. More recently, each has examined in fictional terms the positon of novelists in the face of postmodern culture, and the role of the authors themselves in cultural production, as wel as their fictional avatars, has been the subject of recent critical discussion. The publicity surounding the 1995 publication of Amis's The Information certainly focused as much atention on the publishing industry producing the book as it did on the literary merits of the book itself. The Information suggests Amis had in any event been considering the question of Novelists On Television 159 the novelist's status in a culture increasingly dominated by visual rather than textual media. The plot of the novel centers on the atempts of Richard Tul, a failed novelist at forty years of age, to ruin — perhaps even kill — his longtime friend Gwyn Barry, an untalented writer who nonetheless has met with considerable commercial success. The novel Amis once tentatively described as "a light novel about literary envy" (Morison 99) turns out to be far from light. The plot of The Information is clearly indebted to George Gissing's 1891 novel New Grub Street, as Joe Moran details in "Artists and Verbal Mechanics" (308), but it is a contemporary novel in tone and specifics. Furthermore, Amis's positon as a celebrity author within the contemporary system of literary production complicates any discussion of The Information by heightening the self-reflexive quality of the novel. Both Moran's article and a similar analysis of The Information by Juliet Gardiner discuss this dimension of The Information, and each concludes that the positon of a literary writer such as Amis in contemporary image-culture is at a far remove from the economics that concerned Gissing in the late Victorian era. The book industry curently produces more titles annualy than at any previous point in history. Gardiner reports 100 000 new books appear each year in the UK (np). Along with the increase in production, starting in the 1980s the United States, Britain and most recently Canada have undergone an unprecedented series of mergers and acquisitons in both the publishing and retail book businesses. Fewer publishers, fewer (but much larger!) bookstores, and the vast aray of titles have forced the book industry to appropriate, to a greater and greater degree, two key marketing strategies of other media industries: the blockbuster and the celebrity. In Britain this process has led to a backlash against the "the American future of Novelists On Television 160 British fiction" (quoted in Star Authors 150), but as the marketing of literary figures such as Martin Amis demonstrates, the process continues unabated. From a marketing perspective, the "Americanized" strategies make economic sense: promoting individual titles is expensive and labour-intensive, as the process must be repeated for every book. More eficient and efective, in marketing terms, is the creation of a brand that can be used to provide continuity between products. One implementation of branding can be seen in the creation of highly visible imprints. Moran singles out the Vintage Contemporary series, developed for Random House by Gary Fisketjon, as an influential example of this form of branding (Star Authors 43). Even more efective, in that it is identifable/analogous to the marketing strategies of the film and television industries, is the creation of literary celebrities. This method packages the individual writer as a recognizable brand name. The name of the writer is given greater promotional weight than the specifc title on ofer. Thus the book-tour, interview, and magazine profiles that atend the publication of a heavily promoted book; indeed, the book-tour, interview, magazine profiles, etcetera often constitute the book's promotion. In the context of this promotional strategy it is unsurprising that the reader's first glimpse of Gwyn Bary in The Information is during an interview and photograph shoot. In fact, as Moran notes, "[w]e often encounter Richard trying (and largely failing) to write, but we never see Gwyn doing the activity that has made him famous; he is a 'mediagenic' facade, not a 'real' author" (312). An important target of the satire in The Information is the shift in emphasi  from "artistic value" to "gross receipts," to use terms from Diedrick's discussion of Money. For the novelists in The Information the emphasi  has shifted from the primary activity of literary authorship to secondary activities: profiles, reviewing, interviews, book Novelists On Television 161 tours, etcetera. As noted, Gwyn is never shown writing, while Richard spends the bulk of his writing time on editng projects for a vanity press, reviewing, for a minor literary journal, biographies on increasingly marginal literary figures, and failing to make progress on a number of non-fiction writing projects. What makes The Information such an exemplary text for understanding the new economics of book publishing is not so much the narative itself but the publicity that entirely swamped its publication — the book (as commodity) was rushed into print to capitalize on Amis's notoriety in the wake of what Moran terms "the Amis afair" (151). The events leading up to the publication of the novel included the author's atempt to secure a £500,000 advance from Harper Colins, his long-time publisher. The falout from this decision included switching to a diferent literary agent and eventualy leaving Harper Colins for Jonathan Cape. At the same time, Amis's personal life went through a period of intense upheaval: he left his wife for an American heiress, had costly dental surgery, his father died, it was revealed that his cousin had been a victim of serial murderer Frank West in 1973, and he publicly recognized an ilegitimate daughter born after an afair in the early 1970s. The melodrama of this "annus horribilus" (Walsh np) is far greater than anything a self-respecting novelist would visit on a character, and led to Amis's wry comment about being "caught up in some post-modern joke" (quoted in Self 72). As Adam Mars-Jones observes, "[i]t's as if Martin Amis was writing a novel about a mid-life crisis, and then had a mid-life crisis" (20). Tabloid interest and the atention of the popular media in such a 'literary' author demonstrates the validity of Moran's thesis regarding the rise of a 'star-author' system. The literary star emerges as a result of dual pressures to establish a recognizable brand that wil Novelists On Television 162 facilitate public recogniton and enhance sales, and to compete efectively in response to the fact every book is a commodity competing with other media products raising the profile and diferentiating their product suficiently from others in the marketplace: It has been a commonplace for publishers to assert that their competiors are not now other publishers with competing books, as was the perception a decade ago, but manufacturers of other leisure products — videos, media books, CD ROMs — and that these have thus set an agendum [sic] for marketing that publishers fail to emulate at their peril. (Gardiner, np) Thus Richard Tul is advised to start smoking a pipe by his new, upmarket publisher Gal Alpanalp: "Writers need definition. The public can only keep in mind one thing per writer. Like a signature. Drunk, young, mad, fat sick: you know. It's beter if you pick it rather than leting them pick it. Ever thought about the young-fogey thing? The young fart" (95). One section of The Information folows Richard and Gwyn across the Atlantic on a publisher-sponsored U.S. book tour. Gwyn is promoting his latest novel, Amelior, while Richard is expected to continue research for the profile of Gwyn commissioned by their publisher. If Gwyn is exposed as a talentless literary fraud coasting on the wings of an efective marketing campaign, Amis's portrait of Richard is almost as unflatering. His fiction is never presented directly, but he is portrayed as a "marooned modernist" (125) completely at odds with the contemporary literary marketplace. His prose style might be termed uncompromising, but in efect his fiction is unreadable. A running joke through The Information is the tangible physiological trauma — ranging from temporary blindness to mild meningits — sufered by anyone atempting to read his latest novel, Untitled. The only character shown to have read his previous books (aside from Richard himself) is the career criminal and dangerous Novelists On Television 163 psychopath Steve Cousins. According to the narator, Richard believes in talent novels and genius novels. Possibly gifted enough to write successful talent novels, Richard struggles to write genius novels. The problem, the narator suggests, is that "even the best genius novels are a drag half the time. Richard was arguably a drag all the time" (125). Richard's form of fiction is shown to be as unappetizing, in its way, as the facile bestseler Gwyn has writen. In America a scheduling conflict forces Gwyn to cancel a radio talk show because it conflicts with a scheduled television appearance, so Richard is invited to take his place at the radio station. In the course of the interview the host atempts to engage Richard with the routine strategies of packaging a literary work for an early-morning mass audience, but Richard refuses to cooperate. His thoughts in response to the question, "What's your novel trying to say?" summarize his atitude: The contemporary idea seemed to be that the first thing you did, as a communicator, was come up with some kind of slogan, and either you put it on a cofee mug or a t-shirt or a bumper sticker — or else you wrote a novel about it It's not trying to say anything. It's saying it.' 'But what is it trying to say?' 'It's saying itself. For a hundred and fifty thousand words. I couldn't put it any other way.' (252-53) The Information does not, as might be expected, valorize this uncompromising positon as the romantic resistance of a literary genius against the encroachments of mass culture. On the contrary, Richard is explicitly characterized as a non-genius: pompous, arogant and, the narator admits, "an asshole" (95). Novelists On Television 164 Reviewing the book for the TLS, Adam Mars-Jones corectly identifies the twin character assassination of Gwyn and Richard as contributing to the dificult impasse the novel creates. Only the ghostly narator, introduced in the second clause of the first sentence of the novel and often linked to Amis himself, gives some focus against the book's exhaustive and exhausting negativity (Mars-Jones 19). Far from being "a light novel about literary envy," The Information is a dark, pessimistic rant against the profession of writing, against writers in general, and above all, against the shalow, facile culture that surounds them. That this culture subsequently appropriated Amis the celebrity-author for its tabloid pleasure only raises the stakes. In the conflict staged in The Information between Richard's high modernist stance and Gwyn's easy complicity with the incorporation of authorship into the market mechanisms of commodity capitalism, no third figure emerges to successfuly negotiate the middle ground between the two extremes. Amis's own positon in the literary star-system continues to highlight the tensions and ironies brought out in The Information. His most recent work, Experience, is a memoir that carefuly works through the events surounding the publication of The Information, including a discussion with a cab driver about his home address ("—Noting Hil? I thought you lived in Camden Town. —Not yet. —I was reading somewhere you lived in Camden Town. —I'm moving next month" [253]). Of course, the novel's publication was accompanied by numerous profiles, interviews, and a publisher-sponsored U.S. book tour, inviting further commentary on the confusion between Amis's life and his fiction. Commenting on the relationship between Amis and the media hype that surounds him, journalist Brendan Bernhard concludes a profile/interview on Amis by reporting on the author's appearance on the American television program 20/20: Novelists On Television 165 It was emotional pornography. Bill Riter, Amis' virile interlocutor, smiled greasily at the camera and gestured with enormous hands, as if he might just strangle the author rather than interview him. Cowering in a corner, eyelashes palely blinking, Amis looked as if he hoped to get through his 15 minutes of network fame by going entirely unrecognized. Wel, one likes to think of it that way. In fact, he quietly played his part. There was footage of Kingsley with his children. There was footage of Martin with his children. There was footage of Kingsley with his second wife. There was footage of Martin with his second wife. In front of one's eyes, the book was reduced to the skeleton of its message: The son is the father, the father is the son. (np) This description echoes the terms of Richard's abortive appearance on an American radio station, during which he refuses to provide a reduction of his book's "message." But Amis, unlike Richard, obliges. The response to such a situation is less clear-cut for the media-aware writer who recognizes the need to register in the marketplace in order to be read at all. Amis comments on the speed with which the new procedure has become mandatory when he compares his literary career with that of two younger novelists: At thirty-something Wil Self and Lawrence Norfolk are already old hands at doing the media circuit. For them, the curent arangement — whereby your personality (whatever that might be) undergoes public processing — is simply the air they breathe. I had ten years of quiet; but they were born into noise. ("Buy My Book, Please" 97) Novelists On Television 166 Though he refuses to exonerate Amis for his complicity with the television show's banal host, Brendan Bernhard concludes his article by acknowledging the dificulties facing a contemporary author who must "negotiate al the ambiguites wrought by synergy": As we were reminded at the end of the show, Talk-Miramax, Amis' publisher, is owned by the same company that owns [20/20's parent network] ABC-Disney. And it was a few days before Father's Day . . . The realization came that the publication date for Experience might actualy have been set with Father's Day in mind. Rather like a greeting card, (np) Books, after all, are commodites, published for profit. The realities of a market economy do not spare authors in the face of an imperative to squeeze the maximum return from the initial investment made in publishing a writer's work. In DeLilo's Mao /these realities are explored with subtlety and precision. The character Bill Gray, an eminent novelist whose "two lean novels" (20) met with considerable success upon publication twenty years ago, has withdrawn from the world to escape, among other things, "the machinery of gloss and distortion" (45) that atends the successful writer in America. In response much of the early commentary on Mao II assumed the novel was vaguely auto-biographical and focused on the similarity between Bill Gray and DeLilo. In interviews DeLilo indicates he drew inspiration for the character from the famously reclusive JD. Salinger, especialy after publication of the 'stolen' photograph of Salinger "taken in, I think, 1988" (Passaro np). Nevertheless, for those critics who feel DeLilo identifies strongly with the ideas expressed by the Bill Gray character, the novel embodies a reactionary atack against the alien and absorbing masses who threaten the tradition of Western individualism symbolized by the figure of the lone author. Novelists On Television 167 More recently readings of the novel have identified problems with the wholesale identification of Gray as a mouthpiece for the author. Once the author and his character are disentangled, moreover, it becomes evident that Mao II contains an implicit critique of Gray's "slightly self-romanticizing" (45) atitudes. While there is no doubt some of Gray's pronouncements find expression in public statements DeLilo has made, in general the fictional author is in the thral of a romanticized image of authorship that seems almost as cliched and trite as the vision ofered by David Bel's friend Brand in Americana: T see myself in a big stone house on the Oregon coast,' Brand said. 'Im exactly sixty years old. I built the house myself, rock by rock. I see myself as one of those unique old writers who's stil  respected for his daring ideas and style. Young disciples make pilgrimages to visit me . . . . There are no roads in the area. It's like Big Sur, only more lonely and remote.' (290-91) Gray's circumstances are not quite so overblown, but Mao II makes clear the considerable efort he has expended to isolate himself from the wider culture. A very faint aura of ridicule seems to hover around DeLilo's characterization of Bill Gray. Perhaps the most significant consequence of his total retreat from the larger world is the coincidental loss of faith in his own writing, which has grown shambling and shapeless (in contrasted to his earlier "lean novels"), a "shitpile of hopeless prose" (159). Existing on the residual success of his former self, Gray is trapped on his remote property by his own celebrated decision to withdraw from the culture. He is haunted by the image of his own work-in-progress as a misshapen monster, a freak from out of a gothic horor story (92-93). Ultimately his emergence from seclusion has tragic consequences, but in his own estimation Bill — as a novelist — interprets his re-engagement with the world in positve Novelists On Television 168 terms. In contrast to the disgust he feels for the "shitpile" he leaves behind, the few pages he writes on the plight of the Swiss hostage held in captivity in Beirut seem to ofer promise: "There was something at stake in these sentences he wrote about the basement room. They held a pause, an anxious space he began to recognize . . . . [H]e thought he could trace it line by line, the shatery tension, the thing he'd lost in the sand of his endless novel" (168). Bil's initial formulation opposing the productive loner to the absorbing crowd is critqued also by his emphatic rejection of the very similar stance George Haddad, the media spokesman for Abu Rashid's terrorist group, proposes between terrorists and the masses (157-59). At the same time, the pent-up demand for Bill Gray is characterized as the absence of product. His conversations with his editor, Charles Everson, both articulate the change in the publishing industry since Bil's first books were published and point to the need for more product from the celebrity/commodity/author Bill.. Then there's the problem of the novelist against the figure of the terrorist. Their relationship is portrayed as antithetical, from Bil's perspective, and in Athens he vehemently rejects George Haddad's atempts to link their motives and methods. There is also a sense that George Haddad's perspective on terorism bears some trace of the commodity-fixated atitude of Charles Everson. Certainly the conversation in Athens reveals that the value of hostages to the terrorist organizations is easily expressed as exchange-value (Osteen 207), a detail that seriously undermines their anti-Western claims, especialy in regards to Abu Rashid's faction, which is supposed to be ultra-Marxist. Mark Osteen further argues that Abu Rashid's credibilty is entirely undermined during his photo session with Brita (210-211). The images that are interspersed between sections of Mao II further argue against Bill Gray's position. In a novel in which the power of the image is a topic of much discussion, the Novelists On Television 169 photographic reproductions within the text suggest a productive tension or aliance between the words and the images, which are carefuly selected to reflect specific moments in the narrative. Finaly, the mariage scenes that open and close the novel seem important from several perspectives. First, in the opening mass wedding the conventionaly private ceremony is transformed into a spectacular event, in Debord's sense. The replication transforms the meaning of what had been a foundation of bourgeois social relations. Certainly the crowd of onlookers at the event feel threatened by the depersonalized nature of the event. Second, the mass mariage takes place under the auspices of the Unification Church, which exists as a chalenge to the orthodoxies of mainstream Christianity and also serves as a spiritual adjunct to a powerful and efective business empire. The Unification Church has extensive business interests throughout the world, including a controling interest in United Press International and the Washington Times, money-losing operations that nevertheless serve useful legitimizing and propaganda purposes. Third, the tragedy of Gray's anonymous death is folowed by the wedding scene Brita witnesses in Beirut at the close of the novel, creating a final chapter that is closer to the spirit of comedy's generic conventions. In my reading, the symbolism of the improvised mariage celebration in the streets of Beirut responds to the stifled regimentation of the Moonie ceremony in the opening scene and suggests the continuance of anarchic forces that appear again and again in DeLilo's fiction as spontaneous iruptions from crowds that threaten regimentation and chalenge uniformity. Read this way, the conclusion of Mao II sheds the pessimistic, even reactionary tone ascribed to the novel by commentators such as John McClure. Novelists On Television 170 The publication situation for DeLilo's novel Underworld suggests he has negotiated a space somewhere between Gywn Bary's pandering and Bill Gray's tragic/heroic resistance. News that the publication rights for the manuscript had sold for over $1,000,000 certainly suggested that DeLilo has, as Joe Moran claims, joined the celebrity system. In response to the unprecedented publicity and atendant interest surounding this book, DeLilo agreed to a book tour across North America and abroad and to radio appearances on the National Public Radio program Fresh Air and CBC's This Morning, among others. He continues to refuse television appearances. Writng about the novels of Amis and DeLilo I feel a certain trembling of bad faith each time I resort to biography, but as I hope the preceding few pages have made clear the author has become a part of the process of publication in ways that need to be addressed. DeLilo and Amis occupy positons along a continuum that is marked by Richard Tul and Bill Gray at one end and Gwyn Bary at the other. Researching the reception to their work has led me to issues of Vanity Fair and the British editon of Esquire as wel as through special issues of Modern Fiction Studies and Contemporary Literature. Especialy in those instances where the writers themselves foreground the novel as a commodity in the fiction, it seems perverse to exclude the accompanying machinery of commodifcation from the process of analysis and discussion. The existence of a mass media system precedes television, but in intensity and saturation potential TV has spearheaded the overwhelming expansion of the range and power of these systems. The media conglomerates that form networks of capital facilitate the pervasive spread of commodity capitalism, and the efects of this culture borne of images are explored through various means by Amis and DeLilo. From the infantilzed desires of Keith Novelists On Television 171 Talent and Wilie Mink, seeking to merge with the libidinal promises of television, through the self-deluded artistic projects of David Bel and John Self, to the fictional and actual conditon of writers in this society, media remains a constant source of disturbing yet productive material for the naratives these two writers construct in their ongoing dialogue with contemporary culture. Somebody Somewhere Else 172 Chapter Four "Somebody Somewhere Else" In Valparaiso Don DeLilo explores the consequences of celebrity culture on an unremarkable American. The pressures of media exposure, notably television's incessant demand for 'human interest' content to fill the programming day, are satirized in the transformation of Michael Majeski from ordinary citizen to TV-talk show guest in a manner that recals the process explored in the previous chapter. In Valparaiso, Majeski is forced to repeat his account of an accidental trip to Valparaiso, Chile over and over again until the event comes to embody the emptying-out of the experience or "ritual arangement of these serial replays" DeLilo identifies as a feature of the contemporary mass media ("Power" np). To satisfy the topical interest in his experience, Majeski recites the basics of his adventure in "sixty-seven interviews in four and a half days in three and a half cities" (35-36). Majeski's appearance on a talk show hosted by Delfina Treadwel, an Oprah-like television personality, represents the culmination of this particular media-driven form of celebrity, but even prior to this event his encounters with the media are seen to take place, as DeLilo remarks, "through the instruments of broadcast technology, microphone, cameras, videotape and film" (Corbet np). DeLilo draws atention to these instruments of mediation to suggest how completely "[pjeople in this world have needs and desires shaped by technology" ("Looking for Valparaiso" np). Somebody Somewhere Else 173 While Valparaiso is staged as an investigation into the efects of contemporary media, it is interesting to me for another reason. Majeski's experience, played out as an easily-digested news item that circulates incessantly through the global news network, focuses on his entry into a network of another kind: the complex interconnections and layered systems that comprise air travel. The implicit connections between the two kinds of networks are made explicit in Valparaiso through the double roles assigned to a trio of actors who appear as a camera crew in the first act and function as a kind of Greek chorus in the second, dressed "in stylish civilian versions of flight-crew uniforms" (68), and sporadicaly interjecting commentary in the form of chanted phrases that recal the international language of aviation safety: Did you pack your bags yourself Has anyone had access In the event of an evacuation Has anyone ever said to you In the fulness of fading time Pul the mask toward you Ausgang / Sortie / Salida Then place the mask Then place the mask (69) The presence of the "flight-crew" chorus suggests the importance of the exact nature of Majeski's claim to his moment of celebrity. A cascade of erors and misunderstandings seems to result in his departure from his intended flight plan as he is told at the check-in counter that his ticket to Chicago should be for a flight bound to Miami. Valparaiso, Indiana is confused with Valparaiso, Florida, and when the mistake is revealed in Miami it is Somebody Somewhere Else 174 accidentaly compounded when he is put on a flight headed for Valparaiso, Chile by way of Santiago. Even the possibilty of such an eror can only be imagined in the uniquely postmodern context of an interlocking network of airlines, computerized reservation systems, and airports, and in this technology-enabled potential for severe geographic dislocation DeLilo finds the tangible complement to the deeper psychic destabilzation Majeski describes as the play progresses. The uncertainty of the journey immediately suggests the extent to which a global system of routinized commercial air travel has made it possible for an individual to become completely disoriented once he is inside the network of airports and air carriers. Air travel finds its place in the network of technological systems that have, in Fredric Jameson's words, "finaly succeeded in transcending the capacites of the individual human body to locate itself, to organize its immediate suroundings perceptualy and cognitvely to map its positon in a mappable external world" (Postmodernism 44). In this passage Jameson is speaking particularly of an inabilty to locate oneself spatialy in urban landscapes or built environments, but it is clear that the remarks relate to the uninfected spaces of airports and the undiferentiated interiors of aircraft. From the inside of either it is very difficult to find reliable cues as to where you are or where you are going. Majeski's inabilty to organize his immediate suroundings while in transit reflects a similar disaray regarding his sense of selfhood. The trip is initiated so that he can "substiute] for a coleague" (27), indicating that he is already a stand-in for somebody else. When he learns of the mistake en route to Santiago he describes a feeling of being "cut of from everything around me. And from myself as well.... [As if s]ome stranger had crept inside, like surreptiiously, to eat my airline food. Or someone had been superimposed on me, a person with my outline and shoe size but slyly and fundamentaly diferent" (15-16). The Somebody Somewhere Else 175 internal sense of dislocation matches an external reality. Majeski undertakes a journey without knowing how to get to his destination. He is literaly a traveler who does not know where he is going, and entrusts his safe passage to systems and networks he does not understand. Majeski's existential crisis, his sense that he exists as "somebody somewhere else" (15, 92) extends beyond the simple inabilty to map himself onto his suroundings, yet his spatial dislocation and disorientation are themselves figures for the deeper sense of an absent identity, one that begins to take coherent shape only in the context of his media appearances, where he begins to see himself as a "complete man" (52). The conclusion of Valparaiso, though it seems forced and unsatisfying, does folow the play's inner logic through to its inevitable conclusion. Since the media atention has provided Majeski with the sense of an identity, and we learn that at the extreme point of his airplane journey he atempts suicide because "there was nowhere else to take [his] sory life" (98), the end of his celebrity wil return him to the state of identiy-confusion and uncertainty. The consequence is that folowing his appearance on Delfina's talk show (a moment she cals "the apex of your experience. Folowed of course" [105]), there is no point in continuing to live (as her incomplete phrase suggests), and Delfina enacts a ritual murder on air by sufocating Majeski with a microphone. The play ends with a litany of phrases chanted by the 'flight-crew' chorus, the most persistent of which is "place the mask" (109). In the context of DeLilo's alusion to classical Greek theater through the inclusion of a chorus in the first place, this phrase conflates the oxygen mask of modern aircraft with the formal stage prop used in drama to replace the actor's features with those of another person; again the crisis of identiy is explicitly linked to the displacement and disorientation of a contemporary air passenger who has grown tired of his role as a "kind of glancing man" yet Somebody Somewhere Else 176 "[i]n the seams of being, nobody. In the final spiral strand, nobody, soul-lonely, smoke" (101-02). Valparaiso concludes with a videotape of a man in a confined space with a plastic bag on his head — recaling the manner of Majeski's atempted suicide and Delfina's comment that there are security cameras in airplane toilets. Thus his moment of despair with his "naked shitmost self as the plane nears the terminal in Santiago is caught on tape and made available to the audience. In this sense the final image suggests the depth and complexity of interlocking technological systems that ensure, in DeLilo's words, "[t]he way nothing is alowed to go unseen. The way nothing is left unsaid. The way things exist solely as footage waitng to be shot" ("Looking for Valparaiso" np). An emphasi  on air travel as a phenomenon of the postmodern world appears in many of DeLilo's texts prior to Valparaiso. The figure of the frequent flier suggests an individual engaged in a particular kind of relationship to the world, one made possible by the expansion of air travel as a viable and eficient means of transportation after World War Two. Just as the post-war growth in media systems results in a reformulation of ideas of what constiutes the self and its relationships to other individuals, so the widespread use of air travel by the general public in North America and Europe can be said to reconfigure an individual's sense of space and place. To borow a term from the writer Pico Iyer, air travel has faciltated the development of a "multiculture" (115) by fostering a radical acceleration in the circulation of ideas, customs and beliefs across physical space. It is important to recognize that these ideas and customs are embodied, not virtual. They do not cross borders as media communications but in the embodied form of migrants, refugees, and immigrants. Human movement and the spread of cultures has been a constant throughout human history, Iyer admits, but with each Somebody Somewhere Else 177 technological revolution in the means of transportation the process has leaped ahead in terms of volume and velocity: The century just ended, most of us agree, was the century of movement, with planes and phones and even newer toys precipitating what the secretary of the UN's Habitat II conference in 1996 caled the 'largest migration in history'; suddenly, among individuals and among groups, more bodies were being thrown more widely across the planet than ever before. (10) Elsewhere Iyer refers to a milion border crossings each day (29), while figures from the International Aviation Transport Association reveal that the global air fleet caried 1.3 bilion passengers to their destinations last year, which works out to slightly more than 3.5 milion air travelers every day ("2000 W.AT.S." np). The consequences of this aerial migration can be described from a number of perspectives, I wil argue. First, the existence of a commercial network of air cariers changes the way distance is conceptualized as travel to distant points becomes feasible. It results in a new round of time-space compression from the perspective of business and industry operating in a multinational context. Air travel on a massive scale constiutes a technology that has a tangible impact on a large proportion of the population within industrialized countries. Second, the mobilty and facility of air travel alters the relationship a traveler has with his or her environment, as the example of Michael Majeski demonstrates. Both the sense of belonging to a particular place and an idea of what constiutes one's immediate environment change in the face of a form of transportation capable of speeds close to one thousand kilometers per hour. Finaly, the postmodern potentials inherent in air travel as a mode of transportation have an ireducible materiality that resists the frictionless, Somebody Somewhere Else 178 instantaneous rhetoric that accompanies discussions of telecommunications and its most technologicaly sophisticated articulation, telepresence. Air travel imagined as a mode of material communication reinscribes the body in the process of discovery and locates a kind of horizon or limit for transporting a human being from one location to another. The function of a particular technology within the novels of DeLilo and Amis can reveal aspects of its penetration into the wider culture or merely reflect their individual interest (or lack of interest) in it. As in the TV chapter, my interest in air travel is not directed at its inception but at the point beyond which its efect on a general culture can be gauged. Motorized flight commenced with the Wright brothers in 1903, and reached a noticeable milestone with Lindbergh's transatlantic flight in 1927. Yet despite these powerful symbols of the possibilty of air travel and the significant technological advances they represented, transatlantic travel on a practical, commercialy viable scale could be said to have started in 1957, with 1958 marking the significant moment where more passengers flew across the Atlantic than sailed across it (Heppenheimer 193). The fact that in 1957 more people used passenger liners than aircraft for transatlantic travel suggests the relatively recent adoption of air travel as a form of transportation for any but the elite. The ascendancy of television and the rise of air travel share a number of coincidental points in their historical development: inception in the years around the turn of the century, a significant breakthrough in 1927, important technical advances as a result of miltary research during the Second World War, and then a rapid, exponential growth in the commercial application of the technology in the years after 1950. Pico Iyer underscores both the legacy and discontinuity of the airline industry when he reports that Berlin's Templehof Somebody Somewhere Else 179 "used to be the busiest air facility in the world, receiving eleven thousand passengers in 1925. Now Chicago's O'Hare sees that many in two hours" (44). While I want to point out the undeniable way the technology of commercial aviation afects the social and cultural articulation of postmodernity, I am also wary of confusing local efects for global ones. In trying to address the importance of such a technology as a social force, its novelty must be balanced against its accessibilty, and universalizing claims modifed in response. Consider the global nature of the telecommunications revolution, in particular the claim for universal interconnectivity via the Internet. At the moment this "global" system is indeed planetary in scope, yet the industrialized nations are massively overepresented and over half the adult population of the globe has never placed nor received a phone cal (Iyer 26). Such discrepancies cal to mind Fredric Jameson's discussion of the various levels of economic development coexisting at the same time (Postmodernism 159). Some forms of technology have global impact without needing to reach everyone (the potent combination of long-range missile technology, nuclear weapons development, and computer guidance systems, for instance), while other technologies are only as powerful (influential) as they are pervasive. Telephones and televisions fal into this later category, I would argue, as does air travel. Aircraft used extensively to ferry mail between distant points represented an incremental development in the history of communication, but the use of aircraft for travel purposes creates an overarching redefinition of the idea of travel and migration among a large population. The widespread use of jet aircraft by the miltary folowing the Second World War had little direct impact on the general public, while the introduction of wide-body Somebody Somewhere Else 180 jets with room for ever-greater numbers of passengers altered the way an increasing percentage of the population in North America and Europe perceived their boundaries. David Harvey writes of the period from 1960 to the present as representing the latest stage of consolidated "time-space compression" (292), "another fierce round of annihilation of space through time" (293). Specificaly, satelite communications and jet aircraft precipitate this most recent round of compression, representing the limit case of, respectively, telecommunications (the speed of light) and physical transport (the speed of sound). In The Condition of Postmodernity Harvey atempts to convey this image of compression by presenting a series of globes aranged proportionaly to indicate their size relative to the fastest form of transportation available. Prior to 1840 the maximum speed for sailng vessels and horse-drawn coaches was around ten miles per hour, while the jet aircraft used to ferry people and parcels since the 1960s operate at sixty times that speed. The coresponding shrinkage of the globe depicts the extreme alteration in the idea of the planet's boundaries. (Harvey 241). Even within the limited history of aviation itself, Lindbergh's flight-time of 34 hours from New York to Paris has been reduced to under four hours by the Concorde. This, then, is the world in which Amis's and DeLilo's novels are set. For the most pragmatic of considerations a novel like Money could not exist without the ease and speed of transatlantic travel provided by aircraft. John Self s concept of the distance between New York and London is mediated by technology in this brute sense. The novel opens with him already in a New York cab, but within a page he is recaling his dificulties with immigration and customs (2). Aircraft and airports figure prominently in his narrative, yet in al the references to doubling in the critical material about the novel, no one has as yet mentioned the structural device that divides it into the sections "America" and "Britain." In the course of Somebody Somewhere Else 181 the novel Self wil cross the Atlantic eight times, and on each occasion the physical displacement wil corespond with a section break. The cumulative efect is to create a series of discontinuous scenes bracketed by Selfs arrivals in and departures from New York and London. There is little in the way of glamour in his description of this airborne lifestyle; it is portrayed as simply a consequence of his professional life as a British film director working on an American project. In Money the airplane is the most obvious material complement to John Selfs hyperactive, headlong plunge into the world of filmmaking and the world of America. Self exemplifes a couple of characteristics that are certainly not unique to the idea of postmodernity but are certainly exacerbated by it. His sense of self is atenuated by his exposure to media, as I discuss in Chapter Three, but his sense of place is likewise reduced through his hyperactive travel within London and New York and most especialy in the constant shutling between London and New York. The film project that dominates the narative and leads to Selfs undoing is itself the product of a previous trip returning from Los Angeles to London, during which Self meets Fielding Goodney in First Class. The importance of airplanes in Money can best be summarized by observing that they make the transatlantic narative possible. Plane travel is itself routinely recognized by Self as a symbol of the speeded-up processes that he associates with modernity. London Fields is similarly predicated on the simplicity of switching from one side of the Atlantic to the other, as Samson Young's presence as an American writer living in London comes about through an apartment swap with a British writer through an advertisement in the New York Review of Books (2). Though the figure of an American writer relocating to London and finding inspiration there might cal to mind Eliot, Pound, or even Somebody Somewhere Else 182 Henry James, for Young the move seems provisional, a mater of convenience rather than necessity. The airplanes in London Fields function as conduits between America and Britain, though for Young, trapped in the milennial shadows of the novel, the conduit is not as reliable as it might be. His atempts at a brief return to New York seem to come together when he concludes a section of his narative with a directive to the reader, "Enough. I'm ready. Let's go to America" (236). Later, however, he admits to failing in his journey, only managing a six-day stay at Heathrow airport due to a breakdown in flights between the two countries (262-63). For the far more afluent Guy Clinch, the journey is not impossible but it does take time. His travel to America goes something like this: "A fourteen-hour wait in the VIP Lounge at Heathrow; the Mach II to Newark; the helicopter to Kennedy; the 727 to Middletown; the limousine to New London. America moved past him behind treated glass" (422). Guy, reinforced by wealth and privilege, succeeds where Samson cannot. It is during his return flight to London that Guy discovers he has been duped by Nicola Six, a revelation that centers on an airplane (the Enola Gay) and is carefuly calculated to occur on another airplane (the Concorde). As in Money, travel between America and Britain — crossing the Atlantic, shifting between the cultures — is a routine mater, leading to a blurring of rigid national demarcations: this is not Samson's first visit to London; Guy's wife, Hope, is American; even proletarian Keith has ventured to New York. The transition is not always simple, however. In The Information airplanes ferry Richard Tul to New York and across the country to Los Angeles. The experience catapults him out of his English element and into the accelerated media and cultural processes Amis equates with America, processes that force Tul to confront his own failure as a novelist. The acceleration efected by the book tour is largely media-driven, but it is also relentlessly Somebody Somewhere Else 183 spatial, and Richard's encounter with the publicity machine that drives Gwyn's book tour can be seen as a microcosm of the English literary culture's encounter with the future. As John Dern observes, the "near-death experience" that befals them on a flight from Boston to New York is, for Richard, "an appropriate metaphor; in America, he dies a slow, spiritual death" (134). There's nothing positve or celebratory about Richard's American adventure, while from Gwyn's perspective every step seems to bring greater heights of popularity and fame. Before Money airplanes do not play much of a role in Amis's fiction. The novels he published in the 1980s are less ambitous in their range, most notable in their smal cast of characters, constrained locale, and consistent length (they range from 200 to 225 pages). The novelist Wil Self comments that while "the early quartet of novels, The Rachel Papers, Dead Babies, Success and Other People can be viewed as of a piece, cruel but essentialy local satirical dissections of the English class system, with . . . Money, he seemed to go global — or at any rate transatlantic" (73). Each of the later novels is, in a literal sense, transatlantic, and the connections Amis makes between America and England are faciltated by airlines. The extent to which the global reach of the airline cariers contributes to blured national boundaries and mixed cultures is suggested by Amis's individual experiences, most notably as a journalist for a number of British newspapers. His 1981 article on the Frankfurt book fair signals, appropriately, the advent of a wider focus in its discussion of the globalized nature of publishing. The fair itself is held annualy in "the biggest exhibiton hal in the world . . ., a windy hangar where half-a-dozen Hindenbergs might have slept" ("Frankfurt" 129), and in its capacity as an international forum for publishers it represents the kind of Somebody Somewhere Else 184 gathering that can only be made possible by the time-space compression aforded by air travel: With 80-odd countries represented, and God knows how many hundred thousand books on display or stowed in boxes or as yet only twinkling in publishers' eyes, there is no gainsaying the superabundance of Earthling enthusiasms. Even before the opening it was a world tour in miniature to strol through the half-completed stals. (129) Even as the market for book publishing began to be conceived in global terms, the period beginning in the early 1980s saw an unprecedented number of international mergers and acquisitons among publishing houses themselves. Larger conglomerates could aford to invest more in the marketing of books, and Amis himself was drawn into this process as a reviewer when he was sent from London to the New York ofices of Time Warner to review Madonna's book Sex: In the old benighted, pre-modern days, a new book was normaly sent to the reviewer, encased in a jify-bag or, under exceptionaly glamourous circumstances, a Federal-Express walet. But Madonna is the most post-modern personage on the planet, so in this case the reviewer was sent to the book, by supersonic airplane. (256) The publicity value aside, there is something quite extraordinary in the cultural conditons that alow a publisher to fly the reviewer to the book — on the Concorde — in the name of marketing.19 Amis uses airplanes more frequently both in his fiction and non-fiction after 1 9 In a different context it is Amis himself who is marketed in a travel piece on St. Lucia collected in Visiting Mrs. Nabokov. Trading on Amis's growing notoriety, the 1986 article was commissioned for Somebody Somewhere Else 185 the "global" success of Money, shadowing on an individual level the globalizing forces acting on literature and the wider culture throughout this period. Wil Self s comment regarding the localized nature of Amis's early fiction could also be applied to DeLilo. His first four novels —Americana, End Zone, Players and Great Jones Street — feature characters who are from or have traveled to countries other than the United States, but only since Ratner's Star has his narative horizon widened beyond America. While it is arguable that his fiction "went global" with the publication of The Names in 1982, DeLilo demonstrates in his earlier fiction an interest in the airplane as a cultural product. In Players the main characters are introduced in a set piece that takes place on a futuristic jet liner while an in-flight movie plays in the background. The enclosed environment of the jet reflects the self-contained nature of the section itself, which raises many of the themes to be developed in the novel and presents the characters, but does so without identifying any of them by name. Ratner's Star begins in a similar manner, with the main character joined in transit to an unnamed destination on a "Sony 747" (3). The simple device of naming the aircraft alows DeLilo to suggest both the near-future time frame of the novel and the present reality of corporate control and expansion within the context of a few global mulitnationals. The main characters in The Names — James Axton and his circle of expatriate friends — are entirely postmodern creatures in the sense that their professional lives are ruled by air the entertainment of holiday travelers and appeared in Departures, an in-flight magazine. "The whole process — the commission, the piece, its subsequent enshrinement — seems to exemplify a peculiarly modern literary dilemma" (Hornby 5), namely the recycling of a literary celebrity's ephemera if there is felt to be any market for it. Somebody Somewhere Else 186 routes. "I flew a lot, of course. We al did," Axton admits at the beginning of the novel. "We were a subculture, business people in transit, growing old in planes and airports" (6). As Axton describes the qualities that bind the group of travelers together, there is a sense that here is an answer to Jameson's implicit question regarding the possibilty of developing a cognitve map that enables one to live within this "world space of multinational capital" (54), but it is at best a partial answer. The group is composed of first-world managers and consultants (Axton himself is a "risk analyst" for "a subsidiary of a two-bilion-dolar conglomerate" [47]) who move among developing world countries without establishing lasting connections in the places they are stationed. They have mastered the codes and the strategies for travel and survival in the air, but to do so they have had to give up any deep sense of belonging. What they sense instead, according to Fredric Jameson, is a certain experience of space itself, or rather the peculiarly American experience of space through which substantive, culturaly diferent and other spaces are perceived. Our optic is one of separation, suspension, rather than ontic perceptual immersion — jetliners versus the Parthenon. ("Review" 122) For Axton this is not at first a problem. He welcomes his role as "a perennial tourist" because "to be a tourist is to escape accountabilty" (43). Axton and the others maintain their own community, apart from the local culture and society, and they claim to function within the local environment as passive observers. John McClure has argued that this pose is maintained as a form of false consciousness that exculpates Axton's community from the exploitation waged in developing countries by the corporations that employ them, and indeed Axton seems to recognize the falsity of this distance when he confronts the assassination atempt Somebody Somewhere Else 187 aimed at him or at David Keler. As Mark Osteen observes, Axton is "[o]usted from his obligation-free island," and with "[h]is passive neutrality destroyed, [he] must learn a new grammar" (134) in response to his new awareness of his entanglement with those communites he has tried to keep at a distance. In White Noise Jack Gladney's daughter Bee seems to occupy a similar, detached position. He describes her as "both wordly and ethereal, as though in her heart she was . . . a traveler, the purer form, someone who colects impressions, dense anatomies of feeling, but does not care to record them." Her presence seems to radiate "a surgical light" that makes the family "self-conscious," not least Gladney, who admits to feeling "as if she were not my child at al but the sophisticated and self-reliant friend of one of my children" (94). In this respect she seems to be similar to the community in The Names, not in itself surprising as Bee's mother and stepfather belong to a similar kind of group. For Bee's mother the abilty to travel confidently by air is an important skil for a child, "like swimming or ice skating": The sooner we get them in the air the beter . . . . I sent [Bee] to Boston on Eastern when she was nine. I told Granny Browner not to meet her plane. Geting out of airports is every bit as important as the actual flight. Too many parents ignore this phase of a child's development. Bee is thoroughly bicoastal now. She flew her first jumbo at ten, changed planes at O'Hare, had a near miss in Los Angeles. Two weeks later she took the Concorde to London. Malcolm [her step-father] was waitng with a split of champagne. (93) But the confidence and assuredness this abilty imparts may be inextricably tied to a sense of distance and detachment. Pico Iyer suggests that given the fact that "humans have never lived with quite this kind of mobilty and uprootedness before . . . [, a] lack of affiliation may mean Somebody Somewhere Else 188 a lack of accountabilty, and forming a sense of commitment can be hard without a sense of community. Displacement can encourage the wrong kinds of distance" (24). As an example of "the wrong kinds of distance" he imagines a "Global Soul" living "in the metaphorical equivalent of international airspace . . . . His memories might be set in airports that look more and more like transnational cities, in cities that look like transnational airports. Lacking a binding sense of'we,' he might nonetheless remain fiercely loyal to a single airline" (19). Iyer's characterization recals Axton's self-description, and suggests that people placed in this kind of environment wil  be forced to exchange one set of relationships for another. At one point in The Names Axton's friend David suggests that they fly from Athens to Frankfurt in order to watch the Colege Bowl footbal games: "We can watch on a monitor at the Armed Forces studios. No problem. The bank wil arange . . . . We'l have a quiet New Year's Eve, then we'l al get on a plane to Frankfurt and watch the bowl games on TV" (194). At another point David, his wife Lindsay, and Axton devise a scheme to load a drunk, semi-conscious acquaintance on a flight from Athens to Tehran (this in the months immediately folowing the Revolution). Both ideas are frivolous, to be sure, but they are frivolous in a way that suggests a particular postmodern sensibilty to space, place, and distance, one that is expressed in relation to a particular set of technologies. By necessity the new set of relationships a lifestyle such as Axton's entails wil  be tenuous and provisional. The community wil  be fluid and the locus of community wil  no longer exist. As Bill Gray says in Mao II, "Home is a failed idea" (92). Uprooted by technology, the "global souls" Iyer speaks of find themselves in a technologized conditon Martin Heidegger characterized as "homelessness"; in their technologized roles as dwelers in the sky they seem to destroy "the fourfold" he describes in the essay "Being Dweling Somebody Somewhere Else 189 Thinking." The in-flight experience reveals with precision and economy the double movement of Ge-stell, or Enframing, discussed by Heidegger in "The Question Concerning Technology" and elsewhere. Flight opens forth an opportunity to confront the truth of Being with heightened (so to speak) sensitivity, yet at the same time the experience is managed through technological systems in such a way as to minimize awareness of the conditons of flight. Only when the systems fail in transit, as they do for a shaken group of passengers Gladney encounters on his trip to the airport to meet Bee (90-91), or as they do when Gwyn and Richard are trapped aboard a smal plane caught up in a major storm (283-87), are the passengers forced to confront their conditon. In flight they are enmeshed within a built environment, a layered cocoon of technologies and interconnected systems, to such an extent that they are capable of forgeting — indeed, they are encouraged to forget — that they (to borow a phrase from "The Question Concerning Technology") "stand on the brink of a precipitous fal" (332). Strapped blind and helpless into a flying bomb at 30,000 feet, one should find it easy to conjure forth the anxiety that accompanies, for Heidegger, our awareness of the fragility of Being. But as DeLilo implies, that awareness is kept at bay except at those precise moments when the systems fail to function: The lights inside the aircraft go dim. In the [onboard] piano bar everyone is momentarily still. It's as though they're realizing for the first time how many systems of mechanical and electric components, what exact management of stresses, power units, consolidated thrust and energy it has taken to reduce their sensation of flight to this rudimentary tremble. (Players 3) Somebody Somewhere Else 190 The passenger in transit can be said to occupy a metonymic relationship to the inhabitants of the technologized culture as a whole. From this perspective the in-flight service is a reduction of the entertainment industry as a whole. One is informed — mainly, unfortunately, thanks to jumbo jets. In the jumbo jet, media are more densely connected than in most places. They remain separate, however, according to their technological standard, frequency user alocation, and interface. The crew is connected to radar screens, diode displays, radio beacons, and nonpublic channels. The crew members have deserved their professional earphones. Their replacement by computers is only a question of time. But the passengers can benefit only from yesterday's technology and are entertained by a canned media mixture. With the exception of books, that ancient medium which needs so much light, al the entertainment techniques are represented. The passengers' ears are listlessly hooked up to tape recorders and thereby to the record industry. Their eyes are glued to Holywood movies, which in turn must be connected to the advertising budget of the airline industry — otherwise they would not so regularly begin with takeofs and landings. Not to mention the technological medium of the food industry to which the mouths of the passengers are connected. A multi-media embryonic sack supplied through channels or navels that al serve the purpose of screening out the real background: noise, night, and the cold of an unlivable outside. Against that there is muzak, movies, and microwave cuisine. (Kitler 32) On board an aircraft the concentrated media ecology Kitler describes serves the practical purpose of keeping the passengers distracted from the terror and the boredom of air travel. Somebody Somewhere Else 191 The struggle facing the flight crew is to occlude what they have made possible: the transport out of our element, into the unlivable outside of the sky. Air travel is thus emblematic of technology's burden and technology's gift. The burden lies in the danger of a fuly technologized environment: "The coming to presence of technology threatens revealing, threatens it with the possibilty that al revealing wil be consumed in ordering and that everything wil present itself only in the unconcealedness of standing-reserve" ("Question Concerning Technology" 323). The image of the world enfolded within a grid or network of air carrier routes, a globe in which every point is linked to every other point through the interlocking flight paths of international airlines, does seem to realize the ordering vision Heidegger warns against: "David was going to Beirut the next day. Charles was going to Ankara. Ann was going to Nairobi to visit her sister. Stahl was going to Frankfurt. Dick was going to Muscat, Dubai and Riyadh" (The Names 55). These Western representatives travel within a network that orders and obscures the non-Western articulations of space and place that precede it. So much for the burden. The gift, according to Heidegger, is considerably more tentative: only an atempt to recognize the essence of technology, says Heidegger, enables one to think beyond the technological ordering — in the double sense of imperative and arangement — and discern flashes of the truth of being. It wil not escape notice that the goal of Heidegger's questioning appears enveloped in a language of mysticism. For the present, it is enough to observe that the danger technology poses when it is permited to enframe human being is foregrounded and intensified in the activity of being-on-a-plane. For DeLilo the aircraft brings to light constiutive features of technology. As such it serves as a symbol of technology's order, and, like Heidegger, DeLilo argues that Somebody Somewhere Else 192 questioning this order is a form of necessary resistance. But, again as in Heidegger, this resistance cannot take the form of a simple rejection, for technology is a constiutive element of the postmodern world. Thinking outside of technology is not a viable option for those of us living in a post-industrial society, entangled as we are in a postmodern network where bodies and commodites circulate at a velocity that is partly a function of a global network of airports and commercial jets. In a colection of pieces entiled Stories from the Nerve Bible, Laurie Anderson observes that In airplanes and in airports time and place start to merge . . . and everything's in this constant unstoppable motion. [EJver since the wal fell, it seems like half the world has been pouring from one side to the other, through the train stations, the autobahns, the airports, moving back and forth across the old borders. Like the world had suddenly tilted on its axis and was pouring people from one side to the other. Like an enormous plane, tilting and banking, looking for somewhere to land. (228) The figure of aviation is an important constiuent in the contemporary conceptual environment; in its commercial form it signifies the vortex of capital which is in the process of tearing down the borders that define nations, while miltary aircraft, fundamental for so many years in maintaining the balance of power or Mutualy Assured Destruction, are decommissioned in the wake of the Soviet Union's colapse. In Underworld some of the American planes are recycled in an art instalation project undertaken by Klara Sax, intended as a statement about the factory-stamped "great weapons systems" of the Cold War and the atempt to "unrepeat, find an element of felt life, . . . a graffiti instinct — to trespass and Somebody Somewhere Else 193 declare ourselves .. ." (77). At the other end of the novel and in the decayed remains of the other half of the Cold War binary, Nick Shay travels to a former nuclear testing ground in Kazakhstan in a decommissioned miltary cargo plane that departs from a miltary airfield. The plane was "designed for mixed loads of cargo and troops[,]" but now is "holowed-out . . . There are dangling wires, fixtures juting from the bulkhead" (788). The nuclear test site itself is being converted into a commercial waste disposal facility that wil, in controled nuclear explosions, destroy hazardous waste shipped from former enemy nations in the West (787-89). These images of decommissioned miltary aircraft at the opposite ends of the earth suggest the passing of one kind of order, but like the aircraft themselves, the future they point towards remains provisional and unfinished. A powerful set of metaphors arises in conjunction with the dissolution of the old political binaries, the seemingly irresistible logic of globalized trade and the free flow of capital, and the resultant sharp rise in the phenomenon of economic refugees or economic migrants. The people Laurie Anderson describes as pouring "from one side [of the world] to the other" have released or have been forced to abandon connections and atachments through political or economic necessity, and in this geopolitical uprooting it is possible to discern one of the characteristic features of postmodernism: the rootless and fragmentary nature of much of contemporary experience. Against a naive celebration of faciltated travel as inaugurating a global community structured along the kinship ties of traditional cultures, the reality of the intensified pace of relocation, the lived experience of the materiality of distance, is felt in the peculiarly postmodern intensity of alienation. Such a transitory anonymity characterizes James Axton but also seems to atend Nick Shay and, according to Tony Tanner, "nearly al DeLilo's characters" (211). While Tanner feels it is a regretable Somebody Somewhere Else 194 move on DeLilo's part to celebrate "a hard, self-dehumanising remoteness" (211-212), DeLilo seems to be merely responding to an aspect of contemporary technology that is in its essence a distancing mechanism. Distance is not annihilated by accelerated modes of transportation, except perhaps metaphoricaly. John Selfs transatlantic journeys do not bring London and New York together as one community for him; on the contrary, dividing his time between his New York hotel room and bachelor apartment in London accentuates his feeling of homelessness. In his flat in London, Self surveys his suroundings: "None of this is mine. The voile wals are not mine. I hire everything. I hire water, heat, light. I hire tea by the teabag. I've lived here for ten years now and nothing is mine" (64). His flat is as impersonal as his New York hotel room, and though he insists he is eager for intimacy, for a sense of belonging, nothing in his actions — least of al his ceaseless relocations and inabilty to invest anything other than money in his suroundings — alows such a thing to develop. As an act of negation, then, the thoroughly postmodern phenomenon of commercial air travel reveals the material basis of community even as it exacerbates its dissolution. The frequent flyers may encounter many places and many people, but as long as they continue to circulate incessantly within the networks of commercial airlines, they are kept at a remove from the deeper interactions made possible by sustained contact. Furthermore, in the most basic sense the advent of jet travel introduces the human organism to a hitherto unknown dimension of its own materiality. John Selfs account is typicaly extreme but ilustrative: I am a thing made up of time lag, culture shock, zone shift. Human beings simply weren't meant to fly around like this. Scorched throat, pimpled vision, memory wipes — nothing new to me, but it's al much worse these days, now that I ride Somebody Somewhere Else 195 the planet shutle . . . Al day I am in my night self, spliced by night thoughts, night sweats. And al night, wel, I am something else entirely, something else again, I am something overevolved, a salty slipstream thinning out and trailing over the black Atlantic. (264) Extended travel at speeds only possible in jet aircraft can lead to a fundamental disruption in the body's circadian rhythms, its innate sense of time. Against those aspects of postmodernism that conceptualize the body as a play of signifiers, the visceral efects of jet lag speak to a biological im-mediacy and materiality that serves as a corective to "this dream or nightmare of the body as information" (Hayles 47). Air travel, as technology and as metaphor, provides an extreme example of the degree to which technology mediates our experience of such fundamental categories as space and time. In a positivist sense, airplanes are an integral part of the accelerated culture that is equated with postmodernity. As negation, inasmuch as every minute of a flight is a potential disaster, a minor mishap can precipitate a moment of existential terror that brings about a heightened sense of the body. Amis describes the aftermath of one such encounter as akin to jet lag but more closely related to delayed shock: "For the next few days, although outwardly cheerful enough, I was prety sure I was dying . . . . Chemicaly numbed at the time, my fear — of which there had clearly been plenty — had just burowed deep and waited" ("Emergency Landing" 11-12). Air travel features in the fictions of Amis and DeLilo as a marker of the contemporary moment and as a subject to be explored in the way it alters the lived experience of individuals inhabitng the contemporary landscape. Network of Networks 196 Conclusion The Network of Networks "Is it a fact — or have I dreamt it — that, by means of electricity, the world of mater has become a great nerve, vibrating thousands of miles in a breathless point of time? Rather, the round globe is a vast head, a brain, instinct with inteligence! Or, shal we say, it is itself a thought, nothing but thought, and no longer the substance which we deemed it!" (Nathaniel Hawthorne, House of the Seven Gables) The concept of a networked inteligence is not itself a product of postmodernism, as the above quotation from Hawthorne's 1851 text demonstrates. Communications networks of a kind have always existed in tandem with human society, just as writing itself is rumoured to have developed as a way "to keep accounts" (The Names 35), to provide records for early traders. The histories inherent in communication processes serve to undermine or complicate an ideology of innovation that valorizes only the truly new (an afectation common both to advertising and the avant-garde). What I have been caling postmodernism, then, cannot meaningfuly be said to start with a single text or in the wake of one definable advance in media technology. Rather, as a concept alied with a notion of postmodernity that develops within a particular historical context, postmodernism appears partialy in response to and partialy as a result of shifts in social, economic and technical practices. David Foster Walace aludes to one such practice when he ascribes the fascination demonstrated by his contemporaries for fragmented scenes Network of Networks 197 and insistent references to the products of consumer culture to their early, constant and ongoing immersion in the American televisual flow. Though he furnishes numerous examples, he does not atempt to identify the originary moment of this tendency, and so avoids turning to an ideology of innovation. My own approach, in a similar fashion, has been to focus on the way two particular novelists involve themselves and their work with issues of emerging technology. In a review of Mao II for The Independent, Amis comments that "[w]hereas his contemporaries have been drawn to the internal, the ludic and the enclosed, DeLilo goes at things the other way. He writes about the new reality — realisticaly. His fiction is public" (28). Amis too atempts to get at the new reality — realisticaly. The problem is that to be realistic in the postmodern world is to have to account for a mediated environment "fantastical and wised-up," where "image-management vies for pride of place with an uninnocent reality" (28). Not that reality has ever been innocent, but the forms of its coruption are linked to a particular history and mediated within a particular technological context. The uninnocent reality confronting postmodernity is of a specific kind. Recognizing this fact DeLilo insists, in conversation with Adam Begley, that he does not write the kind of fiction that ofers comfort by suggesting "that our lives and our problems and our perceptions are no diferent today than they were fifty or sixty years ago" (Begley 304). His comment recals Amis's observation that the younger writer is constantly chalenging the older writer by insisting "it's no longer like that, it's like this" (Rivieri 115). Al of the elements of postmodern technology discussed in this thesis have complex histories that stretch back long before the Second World War, but studying the technological milestones without reference to the wider culture results in a simplified technological determinism. There is a great deal to be gained by studying the way ideas, expressed or Network of Networks 198 embodied in forms of technology, are picked up and absorbed in social and cultural practices. Language, and by extension literature, is one of the sensitve registers of such developments. A trivial yet ilustrative example is provided by Pico Iyer, who points to the use of aviation jargon in coloquial speech as a linguistic index of the incorporation of this particular transportation technology into everyday life: "The language of airports has become the language of our private lives, as we speak of holding paterns and living on autopilot, fly-by-night operations and geting bumped" (58). Thus it is less the moment of innovation that interests me than the more ambiguous process of acculturation. Not the first successful prototype of the light bulb perhaps, but the first appearance in an ilustration of a light bulb over someone's head to signify a bright idea. Television's hundred-year history provides a similar example of the diference between the impact of a technology at its moment of inception and the unpredictable permutations that result in its expansion as a force within the cultural sphere. The Internet develops as a consequence of a number of technologies developed and refined since the Second World War. Historians of the Internet trace its conceptual origins to an essay by American Vannevar Bush entiled "How We May Think." The essay appeared in the Atlantic Monthly in 1945, and in it Bush described the "memex," a conceptual hypertext system organized by mechanical means. Developments in digital computing made Bush's work in analog computational systems obsolete, but Bush pushed his interests in a diferent direction, imagining the combinatorial powers of the earliest computers applied to information not in the mathematical sense used by Norbert Weiner and Claude Shannon, but in the sense of writen documents tagged and cross-referenced in such a way that a reader could move from a document to a reference within that document in a seamless and Network of Networks 199 instantaneous manner. The idea could not be realized in Bush's lifetime due to technological constraints on the storage of data, but his essay is credited as one of the first explorations of the idea of what would become hypertext. Douglas Engelbart and Ted Nelson, subsequent pioneers of hypertext systems, credit Bush's vision as their source of inspiration for developing computerized methods for linking documents electronicaly (Lubar 46). Linking documents across a distributed computer network was greatly faciltated after Tim Berners-Lee, a research scientist at the CERN facility in Geneva, developed the htp protocol and a set of linking tags he caled hypertext markup language, or HTML. The phenomenon of the Internet is in fact more accurately seen as the consequence of a host of phenomena in a variety of disciplines, just as the monolithic concept "television" refers to a complex set of interacting technologies. As a communications technology and new media form, the Internet changes the shape of the previous media environment in that it, in Hayles's words, "afects the niches that older media have carved for themselves, so they change also, even if they are not directly involved with the new media. Books wil  not remain unafected by the emergence of new media" (48). Given Don DeLilo's sensitivity to efects of media in general, it should come as no surprise that the Internet is a topic of considerable interest for him (though he himself claims not to use it to any great extent [Gross, np]). In its structure the Internet seems to reflect a number of themes he explores in his fiction. On the surface it is radicaly fragmented, heterogenous and decentralized, yet the core technologies that create it, that work in the background to create the appearance of diference and fragmentation, are fundamentaly corporate and standardized in nature. The underlying computer language that enables interactions between computers linked to the network of networks known as the Internet is a Network of Networks 200 set of protocols known as TCP/IP. Al computers communicating over the Internet must send and receive data in a form governed by TCP/IP, regardless of hardware, operating system, geographical location, or the user's spoken language. In this regard what is often refered to as the "plumbing" of the Internet — its Underworld, so to speak — is a strictly regimented and uniform architecture. The disembodied virtuality of computer transmissions, the sense of data "out there" and of ephemeral signifiers flickering intangibly across screens, is a convenient fiction that ignores the basic fact of data shifting from one location to another through telephone lines, microwave relays, fiber optic cables, etcetera. Data is always embodied, as Katherine Hayles reminds us, and embodied transmissions require a medium (Hayles 49). The physical medium, the data highways or 'big pipes' used to ferry the bulk of the transmissions and interactions that make up the content of the Internet, are owned by telecommunications giants or leased from them by large corporations or governmental institutions.20 Internet trafic to and from the University of British Columbia, for example, is caried on fiber optic cables that are owned by Telus (formerly BC Tel). DeLilo's sense of a deeper, hegemonic corporate force at work beneath the surface of contemporary life is an accurate analogy of the basic structure of the Internet, which has nevertheless managed to maintain a public image of libertarian idealism and individual creativity. The influence of corporate interests and governmental regulation (or outright ownership) that controls the operation within and between nations of television and telephone 2 0 Detailed information regarding UBC's Internet connection is available from the BCNet homepage ( The materiality of digital communication can be seen in the attempts by established networks other than telecommunication providers to get involved with providing internet services. Cable television companies, with their distributed systems already in place, are obvious contenders, but utility companies are also developing technologies that will enable data and even voice transmissions to Network of Networks 201 networks and airlines seems to be elided in most discussions surounding the Internet as a media and communications infrastructure. As a kind of speculative conclusion to my dissertation, I would like to discuss the cultural consequences of this latest facet of postmodern technology with respect to each of the major topics discussed so far. In doing so I wil  try not to succumb to the totalizing Utopian or dystopian generalizations that characterize many discussions of the increased role of computer networks on social and cultural formations. For a number of reasons the computer technologies that brought the Internet into existence have been indispensable elements in fostering the resurgence of paranoid thinking as a cultural phenomenon. Computers have played a prominent role in conspiracy theory since the Second World War because of their clear metonymic relationship to the massive centralization of government (a centralization already articulated as a cybernetic circuit, in that government financing paid for the development of computer technology even as computerized systems for data storage and retrieval faciltated the role of centralized government). Computers monitoring and tracking every aspect of behaviour from medical records to credit card purchases are powerful symbols for those seeking a paranoid account of curent events. Timothy McVeigh "complained that the U.S. Army had implanted a computer chip in his butock for the purpose of controling him" (Meley 37), while Mark Fenster's account of a conspiracy theory involving the death of Danny Casolaro, a relatively unknown American journalist, focuses on Casolaro's links to Inslaw, a software company piggyback on the established networks of wires that make up the grid carrying electricity to their customers. Network of Networks 202 that designed computer surveilance software for American inteligence services (Fenster 188-198). Surveilance and control, two of the most powerful characteristics of paranoid fears, are indeed articulated in contemporary form as consequences of computerized systems. If the increased complexity and range of computer systems is one cause of "agency panic" (Meley's term for the perceived threat to individual autonomy in postwar American culture [vi]), it is also an enabling technology for practioners of the paranoid style. Fenster's account of both the "serious" and "ludic" forms of conspiracy theory refers repeatedly to the role USENET, e-mail and the World Wide Web play in providing venues for paranoid naratives (Fenster 184-85). The Internet, which is itself the very embodiment of interconnected and entangled information networks, provides a powerful resource for those who perceive themselves as disenfranchised, while the ilusion of anonymity and omnipresence it fosters 'empowers' Internet conspiracy theorists with the same atributes as the malevolent conspirators the theorists are atempting to reveal. Given its history as a technological project proposed by a RAND corporation think-tank and funded through its early development entirely by ARPA, a US miltary agency, it is not surprising that the Internet has become associated with many of the forms of paranoid narative discussed in my first chapter. What is at least as interesting is the way the Internet has evolved in ways that suggest efects described by aspects of systems theory. For example, the Internet might be imagined as an instance of first-order emergence (discussed in Hayles 243) in the sense that "it" does not exist except as a consequence of the interactions of milons of connected computers. Network of Networks 203 The transformation of the Internet from an experimental miltary research project into a colaborative environment for researchers and academics and then again into a mass communications medium demonstrates principles of complexity theory, chaos dynamics and emergent properties. According to John Johnston, networked information gives rise to unanticipated and uncontroled developments such as computer viruses and memes, paterns of information that are created and proliferate through the Internet in a manner similar to the movement of infections through biological populations: This viral proliferation of information always brings about uncertainty, even making uncertainty itself a structural feature of the systems defining our world . . . . But information theory and cybernetics have also made possible new ways of thinking about basic concepts such as control, organization, machines, and life itself. Thus, while information has led to a new medium of control, it has also generated something that always exceeds control. (2) In Ratrier's Star the enormous centralized structure Field Experiment Number One and the scientific community housed within it atempt to "manag[e] science scientificaly, by means of a specialized administrative apparatus, so as to increase the regular output of knowledge" (Siemion 40). The project, "[r]un like a boot camp for Nobel laureates, . . . stands for everything that went wrong with the grand project of the Enlightenment" (42). Al the atempts to rationalize scientific inquiry within this administered and complex system fail, as would be anticipated by the tenets of complexity theory as applied to such a system. By contrast, the Internet has given rise to lesser projects that use a network of individual personal computers to form a massively paralel computing system. Loosely coordinated by a handful of individuals but caried out by a much larger group, projects like "SETI at Home" Network of Networks 204 and the recently formed Intel "philanthropic peer-to-peer" initiative involving pharmaceutical research represent successful atempts to harness the power of the Internet's decentralized structure. Cryptography chalenges on the Internet are often solved in this manner as wel. The open source software community also operates contrary to the hierarchical top-down model of bureaucratic management and more in the spirit of a systems-based organization. Reflexive systems and feedback loops are in operation too in the way economic behaviour has been influenced by the analytical sources and on-line trading opportunites made possible by the Internet. The volatility of stock market prices has been blamed on an increasing number of smaler investors trading stocks on-line, with the most instabilty visible in stocks linked to the technology companies that provide the services and products that make on-line trading possible in the first place. The growing unpredictabilty of stock market behaviour is itself consistent with the principles of complexity theory, where a larger and larger number of independent elements serve through their interactions to complicate the potential of predicting the future behaviour of the system. Atempts to graft the interactivity of the WWW with television have as yet met with limited success, but the distribution system embodied in the Internet's structure, added to the legacy of a strong textual bias in computer systems, make it a potentialy powerful tool for delivering fiction in electronic form to a vast reading audience. Already a company caled Xlibris has developed an alternate publishing model enabling print runs of a single copy for documents in its database. In 2000 Stephen King began "publishing" a novel, Riding the Program descriptions can be found at, respectively, and www. i nte I. com/cu re Network of Networks 205 Bullet, in serial form exclusively on-line, an experiment that was not original in itself but generated a great deal of publicity for the concept of established authors bypassing conventional publishing channels. On the Internet the sense of separation between the observer and the image on the screen is undermined just as it is for viewers of television images. In the idiom that has grown up around the World Wide Web, searching though a series of documents is "surfing", while viewing information from a specifc computer is transformed into the physical experience of "visiting the home page." Spatialized metaphors such as "accessing," "surfing," and "visiting" contribute to an ideology of disembodied instantaneity that, in its most extreme expressions, makes claims for a form of telepresence in which the observer is virtualy transported to the distant site. In The Body Artist, Lauren Hartke experiences the distorting efects of the web as "seeing over the world": She spent hours at the computer screen looking at a live-streaming video feed from the edge of a two-lane road in a city in Finland. It was the middle of the night in Kotka, in Finland, and she watched the screen. It was interesting to her because it was happening now, as she sat here, and because it happened twenty-four hours a day, facelessly, cars entering and leaving Kotka, or just the empty road in the dead times . . . . It emptied her mind and made her feel the deep silence of other places, the mystery of seeing over the world to a place stripped of everything but a road that approaches and recedes, both realities occuring at once, and the numbers changed in the digital display with an odd and holow urgency . . . . (38-39) Network of Networks 206 The new discourse network arising in response to the proliferation of digital media presents a chalenge to the separation of media Kitler describes in Discourse Networks 1800/1900, as the mediation of computer networks requires the transpositon of al data into digital form in order to cary it over a network. The digital network is implosive in this sense, that text, sound and image must al be converted into an undiferentiated media format in order to travel through computer networks. If Kitler's claim that the media forms brought into play around the beginning of the 20th Century corespond to the realms of the symbolic, the imaginary, and the real (245), what is the consequence of this implosion of the human essence in the new regime of digital apparatuses? With the recent adoption of the Internet within the wider culture in mind, it is interesting to compare DeLilo's short story "The Angel Esmerelda," published in the May 1993 issue of Esquire, with the revised version that is incorporated into the final section of Underworld. The four-year gap coincides with the prodigious growth of the Internet, both as a technology and as a cultural product. E-mail and the World Wide Web became much more established parts of the lexicon of contemporary culture during this period. In Underworld, the framing device for Esmerelda's story becomes a web site devoted to miracles accessed by Nick Shay's son Jef. The undefined connections linking sections in the final pages of the novel create a confusion of narative levels, with shifts in perspective from Jef to Sister Edgar and then to an ambiguous "you," in a way that is disorienting and emblematic of the lack of points of reference in "cyberspace" as DeLilo conceives it. DeLilo's take on the Internet at the end of Underworld extends the sense of cyberspace as somehow altering the experience of space and time, a "real miracle . . . where everybody is everywhere at once" (808). At the end of Underworld "cyberspace" is presented Network of Networks 207 as an immaterial locus of connections: "There is no space or time out here, or in here, or wherever she is. There are only connections. Everything is connected. Al human knowledge gathered and linked, hyperlinked, this site leading to that, this fact referenced to that, a keystroke, a mouse-click, a password — world without end, amen" (825). Sister Edgar's mysterious transcendence at the end of the novel is placed against an evocation of the quiddity of objects, yet the density of connections as a binding force, plus the instantiated fluidity of the passage itself, suggests the fluidity of categories: "Is cyberspace a thing within the world or is it the other way around? Which contains the other, and how can you tel  for sure" (826)? The rhetoric of simultaneity that exists within the popular conception of cyberspace continues the process of time-space compression Harvey identified as one of the constiutive features of postmodernity. From the perspective of humanites research, the network of networks raises a number of practical issues, including the concept of authorship, ideas of canonicity, and research standards. The issues themselves are not precipitated by computer systems and networks per se, yet such technological developments make them more dificult to ignore. Alowing texts to be linked together by electronic means undermines ideas of authorship as an individual atribute, as a single text on a web site might contain links to a number of diferent documents authored by others. The integrity of the individual text and the integrity of the idea of authorship are both problematized as the limits of the former and the stabilty of the later become harder to define. Another feature of the Internet considered as a textual database is the way it denaturalizes "authoritative" texts and reveals the institutional and ideological biases of authority considered as definitive or reputable information. Electronic versions of canonical works of literature proliferate without regard for precise Network of Networks 208 corespondence with the original source. The linking system of the World Wide Web does not provide direct validation of the reliability or caliber of Internet sources, leaving the reader to determine the competence of the source's author through more subjective, indirect means. Even when the reliability of a source can be determined, the sheer volume of electronic material available to a research project (such as this dissertation) raises questions relating to the kinds of fdters and methodologies academics use to locate, select and organize their sources. Research is assisted by the ease with which on-line journal articles and other items from periodicals can be obtained. DeLilo and Amis do not rate journals (yet), but appreciative readers have created very extensive online reference sites dedicated to the authors. Academic journals provided through services such as Ebsco and Project Muse become accessible to a wider audience without problems of distance, borowing restrictions, or availability. Such developments are not that surprising considering the original purpose behind the Internet was to foster communication, and its initial growth was driven by the academic community, but it is interesting to observe how the evolution and proliferation of online sources begin to change the way research is caried out and presented within humanites disciplines. An atempt to relate literary works to the technological conditons that exist during their compositon is going to seem reductive when it seeks to provide technology as the sole or motive factor. Blake's factories, Dickens's industrialized London, the role automobiles play in The Great Gatsby: taken as causal connections the material conditons of textual production, considered exclusively in technological terms, are not likely to reveal much of interest in relation to the literary text. Technologies considered reflexively as always already cultural forces, on the other hand, can help to situate literary texts within a particular moment Network of Networks 2 0 9 and help to explain the specificity of the works. An appreciation for the forms of technology that afect the production and reception of a literary text acknowledges the tools in the hands of the writers as wel as the readers of contemporary fiction. In charting the course of literature at the start of a new milennium both the readers and writers benefit from understanding the function of the technology in the text. Works Cited 210 Works Cited Aaron, Daniel. "How to Read Don DeLilo." In Introducing Don DeLillo. Ed. Frank Lentricchia. Durham NC: Duke UP, 1991. 67-81. Amis, Martin. The Rachel Papers. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973. —. Dead Babies. London: Penguin, 1975. —. Invasion ofthe Space Invaders. London: Hutchinson, 1982. —. Money. London: Penguin, 1985. —. London Fields. London: Penguin, 1990. —. 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