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Saturday, October 01, 2005

From Thomas to Tom...Berger - the wise old renegade PoMo-ist

Thomas Berger (1924 - )
(All the Italics in the post are mine)

Excerpts... from John Romano - New York Times Book Review - Nov. 12, 1978.

"Thomas Berger belongs, with Mark Twain and Mencken and Philip Roth, among (America's) first-rate literary wise guys. Savvy and skeptical, equipped with a natural eloquence and a knack for parody, he has been expertly flinging mud at the more solemn and self-important national myths fo 20 years. In Little Big Man, the best-known of his books - for alas, the usual reason - he brilliantly savaged the legendary American West. "

Voice of KK:
For all those out there, Little Big Man would best be remembered as the film that won Dustin Hoffmann many an accolade. Back to Romano...

"Who is Teddy Villanova?, perhaps the funniest 300 pages of 1977, took on the world of the tough-guy detective novel. For all its clowning, it performed a serious service in deflating the bloody and rather vainglorious cult of Bogart-out-of Philip Marlowe. Mr. Berger's method, with these and the other mythical landscapes he has explored in his nine novels, is to set them down in his droll, relentlessly straight-faced prose, so as to empty them of romance, and let the brutal/crummy facts stare out. His pages swarm with bawdy puns and slapstick and bookish in-jokes, but even at his most absurd, his intrinsic tone is that of a hard-nosed realist who won't let the myths distort his essentially grouchy idea of the way things really are."

Voice of KK:
Allow me to lift this paean of Romano to move a scale up to epiphanise Berger. Excerpts... from Isa Kapp - The New Republic, April 26, 1980.

"It is a mystery of literary criticism that Thomas Berger, one of the most ambitious, versatile, and entertaining of contemporary novelists, is hardly ever mentioned in the company of America's major writers. He is a wit, a fine caricaturist, and his prose crackles with Rabelaisian vitality. His phenomenal ear for oddnesses of speech appropriates as readily the grey malapropisms of the silent majority in Reinhart in Love... as the winning tall-tale garrulousness of Little Big Man, a savoury reminiscence of the Cheyenne Indians in frontier days...."

Voice of KK:
Reinhart in Love is part of his Reinhart series of tetralogy much like Updike's Rabbit series or others of its ilk. Since this article, there have been almost a novel a year from Berger and he has sequeled since then the Little Big Man with a follow-up. When you have finished the work and thought the story is over, Berger has come up with a possibility of a sequel to the ramblings of a 108 year old senile maniac in a House. Back to Kapp...

"Moreover, it cannot be said that he ever writes from a universal or even an ordinary eye-level perspective. He is a magic realist.... Berger's focus, his grasp of detail, is sharper and smaller than life. He will allow something infinitesimal to catch his eye and brood upon it, even as he overlooks a larger emotion or design."

Voice of KK:

I guess that is a miniscule of a reproduction from the hordes of pages available on Berger. Now hopefully, my reeking-of-academic-pedantry article would whet all those who read this to proceed to USIS if not elsewhere to seek books by Berger. I should honestly confess, I haven't habituated the larynx, pharynx, lungs, diaphragm, stomach, intestine and the beans at the beginning of lower-torso of this building in the middle of Gemini area. The last I did was around 1994. What developments in the area of Berger at USIS, please seek for yourselves!

Next, we meet with my Berger as Post-modernist, which perhaps would put the problem of defining post-modernism itself to temporary hiatus. Of course, it is not Post-moderninsm acc. to me. But what the initiators thought as the defining features of PM!

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