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Dr Alistair Brown | Associate lecturer in English Literature; researching video games and literature

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Through exploring the psychopathology of Capgras syndrome, in which a patient mistakes a loved one for an imposter, The Echo Maker offers a sustained meditation on the ways in which we project our own problems onto other people. As a reflection on the mysteries of consciousness, the novel offers some interesting if not especially new insights into the fuzzy boundaries between scientific and literary interpretations of the mind. Read more


Review of The Case of the Imaginary Detective / Wit's End, by Karen Joy Fowler

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

I have just posted a review of an interesting novel by Karen Joy Fowler, entitled The Case of the Imaginary Detective (also published as Wit's End in the United States). The novel - a sort of detective fiction, but really concerned about authorship and the nature of writing - was quite interesting in a postmodern vein. However, the review I wrote used the novel to think more generally about the way in which the postmodern has become subsumed into contemporary culture, so that it is no longer radical or strongly intellectual, but available to writers and readers in more mass-market fictions.

The review was first published in the new literary journal The Critical Flame 2.1 (2009). Since that journal has now gone into a new issue, I thought it acceptable to cross-post the review to The Pequod now. The first paragraph is below, or jump to the full-length review.

I was sent Karen Joy Fowler's The Case of the Imaginary Detective (published in America under the title Wit's End) by someone from Penguin, who had noticed from The Pequod that I was interested in postmodern literature. She promised that this novel was about author ownership, and whether a character belongs to readers or authors, ontological questions which seem prominent in postmodern literary fiction. But the novel has left me wondering whether, in fifty years time looking back to the present, literary critics will remark that postmodernism ended when nobody noticed it any more, because it had slipped into the mainstream. In many ways, the most interesting thing about this book is the fact that its postmodern elements are so unremarkable. I do not mean that Fowler is not capable of writing in an interesting way, but rather that the postmodern has lost any radical edge it once had, becoming essentially normative, so that Fowler, writing a mass-market novel, probably never even realised she was writing in line with its codes.
Continue with the full-length review.

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