The Quantum Family There has long been a question over whether the methodological "interiority" of the traditional 20^th century "literary novel" was equipped to say anything fresh about life in the technological society. Proponents of speculative or science fiction from Ballard to Gibson suggested that other forms were of fiction were called for. Indeed Ballard claimed it was less and less necessary for the novelist, to invent fictional content... The fiction, he declared was already there all around us. Recent examples by respected novelists from Pynchon, to Tim Eggers have done little to overturn this skepticism now. Indeed anyone looking for a truly probing depiction of tech culture would be for the most part better off in the hands of HBO's satire Silicon Valley. And now the new hope of the contemporary American novel Jonthan Franzen steps up to the table with his latest weighty offering; Purity.
It could however just be that we are looking in the wrong place. That the literary novel's best chance is not to speak to the subject directly but rather to return to ambush the subject by appearing to return to the novel's traditional home subject of the intergenerational family. I am basing this fragile thesis on the back of some ideas explored in a highly illuminating review by James Meek, of Purity. The fact that Meek's review of the novel is quite negative is not the point, the point is that the subject of the techno/social was far better addressed -unwittingly -in his far more successful break-through novel The Corrections. In the his interpretation of The Corrections, Meek finds (traced in intimate and painful detail) of our transition from the nuclear family to what Meek has called the "quantum family". For Meek, what is so pertinent in terms of 21st-century particularity about The Corrections lies in the way "it embodies the strange historical stage of evolution the family has reached - where family members can be at once thousands of miles apart and pressing in on one another on the phone and the internet every minute of every day, never more than a few hours away by plane. The nuclear family has become the quantum family, its particles entangled over vast stretches of space. And vast stretches of time. A generation born in the 1930s can easily have living grandchildren who might survive to see the 22nd century. That's 170 years; and the grown-up children in The Corrections find themselves, as so many do, smack in the center of this temporal expanse, approaching middle age themselves, looking in one direction at old parents whose infirmity might last decades, and looking in the other (if they ever get round to having them) at children of their own whose minorities will last just as long, while they themselves feel bitterly that they haven't yet lived that obscure best bit of adulthood, the part where love and money and achievement are supposed to bring them a carefree happiness. http://new-tactical-research.co.uk/blog/the-quantum-family/ http://www.lrb.co.uk/v37/n18/james-meek/from-wooden-to-plastic ----------------------------------------------- d a v i d g a r c i a Prof. Digital Arts & Media Activism Bournemouth University d.gar...@new-tactical-research.co.uk http://new-tactical-research.co.uk http://www.tacticalmediafiles.net # distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission # <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism, # collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets # more info: http://mx.kein.org/mailman/listinfo/nettime-l # archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nett...@kein.org