Many critics consider William Faulkner a modernist writer, citing the time period between the 1930s and 40s as the era in which he wrote himself into and out of modernism. Indeed, Faulkner’s novels during these years reflect many of the typical aspects of modernist literature, and it is incontrovertibly innovative and unique. However, Faulkner appears to be doing more than what the Modernists were employing at the time, especially in the context of his experimentation with language. In fact, the great Southern writer appears to more so on the road to Postmodernism in his later works than anything. During this period between the 30s and the 40s – what critics call Faulkner’s modernist epoch – his writing also seems to flow with Lacan’s poststructural theories of language. Beginning with The Sound and the Fury in late 1929, Faulkner begins his journey through the Lacanian Mirror Stage, aware of the linguistic Imaginary. His effort to craft the imagined world of Yoknapatawpha reflects his early Modernist self in Lacan’s Imaginary order stage, marking his uncomfortable attitude towards his alienation from the South he once knew. Quentin, whom most critics see as a double to Faulkner, is the incarnation of Faulkner’s attitude, and his multiple appearances in Faulkner’s novels marks the stage in Lacan’s process of linguistic development each time. The age ends with the author’s fulfillment of the Lacanian journey, with nowhere to turn but back. Absalom, Absalom! and “Afternoon of a Cow” prove Faulkner’s acceptance of the impossibility of Lacan’s Real, highlighted by a writing style which could be characterized as transitionally postmodernist. Faulkner’s modernist/postmodernist identity crisis between the 30s and 40s occurs during the author’s Lacanian development in language and thought, ending with the recognition of literature’s inability to break the symbolic ceiling.
While it would be incredibly shortsighted and undoubtedly wrong to refer to The Sound and the Fury as underdeveloped and not modern, the novel is nevertheless Faulkner’s most immature piece of literature in the context of Lacanian development. Here, Faulkner begins his troubles with language as he is initially trapped in the Imaginary stage. John T. Irwin, in his essay on “Doubling and Incest” in Faulkner’s literature, suggests that Faulkner created the character of Quentin as an unconsciously double of himself. Irwin purports that Faulkner’s own comments about the novel support this parallel between him and Quentin, especially his recognition of his own failures in literature and fate to retell the same stories (Irwin 280). While most critics point to Caddy as the focus of the novel because of her role as the absent center, a Lacanian reading of the text implies that the absent center is actually Faulkner himself since he puts so much of himself into Quentin (and some of the other characters as well, though it is most prevalent here). Quentin’s chapter, which becomes progressively more self-reflexive and anxious, reveals Faulkner’s own worries and discontent with language. It ends with his ultimate alienation from everyone and everything – Quentin’s suicide – which is how Lacan explains the mirror stage as ending. “Lacan describes the completion of the mirror stage as the formation of the Ego through subjectification, during which a person undergoes a conflict between his or her own perception of the self and the actual self through experience – Lacan refers to this result as alienation” (Evans 110). Quentin has undergone this discovery of his own reality – that which others have defined him to be – and his perception of himself. As Irwin suggests, “It is tempting to see in Quentin a surrogate of Faulkner, a double who is fated to retell and reenact the same story throughout his life just as Faulkner seemed fated to retell in different ways the same story again and again” (Irwin 281). His death signifies Faulkner’s assessment of his own fate. He predicts literary failure for himself due to the inability of language fully express everything he attempts to convey. This marks Faulkner’s first encounter with the futility of language, and his first step in Lacanian development.
Through this inner conflict, Faulkner associates with Quentin, and other characters like him. Indeed, he puts a part of himself in every character that he creates, but characters like Quentin best serve as literary representations of him when considering his troubles with language. “Lacan holds that in the beginningâ€¦we exist as part of one continuous totality of being. In this early stage of development, we experience noâ€¦sense of difference, and, precisely for this reason, the [subject] has no sense of a separate identityâ€¦there is no “I” and no “other,” and, Lacan insists, the two concepts come into existence together” (Duvall and Abadie 98). Faulkner’s state at this point in his literary development is such as Lacan defines it. He has no sense of difference between himself and his work, and therefore he meshes himself with Quentin and his other characters. However, his own repressions appear in Quentin’s thoughts and words, and Faulkner is unaware of the amount of similarities between himself and the character. “Faulkner revised the introduction [to The Sound and the Fury] several times. In its final version, in which Faulkner doubles Quentin’s own words in the novel…: ‘So I, who had never had a sister and was fated to lose my daughter in infancy, set out to make myself a beautiful and tragic little girl’” (Irwin 283). It is clearly through his own connection with Quentin that he learns how to connect with this novel, but the relationship that he develops with the character ultimately blurs the line between himself and Quentin. Faulkner can see the gap between language and reality, but he cannot seem to assure the differentiation between himself and his creations.
A year later, Faulkner published his next novel, As I Lay Dying, in which he continues the linguistic struggles and development with the Bundren family. As Terrell Tebbetts suggests, each of the Bundren children suffers his or her own issue with language: Cash can only express himself through lists and figures, and though he seems perceptive at the end by explaining what happened to Darl, Cash recognizes Darl’s problems with language but presumes that they the fault of Darl, not language (Tebbetts 128-130). “But it is better so for [Darl]. This world is not his world; this life his life” (Faulkner 149). Cash speaks with a perception that is Faulknerian, as it reflects William Faulkner’s prediction of his own fate. In this novel, he connects most with Darl through their shared discontent with the shortcomings of language.
Darl’s linguistic troubles are the most serious, as he isolates himself through his inability to express his feelings. His problems cause him to lose his identity, repeatedly asking things about himself such as “who am I.” Early in the novel, Vardaman asks what Darl’s mother is (Vardaman describes his mother as a fish), and Darl remarks that he does not have one. “‘I haven’t got ere one,’ Darl said. ‘Because if I had one, it is was. And if it was, it cant be is. Can it?’” (Faulkner 58). Darl’s concept of language is that it describes reality, and only reality. He perceives that he does not have a mother because she is dead (hence, the “was”), yet what he really means is that he no longer has a mother. However, he gets so lost in his attempts to conceptualize this that he arrives at the decision that he does not have a mother. As alluded to earlier, these troubles affect his own identity. “I dont know what I am. I dont know if I am or not. Jewel knows he is, because he does not know that he does not know whether he is or not. He cannot empty himself for sleep because he is not what he is and he is what he is not” (Faulkner 46). Darl has entered the mirror stage along with Faulkner, and he is thus aware of the conflicts between his own perceptions and the perceptions of others.
Darl is highlighting the gap between the signifier and the signified in language, as Lacan calls it. “Darl is our brother, our brother Darl. Our brother Darl in a cage in Jackson where, his grimed hands lying light in the quiet interstices, looking out he foams” (Faulkner 146). He has been incredibly objective internally, seeing himself in an omniscient, third-person perspective, but this is a result of the inability to reconcile the real “him” and the “him” that others perceive him to be (the Lacanian signifier is their Darl, the signified is the real Darl). Therefore, he becomes the best example in the novel of a character that, by passing through the mirror stage and entering the Symbolic Realm, alienates himself completely (even within himself). Darl is also, then, the most connected with Faulkner, since he becomes aware of “the failure of language to ever say what one means” (Duvall and Abadie 39). Darl reflects what his mother discovered much earlier: “words are no good; that words dont ever fit even what they are trying to say at” (Faulkner 99). Addie also saw the gap between experience and language, which proves Cora’s statement that Darl has the most in common with Addie, but her troubles are more connected with the patriarchality of language, and therefore not as connected with Faulkner as Darl. Also, Addie’s death is another example of what Faulkner sees as the futility of efforts to connect reality and language. Likewise, despite Darl’s evolution from the Mirror Stage into the Symbolic Stage, his fate – commitment to an insane asylum – provides more evidence to prove that Faulkner saw no way to prevent these linguistic troubles from alienating and ultimately destroying his characters and himself. Therefore, Faulkner is still undoubtedly a Modernist at this point, as well as underdeveloped in the progression of Lacanian development, because he sees no escape from such a fate at this point. He would say that language is a hindrance more than a help. Darl masters language internally, but he cannot apply it in reality, thus showing the
gap between language and experience – a modernist idea:
â€¦the wholeness of the image threatens the subject with fragmentation, and the mirror stage thereby gives rise to an aggressive tension between the subject and the image. In order to resolve this aggressive tension, the child identifies with the imageâ€¦ The moment of identification, when the subject assumes its image as its own, is described by Lacan as a moment of jubilation, since it leads to an imaginary sense of masteryâ€¦however, this jubilation may also be accompanied by a depressive reactionâ€¦ (Evans 115)
While Faulkner would not have known the psychological theories of Lacan, the characters of Quentin and Darl seem to fit the characterization of these issues well. However, these two characters are unable to come to terms with their image. While the end of Quentin’s chapter does not end with his suicide, we learn later that he takes his own life because he foresees no escape. Likewise, Darl’s uncontrollable laughter at the end of As I Lay Dying is his moment in which he has the opportunity to identify with one part of his fragmented self but proves unable to do so. Darl’s problem is also left unsolved, as his internal self argues within, demanding an explanation for his false triumph. They are both aware of their precarious states with language. Additionally, the mirror stage is where the subject becomes alienated from itself, and thus is introduced into the Imaginary order. Clearly both characters have entered this stage and find themselves completely alienated from themselves and the world.
Terrell Tebbetts claims that Vernon Tull is the only character in the novel that can come to terms with this problem, resorting to the constant use of “like” in his descriptions and an employment of similes while talking (Tebbetts 130). Tebbetts is misled, however, because Tull is actually a Modernist character. By using similes to draw comparisons between things he is attempting to define, he is still grasping for the ideal that Modernists spent their careers trying to reach. Instead, a Postmodernist would take advantage of language rather than constantly highlight its failures (as I will discuss later). Tebbetts believes that Vernon Tull is Faulkner’s way of saying that the way out of the problem is acceptance, but the solution is more complicated than simple recognition. Besides, characters like Darl, Addie, and Quentin all understood the gap between language and reality, which drove them to their own forms of alienation.
As I Lay Dying also features a level of intended humor that is classified as dark, or black, humor. One of the best examples of dark comedy in the novel is when we find Addie Bundren propped up on a pillow in order to watch as Cash constructs her coffin. “Then [Addie] raises herself, who has not moved in ten daysâ€¦She is looking out the window, at Cash stooping steadily at the board in the failing lightâ€¦He drops the saw and lifts the board for her to see, watching the window in which the face has not moved” (Faulkner 28). This moment evokes immediate laughter because Cash, the oldest child of the family, seems like a proud pet retrieving its catch of the day for his master. Likewise, everyone sees the grotesque and gaunt figure of Addie rise as if from the dead in order to view her burial chamber and then return to her former position, seemingly in approval. Even more dark comedy lies in Faulkner’s intended criticism of the other characters’ views toward each other. Every character that makes a negative comment about another is later shown to be hypocritical, being strange and quirky in his or her own way.
Elements of Faulkner’s early novels, especially As I Lay Dying, show that the author was on the road to self-reflexivity and metafiction. Much of the Addie chapter, through its hypercritical look at the failure of language, is self-reflexive because it is actively commenting on the words and ideas presented in the novel, yet the self-conscious elements seem only present through implication. Faulkner never reaches his potential (or becomes fully aware of what he was doing) with the element of self-reflexivity until Absalom, Absalom! and “Afternoon of a Cow.” In his novels until then, Faulkner also had a preoccupation with what Modernists referred to as the attempt to “make it new,” trying to experiment with literature and attempting things unseen before. He is first in the Mirror Stage, looking at the traditional novel with its content, form, mimetic philosophy of language, and decides that he needs to break from tradition. Then he enters the next stage – the Symbolic — and attempts to create new and modern literature. While in this stage, though, he realizes the futility of language, and that everything he attempts fails. Faulkner repeatedly tries to achieve literary transcendence, but all he writes is merely a symbol of what he truly intends. It is not until Absalom, Absalom! that he not only accepts his state and failure, but he knowingly plays with the postmodern techniques and ideas. In the novel, Faulkner uses language to do what Lacan says it does – “reflect the condition of the alienated subject, the fractured self” (Moreland 47). Nothing Faulkner attempts attains the literary transcendence for which he has been searching, and so he realizes this, comes to terms with it, and makes fun of this problem.
Faulkner’s movement through the Lacanian linguistic progression led him prematurely to postmodernism. While he thought he was being modern by experimenting, he was actually employing many elements that surpassed the realm of modernism. As I Lay Dying was his first clear transitional work, in which it marked a road from modern to postmodern literature, as the novel hinges between the two genres itself (although, as mentioned before, it should be classified as a modern text if it must be categorized. Faulkner resists many of the modernist techniques and philosophies, but his break from the movement was not clean, as he continued to inscribe them. Patrick O’Donnell agrees with this, aware of the presence of transitory texts: “Yet, there are moments in the works of the high-modernist authors I have mentioned that work beyondâ€¦that rupture its bonds” (O’Donnell 34). His example from Faulkner is the way in which some of his novels attempt to shatter the “connectionâ€¦between attempting to transcend the past, and being condemned to repeat it” (34). This struggle with the past no longer seems to be an issue once Faulkner writes Absalom, Absalom! although it had been a focus of his earlier novel, The Sound and the Fury. O’Donnell agrees that the later works of William Faulkner present more significant breaks from modernism, suggesting that Go Down, Moses is actually a postmodern rewrite of Absalom, Absalom! (36). However, Faulkner’s work after that became much more conservative, reverting to the modernist tendencies which he displayed at the beginning of his career.
Even a quick reading of Absalom, Absalom! in comparison to Faulkner’s early novels reveals large differences between the styles. Much like his presentations of characters in previous novels, Faulkner puts elements of himself into his characters; however, in this novel, he purposely employs a self-reflexive concentration in order to create metafiction. It is here that Faulkner stops concerning himself with epistemology and instead with ontology. Faulkner operates the text differently in Absalom, Absalom! in the way that he exerts absolute control over every aspect of the story and creates a commentary on language and fiction. O’Donnell refers to Faulkner not as the “author” of the text of Absalom, Absalom! but as “the unseen drop that falls into a pool of water and gives rise to a series of ripples,” borrowing from Quentin’s own words in the novel (Weinstein 31). In other words, he becomes the catalyst for the things that naturally occur. Faulkner puts enough of himself into the novel that everything he has put into place takes over for him. From this, he no longer stresses or frets over the futility of language; instead, he allows it to take over. The metafictional aspect of Absalom, Absalom! lies in the unique structure and writing style. Unlike his previous endeavors, Faulkner dares to tell a story within the story – a story about storytelling. The act of telling a story is artistic because the narrator imposes his or her own will upon it, and it is therefore subjective as well. Previously he is unaware of the subjective nature of language, and now he not only accepts it, but he employs it as well (his primary narrator has a subjective viewpoint unlike what he has done previously). His approach in this novel allows him to have fun with it, thus achieving postmodern status and completing his Lacanian development.
Examples of the metafictional aspects in the novel appear most often during the sections focusing on or narrated by Quentin and Mr. Compson. In chapter four, Mr. Compson tells his son, “people too as we are, but victims of a different circumstance, simpler and therefore, integer for integer, larger, more heroic and the figures therefore more heroic too, not dwarfed and involved but distinct, uncomplexâ€¦author and victim too of a thousand homicides and a thousand copulationsâ€¦Perhaps you are right. Perhaps any more light than this would be too much for it” (Faulkner 90). This is perhaps the most problematic examples of metafiction in the novel because of its focus. While, indeed, it involves Mr. Compson commenting on literature through criticizing a story, it is also taking a Modernist’s perspective. Faulkner, through Compson, is calling for a return to myth, arguing that the mythological stories of the past are uncomplex and do not suffer from the ambiguity that plagues modern literature. This focus on the importance of myths is a common concentration of modernist writers, as is the call to use these stories and make them new. Likewise, Compson seems to be hinting at the significance of this declaration and its symbolism rather than being direct about his point, and implication is the Modernist’s way of implementing metafiction. The only redeeming factor of the speech lies in his final words, using “perhaps” to signify his uncertainty, therefore offering a postmodern, skeptical perspective and rejecting absolute truth.
The fact that the characters are actively telling the story of Sutpen and commenting on it at the same time is somewhat postmodern, as it is including and drawing attention to the author within the story. There are also times when the narrative from a character goes on for such a long time that the reader forgets who is telling the story, and at this point, the presence of Faulkner as a narrator begins to become more evident. It is also then that comments such as the speech from Mr. Compson take on new and deeper meaning, as the reader begins to associate Faulkner with these ideas more so than the characters. Another more complicated example of metafiction appears again in chapter four, as Mr. Compson says:
We have a few old mouth-to-mouth tales; we exhume from old trunks and boxes and drawers letters without salutation or signature, in which men and women who once lived and breathed are now merely initials or nicknames out of some now incomprehensible affection which sound to us like Sanskrit or Chocktaw; we see dimly people, the people in whose living blood and seed we ourselves lay dormant and waiting, in this shadowy attenuation of time possessing now heroic proportions, performing their actsâ€¦impervious to time and inexplicable. (Faulkner 102-103)
Faulkner, once again through the mouth of Mr. Compson, is commenting on the state of literature, but more importantly, the uncertainty that literature creates as it all returns to mythology. As he suggests, we as readers have to realize that every story that is told is merely a representation of another, and each is also a mere representation of reality. This also gets back to Faulkner’s problem with language – it never says what you want it to mean. However, it seems now that he has arrived at a fix for this problem
The character of Judith, when discussing the story, remarks that words are mere scratches without meaning but “it doesn’t matter that it is so” (Faulkner 131). This differs from the perspective of earlier novels’ characters because Judith both comes to terms with the meaninglessness of language and decides that it is no longer problematic for her. When asked if she wants Miss Rosa to read the letter, Judith replies, “Yesâ€¦Or destroy it. As you like. Read it if you like or dont read it if you like. Because you make so little impression, you see” (Faulkner 130). Clearly Judith recognizes the futility of language, but she also overcomes the problem, caring not whether Rosa reads the letter or not, because it will not make much of a difference either way. According to Tebbetts, “Postmodernists see human attempts to describe and establish truth not only as futile but even as destructive” (Tebbetts 131). In other words, if language is strictly symbolic, then it cannot lead us to truth. This comes from a poststructuralist view that truth is a “transcendent signifier” and “does not exist” (Lewis 96). The novel embraces this, and Faulkner no longer struggles with the uncertainty of language. Some critics see the novel as having a pattern of uncertainty, which is visible through its use of words like “perhaps” and “maybe.” Faulkner had been rejecting this in his earlier novels, but he is finally embracing it here.
Faulkner also chooses to utilize the metafiction to inform the reader about his Lacanian journey with language. Lacan says that when the individual is able to split and repress a part of itself, it enters the symbolic realm. The subject becomes aware of its absent center but is driven by desire to fill the void of absence. For Sutpen in Absalom, Absalom! – Faulkner’s momentary stand-in for the duration of this story – his enlightenment moment occurs in Chapter Seven, when he is turned away at the planter’s house (Duvall and Abadie 47). Faulkner, looking back on the past, looks at Sutpen in his Mirror Stage and shines light on his own. Before this moment, Quentin says that Sutpen was “no more conscious of his appearanceâ€¦ or of the possibility that anyone else would be that he was of his skin” (Faulkner 185). At this point, Sutpen has evolved into the Symbolic Stage, just as Faulkner does in his earlier novels.
Faulkner’s style in the novel is more oral than literary, and the novel flows through thoughts and character dialogue that often seems like Faulkner himself is orally relating the story to his listeners. Critic Conrad Aiken agrees, calling his unique style “grossly overelaborate” and “grammatically annoying” (Aiken 135). However, Aiken claims that this proves Faulkner’s Modernist streak, which is, as proven thus far, shortsighted since Absalom, Absalom! is the author’s most postmodern book. What he achieves through this style is the defamiliarization of language, blurring the boundaries of literature. It is these lengthy, seemingly never-ending sentences in the novel that reflect Faulkner’s aims. Likewise, he also enacts a tactic of delayed disclosure through this approach, starting a section of a story and abruptly stopping to digress onto something else. This way in which he withholds the points and meaning of his sentences, information about characters, and the continuations of half-finished stories is essentially Lacanian.
A characterization of Faulkner’s novel as either modern or postmodern requires understanding of what it means to be a postmodern piece of fiction. Postmodern literature is often perceived as a reaction to Modernism, which numerous authors, poets, and scholars worried was becoming increasingly too conventional and traditional. Likewise, they often saw Modernism as an elitist form of writing, since it was usually difficult and obscure. They cited the many complex literary references as a source of this, and suggested that Modernism was catering only to the highly educated because of these references. Postmodernism, in response, frequently involves pop cultural references, including those to other postmodern works, popular art, television shows, politics, well-known historical occurrences, and movies. Postmodernism is also often jumbled with fragmentation, but the use of fragmentation is much more severe than in Modernism, as there is sometimes no clear plot, characters sometimes seem pointless, the story is broken up and confused (often beyond repair). This extreme level of fragmentation is often used to make the point that literature is often more about what is under the surface, and that knowledge of a novel’s plot does not guarantee that a reader has gotten all meaning from the work. Even Faulkner’s avant-garde nature and separation from Modernism does not develop into what postmodern literature is known for.
In order to answer the question of where Faulkner falls in the spectrum of modern and postmodern literature, one must turn to scholarship that identifies obvious postmodernism and determine if Faulkner lives up to the standards. Barry Lewis, author of “Postmodernism and Literature,” provides a great description of postmodernism as it applies to literature. He purports that the literature that best falls into this category was written between 1960 and 1990, and that anything before is transitory (Lewis 96). He suggests that the most important elements of postmodernity are temporal disorder, pastiche, comfortableness with fragmentation, looseness of association, paranoia, vicious circles, and language disorder (95-105). Likewise, Lewis also brings Jacques Derrida’s concept of play as a postmodernism technique. Instead of the modernist quest for meaning in a world of chaos, the postmodern author denies, often playfully, the possibility of meaning (98). As a result, the postmodern novel is often a parody of the modernist quest. Within Faulkner’s works, there are elements of each of these characteristics, but they all seem to appear faintly and fleetingly. For example, temporal disorder is overtly obvious in The Sound and the Fury because Faulkner blurs the line between all time – past and present are hard to distinguish. However, as Lewis would agree, Faulkner does not achieve the degree of disorder associated with postmodernist fiction. Instead of recognizing that history repeats itself and that there are definite concrete moments in time, Postmodernists rather make all time vague and parody other works’ obsession with time (98). Faulkner’s Quentin in The Sound and the Fury would have been very Modernist in this category, since his preoccupation with time is ultimately part of what destroys him. However, Absalom, Absalom! removes this worry completely, being completely unconcerned about the passage of time since it does not matter. In fact, the novel’s structure, constantly shifting tenses between present and past ever so seamlessly, is postmodern. Therefore, some of these postmodern qualities appear in the novel, but others do not.
Another important aspect of postmodern literature that Lewis points out is pastiche, which literally means to combine and paste together multiple elements. “Pastiche, then, arises from the frustration that everything has been done before…postmodernist writers tend to pluck existing styles higgledy-piggledy from the reservoir of literary history, and match them with little tact. This explains why many contemporary novels borrow the clothes of different forms” (Lewis 99). Although there are some critics who suggest that this is part of Faulkner’s repertoire, arguing that he employs this in Absalom, Absalom! there does not seem to be enough evidence to prove that he is actively making the novel parodic. Indeed, there are clearly elements within the story that suggest that Faulkner had the classic Southern gothic novel in his heard while writing it, such as the final conversation between Shreve and Quentin at the end: “‘Now I want you to tell me just one thing more. Why do you hate the South?’ ‘I dont hate it,’ Quentin said, quickly, at once, immediately, ‘I dont hate it’” (Faulkner 395). Quentin, who often represents Faulkner, may be repressing something, and it very well could be a shared feeling of Faulkner; however, there has not been enough legitimate evidence or scholarship to prove this relationship. Therefore, the novel is not a parody, which hurts its chances at being classified as a postmodern novel.
Modernists treat fragmentation and subjectivity as existential crises — a problem that must be solved, which their literature attempts to do. Postmodernists, however, believe that this issue is insurmountable, and the only reactionary action that is worthwhile is to “play” with the chaotic tendencies. In postmodern literature, playfulness becomes the major focus, thus making any order or incontrovertible truth highly unlikely. Faulkner, at least in his early works and Absalom, Absalom! does not seem to venture very deep into this playfulness. Indeed, there is definitely a presence of this in Absalom, Absalom! but it never reaches the extremeness that other major postmodern works achieve. Compared to a work like Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, Faulkner’s fiction does not stand up in terms of where it falls on the modern/postmodern scale. The first chapter of Vonnegut’s book begins by saying, “All this happened, more or less…I’ve changed all the names. I really did go back to Dresden…I went back there with an old war buddy, Bernardâ€¦” (Vonnegut 1). The author blurs the line between where his influence ends and where the narrator (who is, in other words, understood to be separate from the author) begins. The first chapter seems more like a preface by the author, or a later comment on his novel that should come after the text; instead, Vonnegut’s first course of action is to set himself up as both the author and narrator. It is clearly postmodern because he is forthright about it instead of implying the blurred line. “I would hate to tell you what this lousy little book cost me in money and anxiety and time. When I got