Thanks so much, you two, for comments that are far more thoughtful and complex than my original post. Mariah, I’ve been pondering your position since you posted it, and have been surprised to find myself agreeing with much of it. My gut reaction to the piece was, well, if you feel that American fiction has gotten this far off the track — a proposal I’m prepared to entertain, given some of the dreck that has gotten notice in recent years based solely on its approximation of terminal disaffection and incurable irony — then perhaps we’d all be better served by a careful examination of the “what has gone wrong” than we would be by an assessment of the latest example of that wrongness. So I suppose my question misstated the issue for me, which was less that Moody’s book should have been handed over to someone who was a fan of DFW, Moody, Franzen, etc., than that the “what has gone wrong” aspect of the piece seemed to me — to advert to Peck’s own rhetoric — just plain wrong.
Again, I’m actually quite sympathetic to several of Peck’s points — I do think that much of what passes for postmodernist fiction is sterile formalist blather that fails to confront in any serious fashion the stark realities of human pain. And I do think that, in large part, the whiteness and maleness of postmodernism is symptomatic of an angry and insular response to the much-decried identity politics of the sixties and seventies, a way of (perhaps unconsciously) reasserting hierarchy and privilege in the guise of experimentalism.
That having been said, I disagree with a substantive number of his judgments of the writers he lambasts, and the vitriol that overtakes others of those judgments winds up emptying them of the content that might allow me to concur. To refer to DeLillo’s work as “stupid” is, to me, incomprehensible; at times ponderous, perhaps, and overwrought, and maybe even pretentious, sure — but stupid? Likewise, the suggestion that Powers’ work has no “empathetic undercurrent” is baffling to me, after reading Operation Wandering Soul.
The absence of what you call thoughtfulness, BT, in his rapid-fire dismissals of writers I’ve found more moving than he seems to think possible makes me feel similarly dismissive of his general position, despite finding his reading of Moody hysterical. His assessments begin feel to me like intentional misreadings, which is what makes me start wondering about Peck’s feeling for contemporary fiction in general, and whether his failure to appreciate what it’s up to at all makes his ranting, to me, useless.