Coming of Age in Contemporary American Fiction by Kenneth Millard

By Kenneth Millard

This booklet explores the ways that a variety of contemporary American novelists have dealt with the style of the 'coming-of-age' novel, or the Bildungsroman. Novels of this style ordinarily dramatise the vicissitudes of turning out to be up and the rigors and tribulations of younger maturity, usually offered via depictions of quick kinfolk relationships and different social constructions. This e-book considers numerous various American cultures (in phrases of race, type and gender) and more than a few modern coming-of-age novels, in order that aesthetic decisions concerning the fiction will be made within the context of the social historical past that fiction represents. a sequence of questions are requested: Does the coming-of-age second in those novels coincide with an interpretation of the 'fall' of the United States? what sort of nationwide remark does it for this reason facilitate? Is the bildungsroman a quintessentially American genre?What can it usefully let us know approximately modern American tradition? even supposing the focal point is at the modern interval, this can be put within the context of connection with past novels and feedback of the style, in addition to ancient adjustments within the prestige of the family members, and the adolescent inside it. FeaturesProvides precise interpretations of 12 key modern novels from authors together with crimson the USA by way of Rick Moody, The Age of Consent via Geoffrey Wolff, The Virgin Suicides via Jefffrey Eugenides and Prozac kingdom via Elizabeth Wurtzel. Explains the significance of the coming-of-age style to the wider American literature canon.Makes an important intervention in modern debate approximately what's Most worthy in fresh American fiction. (3/1/08)

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Edgar’s story includes many expressions of the importance of the typewriter to his sense of identity. When he first moves to Utah, Edgar is carrying with him ‘my Hermes Jubilee and the 11,789 pages that bore every last word and line of gibberish I had ever struck on paper’ (239), and the physical weight of this transcript is a powerful antidote to that weightlessness which is Edgar’s most pressing emotional anxiety. The therapeutic value of typing is also seen when Barry, the doctor who purports to have saved his life, tracks down Edgar in Utah: I went up to my room and typed nonsense on my Hermes Jubilee for awhile, really gave that typewriter a good pounding .

Me jus’ tryin to get home. Yeah, well, I guess us too, I said. (150) Although he does not yet conceptualise it in these terms, this metaphysical or spiritual concept of ‘home’ concurs closely with the implicit trajectory of Bone’s coming of age. Following the false return home of chapters 10–14, in which Bone discovers that it is impossible for him to return to his parents after the changes he has experienced, the novel dramatises various interpretations of ‘freedom’ and ‘home’ in relation to coming of age.

This retreat to the symbolic landscape is a further removal from society, but one which brings Bone closer to an understanding of the forms of origin that his coming of age is devoted to recovering. The symbolic nature of this cavernous topography is revealed by Bone’s unconscious recognition of it; although this region is completely unfamiliar to him, it ‘turned out to be like I thought’, and ‘when we got there it was sort of the way I’d pictured’ (307). These craters are the place of Bone’s personal regression to face the demons of his childhood, and they are simultaneously the location of Africans’ historical resistance to slavery.

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