One of the hallmarks of what's come to be known as literary postmodernism is the shift of attention away from texts as something made and onto the conditions of their making, emphasizing process over product. In some ways it's akin to the playwright Bertolt Brecht's goal of alienation, deliberately making the audience aware that what they are watching is something constructed by taking them behind the scenes or in some other way outside of their comfort zone. The goal? "To represent the familiar as unfamiliar." The method? "Estrangement, disharmony, detachment."
Which is one way of introducing Eva's Threepenny Theatre, a "fiction about memoir" wherein Andrew Steinmetz reflects upon the life of his great-aunt Eva and (though he fails to get equal billing in the title) grandfather Hermann Hans. Exactly how much of the story is fiction and how much memoir is impossible to say. Steinmetz inserts himself as a character into the narrative - sitting at a table with Eva and recording her voice on a tape recorder, digging into his own memory vault to bring the family chronicle up to date - but even here he doesn't tip his hand. Indeed as the book progresses it becomes harder to figure out who is supposed to be talking, as though the narrative's proscenium arch - Steinmetz's or "Steinmetz's" own point of view - had quietly dissolved.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Life is what happens when you read, Fiction is what happens when you write
Alex Good of Good Reports.net calls Eva's Threepenny Theatre 'a highly original reflection on memoir'.