“Everything now is measured by after”: Netherland
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Transcript of “Everything now is measured by after”: Netherland
Everything now is measured by after: NetherlandHUM 2213: British and American Literature IISpring 2013Dr. PerdigaoMarch 27-April 3, 2013
In the Wake of TragedyIn those places where it happens, the survivors, the people nearby who are injured, sometimes, months later, they develop bumps, for lack of a better term, and it turns out this is caused by small fragments, tiny fragments of the suicide bombers body. The bomber is blown to bits, literally bits and pieces, and fragments of flesh and bone come flying outward with such force and velocity that they get wedged, they get trapped in the body of anyone whos in striking range. Do you believe it? A student is sitting in a caf. She survives the attack. Then, months later, they find these little, like, pellets of flesh, human flesh that got driven into the skin. They call this organic shrapnel (DeLillo, Falling Man 16).
From this point on, you understand, its all about loss. Were dealing inevitably with diminishing returns (60).
In the Wake of TragedyThis is also the counter-narrative, a shadow history of false memories and imagined loss. The Internet is a counter-narrative, shaped in part by rumor, fantasy, and mystical reverberation (DeLillo, Ruins 3585).
Objects losing value, significanceThese are among the smaller objects and more marginal stories in the sifted ruins of the day. We need them, even the common tools of the terrorists, to set against the massive spectacle that continues to seem unmanageable, too powerful a thing to set into our frame of practiced response (3585).
The writer begins in the towers, trying to imagine the moment, desperately. Before politics, before history and religion, there is the primal terror. People falling from the towers hand in hand. This is part of the counter-narrative, hands and spirits joining, human beauty in the crush of meshed steel (3588).
Nation and identitiesNetherland (2008), originally titled The Brooklyn Dream Game
Netherland as liminal space, Netherlander in NYC; Dutch as first to settle in NY, reclaiming American space
New Netherland as old New York
ONeillborn in Ireland, grew up in Holland, educated in England, living in Manhattan; mother Turkish, father Irish
Born in Cork, Ireland (1964), during his childhood lived in South Africa, Turkey, and Iran before attending boarding school in Holland, attended Girton College, Cambridge, lawyer at English Bar, practiced law for ten years, lives with Vogue editor Sally Singer in New York, living at the Chelsea Hotel; became an American citizen
Family history in memoir Blood-Dark Track: A Family History (2001)
Other novels The Breezes (1996), This Is the Life (1991)
OriginsI already had the beginnings of the story, and then 9/11 happened. It inserted itself into the novel, and in many ways became the books subject matter. It felt almost compulsory to write about it. And when I was writing, there was very little written about 9/11. I think it took most people two or three years to see their way through the smoke and the dust to the point that it became something they could write about. (qtd. in Bacon)
My description of Hanss sense of New York accords to a large degree with my own sense of it. It was a time of fantastic confusion and anxiety that, amazingly, was replaced by confusion and anxiety about what the United States was doing. So there were two phases, and I think the book deals with both those phases. And in a way the second phase, the phase of the Bush Administrations reaction to 9/11, and the benightedness into which the country was plunged as a result of Bushs actions, is, I suspect, what really colors this book. (qtd. in Bacon)
Resuscitating Gatsby?Someone asks Hans at one point whether he was there for 9/11, and he says, You were only really there if you were in the building. And I would agree with him on that point. For the rest of us, it was a spectacle, literally. But you become more directly implicated when the country starts going to war, and when the government takes advantage of this catastrophe for its own ends. (qtd. in Bacon)
The plot of this book is very similar to The Great Gatsbyyou have this charismatic gangster figure and this phlegmatic narratorbut its not a reiteration of that story. The Gatsby-esque narrative of the corrupting of the American dream is premised on the existence of an autonomous, intact America. But there are forcesincluding 9/11 and the globalization of the economywhich have destroyed that premise and put an end to a hugely significant literary and cultural era in American life. I think the challenge for writers is to explore that and recognize it. When Gatsby was written, the United States was a zone of exclusive opportunity and privileged possibilities. And that just isnt the case anymore, and hasnt been for the last ten years. As a character says at the end, Ramkissoon wanted to Americanize cricket and build the market from there. But thats a waste of time. You just put the stadium in America, and thats it. You dont need to build the American market; the market is elsewhere. These days, America is just a geographic spot like any other for the global economy. I think youre beginning to see this issue raise its head in American discourse nowessentially, the issue of post-nationalism. Oddly enough, youre quite well placed if youre an exotic American like me. (qtd. in Bacon)
Post-nationalism?In coming up with all this, I thought, Well, at last I can make use of this rather inconvenient upbringing I had in Holland. Inconvenient in the sense that most writers are able to authoritatively label themselves as from somewhere, and to lay claim to readers and traditions as a result of that. I went to an international school in Holland, and I didnt have any memories of growing up in the United States or England or any of these places which other novelists are able to write about in relation to their childhoods. And I thought, Wait a second, I can draw on my memories of Holland to create this international narratoror this post-national narrator, as Ive come to think of him. (qtd. in Bacon)
Spectators, SpectaclesHans van den Broek, Rachel, Jake, Chuck Ramkissoon
As American novel: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/05/the-great-irish-dutch-american-novel/6788/
Begins with death of Chuck, American dreamer found in waterGatsby
Diving into the Wreck
Finding the body and objects (6)
Flaneur, like Clarissa Dalloway, observing the city
Space of hotelLaura Brown? (32)
Mehmet Taspinar (35): Richard?
Defining SpacesIdea of being a true American, the true American sport, going back to the origins of New York
Aftermath (4): remainder
The purposeful postmortem (4)
Paralysis after 9/11 (19) (30)
London isnt safe either (23), radioactive debris
Multiculturalism (11), driving test, as American (68)
Place of cricket, in US (15)
Narrative voiceintroduced (17)
Bridging dividesI should have not allowed this transatlantic standoff, which had now lasted for more than a year, to persist (99).
Chuck Cricket Corp. had been replaced by a grander entity (101) as whole new chapter in U. S. history (211).
Im an analysta bystander (103).
You dont look beneath the surface (166).
On television, dark Baghdad glittered with American bombs. The war started. The baseball season came into view. Personally, things remained as they were. I failed my driving test (122).
Photographs of his son (129): to put the pictures of Jake into some kind of order (129); result is the story is one that begins continuously, until it stops; Is this really the only possible pagination of a life? (235).
Summary of former teammates death (132): Portraits of Grief?
AftermathIdea of London upon return (178), compared to Dalloways, the leftover twinkle of empire (178).
Its a scene of good cheer on the esplanade, where the wanderers are in receipt of that peculiar happiness a summer river bestows, a donation of space, of light, and, somehow, of time: there is something regretful in Big Bens seven gongs (253).
I am out of New Yorkthat New York interposed itself, once and for all, between me and all other places of origin (181); Cardozo as fellow migr (181).
Idea of 9/11, as survivor and eyewitness (182)
I went for years without ever seeing a sign of funerary activity. (The moment came, as everybody knows, when that changed.) (155)
New York Cricket Club
Viva la Vida?There was no movement in my marriage, either; but, flying on Googles satellite function, night after night I surreptitiously traveled to England (123).
I go to Google Maps. It is preset to a satellite image of Europe. I rocket westward, over the dark blue ocean, to America (252).
From up here, though, a humans movement is a barely intelligible thing. Where would he move to, and for what? There is no sign of nations, no sense of the work of man. The USA as such is nowhere to be seen (252).
I find myself turning to a guidebook for help (255).