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C21st US Fiction: 'American Rust'

C21st US Fiction: 'American Rust'

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Published by justinpickard

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Published by: justinpickard on Jan 10, 2010
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07/10/2013

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Philipp Meyer,
 American Rust 
 
 Week 10: 'Recession America'
(1) “It had been an intricate system and when the mills shut down, the entire valley had collapsed. Steel had been the heart. He wondered how long it would be beforeit all rusted away into nothing and the valley returned to a primitive state. Only thestone would last.”
(Meyer, 2009: p. 8)
 –
 beginning of 
 American Rust 
 –
the novel as a cosmology of the blue-collar middle class; a cartography of industrial decline (similar to how 
 A Mercy
&
The Known World 
are cartographies of colonialism and antebellum slavery, respectively)
 –
economics & “collapsonomics” … “The study of economic and state systems at the edge of their normalsocial and economic function, including preventative measures to avoid destructive feedback loops and vicious cycles.” (http://collapsonomics.org/)
 –
parallels with the literature of the Great Depression …
deliberate
contemporary references (to Afghanistan,IEDs, Hilary Clinton, etc.) to mark the book as contemporary.
 –
urban decline Detroit (automotive) vs. Pittsburgh (manufacturing)
 –
Fareed Zakaria,
The Post-American World 
(shift from American hegemony to multi-polarity)
(2) “None of it was permanent. The Swede would go back to the soil, blood goesfrom sticky thick to dust, animals eat you back to the earth.”
(
 AR
, p. 34)
(3) “In the end it was rust. That's what defined this place. A brilliant observation.She was probably about the ten millionth person to think it.”
(
 AR
, p. 132)
 –
transience, death, mourning? Is it conservative, backward-looking, nostalgic for American manufacturing?
 –
reflexivity & genre: noir,
bildungsroman
(albeit arrested/hijacked), or something else entirely?
 –
(intense) inner monologues for all characters, but esp. Isaac and The Kid (compare & contrast w. Bret andThe Writer in
 Lunar Park
)
(4) “There was something particularly American about it – blaming yourself for bad luck – that resistance to seeing your life as affected by social forces, a tendency to attribute larger problems to individual behaviour. The ugly reverse of the American Dream.”
 
(
 AR
, pp. 229-230)
 –
pathologies of the American Dream, of capitalism? Remember the corporate-trained assassain, Chigurh, in
 No Country for Old Men
 –
structure & (constrained) agency; are these characters victims or culprits?
 –
Meyer: “You are in control of making the best decision you can for the circumstances (…) which aredetermined by your family, your background, the place you grew up, the people around you, who is a strongrole model in your community” (http://www.steinershow.org/podcasts/newest-podcasts/philipp-meyer-author-american-rust)
(5) “[T]he skeleton of the neighbor's house, Pappy Cross, gone twelve years. Movesto Nevada to be with his sons, within two weeks someone came and stole hisgutters, security door, doublepane windows. Called him in Nevada to tell him,never got a call back. Whole house rotting to nothing.”
(
 AR
, p. 285)
 –
geography, space, architecture?
 –
Grace's trailer, which she's unwilling to invest in fixing up, for fear it would be an admission of failure
 –
this 'aint suburbia (any more) … think of the books from “suburban insecurities”;
 American Rust 
is closerto the edge of chaos (Hobbes' state of nature) than
 Security
or
 Lunar Park
, with Harris barely holding thechaos at bay 
before
budget cuts (cf. pp. 273-278) … but it's the same broad landscape
(6) “... He [Harris] grinned at his own joke and then felt a lightness come over him.Both of those boys were worth saving, he thought. That is something you wouldn'thave known.”
(
 AR
, p. 363)
 –
an ending of sacrifice, redemption, (pre-)mediated revenge
 –
questions of violence both as the inciting incident, with Poe in prison, and as Harris' resolution … is that
 satisfying? How about the
ethics
of Meyer's conclusion?

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