MADONNA AND OTHER SPECTACLES by Harold Jaffe

MADONNA AND OTHER SPECTACLES

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Experimentalist Jaffe (Mole's Pity, Mourning Crazy Horse, Dos Indios) strings together a sketchy little 13-story collection--a postmodern political prose poem that skewers our passive lust for pop idols, violence, and videos with images of illegal aliens and nuclear war. The author's explanation for his third story conveys the strategy of the book as a whole: ""You will have noticed that each of the three repeated sections was marked by invasion. . .I've insinuated without much trouble its psychosocial concomitants, inscribed in the section heads themselves: Anesthetic, Bondage, Circus."" So, through high-tech word play, we associate the pop themes of each of the stories--from Madonna through Max Headroom--with the post-Marxian analysis of our ethnological and historical limitations. The stories update Jaffe's oft reiterated themes, linking illegal aliens, the rough, stupid invasions of the US government, and the pornography of our nuclear policy with breezy, 80's-style patter about the media. Most of the stories also share a shadowy authorial alter ego named Bourgeois, who feels ""fey"" but just can't resist peppering the text with Foucault-inspired asides. Bourgeois takes corporeal form in ""Video/Video,"" a futuristic story that is the author's only stab at dramatizing an issue (in this case, our obscene passivity amid nuclear madness) in narrative form. There's no denying Jaffe's learning and his technical nerve. But, alas, all the courage and flash go into the conception--the execution comes down to an endlessly repeated trick of juxtaposition. There is no development, no imaginative reach, just numb intellectual orbiting.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1988
Publisher: PAJ--dist. by Farrar, Straus & Giroux