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A puzzle, but an interesting one. First, the good news. Short (Geography/Syracuse Univ.), a self-described “reluctant post-modernist,” doesn—t write the impenetrable, jargon-laden prose often embraced by postmodern authors. Unfortunately, the bad news is that ,despite its linguistic clarity, it is not clear what the book is about or why it was written. This volume combines autobiography initially with political geography, then the sociology of academia, and finally an alphabetic introduction to postmodernism. Anyone who has just returned from an extended visit to another planet will find the survey of major geopolitical developments in the first section quite useful; otherwise, it’s pretty familiar territory. The brief sojourn inside the walls of the academy certainly ring true and will amuse those lacking first-hand experience of the petty battles among what Short terms academics, scholars, and intellectuals, but the reason for its presence in this book is a mystery. The most fun is to be had in the final section, where Short plays the role of postmodernist on postmodernism. Only the seemingly meaningless order of the alphabet is imposed herein, and from “AIDS” to “zapper” (as in the TV remote-control device) we are confronted with brief discussions of words that even in their selection reflect the conscious ambiguity of postmodernism. When “deconstructionism” is under the microscope, postmodernism is a school of thought, but the discussion of “baldness” implies that it is something you are in a very different way. Considering “enlightenment” casts postmodernity as a historical age following modernity, but somehow “Japan” manages to be a modern country in a postmodern world. Perhaps looking up “author” is the key to this puzzle, for we discover there that “in the postmodernist world, the author has been declared dead. Long live the creative reader.” Readers may find it more satisfying to spend time writing their own story than reading this one.

Pub Date: April 15th, 1998
ISBN: 0-8156-0527-7
Page count: 248pp
Publisher: Syracuse Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1998