Under the Radar: Jess Walter’s The Zero and the State of Irony and Satire after 9/11

Dolores Resano

Abstract


This article explores a typically overlooked novel within the corpus of post-9/11 fiction, Jess Walter’s The Zero (2006), and puts forward some hypotheses for this under-examination. The article suggests that the various debates that arose in the aftermath of 9/11—the status of fiction after tragedy, the theses on the demise of irony and satire, the high expectations put on canonical authors to give meaning to the event, and standardized explorations of the figure of the terrorist Other—all served to construct readings for The Zero that fell within prescriptive approaches to post-9/11 fiction and thus missed its highly subversive potential. While recent academic output is starting to explore The Zero in innovative ways, early reception failed to examine it conceptually and formally, favoring as it did a trauma studies approach that resulted in a bland analysis of the novel’s focus on terrorist figures. This article offers a reading of The Zero through Mikhail Bakhtin’s theorization of satirical carnivalization, a practice that is especially suited to construct a dialogic, polyphonic and inquisitive narrative to not only question but dialogue with the post-9/11 United States.


Keywords: post-9/11 fiction; irony; satire; counter-discourse; carnivalization; perpetrator fiction


Full Text:

PDF

References


Abel, Marco. 2003. “Don DeLillo’s ‘In the Ruins of the Future’: Literature, Images, and the Rhetoric of Seeing 9/11.” PMLA 118 (5): 1236-1250.

Baelo-Allué, Sonia. 2012. “9/11 and the Psychic Trauma Novel: Don DeLillo’s Falling Man.” Atlantis. Revista de la Asociación Española de Estudios Anglo-Norteamericanos 34 (1): 63-79.

—. 2016. “From the Traumatic to the Political: Cultural Trauma, 9/11 and Amy Waldman’s The Submission.” Atlantis. Revista de la Asociación Española de Estudios Anglo-Norteamericanos 38 (1): 165-183.

Bakhtin, Mikhail. (1963) 1999. Problems of Dostevsky’s Poetics. Edited and translated by Caryl Emerson. Minneapolis and London: U of Minnesotta P.

—. (1965) 1968. Rabelais and His World. Translated by Helene Iswolsky. Bloomington: Indiana UP.

—. (1981) 2011. The Dialogic Imagination. Four Essays. Translated by Caryl Emerson and Michael Holmquist. Austin: U of Texas P.

Beigbeder, Frédéric. (2004) 2005. Windows on the World. London: Harper Perennial.

Bermúdez de Castro, Juanjo. 2012. Rewriting Terror: The 9/11 Terrorists in American Fiction. Alcalá de Henares: Instituto Franklin-UAH.

Bogel, Fredric V. 2001 The Difference Satire Makes. Rhetoric and Reading from Jonson to Byron. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP.

Bowles, Daniel. 2015. The Ends of Satire. Legacies of Satire in Postwar German Writing. Berlin: De Gruyter.

Bush, George W. 2001a. “Address to a Joint Session of Congress and the American People,” Whitehouse.gov, September 20. [Accessed online on March 9, 2017].

—. 2001b. “Remarks by the President to Airline Employees,” Whitehouse.gov, September 27. [Accessed online on March 9, 2017].

Butler, Judith. (2004) 2006. Precarious Life. The Powers of Mourning and Violence. London and New York: Verso.

Cheney, Dick. 2001. “NBC News’ Meet the Press: Dick Cheney,” NBC, September 16. [Accessed online on June 25, 2016].

Chomsky, Noam. 2003. Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance. New York: Henry Holt.

Crownshaw, Richard. 2011. “Perpetrator Fictions and Transcultural Memory.” Parallax 17 (4): 75-89.

Däwes, Birgit. 2011. Ground Zero Fiction. History, Memory, and Representation in the American 9/11 Novel. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter.

DeLillo, Don. 2001. “In the Ruins of the Future: Reflections on Terror and Loss in the Shadow of September.” Harper’s Magazine, December: 33-40.

—. (2007) 2008. Falling Man. London: Picador.

Derosa, Aaron. 2011. “Nationalism and Alterity in Laila Halaby and Jess Walter.” Paper given at the Revisioning Terrorism: An Interdisciplinary and International Conference, Lafayette, September 2011.

—. 2013. “Alterity and the Radical Other in Post-9/11 Fiction: DeLillo’s Falling Man and Jess Walter’s The Zero.” Arizona Quarterly 69 (3): 157-183.

Dodge, Jason J. 2014. “September 11 and Public Grief: Grieving Otherwise in Jess Walter’s The Zero.” Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction 55 (2): 152-165.

Donadio, Rachel. 2005. “Truth Is Stronger than Fiction.” The New York Times, August 7. [Accessed online on June 25, 2016].

Duvall, John. 2013. “Homeland Security and the State of (American) Exception(alism): Jess Walter’s The Zero and the Ethical Possibilities of Postmodern Irony.” Studies in the Novel 45 (2): 279-297.

Elliot, Robert C. 1960. The Power of Satire: Magic, Ritual, Art. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP.

Feinberg, Leonard. 1963. The Satirist: His Temperament, Motivation, and Influence. Ames: Iowa State UP.

Flinn, Anthony. 2014. “The New Grotesque in Jess Walter’s The Zero. A Commentary and Interview.” In Transatlantic Literature and Culture After 9/11, edited by Kristine A. Miller, 221-237. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Foer, Jonathan Safran. (2005) 2006. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Boston and New York: Mariner.

Gibbs, Alan. 2014. Contemporary American Trauma Narratives. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP.

Gournelos, Ted and Viveca S. Greene, eds. 2011. A Decade of Dark Humor. How Comedy, Irony, and Satire Shaped Post-9/11 America. Jackson: UP of Mississippi.

Gray, Richard. 2011. “Imagining Disaster.” In After the Fall: American Literature Since 9/11, 21-50. Malden and Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

Griffin, Dustin. 1994. Satire: A Critical Reintroduction. Lexington: UP of Kentucky.

Grimes, Christopher. 2012. The Pornographers. Seattle, WA: Jaded Ibis. Harpham, Geoffrey Galt. 1982. On the Grotesque: Strategies of Contradiction in Art and Literature. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP.

Highet, Gilbert. 1962. The Anatomy of Satire. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP.

Hirschorn, Michael. 2011. “Irony, The End of. Why Graydon Carter Wasn’t Entirely Wrong.” NYMag, August 27. [Accessed online on June 25, 2016].

Hodgart, Matthew. 1969. Satire. London: Weidenfield & Nicolson.

Hutcheon, Linda. 1985. A Theory of Parody: The Teachings of Twentieth-Century Art Forms. New York: Methuen.

—. 1994. Irony’s Edge: The Theory and Politics of Irony. London: Routledge.

Jameson, Fredric. 1984. “Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism.” New Left Review I, 146: 53-92.

—. 2003. “The Dialectics of Disaster.” In Dissent from the Homeland: Essays after September 11, edited by Stanley Hauerwas and Frank Lentricchia, 55-62. Durham and London: Duke UP.

Kakutani, Michiko. 2001. “Critic’s Notebook: The Age of Irony Isn’t Over After All; Assertions of Cynicism’s Demise Belie History.” The New York Times, October 9. [Accessed online on June 28, 2016].

—. 2007. “A Man, a Woman, and a Day of Terror.” The New York Times, May 9. [Accessed online on June 28, 2016].

Kalfus, Ken. 2006. A Disorder Peculiar to the Country. New York: Harper Collins.

Kayser, Wolfgang (1957) 1963. The Grotesque in Art and Literature. Translated by Ulrich Weisstein. New York: Columbia UP.

Kernan, Alvin. 1965. The Plot of Satire. New Haven and London: Yale UP.

Kristeva, Julia. (1969) 1986. “Word, Dialogue and Novel.” In The Kristeva Reader, edited by Toril Moi. New York: Columbia UP.

Litt, Toby. 2007. “The Trembling Air.” The Guardian, May 26. [Accessed online on September 7, 2015].

McElroy, Bernard. 1989. Fiction of the Modern Grotesque. London: Macmillan.

McInerney, Jay. 2005. “The Uses of Invention.” The Guardian, September 17. [Accessed online on June 25, 2016].

Melnick, Jeffrey. 2009. 9/11 Culture: America under Construction. Malden and Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary. (2003) 2014. Online edition, based on Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh edition. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster. [Accessed online on June 25, 2016].

Miller, Kristine A. 2014. “Reading and Writing the Post-9/11 Cop: Trauma, Personal Testimony, and Jess Walter’s The Zero.” Arizona Quarterly 70 (1): 29-52.

Miller, Laura. 2011. “Why We Haven’t Seen a Great 9/11 Novel.” Salon, September 10. [Accessed online on June 25, 2016].

Mitchell, W. J. T. 2011. Cloning Terror: The War of Images, 9/11 to the Present. Chicago and London: U of Chicago P.

Mookerjee, Robin. 2013. Transgressive Fiction. The New Satiric Tradition. London and New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Newman, Andy. 2008. “Irony Is Dead. Again. Yeah, Right.” The New York Times, November 21. [Accessed online on June 25, 2016].

O’Hagan, Andrew. 2007. “Racing Against Reality.” The New York Review of Books, June 28. [Accessed online on June 25, 2016].

O’Keeffe, Jeff. 2007. “Fumbling Men.” Open Letters Monthly: An Arts and Literature Review, June 1. [Accessed online on June 25, 2016].

Paulson, Ronald. 1967. The Fictions of Satire. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins UP.

Pease, Donald. 2003. “From Virgin Land to Ground Zero.” In Dissent from the Homeland: Essays after September 11, edited by Stanley Hauerwas and Frank Lentricchia, 205-213. Durham and London: Duke UP.

Petrovic, Paul. 2015. “Introduction: Emergent Trends in Post-9/11 Literature and Criticism.” In Representing 9/11: Trauma, Ideology, and Nationalism in Literature, Film, and Television, edited by Paul Petrovic, i-xii. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Randall, Martin. 2011. 9/11 and the Literature of Terror. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP.

Rogin, Michael. 1990. “‘Make My Day!’: Spectacle as Amnesia in Imperial Politics.” Representations 29: 99-123.

Rosenblatt, Roger. 2001. “The Age of Irony Comes to an End.” Time, September 24. [Accessed online on June 25, 2016].

Santin, Bryan M. 2011. “Representing the Trauma of 9/11 in US Fiction: Jonathan Safran Foer, Don DeLillo and Jess Walter.” Master’s thesis, Miami University.

Spiegelman, Art. 2004. In the Shadow of No Towers. New York: Pantheon.

Stratton, Matthew. 2013. Politics of Irony in American Modernism. Bronx, NY: Fordham UP.

Sturken, Marita. 2007. Tourists of History: Memory, Kitsch, and Consumerism from Oklahoma City to Ground Zero. Durham and London: Duke UP.

Updike, John. (2006) 2007. Terrorist. London: Penguin.

Vonnegut, Kurt. (1969) 2000. Slaughterhouse Five or The Children’s Crusade. London: Vintage.

Walter, Jess. (2006) 2007. The Zero. New York: Harper Perennial.

Webber, Julie. 2013. The Cultural Set Up of Comedy. Affective Politics in the United States Post 9/11. Bristol and Wilmington: Intellect.

Weisenburger, Steven. 1995. Fables of Subversion. Satire and the American Novel, 1930-1980. Athens and London: U of Georgia P.

Williams, Zoe. 2003. “The Final Irony.” The Guardian, June 28. [Accessed online on June 25, 2016].

Worcester, David. 1940. The Art of Satire. New York: Russell & Russell.

Worthington, Marjorie. 2015. “Jess Walter’s The Zero: Satirizing the ‘Desert of the Real.’” In Representing 9/11: Trauma, Ideology, and Nationalism in Literature, Film, and Television, edited by Paul Petrovic, 2-15. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.


Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.


Atlantis. Journal of the Spanish Association for Anglo-American Studies
ISSN: 0210-6124 | e-ISSN: 1989-6840. © Atlantis/Aedean 2013.
Contact | Privacy Statement | Copyright notice | Journal Help| Site Map