Surfictive Games of Discourse Federman's Double or Nothing
BY HOLDING THE MIRROR SO CLOSE TO ITS ORIGINAL, RICHARD BRAUTIgan's irrealistic parody of the double in The Hawkline Monster serves to short-circuit and mock both its own content and style and those of the original. As a result of this mockery, original and copy echo and reecho in a way that brings into question the validity of, and opposition between, the terms original and copy. Everything, being at once intertextual and intratextual, interrogates the very status of texts and allusions. This self-conscious defamiliarization places Brautigan's work in the company of the postmodern works of Nabokov, Pynchon, Hawkes, and Barth, but Brautigan's novel surpasses them in the total freeplay of the signifier and the degree to which the book refuses to surrender traditional meaning or indeed any meaning at all.
Postmodernists have called into question many stable assumptions more or less taken for granted by modernists and their precursors: for example, Oscar Wilde, in The Picture of Dorian Gray, that the orders of art and life should not be confused. Although no postmodernist would deliberately confuse writing and life, neither would a postmodernist argue that art differs from life. The relevant question is not about similarity or difference but about the assumptions that underlie such truisms. While the margin between life and art may seem to have become more pronounced with modernism -- the paintings of Picasso and the fiction of Joyce make it apparent that art is not life -- postmodernists have chosen to ruminate upon the intellectual foundations that have created those centers and margins. It is true that some continue to use the abstractness and unreality of the mod-