chapter  1
36 Pages

THE BRIEF LIFE AND PROTRACTED DEATH OF ROCK & ROLL

The history of modern art, in whatever genre we might wish to examine, is (or imagines itself to be) a history of outrages: a chronicle of insults done to the reigning style in the name of “the new,” and the greater mimetic or expressive potential of the art form. In fiction, for instance, the genial omniscient Narrator of the Victorian novel is replaced with the limited, unreliable first-person narrator so prevalent in modernist fiction; we end up with psychic wrecks like Charlie Marlow (Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness) and John Dowell (Ford Madox Ford’s The Good Soldier), and narcissistic poseurs like Stephen Dedalus (James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man)—and the “gentle reader” used to the guiding hand of a Charles Dickens or a George Eliot feels utterly alone: abandoned in the Congo mists rather than nimbly led through the London fog. Thus does modernist narrative experimentation “kill off” the well-made Victorian triple-decker. After the outrages of Henry James,

William Faulkner, Virginia Woolf, and Gertrude Stein, the nineteenthcentury novel is left for dead.