A version of this essay was originally submitted in partial fulfilment of the MA in Creative Writing at the University of Manchester in 2009.
Please note that if you quote or cite this work that it is © Karl Hodge 2012. The correct form of referencing is:
Karl Hodge. (2012). Time out of Joint Pt 6: Conclusion and Mediography. Available: http://www.brokenenglish.co.uk/timeconclusion/ . Last accessed DD/MM/YYYY.
In A.L. Kennedy’s Day and in David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, we find narratives that are stylistically different, but that both embody a post-modern approach to time and temporality, history and historicity.
In each text pastiche and simulation are key, placing the stories they tell within a “periodising construct”. I choose that term carefully, because “historical setting” is not appropriate. In Cloud Atlas there are future narratives, every bit as constructed and (in)authentic as their historical equivalents.
Both texts can be read as taking place in a hyperreal, perpetual and self-referential present, independent of the temporal elements elsewhere in the text.
There are, of course, more technical methods of suggesting temporal setting at work in both Day and Cloud Atlas. The use of tense and of personalisation, in particular.
Day employs a fractured approach to narration, for example, shifting from third to first person and, notably, second. Using the second person is a jarring and discomforting choice. It forces the narrative into the present, into the reader’s point of view, as part of the metatextual trickery of pastiche or simulation.
Cloud Atlas is, ironically, more conventionally stylistic in storytelling method. But, much of the novel’s innovation is in its infrastructure. With such a bold reliance on pastiche, Mitchell is subservient to his sources. One notable observation though; five of the six stories are told in the first person. This is an intensely periodising choice, enabling Mitchell to employ the language, style and cadences of his characters – to “speak” through their voices. The exception to this is Half Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery. Here, he employs a third person viewpoint which is softly omniscient. As such, the Half Lives section relies much more on objects, fashions and artefacts to suggest temporal setting. In the opening paragraph there’s the “boom” of disco music. Early pages refer to M*A*S*H, Joni Mitchell, the Disney version of The Jungle Book and LP records in quick succession.
It is narrative time that interests me most though. When history is an artificial, self-referential construct, what separates it from the future?
The answer is that history becomes multiple choice, a pick and mix of past texts reiterated as pastiche or simulation, channelled intertextually. When the real is replaced by reconstruction the future and past are cut from the same cloth. That is, essentially, the only mode of production available to the creative practitioner in the age of postmodernity.
Jean Baudrillard, The Ecstasy of Communication, (Autonomedia, 1988)
J.P. Connerty, History’s Many Cunning Passages: Paul Ricoeur’s Time and Narrative in Poetics Today, Vol. 11, No. 2, Narratology Revisited I (Summer, 1990), Duke University Press.
Thomas Docherty, ed., Postmodernism: A Reader, (Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1993)
Umberto Eco, Travels in Hyperreality, (Picador 1986)
David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity, (Blackwell, 1990)
Ursula Heise, Chronoschisms: Time, Narrative and Postmodernism (Cambridge University Press, 1997)
Fredric Jameson, ‘Postmodernism and Consumer Society’, in Postmodern Culture, ed Hal Foster, (Pluto Press, 1995)
Douglas Kellner, ed., Baudrillard: A Critical Reader, (Blackwell, 1994)
Jean Francois Lyotard, ‘The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge’, in The Postmodernism Reader, ed. by Michael Drolet, (Routledge 2004)
Larry McCaffery, ed., Storming the Reality Studio, (Duke University Press, 1991)
Paul Ricoeur, Time and Narrative, (University of Chicago Press, 1990)
Robert Stam et al, New Vocabularies in Film Semiotics, (Sightlines, 1992)
Kingsley Amis, The Old Devils, (Vintage Classics, 2007)
Martin Amis, The Information, (HarperPerennial, 1996)
Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451: The Temperature at Which Book Paper Catches Fire and Burns, (Random House Inc., 1997)
Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code, (Corgi, 2004)
Dan Brown, Deception Point, (Corgi, 2004)
Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange, (Penguin, 2000)
Italo Calvino, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler, (Vintage, 2007)
Joseph Conrad, The Shadow Line, (Oxford University Press, 2003)
Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe, (Penguin, 2007)
Philip K Dick, Time out of Joint, (Gollancz, 2003)
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, (Penguin, 1993)
William Gibson, Neuromancer, (Penguin, 1995)
Harry Harrison, Make Room! Make Room!, (Tom Doherty Associates, 2008)
Joseph Heller, Catch 22, (Corgi, 1985)
Russell Hoban, Riddley Walker, ( Pan, 1982)
Victor Hugo, The Man Who Laughs, (Norilana Books 2006)
Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, (Flamingo, 1997)
A.L. Kennedy, Day, (Vintage, 2007)
Herman Melville, Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life, (Penguin, 1972)
David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas, (Sceptre, 2004)
Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons, Watchmen, (DC Comics, 1986)
Alan Moore, Brian Bolland, Batman: The Killing Joke, (DC Comics, 1988)
Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse 5, (Vintage UK, 2000)
The Dam Busters, dir. by Michael Anderson, (ABPC, 1955)
The China Syndrome, dir. by James Bridges, (IPC, 1979)
Cold Lazarus, dir. by Renny Rye, (BBC, 1996)
The Great Escape, dir. by John Sturges, (The Mirisch Corporation, 1963)
Logan’s Run, dir. by Michael Anderson, (MGM, 1976)
The Omega Man, dir. by Boris Sagal, (Warner Bros., 1972)
Soylent Green, dir. by Richard Fleischer, (MGM, 1973)
THX 1138, dir. by George Lucas, (American Zoetrope, 1971)
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