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No Accident, ComradeChance and Design in Cold War American Narratives$
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Steven Belletto

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199826889

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199826889.001.0001

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Aesthetic Responses to Political Fictions

Aesthetic Responses to Political Fictions

Pynchon and the Violence of Narrative Chance

(p.35) 2 Aesthetic Responses to Political Fictions
No Accident, Comrade

Steven Belletto

Oxford University Press

After a brief comparison of Ian Hacking’s intellectual history The Taming of Chance to William Gaddis’s novel The Recognitions (1955), chapter two analyzes Thomas Pynchon’s first novel, V. (1963), and argues that its sophisticated use of narrative chance creates an aesthetic response to totalitarian political fictions. One of the first big postmodern American novels, V. merits sustained analysis in the context of chance’s role in Cold War culture because it thematizes the function of narrative chance. Pynchon suggests a novelist’s own potential complicity in creating a fictional universe in which putative moments of chance are actually products of authorial design. V.’s innovative form is a way to work out the inclusion of chance in a novel and to level a critique of both totalitarian political systems and also Cold War norms back in the States, a comparison that became widespread in American fiction in the latter half of the 20th century. The chapter ends with a brief discussion of Robert Coover’s The Public Burning (1977), Don DeLillo’s Libra (1988), and Richard Powers’s The Gold Bug Variations (1991).

Keywords:   Thomas Pynchon, V. (1963), chance and postmodernism, aesthetics and politics during the Cold War

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