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An Essential Postmodern Reading List

Yesterday, Dalkey Archive released a new edition of William Gaddis’ postmodern masterpiece, The Recognitions, the book that Jonathan Franzen called “the ur-text of postwar fiction.” The new edition reminded us of our undying love for postmodern literature — the chaotically playful, the metafictional, and the experimental alike — and inspired us to check out a few books missing from our collection, so we’ve put together an essential postmodern reading list for devotees both old and new. Click through to check out some of our favorite works of postmodern lit — and since of course this is only a starter list, and there are many important postmodern works not listed here (we don’t have unlimited reading time, you know), be sure to let us know if we’ve missed any of your favorites in the comments.

The Recognitions, William Gaddis

Organized like a triptych, this book, whose many shifting scenes and characters are concerned with fallacy, mistaken identity, and forgeries — an extreme of the Holden Caulfield syndrome, as it were. Characters lose their names and gain others, dialogue may float unattributed, allusions abound. Gaddis famously said, “I do ask something of the reader and many reviewers say I ask too much… and as I say, it’s not reader-friendly. Though I think it is, and I think the reader gets satisfaction out of participating in, collaborating, if you will, with the writer, so that it ends up being between the reader and the page.”

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