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April 21, 1998 - Image 13

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1998-04-21

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The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, April 21, 1998 -1'

By Gabe Fajuri
Daily Arts Witer
Full of an audience that consisted
mainly of 12-year-olds and their par-
ents, Clutch Cargo's was bursting
with action on Saturday evening.
Despite an extremely early door
time at 5 p.m. the former church was
filled to capacity for NOFX's first
appearance in the Detroit area in
almost two years.
Hi-Standard, a Japanese punk rock
trio, warmed up the crowd first.
Better on stage than record, the three
foreigners put together an impressive
showing, drawing from their two
releases on Fat Wreck Chords, and
closing their set with "Angry Fist,"
the title track from their latest
A quick break in the action
brought the Bouncing Souls to the
stage around 6:15 p.m. The East
Coast's self-proclaimed "most tour-
ing band in punk rock" hurtled
through their half-hour set with the
voracity of a tiger. Cheers were

Author Barth to discuss
fine writing at ceremony

By David Erik Nelson
For the Daily
Today, the University will dole out its most presti-
gious awards for literary achievement: the
Hopwoods. Big-money, big-recognition and prizes
will reward stellar work, and to add to the occasion,
John Barth will speak at the ceremony.
It's not easy to talk about John Barth because he is
a pioneering postmodern author who is virtually
unknown outside of literary circles.
In a recent telephone interview, Barth aptly sum-
marized his literary contribution, observing that
"great fiction is seldom solely about itself, but it is
almost always also about itself." This final clause is
the watchword of postmodernists like Mark Leyner
and Donald Barthelme, writers of metafiction.
Metafiction is the school of writing that takes fic-
tion itself as its subject. This can be a hard to grasp

concept; here's
Rackham Auditorium
Today at 3:30 p.m.

an example (taken from DF
Wallace's novella "Westward
the Course of Empire Takes Its
Way": "Nouns verbed by, adver-
bially adjectival."
In this very metafictional
sentence the subject (the thing
being talked about) is the form
(the manner in which the thing
is discussed.)
Wallace's sentence isn't about
Dick and Jane going to the park,
or Spot eating his dinner; it's a
sentence about sentences, about
the nature of sentence-ness.
This approach is akin to taking
a photo of a mirror.

what Barth dislikes in "metafiction;" prose that is
solely about itself.
A better example is Kurt Vonnegut's
"Slaughterhouse-Five," which, en route to telling us
Billy Pilgrim's story, also tells us a great deal about
the nature of storytelling and chronology.
With or without his approval, Barth was instru-
mental in metafiction's inception; his work is the
unwilling mother of Leyner's "My Cousin, My
Gastroenterologist," Wallace's "Westward the
Course of Empire Takes Its Way," Donald
Barthelme's "Sentence," etc.
What is most admirable about Barth isn't his inno-
vation (for, when push comes to shove, admiring
creativity is like admiring how tall someone is), but
his unwillingness to sit on his laurels.
Despite great critical and at least moderate com-
mercial success, Barth has never chosen to stick
with what's safe or has worked before; in his work
Barth is constantly moving forward and further.
"The Floating Opera," (Barth's first novel, pub-
lished in 1956) is Todd Andrews' life's story com-
pressed to the day he decides to kill himself.
It's standard in the sense that it is clearly charac-
ter and plot driven, yet nonetheless we already see
shades of the metafictional super-voice (the voice
that eradicates everything outside of itself) and par-
alyzingly apathetic protagonist that will become the
backbone of the works of Vonnegut, Leyner, Wallace
et al.
The real high-water mark for Barth's metafiction
comes in his short story collection "Lost in the
Funhouse" (1968), wherein we find stories such as
"Title," a story with no point or content apart from
the story being constructed.
But that summation is too simple: Vibrating with-
in the story struggling to be told is, of course, the
author trying to tell the story: "As you see, I'm try-
ing to do something about the present mess; hence
this story. Adjective in the noun! Don't lose your
Although we never know this author's hair color or
gender, we can make a legitimate connection with
his/her struggle. At the core of the formal experi-
mentation is a cathartic heart. If there is one quality
that characterizes Barth's work across the board it is
this sort of virtuoso litheness.
Barth's significance cannot conceivably be over-
If you have ever, in your life, read a book you
enjoyed or written a sentence that's made you proud,
then you will never, ever forgive yourself if you miss
Barth's lecture at the Hopwood Awards Ceremony,
today at 3:30 p.m. at Rackham Auditorium.

Courtesy of Epitaph Records
The men of NOFX delivered a stellar show this past Saturday at Clutch Cargo's in

Clutch Cargo's
April 18, 1998

heard for older
songs including
"I Like Your
Mom," "Quick
Check Girl" and
"Lamar Vannoy,"
as well as items
from last year's
Epitaph records
release "The
By the time
the Souls were
done with their
r rin of th"

portion o t1e
evening's entertainment, the crowd
had worked up a good sweat. The
real party, however, had yet to
The members of NOFX walked on
stage nonchalantly about an hour
after the Bouncing Souls had started
their set. A single glance at the four
of them would never have suggested
that these were men who would
incite one of the single most insane
evenings at Clutch Cargo's.
-Fat Mike, the band's lead singer
didn't start things off with a song,
but rather a five-minute chat with the
crwd. As soon as his sarcastic ban-
ter began, everyone seemed to know
th t something was going on.

The first chord finally struck, the
rabid masses in the mosh pit let go of
any inhibitions they might have had
and let loose on the stage.
From the first song to the last, not
a moment passed without someone
being on, or trying to be on, the
There must have been more than
200 crowd surfers during NOFX's
set. At one point, the tiny platform
was literally full of fans.
The crowd surfers really made the
show outstanding. The general crowd
(those actually watching the show
and not actively participating) was
treated to a total of three moonings
and dozens of extended middle fin-
One surfer attempted to drop his
boxer shorts while on stage, but was
stopped (and just soon enough) by
the stage manager before performing
the dirty deed.
The band seemed to take all the
madness in stride. The members of
the band seemed happy with the
frenzy unfolding around them, and
took every opportunity they had to
make fun of crowd surfers and some-
times prevent them from jumping
from the stage.
As for NOFX's musical menu, it
cranked out both new and old tunes,
to the extreme pleasure of everyone

in attendance, even those that stood
in the balcony throughout the entire
Classics like "Linoleum," "Leave
it Alone," "Stickin' In My Eye,"
"Liza And Louise" and an innumer-
able list of others seemed to flow out
of the band in a never-ending
In true punk rock style, the band
attempted to squash together eight
songs in three minutes, but only suc-
ceeded in cramming six into four
minutes. Some of these "quickies"
included "Murder the Government,"
"Reagan" and "I Wanna Be An
There was no encore Saturday
night. Instead of taking the tradi-
tional break before a three or four
song final hurrah, NOFX just
cranked out four more tunes, finish-
ing off the evening with their salute
to Judaism in the song "The Brews,"
which was quickly followed by their
traditional recessional hymn,
"Buggley Eyes."

The classic example of digestible metafiction is
Barth's own short story "Lost in the Funhouse"
(from the collection of the same name).
In this story, the tale of adolescent Ambrose, des-
perately infatuated with his cousin and lost in an
amusement park funhouse, is interrupted and modu-
lated by observations about the facts and methods of
Suffice it to say that metafictionists are "writers'
writers," although I'm not sure if that's meant to be
a compliment or an insult.
Barth himself isn't comfortable with the term
"metafiction" because "what it seems to imply is a
kind of fiction that really is mainly about its own
"What I'd much prefer is fiction that does not
naively approach form but, that being said, goes on
to make an appeal to the emotions," he said. Thus,
Wallace's sentence would also be an example of

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