Making the visible a little hard to see : D.J. Waldie's aesthetic challenge to American urban studies in Holy Land : a suburban memoir
Faculty of Arts. Linguistics and Literature
Anglia: Zeitschrift für englische Philologie. - Tübingen
, p. 78-97
University of Antwerp
In this article we argue that the aesthetic appeal of D. J. Waldie's Holy Land: A Suburban Memoir may be attributed to the many surprises its hybrid form delivers. What sets off this little book from so many other narratives about the American post-war history of suburbanization is the complexity of its literary shape. We analyse this by returning to Michel de Certeau's opposition between a voyeur-god's totalizing panorama-city and the immersive experience of the walker at street level. Holy Land presents a series of fragmented observations formally modelled upon the grid pattern that structures the author's built environment. Roaming across this grid is a walking participant observer: the narrator, who decentres the Cartesian eye of the cartographer. This laconic narrator plays around in a metonymical manner with an endlessly extendable chain of links, disturbing all attempts at reducing and synthesizing his suburban narrative. In the end, however, neither the act of gridding the text nor the insertion of a walking perspective lend themselves to straightforward allegorical interpretations. We are left with an unpredictable stage for the circulation and mutual transformation of information and affect, which in the final analysis appears to be a textual enactment of the workings of desire.