Two interesting posts at the weblog acdouglas.com--interesting in large part because in tandem the one seems to contradict the other. The first, an "archive of the day" post from 2003, discusses a televison production of Beckett's Waiting for Godot. It speaks in glowing terms of the play and of Beckett, an appraisal of this writer with which I agree (although I would also say I think Happy Days is just as good). In essence it discusses Godot as if it were, perforce, a classic.
The second, an account of Douglas's attempt to write a piece of "literary fiction," is interesting enough in and of itself--I particularly like his description of the amount of work that was involved--but what struck me most strongly was this apparently offhand comment: "I loathe -- heartily loathe -- the studied conceits of PoMo fiction, and just as heartily adore the antediluvian form of the omniscient, intrusive, third-person narrator, and a story with beginning, middle, and end, that last preferably with a wrenching twist."
In light of Douglas's admiration of Beckett, one does wonder what he would make of Beckett's own fiction, the work for which, in my opinion, Beckett will be most enduringly remembered even beyond his groundbreaking drama. This fiction, even his earlier work such as More Pricks Than Kicks or Murphy, is characterized by nothing if not its "studied conceits," to the point that Beckett's late work becomes almost nothing but such conceits. Perhaps Douglas likes Beckett's plays but not his fiction (although I must say I find the same sensibility informing both) and at any rate he is thoroughly entitled to his preference for the kind of old-fashioned (as in 19th century) fiction he describes.
But in the final analysis, can we even have literature--presuming we consider fiction to be a form of literature--without "studied conceits" at its core? Does poetry exist without them? Why should fiction not use them as well? Isn't any writing that resists this sort of imaginative transformation something other than "creative" writing, something other than literature? Maybe the postmodernists Douglas loathes take it all too far, forget their putative obligation to "entertain." This is something different, however, from creating carefully considered "conceits" in the first place. And if entertainment is the issue, Beckett himself probably fails this test, perhaps, for many people, in Godot itself.
Somehow the term "postmodern" as applied to contemporary literature has, I think, become conflated with the worldview or "philosophy" of academic postmodernism,--although perhaps not for Douglas, who may understand the distinction perfectly well. But postmodern fiction is not postmodern because it is "leftist," or "relativistic," or "self-reflexive" or any of the other bad things (some of them bad indeed) academic postmodernism has been called. The original postmodern writers--and the term predates its adoption by acdemic scholarship--simply believed themselves to be continuing the challenges to conventional, formulaic thinking about literature begun by the modernists. Loathing them for it seems an overreaction, to say the least.