'The End is Only Imaginary'

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Author: Padgett Powell
Editors: Daniel G. Marowski and Roger Matuz
Date: 1988
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 949 words

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One prepares, when picking up a novel that promises to be postapocalyptic, to change his critical kit bag. One prepares to find moral guidance and instructions for living in novels of the next world, in a way we've learned it is sophisticated not to find them in novels of this world. The assumption is that whatever horror is contained in the next world may, if we buy the prophecy and the route from here to there, serve to change our current imprudent behavior and steer this unhappy world away from the unhappier one the novelist warns us is ahead.

The opening pages of Paul Auster's In the Country of Last Things confirm that “last things” denotes an end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it, and one gets ready for those warnings and prophetic detour signs, and then stops. There is entirely too much in these pages about the world as we know it.

The setting, though unnamed, may without dislocation be thought of as New York, and the economy depicted may be termed late service. An industrialist's true nightmare: there are no current manufacturers, and most folk are involved in one form of rude salvage of the broken remnants of “last things.” The services are primarily the reclamation of the things and the government collection, for fuel, of corpses and feces. The landscape is a rubble-intense evocation of what could already be parts of the Bronx if buildings there were actually allowed to...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1420000407