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Chapter 7 - Between Autonomy and Heteronomy

Exchanging Capital in Zink, Cohen, and Heti

from Part IV - The Moment of Market Metafiction

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 July 2019

Paul Crosthwaite
Affiliation:
University of Edinburgh
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Summary

This chapter argues that recent examples of market metafiction by Nell Zink, Joshua Cohen, and Sheila Heti stake out a set of key positions that the ambitious novelist might adopt in the contemporary literary field. Beginning with an analysis of the improbable rise to literary fame of the long-obscure Zink, it identifies a recurrent logic, evident across all elements of the “Zink phenomenon”, including her 2016 novel Nicotine, whereby an embrace of market forces paradoxically enables the very writing that it at the same time threatens to destroy. Turning to Cohen, the chapter reads the sprawling, experimental Book of Numbers (2015) as an ambivalent attempt to channel the logic of the iconic “disruptors” of the contemporary tech sector. Finally, the chapter argues that in her memoir-cum-novel How Should a Person Be? (2010) Heti aims to produce a text that circumvents conventional forms of literary valuation by being neither merely desired (as a commodity on the market) nor simply admired (as an object of critical veneration), but existing instead as an object of use – a guide or tool with the potential to be strategically deployed by those who read it.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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