This week we examined Mark Leyner’s My Cousin, My Gastroenterologist. Leyner’s use of intertextuality signifies a postmodern writing style. Intertextuality refers to the “various ways literary texts refer to other texts” (Kalaidjian, Roof and Watt 2004, p. 558). Examples of intertextuality in Leyner’s work include references to Barry White music and well-known paper towel advertisements. Collage is often employed as a key method of depicting intertextuality (Kalaidjian et al. 2004), and Leyner expresses a sense of collage in his work by layering popular culture references, scientific language and advertising-speak.
It seems that Leyner is using this disjointed, multi-layered and almost subversive style of writing to comment on contemporary society and culture. The text points to an oversaturation of advertising, imagery and popular culture, as it itself seems to over stimulate the reader with layers of lengthy descriptions, complex language and a chopping and changing story line. There’s a lot to take in and it’s difficult to keep up! It could also be argued that Leyner’s recurring use of highly scientific/science-fiction language and images is a motif used to emphasise information technology-rich Western society, or perhaps the robotic and routine nature of our lives. Leyner’s non-traditional writing style could be considered an act of rebellion against this roboticism, as he takes readers on a quick-paced and unpredictable journey quite removed from everyday experiences.
In addition, I believe Leyner’s piece comes across as more as a work of art than entertainment. I base this idea on a way of differentiating between art and entertainment passed on to me – art is about the process of creative expression, whereas entertainment is about the product. To me, the value of Leyner’s work lies in examining how and why he created it, as opposed to any immediate gratification or entertainment its reader may experience. The work seems to focus on Leyner’s experience of creating the story. Any enjoyment its reader derives is merely a positive by-product.
In our tutes, we were asked to write in what we perceived to be Leyner’s writing style for four minutes. Below is my two cents:
A cat and a dog sit on the wall of a Ukrainian Saturday school, discussing Kevin Rudd’s sideburns – their length, their colour, their meaning in today’s half-eaten, half-spat-out society of germophobes. The cat removes her half-moon spectacles (ala Professor Dumbledore from Harry Potter) and remarks that she quite likes a bit of the old Rudd-burn. Clifford, the big red dog, barks in agreement. A limousine pulls up. A guy from the Matrix jumps out. Wrong set. He jumps back in and slams the limo door as it pulls away into the night. The cat suddenly startles, knocking over Clifford’s Gloria Jeans. Clifford grumbles, “You owe me $3.35.”