2.19.2008

The choice of a new generation

Fiction with marketing tie-ins (like dead authors who evolve into trademarks) comes from an alternate universe. My fingers always hesitate before typing a brand name. At first, I tell myself it's a cameo appearance by something from the physical world, but inevitably I feel my socks reverse polarity. Brands can be so packed with unwanted resonances (and legal issues), they jump out like an orch hit. . . . then again, maybe I'm knitting in an odd fabric: I think of a DF Wallace story with a fly circling a drop of soda in the groove of a Pepsi can lid. It's a perfect choice--the Pepsi slogan at the time was probably "Gotta Have It."

5 comments:

msf said...

Amazing timing for this post, as far as I'm concerned--I'm struggling with a student draft that's rife with pop-culture references, and I'm not sure how to articulate why they're a problem. What I ended up doing was rewriting the paragraph and replacing the American references with British ones in one paragraph and Australian ones in another, ending with a paragraph that describes the things rather than naming them. What do people think of that as a strategy, from a teaching perspective?

HGF said...

Along the same lines would be creating make-believe brands or asking the student to invent brands.

The spectacle of a brand has a completely normal feel to me. The first that comes to my mind is Elixircol in Cheever's "The Death of Justina": "Don't lose your loved ones because of excessive radioactivity. Don't be a wallflower at the dance because of excessive strontium 90 in your bones. . . . "

SER said...

MSF, I think that strategy is brilliant! Let us know how it goes.

In the meantime, I will pose the question you asked me yesterday to the group: what stories can you think of that use lots of pop-culture references (possibly including brand names) either successfully or unsuccessfully?

El Gordo de Amore said...

"Celica" in White Noise was pretty good.

And MSF's idea is great -- it was a really eye-opening moment when I took a writing class
at Harvard and used "Tony Chachare's" in a story and none of the Northerners had any idea what I was talking about. It had honestly never occurred to me.

Grendel said...

I have nothing against surreal made-up brand names, and the more the better. But to change the flow of your writing, to bow your head literally before the capitalist god, seems distasteful, and distracting from the writing. The artist has a blank slate, is that not right? And now, at the bottom of that slate, is an asterisk of some sort.