MacKenzie ‘I just want you to note that

MacKenzie Merrick

Professor McAllister

Eng 3150

5 December 2017

Speaking to the
Problems and Solutions of Living in the Postmodern World

McGregor’s novel If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things employs
a disjointed forwards-and-backwards-in-time layout, confusing timeline, and two
sections in its form. In terms of the content, the novel puts to work a lack of
naming characters, a deficit in terms of communication between characters, and
struggles with intimacy among characters. The novel does this to reveal many of
the greater concerns of the piece about the condition of the postmodern world,
the isolation all people experience inside of it, and the damage that this
isolation and gap in open communication and vulnerability can cause on a
personal and societal level. McGregor’s disjointed
forwards-and-backwards-in-time layout speaks to the confusion of living in the
postmodern world.

At the beginning of McGregor’s novel, the woman with the square
glasses is experiencing deep stress surrounding her pregnancy. She is “scared
and horrified and numb with shock” at the prospect of carrying a child and
being a mother (McGregor 136). Throughout the novel, it is revealed that the
woman with the square glasses has always had mother issues. Much later in the
novel, she discovers that this is partially because of her mother’s mother
issues.

McGregor’s authorial decision to write characters who do not know
each other’s names speaks to the overarching theme of a lack of communication
and intimacy in the novel. There are several examples of characters in the
piece being clueless or forgetful about their supposed friends’ and neighbors’
names. One example is when the woman with the square glasses reflects and says,
“…why there are so many names I can’t remember. About whether I knew the names
in the first place. It’s a strange feeling, almost like a guilty feeling,
almost like I feel responsible” (56). A second example comes later when Michael
says to the woman with the square glasses about his brother, “He said you lived
a few doors away … You didn’t even know his name?” (120) A third example
comes from the man with the carefully trimmed moustache when discussing a
letter: “He says, ‘I just want you to note that last time you wrote to me, my
name was spelt incorrectly, because you used an S and not a Z. That is close,
but it is not close enough,’ he says. ‘These things are important, the way you
spell a man’s name, it matters, yes?'” (127)

The detachment from the individual characters forgetting the names
of other people could be representative of the disconnection and fracture that
those characters experience with the world and the people around them. The web
of connections that exist between the neighbors on the (also unnamed) street
only exist because of the mundane experience of having to see them while
running errands, watering the garden, at a glance out of windows, etcetera.
None of the neighbors take enough interest in any of each other to build the
very first bit of the bridge of a relationship: learning one another’s names.
It is only when a tragedy occurs and Shahid Mohammed Nawaz’s name is spoken
that any “remarkable” occurrence can take place (268).

After all of the shortcomings of intimacy, vulnerability, and
communication in this novel, McGregor ends with a fabulous healing scene that
expresses a supernatural connection between the entire neighborhood, Michael’s
unnamed brother, and Shahid. I read the resurrection of Shahid through Michael’s
brother’s death as absolution through attention and love, as if the only way to
overcome the massive rifts that the conditions of postmodernity thrusts up
between everyone is for everyone to open up their hearts and be vulnerable to
the pain of losing a person that one really cares for. Although this may seem
like a highly sentimental viewpoint, I find it to stand up to the reading and
to analysis of the most common complaints about the postmodern world
(individualism, narcissism, and solitude).

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