Madonna and Other Spectacles (1988)


Harold Jaffe takes as the subject of fiction anything that is really happening now. Madonna, Ronald Reagan, terrorism, AIDS, South African racism, Dynasty, The Three Stooges, Max Headroom. They share the same global landscape investigating any number of cultural and political illusions.

In his fifth book of fiction, Jaffe recharges the images and language of rock, television, politics, film, and sports in an idiosyncratic prose style that has the syncopated elegance of the hippest kind of jazz. Word music that transcends all musical styles, all historical periods. A rap style that roams up and down the scales of “high” and “low” cultural assumptions. His writing is a collective text of sorts made up of the many different dreams of many cultures. Madonna and Other Spectacles moves in and out of fictional frames where spectacle, characters, and plots overlap, collide, and merge with historical events.

Jaffe’s postmodern fictions — or are they non-fictions? — outline the savagely ironic spectacles of contemporary society whose actual and make-believe characters interface in stagings of global impact. Sex, entertainment, politics, and technology create a frighteningly ambiguous iconography that shapes consciousness. In a world playacting at the edge of insanity, Madonna and Other Spectacles looks at the masks of power and pleasure created in this age of many forms of terrorism.


“Crackling with rage and black laughter, these 13 short fictions by the author of Beasts wrench themselves out of grimmest fact: genocide, nuclear devastation, black poverty, corporate murder. [This is a] collection that confronts terror in street language and redoubles its impact.”
— Publisher’s Weekly

“. . . Bursting with stylistic virtuosity.”
— Choice

“Jaffe’s Madonna fictions are like a man trying to clear his throat, his brain, his gut, his language of debris–and managing to sing at the same time.”
— John Edgar Wideman

“One of Jaffe’s gifts is his extraordinary ability to disassemble contemporary experience and then to reassemble it into something new and inventive. This is a serious book, full of shocks and innovations, which is also fun to read.”
— San Diego Union-Tribune

“The lucid rampage of Jaffe’s images and judgments is extraordinarily exciting. It reminds me nostalgically of the Real World we suppose ourselves to see out there.”
— Robert Kelly

“Nobody writing in America today can do what Jaffe does.”
— Larry McCaffery


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