MacKenzie MerrickProfessor McAllisterEng 31505 December 2017Speaking to theProblems and Solutions of Living in the Postmodern WorldMcGregor’s novel If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things employsa disjointed forwards-and-backwards-in-time layout, confusing timeline, and twosections in its form. In terms of the content, the novel puts to work a lack ofnaming characters, a deficit in terms of communication between characters, andstruggles with intimacy among characters. The novel does this to reveal many ofthe greater concerns of the piece about the condition of the postmodern world,the isolation all people experience inside of it, and the damage that thisisolation and gap in open communication and vulnerability can cause on apersonal and societal level. McGregor’s disjointedforwards-and-backwards-in-time layout speaks to the confusion of living in thepostmodern world.At the beginning of McGregor’s novel, the woman with the squareglasses is experiencing deep stress surrounding her pregnancy. She is “scaredand horrified and numb with shock” at the prospect of carrying a child andbeing a mother (McGregor 136).
Throughout the novel, it is revealed that thewoman with the square glasses has always had mother issues. Much later in thenovel, she discovers that this is partially because of her mother’s motherissues. McGregor’s authorial decision to write characters who do not knoweach other’s names speaks to the overarching theme of a lack of communicationand intimacy in the novel. There are several examples of characters in thepiece 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 namesin 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 Michaelsays to the woman with the square glasses about his brother, “He said you liveda few doors away … You didn’t even know his name?” (120) A third examplecomes from the man with the carefully trimmed moustache when discussing aletter: “He says, ‘I just want you to note that last time you wrote to me, myname 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 youspell a man’s name, it matters, yes?'” (127)The detachment from the individual characters forgetting the namesof other people could be representative of the disconnection and fracture thatthose characters experience with the world and the people around them.
The webof connections that exist between the neighbors on the (also unnamed) streetonly exist because of the mundane experience of having to see them whilerunning 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 thevery 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 spokenthat any “remarkable” occurrence can take place (268).After all of the shortcomings of intimacy, vulnerability, andcommunication in this novel, McGregor ends with a fabulous healing scene thatexpresses a supernatural connection between the entire neighborhood, Michael’sunnamed brother, and Shahid. I read the resurrection of Shahid through Michael’sbrother’s death as absolution through attention and love, as if the only way toovercome the massive rifts that the conditions of postmodernity thrusts upbetween everyone is for everyone to open up their hearts and be vulnerable tothe pain of losing a person that one really cares for.
Although this may seemlike a highly sentimental viewpoint, I find it to stand up to the reading andto analysis of the most common complaints about the postmodern world(individualism, narcissism, and solitude).