Absolutely None

Dear Graduate Student,

Three years ago, at Yale, a young woman working on her thesis, "The Sexual Politics of Ghost-Written Slave Narratives," was found half-clothed at the Yale library, severely dehydrated, and covered in dirty notecards. She had gnawed through the binding on Glas. In the ambulance, she told the paramedics to let her off, because she was "late for class." She had not left the library for sixteen days.

She didn't see the warning signs.

Lots of people like her deny their problem. You hear them in the college library, talking about someone who "washes his hair with postmodern conditioner," or someone else who has "gone Derrida." They think it can't happen to them--but it already has.

It might happen to you. But it doesn't need to. Postmodernism has detectable signs. Do you:

  1. Begin your paragraphs, "In Europe, as opposed to America..."?
  2. Use the suffixes "ism," "ist," or "esque" after proper nouns?
  3. Suffer from typographic pretension ? Have you ever titled a paper "Reading/Writing/Women's Epistolary Literature: Post(al)-Feminist Perspectives"?
  4. Feel unhappy, and live and work with other unhappy people?
  5. Refer to anything besides writing on paper as a "text"?

If you answered "yes" to two or more of the above, you may have the Postmodern Condition.

What's so bad with being "PoMo"? Consider these questions:

  1. In addition to a strong tradition in critical theory, don't the French also have a phone system and a nuclear testing program?
  2. Does anyone in your field enjoy their work?
  3. If your life was greatly changed by reading a book, was it much of a life?
  4. When did you last do anything with your hands besides turning pages?

If you've been locked in the library too many times, it may be time for a change.

You can find a new life where simple, decent things have value again--trust me. I was the woman they found in Yale Library. My name is Alice Baylor, and I started the Postmodern Awareness Center to help suffering people return meaning to their lives. To hear my story, and many others, send the enclosed reply card as soon as you can.


Alice Baylor




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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

If you have any questions for me, I am very accessible by email. You can email me at ford@ftrain.com and ask me things and I will try to answer. Especially if you want to clarify something or write something critical. I am glad to clarify things so that you can disagree more effectively.


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© 1974-2011 Paul Ford


@20, by Paul Ford. Not any kind of eulogy, thanks. And no header image, either. (October 15)

Recent Offsite Work: Code and Prose. As a hobby I write. (January 14)

Rotary Dial. (August 21)

10 Timeframes. (June 20)

Facebook and Instagram: When Your Favorite App Sells Out. (April 10)

Why I Am Leaving the People of the Red Valley. (April 7)

Welcome to the Company. (September 21)

“Facebook and the Epiphanator: An End to Endings?”. Forgot to tell you about this. (July 20)

“The Age of Mechanical Reproduction”. An essay for TheMorningNews.org. (July 11)

Woods+. People call me a lot and say: What is this new thing? You're a nerd. Explain it immediately. (July 10)

Reading Tonight. Reading! (May 25)

Recorded Entertainment #2, by Paul Ford. (May 18)

Recorded Entertainment #1, by Paul Ford. (May 17)

Nanolaw with Daughter. Why privacy mattered. (May 16)

0h30m w/Photoshop, by Paul Ford. It's immediately clear to me now that I'm writing again that I need to come up with some new forms in order to have fun here—so that I can get a rhythm and know what I'm doing. One thing that works for me are time limits; pencils up, pencils down. So: Fridays, write for 30 minutes; edit for 20 minutes max; and go whip up some images if necessary, like the big crappy hand below that's all meaningful and evocative because it's retro and zoomed-in. Post it, and leave it alone. Can I do that every Friday? Yes! Will I? Maybe! But I crave that simple continuity. For today, for absolutely no reason other than that it came unbidden into my brain, the subject will be Photoshop. (Do we have a process? We have a process. It is 11:39 and...) (May 13)

That Shaggy Feeling. Soon, orphans. (May 12)

Antilunchism, by Paul Ford. Snack trams. (May 11)

Tickler File Forever, by Paul Ford. I'll have no one to blame but future me. (May 10)

Time's Inverted Index, by Paul Ford. (1) When robots write history we can get in trouble with our past selves. (2) Search-generated, "false" chrestomathies and the historical fallacy. (May 9)

Bantha Tracks. (May 5)

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