Fetishists, dreamers, voyeurs, internet porn addicts, granola-heads, drug dealers, dorks, liars, layabouts, workaholics, sex maniacs, TV junkies, compulsives, neurotics, intellectuals, idealists: graduate students, all. In this book about the complicated experience of pursuing a Ph.D., Matthew Roberson details the curious world of a group stuck between childhood and adulthood, idealism and surrealism, representation and reality. 1998.6 focuses on three main characters - in three variations of the same story - writing dissertations on postmodern novelist and cult hero Ronald Sukenick. Each confronts the perverse challenge of studying a writer whose illogical surrealism undercuts the clear discussion necessary in a Ph.D. dissertation - and each fails, sometimes badly, and sometimes in oddly brilliant ways. What he wants he thinks is to screw things up. If you screw things up they fall apart. If things fall apart then you're under the skin of the world. And when you reemerge when things come together again they come together differently. Different than before. So what does this mean it means he wants to fail. Believe it or not. He aspires to failure.
It's possible however he realizes to fail at failing. Or to make of it a howling success. In this, his first novel, Roberson rewrites Ronald Sukenick's 98.6, simultaneously parodying earlier experimental life and art, while exposing present day vacuousness and alienation. It's a hilarious send-up of American narcissism, wherein Roberson brilliantly reveals video culture and the web-cam as nineties embodiments of metafictional self-fascination.