June 4th, 2012 / 8:01 am
Craft Notes & Haut or not

What we talk about when we talk about the New Sincerity, part 1

Miranda July; Steve Roggenbuck (photo dates unknown)

I wasn’t surprised that my Monday post, which was ultimately about reading & applying some ideas from Viktor Shklovsky’s Theory of Prose, mostly generated conversation about Tao Lin and the New Sincerity. I knew that would happen even as I wrote it. So I thought I should take a post to clarify my thoughts on “the whole NS thing.” What follows will be a mix of fact and personal reflection.

As everyone knows, the original New Sincerity (in poetry) was a “movement” started by Joseph Massey and Anthony Robinson and Andrew Mister c. 2005. I put “movement” in quotes because although they wrote numerous manifestos and argued a lot with others about sincerity and what, in fact, they were doing, even they will insist that the NS was not a coherent thing. I get that; viewed now, their proposals seem at least half tongue-in-cheek (leading to endless debates about whether they were being ironic or sincere—debates that, while heartfelt, I think really missed the point). A lot this writing no longer exists online—that’s the Internet for you—although if you google around you can still find remnants of the discussion.

What happened next, though, matters more for our current purposes. People started pointing to other poets—Dorothea Lasky, Nate Pritts, Matt Hart, Tao Lin, others—who appeared to be working with similar motivations, exploring similar styles and devices. It’s easy to see why this was so, leaving aside the fact that every writer is of course a special and unique snowflake. Recall also that in 2005—7 things looked different than they do today (e.g., Tao Lin was not “Tao Lin”).

When did I first hear the term? 2007? 2008? I know I first ran into Lin on 21 July 2007, when I read “The Existentially Fucked Megamouth Shark” in the now defunct Mississippi Review Online. I forwarded the link to some friends (it’s my email account that remembers the date) and started reading Lin’s blog. My pal Justin bought Bed and Eeee Eee Eeeee and lent them to me, and he and I saw that Lin belonged to / had attracted something of a scene. And I thought it plausible that there was some kind of loose-knit shared sensibility linking, say, you are maybe a little bit happier than i am (2006) with stuff like Jillian Clark’s if i am in a room full of people i am not having any fun (2008) (which Lin blogged about). I took notice partly because I was interested in the “return to long titles” trend, which seemed but one part of a resurgence of interest in preciousness, sentiment, & twee in both cinema and indie rock—Wes Anderson, Sufjan Stevens, the Danielson Famile, the Decemberists, the Arcade Fire, Joanna Newsom. (This is when I began collecting instances of “school play” music videos and commercials.)

Miranda July blurbed Lin’s writing and I thought, sure, she’s part of this burgeoning “movement,” too. I first saw her work in the late 1990s in NYC, and in those performances, as well as on her Kill Rock Star CDs and in her her videos, she was definitely playing with things like the fear that comes with being a kid and being unable to distinguish irony from sincerity, the result being that every experience registers as the biggest most spectacular thing in the world:

And, yeah, long titles. (Actually, my first exposure to that trend came in 2003, when my pal Astria Suparak, a friend of July’s, made a program entitled “Looking Is Better than Feeling You” for Ladyfest. I hosted one stop on the subsequent tour, at Illinois State.)

So I saw stuff that, if not the Massey/Robinson/Mister NS Proper, looked related. Obviously, something was happening.

Others observed this, too. Elisa Gabbert at the Ploughshares blog proposed on 9 March 2008 a connection between the New Sincerity and “the New Childishness,” which was her and Ana Bozicevic-Bowling’s term for folks like Lin/Lasky/Joanna Newsom (Newsom again!):

I’m interested in Seth Abramson’s take on an essay in the recent issue of Jacket — “The Time Between Time: Messianism & the Promise of a ‘New Sincerity’” by Jason Morris — partly because Morris attempts to describe a group of artists that has some overlap with those Ana and I brazenly lumped into the “New Childishness” “school” (Joanna Newsom and Tao Lin), and partly because, as it does Seth, the essay strikes me as wrong.

Gabbert made the New Childishness / New Sincerity connection, I’d argue, because it made sense to—there were salient points of contact. (Perhaps Elisa will chime in? I  hope so.) Others since have done similarly; see Jennifer Moore’s recent critical writings, for one thing. And others have pointed out that this all is but one part of the “death of irony” conversation that US culture has been spinning its wheels in ever since 1 September 2001, if not earlier. (Possibly I remember folks talking about that in the 1990s? One hears less about it now; perhaps it lost momentum after 9/11/11?)

(Actually, I have something like a hypothesis about “what’s happened” to irony, and “postmodernism,” something I’ll write down another time. But here’s a teaser: Generation Y started turning 21 in 2002, since which time they’ve been supplanting Gen X as 20-somethings, and now 30-somethings. And mainstream culture is shifting to reflect their tastes, which are, I’d propose, “less ironic.”)

But back to the NS and it’s spread. These broadening circles of association and implication made perfect sense post-2005. Because Massey’s manifestos—whether he meant them sincerely, or whether he now no longer espouses them (again, they’re offline)—did announce a movement. And one thing that movements do is move.

Meanwhile, mind you, I had and still have no idea which writers or artists in question knew one another or liked one another or kissed one another or even agreed with one another on shared aesthetic principles. I also don’t know who borrowed from whom, or ripped off whom, or inspired whom. Nor do I think it really matters.

I can instead say this. Living in Chicago at that time, I didn’t know anyone else who was interested in this stuff; I was hanging out in the city’s “experimental poetry” crowd, which convened in series like Discrete, Myopic, Danny’s, and Red Rover, maintained by folks like Kerri Sonnenberg, Jesse Seldess, Mark Tardi, Larry Sawyer, Lina Ramona Vitkauskas, Joel Craig, Greg Purcell, Jen Karmin, Amina Cain, Laura Goldstein, Ray Bianchi, and others. Their work was (very broadly speaking) dense and abstract and overtly theory-derived—what I think is fair to call “post-Languagey.” Here’s a poem by Mark Tardi:

series 2

instead of entrance
Goodbye means Avoir

Sved’s dream said from nowhere

of aliquant angles

some spindle of the sun

empirically facted
deafening skin

open and afterwards

a cough is a couch
idled into

without rain
an island

easily a third worse

Indigo with a flame-red tongue

And here’s one by Kerri Sonnenberg:


all sleep would let me tell
is that kind of wish to please the cold
where before every sleep might carry
us together rounding off
what light would leave open
our better hold on photography

but an oscillating reference, the light
stops halfway toward the viewer
or description like a thunderstorm over
the desert, one can see it end
to end distantly contained

And here’s Jennifer Karmin, reading from her multi-voice long poem aaaaaaaaaaalice:

I like this poetry fine (I like everything fine), and I like all these poets, support their work. (Obv; I’m providing Jen with a “poet’s assist” in that video.) But work like theirs—with the exception of Amina’s—has never been what really moves me. Instead, I spent those years in discussion with my then-girlfriend Michelle Tupko and our then-roommate Jeremy M. Davies about how abstraction and theory and postmodernist allusion—and, yes, irony—had run their course. They appeared exhausted, to put it in John Barth’s terms. Or excessively familiar, to put it in Shklovsky’s. I know now that others felt so, too. Conceptual Writing, and a general return to constraints, was one response. The New Sincerity was another.

I hate to discuss my own fiction here, but permit me to do so for exactly three paragraphs, because it will make for a useful example. I wrote Amazing Adult Fantasy in 2005–6 and although I didn’t know about the New Sincerity yet, one of my main concerns was “to eliminate all irony” from my writing. Miranda July was a palpable influence, for sure. And just like her, I wanted to revisit childhood interests, through prose that registered as naively “demented”—as though I were speaking like a child, unable to edit or censor myself.

Later (c. 2008) I encountered Nate Pritts, and of course I observed that both he and I had written collections named after Spider-Man comics. (His—a marvelous book—is entitled Sensational Spectacular; my own, AAF, comes from here.) This was entirely accidental. Justin (my pal) suggested my title many years earlier, for one of my many zines. And Nate’s book came out in 2007.

BUT. Nate and I were (we had to be) both drawing on similar experiences and desires. We’re about the same age, and as such grew up in the 1980s reading comics. And we were, I’d imagine, responding to “larger cultural forces” (“the limits of irony,” etc.) c. the same time. And were both looking (I think?) for some way to recreate the sincere excitement and passion we felt as children reading comics (re-viewed, now, through our new adult perspectives). Or something like that? So of course different writers can write similar-but-different things without talking to one another, or imitating one another, or hanging out in the same scene/movement. As Steve Katz so memorably put it (re: his own generation’s turn toward postmodernism):

All of us found ourselves at the same stoplights in different cities at the same time. When the lights changed, we all crossed the streets.

The older I get, the more I see that we invent far less than we think. But it matters less whether someone’s doing something “new.” The more pertinent question is: What are they doing with what they do in the here and now? (I.e., stress the “make” and not the “new” in “make it new.”)

(I swear, somewhere out there, somebody thinks that he or she just invented metatextuality.)

Next Monday, I’ll put up Part 2, addressing what I think has happened since 2008. Until then, I’ll be curious to read what you all think.

Though consider—

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  1. Michael Martin

      Hey Mr. Jameson,

      I really appreciate this post. You walk the very difficult critical line of stringing the trajectory of a cultural moment without the self-debunking haste that this kind of thing usually takes on (a trepidation that I think is part of the same pulse you are tracking here, that is, PoMo’s justifiable removal of all-too-certain grounds, with the return to “earth” that the scenes you are discussing lend to in their calming-affect, a kind of cultural getting-our-grip-together). 

      Of course, considering the strange emotionality that the personas take on in much of this stuff, and the very debate as too how too sincere is perhaps insincere, and not to mention the mainstream sell-back (which you mention at a glance — just await the next bank commercial on television and tell me if our jangle-pop is not bursting back at us, shoving our generational insistence on proper-liberal consumption in our faces), who knows whether the jaws of PoMo critique need toughen-up even more than before (which does not mean irony, but hard critque), or return to a PoMo mood in which we should, again, define what we mean when we say it, and whether we even mean it? I say this because I’m interested in how NS, even as a minor cultural movement of a certain population of culturally attuned people can still get swallowed up by commercial culture, the jaws of late-capital unmoved by our twee attempts. I love you, Zoey D., but what’s to be done?

      I know this is vague and boring and didactic but I hope a sincere (I think) knee-jerk nonetheless.

      Agin, thank you for this.

  2. Stephen Tully Dierks

      always appreciate your thoughtfulness and generosity in your posts, Adam

  3. Josh Spilker

      I don’t quite understand the need to shoehorn obvious cultural trends into an obscure literary term. Quite possibly, it should be the other way around. Why even call this the “new sincerity” instead of just “sincerity”? 

      As you note, there are many other instances of “sincerity” as a rise against “sarcastic irony” or whatever, long before these guys coined “new sincerity” and you found it.

      I think the literature was responding to the culture and not leading it, hence may not deserve as much credit as this post seems to suggest.

  4. Wallace Barker

      It seems like there is a genuine social phenomenon taking place that involves a further extension of adolescence. Like how the entire concept of “adolescence” is relatively new– previously one was a child and then a working adult with little or no transitional period. But basically following WWII the sociological concept of adolescence emerged as the pre-adult phase of life was extended (via longer education, delayed pregnancy and marriage, etc.).  And a hugely successful literary genre (YA) emerged to cater to this new social group (ages 13-21 or so).

      Now, with the ubiquity of higher education and the number of young adults who are remaining financially dependent on their parents well through their twenties (not to mention 20-somethings actually living with their parents) we have this new social group emerging that needs its own literary genre as well. Too hip and mature to geek out on Harry Potter but not quite ready to settle into Franzenland (DeLilloville?). Hmmm…. what might they like… perhaps naifish, inward-looking literature about wallowing in your bedroom and feeling aimless/disassociated/existential ennui? Appreciation for precious and quasi-childish earnestness? What might we call this new literary genre…

  5. Anonymous

      I don’t view these writers as “less ironic” just because they rely on autobiography and a simple, straightforward style–to me, they seem pretty ironic and cynical in their detachment and emotional and intellectual stuntedness. Also, the idea of “sincerity” as a kind of insincerity–as alluded to above–is probably one of the main reasons why this group is so hated on. There’s a passive-aggressiveness there that feels disingenuous, both in the writing and in the way these writers interact with each other (and others). Tao Lin’s well-known, “can you elaborate?” quip comes to mind when describing this kind of passive-aggressiveness. A critic will pose a thoughtful question, and he’ll dismiss it by pretending to not understand it while throwing the question back in the critic’s face like some childish bully, all while pretending to appear innocently naive. 

  6. Elisa Gabbert

      Whatever Tao Lin may say about his own writing, I don’t think it can be disentangled from, or considered a rejection of, irony AT ALL. In other words, insofar as Tao Lin’s writing can be considered an example of “the new sincerity,” the new sincerity appears to be faux-sincerity. Also: nostalgia for the artifacts of our collective childhood has been “a thing” since at least the mid ’90s (when the cool kids at my high school starting carrying around Dark Crystal lunchboxes and wearing baby barettes and knee highs). Does nostalgia (aka “revisiting childhood interests”) really involve a rejection of irony? I don’t know — I feel like there is almost always some element of camp involved, and camp entails irony (i.e., self-awareness, amused distance). Which is all to say: I’d argue that much of the writing you refer to is not really a reaction _against_ irony and does not suggest that irony is exhausted; it’s just another manifestation of irony. (Joseph Massey’s poetry, on the other hand, is actually pretty irony-free as far as I can tell.)

  7. A D Jameson

      I don’t mean to claim that the literature was leading the culture. I don’t know what led what, and what co-evolved.

      Terms are useful for referring to things, and that’s probably about it. But sometimes one needs to refer to things.

      I think it’s also useful to be able to analyze art and point out shared features in works. At other times this is not a useful or desirable thing to be doing. I usually set aside Mondays for it.


  8. A D Jameson

      As I say above, I think debating over whether the work is ironic or sincere is a trap. For me the more pertinent question is: “What in the here and now creates the perception of the author being either ironic or sincere?”

      For instance, over the past ten years there’s been a general perception, I think, that long rambly titles without any punctuation and sometimes set in all lowercase “feel sincere” or “feel non-ironic”:

      Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005)
      you are maybe a little bit happier than i am (2006)
      No One Belongs Here More than You (2007)
      if i am in a room full of people i am not having any fun (2008)
      When All Our Days Are Numbered Marching Bands Will Fill the Streets & We Will Not Hear Them Because We Will Be Upstairs in the Clouds (2010)

      I think the idea (one idea) is that such a title feels “less mediated”—more like  uncontrolled speech, spontaneous and non-revised.


  9. Elisa Gabbert

      People think long rambly titles (one of the moves, btw!) feel sincere?! News to me. I think long titles feel twee (dictionary definition: “Excessively or affectedly quaint, pretty, or sentimental”). Is it still “sincerity” if a lot of conscious work goes into maintaining that facade? 

  10. A D Jameson

      Hi, Elisa!

      See my reply above to HonoredGuestII. I think it’s always about the appearance of sincerity (regardless of whether the work is “actually” ironic or sincere).

      The New Childishness syncs up with the New Sincerity, I’d argue, because being childish registers as “sincere.” For me this would seem to come out of indie pop of the 1980s (stuff like K & Sarah Records), a certain strain of which seems to have gotten less punky and more naive/”little kiddie” over time—increasingly Twee. And it got neater and cleaner and eventually you get Belle & Sebastian (which did a lot to popularize a certain aesthetic). And then you get God Help the Girl, god help us. (Aw, no, I like GHTG.)

      I don’t want to be monolithic or suggest that “the NS is just this,” or “the New Childishness is just this,” etc., or that there aren’t real differences and nuances. Culture is always a hybrid and in flux. But I think one can trace out a certain recurring aesthetic from the mods to indie pop to Twee to the New Childishness / the New Sincerity. More or less?

      I’m writing this in Cafe Mustache in Logan Square (Chicago), which is totally my neighborhood’s Twee/neat/kiddie/mod cafe—they were playing the Troggs on LP when I walked in (“Jingle Jangle”). Board games and fake mustaches (pretending to be an adult), typewriters, globes—like the set of a Wes Anderson film. New Wave Coffee, where I usually write each morning, is the trashier/punkier/snottier place.


  11. jeanninepanda

      One difference I see between Lin and Lasky is that Lin’s work has zero depth. There’s nothing under the surface to consider, and the surface itself is so boring that I don’t understand why he’s even being talked about here. Lasky’s work, on the other hand, has a lot of depth. The childlike aspect of her work really opens us up to seeing and relating to the world in unique, interesting ways.

  12. A D Jameson

      Yeah, I’d argue so. Again, I think the whole point is the appearance of sincerity, or being unmediated. Twee can be a part of that. Look at God Help the Girl. Obviously there’s a lot of work behind looking that way. But Catherine Ireton also displays a certain naivity or cluelessness. Like she’s too naive to know how she’s coming across. Or out of time (“I’m Donna Reed, and pre-women’s lib.”) Which is a calculated, artistic effect.

      Whetheror not the work is genuinely sincere or easy or labored over or
      calculated etc. is, I think, the wrong line of thought. Maybe Ireton’s really like that? Or maybe it’s all just an act? Or some else? Either way, it’s all artifice and it’s all contrived. The question is how does it come across? Does it feel unmediated/naive/spontaneous/uncontrolled/sincere/etc?

      And of course there are differences between those things, and Twee is not New Sincere etc. I’m speaking very generally. And perhaps not usefully? Perhaps not usefully.

  13. Elisa Gabbert

      Totally agreed that “sincere” and “ironic” are both calculated artistic effects. Where we disagree: I don’t think some of these examples qualify as “sincere” in either sense — like I think the faux-ness is *actively* played up. It’s *supposed* to seem faux-sincere, not sincere-sincere.

  14. Bobby Dixon

      I think you are right about the titles, but sentimental and sincere are not mutually exclusive, unless every self-identified anime/manga fan I have ever met are all in some ironic cabal. 

      I don’t think that just because something may be saccharine, it cannot also be sincere. It may feel “cheap,” but I don’t think “cheap” things should be discounted just because they feel “cheap.”

  15. Elisa Gabbert

      I see what you’re saying, but I think it’s worth distinguishing between work that seems to _want_ to be seen/read/heard as sincere (maybe call it first-order New Sincerity) and work that seems to knowingly mock, via whatever moves it employs, simple sincerity (call it second-order New Sincerity). I’d put Lin’s writing in the second camp. Because the “sincerity” is so over the top as to be hilarious. Whereas Belle & Sebastian is not, IMO, hilarious.

  16. Elisa Gabbert

      Agreed that sentimental and sincere are not mutually exclusive, but also one does not necessarily imply the other. Something can feel sentimental without feeling sincere. I mostly think long titles feel cutesy. 

  17. Stephen Tully Dierks

      i don’t think these writers are trying to create faux-sincere titles. i think they are trying to create meaningfulcore/sincere-sounding titles or playful/cute-sounding titles and the degree to which the titles will successfully seem as intended to various readers will of course vary.

      i think any title has a calculated artistic effect if the author is conscientious in picking it–if he/she didn’t pick it at random and then put no further thought into it (unsure if anyone can do this, but could be possible). i agree sometimes artists are self-aware in their use of this type of title. i don’t think it matters whether they are sincere or not or whether the title is sincere or not—or at least it doesn’t prove anything. people seem to want to catch these artists being phony and then stamp out their distasteful tweeness or something. the idea that this type of writer is notably or damnably faux-sincere is illogical to me because 1) what does genuine, true sincerity look like? 2) why would that be a desirable effect? is this the late-90s, are we ~keeping it real~? etc.

      i think the degree of relative sincere intent on the part of the author coming up with this type of title will vary. what i think may be moreso consistent is that the author in question thinks this is a good type of title to use–either intuitively or because he/she has seen other titles in this style and liked them. this plays right into Adam’s mode of thinking, maybe:  so-called “twee” titles, or twee lit, whatever, twee indie films, can be posited–(we all know just about any old garbage can be posited, yay rhetoric)–as a quasi-genre or a mode with many examples available. but there is variety, difference, and to me the term twee is highly dubious/unhelpful from a critical/rhetorical perspective.this type of title and this type of writing annoys ppl in part, i think, bc it appeals to an audience that other types of writers (with other types of titles, which oftentimes accrue their own tropes and type signifiers) can’t reach, and, both these other writers and their audience, arguably, aren’t beholden to such demands as “provoke/justify serious academic discourse of your work” or “maintain a facade of serious-minded intent in your writing and public image (i.e. don’t be cute or overly accessible)”i think it’s a kind of weird bitterness that manifests as urges to critically dismiss and denounce.  

  18. Bobby Dixon

      “I mostly think long titles feel cutesy.” by Elisa Gabbert 

  19. deadgod

      There is no “might”.  There is only ‘do’ and ‘don’t’.

  20. Stephen Tully Dierks

      i think Tao’s work varies in its degree of self-awareness and irony insofar as it can be read in the text and gathered from his statements re intent

      i think the emotional, emo you-might-say segment of his work–some of his poems, “Bed,” parts of his novels–is borne of an earnest attempt to use literary techniques to potentially provoke in the reader the same emotions he to-some-degree feels or felt himself–and some of those emotions are sincere profound sadness, sincere depression, etc., insofar as any emotion can be understood as sincere.

      but part of why Tao’s work is so fascinating and so alive to me is that it rarely feels beholden to any one register or tone–just as i chat someone in a jocular way, then think in an emotional way about a person, then feel bored, then really need to pee, then think about how i need to pee but would rather continue chatting and clicking on things, then google Tanizaki because someone mentioned him, then think about aging and death, then think about how i don’t know what i’m doing, why would i choose one thing or the other, to pee or not to pee, seems as if i don’t care what i do, who is doing thinking, what am i doing, seems as if [……….]—Tao encompasses all of that tonal/content variety in his work.

      i would also bring up the concept of post-irony. my friend Steve Roggenbuck and i have often talked about post-irony and have seen it as part of our work and the work of some other writers we like. post-irony to me is, for example, liking Justin Bieber’s music, knowing it can be considered ironic, unlikely, funny, silly, and/or unattractive to like Bieber’s music (to various ppl), but then developing, or simply opening up to, a joy and love for Bieber’s music that is another step past those already stepped–next-level sincerity, the irony transformed—not sincerity, not irony, but post-irony.

  21. Anonymous

      “Irony”, including one’s perception of it existing in a given work of art, is difficult to pinpoint today, because it’s so ingrained in contemporary popular culture and discourse. I’m sure you’re familiar with DFW’s well-known essay on this topic. Because of this, I tend to go with my gut–yes, I know this isn’t the most critical approach, but I don’t care. And my gut is telling me, “dishonest bullshit” and “just STFU with all the gimmickry, kitsch preciousness, PR, and online fuckery and tell a gd story.”

  22. deadgod

      hey hey my my

      irony can never die

      there’s more to the picture

      than meets the “I”

      hey hey my my

      my my hey hey

      irony is here to stay

      things are not as they are

      yet what I mean I always say

      my my hey hey

  23. deadgod

      hey hey my my

      irony can never die

      there’s more to the picture

      than meets the “I”

      hey hey my my

      my my hey hey

      irony is here to stay

      things are not as they are

      yet what I mean I always say

      my my hey hey

  24. postitbreakup

      Ha! Nice.

  25. mimi

      i wanna live with a sin-sincere girl
      i could be happy the rest of my life with a sin-sincere girl

  26. Mason Johnson

      I’m glad that we’re finally getting to the heart of the discussion here, Adam.

      I hate New Wave, but like Cafe Mustache (though am not, in general, a coffee shop kinda guy). What does this say about me? Which is more sincere?

  27. bartleby_taco
  28. Anonymous

      “people seem to want to catch these artists being phony and then stamp out their distasteful tweeness or something.” 
      pretty common tactic: your aesthetics are different so i will question your motives.

  29. leapsloth14

      This was interesting, thanks

  30. Anonymous

      Yeah, because criticizing a particular aesthetic (or work that falls within a particular aesthetic) is always this simple and a reflection of the critic’s personal taste–because people can’t criticize an aesthetic because they want to criticize it, you know, like what most mature critics are capable of doing. All of us critics are critics because we are humorless, boring, and sober-minded “realists” beholden to academia. 

  31. Anonymous

      is that what it sounds like i said? sorry. i think people do that but it’s certainly not the sum total of criticism. in any case, i was responding to what stephen said and not to some particular criticism made in this comment thread.

  32. Anonymous

      Keep in mind that these writers make up 95% of the contributor posts here. I bet many of us would be happy to discuss more writers than the 3-5 this website seems obsessed with covering. 

  33. Don

      “I think it’s always about the appearance of sincerity (regardless of whether the work is “actually” ironic or sincere).”But some writing is actually sincere, and some writers are actually sincere. The reality/content of sincerity matters to me in writing. Reducing everything to the appearance of X seems to give in to the postmodern/ironic bullshit, where nothing can be sincere but only take on “the appearance of sincerity”. That’s awful.

  34. Noah Cicero

       This doesn’t discuss the sociological effects that cause ‘sincerity’ or at least the want for it. The origins of the movement, like the MENTAL origins, even physical origins derive from the early years of the Bush Administration and 9-11. Some of the younger people may not remember, but America was, super fucking weird then. It felt likes took over. And currently the lies are still taking over. 

      We live in a culture where republicans and Fox news can just make up facts and sell them to the audiences. It has been researched and a Fox news watcher knows less about the news than a person who doesn’t watch any news at all. 

      Where the democratic president/has a kill list with a 17 year old girl on it, signed a bill to legalize detention camps, and has cracked down harder on Mexicans and marijuana than Bush.

      We have a political where the KOCH brothers own it. Just some guys, not voted in, not elected, can own a political system and create truly faux sincerity movements. 

      We live in a culture where, I have seen this in person. A daughter who just graduated said to her republican parents, “Please don’t vote republican because you are voting for me to lose my rights and have my health care taken away.” Her republican parents don’t want to vote democrat because they think ‘it looks bad because the blacks do that.’ 

      AD I’m glad you pulled the artistic roots together, but something bigger is happening here. Something big ugly and vile. 

      The republicans won’t to take away social security even though it has money/and they want to take away food stamps from the poor. Not even mentioning the 500 ways they want to make second class citizens again.

      Obama has a kill list. Needs to be repeated.

      Have you watched the police brutality videos of the OWS protests? Shit shit shit, that shit is horrible.

      We are being crushed under this shit/

      We don’t have bright futures to look forward to/what 12 dollar an hour jobs/no pension/

      And then there’s peak oil and global warming.

      The world is really fucked, because all the adults are lying.

      The only way to beat this shit/is by being sincere/by being honest. 

      This is some Harriet Beecher Stowe shit here. 

  35. tao lin

      “Tao Lin’s well-known, “can you elaborate?” quip comes to mind when describing this kind of passive-aggressiveness. A critic will pose a thoughtful question, and Lin will often dismiss it by pretending not to understand it as part of his innocent naivete, all while throwing the question back in the critic’s face like some childish bully. Nothing “sincere” about these cheap, cowardly rhetorical methods.”

      i don’t dismiss anything

      when i say ‘can you elaborate’ i honestly want to learn more

  36. tao lin

      accidentally ‘liked’ this

  37. tao lin


  38. Anonymous

      Please. We’re not that stupid (well, some of us). A person shouldn’t have to spoonfeed you questions and give you their life story in order for you to respond and participate in an adult conversation. 

  39. tao lin

      i think every word, every phrase, every sentence has ‘depth’ (and that the amount of ‘depth’ will differ according to the reader) in that it will cause the readers’ brain to think about other things than the lines and curves representing the words, phrases, etc.

      all words, even invented words, have ‘depth,’ even ‘aroeireairjaoirjaeoirjaeoir’ will cause a readers’ brain to think things other than ‘aroeireairjaoirjaeoirjaeoir’

      i think you probably do think my work has ‘depth,’ you probably just don’t like my writing

      but by saying my work has zero depth, within a worldview that probably views ‘zero depth’ as ‘bad,’ instead of saying ‘i don’t like lin’s writing,’ you’re logically implying, if you view ‘zero depth’ as ‘bad,’ that i should change my art

  40. tao lin

      this was in reply to the ‘zero depth’ comment

  41. tao lin

      jesus, think the ‘reply’ thing isn’t working, isn’t putting the reply below the comment

  42. tao lin

      if someone says ‘your house is making everything on this street look bad’ or ‘you are a lazy writer who doesn’t try which is bad for the world’ or ‘your hair is annoying’

      i think ‘i didn’t intend to build a house to make everything on the street look bad’ or ‘i don’t want that person to think i don’t try in my writing because i don’t think that is accurate’ or ‘i don’t want my hair to be annoying because i don’t want to be annoying just by being in public’

      then i think ‘i wonder why they think these things, if i learn then i can do things that will have an effect closer to my intent’

      then i type ‘can you elaborate’

  43. Anonymous


  44. deadgod

      Clicked “Like” without meaning to indicate a liking, or actually “‘liked'” it haphazardly (?), or “‘liked'” it for reasons not entailed by its substance or essence or nature?

  45. Elisa Gabbert

      That happened to me one. 

      Just in case anyone doesn’t know or is making assumptions about my stance toward irony, I think yaalbhtia is a pretty genius book.

  46. Anonymous

      So, when people basically insult you, you want them to go into greater detail about why they think you suck? 

      And I’ve seen you use this method on non-insults–when people are trying to engage you in a conversation. Someone who says, “you’re an ugly bastard,” isn’t trying to have a conversation with you, nor do they need to go into detail about what makes you an ugly bastard. 

  47. deadgod

      I think this sequence is accurate; I haven’t noticed you use the ‘can you elaborate?’ response simply to bog an interlocutor down in explaining routine expressions until her or his point and/or energy have dissipated (as Bomb is accusing).  –not that that’s not a common tactic, but I don’t think you employ it.

      But here — “‘i don’t want that person to think i don’t try in my writing'” — :  that sounds to me like should, that is, intending some reaction sounds like antithetical reactions shouldn’t be happening.

      Not that art and communication generally shouldn’t be rhetorical — I think they must be — , but admitting and even embracing this purposefulness sounds opposed to the anti-subjunctive interest or self-understanding that, as I understand you, you’ve expressed (here) before.

      Why do you think you’re interested in your motives not being misunderstood?  What difference does thinking you are misunderstood make to you doing what you do?

  48. deadgod

      I agree that whenever one consciously reaches into the world in any way, necessarily making a mark, one has signified – made a mark that can’t simply be ‘itself’, but must mean (and therefore be vulnerable to polyvalent, multifarious, and plain mis- understanding).

      When I read that remark, I thought, I’d like to read something really depthless – not that I’d suppose it were inherently worthwhile, but just to see it happen.

      It’s a common goal in Buddhist (and other?) discourse, though, no?  –affectlessness, absolute detachment, being empty of consequence or even direction or content.

  49. William VanDenBerg

      The sincere/ironic problem ties into the bigger issue of “artist’s intent,” another rabbit hole. Intent can’t be accurately judged, just the piece. Like AD said, the discussion of sincerity is about the appearance of sincerity. Either you think the piece appears sincere or it doesn’t. Either you think Tao genuinely wants you to elaborate or you believe he’s fucking with you. Take your pick, but neither one is sincerity, just a successful/unsuccessful impression of the concept.

  50. Anonymous

      Dear Mr. lin, 

      I think this is a serious concern. I think, maybe, in the future it would be more progressive of you to use: “please elaborate”



  51. deadgod

      I think the false equivalence of Obama’s tactical moderate conservatism with 35 years of supply-side econodenial, science denial, Constitution denial, foxgoebbelsite/Wall St Pravdan say-ANYthing reality denial, etc. etc. is not a critical response to the lying shit that we’re in, but rather, symptomatic of it.

  52. Anonymous

      I think I’ll just smoke a blunt and cheer for McCarthy, Noah.

  53. Anonymous

      I’ve always thought Kurt Vonnegut was full of shit. ;)

  54. Anonymous


  55. Anonymous

      HGII: I don’t like this tea.
      Alt-lit: sorry, try it again.
      HGII: I don’t like this tea.
      Alt-lit: sorry, try it again.
      HGII: I don’t like this tea.
      Alt-lit: try it again.
      HGII: Your tea sucks.
      Alt-lit: Well… 
      HGII: Your tea has no sustenance.
      Alt-lit: try another tea?
      HGII: Change your flavor.

  56. Anonymous


  57. Anonymous


  58. Anonymous

      can u elaborate? i’m not sure i understand your calling me that name. please explain in a 500 word essay.

  59. Anonymous

      can u elaborate? i’m not sure i understand your calling me that name. please explain in a 500 word essay.

  60. Anonymous

      I was calling myself that name. Train your eye, son! I would never call someone I hardly knew a name. That would be uncouth. 

  61. Noah Cicero

      i like wrote a response to deadgod, but writing to deadgod or honored guest is like/just really funny. 

      I once read in a history book that England started to industrialize and capitalism started picking up speed because poor people starting getting fireplaces in their homes. Which led to people sitting on chairs, which led to furniture, which led to capitalism i.e. mass production. 

      So are we like, the symptom of the fireplace?


      I’m saying/i will say this easier/a human being sits in front of the television and sees peaceful college kids shot in the face with mace. It causes a feeling of fuckness.

      A feeling of fuckness/is like a centipede crawling into your brain/moving around/creating distortions of reality/fractured linguistic progressions/

      Do you ever fucked deadgod?

  62. Noah Cicero

      oh a poem with a long title 

      http://www.chinese-poems.com/meng2.html by Meng Haoran

      To My Old Friend in Yangzhou From a Boat Moored at Night on the Tonglu River

      I hear the mourning apes on darkened hills,The dark blue river flows swiftly through the night.On each bank, leaves are rustled by the wind,The moon illuminates my lonely boat.This place, Jiande, is not my native land,I still recall my old friend in Yangzhou.Again two tears trace two lines down my face,I’d send them to the ocean’s western coast. 

      Maybe this is all just really asian? Maybe this is some asians mixed with westerners that like asian writing/and it isn’t minimalism at all?

  63. mimi

      what I really want to know is what did poor people do before they sat on chairs?

  64. tao lin

      ‘Why do you think you’re interested in your motives not being misunderstood?  What difference does thinking you are misunderstood make to you doing what you do?’

      one reason is because, for example, if i like don’t like riding horses and i write something with intention to express ‘i don’t like riding horses’ and people understand the thing i wrote to mean ‘i like riding horses’ then people may email me wanting to ride horses with me or talk to me at readings about riding horses, while people who might bond with me over not liking riding horses will avoid me, therefore my life will be spent ‘explaining myself’ instead of bonding with people with similar interests

  65. tao lin

      i’d be interested in something depthless also, the way the narrator in ben lerner’s ‘leaving the atocha station’ describes john ashbery’s writing makes me think that maybe whatever he was describing may have this effect

  66. mimi

      She Was Waiting for Her Mother at the Station in Torino and You Know I Love You Baby But It’s Getting Too Heavy to Laugh/Shawn Phillips

  67. deadgod

      I think it’s reasonable to take measures to avoid the irritation of turning down unwelcome invitations and the pain of missing wanted ones – and whatever those hassles might sensibly represent.  –so increasing the clarity to readers of your ‘point/s’ would be instrumental in not wasting time and instead spending it happily.

      But, again – and not polemically – , it now sounds even more like you want your readers to understand you as a) you understand yourself, and/or b) you want to be understood.

      I don’t think it’s possible for even the most cantankerous or evasive or some-other-how contact-proofed person to signify except with an interest – a purpose-direction – in being understood.

      –but it seemed to me that you were or wanted to be or wanted to be seen as being aloof from those worries about image or reception or, especially, misunderstanding.

      You’re saying now that you want (somewhat) to control your readers’ experiences of the texts that you release into their care.  Again, I think that’s universal and shot through human action.  (I should say that I doubt that power can’t co-exist with benevolence — why should it be only destructive??)

      Maybe there’s nothing different in your attitude about your public ‘person’ and the impression I’d gotten was inaccurate.  Let me say this confidently:  explanations of oneself, where they seem most… appropriate, are usually best ‘defended’-against by the other person.

  68. deadgod

      To me, Ashbery’s turgid impenetrabilities are sometimes beautifully composed.  –but definitely (for me) generally away-pushing.  I think he achieves the effect/s he wants – I should say, to capture my subjectivity!: I think he wants the effect he achieves – , namely, disconnection, or, maybe better, reader-collaborative connectivity.  As you say above, even with semantic nonsensicality, nevertheless there’s semantic histogenesis.  The words in Ashbery’s lines, sentences, stanzas, pages, poems sensibilize together–if one likes them to. 

      I don’t think ‘depthless’ is the right word jumps into syntax splash way to get at his thing, though…

  69. deadgod

      Well.  These are oddly churlish circumlocutions, albeit characteristically chaotic.

      Among an accurate Screed of Wrath against right-wing nutjobbery, you include a fair-n-balancing minispate of “democratic” malfeasance.

      “Obama” doesn’t have a kill-list; the security state does.  You think a President is magically ‘free’ to wave a stick and disperse concentrations of power – real power; unelected, undiselectable power – ?  Dumb-ass spiritualists voted for Nader — they’re only somewhat less to blame than Rove/Cheney geniuses for the kill-list you seem to think Obama wants to perpetuate.

      “Obama” hasn’t “cracked down harder” on Mexicans; his DOJ is enforcing laws it’s saddled with, while lunatic ‘papers’ laws are enacted state-by-state by elected governments.  Our know-nothing nativist Tea Klan has to be voted out before even a moderate-conservative President can push through any kind of Dream Act.

      How has “Obama” cracked down on potheads?  Are federal dime-bag prosecutions up?  Aren’t marijuana laws largely a state-by-state issue, and, at the federal level, one that a president can’t wave away with a magic stick?

      It sounds like the book you refer to makes modern capitalism a consequence of the Industrial Revolution.  It was not that, but rather, a set of conditions for the possibility of that revolution.  For example:  limited liability.

      Your childish cynicism is, like, the “symptom”.  ;)

      Your final question is entertainingly inscrutable.  What are you asking?

  70. tao lin

      i think i like to feel ‘aloof’ from worries about image/reception/etc. because, in part, it’s less stressful and because i’d rather, at this point, work toward feeling good or bad based on things i can control, not based on what i can’t (other people’s interpretations of me, etc.) 

      so i am mostly unconcerned with what people think about me, what misconceptions exist (there are a lot, i feel) about me, what factual inaccuracies, etc., which i think can be seen, based on my internet activities and what i’ve said in essays/interviews

      i think the most extreme thing i’ve done regarding misconceptions is to tweet a link to a formspring question in which i explain how i feel about irony and that i don’t like things ‘ironically,’ because sometimes people will email me thinking i dislike something i’ve said i like, wanting to bond with me over disliking something by liking it ironically, and because sometimes if i say i like something some people will think i’m ‘making fun of’ them, due to a misconception that i’m, like, a ‘troll’ or something

      i don’t say ‘can you elaborate’ a lot, i rarely do, i think

      sometimes i will say ‘can you elaborate’ because i’m interested in what will happen if the person thinks about their insult, their reasons for it (it sometimes, maybe 20% of the time results in them admitting they haven’t really thought about it or something like that)

      there’s also other reasons i’ve said ‘can you elaborate’

  71. tao lin

      ‘I think this sequence is accurate; I haven’t noticed you use the ‘can you elaborate?’ response simply to bog an interlocutor down in explaining routine expressions until her or his point and/or energy have dissipated (as Bomb is accusing).  –not that that’s not a common tactic, but I don’t think you employ it.’

      sweet, i’m glad you feel that way about me

      someone did that to me once here, i feel, ‘Janey Smith’ or something like that (a male whose name is ‘Janey’ or something, who i’ve seen on facebook) and i answered all his questions and have felt strong aversion to him since then

  72. Noah Cicero
  73. Tree Turtle

      Permit me, an old soul named Tree Turtle, a few reflections and questions:

      You say:

      “The older I get, the more I see that we invent far less than we think”:

      I say, “Exactly.”

      You say:

      “But it matters less whether someone’s doing something [‘]new.[‘] The more
      pertinent question is: What are they doing with what they do in the here
      and now? (I.e., stress the “make” and not the “new” in “make it new.”)”:

      I say, again, “Yes, exactly!”

      But I go on to ask:

      (1) What is the larger significance–the meaning–of our making beyond our presumed club, coterie, school, trend, movement, or theory–how are our constructions speaking (if at all) to anyone or anything else?

      (2) What meanings and/or effects are created by the work and what do those meanings and effects share to diverse and even competing or conflicted groups of people?

      (3) What pressing, deep human problems (portending towards larger significance beyond the provincial, the jejune, the isolated, the clubby) does the language and the design of work construct–or is it simply not about pressing, deep human problems and if so, why should some–those not within the author’s presumed club–bother to engage it; and is it even worthy these days to query about the possibilities of broader audiences, deeper significances, and the possibility of pressing human problems reflective within work?

      (4) How do the structures of the work–its constructed design, its language–move its significances and problems (if any) to a place beyond mere palatability, beyond clubby, frequent intelligibility to the coterie (“I like it because its doing something I like and am doing”) to a place of greater significance indicative of the wider portability of the construction, the broader relevance of the construction, the lasting (and not just topical or trendy) nature of the construction?

      (5) How (if they do, if they can) do our works make sense in deeper, larger, greater and less provincial ways?

  74. Anonymous

       I feel like from the outset the “movement” is a reaction to a
      long-framed dichotomy rather than a reassessment or breaking of that
      frame. To simply choose one side of the the irony/sincerity dichotomy is
      an arbitrary choice which will always encounter the irony of the
      sincerity in whatever comes out associated with “New Sincerity” (as we
      already see with the likes of Lin, Jaakko Pallasvuo, etc.),
      just as we always encounter(ed) “sincerity” in “postmodern ironic”
      poetry. Irony is not something you declare dead with the rebirth of sincerity. Each could be reborn continually. What “we” “need” is something new to focus on; we need to reframe where we are/what’s going on in poetry; we need to think outside the box, which is what poetry was always supposed to be about anyway.

  75. Ryan Hamilton

      Long titles I think are like how Quinn described clogs on Daria; they make the rest of you look smaller and cuter by comparison.

  76. Wallace Barker

      I really like this discussion. I’m highly interested and anticipating part 2.

  77. Michael Martin

      Ok, I first thought this bickering a bit much, but then you make this point and I’m happy you did. I would not go so far as to call it a monopoly (not that you necessarily did), but there is a promotional force at work here that does not fairly distribute it’s power to the whole gamut of alternative literatures. (Nor did HTML ever claim to?)  Maybe I’m wrong (maybe this isn’t the right thread for such a discussion), but I think it would be an interesting editorially transparent and metatextual what-not for a contributor to write a post that fosters this discussion further. Any takers?

  78. Wallace Barker

      BTW, I hope this comment isn’t read as dismissive of any writers or readers. My intent was to comment on what I think is an interesting sociological phenomenon. I realized later this could be read as suggesting that New Sincerity or whatever is inferior or less “mature” than Franzen/DeLillo or something. 

      My point was just that this is a new genre emerging in connection with a new social group. I would say Franzen/DeLillo is a genre focused on low-level midlife crises of aging intellectuals and this is not a more “valid” genre than YA or New Sincerity or alt lit or whatever. Everything can be put into a genre; genres are somewhat arbitrary; but genre can be a useful tool for discussing art; this article is a discussion of an emerging genre.

      And great literature can come out of any genre and transcend that genre, like: Tolstoy was basically writing in the “Russian Misery” genre but War and Peace transcended that genre, Vonnegut and Dick transcended the sci fi genre; Catcher in the Rye transcended the YA genre, etc. I think Roggenbuck and Lin are doing amazing work within the New Sincerity genre (or whatever you want to call it).

  79. Timmy Reed

      I Am Avoiding Revisions of A Story I’ve Yet to Title and Instead I Am Posting About Titles Online and The Sun Will Still Explode One Day

      I think it’s interested that there is so much discussion of the lengths of titles in this thread, but very little discussion of their individual meanings or implications (what the words in them say and what feelings they evoke) in relation to the books they are on the cover of, except to argue whether they are sincere or sentimental or inward-looking or twee. Assuming you believe that these should exist in the first place (and why shouldn’t they, or anything else, exist?), isn’t the more salient title-related question whether or not these are the best, most interesting titles for the individual works in question? It seems like that is an aesthetic choice or a visceral feeling on has when trying to appreciate the book/movie/album/porno, but maybe not something that provokes a real intellectual discussion any more than gathering with your friends to discuss short titles and whether they are sincere or sentimental or twee, which they can be, like if you name your book Doldrums or Tomato or Cuddle, although they are more often used to be stark or mysterious or significant/powerful/threatening and that’s neat too. Think Zombie, Lost, Slut or any other words you know that would make striking titles on their own. I think it is easier and often more enjoyable – at least for me – to paint an internal picture of an art movement or a group of artists or artworks I see as having something in common by using things like titles and other stylistic commonalities to color and organize them, in the long wrong the way these things connect to the indivual texts feels like the most critical and rewarding way to approach them. I’m not sure that any of this important though, because the sun will explode one day and the human family are all worms stuck to a beach ball, hopefully loving it. Don’t worry, it won’t last a whole day though. It’ll be over quick.  

  80. Evan Harrison
  81. deadgod

      Well, here you say that you are “mostly unconcerned with what people think about you” – and that’s an admirable ambition, within the scope of being able ‘to hear’ constructive criticism.

      But in the very comment that started this subthread, you say that ‘if you learn why people misconceive you, you can do things that will create effects closer to your intent’.  Not only do you want to be understood, you’re willing to do things the better to be understood how you want to be.

      Not to badger you, but I think you’re saying things that contradict each other, except insofar as that “mostly” isn’t ‘completely’.

  82. deadgod

      It can be maddening to sense that questions are [cough] insincere.  That’s why Bomb is angry at you (personally, it sounds):  he feels about you something like the aversion you feel towards Janey Smith.  People who think that irony itself is exhausted or irrelevant to human understanding don’t know what they’re thinking — or they ironically might.

      (I don’t know or remember the exchange you refer to, but I never got the feeling that Janey’s tartness was hateful.  Maybe she or he was teasing you roughly, rather than maliciously?  I don’t know.)

  83. Anonymous

      This is a pretty ridiculous post. One, I’ve never had any run-ins with Janey Smith. Two, I never said that “irony itself is exhausted”–I said that it’s such a part of our discourse today that it’s incredibly difficult to “pinpoint.” The DFW essay, which I referenced, doesn’t necessarily suggest that postmodern irony is exhausted or irrelevant either, more than it suggests that people often think of it like it’s still new. Three, I’m not “angry” at anyone. Four, having high expectations for postmodern irony or irony in general–or any other mode–should be commended. Five, when this website decides to discuss a wider range of writers and aesthetics, you’ll be privileged to hear more from me, just in case you think I have some sort of vendetta against IRONY. Until then, though, we will continue discussing the same two writers on the “literary blog of the future,” which was originally designed to promote and give voice to under-represented writers yet can’t find the time or space to discuss more than a few pre-selected cohorts.

  84. William VanDenBerg

      Wow. Thanks for sharing. So much treasure.

  85. deadgod

      Look again at my argument:  I’m not saying that Obama hasn’t moved (sometimes exaggeratedly) rightward, which moves are your “facts”; I’m saying he has to (or thinks he has to).  —especially after the ’10 elections, which saddled Obama with a Tea Bedlamite Congress and Tea Asylums in dozens of state houses/governorships.

      He has ‘authorized’ drone strikes (which amount to assassinations + civilian murders).  I think it’s simply wrong to say that they’re “his” — that his hands are free to strike as he would.  He’s in a Henry V position, a Machiavellian position, where he either turns at least a little ruthless or he walks nobly away from power–into which much worse will rush.

      Here’s a good story about the peculiar marijuana fanaticism at the DOJ and in federal prosecutors’ offices – one that supports your view somewhat:  http://bit.ly/KLsCWW .  In my view, and explosive Leninist onesidedness of Mother Jones’s vocabulary aside, the key is that it really is Rove/Cheney’s fault.  Leonhart is a social-con Prohibitionist nut, many fed prosecutors are, too — and the machine they’re part of has to be voted out.

      Yes, Latinos – and many other progressives! – are disappointed that Obama hasn’t waved a magic stick and passed even a Republican Dream Act, as HeritageFoundationcare is Republican ‘health’ ‘care’.  Obama is gambling – I hope successfully – that Latinos will vote overwhelmingly for him because Etch would be like President Arpaio.

      –look at that comparison:  Obama’s health care law is to the right of Romneycare and far to the right of Nixoncare – and look at how it’s routinely talked about on, say, ConservNN.

      That’s what I’m talking about:  someone who governs as a moderate conservative is cast not just as a ‘nigger president’ – that’s straight Tea Klan kool-aid to shepherd the lemmings:  Reagan’s “welfare queens”, Atwater’s Willie Horton, etc. etc. – , but as a fucking Red. I’m a fucking Red.

      The rightward lurch into mass-market econodenial, science denial, and so on is your “centipede”.  I think tarring Obama as altogether indistinguishable from Rove/Cheney is the self-poisoning progressive sting in its tail.

  86. deadgod

      One, nowhere do I say or even imply that you are one of the irony-disdainers/debunkers.  Two,

      emotional and intellectual stuntedness

      “sincerity” as a kind of insincerity […] a passive-aggressiveness

      like some childish bully

      cheap,cowardly rhetorical methods

      “dishonest bullshit” and “just STFU with all the gimmickry, kitsch preciousness, PR, and online fuckery”

      Please. We’re not that stupid[.] A person shouldn’t have to spoonfeed you questions and give you their life story in order for you to respond and participate in an adult conversation.

      [W]hen people basically insult you, you want them to go into greater detail about why they think you suck?

      Together, we can elaborate further.  Three, I agree.  Four, there’re several non-muumuuvian writers on the most recent page of HTMLG’s master thread right now.  How much engagement have you contributed to those threads?

  87. Anonymous

      One, your first paragraph mentions me in the second sentence, so it’s reasonable to infer that “people” in the third sentence refers to me, since folks often use this ambiguous plural pronoun to refer to a certain kind of person, especially one previously established as a subject. Two, what have you proven by smashing together a few cherry-picked quotes out-of-context? Nothing, really. Three, if you’re so interested in attributing personal dislike as a motive for my posts, well, I could do the same for you or pretty much anyone who ever disagrees with a contributor or fellow-commenter. The only thing you’ve proven is that a) I have too much free time on my hands and b) I’ve written more posts than the average commenter. Four, and related to three, dismissing one’s points because of a perceived “personal dislike” is the height of intellectual laziness–you’re better than that, I’d hope. Five, everyone knows that certain writers receive more thorough treatment here, and are–more often than others–the subjects of longer “blogicles” (to borrow a bit of jargon from you)–and there’s not much one can say in response to a mini-book review, compared to an aesthetic “blogicle.” To clarify, though, what I mean is that I would like to see more range and diversity in the longer, more provocative pieces that are obviously written to provoke discussion (more so than, say, a two-sentence post about Oprah’s book club, or review of some ten-page chapbook).

  88. deadgod

      There is no “intent”.  There is only what one does.

  89. Noah Cicero

      Seriously Deadgod, why are you getting so worked up? 

      Like what is happening.

      I’m not talking about politics.

      I’m talking about shiny metal centipedes going into one’s brain causing fractured thinking that leads to fractured thoughts which leads to fractured weird minimalist literature.



  90. Anonymous

      I feel what you’re saying about “lack of depth”. Have not read Lasky. However, I think the “lack of depth” as you call it in Lin’s work is intentional: a voice that appears meaningless, seems to go out of its way to be boring, or like something anyone could have written. Actually, it was Ellen Kennedy’s poetry that really made me see this quality: a kind of the affected flatness, or lack of affect that leads to affect.

      What I’m saying is slightly distinct from “sincerity” yet was the first thing that really jumped out at me when I encountered those writers’ work.

      Yeah, affect is different from “depth.” But maybe what you point out could also be seen as “lack of subtext” ? Perhaps these writers avoid subtext in order to allow what I’m describing play the starring role. After all “affect” is on the level of tone, and if tone determines or is determined by (in dry humor) subtext, then having no apparent subtext forces the reader to read for or receive tone much more intensively. This goes with what Stephen Tully Dierks said: “but part of why Tao’s work is so fascinating and so alive to me is that it rarely feels beholden to any one register or tone”

      The gentleness of this technique, however it works, radically stands out to me against the aggressiveness of meaning in advertising and the “overbearingness” of meaning in respected-literature-as-analyzed-in-high-school-english-classes. Anyone who has experienced hating a work after its symbols have been extracted and discussed to death can appreciate what I’m talking about.

      Also, I don’t know a whole lot about conceptual art, but something about this new sincerity thing definitely seems conceptual to me.

  91. Anonymous

      That really is a good question, but I think a better question is, “what if OUR life lacks depth? What happens?”

      You can go from political critique to personal (“I feel like shit watching the news”) critique quickly. But about the social in between? Aren’t social realities distinct from political ones? I think the social is what’s getting fucked here. With the landscape of lies you mention.

      When I first read Ellen Kennedy’s poetry, it created social feelings in me. I wish I could explain why. Her poetry is social, it’s not personal.

  92. Noah Cicero

      I don’t understand this whole irony thing. When I think about Irony I do in terms of Rorty’s “Contingency, Irony and Solidarity” or Simone De Beauvoir “Ethics of Ambiguity” where they outline philosophies of irony and ambiguity. They basically show that the highest level of thinking is irony and understanding ambiguity, that the universe is arbitrary. That cultures are so vastly different, that determining a right and a wrong, or a ‘how much’ is not really possible. That we don’t know what good bad or evil is scientifically, but we do have some notion of what those things are. 

      Irony is an attitude about reality, Sartre called it Counter-Finality. Basically in life you get big ideas about what is awesome, what you should do.  Then you do it, and it doesn’t turn out like you thought it would. It often leads to something else bad happening. 

      Sartre’s idea on the practico-inert institution or paradigm also serves a really good point about the irony of life: that we as humans create paradigms and public institutions that once very much served the public, but those institutions always contain their own destruction inside them. 

      This obviously leads to anxiety. 

      Because if a person has an ironic personality that constantly sees the ambiguous nature of the universe, then they will always be unsure if they are thinking, doing and believing in the rights things. 

      Concerning sincerity: looked up definition “Sincerity is the virtue of one who speaks and acts truly about his or her own feelings, thoughts, and desires.”

      See there is a fundamental thing about sincerity, it is rooted in the transitory character of the person who writes it and the worldview they hold at the time they are writing the book.

      Kerouac was being sincere through some weird buddhist catholic drug induced worldview.

      Mailer was being sincere through some jewish harvard educated fought in world war 2 worldview. (speaking of Armies of the night and siege of chicago)

      Yates was being sincere through some atheistic fought in world war 2 alcohol induced lived in the suburbs worldview.  

      Rhys was being sincere through some atheistic raised in Dominica went to england alcohol induced worldview. 

      If a person is truly sincere, they can give a portrait of the times they lived in, what was timeless and what wasn’t so timeless. 


  93. Patrick Durgin

      Jesse Seldess’ work is not overtly theory driven. E.g. his major work of this period, “In Contact,” arose out of work with people suffering from alzheimer’s/dementia–it seems to have more to do with the speech patterns than Derrida might ever inspire. We aren’t talking about allusion here so much as attribution (see his note to the poem in his first book). Lumping together the authors and works you do is possibly insincere, if that term is going to hold onto its connotation of “accurate” or “true.” Sincerity is funny that way. While it implies forthrightness, it also obscures the figure-ground relationship from which it acquires the oft-coveted immediacy of impact.

  94. Anonymous

      Why should anything not exist?  If one person enjoys a story with a long title, doesn’t that make it all worth it? 

  95. Zulema Renee Summerfield

      has anyone actually ever called you a ‘lazy writer’? the thought of that alone makes me want to pencil stab something.

      you can’t have 5 books and be lazy. you can have five books and be not everyone’s cup of tea, but 5 books and lazy does not mathematically compute. 

  96. Zulema Renee Summerfield

      has anyone actually ever called you a lazy writer? the thought of that alone makes me want to pencil stab something.

      you can’t have 5 books and be “lazy.” you can have 5 books and be not everyone’s cup of tea, but 5 books and lazy does not mathematically compute.

  97. Anonymous

      I’m beginning to think sincerity isn’t that wunderbar.

  98. Taylor Napolsky

      The past two deadgod posts were fascinating.

  99. Taylor Napolsky

      “So, when people basically insult you, you want them to go into greater detail about why they think you suck?”

      Why is that so hard to believe?

  100. deadgod

      One, the paragraph that mentions you is about Tao Lin, who’d just related that he’s pretty sure he’s been frustrated by the same false inquiry that you accuse him on this thread of perpetrating.  It’s not reasonable to infer from a mention that you’re the topic of conversation.  Two, those seven quotations, taken from four of the eight comments you’d posted here up ’til then, are perfectly representative not only of what you’ve said on this thread to Tao Lin and about his writing and ‘school’, but of what you’ve many times said at this site about his writing and ‘school’.  I don’t think you know what “cherry-picking” is.  Three, I haven’t said that personal dislike is a “motive” – aesthetic dislike is easily a greater candidate for that – , but rather, have referred glancingly to “ang[er]” being the dominant tone of your reaction to Tao Lin.  Those quotations, in their original contexts, certainly demonstrate that emotion.  Four, I haven’t “dismissed” anything you’ve said.  I don’t think you’re right about “can you elaborate?”, but I haven’t implied a judgement about your anger.  Five, while Tao Lin threads tend to harbor lots of commentary, the site is not muumuu-centric; the current ‘front page’ of its master thread is evidence of its diversity.  Adam went on previously about Shklovsky, and people wanted to argue about Tao Lin–that’s us – or some of us – ignoring one complex of ideas in favor of another focus.  If that’s a matter for disapproval, it’s not the site that’s to blame.

  101. deadgod

      Take another look at your long post that started this subthread:

      AD I’m glad you pulled the artistic roots together, but something bigger is happening here. Something big ugly and vile.

      We are being crushed under the shit/

      The world is really fucked, because all the adults are lying.

      Is that what you mean by “getting worked up”?

      Are you sure you’re not talking about “politics”?

      Bullshit political discourse is not a new thing; public integrity by powerful people is, I’m pretty sure, not only not often a norm, but is something of a rarity.  How do you think today’s right-wing nonsense is connected directly to today’s “fractured weird minimalist literature”?

  102. mimi

      “How do you think today’s right-wing nonsense is connected directly to today’s “fractured weird minimalist literature”?”  grim economic outlook, grim job outlook, student debt, the high cost of ‘everything’ (housing, healthcare)  

      ennui, fear, depression, alienation, hopelessness   
      lack of affect, lack of words, lack of outrage, lack of ‘fight’

      maybe ?

  103. Anonymous

      unfortunately, steve roggunfuck is the opposite of sincere, although he is definitely ‘new’… i would say he is part of a new breed that is aware of a need for sincerity, but too deeply ingrained in our post-ironic culture to really be sincere

  104. Matthew Cohen

      why call names?  what pieces of his writing/vlogs do you find insincere?  the bieber stuff sometimes seems like a performance but who am i to say that he doesnt really like justin bieber.  

  105. I am drinking gin & wrote about 18 long titles i randomly chose using wikipedia | HTMLGIANT

      […] the New Sincerity is anything real or coherent (and I wrote that post last Monday because I, like others, am trying to figure out whether that’s so, or will be so), then we […]

  106. Jared Micah

      plainspeak is not a movement. lasky does not associate with the ns. and as soon as you started bringing up your own nostalgia for inspiration, i felt lightheaded from the subsequent eye roll (because it was a hard, impassioned eye roll, or something).  i’ll take irony, even in its exhausted state, over forced naivete any day. 

  107. Tim Jones-Yelvington

      I think this is a mischaracterization of camp, camp is theatricality, not irony, if anything it is a kind extremist way of sincerely appreciating “shallow” things — “The traditional means for going beyond straight seriousness – irony,
      satire – seem feeble today, inadequate to the culturally oversaturated
      medium in which contemporary sensibility is schooled. Camp introduces a
      new standard: artifice as an ideal, theatricality.”

  108. Tim Jones-Yelvington

      I like new wave better because I like neon way better than taupe, but I don’t think I’m very snotty, I don’t really like three chord songs or screaming and noise, so I’ve never connected with punk, and I really like to play board games.

  109. Tim Jones-Yelvington

      I think in general, I agree w/ A D on this — it seems more useful critically to examine sincerity as an affect than an intent, and there is clearly a marked difference between the irony in the pomo texts and what the NS/NC/twee folks are up to. Also, I guess any line of thinking that dismisses the “artificial” because of its artifice is annoying and moralistic to me. What is wrong with being twee or cute or kitschy for the sake of it?

  110. Steve Roggenbuck

      if u thikn post-irony is incompatible with sincerty then i think you misunderstand at least one of those term’s. u sick fuck

  111. Esther Greenwood

      I’m surprised no one has brought up David Foster Wallace’s 1990 essay on television, Image Fiction and irony. Maybe that just goes without saying? Toward the end he anticipates New Sincerity.

  112. Anonymous

      Rich kids watching the world from behind thier iphones.

  113. Mason Johnson

      I shouldn’t talk about coffee shops, in that I hate leaving my house. 

      And I hate coffee shops.

      And don’t drink coffee.

  114. Gregg

       I think a move toward “sincerity” is good.  I find “post modern cleverness” less than clever really.  In fact I’d call it boring.  Milton’s Paradise Lost offers better sentences, if that’s what I’m after.  Anyway, sincerity isn’t new.  Philip Levine, Adrienne Rich, Jack Gilbert (confessional)….  Political poetry usually is sincere. 

  115. HTMLFAIL « The Outsider

      […] by Tao Lin’s Muumuu House–noted for publishing works often dubbed part of the “New Sincerity” movement–the story generated fierce discussion over its retelling of actual events and […]

  116. politics and poetry: both are kinda dirty « yellow house cafe

      […] What We Talk About… – AD Jameson/HTMLGIANT (who also writes for Big Other on WP) […]

  117. What we talk about when we talk about the New Sincerity, part 2 | HTMLGIANT

      […] made me very happy to read the various responses to Part 1, posted last Monday. Today I want to continue this brief digression into asking what, if anything, […]

  118. Bill Knott

      I think yaalbhtia is a pretty genius book.     … agree with that

  119. Elisa Gabbert

      There is nothing wrong with it, I just don’t think it makes sense to call something “sincere” when you what you mean is “twee” or “cute” — I don’t have anything against irony, sincerity or cuteness in and of themselves, I just want clarity in the terminology.

  120. Ultra Vegina


  121. Repetition as rule, repetition as defamiliarization,and repetition as deceleration | HTMLGIANT

      […] how context and history deepen what defamiliarization means. (That’s what led us to take our New Sincerist detour.) Now, in this third part, let’s return to Chapter 2 of Theory of Prose, […]

  122. Josh Southern

      When I first saw the pictures I am immediately struck with
      the image of two mirrors facing each other. An infinite regress made reality
      and perceived all at once beautiful in a way so sophisticated I cannot
      comprehend. For all the artistic thoughts and writings I’ve ever had came from,
      and still come from, an intense vision where everything is already assembled
      perfectly in vast hypergeometric landscapes that playfully induce a state of
      pure information association. Still moving in a direction from where or to
      where I haven’t the slightest idea.

      But you all seem to know what goes on.

      Excuse me, it’s 5am and I’ve been at this train station far
      too long.  

  123. My Mommy: Simple, Childlike, and Utterly Sincere | Spandexless

      […] rather complicated when you talk about it, if you’re at all interested you can read what I read here. It’s a call back to the earnestness and the pure wonder of childhood, My Mommy is a memoir of […]

  124. Secret Identity Crisis: Does Superman Deserve a Place in the American literary Canon? « VERBA AMERICANA

      […] a canonical figure in American literature, representative of what some folks have tenderly termed New Sincerity, perhaps the or a artistic movement after Postmodernism. Jonathon Franzen must fall into the […]

  125. I’m going to be on the radio later today « A D Jameson's Blahg

      […] 04 June: “What we talk about when we talk about the New Sincerity, part 1” […]

  126. ¿qué es FERÉSTEC? | nosotros

      […] y mundo “virtual”, a los que ubica en el mismo plano, se maneja sobre todo en el segundo con la nueva sinceridad propia de la generación de Tao […]

  127. Microcelebrity | World Literature, Cultural Theory, Social Media Aesthetics

      […] microcelebrity: confessional writing, oversharing, “radical vulnerability,” exhibitionism, the New Sincerity, and so on. Viewed with maximal cynicism, these are all modes of turning the nuances of intimacy […]

  128. A Desperate Tweet for Help: Part I « Notes from the Edge

      […] long and confessional blogging, oversharing, radical vulnerability, exhibitionism, the New Sincerity, and so on. It seems that these strange forms of intimacy are actually attempts to create a […]

  129. ray

      I’m a struggling short story writer/poet, who has long hated postmodernism and its heavy reliance on irony…but I actually never knew until today anyone else felt this way…the old guard still holds steady in just about every literary journal I’ve read/submitted to…or maybe my work just sucks. Anyway, I found the term “new sincerity” these past wee hours, have been reading up on it, found kindred voices, and was eventually led to your blog. Nice. Thank you. If anyone wanted to contact me, you can use my old email: rdann127@aol, and once I find you not to be a bot or sales-pitchy, I’ll give you my real email and facebook. Peace, and remember: postmodernism has been eating itself for years, and there’s not much left to eat…

  130. A D Jameson

      Hey Ray, thanks for chiming in. I’ve found there’s actually a lot of variety out there once one really digs down and looks. There are definitely some older lit journals out there still doing “the pomo thing,” although the best ones (Conjunctions, Gargoyle, Fiction International) are pretty broad in their tastes. There’s also a lot of support now for the NS and its fellow travelers. (Me, I tend to like both older and newer stuff.)

      I’ve found John Cage’s advice to be good (rough paraphrase): “Keep doing what you’re doing, even if no one around you is doing the same thing, and eventually you’ll meet others who are doing something similar.” When I wrote Amazing Adult Fantasy, for instance, I had no idea anyone else was writing anything similar (a thought I find rather naive—I just didn’t know them at the time, and felt very frustrated when trying to publish pieces from it).

      Good luck with your writing and publishing! Adam

  131. Wind-up doll chronicles | Wrong Dreams

      […] salient practices of microcelebrity: confessional writing, oversharing […] exhibitionism, the New Sincerity, and so on.” In other words, TMI in the sense of gross or overly personal pics, or vomiting your […]

  132. 23 brief replies to Blake Butler & Elisa Gabbert & Johannes Göransson & Chris Higgs re: (dear god, what else?) the fucking New Fucking Sincerity | HTMLGIANT

      […] claimed (here, here, here) that one thing at stake in the New Sincerity is the discovery of what maneuvers currently […]

  133. 55 Points: Shoplifting from American Apparel | HTMLGIANT

      […] is masterful at disguising his investments in style and form. I wrote about this some last year, here, here, and here, in those posts on the New […]

  134. 55 Points: Shoplifting from American Apparel | GIANT READER

      […] is masterful at disguising his investments in style and form. I wrote about this some last year, here, here, and here, in those posts on the New […]

  135. Ernest Hemingway in a bathing suit and other important news | Nico Mara-McKay

      […] HTML Giant is wonderful, and AD Jameson writes about the New Sincerity which deserves a read, “I am drinking gin & wrote about 18 long titles i randomly chose using wikipedia.” Also see “What we talk about when we talk about the New Sincerity.” […]

  136. Poetry has a right to children | Marginal Utility Annex

      […] limitations of 19th century poetry, but it seems like it still might apply to contemporary “new sincerity” art, or any work seeking to evade cynicism on one side and elitism on the […]

  137. 25 Points: Tell God I Don’t Exist | HTMLGIANT

      […] to lump Timmy Reed in with the New Sincerity (Is this even a thing anymore?) given this site’s history with the subject, but his writing reminds me of Miranda […]