Beach Sloth, cult blogger-extraordinaire, is arguably one of the few things you should actually pay attention to on the Internet. A magnificent poet and semi-anonymous (though some know his secret identity), Beach Sloth is the spirit of discovering new art—plucking it from the depths of the Internet and hidden crevices of the unknown in effort to make us aware. The style of his reviews are poetically analytic and hit off on major points of each work he’s featuring. He covers a wide variety of literature, art, film, music, online activity of Internet poets, and other mediums that peak his interest. Beach Sloth wants to make his art into a money making enterprise. He wants to extend his three fingered claws and touch everyone with his work and insight. You can paypal him at: email@example.com. He tweets at @Beach_Sloth. He also allows you to advertise on his blog. (There’s nothing this sloth can’t do.)
I interviewed Beach Sloth over a course of a week through email about his project, the artistic “struggle”, and his views on indie lit. Being a prominent player in the “alt lit” scene, the blogger’s responses were eye opening and unique to his own. So kick back, relax, and enjoy this sloth’s perspective.
What is Beach Sloth? Why was this alias created? What is your slothy purpose?
Beach Sloth is my way of interpreting the culture I see created online every single day.
I created Beach Sloth after a series of really strange events began to happen in my life. None of them were bad but I was feeling a little bit too comfortable with the daily routines I was going through. Hence Beach Sloth kind of served as a challenge to me to engage more with the world (and Beach Sloth as a project continues to challenge me with a near-endless stream of work).
My purpose is to support others and have others support each other. If that happens I am happy.
How satisfied are you with your work thus far? What would make it better? What would make it worse?
I am pretty happy with my work thus far. I think I am moving in the right direction and I am constantly trying to improve what I do. Some of the work I did in the past seems a bit ‘underdone’ compared to what I do now, in that I am a lot more focused on keeping things concise and edit a lot harder.
My work probably would be better if I ventured outside of my immediate social media realm. One of my goals for Beach Sloth in 2014 is to try and expand my horizons outside of the blog. This has meant a chapbook for Peanut Gallery Press, more submissions elsewhere (I’m bad with submissions in general) and trying to move into more visual work (I want to do a better job of taking advantage of Tumblr’s focus on the visual, something I know I haven’t done enough of in the past).
Honestly I am pretty hard pressed to think what would make it worse. Probably the worst thing I could do would be to sort of shut off Beach Sloth to a few specific writers. I try to keep up a variety of coverage so people do not see the same names all the time. My focus is also on those whose work I particularly enjoy and people who I think deserve more credit.
I’ve noticed that variety in your work. Do you think there’s trouble in other outlets with having that sort of variety? Seems certain pockets of indie lit keep recycling the same names and only bring in one or two new writers every so often. What’s your opinion on all that?
Everyone has a different approach to how people want to cover indie lit. My personal favorite reviewer is Chris Dankland. I know as a fact that his focus is on trying to broaden the names covered by Alt Lit Gossip and I commend him on it. Chris Dankland is really well read, much better read than I am, though I do try my best.
If people use the same names mostly that might be something they are comfortable with and might have enough time to follow. There are always new names following in and out of indie lit. A lot of indie lit writers end up dropping out not because of a lack of attention but usually because they found a job, moved, had children, any living-changing event really. I am impressed with how many people stick with it for so long. So if it seems that a lot of names are being recycled those might just be the people who have been doing it for literal years and whose progression is easy to track. Not every indie lit writer continues on for years. Many don’t and while that make me sad (I enjoy their work) I completely understand it from their perspective.
With so many people coming and going in indie lit, how do you yourself keep going? There’s the whole cliche behind “the writing life” on how miserable the struggle is and that it offers little satisfaction for most. Does this hold any truth for you and your work? Is the “struggle” worth it?
I am the kind of person that does not stop, ever. I cannot answer for others but I can answer for myself. The “struggle” depends on exactly what someone is sacrificing in exchange for doing their art. Positives and negatives exist for any decision a person ultimately takes, and that includes artistic pursuits.
And what do you feel you’re sacrificing? What’s your “struggle”?
I do not have a struggle regarding my writing. Beach Sloth is incredibly straightforward as a project. I may have difficulties elsewhere but I have never put a lot of pressure on myself regarding Beach Sloth. Anytime that I do feel stressed out with Beach Sloth I have enough posts ‘queued up’ and can simply publish them during times I am busy.
There’s been talk of writers nowadays having “brands” in order to make themselves marketable. Do you believe in this idea that writers are merely “brands”? If so, what is Beach Sloth’s “brand”? Where is your place in the whole messy picture of indie lit?
Writers are more than brands. Writers are writers. Whatever ‘brand’ is associated with them is usually an easy way of describing them. Sometimes writers decide to go with the brand in order to make it easier. Sometimes writers find the branding frustrating and try to change the name.
I do not believe that writers are merely brands. The writers I tend to cover may have aspects of branding associated with them but these are descriptions more than anything concrete.
However I also think that branding is to a large degree inevitable. Even if a writer does not adhere to a brand and in fact actively fights against it they still get branded. It is a part of how culture is consumed in general. I do not yet have an opinion as to whether or not this is a good thing. In some ways it can be good and can help a writer increase the size of their audience. Such branding efforts can also simplify what can be a complicated deeper message.
Beach Sloth does have a brand. I try to be as consistent as possible across all the forms of media. My work is generally to encourage people to create. With more attempts and more efforts the work gets to be a bit easier. I also try to tell people to pace themselves. If a person goes too hard producing vast quantities of material they can get burned out. So it is important to take breaks, to find a release schedule that works well for them.
Still staying on brands, how do you feel about the criticism that most “alt lit” writers are merely followers of Roggenbuck and Tao Lin? Lin is often said to have “tons of shitty imitators” (which I think is a fair judgement to what I’ve seen since he’s become more known), and it’s also my opinion that there are multiple Roggenbuck-knock-offs as well. It seems that “alt lit” is becoming similar to hair-metal in the 80’s when everyone started ripping each other off and no one had an original sound or “brand” anymore besides the pioneers of the genre. Thoughts?
Well to take a totally flippant approach to that, I wish that there were “Beach Sloth imitators.” Imitation is the greatest kind of flattery and if anybody wants to copy my style I would gladly welcome it. Make sure if you copy my style to paypal me money at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or don’t. I don’t care either way.
Honestly though I think it is a lazy criticism. Lots of artists have their “imitators” and to think that writing is somehow immune to that fact is ridiculous. I do not think there are “tons of shitty imitators” in Alt Lit. There are plenty of writers within Alt Lit that have their own particular style. Off the top of my head I think Blare Coughlin, Kalliopi Mathios, and Neon Glittery have styles that are uniquely their own to name a few people. Writers like Jeremiah Walton, Dave Wright, and Stephen Michael McDowell I do not think copy anybody else’s style. I could go on but that’s why I have the blog in the first place.
Where do you see yourself and alt lit heading in the near future? Like all other literary movements, alt lit will eventually end and something new will crop up. How do you feel about that?
I have no idea where I’ll be in the future. My future is constantly in flux. I hope that soon enough I’ll be able to settle down and rest.
Alt Lit probably wants to do the same thing. From the time I’ve spent on Alt Lit I’ve seen it branch out into images, video, and elements of Flarf.
I hope that at some point Alt Lit flows into a new literary movement. Being a static movement is never good.
I feel good with how far I’ve been able to continue my project and how long Alt Lit has continued for.
Trevor L. Sensor is a writer from Illinois. His first ebook, Ex-Poems, was published by Peanut Gallery Press in 2014. His work has been featured on Atticus Review, HTMLGiant, DUM DUM Zine, and Be About It. He is currently poor and attending college.