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I Am Ready To Die A Violent Death by Heiko Julien

ViolentDeath-3-194x300I Am Ready To Die A Violent Death
by Heiko Julien
Civil Coping Mechanisms, Nov 2013
Book Page at CCM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In I Am Ready To Die A Violent Death, Heiko Julien presents to us a kaleidoscope of images, ranging from the suburban, to pop culture references, memes, and the internet, presented through a meditative narrator questioning everything they see, while at the same time doubting what they are saying. Ironically the writing is both positive and self-deprecating at the same time, mirroring the multi-faceted life we inhabit online through different personas; we are both the nice, tolerant and compassionate person, and we also want to die a violent death, alone, so we can feel something that is real in a physical sense, not just through social networking.

What strikes me first of is that these pieces began as either self-published e-books, Tweets, or Facebook posts. This way of sharing ‘content’ online seems to be central to ‘Alt lit.’ Heiko has already begun a dialogue with his audience before the book has been published; I had read most of these pieces online before coming to read this book. This is quite a unique trend that is happening in the publishing world; there isn’t one way of ‘being a writer.’ And the idea of publishing itself has become quite flexible. I feel that Heiko is aware of this, and the writing in this collection reflects the continued dialogue he has with the Alt Lit community, which he seems to be a major part of.

“Facebook is the void that talks back.” (facebook post)

Heiko is well aware of the power of memes, in a similar way Steve Roggenbuck talks about the memeplex, which he defines as “a grouping of associated memes that are consistent and which support each other.” And that a  “meme” is a unit of culture and/or anything that is spread by imitation (stylistic moves included). Heiko also uses the language of memes to project this view; via different forms of online language, be it advertising, tweets, Facebook, or blog posts.

I am afraid of men but I am a smart boy so i intellectualize my fear in the form of Cool Shaming and Tight Blaming. If I’m being honest, I would like to be the Number One Dude. I admire strong guys. I like to watch them play sports. I relate to the idea of a Buff Bro. I like a dude so top heavy I can topple him with a good push. I like to push dudes into pools in the summertime.

For Heiko, as well as others in the online community, memes also constructed through online ‘brands’ or ‘personas’, where ones identity becomes a meme. This feels like one of the central themes to not just Heiko’s writing, but to the ‘genre’ of Alt Lit. What makes Alt Lit a unique genre, however, is that it feeds into the aspects of an online community members and environment which Heiko references a lot in his writing, and the online community all construct different personas, or identities, through different social media outlets. In this way, Heikos writing puts a mirror up not just to himself, but the community he responds to. The writing does not just reflect the community that is Alt Lit, however, it also stems from something else, something more ‘human,’ or ‘natural‘, whatever that may mean in the ‘internet age‘ that we all live in. Social stereotypes become crystalized through online media, which in turn become memes, and a part of the online language that Heiko channels in his pieces.

But I guess what I most want is to be in actual love with a woman who actually loves me back until we die painless, unexpected deaths simultaneously, but someone told me this was already done in a Bad Movie.

There is a strong sense of irony in these pieces, that the only meaningful things that can be said have already been said through media, and that is all the narrator knows. Memes have become our ‘language,’ our way of communicating in our ‘environment,’ and these pieces show the point of where a meme stops and the human being typing them begins. The writing is a projection of the narrator’s own inner dialogue, while at the same time being mixed in with memes and other online jokes. In this way, we are constantly reminded that there is a person behind the writing, a person who has their own desires, goals, and emotions.

and we are dancing
like we know people
Out There
want to take our money
and kill us
and we still think they are beautiful

Notice how “Out There” has been capitalized, this “other” could possibly mean something like a world free from online content, something more ’real’, but the narrator, by calling it the other, has no idea what this could be. In doing so, we are shown a crisis the narrator is having, and one that we are all aware of; all we are becoming aware of is our online presence, then what is our ‘real’ identity?

You can see a lot of Rare Vids of Young Dudes hanging out at home and doing funny voices if you search Just Chillin on YouTube. Go ahead and try this and maybe then you will learn how to love without needing to receive anything in return.

There are moments in the writing where the narrator seems to be trying to convince themselves that they can find what they are looking for online, via videos of other peoples’ social interactions. There is an irony here; of wanting the benefits of social interaction, without engaging in it. Wanting a real human connection without having to be in the same room as them. One can see this in the writing, moments where the narrator yearns for a connection ‘in the real world’, but at the same time doubts if they really want this. The pieces are quick to self deprecate, or make a mockery, of any ‘meaningful’ thoughts the narrator occupies, as to convince themselves that what they are doing is probably for the best.

Sometimes people want to hang out w/ me and all I want to do is sit in a bathtub, eat yogurt, and read philosophy cuz I’m wise.

There seems to be an earnestness to prove an emotional connection with other people; however, these emotional connections seem to treat relationships are badges of honour, or as a way to prove that the narrator is still ‘human’.

I have spent time flexing my muscles in my life.
I have spent emotional time w/ a girl.
I have renounced reality before.
But reality didn’t care.
So I accepted it again.

These pieces are philosophical in nature; asking thought provoking questions, as memes, to reveal more of himself and ask more of the reader.

Because I am a tolerant and compassionate and Good person, I always try to see things from others perspectives. For instance, my dad is jerk.

The moral of this chapter: no gods, no masters, no dads.

There is a central question that I feel the narrator is trying to ask; what is reality? Is the reality we share online the same kind of ‘reality‘ that people otherwise would have offline?

I cannot believe that people still watch television so I am going to pretend that they don’t. This is how it starts, denying reality. This is how people go insane. If you just dive in maybe you can maybe just love it a lot.

If you confuse reality w/ your perception of reality, wow, you are really screwed up and I don’t want to know you.

Dissociating from your body and mind could be an invaluable experience, especially today. I am ready to go outside of myself right now. I didnʼt want to be here anyway.

The writing style changes quickly between instant messaging/facebook / advertisement/ and ‘personal inner monologue’ language, through the use of pop culture references, ‘internet speak,’ and something more personal, more internal. The inner monologue breaks through all other languages used, giving the words a sense of ‘humanity.’

I am sitting in my car in the parking lot of a Walgreens across from a Burger King, opening a package of NyQuil and this bottle of cough syrup I just bought.

If I were a Burger King, I would be closed right now.

If was a Walgreens, I might still be open because some Walgreens are open 24-hours a day. If you were a Walgreens, you would be the kind that sold alcohol.

If you were a Burger King, you would also be the kind that sold alcohol. You would be one of a kind.

What the narrator really wants is a human connection, in an age where the idea of a connection has evolved beyond something quite physical, to something that we are still unsure of.

And I have always known that nothing really matters and all of a sudden I love it so much. because I have stared into the void and it has given me strength. I know there is nothing, and it makes me strong. I know I am nothing, and this is a major load off my mind. I know I am everything, and this is what I really want.

The writing is able to simultaneously make one laugh, and feel something not unlike sadness; we become the inner looking narrator to our own lives. What Heiko is able to do is truly capture our experiences of engaging with the world through the internet, and what we call ‘the real world.’

***

Rhys Nixon is a writer who lives in Australia. He has been published in electric cereal, Gesture magazine, and posts occasionally on his blog, rhysrhys.tumblr.com.

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