If 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 should be able to identify the devices or moves that define it—that arguably make a piece read as being “New Sincere.” The “New” implies they produce that sincere effect right now, in the current literary landscape; whether the techniques or devices are entirely new doesn’t matter (they could be older techniques, fallen out of prominence, now returned). Similarly, it’s irrelevant whether the author using them is “really” being sincere. What matters instead is that
- Those devices exist;
- People think they “feel sincere” (as opposed to other devices, which don’t);
- “Being sincere” has some value at the present moment.
Why sincerity? What is its present value? My broad and still developing belief is that “sincere” writing is one means of breaking with the aesthetics of postmodernism and self-referentiality: invocation of Continental Theory, metatextuality, excessive cleverness, hyper-allusion, &c. What makes writing “sincerely” even more delicious when perceived against postmodernism 1960–2000 is that it proposes to offer precisely what pomo said didn’t matter or couldn’t exist: direct communion with another coherent, expressive self, even truth by means of language. (Don’t tell Chris Higgs!)
One of my first impressions of the NS came when I started noticing artists and authors using longer titles—in particular, long rambly ones with strong emotional resonances. My thought then and I think now was that both the length and the ramble, as well as the emotive quality, signaled non-mediation: a desire to appear uncensored, unrevised. Those titles stood out (defamiliarized the title) because they failed to comply with what a “proper,” “edited,” “thoughtful” title should be.
Is this a sensible thing to argue? Have I had too many G&Ts? Let’s pursue …
For Thursday (9/10) we read “My Dog is a Little Obese” by Ellen Kennedy, “How to Date a Browngirl, Blackgirl, Whitegirl or Halfie” by Junot Diaz, and “To His Coy Mistress” by Andrew Marvell. The theme was DIRECT ADDRESS and INSTRUCTION. As on Tuesday, we spent most of the time on the fiction piece. I think this is because fiction feels “easier” to talk about than poetry, like you’re not going to screw up the technical terms or something. And I think that having a teacher who is primarily a fiction writer contributes to this atmosphere, so I’m going to work harder in the future to check myself. But I think there’s a second reason as well, which is that a relatively straight prose narrative like the Diaz story (or Hemingway last week) yields itself to a kind of knee-jerk cultural studies reading, where the text is really just a pre-text for the themes and politics it evinces or brings to light. Especially with a piece like this one by Diaz, where the narrator is giving “you” instructions on how to re-arrange your apartment so you don’t look as poor as you are, and then impress the various girls you might have invited over, with particular race-based instructions for each one. I hate this way of reading.
I received today in the mail a ‘care’ package from Muumuu House and in that package were several books: you are a little bit happier than i am by Tao Lin and Distortions by Ann Beattie and three copies of Sometimes My Heart Pushes My Ribs by Ellen Kennedy. Thank you, Muumuu House, for the ‘care’ package.
And last night a friend and I found a bar in Houston that has ping-pong tables, and we played ping-pong for three or four hours, and I defeated him twice. He did not defeat me. The rest of the time we just hit the ball back and forth and impressed ourselves with our amazing skills. I think I am very good at ping-pong. I think it is the one thing I’m allowed to be good at, maybe. That and washing dishes. I think there is something very satisfying about hitting a ping-pong ball just so, having it do exactly what you want it to do.
To celebrate our finding this bar with ping-pong tables, I would like to offer two copies of Sometimes My Heart Pushes Against My Ribs by Ellen Kennedy, which, sadly, has no poems/stories in it about ping-pong.
Please post your poems/stories about ping-pong in the comments section to be eligible for a copy of Sometimes My Heart Pushes Against My Ribs by Ellen Kennedy. Be sure to include a real email address in the field where it asks for an email address, so I can email you if your poem/story wins. If you are shy, you may also email a poem/story about ping-pong to htmlgiant [at] gmail [dot] com, but if I select your poem/story, then I will post it for everyone to see. This contest is open until 2:00pm CST, Saturday the 7th.
Good work, Muumuu House and Ellen Kennedy, on your first book. I enjoyed reading it.
UPDATE: Winners of the two Muumuu House books are Miles and Darby Larson. Miles and Darby please email your mailing addresses to HTMLGIANT so I can send you your prize.
Thank you to everyone who emailed and posted ping-pong stories/poems.
This post simply brings to your attention things worthy of attention, with extremely light commentary from me.
- Ellen Kennedy’s new book Sometimes my heart pushes my ribs is available from Muumuu house. This is probably widely known, but I wanted to officially note it here. Ellen Kennedy feels like a Dorothy Parker who doesn’t have enough energy to rhyme.
- Chelsea Martin’s new book Everything was fine until whatever will be released March 2009 by Future Tense Books. Watch her read this piece. The ingrown logic and breath-taking/sigh-inducing excess of each subsequent line reminds me of Tao Lin’s ‘the next night we ate whale,’ except each line is different.
- The prolific J.A. Tyler redesigned Mud Luscious archives and ML Press, and his entire site. He would scare me if he wasn’t so nice. His obscene publication list is prone to make one feel like a slacker.
- Juked No. 6 is out. Check out the contents and order. Juked is one of the oldest literary websites out there. It makes me feel good that they are so consistent and devoted.
- Robot Melon Issue Seven is live, including J.A. Tyler, Crispin Best, yours truly [gag], Ryan Manning’s ode to Sam Pink, and one of my personal favorite online writers, Krammer Abrahams. I really like the ‘head trauma at night in the woods’ design.
So those are my updates. I could not find a picture that embodied this post. [*UPDATE: Ryan Manning sent me a picture to post for this post. The 4 colors do not match the 5 updates. He was no doubt driven conceptually.] Thank you for supporting online literature.