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

ToBS R∞: Arguing in blog posts and on Facebook about aesthetics vs. Going out for a pleasant dinner together, then taking a nice walk at sunset in a park

I’ve decided that, from now on, all I’m going to write about at this goddamned site is this goddamned thing.

… No, seriously, I’m delighted that so many have chimed in. Thanks to everyone! I thought one massive reply would be easiest. If you read this whole thing, may your god shower blessings upon you. And if I missed any pertinent responses, kindly direct me to them in the comments. (I was traveling last weekend, and as such had trouble keeping up with all the discussion.)

1.

I’ve claimed (here, here, here) that one thing at stake in the New Sincerity is the discovery of what maneuvers currently count as “feeling sincere.” That such maneuvers exist I consider more an observation than a topic for debate. E.g., Blake, in his recent post about Marie Calloway’s Google doc pieces, wrote that Calloway’s recent work:

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Theory of Prose & better writing (ctd): The New Sincerity, Tao Lin, & “differential perceptions”

In the first post in this series, I outlined Viktor Shklovsky’s fundamental concepts of device (priem) and defamiliarization (ostranenie) as presented in the first chapter of Theory of Prose, “Art as Device.” This time around, I’d like to look at the start of Chapter 2 and try applying it to contemporary writing (specifically to the New Sincerity). As before, I’m proposing that one can actually use the principles of Russian Formalism to become a better writer and a better critic.

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Franzen’s Status

This follows Roxane’s Tuesday post, and Jami Attenberg’s initial observation/criticism of something she heard Franzen say. Their defense of Twitter/Facebook/etc. is of course right: small press writers and publishers need those tools to promote themselves and their works. But I’m less convinced that Franzen has “lost perspective,” as Attenberg puts it, or “doesn’t understand what Twitter is for,” as Roxane claims. Instead, I think Franzen is making a deeper, more disturbing criticism—the latest salvo in a decade-long attack on certain writers, certain kinds of fiction, and ultimately, a certain construction of art itself.

To grasp all of that, let’s look more closely at a different part of his complaint:

[Twitter is] like writing a novel without the letter ‘P’…It’s the ultimate irresponsible medium.

Um—huh? What do lipograms have to do with social networking? And how are they irresponsible?

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This Friday in Brooklyn: “The Case of Nicolas Chauvin” (White Review reading & magazine launch)

When: Friday, 10 February 2012, 6:30–8:30 pm

Where: Cabinet, 300 Nevins Street, Brooklyn (map and directions here)

How: Free; no RSVP necessary

More importantly:Beer for this event has been lovingly provided by Brooklyn Brewery.”

Why: Please join the London-based White Review for an evening of Chauvin, chauvinism, and their many inheritances. Featuring Ned Beauman on carbon chauvinism and humility in the universe; Joshua Cohen on the absolute best Chauvin biography never written; Jeremy M. Davies on whether any form of literature, however ambiguous, indeterminate, playful, or condemnatory, can escape being a chauvinist for something; and Diego Trelles Paz on Chauvin and national progress in Latin America.

More Who:

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Miró Killer Joke Peaks Open Low

1. At Burnaway, an Atlanta arts blog, I’m curating a new column of “writers on art,” which today features Heather Christle on Joan Miró: “I wanted secrets, and I wanted to laugh, so I snipped letters from my head and sorted them by shapes: those which slant, those which curve, those which face left or face right.”

2. At Thought Catalog, Christian Lorentzen writes a long screed for the nonexistence of hipsters, with reasoning including that our generation has never had a good serial killer.

3. At The New York Times, Joshua Cohen turns in a take down on the brand new 1,000 page book from McSweeney’s, Adam Levin’s The Instructions, calling it “a very long joke.” Other readers: yay, nay?

4. At Montevidayo, Johannes Göransson writes about the “ambient violence” of Twin Peaks.

5. Submissions to New York Tyrant are now open.

6. I forgot about this great old music video from Low:

pla(y)giarism versus plagiarism

Consider these two texts. The first was published on 28 June 2010 at Everyday Genius, the second was published yesterday at Metazen. The second author is very familiar with the first author.

The first text:

Rip off the wings of dragonflies

Rip off the wings of dragonflies, take their “spines,” their central lengths and a bit of paste, affix them down noses, between the eyes, one per customer. A dream.

The most important thing

The most important thing, about this pen, is to maintain inkflow: (the idea that) the ink must flow and continue flowing, at all times.

A Certain Angle

Remember, he said, when loaning it to me, this pen won’t write unless held at a certain angle.

It is said of the Emperor Fu Kang

“It is said of the Emperor Fu Kang: that He, with eyes unflinching, and a hand at peace, would have His enemies, and He had many, executed by decapitation. Further, that He would have their heads scooped out, embalmed then impregnated with magnet: the cavity that held the brain would be filled with iron, mined in the furthest West. During His ample leisure He enjoyed tossing these magnetized heads at a metallic surface. Actually in later years, with His son gaining influence, His Empire modernizing and so falling to ruin, this metal surface was often the door to an enormous refrigerator, then the largest to be found in the universe (opening it required two teams of oxen and an equator of rope). Inside this fridge the Emperor kept his foodstuffs, luxuriously imported at our expense, at a temperature most appropriate.”

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Roundup

Christian Lorentzen does the Malcolm Gladwell.

The Guardian Books Blog on “How Writers Review their Critics.”

Elif Batuman’s epic piece in the NYTimes Magazine on the purgatory of some of Kafka’s papers.

There’s a great piece over at The Millions on what it means to be a “best bookstore” and how, contra the insidious “death of books/bookstores/reading/literacy” meme that we’re all always seeing spread around, there’s actually a lot to be excited about on these fronts. Among the other fun stuff in the piece, is this offhand list of “the top 10 booksellers in America …  Stephanie Anderson from WORD, Emily Pullen from Skylight, Michele Filgate from Riverrun, Rachel Fershleiser from Housing Works…”. The article also mentions a crucial point first made–by Rachel F.–on the Housing Works blog, that many of the best bookstores in NYC have opened rather than closed within the last ten years. Counter-meme, anyone?

Every time you think you know Joshua Cohen, he finds something else to surprise you with. Apparently, homeboy has been (or is now?) publishing a new unpublished piece of short fiction every week on his website. Check out the Paragraph for Liu Xaiobo.

And finally, something I was right about. Remember back when we were talking about the suicide of Kevin Morrissey at the VQR? In a comment on that post, I argued that the charges of “workplace bullying” leveled against VQR editor Ted Genoways appeared off-base and reductive. I suggested that people read Emily Bazelon’s Slate reporting on the Phoebe Prince case. Well, a couple of days ago Slate published a big new piece by Bazelon about the VQR, what workplace bullying really is (and isn’t), and how the media made a caricature out of Ted Genoways. You should go read that piece right now.

Let’s all Wish Joshua Cohen an 800-page 30th Birthday

Today’s the day for Joshua Cohen, frequent target of this blog’s affection and voice of his generation for all those whom Tao Lin is not already providing a voice. So, how are you going to celebrate thirty years of the Tribe of One? As always, this blog recommends that you mark the existence of writers whose existence you are glad for by buying their books.

Witz is 20% off if you buy direct from Dalkey Archive. (Read Drew Toal’s Time Out New York review, and a snippet from Blake Butler’s in The Believer). A Heaven of Others is available new, used and Kindled at Amazon. You can get Witz there too, obviously, so if you want both you can probably score free shipping. And once the shipping’s free, why not pump those savings into Cadenza for the Schneidermann Violin Concerto? The trifecta is very much in the spirit of thirtytude. Here’s me and Kyle Minor in conversation re A Heaven of Others at The Rumpus. Here’s Cohen himself answering Stray Questions at the Paper Cuts blog. Oh, and don’t miss Christian Lorentzen’s profile in the New York Observer.

From Yuri, Stoya, and all of us at HTMLGiant–Happy Birthday!