Stephen Burt

A Tiny Addendum to Paul Auster’s Concept Concerning “Boy Writers”

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On 16 January 2014,  a writer boy named Paul Auster conversed with someone named Dr. Isaac Gewirtz (this boy likely had friends & relations who were a part of the Holocaust) at the Morgan Library (which seems quite splendid, though it may not be if Mayor Bloomberg was able to blow his matzoh-ball-soup breath on it).

According to girl writer & Huffington Post blogger Anne Margaret Daniel, Paul put forth the category of a “boy writer,” which means:

someone who is so excited, takes such a sense of glee and delight in being clever, in puzzles, in games, in… and you can feel these boys cackling in their rooms when they write a good sentence, just enjoying the whole adventure of it. And the boy writers are the ones you read, and you understand why you love literature so much.

I concur with Paul — because of “boy writers,” literature is the best thing ever (except Christianity).

Arthur Rimbaud is a boy writer, which is why he stabbed people at poetry readings and yelled “shit” after the insipid readers declaimed their dull verse.

Edgar Allan Poe, as Paul points out, is a boy writer, as he composed stories on murder and poems on special girls, like the “beautiful Annabel Lee.”

There’s not a lot of boy writers who are un-dead. Most, nowadays, correspond to what Paul terms a “grown-up writer.” Stephen Burt, Carl Phillips, Dobby Gibson, Geoffrey G. O’Brien, Bob Hicok are examples of a “grown-up writer.” They don’t spotlight the “puzzles” and the “games” of the violence, theatricality, exploitation, and upsetness in the postlapsarian world. They document liberal middle class averageness. “It’s about settling down and settling in,” says Burt.

But some boy writers are un-dead.

Johannes Goransson likes makeup and violence. “mascara is infected / belongs to assaults,” the Action Books editor and boy writer elucidates in Pilot (Johann the Carousel Horse).

HTML Giant’s own Blake Butler is a boy writer. In Sky Saw, his characters aren’t given names but numbers (just like in the Holocaust and in the War on Terror). Reading his books are sort of close to witnessing a disembowelment.

Paul Legault (because he likes Emily Dickinson like someone would like an American Girl doll), Walter Mackey (because he likes Barbie), and Julian Brolaski (because his language reads like sticky, sweet, chewy watermelon bubblegum), are all un-dead boy writers.

But the best boy writers (maybe ever) are dead, and they’re Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. Glee? Delight? Cackling in their rooms? Enjoying the whole adventure? All the attribute’s of Paul’s boy writer align with Eric and Dylan. They kept journals, websites, and videos so everyone in the whole wide world could be cognizant of the glee-enjoying-cackling-delight-adventure that they had in planning their massacre. As Eric stated, “I could convince them that I’m going to climb Mount Everest, or that I have a twin brother growing out of my back. I can make you believe anything.”

Author News & I Like __ A Lot / 7 Comments
January 29th, 2014 / 2:45 pm


More Poetry Coverage: For that guy in the comments section the other day who said he wanted more poetry coverage

Asketh and ye shall receiveth, Friends. Today we look at two Major Critics Writing for Major Magazines, who are Getting Down With the Young and Indie.

At Boston Review, Stephen Burt discusses and attempts to define an emerging school/movement/moment in contemporary poetry. He traces the [whatever]’s origins/motives/aesthetics back to Oppen, Creeley, and especially W.C. Williams’s famous declaration that there are “no ideas but in things.”

The poets of the New Thing observe scenes and people (not only, but also, themselves) with a self-subordinating concision, so much so that the term “minimalism” comes up in discussions of their work, though the false analogies to earlier movements can make the term misleading. The poets of the New Thing eschew sarcasm and tread lightly with ironies, and when they seem hard to pin down, it is because they leave space for interpretations to fit.

The poets Burt discusses include Jon Woodward, Graham Foust, and my friend Justin Marks, whose first book, A Million in Prizes, just came out this year. It’s a long essay and will give you plenty to think about.

Burt identifies Flood Editions as the preeminent press of the New Thing poets, so it’s sort of interesting that his essay doesn’t mention Jennifer Moxley at all. But Moxley is given plenty of attention by Ange Mlinko, in the Nation Spring Books issue. Mlinko’s review of Moxley’s new book, Clampdown (Flood Editions; and yes, named after the Clash song) is illuminating and persuasive; it also does double-duty as a thorough introduction to Moxley’s whole body of work. Subscribers and/or newstand buyers can also avail themselves of Joshua Clover’s take on a new translation of Baudelaire’s Paris Spleen by Keith Waldrop.

Also noteworthy is the poetry in the issue itself, including poems by Robin Blaser and Adrienne Rich. Also also, a not-poetry-related but Nation-related PS— Remember when my man Deresiewicz wrote this about James Wood? Well it seems to have peeved Vivian Gornick, and she wrote a long letter explaining just how and why. Her letter and Deresiewicz’s response are both here.

May 30th, 2009 / 10:24 am