Posts Tagged ‘Tao Lin’

White Boy Drag: Jackie & Lily Talk, Episode 1

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Not White Boy Drag, just a white boy

This is a conversation. It is 1:06am MST. We are both HTML Giant contributors. We are also both Asian. This is happening IRL.

Lily Hoang: So, imagine there’s someone sitting at a café, smoking a cigarette, drinking a fucking Americano, reading David Foster Wallace. What do you think?

Jackie Wang: Who is this wienerschnitzel? Lemme guess. A white boy with lots of feelings.

LH: Haha, no, it’s me: I’m in white boy drag!

JW: White boy drag?! That’s an interesting term. What exactly does that mean? You’re not going to kill yourself and make everyone else feel bad about it, are you? Cause that would be taking the performance a little too far!

LH: Well, it’s hard being a white boy, I gotta admit. Like you don’t know how hard it is. The guilt. The burden of genius. All the privileges. It’s hard to balance, keep the head sane, ya know?

JW: You know what I hate about white boys? They’re always complaining about how they can’t get laid, but it seems obvious to me – like – why they can’t get laid. Should someone tell them? Should I be the one to tell them?

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Repetition as rule, repetition as defamiliarization,and repetition as deceleration

Monday, June 18th, 2012

As promised, back to Shklovsky! In Part 1, we examined his fundamental concepts of device and defamiliarization. In Part 2, we saw how context and history deepen what defamiliarization means. (That’s what led us to take our New Sincerist detour.) Now, in this third part, let’s return to Chapter 2 of Theory of Prose, where Viktor Shklovsky discusses “special rules of plot formation.”

Here it’ll be useful to remember that one of the meanings of rule’s root, regula, is “pattern.” Because Shklovsky is talking less about “rule of law” than he is about the patterns that devices combine to make.

Whenever you write—and it doesn’t matter whether you’re me or Chris Higgs or Mike Kitchell or Kathy Acker or Georges Bataille or whomever—you’re working with conventions. None of us invented these words, nor words, nor their spellings, nor syntax, nor sentences, nor punctuation. We didn’t invent writing. Nor did we invent literary criticism, or essaying, or blogging, or the HTTP protocol that transmitted this post to your computer. We’re all working within overlapping systems that, by virtue of the accident of birth, we find ourselves in. This should cause us no distress because rather than stifle our creativity or inhibit our originality, these systems and their rules provide the very basis for originality and creativity. Without any patterns or conventions we would be left with only noise, in which no innovation whatsoever is perceptible or even possible. It is in fact patterns and conventions that provide the opportunities for disruption and deviation.

In Chapter 2, Shklovsky is trying to understand patterns that authors use when stringing devices together. He isn’t interested in defining every pattern; nor is he interested in critically evaluating them (e.g., “this pattern’s better than that one”). Rather, he wants to examine commonly used ones and demonstrate (the following point is crucial) how even though the patterns are simple and common and predictable, they provide practically infinite opportunity for defamiliarization—and therefore artistry.

In the rest of this post I’ll focus on the simplest of those rules, repetition, with examples taken from Nirvana, Weezer, and Tao Lin.

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

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

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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What we talk about when we talk about the New Sincerity, part 2

Monday, June 11th, 2012

"Hi, How Are You?" cover art by Daniel Johnston (1983); "financially desperate tree doing a 'quadruple kickflip' off a cliff into a 5000+ foot gorge to retain its nike, fritos, and redbull sponsorships " by Tao Lin (2010)

It made me very happy to read the various responses to Part 1, posted last Monday. Today I want to continue this brief digression into asking what, if anything, the New Sincerity was, as well as what, if anything, it currently is. (Next Monday I’ll return to reading Viktor Shklovsky’s Theory of Prose and applying it to contemporary writing.)

Last time I talked about 2005–8, but what was the New Sincerity before Massey/Robinson/Mister? (And does that matter?) Others have pointed out that something much like the movement can be traced back to David Foster Wallace’s 1993 Review of Contemporary Fiction essay “E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction” (here’s a PDF copy). I can recall conversations, 2000–3, with classmates at ISU (where DFW taught and a number of us worked for RCF/Dalkey) about “the death of irony” and “the death of Postmodernism” and a possible “return to sincerity.” Today, even the Wikipedia article on the NS also makes that connection:

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I am drinking gin & wrote about 18 long titles i randomly chose using wikipedia

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

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

  1. Those devices exist;
  2. People think they “feel sincere” (as opposed to other devices, which don’t);
  3. “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 …

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What we talk about when we talk about the New Sincerity, part 1

Monday, June 4th, 2012

Miranda July; Steve Roggenbuck (photo dates unknown)

I wasn’t surprised that my Monday post, which was ultimately about reading & applying some ideas from Viktor Shklovsky’s Theory of Prose, mostly generated conversation about Tao Lin and the New Sincerity. I knew that would happen even as I wrote it. So I thought I should take a post to clarify my thoughts on “the whole NS thing.” What follows will be a mix of fact and personal reflection.

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

Monday, May 28th, 2012

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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anonymous contribution to the ‘subgenre’ of ‘literary’ ‘essay’ known as ‘how i feel about marie calloway’

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

Reading Noah Cicero’s piece about Marie Calloway, it struck me that the Internet has invented a subgenre of literary essay. These essays could be easily be published in a volume called ‘How I Feel About Marie Calloway,’ collecting the torrents of writing about ‘Adrien Brody’ alongside the very small trickle of responses to ‘Jeremy Lin.’ Someone should publish this, if for no other reason than that we might see the collective bloviation of our Best Minds on a topic that eludes them completely. Tao Lin might have done, if ‘Jeremy Lin’ hadn’t so effectively outed him.

Before I get into any kind of Substantial Critique, I’d like to point out that we are discussing a young woman of twenty-two years. She’s not a symbol, she’s not a literary persona, she is an actual human being of twenty-two years. I remember when I was twenty-two years old. I could barely tie my shoes and had a problem with public drooling. Calloway is also, it must be said, a young looking twenty-two. Both by genetics and by design, she appears about sixteen years old.

The Marie Calloway Problem is pretty simply stated: we live in a society in which the mechanisms of commerce are designed to encourage us to believe that young women are randy hot sex machines, but we have a collective meltdown when one of them actually writes about sex that is anything other than vanilla. It breaks discourse. We’re that unevolved.

This was, in part, the pro-Calloway critique offered by many women writers in the days after ‘Adrien Brody’ went viral. The problem with such critiques is that almost all of them attempted to tie Calloway into a greater narrative. ‘Adrien Brody’ could not exist in a vacuum. It needed to be contextualized within its Greater Import.

This is nonsense. ‘Adrien Brody’ is a piece about a groady balding Brooklyn Intellectual who writes about Big Issues (Why is Capitalism Bad?) having sex with a twenty-one year old woman that likes his Twitter. The woman, recounting the tale, makes vague allusions to Marx, Marxism and Marxist thinkers. The Marxism is, of course, an affect.

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Tao Lin’s Buffer

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Over at The Asian American Literary Review Vaman Tyrone X has written an essay about/review of Tao Lin’s recent books: Bed, Shoplifting from American Apparel, and Richard Yates. I enjoyed reading this essay partially because of this point below concerning Lin’s online activity and his writing, which I hadn’t really thought about before in this way. I think, before, I’d always read other critics conflate the two rather than separate them? Anyhow, see what you think.

He wrote an entire (and earnest) essay about Yates’ oeuvre four years before RY was published.[10]  Is it really okay to begrudge Lin the right to name his novel after an under-appreciated literary figure that clearly has meant something to him?  Or maybe it’s just a more admirable enterprise to protect a now-canonical realist author from Lin’s digital-fame grubbing?  The subtext to every sub-positive response to Lin’s work and accompanying personal brand seems to be twofold: (1) “I could write that.  I know how to not pile on subordinate clauses too” and (2) “I could become as famous as him if strangers bought shares in my future novels, enabling me to sit, consume kale, and coin acronyms on Twitter.”[11]  Fortunately, Lin’s fiction can exist apart from such criticisms because the Lin-ean frame—the megabytes of service he has performed deconstructing ‘Tao Lin,’[12] his style, and his infamy-inducing act[13]—acts as a helpful buffer, [emphasis mine -RC] letting Haley and Dakota wander safely in a traditional realist space without a self-consciously perspiratory narrator forcing them to confront the faults of their maker.

Have a read if you’re so inclined, and I hope all of you are having a lovely day. Take a break from the computer if you can and go for a walk sometime? It’s 60 degrees or so and sunny in Houston and I’m going to take my last class outside, I think.

Franzen’s Status

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

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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