Alec Niedenthal

Alec Niedenthal's fiction appears or is forthcoming in Smokelong Quarterly, Agriculture Reader, Sleepingfish, PANK, Corium, and other places. He currently lives in Sarasota, Florida, where mostly it is hot.

Tao Lin Tao Lin Tao Lin Tao Lin Richard Yates Richard Yates Richard Yates Richard Yates

I’m baffled by the back cover of my Richard Yates galley. The relationship between the book’s two main characters–one, the Tao figure, 22, and the other 16–is described three times, in three separate paragraphs, as “illicit,” a heavy-handed enforcement of theme which should hold truck with the novel itself: one would expect, going in, that the scandal which supposedly holds the weight of the novel would actually sustain itself as a scandal. Which happens to be so little the case that it’s kind of funny, this negation of the back cover, and is a fascinating, if unintentional, way of diverting expectations: by Richard Yates failing totally in self-description.


Uncategorized / 99 Comments
July 5th, 2010 / 8:06 am

“But while Lish’s work can always be likened to self-pleasure, self-pleasure—mine and yours—cannot always be likened to Lish’s work. It is in this way—in its personal, private aspect—that his inky spatter is truly seminal. The first person, the ascendant voice of the past two centuries—from Dostoyevsky’s underground origins to Beckett’s authorial endgame—is today the shrillest voice of daily expression: the online overshare, the chat-window confessional. What once was literature—revelatory direct address—has become blogorrhea: the timestamped account of what happened this morning, of what our peeves and attractions are, of what we do to ourselves and one another by night. Lish was former laureate of that plaint, of its degrees of self-knowledge, its valences of tone. If Lish’s soliloquies have any counsel for today’s solipsistic culture it’s this: Every “I” will always be a fiction; every first person is the last person you were.” — Josh Cohen, from his Bookforum review of Lish’s Collected Fictions

How important is the presence of specific clothing/architecture to your writing?  Do you write about them well? Do you ignore them to some extent? Are you scared of them, like I am?

If You Will Permit a Thought on TV

Throughout the nineties and for the first half of the past decade, there were two dominant strains of sitcom: the blue-collar/white-collar family sitcom (Roseanne, Everybody Loves Raymond, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Frasier, etc.), and the five-or-so-friends-hanging-out-in-a-city sitcom (Seinfeld, Friends, Cheers, etc.). The former culminated and withered with the end of Everybody Loves Raymond–now most often reiterated ironically by The Simpsons (which was far ahead of its time in that respect) and Family Guy–while the latter still persists in a way, only disguised or retooled as the workplace sitcom (30 Rock, The Office, Parks and Recreation, Party Down), a formula which began in part with Murphy Brown and, in its current mode, with Scrubs and the British Office.


Film / 32 Comments
June 10th, 2010 / 5:01 pm

A Quick, Late Post on Light in August

I’m almost finished reading Light in August. It’s my first Faulkner. Starting at roughly the halfway point it grew into one of the most complex novels I’ve ever read; I’d like to write a fattish pamphlet on this book someday. But what I’d like to focus on here, in broad strokes, is a question regarding “how” rather than “what,” of logic and not of contradiction–specifically how Faulkner produces flat characters, that is, flat characters with depth.

Until the halfway point I mentioned earlier, I thought that Faulkner’s characters were, if not simple, then unsurprising–I expected, perhaps, the sort of character who would be presented at first as a racist, and would gradually come to light as nothing like one, as the modest guardian of the victimized race. More or less the character that commercial cinema wants us to believe always lurks within any localization of racist discourse. I eventually realized that many of the characters who seemed to me predictable were flat, pure surface depth: characters who function as signs, specific voices with almost automated responses–like binary switches–that present and order their social, political, or economic genealogies. Flat characters can be instruments of social critique, as in a Brechtian drama, or of comedy–a character who can simply be positioned and repositioned, his or her function made iterable and reiterated.


Craft Notes / 54 Comments
June 7th, 2010 / 2:14 am

The newly translated collection of Thomas Bernhard’s prose, aptly titled Prose (Seagull Books – August 15), should be anticipated as a major literary event (or at least as a book to celebrate). Whenever readers of the future want to recommend a Bernhard to start with, I hope that it will be this one. It’s possibly the most deranged, compact and dangerous performance I’ve seen Bernhard give, a performance somehow polyphonic within Bernhard’s singular voice that’s always, to often brutal and hilarious effect, dashing behind itself only to expose its weaknesses again and again. Here Bernhard is a tightrope-walker like no other. And, of course, the translation is gorgeous. More soon.

Friends, I am editing the upcoming month of Everyday Genius. The upcoming month is June. It’s going to be so hot, then. What the hell are we going to do? Anyway, please email me any submissions that you are submitting–gifts, I want gifts!–to my email, whatever that is. It’s Please email me viruses and sign me up for newsletters, too. All is a mess.

The NOON reading is tonight at 7Pm. Readers include: Kim Chinquee, Sara Jaffe, Tao Lin, Lincoln Michel (yay Lincoln!), Dylan Nice, Diane Williams, Anya Yurchyshyn. It’s at the Center for Fiction (17 E. 47th Street), and if you are going, please RSVP to 212.755.6710. This is the reading-equivalent of Lollapalooza or at least Pitchfork Fest. Looks like there will be free wine and chairs.

Also, if you are in Florida, next Friday Justin Taylor, Amy McDaniel, Alexis Orgera and I are reading here in Sarasota. On Saturday, we’re doing a panel on “reading style.” There’s a Facebook event.

Hypothesis: Collaboration and Alienation

There is a split in experimental fiction, it would seem, which is hardly a split: a duality which is hardly dual. Articulating it, in addition, will not add to or subtract from what I’m provisionally calling “experimental fiction.” I am not going out of my way to break open or unmask a binary which has, till now, subsisted in relative silence. The following is a brief and incomplete diagnosis–neither positive nor negative, or else both at once. Most importantly, perhaps, these are not two distinct regimes (again, a split which is hardly, or is not, a split). Nor should this be taken as a statement of fact, but as a condition which I’ve begun, more and more, to see in what I read.


Craft Notes / 16 Comments
April 13th, 2010 / 3:55 pm

Comedian Eugene Mirman has been added to the already-sweet lineup of tonight’s Rumpus/Flavorpill/Tin House event. He’ll be joining Colson Whitehead, Sam Lipsyte, Lorelei Lee, Michael Showalter, and others. I’m probably a little late in posting this, but if you’re in NYC right now and, like, somewhere near W 16th street, you should be at this event right now. You know who you are, and you should be there.

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