For those interested (and for those who haven’t already read it), Daniel Bailey has written a tiny bit of a response to the recent discussion of The New Sincerity/Alt-Lit at his Tumblr thingy. You can read Part 1 and Part 2 if you’d like.
Excerpt below from Part 2:
I think Alt Lit is mostly posturing. It’s attaching one’s self to something larger and riding along. Alt Lit is a great white shark and the myriad Alt Lit writers are remoras along for the ride. The only thing is that Alt Lit is not yet a large great white shark. It’s still small. Aside from Tao Lin, who predates Alt Lit and, imho is not Alt Lit because he has his own vision, and Steve Roggenbuck, no Alt Lit writer has created anything that will last beyond Alt Lit’s moment. The shark is not big enough to carry the weight of so many remoras. Steve Roggenbuck, at this point, IS Alt Lit. All others are simply followers. Steve Roggenbuck is to Alt Lit as Nirvana was to grunge.
[matchup #50 in Tournament of Bookshit]
I don’t have specific thoughts regarding either of these things. I imagine that working at Best Buy is similar to many retail jobs? You deal with a lot of odd customers, coworkers, and supervisors? Maybe that is an unfair assumption. See, the only retail job I worked was at a used book store in Virginia when I was in graduate school. I stocked the shelves and I also purchased inventory according to a massive buying manual that the owners had seemingly haphazardly created full of random rules regarding what sorts of books we should take in and what we should not. We bought a lot of mass market paper backs and children’s books. My following these rules at the buying table often meant that I turned down a lot of great books, fascinating and interesting books, that the owners had deemed a waste of shelving space. Probably, from a business standpoint, they were right: they knew their customers, and theirs were customers who were not interested in Fowles’ The Maggot, nor were their customers interested in Barnes’ Nightwood. Both of these books intrigued me when I held them in my hands at the buying table, and even as I turned them down, I wanted to know what was between their covers (I later read Nightwood in a class; still haven’t read The Maggot). Another terribly weird part of this job is that we threw out a lot of books. Like, shitloads of books. And the owners required us to rip the covers off these books because a few years before I worked there, a customer had pulled books out of the dumpster that they had trashed and resold those books to the store several times. So there I was, tearing covers off books like O’Brien’s The Things They Carried and Foucault’s Discipline and Punish, simply because these books had ‘been on the shelf too long.’ After that, I began to take the discards and put them nicely in a box and hide the box in the store until my assigned closing night, and then I would take the box to my car. At one point I had five boxes of books in my car, books the owners had deemed a ‘waste of shelf space,’ and these I distributed to my friends in order to make room to save more books. Eventually, the store closed because the owners couldn’t pay the rent, and I spent my final weekend at that job boxing up books to save from the dumpster in between breaking down shelves and stacking the book carts in a moving van.
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. 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.” 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,’ his style, and his infamy-inducing act—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.
Regular readers of literary magazines (read: hopeful authors) were surprised this weekend to find their favorite literary magazines nearly completely destroyed by a vindictive and highly talented hacker operating on the other side of the globe. Most notably, Third Coast, Monkeybicycle, and La Petitie Zine were hacked this weekend, suffering from the attentions of infamous Bangladeshi hacker Tiger-M@te, who is responsible for many high-profile world wide web hacks. Earlier this year, he brought down Google’s Bangladeshi site, and now he is in the process of defacing popular, highly regarded websites like resellerproductlist.com and terrysdigitalproductstore.com.
Last night, I dreamed that I was in a clearing in a forest, and my wife was below me, yelling that I should fly higher to avoid danger. It was nighttime, there were some stars. I felt scared as I rose, but then I felt very happy, because my wife joined me over the forest, and we escaped along the mountain ridges.
It is a dream I have not had in so long. It is the kind of dream that I’ve missed having, one that I had so many times before when I was a young boy. Most of you have probably had this dream as well: the flying dream. Yes, when I was little, I often dreamed that I could fly. In my dream, I floated out of my room, down the stairs to the landing at the front door of our house, and outside.
In my last post, I casually mentioned that when I first read The Age of Wire and String, I wasn’t very familiar with the precursors that had ‘made it possible’ as a book. Of course, I’m not sure exactly what earlier books helped Marcus write it, nor do I really know what it means to really ‘make a book possible.’ Instead, I think I meant that I hadn’t yet read writing that gave me a way of better appreciating The Age of Wire and String. My first reading of that book was really exciting, but difficult; I felt lost quite a lot through that book the first time. I felt that the book was isolated–and isolated me–when I first read it, but now that I’ve read some other stories and books, I think I feel comfortable putting it in a group of others that I feel do similar things to me as I read.
“Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” is one of those stories that, for me, connects to The Age of Wire and String in a meaningful way. As I’ve mentioned before in some of these other posts, I had previously thought of stories as ABC tales of one character or another’s plights, such as “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” “To Build a Fire,” “The Most Dangerous Game,” etc., this next stage in my reading began to tune me into how words might be used for other purposes: world-building, for example.
Two years before I had discovered, in a volume of a certain pirated encyclopedia, a superficial description of a nonexistent country; now chance afforded me something more precious and arduous. Now I held in my hands a vast methodical fragment of an unknown planet’s entire history, with its architecture and its playing cards, with the dread of its mythologies and the murmur of its languages, with its emperors and its seas, with its minerals and its birds and its fish, with its algebra and its fire, with its theological and metaphysical controversy. And all of it articulated, coherent, with no visible doctrinal intent or tone of parody.