June 29th, 2012 / 5:07 pm

Daniel Bailey on ‘The New Sincerity/Alt-Lit’

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.


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  1. Anonymous

      a bit of golden eyed nostalgia, ARob [if ref to part 1]. in ref to part 2, seems like it’s part of the ongoing battle between craft and the gestural?

  2. Stephen Tully Dierks

      idk what people mean when they refer to “alt lit,” but if they mean those writers influenced-by/reminiscent of Steve Roggenbuck, i’ll point out Pop Serial, which Bailey mentions in part 2, doesn’t reblog/cover any of those writers. i do cover, for example, Shaun Gannon, who Bailey is friends with i believe. it does cover Roggenbuck, the Nirvana as he’s calling him. it also covers Richard Chiem and Frank Hinton, both distinctive and well-liked writers with their own voices. i’m trying to cover and write alongside Nirvanas and Smashing Pumpkins and (analogy falls apart for me here because i don’t care for the rest of grunge really)…

      i also cover Tao and Sam Pink, two of my favorites from Bailey’s cohort or w/e, and i’ve had Bailey and Kendra and Savoca in previous issues. 
      But yeah. my point is i’ve always been interested in nurturing a community of writers who all seem like standouts or leaders or kindred writers. i haven’t nurtured “internet poetry,” macros, etc. So to me, Pop Serial isn’t alt lit. and my writing isn’t alt lit. i don’t make any macros, i don’t do any flarf or post-flarf, i have 1 solo ebook of short prose, and i plan to write more short stories, and novels.

  3. Stephen Tully Dierks

      i also think though that the way Steve has inspired writers is a cool thing, and influence can lead to “finding your voice” or somehow becoming exciting in your own right (via some imaginary critical perspective), and if they like what they’re making and are having fun and like their work/each other’s work, there’s no reason to give a fuck what Bailey thinks.

  4. A D Jameson

      Hey, Stephen, what are these macros? I’m late to this party, thanks.

      Speaking of, hoping to see you and Rachel tonight! We will have macro-pizza.

  5. A D Jameson

      I’m interested in the passionate insistence on making “real” things in the original posts. And especially in using drunkenness as a means of doing new things, by evading self-censorship.

      … I’ve really been enjoying reading all this discussion of the New Sincerity and Alt Lit that’s been swirling around over the past few weeks!

  6. Stephen Tully Dierks

      image macro is a nerdy technical term for an image with text, typically with meme or ironic-type text. Roggenbuck a long time ago was promoting it as a hot way to do poetry, so he probably popularized it a bit or influenced ppl to do them

  7. A D Jameson

      Oh, OK, thanks. I know the images, but didn’t know they were called that. Any idea why they are? I always just called them “meme images” or the like.

      Looking forward to it!!

  8. A D Jameson
  9. marshall mallicoat

      Call it rockism or stuckism or something else, but this ideology–that conceives of the True Artist as a Lone Genius Auteur who builds Perfect Transcendent Art Objects, and considers ill-defined virtues like “originality,” “authenticity,” “integrity,” “discipline,” “hard work,” “substance,” and “universality” as all important–seems basically simple-minded and reactionary.

      It seems like this ideology informs 99% of the shit-talking that goes on the internet and elsewhere. I feel like if we could get rid of these biases we could maybe have more productive and interesting conversations about what art is, does, can do, should do, etc.

      (This all seems like Art Theory 101 shit, but I never took Art Theory 101.)

      I don’t really have shit to say about “alt lit.” You could take that thing Daniel wrote and replace “alt lit” with “punk rock” and “Steve Roggenbuck” with “Johnny Rotten” and post it on a message board somewhere. #fallback

  10. Jonny Ross

      Frank Hilton’s pretty sweet, I like her writing; she has a voice and a sense of craft and is not just spitting out stuff left and right with Lin-esque style quirks and flat repetition. Can’t really think of anyone else that’s interesting. Andrea Coates?


  11. Don

      Do you consider the works of Shakespeare to be original, authentic, the result of hard work and discipline? Do you think the works of Shakespeare have universality and substance? Or is it just a coincidence that his plays are performed in every city and language on earth centuries after his death?

      I agree that all of those words you put “s around are more or less meaningless when considering mediocre works, but the inability to apply them to great works is… simple-minded and reactionary.

  12. Don

      Do you really not think individual artists have created perfect transcendent art objects?

      Shakespeare’s sonnets + plays
      Pynchon’s V.
      Woolf’s To the Lighthouse
      Dickinson’s poems
      Horace’s Odes
      Bolaño’s 2666
      Vallejo’s Trilce
      Pound’s Hugh Selwyn-Mauberly
      Jansson’s Moomins
      et cetera

      I don’t know when the last perfect transcendent art object was written (2666, I guess), and one certainly has not been written by the alt lit writers. But they have been written in the past! At least writers like Joshua Cohen are trying to do it, even if they haven’t done it yet and probably never will.

  13. Mike James

      Do you really believe that Marshall, or are you just dissenting? For real though. I know we’re all supposed to be “chill people who don’t shit talk”, but then again, I’m honestly not going to fall in love/respect lazy work. I mean, take the rap game — in rap if you jocked someone else’s style, you’re a biter. And then once in a while you’d get people who may have a similar sound, but, after aural investigation (ie, listening to the tracks a grip of times), you’d either see them as an “industry product” or genuine. Action Bronson, Gorilla Zoe, etc.

      There’s this strong, weird feeling that many artists are bandwagoning either to belong, or to “get duper [sic] famous” within that same subculture, and essentially, outside the subculture as that subculture lauds them.

  14. Mike James

      Clarifying. Action Bronson = Ghostface Killa comparisons.

      Gorrila Zoe = Biggie comparisons.

  15. bartleby_taco

      shit talking is bad yea yea but i like it when people aren’t antiseptic about their opinions and i like that daniel bailey is saying this because i have a feeling that a good amount of people (who are associated with either this website or things like it) probably feel this way and its interesting to have discussions ya know yea

  16. Anonymous

      Actually, Marshall, I’m pretty sure “99% of the shit-talking” is a result of this blog and a few others overemphasizing this cohort’s importance and shoving it down our throats incessantly. One can’t visit HTMLG for a week without seeing some sort of coverage of this group whose relevance is vastly overstated on a daily basis. Also, “99% of writers” are capable of collaborating with like-minded peers without a) needing constant validation from outsiders ; b) talking about it in public non-stop and c) shameless branding. 

      Jesus–just STFU already and I promise you, no one will shit-talk “alt-lit” or even care…and maybe that’s precisely the point. If one could add a subtitle to this so-called movement, it would be: DYING TO BE LOVED.

  17. Frank Tas, the Raptor

      Dear Breece,

      If typing in an url, going to the url, and then reading an article you don’t have to read is what you consider having something shoved down your throat, then, uh, uh, uhhhhhhhhh, you are an idiot.


      Drunk Frank Tas, Esq., MD

  18. Anonymous

      Oh, shut the hell up, you glad-handing ass kisser. 

  19. Frank Tas, the Raptor

      Did you go to an MFA? I’m assuming you did, based on your adorably impeccable grammar. If you did I just want to know what the interior of your professor’s rectum tasted like.

      Also how much money you spent on getting to taste said rectum.

  20. Anonymous

      An MFA program would do wonders for your two “unpublished novels.” You scream: amateur. I bet you had both novels bound at Kinkos and presented to your Grandmother for Christmas, and even wrote a copyright symbol on the title page, just in case.

  21. Frank Tas, the Raptor

      Breece you didn’t answer my question sweetheart.

  22. Frank Tas, the Raptor

      You scream: critic. Comprende? Not writer. Critic.

  23. Frank Tas, the Raptor


  24. Nicholas Grider

      If Janice gets Blake to let me I’m writing a guest post here on what alt lit, conceptual writing and “autistic writing” all have to do with each other (they overlap in an interesting mess) but getting to learn about alt lit via this site was eye-opening because I was busy in the artworld and all this happened while I was photographing war games or glitter etc. and still thought writers like say DFW or Kathy Acker or Tan Lin were still the torch-bearers for the new and now.  

      (I always forget about young people and their predictable rebellion because I only know two young people, one of whom sort of writes alt lit but writ grand now that I think of it.)

  25. A D Jameson

      Joseph Massey’s original NS manifesto (c. 2005) opened with a mentally ill homeless man screaming at a radio. Since then I’ve noticed many, many writers—like Daniel Bailey, above—call for various means to “keep it real” or to evade self-censorship: being mentally ill, making work like outsider art, getting drunk, misspelling words, using text speak, pretending to be a child, and so on. Perhaps I will put up a post that lists them all?

      My point all along is that these are formally-produced aesthetic effects. Sometimes someone may use a real-world case to produce them—one might actually be mentally ill or be drunk or be a child or be an outsider art. But one does not need to actually be those things in order to write in such a way that produces that effect. Steve Roggenbuck, for all I know, takes hours crafting the misspellings in his work. Or he produces them automatically while writing. It doesn’t matter; his “actual” state doesn’t matter. What matters is that he produces an intentional formal effect in the work that gives the impression that he is not “editing” himself, an effect that, at this particular moment, “keeps it real.” (If more people imitate him in doing this, it will probably stop giving that impression; it will become perceptible as a codified style.)

      Looking forward to your post, Nicholas!

  26. mimi

      steve grungebock

  27. Ben Roylance

      this was well written and had the ring of truth but wow is all this beef getting old 

  28. O

      Who the fuck is Steve Roggenbuck? He’s the Nirvana of your little scene? You people live in your own little bubble. 

  29. Anonymous

      When are some of you going to fess up that you only “care” about these writers because they make good click bait and drive traffic to your site(s) and give you name recognition here? Be honest: you know that you can promote yourself here and a few other incestuous places if you write about them constantly and overestimate their importance (mainly because they happen to frequent the same few sites). How about covering something that actually matters beyond this insular bubble? There are a million more interesting and compelling literary topics to cover than the juvenile ramblings of Steve Roggenbuck.

  30. Ryan Call

      im sorry. i just thought peoplemight want to read this other thing about it.

  31. Anonymous

      I’m not talking about you, really…more like the people who are close to including these writers in the Norton Anthology. 

  32. Ryan Call

      oh ok. no worries then!

  33. mimi

      ” … you only “care” about these writers because they make good click bait and drive traffic to your site … ” 
      – if you were to read my blog you would know that i do not give a rat’s ass how much traffic my blog gets 

      “There are a million more interesting and compelling literary topics to cover than the juvenile ramblings of Steve Roggenbuck.” 
      – change that to: “There are a million other interesting and compelling literary topics to cover…” – and we’re in agreement; and there are a million other sites at which to explore them

      i like to read htmlg precisely _because of_ the “insular bubble” they cover, which i find interesting – doesn’t mean i’m not reading other interesting stuff elsewhere too

  34. Anonymous

      Weak sauce. 

      Do you know of other lit blogs that have this level of interaction in the comments section? HTMLG has a lot of potential, and some might feel that it’s being wasted.

  35. Anonymous

      had/been. bring back mean mondays

  36. mimi

      “Do you know of other lit blogs that have this level of interaction in the comments section?” – no 

      “HTMLG has a lot of potential” – absolutely 

      “…and some might feel that it’s being wasted” – no doubt

  37. Richard Grayson

      What is love? ’tis not hereafter;

      Present mirth hath present laughter;

      What’s to come is still unsure:

      In delay there lies no plenty;

      Then come kiss me, sweet and twenty,

      Youth’s a stuff will not endure.

  38. Richard Grayson
  39. bartleby_taco

      I think so, though maybe I wouldn’t phrase it like that. ‘Shit talking’ seems to arise (I think) from a general attitude of mean-spiritedness, where the only thing you are interested in is venting your dislike for something and not really qualifying that or contextualizing it beyond “this is bullshit” whereas ‘talking shit’ can fall within the bounds of talking about something critically, and to me that means that you can ‘really dislike’ something in an aggressive way and still be intelligent and open. if someone were to rebuke bailey for his comments im sure he would be open to respond and have a reasoning behind his thoughts that would go beyond “you’re a bunch of circle jerker social climbers” (which seems to me like the go-to ‘shit talking’ statement to make about alt lit).

      i guess what i was trying to say is that i like it when people are honest about something that they sincerely dislike because allowing yourself to be critical in that way without any regard for stepping on peoples toes is exciting and builds a KULCHUR around INTERESTING IDEAS, INTELLECTUAL IRREVERENCE, ‘thinking critically’ (heh), etc etc yea yeah yea, right?

  40. mimi

      “Do you know of other lit blogs that have this level of interaction in the comments section?” – no 

      “HTMLG has a lot of potential” – absolutely 

      “…and some might feel that it’s being wasted” – no doubt

  41. Evan Hatch

      alt lit seems more about the people who comprise it than the actual content, and maybe that is the point. i feel that the work of almost all these ‘writers’ is heavily dependent on contextual knowledge about them to be anything less than ephemeral, and whatever pleasure i derive from their work is typically more voyeuristic in nature than literary. only through the inadvertent self-mythologizing of social networking could something where the writing is secondary in significance to the personalities producing it. in that sense, i can’t think of anything more rooted in ‘sincerity’, where authorial voice and author and internet persona so are consistently indistinguishable. irony and posturing aside, i feel like alt lit can be intensely personal and sincere expression of self, and so the propensity for it to converge stylistically isn’t really fair grounds for criticism. it is as much a community as anything, and as such, is motivated by aesthetic and existential solidarity, rather than the carefully constructed pursuit of novelty that i would argue that much of literature results from.

      will it be celebrated once whatever social ties that together dissolve? no, but that isn’t why these people are writing, and i already highly doubt that anyone outside this community (me included) seriously cares about the work of the 2nd generation imitators. if you don’t relate to whatever nihilistic 20-something zeitgeist it embodies, whatever value alt lit has is already lost upon you, but that is only to be expected. 

      that said, if you genuinely take this stuff seriously from a purely literary perspective, i have to strongly question your aesthetic sensibilities 

  42. postitbreakup

      i used to get really “angry” about the muumuu new sin alt whatever style and the brackets and scare-quotes and all that, but i have lately tried to remind myself that that’s silly and to calm down. and now that i’m not all closed off to it, i can see the value in some of tao’s stories or the fun/inspiration in what steve’s doing, and the sense of having a “community,” even if it’s only in like an animorphs fan message board community type way, i.e. insular & dorky but entertaining

  43. mimi

      DJ Breezie Pfankuchen: “Do you know of other lit blogs that have this level of interaction in the comments section?”

      mimi: “no” * * * * *

      * * * * * mimi takes that back! i DO know of other ‘lit blogs’ that have this level of interaction in the comments sections

      for example, the Guardian UK website has lit-blog-columns, the comments sections of which are lively and well-attended, not to mention often quite erudite; different demographics than htmlg, to be sure, but vive les differences! and if one reads them regularly, one gets to know the tastes and tendencies and personalities and quirks of the commenters, just like here at htmlg

      they have a reading group:
      and a ‘poem of the week’ column:

      i don’t comment there, tho, i just lurk&learn

      i know of several personal blogs that have active comments sections, too, but i shan’t mention them here – i’ll leave that to their authors, who may or may not be looking to “make good click bait and drive traffic to (their) site(s) … ” 

  44. Anonymous

      There’s a perfectly wicked Sir Toby on display down in Castle Clinton, and a Feste you can shake a stick at, for a variety of reasons. I would recommend arriving for the Tuesday showing, after their day of rest, to be sure their voices are as prepared as they can be shouting in open air.

  45. Anonymous

      y r u gay

  46. Anonymous

       Hells Yeah! Watch me Fucking Rock this Boat like it Never been rocked before

  47. Anonymous
  48. emmab


  49. marshall mallicoat

      htmlgiant should let andrea coates blog for them

  50. Anonymous

      I’ve been writing to Blake Butler on FB. So Far, he has turned a Blind Eye. Will my inSistence win out over his Loyalty to Tao Lin? We’ll see. 

  51. postitbreakup

      nah & don’t try to get him to acknowledge you in a chatroom even when he acknowledges literally every other person in the chatroom except you, because he will not, will not, will not

  52. Anonymous

       I think if I keep talking about my EVIL PLANS in Every Forum Available to me, I will achieve my Goals ( 1. convince Every One in Alt Lit I’m a Genius 2. Get Every One in Alt Lit to fall in Love with me 3. Hold Orgies 4. Get Rich off Porn )

  53. Anonymous

      Shoptalk. A meaningless word outside of the circle of people who actually “are”, in some way, inside of it.

  54. mimi

      can someone please tell me when it’s mean week
      please, i’m dyin’ here

  55. Alt Lit. HTMLGIANT. Daniel Bailey “What happened to vision? Go eat a pigeon.” « adhdjournal