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December 6, 2013 7:41 AM   Subscribe

"Alt lit [previously] is accused of navel-gazing myopia, but technically any writing occurring outside of traditional institutions qualifies for the label. Everyone I know has written alt lit: every status update, every blog post, everything that has ever been said on Twitter. And Twitter, unbeknown to Jonathan Franzen, is especially literary...Which brings me to Heiko Julien," Author (and composer) of "I Am Ready To Die A Violent Death."

"There's an inherent sense of playfulness here, a veering vitality. This is writing that treats the internet(NSFW) as a form rather than just a mediumstaccato thoughts perfectly calibrated to Facebook. His profile is a case study in how the internet, for those who are either young enough or adroit enough to adapt, increasingly functions as more than an extension of self, or even a phantom limb — it's a symbiotic relationship. A way to discover the self you want to express."

More authors mentioned in the essay above the fold:

"One night, up late with Adderalled insomnia, I deleted or hid over half my Facebook friends, using a phrase by Blake Butler (found in a Thought Catalog article he wrote about Twitter) as my guiding mantra: I only want to see things that "produce a feeling that licks my blood."

The novelist Rachel Kushner said, during an interview about her gorgeously sprawling novel The Flamethrowers, "I find people's firm and insistent grip on identity and origins to be sad and arch. Who knows what defines us? What interests me and excites me at a given time — that is what defines me."

Counterpoint:

"Within the last 12 months on planet earth, a millennial man wrote a reactionary Vice article called "Alt Lit Is For Boring, Infantile Narcissists" and a 74-year-old Maineian read "Taipei". And if "JMR" were willing to try Tao Lin, chances are there's something else in this new spaceship of words that would do more for him. He should try Twitter."
posted by Potomac Avenue (21 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
My favorite book review of all time is an Amazon customer review of Tao Lin's new book, Taipei. The novel is alt lit's magnum opus and crowning achievement so far, about a man in his late 20's living in a city and doing drugs and going to parties with his friends and slowly ruining his romantic relationships. It's undeniably boring and astoundingly beautiful

But what's strange about this is that Taipei is firmly and self-consciously in the by now old-fashioned "experimental fiction" tradition of Donald Barthelme etc. I think what's interesting about Lin is that he recognizes that Twitter offers a writers a new literary genre, and, at the same time, recognizes that literature is always in part a conversation with old books and dead people.

And it isn't boring.
posted by escabeche at 7:56 AM on December 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Alternate sribd link for "I Am Ready To Die A Violent Death." This is apparently making a splash over at reddit.
posted by zenon at 7:57 AM on December 6, 2013


I mean, my sense is that she is more interested in Heiko Julien than she is in Tao Lin, and (based just on the excerpts in her piece) I find Tao Lin's tweets more interesting that Heiko Julien's FB statuses, so we are no doubt coming from different places.

And I don't think everything that has ever been said on Twitter is alt lit, or lit at all. We already have great words that include that has ever been said on Twitter, like "text," and "utterance."
posted by escabeche at 7:58 AM on December 6, 2013


I agree that every tweet isn't alt-lit, but I do agree with her that everyone on twitter has, at some point, written something in the mode of alt lit. Even Chuck Grassley. Maybe especially Chuck Grassley.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:05 AM on December 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


That Heiko Julien thing reminds me of the Sick Puppy story in Girl With Curious Hair crossed with Generation X with a little bit of Kathy Acker and her general cohort.

That is, I don't think it's new in some kind of revolutionary sense; I think it's the generational recurrence of a certain type of anomie, expressed slightly differently each time in response to the world. But I also thus don't think it's bad or trivial.

I think people have to watch out once they're over thirty or so, because we lose the newness of the world and we lose the zeitgeist, and it's hard to understand why something is important and new because our newness receptors are all clogged.
posted by Frowner at 8:26 AM on December 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


If twitter existed 10 years ago when I got an MFA I'd still be writing poetry, maybe even "professionally". My life would be a lot different. I'd definitely have a car. Probably a Porsche. And my chauffeur would be a cat-lady. And I'd have a slicked back pompadour. Damn. That's just the kind of cool shit we could have gotten into if twitter had been invented in the early Aughts. Oh well!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:42 AM on December 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


And maybe every generation has felt like this, but we're the first ones to do so while pivoting through a tech revolution.
Andromaque, je pense à vous!
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:48 AM on December 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


True, plus ça change, but this is the first information revolution in a long time, the first sea change in written communication since the invention of the printing press. Writing before the internet:Writing after the internet::Classical music:Recorded Music. We just haven't met our jazz yet. Or rather, I think most people don't recognize that #ReplaceAWordInAMovieTitleWithPenis is the new jazz.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:57 AM on December 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


you can love me if you want it's not my penis #ReplaceEtc
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:28 AM on December 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Now I post one and you favorite that. #NewMedia
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:35 AM on December 6, 2013


haHA #ScrewMedia
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:43 AM on December 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not sure how he did this or why but Heiko seems to have dropped to 0 twitter followers right now.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:19 AM on December 6, 2013


Why would you hire a chauffeur for your Porsche?
posted by malocchio at 11:43 AM on December 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I want to ride in the back.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:55 AM on December 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's what they say "Hey where's Peter?"Oh he's in the back Porshe.

#altlit
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:56 AM on December 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nobody drives a Panamera anymore.
posted by KGMoney at 11:56 AM on December 6, 2013


There’s a parallel, I think, between the rise of “art games” and the rise of “art Internet”. In each case, a young generation of intelligent, passionate artsy people is discovering that it’s possible to express yourself in a medium that older, “respectable” people have written off as unintelligent and unintelligible. And in each case, they’re taking a medium which to some extent is pretty bland and corporate and they’re doing things which break rules and subvert shit and generally outrage people who would rather everything be completely predictable always, in part because outraging such people is always fun.

I am an artsy-fartsy 23-year-old and I find both movements pretty tedious, but I am kind of a weirdo and a snob in ways that kind of align my personal outlook here with all the crusty old farts who’re shitting all over everything here. It’s frustrating, because I think that said old farts are completely wrong about everything that they say, yet my own tastes and interests run pretty opposite to both groups. I totally had the phase where I unfriended all but a couple of people, and another phase where I’d just write for hours and hours on a Tumblr without any cares to form or to how things came out, but at no point during that phase in my life did I think “boy, I’d really like to keep on feeling like this”. Now I don’t and I find both movements hard to personally relate to.

THAT SAID, I’ve been saying on MeFi for actual years that if you know any young people who’ve grown up with social networks as a way of life it is sort of astonishing how interesting and witty and sharp the a lot of them have turned their local online cultures into. Lots of excellent comic timing and self-reflection and even insight and wisdom that I don’t seem to recall my five-years-older generation having quite so much of. There’s a lot of enabling going on, both good and bad, and the result is that along with all the self-encouraged cynicism and nihilism there is a whole fuckton of people telling each other that it’s good to be expressive and vulnerable and to hurt collectively and out loud, and to show empathy and love for everybody else who is hurting so. I’m pretty optimistic for the future of our general culture, in part because it seems the bar has been raised considerably for all the youth I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. I still want them to get the fuck off my lawn, the damn fools, but I’m not entirely displeased that they’re dancing on it nonetheless.
posted by Rory Marinich at 12:56 PM on December 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


What do you think about his poems tho?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:16 PM on December 6, 2013


THAT SAID, I’ve been saying on MeFi for actual years that if you know any young people who’ve grown up with social networks as a way of life it is sort of astonishing how interesting and witty and sharp the a lot of them have turned their local online cultures into. Lots of excellent comic timing and self-reflection and even insight and wisdom that I don’t seem to recall my five-years-older generation having quite so much of. There’s a lot of enabling going on, both good and bad, and the result is that along with all the self-encouraged cynicism and nihilism there is a whole fuckton of people telling each other that it’s good to be expressive and vulnerable and to hurt collectively and out loud, and to show empathy and love for everybody else who is hurting so. I’m pretty optimistic for the future of our general culture, in part because it seems the bar has been raised considerably for all the youth I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. I still want them to get the fuck off my lawn, the damn fools, but I’m not entirely displeased that they’re dancing on it nonetheless.

As someone who is...let's just say I'm older enough that I'd look significantly older to you - that is, if my 23-year-old friends are any guide - I think that's a phenomenon of looking at younger people from the outside. It's a good phenomenon, because it's hopeful and it's about being able to recognize that what is new and different and coming into being has value, but I don't think it's actually about any particular generation being better than yours. I think it's more about being old enough to see with some distance while still being [young enough OR open enough] to see with some enthusiasm. I mean, I look at the people I think of as "the kids" (who by this point are three to five years older than you) with much the same sort of enthusiasm.

Maybe it's also a phenomenon of being rather dissatisfied or ill-at-ease with oneself/one's cohort, so it's very appealing to identify a related-but-distant group as having virtues one lacks.

Actually, I think the ability to like the art/writing/culture of younger people is one of the most important things to have, mental-health-wise. As I watch my anarchist buddies, there's a big divide between people who feel embittered and spend a lot of time griping about kids today and people who have maybe a naive but enthusiastic view of the younger generation. It's not so much about "keeping up" or being on-trend or whatever, it doesn't really matter if you're fifty and have a tumblr (or whatever the kids are into now); it's more the ability to see potential, responsiveness and interest, and to see difference. Continuity of theme between eras and generations is real, but it's very important to see how different circumstances call forth different responses, and that those responses can be valuable and important even if they don't speak to your own personal/generational concerns.
posted by Frowner at 1:20 PM on December 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Poto: it does next to nothing for me, I'm afraid.
posted by Rory Marinich at 1:54 PM on December 6, 2013


Thanks Rormi.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:06 PM on December 6, 2013


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