Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Alligator Juniper 2008 & Why People Don't Read

Hey um well there's a new issue of Alligator Juniper out for 2008.

I folded my dick in the pages a little. On the cover there's a photo of dead fish. I think they are dead.

I'm in this thing, another list, in a section called 'Genre Blur,' where we like blur genres. It's on yellow paper in the back of the magazines instead of on white like the rest, caused we are blurry.

Also here is Aaron Burch, who won the 6-word story contest they had for the issue, and others are Joshua Leavitt, Rachel Toliver, Margot Singer, Justin St. Germain, Matt Mendez won a contest judged by Benjamin Percy, a ton of other people. There is nice photography.

This is a really nicely designed magazine. Thank god for nicely designed magazines. I've been really confused lately by a proliferation of magazines that seem to either not know much about design or don't care, which is really confusing, considering it costs so much to put these out, and people aren't going to buy an ugly magazine unless their sister or bonk-partner is in it? Some journals at AWP, they couldn't give their shit away, I remember one who actually had old women standing in front of the table trying to force people to take it and no one wanted to? I took one. I don't think I ever read it.

There are presses, too, I've seen that have the damn ugliest books. Are you looking at your covers? Are you seeing that they aren't nice looking? Really, if there's any definitive self-controllable point-to on the whole 'why don't people pay attention to indie books so much?,' well, there you go.

There are even more ugly online journals, where the question of design really is inexcusable. They've got words everywhere, messy tables, weird glaring images like from the early days of the internet, with the author's work kind of wedged among the other eyesores. I really can't figure it out: is it laziness? I don't think so, they started a journal, they must care. Is it lack of taste or know how? I guess. There are so many design people out there now, though, and so many easy editors to make simple webpages instead of Geocities style transom, I don't think there's an excuse for having at least a very simple, eye pleasing site.

All of this, though, is preaching to the choir mainly. There was a lot of talk recently about 'why don't people pay attention to independent books as much as they pay attention to independent music and film?' People wondering why the guy wearing the Dirty Projectors t-shirt doesn't buy books from Fence or Calamari Press? A lot of people seem to think it's a question like the one I'm talking about above, units being produced that don't have as much aesthetic appeal, that don't bring the ever important function of post-Apple design into their game. And that certainly does effect the small #s already coming in: journals like Ninth Letter and McSweeney's sell more for a reason, because they are gorgeous objects, and also because they have hype behind them and they are put in stores more, but at the core of it, this is something people want to touch.

But really, and maybe I'll be pegged as Negative Nancy here, I think the real answer is that people like music and film because they are easy. It takes no work on the part of a person to listen to the new Liars record, it takes them 45 minutes to have a full enough tidbit to bring it up for their friends, to justify wearing the shirt, there is no 'work' involved, it is an instant stroke of culture on their back. They can read about the Cramps or Wolf Eyes on a blog, download an album, hear it, buy a shirt on ebay, then they are a certain kind of person to those who see them in the shirt with the mussed hair. I know tons of kids in Atlanta who don't know shit about where their music came from, how it's made, what it maybe is about, to whatever extent you can say that, but who will show up at the bar looking pretty with their indie shirt on, and have the cd in their car that they listened to on the way to the bar from home. Instant culture. Instant art. In hipster scenes, everyone wants to be an artist without doing shit. 'I'm a DJ. My taste is art. I like Cut Copy and Deerhunter and I also like Debbie Gibson ironically. I hide the Pitchfork bookmarks on my iBook.' Likewise 'I saw the Godard retrospective at Midtown Art last night.' What about it? 'I saw it.'

Maybe part of this is why I lost my interest in music. Yes, I like it as wallpaper, but for the most part it feels like an easy in, a way to have something to say without having anything at all to say. Your playlist speaks for you, all you have to do is accidentally let your friend see it, or turn on your iTunes shuffle loud in the house so all your roommates know how cool you are. The personal side of music, the one that kept me going for so long, in me has pretty much been flattened, so there's no need for it anymore.

When it comes to books, the blank looks on people's faces who absorb so much 'art' in other venues is one that probably will remain there.

People don't read because it's work, and most people don't like work, even for their art.

Of course, there are the thousands that do care, and do build, tons of journals who pay close attention to their design as they do with content, and do keep things moving in a way that has independent publishing, I think, doing more than it ever has, but if you're wondering when will books catch on like wildfire, well, I think you can thank shitty reading lists in public middle and high schools for people associating the pleasure of reading with the equivalent of running a marathon.

Want to save books? Read Peter Markus to a little kid. Play Allen Ginsberg or Dean Young reading mean poetry to a room full of high school english students. Give Robert Lopez or Donald Barthelme or Tao Lin to a undergrad who you see carrying Harry Potter. Tell your counterculture friend who worships Hunter Thompson all the ways Gordon Lish makes him look normal. And if you edit a journal/press/lit website, make sure the objects you are putting into the world look like something you'd want to see if you hadn't made them.


Shane Jones said...

well done

Bradley Sands said...

Most lit journals that I see in stores have covers that are as boring as shit. I feel like they're doing a disservice to me when one of those stores sells Bust.

Covers are really important to me. I suck with cover design, so I usually try to get the artist to do it for me.

Not big on design on the inside. Just try to make it easy to read. Not look like shit. Haven't seen too many lit journals that look like shit on the inside, but tons on online journals. There's just these basic layout things that everyone should follow, like justified text, or it's really disruptive to the reading process because we're not used to not having it.

I used to do the layout on Microsoft Word. That looked like shit.

So I paid a friend to make a template on InDesign and taught myself to use the program.

I am waiting for the Melatonin to kick in.


bradley, agreed, there are often only a few with covers that make me want to pick them up usually, many are just standard after years of following procedure, i don't understand

design on the inside can also be huge, ie: fence and 12th street and ninth letter and so on look better than most college journals, some yeah don't pay attention to simple things, there is a lot to be said for space and font i think, but as long as it isnt distracting in reading i dont usually have a problem

better is better

Gene said...

We should make a blog that is just this post over and over again.

People buy shit when they are attracted to it.

And yes, it is shallow. Making money is shallow.

Titties sell copies of Maxim.

Maxim hooks lads with the titties, and earns their respect with interesting articles about how to fart loud and make a grenade launcher out of tampons.


attraction. yes. hence why the fence issue with titties on it was their best seller, and got people buying. brilliant shit.

also why well designed sites like Bear Parade and Juked, in the one place a handful of non-regular readers might actually read, ONLINE, are so important

i am going to start a web journal that features hot titty shots with each update

sam pink said...

dude i love wolf eyes. "burn your house down" is one of my favorite songs. i like to write while listening to it but i usually end up punching the tile until my hands goes numb.


sam, you should come over and check out my refrigerator, he is making waves, he is progressive, he has a double disc coming out on load records in december.

Ken Baumann said...


You nailed it.


Ken Baumann said...


Tao Lin said...


Josh Maday said...

good post, blake. i am in agreement.

Adam R said...

I am inventing cool kids to like small literature.

sam pink said...

i would listen to your refrigerator droning if i liked the way it sounded.

Anonymous said...


Keith Montesano said...

this is the hott shit, blake. gotta put a link to it in my blog, which no one reads. but maybe someone will find the link. awesomeness.


i am glad that made sense, i thought i was babbling again

Keith Montesano said...

also, have you seen the hollins critic? they pay, yet they're a stapled journal. aren't we now beyond -- at least seemingly -- running a journal out of someone's living space / garage?

Gene said...

all we need is porn and a story, and we have us a classy website.


this is going to happen

DB said...

dude yes.

Bradley Sands said...

I just opened a copy of Fence from last year. I don't have a copy of a college journal to compare it to because I threw all mine out, but why do you think the design is better than most college journals? It uses a nice font, but besides that, I just think it's adequate. Plus they don't use justified text for the fiction (but they do with the essays). That's kind of crappy.

I didn't mention that justified text usually looks crappy online. Made it sound like everything should be justified. Think that everything in print should be justified except poetry.


i like the font and the white space. yeah, the fiction usually looks different than the prose, a little more squished or something, but the size of the journal is perfect i think, and the layout is pleasing, it looks professional.

i dunno, arbitrary?


the fence books are definitely nice, maybe moreso even than the journals


why do i like french flaps?

can someone tell me why i like french flaps?

Anonymous said...

I think you could just as easily identify someone as hip or not by checking out their favorite authors/books list as well. The only problem is people may not know much beyond Jonathan Safran Foer or Dave Eggers and the McSweeneys camp. You are NOT hip if you just go and read Pitchfork and than download the music and mindlesly listen to it. Essentially, you are not listening to anything. So, people may be listening to a lot of music but they are hearing nothing which is analogous to what is happening with people not reading at all.

DOGZPLOT said...

french flaps... you are of course referring to the sloppy labia of loose french women. i think yu like them because they smell nice and thet're more chewie than the american flaps


this is true, but more of what i am referring to is the absence of people reading, which i think is because they don't want to put the time in. you can surely say something about who someone is by the things they hold to them, i was definitely not questioning that. it's just easier to front when you are defining your personality via music culture, i think.

dogz, you got it

jereme said...


good post as usual. this is why you are CUTTING DICKS OFF on a daily basis.

I will miss you when you are famous and you pay an 18 year old college kid to post on your behalf.

I would like to point out one thing though.

Film and music is easy. You are correct in your evaluation that the masses pick easy. But I believe in the bell curve theory when it comes to intelligence. So this will always be the case.

However, the brain works in mysterious ways. I think "visually". I can create an entire movie in my head. Translating that into words is very difficult for some one who thinks in these terms.

And reading is difficult for me at times but I love it. I continue to read but probably a little slower then most who enjoy books.

I think some of the blame is also shouldered by corporate america and their refusal to get behind products that do not sell billions of dollars.

Books do not sell like movies or music. Corporate america will only focus on what makes them the most profit.

Part of the issue is people do not have exposure to books anymore.

21st century despair.

DOGZPLOT said...

the idea of intelligence is an interesting one here in this conversation. im not saying that film makers and musicians aren't intelligent because that would be ridiculous. but i don't think that the listener or the movie watcher has to be too intelligent to enjoy them. of course there are different levels of understanding but thats straying too far from what im about to say.

with quality writing, fiction, poetry, whatever. i think that great writers are extremely intelligent and their writing is sharp and clever and thought provoking and the masses are intimidated by intelligence in the form of contemporary literary fiction. readers of quality fiction have to invest a part of themselves in a piece of writing in order to enjoy it at its max, this kind of committment isnt necessary to enjoy films and music, at least not to the same extent. i think it turns people off of great literature. even the great writers you mention, why would th egeneral public take the time to read it if they go into it believing they aren't gonna "get it"

of course the topic is alot deeper than this. this is just an idea.


Jereme, don't get me wrong, there is definitely an art to visual mediums, though so much of it is diluted, yes, by the corporate system only sponsoring shit it understands and identifies with enough to market.

The pitching idea 'get in there and let them know what two already established ideas you are bringing together' is revolting.

Even with books it is true, the mainstream is not safe, the last 5 books I bought from a big house were so boring I returned them.

This is slightly changing in certain aspect and in certain aspects it will never change.


dogz, yes, they are fucked from the first step, they don't know how to open the door, they know they will have to be 'involved' in the synthesis of a book's repercussion moreso than with film/music, in that they have to move it with their eyes, whereas the film moves them.

that's probably a good distinction: film and music move regardless of the user's interaction. a book is truly inert unless invoked and cared for.

where is the McBook?

jereme said...

well we do live in a fast paced digital age.

who the hell has time to read a book?

people who are reading enthusiasts.

death to the global corporate system.

or some sort of revolutionary slogan

Keith Montesano said...

it's got a good taste...


'pitchers at jim mitchell's'

matthew savoca said...

the obvious answer here, folks, is reproduction. what we need is for all the sensitive universe-conscious book-loving boys and girls to birth as many children as possible
now i know it's hip or whatever to not want to have children, but has anyone seen the movie idiocracy?


making babies, yes, i dont think i'm on my way at all, idiocracy is right on

'you like money too?'

that movie didn't get enough attention, it made me laugh a lot, and seems so on its way to real

Keith Montesano said...

thirst mutilators? maybe it's too late for that. meaning i have to get up in a few hours. boom.


has anyone else seen they made that drink brawndo into a real drink? an energy drink, looks just like from movie

i had a few, its not very good, unless you are wasted

Gene said...

i bought a case of brawndo around the time i made a baby. i still have four left.

Gene said...

also, i'm making as many children as possible. i may even go brangalina-style and start importing babies, even though that's like, totally not carbon neutral.

marybid said...

I will confess to favoring nicely-designed books and litmags. I like explosions, destruction, glossy red things. Nothing that verges on wallpaper pattern.

DOGZPLOT said...

REPRODUCTION.... now thats the right idea.

i got dibs on this PENULTIMA chick up here.... and brandi wells... and nikki darling... and monica lewinsky is she ever reads this.


gene, have one for me, i'll mail it candy

p said...

reading isn't sexy enough. and its hard. no immediate hipster points available, more or less, depending on where you are.

Tao Lin said...

i like french flaps also, sometimes i think about my books having french flaps, i thought i would be disappointed for a long time that my books don't have french flaps but i think about it for five or ten seconds and 'don't care anymore' when i think about how shitty some of the books i like look and how it doesn't really affect what i think about them like old editions of joy williams or something

a really pretty book that i also like to read a lot would be really nice to have i feel like

some things that are really pretty and that i also like, like certain CDs, or certain books, like LIKE LIFE by lorrie moore or A GREEN LIGHT by matthew rohrer or SUBURBAN TEENAGE WASTELAND BLUES by strung out i will keep buying copies of just to have and give people and have around me, it feels good to think about them and have them and look at them

i've probably 'gone through' 5-10 copies of each of those (less for the CD)

Tao Lin said...

yes i got the last comment in this thread

'the final word'

someone else will probably say something now and this won't be true


when a thing is pretty and you also like it, that is the best

the best best, i will make a list of things i like that are also prety, that seems fun

last word destroyer

jereme said...

tao lin is funny. he made me lol.

i do not lol easily.


comment 49 gosh

Peter Cole said...

i agree it's most likely laziness. also, most 'hipsters' or whatever only do what they know other hipsters think is cool, so, get the right hipsters talking about what they read, maybe more hipsters will be interested in reading. if they don't actually read, maybe they'll at least buy the book to look cool. at least that's really what everyone in Nashville cares about (and i imagine it's the same everywhere else): looking cool. and that also re-enforces your point about design.

but that is going into the mission statement/vision statement that we are writing up: find ways to make people think reading is the cool thing to do.

Peter Cole said...

posting another comment so this time i can check off "email follow-up" box

Tao Lin said...

'my target demographic is hipsters'

p said...

thats probably a good idea


it actually seems pretty rare hipsters try to use books to be cool anymore. i dont ever see it anyway. sometimes people will ask if i like david sedaris? im not sure they think thats cool though...

maybe they'd buy a cormac mccarthy is my homeboy shirt or something

its probably beyond even laziness

p said...

I always figure it must be happening somewhere else in hep urban centers far away from my hole in michigan. But I could also be wrong.

Where I work people ask me if I like Karen Kingsbury or not a lot.

Tao Lin said...

i think 'hipsters' actually read because they like to read now or want to read something

i think hipsters do that especially

i think people read to 'appear smart' or 'intelligent' and 'existential' are people who are not hipsters or something but college students or something who aren't hipsters who read camus and sartre and henry miller or something

i don't know


maybe it is different in new york, there are no 'intellectual' hipsters in atlanta really, at least not related to books, maybe i hear things mentioned every now and then, hardly ever though? it is mostly music, sometimes films, not really though, i dont talk to a lot of people anymore? maybe i am missing things? i dont think so, atlanta has almost no literary connections in any way that i have found, maybe everyone like that is hiding or more quiet, i have heard people mention harry potter, i think that's really the only one i can think of of any type of books mentioned

Tao Lin said...

i don't know really, i based what i typed on 2-3 people i think

Tao Lin said...

i have good feelings toward this comment thread, i feel like i want to keep coming back and saying additional things


peter, you michigan centers are like the urban centers i think, we are all crying without realizing it

i have been saying crying a lot

i would like to cry some sometime soon but not for a bad reason, just because


i would like to make this comment tally stay around to at least triple digits, the energy will pop my nuts

jereme said...

Well, i think we should stop posting because this is what HE wants. This is what HE planned.

That evil Tao Lin and his manipulative ways.



tao lin target demographic attaining

i need a washing machine


i want to make a baby just so i can snicker in its ear some, tell it about frederick barthelme's disillusionment

i need to develop a better target market, i feel scattered or something


i dont like when people call babies 'he' or 'she'

it's 'it'

jereme said...

today i saw two sparrow birds copulating in mid air until one looked down and spotted a shiny piece of foil from a gum wrapper and broke off the relationship.

i learned a lot today about relationships.

p said...

I will stand at barnes and noble and watch their two copies of ninth letter until someone else buys one and then I will make friends with them. Unless I'm too nervous.

p said...

Karen Kingsbury fans might be a good target market.

Josh Maday said...

hey peter, things are going on in michigan, but it's mostly isolated. i always imagine the other person in saginaw who reads faulkner or peter markus or blanchot or blake butler's blog. gina myers just moved back from NYC, so i think i mostly imagine her. even in the abyss of saginaw there are hipsters with slick designer messy hair, pre-dirtied, pre-ripped jeans, diy backpacks and cars plastered with 'radical' political stickers meant to provoke progressive thought and change people's thinking in much the same way as going to church, just in a different direction. my train of thought has left me behind. i don't know what i'm saying anymore. you're not alone, peter b., not totally. there's always the folks in ann arbor and grand rapids to feel good about.

p said...

yeah I like michigan. grand rapids was my den for awhile. I'm in holland which is conservative and weird but I have managed to root out some good "people." and I like to watch the kids in their emo pants.

Anonymous said...

I like this post a lot. I can report that people read more in Northampton, MA than they do in Los Angeles. They are also less aggressive drivers and more reserved. Correlation??


hi gabe i am glad to hear that

brandon said...

seattle or more specifically capitol hill feels like a 'hot bed' of hipster activity, a breeding zone,

things are happening here with hipsters, there is no one else here other than hipsters, i walk on the street and it is only people that are dressing like hipsters

mostly i have a feeling of openness and comfort around here, but there are levels in the culture, levels of dress code and attitude, i understand the layers of the scene

i don't know anyone, in seattle, not connected to this blog scene, in real life that likes the books i like or that is into books at all

but being 'into' books feels like something different to me than being 'into' music

i'm not sure, i feel 'into' books and i feel like i don't know anyone else that is into books

but i don't know if i know anyone that's really 'into' music here, this is getting confusing for me

a lot of people say they're 'into' fashion here, like they buy fashion magazines and get VICE, and then they get a sewing machine and get their friend who does bookings at chop suey to let them do a 'fashion show' where they get their female friends to do coke and put on the clothes they found at the goodwill outlet, cut up, sewed back together, ironic, and suddenly they and their friends are calling them a fashion designer

everyone likes one band or another, mostly it is the new rock shit, i don't know what the genre is called, just the new shit that's coming out but is distributed by smaller labels

i felt a small hate for seattle just now, but i like it, i like the scene, it is good in a way, it makes it easier to connect, for me,


jereme said...

I have a small hatred for Seattle also but for entirely different reasons.

I am tired of people pissing on Portland and praising Seattle.

Fuck Seattle. You guys are lucky Sir Mix A Lot is from there.


No offense. If I saw you on the street I would immediately think "hipster".

I am quite sure you would think something deragatory if you saw me.

so it is okay.

my beard will defeat your hair.

fuck noah cicero.


'suddenly they and their friends are calling them a fashion designer'

haha yes this happens in atlanta too

how many atlanta girls with blogs of their name .com talking about hot indie shows after their fashion debut?

brandon said...

its okay i feel sure i am a hipster

i have consciously chosen to be one

that felt hard to type

i like seattle i have never been to portland

i love you blake butler




i think there are people who looks like hipsters because they ended up that way and there are the people who intensely focus on what it is

the second group is much larger

some people are just honest?

brandon capital b

brandon said...

sir mix a lot is a fucking choad

jereme said...


i remember the choad list. there was no sir mix a lot choad.

Justin Rands said...

Hipsters gone wrong. Gone right.
Henry Miller.
Holy shit.
I went to college and like all of those authors.



Josh Maday said...

the sun was in my eyes

Scott Garson said...

great stuff in this one, B.

I have a couple insomniac thoughts, which i'll post separately maybe.... That way you'll get to the triple digits sooner.

1. The stuff about hipsters -- hmm.... It's a derogatory term, right? People don't like hipsters because the hipster ethic would seem to have to do w/ revolt, which has to do w/ awareness, but awareness isn't necessary to follow hipster styles and tastes....

Deerhunter, dude!

I actually really like Deerhunter. I have their song "River Card" in my head right now.

There's also the idea -- and maybe this is where you're coming from, B -- that people think more about their identities when they express enthusiasm for art than they do about whatever response the art creates in them. Hipsters obviously aren't unique in this. You don't just buy the shirt, right? You buy the picture of yourself in it. Getting back to the point -- reading, and why people don't do as much of it as they could: I guess I would say that it's pointless to rail against identity obsession. I love when people rail against it -- I love Lao Tzu, I love imagining his smelly pantaloons -- but it's all about identity, and I think that publishers have to accept and work w/ this: part of what you do when you put something out is to create a brand. That's yicky, for sure. Ideally writers and artists themselves would be kept innocent of it.

Scott Garson said...

2. The other thought was about sharing.

Would you like me to share?

People buy more independent music than they do independent lit because it's social. You can share it. YOu can listen to music w/ your mates.

Maybe this is a totally stupid observation, maybe just a partly stupid one.....

Connection. That's important to people. We're identity obssessed, and partly because of that atomized. The potential for connection w/ music is obvious. In the case of books and mags (and I'm ignoring the new reading/readers' websites in saying this), connection is old school: if it happens, it happens between the writer and you. That connection is not as easy and less immediate, as some people have been saying. But the writers I love -- I respond to some of them as quickly and viscerally as i do to music.... I don't think it's so foolish for writers to go for that kind of effect....


I am all about brand identity in literary arts. I think I get obsessed with things that have brand identity: there are certain presses of a certain aesthetic quality that I pretty much take what they do across the board. I think there is definitely still a need for more of this in literature, a more full package and aggressive marketing, an overall package that makes you want it, rather than an inert idea that must be found.

I think you are right on the aspect that music is social, but can't books be social in the same way? Music actually seems anti-social to me a lot of the time, in that when I go to a bar 90% of the time I can't talk to anyone because the music is so loud. For sure though I have had a lot of in-depth discussions about bands with people who if they had the same enthusiasm for books could talk just as endlessly about them.

Music is also easier to steal and distribute online, which I think is even more the culprit in this whole thing. Books you can't really steal except the old fashioned way, and there's nothing sexy about reading long books online or printing them out or ordering them and waiting. That's probably huge, and an aspect that can never really be remedied outside the web jrouansl, except partially by very short ebooks, but even that needs a lot of work. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Bear Parade is a model that should be replicated.

In the end, though, I really think the main point for me all of this is that early on the majority of people are not given the chance to like reading in the same way they like music or books. Books are presented to them as work, as 'learning' and not a source of fun, which is, as I said a little before, mainly I think because the wrong things are put to them too early. Reading 'A Separate Peace' and writing chapter summaries is never going to make anyone want to read anything ever again, unless it is nurtured in them in other ways. I was lucky that I was read to by my mother a very wide variety of stuff like Mark Twain, and is was not made as work. I think reform of school reading lists is just as important as making books nicer looking all the way around, but it's such a political idea that it will probably never take hold.

When I got slammed over by the ULA, 'King Wenclas' said I was dumb for saying kids should be read Peter Markus, he said they should be read comic books, and as much as I think comic books are fine, I was a comic junkie as a fat teen, I think for the younger ones it is more important to put them into things that are less visual and less like TV and give them more a chance to experience reading early on as something that can invoke your mind. Children like to have their minds invoked if you do it the right way, with the right child, it's just so many people these days don't take the time.

I'm rambling, its 6 AM i'm wide awake.


I also think writers are capable of developing fan bases that extend the way musicians do: look at David Foster Wallace or David Sedaris... these people sell out venues also. How is it that they are marketed? How is that different from smaller authors? Is it specifically only that the major houses have more money?? I don't think that's all of it, but I can't figure out exactly what it is.

I'm sticking to the idea that people have become lazy, books are work, and people don't like work even for art. I really believe that as a majority peg for at least a wide majority of the world. Instant culture.


ps: thanks for commenting scott, good to hear from you. i don't 'hate' deerhunter, they have some ok stuff, i just think they are severely overrated. it's become so popular among 'art' bands these days to write songs that have just one part repeating with a lot of layers, which is all great fine, but modern music for the most part is just repeating itself in this same fashion.

Scott Garson said...

I think I see what you mean about instant culture. it's almost like you can have your art/media without having it lately, without giving away any of your time. Like w/ that new A. Jolie movie, the hitman movie. I saw a trailer for that one on TV and in the trailer this guy googles himself and finds nothing and then gets somehow swept up into a network of pro killers. Cool. I've seen that one now. I've got that one under my belt.

You're totally right about schools, I'd say. They make lit seem like work (and some of what they serve IS work, I mean in the case of repressed elitist shite like 'A Seperate Peace'...). Are you listening, schoolers? Stop teaching lit. Teach reading and then stop. Teach pop music after that. Give kids detention for reading books during pop music class. Grade kids on how well they decode symbols in Pink Floyd.

Maybe what I was working towards last night is that writers can do more, though.... Most readers -- they're open during the moments of reading: they've sat down, you have them for the moment. Can you keep them? I'm not very clear on this, but for me maybe it has to do w/ a voice/sensibility that establishes itself immediately, cutting against the tired come-ons even light readers have learned to recognize, and at the same time hitting home....


scott, i definitely agree with writers doing more, though i think there needs to be just as much if not more attention paid to getting people to that reading moment as there does doing new and interesting things with words. most of the people i know arent even open to the idea at all. but maybe there's no way to get those people.

i think effectively marketing and better attention to saying something interesting are vital, rather than the replication of the kind of books that have become 'important'.

p said...

free poetry needs to be shoved into the hands of strangers and left in restrooms pasted up next to the glory hole

Anonymous said...

You make some good points, but I think you miss one big factor. I love books, I read actively everyday, and usually books from independent presses... I even work in the bookselling industry. The biggest problem I see is that the majority of writing out there is 100% absolute crap, whether it come from a major publishing house or an independent literary journal. This is even more common with the journals, which have basically become an incestuous fraternity where the only readers are writers and everybody sits around jerking each other off and giving pats on the back. The only people who really care about literature are literary people and THAT is the problem. Do the movies just attract film snobs? Do musical acts only appeal to teenage hipsters? (Well, both cases, actually). The fact is that most literature has become culturally irrelevant and it's probably going to stay that way. Just the same that the cinema replaced theatre and television replaced books, something new and as of yet unimagined will come to replace those media eventually. The best part is that nothing is essentially wrong with this. A small portion of the population will find a writer, cherish his/her work, and there is something wholeheartedly beautiful in that. As long as literary folk don't become bloated on grand ideas that everybody should read what they read, we'll be ok. Because when that happens, you become the same Pitchfork hipster shithead that you're bashing in the first place.


Why is it that the flagrant commenters are always anonymous?

Sir, if you think no one is writing work that isn't meant for 'jacking one another off' you honestly just don't know where to look and/or are a product of the school systems that fed you A Separate Peace.

If everything is '100% absolute crap', what are you even fighting for?

Who is/was ever good?

If you are from ULA, which I assume you are based on your rhetoric, the criteria we deem 'good' is highly different and therefore makes further conversation difficult, ie: ULA seems to want literature to be always entertaining on the level of comic books and Bukowski, while I am interested in literature that is both entertaining and progressive.

Thanks for the anonymous warbling, but if you can't do any better than that, keep it in your pants.

Literature is not Vin Diesel.