Over the weekend I was visiting some friends, and one of them, Jeremy, reminded me of Steve Katz’s short story “Plastic Man.” Which is in his collection Creamy & Delicious (Random House, 1970), the book that “started the avant-snack movement,” as Katz once said, and which I read after graduating from college, and which had no small effect on me. I wanted to reread the story and it turns out there’s a copy online at Alt-X (alongside a few more of Katz’s Mythologies). Enjoy!
The Summer 2011 issue of Requited is now online. It features:
- fiction by Josh Collins, Jess Upshaw Glass, Suzanne Scanlon, Ben Slotzky, and Simon A. Smith;
- poetry by Kristy Bowen, Nicelle Davis, Eric Ellingson, Molly Gaudry, Monica Gomery, Rich Ives, Alyse Knorr, Kate Martin Rowe, and J. A. Tyler;
- essays by Steve Katz, Mark Rappaport, and Viktor Shklovsky;
- visual art by Carl Baratta and Alexis MacKenzie;
- and videos by Anne Elizabeth Moore and Hyon Jung Kim.
Please check it out! And since the nonfiction section is my domain, allow me to say a few words about the pieces there.
The new sentence, like all other “new” phenomena and movements (the New Criticism, the New Novel, the New Narrative, dozens of New Wave movements in film and music) keeps getting older and older—it is, in fact, roughly as old as I am, if you date it from 1977. Such is the danger of naming anything new. But what made the New Sentence something novel way back in its youth, in the late 1970s and early 1980s?
An aside, though, before we begin: I’m rather fond of tracing out lineages and influences. This may create the impression that I don’t believe that anything’s ever new. Quite the contrary! We are surrounded by innovation—however, I believe that it rarely (if ever) arises out of thin air, and that it represents less of a break with the past than we might think. An extremely novel effect can come about through the recombination of preexisting influences and materials. Or: a simple shift in an artwork’s organizing dominant (to use Roman Jakobson’s term) can create something exceedingly innovative.
Allow me to attempt to demonstrate with the new sentence, first described (to my knowledge) by Ron Silliman in his 1977 essay titled after it. This long and complex essay advances several arguments: much of it, for instance, is devoted to criticizing the lack of a coherent concept of the sentence in linguistics, philosophy, and literary criticism. Along the way there are numerous intriguing observations, such as:
If we argue—and I am arguing—that the sentence, as distinct from the utterance of speech, is a unit of prose, and if prose as literature and the rise of printing are inextricably interwoven [here Silliman is following a line of thought borrowed from Viktor Shklovsky], then the impact of printing on literature, not just on the presentation of literature, but on how writing itself is written, needs to be addressed. This would be the historical component of any theory of the sentence. (73)
[This can be considered a response to this post, and its comments thread.]
You’ve just become the fiction editor of a small journal. You open your email and see that you’ve received 1,000 unsolicited submissions. The first ten were sent by:
- Carlos Shirley
- Jeanne Goss
- Jack Livingston
- Christine Stribling
- Melissa Mathieu
- Benjamin Tatro
- Tao Lin
- Ryan Monk
- Naomi Foltz
- Matthew Orosco
Which one do you open and read first?
Writing the title of this post actually felt very silly; it seems such an arbitrary way of gathering a list of writers to look out for. What could be sillier than singling out writers in this way, according to their age? Surely, there are more worthy criteria. Well, there is an answer to what could be sillier than singling out over forty writers over forty to watch, namely, singling twenty writers under forty to watch, especially largely mainstream writers writing, for the most part, conventional and redundant fiction. And the New Yorker has done just that. But this isn’t surprising. Theirs is an idea once again institutionalizing, reinforcing our decayed culture’s obsession with youth, not to mention its eyes wide shut wallowing in mediocrity. So, not only have they missed, for the most part, who are the best fiction writers under forty to watch, but, with their unapologetic valorization of youth, they missed entirely. The following writers (and I include poets, essayists, and theorists among them) are writers who have consistently written great work. I anticipate great things from each of them in the years and years to come. With full awareness of how a corrective sometimes ironically and paradoxically legitimizes what it seeks to correct, here, in the order in which I thought of them, are over forty writers over forty whose work I will be busy watching.
What is innovation in art? This is something I’ve circled in my other posts, for example:
- “Notes on Twee, part 2: The Crash Test Dummies”;
- “Experimental Fiction as Genre and as Principle”‘;
- “Art’s Morality.”
Now I’ll try addressing it a little more head-on.
All art contains both innovation (unfamiliarity) and convention (familiarity). Some artworks are so familiar as to preexist themselves. I didn’t like Andrzej Wajda’s recent film Katyn (2007), thinking it nothing more than a string of war movie clichés (this time in Polish). Its being unoriginal and predictable annoyed me; I might have walked out (or fallen asleep) had I not gone to see it with a couple of friends (who for the record both really liked it). And I felt as though its unoriginality trivialized its very serious subject matter, the Katyn Massacre.
On the other hand, some artworks are so radically different from what we know and expect that we can’t make any sense of them, let alone recognize them as artworks:
I went to the &Now Conference held in Buffalo, New York, October 14-17, and enjoyed it on a number of levels. First of all, it was great to cross that cold digital divide and finally meet so many people that I’ve been corresponding and/or working with, and/or reading their work for a while, people like Matt Bell, Cara Benson, Blake Butler, Donald Breckinridge, Ryan Call, Mary Caponegro, Kim Chinquee, Rikki Ducornet, Tina May Hall, Lily Hoang, Joanna Howard, Matt Kirkpatrick, Josh Maday, Kendra Grant Malone, Lance Olsen, J.A. Tyler, Bill Walsh, and John Dermot Woods, as well as reconnecting with Brian Evenson and James Yeh. I also had a chance to meet Dimitri Anastasopoulos, Donald Breckenridge, Rikki Ducornet, Shelly Jackson, Steve Katz, Dave Kress, Christina Milletti, Pedro Ponce, Davis Schneiderman, and Steve Tomasula. Have I missed anyone?
And if it was only that, it would have been well worth it, but I also attended many dynamic, energetic, informed, inventive, and stimulating panels and readings. Below are some capsules of some of the events as well as recordings of some of them.