Guest Post: New Fiction is Psychic Occupation by Suspended Reason

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New Fiction is Psychic Occupation 

Fiction—or more generally, longform narrative text—has long been the handyman of culture, serving whatever functions are most urgently needed at a historical moment. The Greek oral tradition, famously, functioned in part to preserve cultural histories and customs—hence the sprawling lists of names and figures, or lengthy descriptions of hospitality, in Homer. Arabic maqamas synthesized and preserved the collected wisdom of the medieval Iberian peninsula through proverbs and fables. Victorian novels provided an escapist entertainment for members of the aristocracy, while the Bible, Quran, and Mahābhārata operated as normative unifiers.

We no longer need literature to provide heavily plotted absorption: drug-like escapism, the loss of ego, more easily come from other mediums. Likewise, our encyclopedias, our etiquette guides, our microfiche handle our cultural history just fine. Television, film, non-fiction, and the Internet spent the 20th century eating away at literature’s territory, and once again the discipline transforms from generalist to specialist. The best literature of the modern day does what only literature can do—allow readers to inhabit other minds, other worldviews, other consciousnesses. Continue reading

Newfound Footage from Stephen Elliott’s Shining Postscript and the Politics of Reading “Adrien Brody”

“It never ceases to startle me that a brilliant thinker can be such a bad writer. It challenges some of my preconceptions about language and thought.”—Rob Horning, “Exhaustion of generic raw material”

Frank Hinton would be the first to tell you that I adore Steve Roggenbuck. Not only did his star rise as fast as Tao Lin’s—he emerged on the online alt-lit scene like an explosion—and his universe is still expanding. The only two writers of whom I can think that have matched his output are Roxane Gay and Blake Butler, (I see xTx everywhere, too). Not that it’s a race or anything, or that we should feel the compunction of competition. We’re in this together more than we know—hence the hostilities whenever someone emerges and receives a little bit of exposure. Still, to think that Roggenbuck has done it—and continues to do it—without recourse or dependency on any of the online lit scene’s publishing machinations is astounding. While poetry editor last fall at Eleven Eleven: A Journal of Literature & Art (edited by Hugh Behm-Steinberg, whose poem in decomP you should read here), I solicited Roggenbuck. He was positively thrilled, expressed how he always wanted to be in the journal, but quickly became, almost innocently, concerned about which poems he should send me.

It never happened, of course. I was exhausted writing a novella, finishing graduate school, and trying to start a career—as a teacher no less. And I let things slip. Neither of us got back to each other and by the time the term was over, I could care less. But this is the other thing I like about Steve Roggenbuck: his politics. To be honest, I don’t know what Roggenbuck means when he calls himself post-corporate, but I like it. He seems to live up to it, too—all his work is free and available on his website, and a few other places—and that’s not because it’s not wanted. It’s because Roggenbuck has decided it’s better that way, that there is value in refusing the online alt-lit’s universal twitch toward corporatization. Besides, I like Steve Roggenbuck because watching him at the Alt-Lit Gossip Awards was better than watching cable. Satanic cats, fuck yeah. At a time when certain writers still hold fast to the misunderstood Warholian I-want-to-be-a-corporation mentality, Roggenbuck represents the resistance. You should read his poetry.

Stephen Elliott‘s fiction has not always been, for me, the brightest sun in the galaxy. Although there are moments when it does shine—I almost always seem to know what’s going to happen next. And that’s okay. Predictability provides a certain kind of comfort. Of course, this doesn’t mean that I don’t want to bask in the glow of Elliott’s inconsistent wattage or lurk around in his writing’s shadows—which, I wish there were more of.

I do.

Stephen Elliott’s writing—for better and worse—has informed my writing. I mean, Stephen Elliott has basically made a career out of writing about sex, drugs, murder—in broad daylight. He’s like the straight guy’s Dennis Cooper. Which is one of the reasons I read him, even though I’m gay. In fact, I have read almost everything he’s ever written. But let me be clear: writing sex, drugs, and murder, journalistically—the way Stephen Elliott writes it—straight-forward, tight, masculine, slightly twisted, bright (like Stephen Elliott, himself) is a major, minor accomplishment. And that’s okay. For the relatively heterosexual people living in the Bay Area thirsting for relatively straight literary porn (and for submissive men specifically), he’s pretty much all we got (and let me be clear: I’m not submissive, but there are moments when it’s nice to dream). Besides, his male characters give a whole new meaning to the term submission policy. (I promise at least one porn link every essay.)

On top of that, I look forward to watching Cherry, the film he will be directing.

Like I said before, it is nice to receive attention. Even when that attention is tacit. Even when it’s negative. Even when that attention is brought to my attention by somebody I wish I knew better. As you may know, my name is not big-time. I have not generated a sex scandal or written about all the girls I’ve sodomized (coming soon) or how I never—and I mean never—use condoms. Or that I may be the only person on the planet who can claim to have had sex with Kathy Acker and Peter Sotos—not at the same time, unfortunately. (That’s right, I’m name-dropping.) But, when I do decide to write about it, I will expect Farrar, Straus & Giroux to come knocking at my door with a book deal. The formula is simple: describe act objectively, respond to act honestly, generate scandal, repeat. If I learned anything from the most current streak of literary minimalists, it is that.

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Marie Calloway, My Lover (Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Just Love Tao Lin)

I recently wrote an article about failure. The text received moderate attention. I was glad about that. I like attention.

I also like pornography. I watch porn almost every night. I’m not joking. When I am involved with someone sexually, I watch porn less.

I have certain fetishes. For one, I love acne. When I see a woman with acne on her face, I pursue her. When I am involved with a woman who has acne, I like to pop the pimples with my teeth and suck. I like to tongue the scars left behind by severe acne. I like to whip acne-covered tits to watch the zits bleed. I cannot justify my lust for acne. I will not defend it. My lust for acne—a personal one—and my representation of it here—a public one—operate within two different domains of logic, perhaps. More on that later maybe.

About a month ago I received a facebook message from Marie Calloway. I am no independent literary superstar. If Jimmy Chen developed a graph of an online literary universe I would be somewhere furthest from the binary-star solar system that is governed by Blake Butler and Tao Lin.

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Our Natural Bent for Destruction and the Rights to Failure

“Is there an art that is dangerous? Yes. It is that art which upsets the conditions of life.”–Charles Baudelaire.

What are the conditions of life? Simply put: that which sustains it.

Does art sustain life? Does literature? Does poetry? No. None of those practices are required to sustain life. And we are better off for it. For who would want to rely on failure for sustenance? And yet, that is precisely what we have today. Failure. And lots of it. And that’s a good thing–for the arts and for life. Precisely because the very conditions that sustain life require failure in the realm of the arts.

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The Semiotics of GrubHub

For a year or so now I’ve been noticing GrubHub ads:

…deliberately crude post-South Park pieces reminiscent of Tao Lin’s visual art. (GrubHub’s website continues the aesthetic; see, for instance, the About Us page. And it’s a good thing they made these new ones—their original, older ads were pretty boring.) Two-dimensional revels, they seem all surface.

But there’s more going on, I’d argue, in these pictures. Let’s start with the most obvious one:

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Seventeen Ways of Criticizing Inception (AKA, All Knowledge Isn’t Equal)

Let’s consider the truth behind advertising.

[This can be considered a response to this post, and its comments thread.]

1.

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?

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