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IMG_9879-300x225Always a cauldron of some fleeting controversy or another, the literary world roiled with a genuinely serious scandal over the past two weeks. A number of well-known writers and editors, including Stephen Tully Dierks and Tao Lin, were accused of sexual or emotional abuse.

One of the flashpoints in the resulting fracas was an essay posted to Hobart  by Elizabeth Ellen. In the piece, Ellen offers her opinion on the ongoing reaction to the scandal.

The essay is difficult and troubling, but well-worth reading.

levi-neptuneTwenty years ago, in 1994, the internet was very different from today. This was long before blogging, before the idea of social media (Mark Zuckerberg was only ten years old), and two years before Sergey Brin and Larry Page started the project that would end up becoming Google. It was the year that Lycos and Yahoo! (then known as “Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web”) were founded, that someone registered www.sex.com, and the White House, then occupied by Bill Clinton, moved online at www.whitehouse.gov. It was also the year that Levi Asher founded a website called Literary Kicks at http://www.charm.net/~brooklyn.1 It was one of only 2,738 websites occupying a rather uncluttered and unorganized internet, and it survives today as one of the longest running websites around.

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A few months ago, while my Twitter and Tumblr feeds were being entirely overwhelmed by the animated gif version of Tao Lin’s novel, Taipei, and it seemed that it was about to become 2013’s answer to Gangnam Style, I began exploring the Alt-Lit movement, and it struck me that this was a sort of update on the Beat Generation.

With the rise of Alt-Lit, we have seen a group of urban hipsters once again come to prominence and stamp their name on contemporary literature. Where Kerouac and Ginsberg brought spontaneous prose and jazz rhythm to their narratives, Alt-Lit writers have incorporated their own internet age-vernacular and challenged established literary convention.

A round-up of high quality tweets from people in the world of literature…

Matt Cozart:

 

Muumuu House (est. 2008) is a publisher of poetry, fiction, Twitter selections, Gmail chats online and in print.

On December 13, 2011, I received an email from Daniel Cooper that began:

Would you be interested in doing a piece for HTMLGiant on helping ‘Daniel Cooper’ become a Muumuu minimalist?  I’m new to the ‘scene’ but have years of experience in ‘being depressed’ and writing. I also have a new sense of being ‘ironically detached’ from my ’emotional vulnerability’ and a ‘real’ desire to make friends with people with ‘similar interests.’

He went on to explain why he chose to email me as opposed to other Muumuu House affiliates, a general idea for how he would begin to create his internet presence, and other things.

I responded:

Daniel,

I don’t feel interested in doing this, sorry.

My advice in terms of writing or [anything] is to ‘simply’ do you.

I don’t think there’s a ‘formula’ to becoming friends with [any Muumuu house affiliated author you mentioned].

I’m glad you’ve enjoyed reading my things and things by other Muumuu House bros.

Good luck,

– Jordan

 

He sent another email, then I sent another email, then he sent an email asking me if I’d consider writing the piece for $25.

I said yes.

This is what I wrote to him:

Dear Daniel,

Life is different than a math equation because in life there isn’t a specific, consistent method of achieving an answer or desired outcome to a perceived problem. One wakes up, does whatever s/he does, then sleeps, usually convincing him/herself that there’s an inherent reason for it all.

There isn’t.

Life is similar to a math equation – can literally be viewed as a math equation from a certain perspective – because a math equation is ‘simply’ a math equation. A math equation isn’t sad, happy, boring, fun, or [anything except a math equation]. Some people enjoy trying to answer a math equation. Some people don’t. Some people don’t care. But no matter how one may or may not view math equations, a math equation is still ‘simply’ a math equation. Life is ‘simply’ life.

That’s it.

People say things like ‘Life is what you make it’ but that’s not what I mean either. Life isn’t what you make it because you don’t ‘make’ anything. Even the contexts of your ever-changing, inconsistent perceptions and actions have been created by everything that’s happened before that moment.

Anything anyone ever does is a result of everything everyone’s done beforehand.

Forever.

The moment a child is born s/he is filled with ‘input’ and his/her ‘output’ for the rest of his/her life can only consist of variations of what has already been or is being ‘input’ into him/her. The important thing to recognize is that the ‘input’ isn’t up to you so your thoughts/emotions/actions can never technically be ‘up to you’ (though understanding certain ‘input’ in the context of other ‘input’ can and will create different thought processes, etc).

But no matter what, the input still can’t care about you. It created you; is constantly creating you.

With this understanding – that your existence has very little to do with anything in general and that Oh Well you can’t control it anyway – the next step could be to accept your existence as a human being, then do what you want to do while you’re alive, if you want to be alive. Everything except for you and what you choose to care about doesn’t really matter that much because, as we’ve already established, your life is only a small piece of something gigantic and unforgiving that literally can’t know how to care about anything. Life and Input can’t think.

The universe doesn’t care about you or me or anyone because the universe can’t care.

In emails we exchanged, I recommended that you ‘do you,’ to which you said:

Re: ‘doing me’ I usually can only write — or want to write — out of a place that is very upset and angry and I usually use that negativity to justify writing mean, or upsetting, or manipulative, or jerkish stuff.  I’m actually ‘also’ working on writing ‘not me.’  Actually the advice you gave, and I guess I’m doing it.

If you only want to write ‘out of a place that is very upset and angry,’ I would recommend ‘simply’ writing ‘from that place’ or realizing that you don’t actually want to write out of that place, but from another place, then do what [you] need to do to get to/write from that place.

‘Doing you’ (being a person, enduring life) means thinking about what you want or don’t want then getting it or ridding yourself of it.

To me, that is the common thread among writers like Tao Lin, Noah Cicero, Sam Pink, Brandon Scott Gorrell, Megan Boyle, Mallory Whitten, etc. We’re not all the same and we don’t all write in the same ‘minimalist’ style all the time. I think we all ‘do [us]’ or are striving to ‘do [us],’ even if we don’t understand what ‘[us]’ is.

That might be the reason why I started writing in the first place – to explore Input and Output and to fill life with something that feels like something other than that.

I don’t know.

– Jordan

The cover of Bushnell's most recent poetry collectionMike Bushnell has been making Internet literature for years, and in 2007 he appeared as the force behind publishers Jaguar Uprising and Bore Parade. He also created an alter ego in the form of a professional wrestler called “The Industry,” with which he made promo videos wherein he wore his now-signature face paint and business suit as he screamed threats into the camera. Jaguar Uprising was a chapbook press as well as a sort of shock squad that challenged literary and Internet conventions, while Bore Parade specialized in parodies and tributes to the aesthetics of the publisher Bear Parade.

Before attempting to delve into the annals of critical theory, first I must comment on the title, “Adrien Brody,” because I adore Adrien Brody, the actor. I find him and his nose intriguing. I like the shadow-facets of his characters, and how he can bring a full body of darkness to his “good” characters. For this reason, Marie Calloway’s story, “Adrien Brody” (MuuMuu House), spoke to me from the title alone. I also like the aesthetics of modern technology within the landscapes of fictional narratives. I like when writers experiment with this and find new ways to creatively tell a story. I applaud writers who divulge themselves and others in a “real” sense. They are called journalists, memoirists, creative nonfiction writers, and they are to be celebrated when their crafts are true and their intentions are bigger than themselves. Likewise for a fiction writer, the intentions must be equally rigorous, true, and focused on the story. Always the story. To write any other way is masturbatory and easy and pedestrian and sloppy. And when a writer finds herself between the categories of the real and the imaginative, the possibilities are exciting, such as when a writer represents herself as a character within her own narrative—but here there is a backdoor danger. She opens herself for reader responses, not only to her story and craft, but also to her personally, as an entity aside from her art, and this is the place where academic objectivism becomes gray, where critical responses, perhaps more so than in other venues, lose the “gentleman’s code.” Apparently, the code has been lifted in response to “Adrien Brody,” as the code has been lifted for many online debates over form and style and story and writer “legitimacy.” Is it a case of digital diarrhea? Have we lost our good manners when responding to works because it is simply too easy to write whatever pops into our minds and then quickly click ‘send’? Is this an excuse?

Austerity Pleasures, a 5.5” by 5.5” chapbook of 30 poems by James Payne, is now available via Monster House Press – a “not-for-profit, cooperative publishing house” – for $4.

My first interaction with James took place in the comments section of something I posted on The Nervous Breakdown and I remember initially feeling threatened by him and “like he was another intellectual shit-talker” whom I’d invariably meet IRL one day (via mutual friends) and feel uncomfortable around. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

After a period of time, James and I became good friends, appearing in Monster House Press’s first release, Assuming Size, together, doing readings together, doing drugs and getting drunk together, etc.

Austerity Pleasures struck me as a kind of literary advance, in that it seemed written in an aesthetically conventional, to some degree, manner, but dealt with content ranging from hierarchy to J Crew. I read and enjoyed it many times and plan on reading it more in the future.

Below is a Gmail chat interview I conducted with James.

10:22 PM
James: H’lo

10:23 PM
me: Whassup

James: Nothing too much, running around.
I woke up very late today so all of my to-dos had to be squeezed in very tightly.

me: Nice
What are your plans for the rest of the night?

10:24 PM
James: This interview, making buttons, painting a little bit, packing for tomorrow, and going to sleep.

10:25 PM
me: Sweet
Should I just start asking questions about your book?

10:26 PM
James: Yes, whatever you want to do.

me: Ok, I can’t stop thinking about how my mom came into my room ~5 minutes ago and said something about she ‘never actually said yes’ re me going to the Lil B concert tomorrow in a manner that implied that she didn’t want me going.

James: Haha.

me: I feel an ability to ‘move on’ now, after having typed that

James: Oh, the travails of family life.
She wouldn’t want you to miss out on the number one gay performer in the world.

me: I wrote unorganized questions in a notebook while reading Austerity Pleasures around the 3rd time I read it.  I was thinking about just picking random ones and asking.

10:28 PM
James: That is usually my journalistic approach as well.

me: Sweet.  I also have an introduction/short review written of the book, so we don’t have to talk about the basic things.  Like what it is.

James: Okay.

10:29 PM
So we can cut to the incisive questioning on specific word choices.
And questions about how my early childhood relates to my syntax, etc.

10:30 PM
me: Exactly.

10:31 PM
me: Were there any specific books that you focused on specifically in terms of style and/or content that had a large impact on how you chose to write and/or organize the poems in Austerity Pleasures?

10:37 PM
James: Yes and no. Basically Austerity Pleasures is the culmination of my first year of writing poetry. So I was running through styles and influences fairly quickly, and wrote ‘sets’ of poems that show strong influence of other writers. However, after a year of assorted writing, an extensive editing process, etc, I’m not totally sure if that is obvious. However, I have next to no formal training/background in poetry/creative writing, so some of these poems might be exactly like other things, without me realizing it.

That said…

I like Frank O’Hara. I think writing about contemporary art in poems is something you can’t do without doing him.

10:38 PM
I’m pretty sure that Tao’s writing / seeing him read and realizing that you could do ‘punk’ or ‘diy’ in literature and it could translate well led me to consider writing.

I’m not sure my poems are much like his.

10:39 PM
I think you and Richard and Ryan EIlbeck had the strongest influence on me.

Since the writing of my friends provoked me more than anything else.

And Matt Whispers I should say.

10:40 PM
There is a poem that is very clearly like a Brandon Scott Gorrell poem.

But I wrote it before reading his book.

me: I remember that.
I like that poem.
Where you listed the websites.
I like that.

James: I like Chelsea Martin a lot.
And the people writing short declarative sentence poems…

10:41 PM
And Jacques Prevert and Richard Brautigan.
That’s it really.
I have plebeian tastes.

10:42 PM
I should say that I wanted to write poetry because I didn’t know anything about it.
And that was freeing.

me: Interesting, can you elaborate?

10:43 PM
James: Sure. I initially went to school for painting and I work generally in museums and galleries. In constructing a visual image I am always constricted by the referents in my head – can’t do that, that’s a (this famous artist).

10:44 PM
And that knowledge can be paralyzing, as can knowing what your contemporaries are going to think of your work based on your shared education.

10:45 PM
I’ve read so many comics that if I was going to make a comic it would be anxiety-ridden, same with music I think.

10:46 PM
But I skipped the part of my life where I was supposed to read literature and become well-rounded, which I initially took as a fault but I began to see that as an opportunity as the business cliche would have it.

Poetry specifically was perfect since I could do it anywhere.

And for the year AP covers I was a transient.

So that was important, and offered me something that other art forms couldn’t.

10:47 PM
me: When, in your view, did you “start writing poetry?”

10:48 PM
James: The first poem I wrote was a fake rap hook I kept saying to fill up space.

me: How did it go?

James: “I’ve got so much money, I’m a bank.”

10:49 PM
with the “I’m a bank” repeated.
The first long poem I wrote was the Oh, O’Hare one.
That was January of 2010.

me: Damn.
The bank rap sounds good.

James: It’s not.

10:50 PM
me: lol

James: But I think it was already thematically what AP turned out to be.

10:51 PM
me: “I’ve got so much money, I’m a bank” or “Oh, O’Hare”?

James: Both.
The bank one is a pretty facile comment on the bail out.

10:52 PM
Oh, O’Hare satirizes privilege/upper-class and is about class conflict.

10:53 PM
But the “I’m a bank” one is interesting to me since it takes a social issue and turns it into a personification/personal identity thing.

me: Yeah.
James…bro…I feel like I’m going to throw up…

10:54 PM
Like, ‘out of nowhere’ I just started sweating really badly and feel like I’m going to puke.

James: lol
You should puke.
If you feel better I will be online.

me: I’m going to be near the toilet but will continue asking questions.

10:55 PM
James: Haha, okay.

me: The toilet bowl just hit my head.

10:56 PM
James: My answers are sort of stomach-turning.

me: lol
I am laughing

James: Is it the Lil B anxiety?

me: Hehe
Maybe.
Seems possible.

10:57 PM
One thing I thought would be interesting for the review would be if I sent you words/phrases that may or may not somehow pertain to Austerity Pleasures to enter into your Gmail inbox to search.

Do you have emails saved or archived somehow?

10:58 PM
James: Yeah, I have every email that isn’t junk since 2001 or something.

me: Sweet, do you feel interested in doing that?

James: What would I do after I search the term?

me: Tell me how many results there are.

10:59 PM
James: Ohhhh, okay.
Yes, I am intrigued.

me: “Panera”

11:00 PM
James: I see. I hope none for Panera.
The last place I went before I took the GRE was Panera.
I regret that decision.

me: Why?

11:01 PM
James: The sandwich made me quasi-sick, and I was over caffeinated.

me: Do you remember what sandwich you got?

James: Yes.
It had goat cheese.

me: Damn.

11:02 PM
James: I remember thinking, “goat cheese, at Panera?”
That’s what gets all of those New Albany parents in there.

me: That sounds funny.

James: Working on their vanity novels.

me: I have seen them before.

11:03 PM
The novel writing moms in Panera.

James: It’s a rich scene.

me: “Fleetwood Mac”

James: Goat cheese driven.

me: Rich goat cheese: a novel.

11:04 PM
James: I would read/eat that.
What about Fleetwood Mac?

11:05 PM
me: A phrase to search.

James: Ohh, should I be doing this now?
I will do it now.

me: Yes, ok.

James: Somehow only 4.
And one is this chat.

11:06 PM
me: “American Apparel”

James: Another is a survey for a focus group.
6
2 are Microcosm emails.
Another is an email to myself with notes for an essay I never finished.

11:07 PM
me: I feel interested in reading the essay or notes if you’d be willing to share them.

James: Called “Radical normalcy.”

11:08 PM
Radical Normalcy is not the “Radical Center.”
Radical Normalcy is not an ideology but a tactic.
Radical Normalcy is the purging of inessentials.
Radical Normalcy cements expression.
5 RN is
5 RN is not
5 Paragraphs + Foot notes.

Malcolm X, Jehovah Witnesses, Their thoughts / actions, Thoughts and actions instead of slogans and signifiers, no labels, no references, no style, Against “Get Decked” – mainstreaming of hair dye, piercings, American Apparel’s style change and incipient bankruptcy as “before its time”, true subversions, neither norms nor hipsters ready for it, Americans think creativity begins and ends with clothing, like politics with bumper stickers, our life is in the quartier des spectacles, not, print culture, written arguments remain, vestments/investments/invested interests, brick lane plimsoles, Woody Allen.

I think I have a more written out version somewhere else.

I wrote that walking around in Montreal.

11:09 PM
The basic idea is that people should look as boring as possible so the only way to judge them is on their ideas/expressions.

Because clothing is short hand for that, a lot of people never have to develop their ideologies further than their clothes.

11:10 PM
Also, that looking normal is a tactic taken by radical activist groups / radical religions.

I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, I think that plays into it.

But how immaculate Malcolm X always looked, for instance.

11:11 PM
So you couldn’t use ad hominem arguments against his appearance to denigrate his ideas.
A N Y W A YZ

me: “666”

James: 3

11:12 PM
One is from Austin Eilbeck’s phone number.

me: How many emails total do you have saved or archived?

James: 4019

me: Interesting.

11:13 PM
“Tao Lin”

James: I keep them so someone can write my biography one day. J/k not j/k.
6.

me: That is a good idea.

James: Mostly in emails with Cassandra.

11:14 PM
me: “I’m” “drunk”

James: I have 31 for that.
lol

me: “I’m going to kill myself”

James: 1 – just this conversation.
Strange.

James: Maybe I usually text people that.

me: I am laughing.
One thing I was wondering about in AP was how you chose when to use line breaks?

James: Funny you ask.

Well.

My first drafts of all of those poems, it was entirely intuitive, without any idea of how anyone ever decided that – or even recognizing it as a real issue.

Later I edited the poems to be somewhat like how I would read them.

I don’t fuck with metrical feet or any of that, mostly because I’m horribly ignorant.

But when I sent the final edit to Richard, something happened, and so the line breaks in about half the poems in AP are exactly like how they ideally would be to me, and about half are different than my ideal.

11:19 PM
I think my .doc file did something different when he opened it, at it was on our deadline, so he sort of felt it out.

I think 1/3rd to 1/2 are affected.

me: Damn, interesting, how do you feel/what do you think about that?

11:21 PM
James: I think there is only a poem or two where I think it matters, I generally embrace the results of the exigencies of creative things.

11:22 PM
Like.
My line breaks don’t make sense to begin with.
So even if they were all different, I doubt it would matter to the reader.

11:23 PM
But a lot of the poems are exactly how I want it to be and I’m sure make no sense or are very annoying to read to people with creative writing educations.

me: Interesting.
I personally enjoyed it.

11:24 PM
I think.

James: Poems like ‘Cloudberry Jam,’ ‘Trop Moderne Lovers,’ or ‘Bushwick, NYC’ are not things that can be put down to any methodology.

It’s like outsider art… or something, or I imagine it to be the equivalent.

11:25 PM
Well people who are educated on a subject generally like their educations to remain relevant.
They don’t like to see things change.
I think that is the main reason for the blowback to Tao Lin, for instance.

me: Interesting, I think I agree.

11:26 PM

James: There are things that are safe and are products of a tradition, generally an exclusive one that is divided along lines of class and education, and there are things people are making because they are making it and their friends find it valuable to their lives.

11:27 PM
The academy takes like 30 years to catch up, usually as those artists/writers are dying.

Not that that concerns me, but I do think that is happening to Tao.

There is no real reason that he should have been excluded from that New Yorker list for instance.

11:28 PM
me: I agree.

11:30 PM
I am enjoying your responses.

11:31 PM
How often have you been doing drugs recently?

James: I have been “super sober” recently.

It sucks.

I’m incredibly poor right now, and I don’t have any friends in Chicago.

me: I’m sorry.

11:32 PM
Do you hang out with Matt Whispers?

James: We went on tour recently together.

11:33 PM
He’s great. It was a treat to hear his poems each night.

I think in Chicago you can know 40-50 people and never see them.

And I think Matt would agree with that.

11:34 PM
me: While writing poems for AP, did you write them with the context of a poetry collection in mind?

James: Not really.

11:36 PM
I was publishing poems in different things, and writing poems for different things, and generally just enjoying making them.

Then I wanted to collect them, and I thought I was going to collect them under the title “Us Out of North America”

And then I thought maybe two collections…

11:37 PM
But then I just made Austerity Pleasures, which was a good idea.

Because I could have really even cut that in half too.

It isn’t exactly an integrated whole…

If that’s what you’re asking.

11:38 PM
me: Yeah.

James: I picked poems that seemed thematically appropriate and then Monster House Press picked the goodies and that was that.

I presented them with 40 poems and they picked 30.

me: Interesting

11:39 PM
Bro, I’m sorry, I’m feeling pretty sick and want to try to sleep so I can wake up for school tomorrow. Can I just email you a few more questions tomorrow?

James: Yeah, sounds good.

me: Ok cool.

James: I hope you feel better.

me: Thank you, good job.
Thank you.

James: Have fun in Columbus.

11:40 PM
me: Thank you.

James: Sorry I write a lot! You’ll have to edit this a bit I think.

me: I will, don’t be sorry
Good job.
Goodnight.

James: I think it’s partly because I am drinking Modelo and I never drink anymore.
Night!

* * *

me: Hey, one second.

3:02 PM
James: Okay.
5 minutes

3:07 PM
me: Ok, sorry about that.

3:08 PM
James: It’s okay.

me: How is your mother’s day so far?

James: Awful.
Personal turmoil.
I had to ask my mother for a loan yesterday, that was my Mother’s day gift.

me: Damn, lol, I’m sorry.

3:09 PM
I think there are only a few more questions/things I want to ask and talk about.

James: Okay.

3:10 PM
me: I also wanted to ask whether you would prefer reading it unedited, the interview, or if you’d rather read it edited, to some degree, in a more conventional ‘interview format.’

3:11 PM
I can’t decide whether to publish it unedited or ‘extract the juice.’

James: Edit it.

me: Ok.

James: Extract the juice.
Edit my answers too, they are long and mostly boring.

me: Ok, sounds good.

3:12 PM
Would you rather be able to fly, become invisible, or both but inevitably die at age 30?

3:15 PM
James: I don’t really know what I would do with either. I don’t know. I guess I could monetize either.

me: lol, yeah.
What is the last ‘major motion picture’ you watched and enjoyed?

3:17 PM
James: I watched, this is embarrassing, but that Howl movie.

me: That is funny
That is the most recent thing you watched and enjoyed.
What are your thoughts re Allen Ginsberg?

3:18 PM
James: The most recent thing I enjoyed was the two season of Pulling.

3:19 PM
I like Ginsberg in small amounts. I think it’s a little annoying at times.

me: Interesting re “it’s.”

3:20 PM
That seems…I keep thinking of aphorisms re works of art and the people who create them and thinking about posters at school.

3:21 PM
James: Yeah, he had a shtick I think, people indulge in sometimes, Ginsbergian.
You could slap him on a poster and make some college Freshmen bucks.

me: I am laughing.

3:22 PM
What else are you involved in besides writing and literature?

3:23 PM
James: Um.
Currently I am involved in trying to stitch my life together.
Artwise…
I don’t know.

3:24 PM
I make visual art sometimes. I blog. I used to be in some bands. I used to book shows. I occasionally curate art shows.

3:25 PM
me: What specifically are you doing to “stitch your life together”?

3:26 PM
James: Moving away from a failed relationship, trying to make rent, always applying for and being turned down by jobs and schools and residencies and internships and grants.

It’s been a rough year.

3:27 PM
Very transient/unstable. I think a lot of Austerity Pleasures is about that.

3:28 PM
me: Damn.

3:29 PM
James: I have to move back to Columbus currently.

me: Do you want to?

James: I don’t know what is going to happen.

No.

I wanted to live with my girlfriend and go to school in Chicago.

3:30 PM

me: Damn, I’m sorry bro.

3:31 PM
Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about AP or anything else?

3:32 PM
James: Did we talk about the Monster House Press end of it?
Like the process of making it? I think that is important.
Maybe we already did.

me: I will check, one second.

3:33 PM
It doesn’t look like we talked about it
Do you want to type some things about it now?

James: Yes.

me: Ok, sweet.

James: I met Richard and Ryan Eilbeck at The Dube when I was visiting Columbus.

3:34 PM
I asked what they were publishing next after Assuming Size.
I said I had something ready to go (though it wasn’t really, I thought it was).

3:44 PM
Richard looked at millions of edits of this thing, as did everyone in the collective. They whittled it down into shape, and picked the order of the poems in the book. Jack Ramunni and I and Richard did the cover, Richard and Jack did the interior design work, and I sent edit after edit back to them, probably being very annoying.

It came down to a buzzer beater, which was the Chicago Zine Fest, but they managed to print copies and bring them. I think the whole process took 3 months.

3:45 PM
There are copies left and they can be ordered through MHP’s website. They are releasing Josh Kleinberg’s chapbook next.

me: Sweet
I think I have enough things to use to make an interview.

3:48 PM
Thank you, I’ll talk to you later bro, have a good day.

3:49 PM
James: Alright
1 Byeza
Thanks for doing this.

 

Tao Lin’s loyal cult following has grown beyond the fringes of the underground. When he pisses in a back alley at night his adoring fans cry, “Look! He’s streaming golden light into the darkness!” He may not be pushing art forward, but he’s giving it a good shake, and for this he deserves credit. However, much of his output resembles mad dross, yet critics (see here) call him existential and compare him to Hemingway and Camus. I’m not saying such pundits are stumpdumb, but Tao’s no existentialist, and he ain’t Camus. Perhaps these reviewers are confused because Tao cleverly peppers prose with “faux existential” messages. Example (from Shoplifting from American Apparel): “Sam questioned Hester existentially while lying nearly face down covered completely by the blanket.”

Deep, man.

The only thing Tao has in common with existentialists is a preponderance of uncertainty. Therefore, last year I pitted him against Camus: Tao Lin vs. Albert Camus. Camus’s victory was decisive, yet Tao’s not done, not by a “long shit.” This time, seeking a fair opponent, I’ve matched Richard Yates with the anonymous genius of the 2006 Dodge Caravan Owner’s Manual. Let’s see from where lyric mastery comes!

Tao Lin’s Richard Yates vs. 2006 Dodge Caravan Owner’s Manual

ROUND I:

Richard Yates: He walked to the post office. He mailed packages. He walked over the steel bridge. He stood on the train tracks looking in both directions. He walked on a street parallel to the train tracks. He walked behind a grocery store to the train tracks. He stood on the train tracks. He walked on the street. He walked on the train tracks.

2006 Dodge Caravan Owner’s Manual: To the left of the instrument panel cup holder are two 12 volt power outlets. The upper outlet is controlled by the ignition switch and the lower outlet is connected directly to the battery. The upper outlet will also operate a conventional cigar lighter unit (if equipped with an optional Smoker’s Package).

RESULT: Tao Lin’s six repetitions of “he walked”  indicates competence in S-V, but could not overcome the lingering poetic resonance of “instrument panel cup owner.” Winner – 2006 Dodge Caravan Owner’s Manual.

ROUND II:

Richard Yates: He thought about Dakota Fanning and other people. He orgasmed into toilet paper. He carried the toilet paper to the bathroom and put it in the toilet. He peed into the toilet. He flushed the toilet. He washed his hands. He washed his face. He went to his room and read a few sentences from different books. He ate dark chocolate.

2006 Dodge Caravan Owner’s Manual: Air comes from the floor, defrost and side window de-mist outlets. This mode works best in cold or snowy conditions. It allows you to stay comfortable while keeping the windshield clear.

RESULT: Tao Lin’s masturbatory scene no match for a relatively tame epiphany about de-mist outlets. Winner – Richard Yates.

ROUND III:

Richard Yates: Around 5:30 a.m. they were in a booth again. Dakota Fanning was asleep with her head on the table. Haley Joel Osment held her and looked at things. He went to the opposite seat and lay and slept. He woke and saw Dakota Fanning’s head under the table with a shy facial expression asking if he was okay. It was around 6:45 a.m. They left Price Chopper. They walked over the field onto the parking lot of school buses.

2006 Dodge Caravan Owner’s Manual: Under certain conditions, the cellular phone being On in your vehicle can cause erratic or noisy performance from your radio. This condition may be lessened or eliminated by relocating the cellular phone antenna. This condition is not harmful to the radio. If your radio performance does not satisfactorily “clear” by the repositioning of the antenna, it is recommended that the radio volume be turned down or off during cellular phone operation.

 

RESULT: In a closely fought round, Tao Lin writes a genuine scene, tender, yet lacking in appropriate weight, as, with a stunning glimpse into the emotional ramifications of cellular technology, the Dodge Caravan Owner’s Manual squeaks out victory. Winner – 2006 Dodge Caravan Owner’s Manual.

Final Words: The 2006 Dodge Caravan Owner’s Manual defeats Tao Lin’s Richard Yates, much to the delight of the tens of thousands ofsatisfied Dodge owners. Yet Tao’s future shows more promise than that of any car manufacturer. Tao’s star, as cliché-lovers say, shines brighter every day.

 

 

Prayer and Parable coverWhether one page or twenty, Paul Maliszewski’s stories ask for a lot of patience from the reader. His work exemplifies a kind of minutiae-infused, hyperrealism–somewhere between the robotic delivery of Tao Lin and the soulful Ken Sparling–that has become trendy in recent years.

Matthew Savoca’s debut poetry book, long love poem with descriptive title, seems like something a version of myself would write.

While reading it, I imagined Savoca – well rested, drinking “organic fair trade coffee from costa rica” – at a semi-cluttered desk, his hair a mess, staring at his laptop. I imagined him feeling calm, alert, and ‘alone in a good way,’ allowing him to focus on his poetry, uninhibited by thoughts of [anything/anyone] besides the subject(s) of his writing and his goals.

That night Haley Joel Osment was alone in the apartment talking to Julia on Gmail chat. Julia was 28 and married and lived in Georgia. She was friends with an editor of a magazine that had published Haley Joel Osment’s poetry. Haley Joel Osment’s cell phone vibrated. It was Dakota Fanning. Haley Joel Osment moved his cell phone to his ear. Dakota Fanning said her mother found out about him by reading a blog post’s comments section where he had said things about his first visit to New Jersey including when they screamed bad words across the Delaware River. “I think she knows you’ve stayed here overnight and that you’re 22,” said Dakota Fanning. “She already googled you a lot I think.”

In your view is Richard Yates about the internet’s effect on a generation?

No.

Table of Contents

Introduction

A Chronological Sequence of Events re Tao Lin in Terms of Me

A Chronological Sequence of Events re ‘Richard Yates’ in Terms of Me

A Summary of [Certain Aspects] re ‘Richard Yates’

– Veganism

I meet Matt at BookCourt an hour and forty-five minutes before the reading in Brooklyn. I haven’t seen him in months. Every time we reunite, I think the same thing: this room isn’t big enough to contain two people as beautiful as this. I consider loathing myself for this — it’s not a competition — but there it is all the same. In my head the words take up physical space and I visualize pushing them aside so they disappear somewhere near the ear canal.