Saturday, January 19, 2013

a more feudalistic re-imagining


Modern literature is full of white Americans trying to find themselves, but holy crap does this essay by Laura Goode win the blue ribbon for what I can only describe as military-grade solipsism. Did The Rumpus switch places with Thought Catalog or something? Jesus Christ on toast.

No offense to Laura, who is probably a nice person with some good writing out there somewhere, but statements like "what I mean to say is I am writing an elegy for my twenties" only communicate the idea that no one should take the author seriously. I mean, people are dying out there. No one gives a fuck about the author's twenties and how they fell in and out of love with everything, and this essay doesn't give any compelling reasons to start giving a fuck.

Even if statements like "memory is text’s enzyme: memory catalyzes and is then consumed" are actually supposed to mean something, they're not given any room to develop. They're presented as deep thoughts, but what surrounds them is too shallow; for every gem like that line, the author spends four paragraphs explaining to the reader why she kept journals, and three paragraphs reliving the profundity with which she barfed into a Nalgene bottle while hungover on a train. Her navel might very well be the Abyss, for all the time she spends staring into it.

Reading this was like reading those economic horror stories in the New York Times, where a couple with two kids and a combined six figures' worth of income is freaking out because they can't go to Europe this year and pay the maid - the times are just too hard. What's infuriating is not only the subject matter but the tone, the coarse and determined obliviousness of people who, for all their self-discovery, don't know how fortunate they really are and show no genuine interest in finding out.

I really, really hope that this essay was a straight-faced parody of literary self-absorption, because otherwise it's the exact kind of jerking-off-in-print that scares people away from literary writing, and fuels the stereotype that the literary community is a cabal of bourgie white people with beards and/or skinny jeans tucked into their boots who obsess over "process" and "the experience of [x]" and have no social ambitions beyond personal comfort and the elimination of anything that threatens it.

That's the real kicker here, I think. How is the reader supposed to interact with this text? There's practically no authorial acknowledgement of the reader here at all. We're either a passive body being flatly told about these nostalgic revelations as though we've never heard or seen anything like them before, or we're being ignored while the author tells herself about activating her body, whatever that means, or how "memory itself is a bricolage," or catalogs what she usually writes about. She's not calling out to any shared or similar experiences with the reader, which would have been the only justification for saying in 2600+ words what could have been said in maybe 500.

In conclusion, this.



Wednesday, January 16, 2013

wholesome romances with an inspirational worldview


THE NEXT BIG THING:

What is the Next Big Thing? A series of questions for writers. The rules? You post answers to the questions below on a Wednesday. I was tagged for this by Lavinia Ludlow, one of my favorite writers and people. And so it begins...

Question: What is the [working] title of your book/work in progress?
Answer: I'm working on three books presently, but I'll use this time to talk about my western, titled MY NAME IS HATE.

Q: What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A: A pregnant woman, followed by a mysterious and violent black dog, tracks down her runaway husband.

Q: Who or what inspired you to write this book?
A: My love of westerns, first off. Second, I just finished books by Ken Sparling and Michael Kimball, and I really like how they write in these sparse, bleak vignettes. They're both really good at using that minimalist style to build narrative tension, and I wanted to see what I could build with those same tools.

Q: What else might pique the reader’s interest in your book?
A: It's a steampunk Western full of depression and violence.

Q: Where did the idea for the book/work come from?
A: I've wanted to write a Western for a while now, and my last book made me realize that my work doesn't do enough with female characters. This project seemed like a good way of accomplishing both goals

Q: What genre does the book fall under?
A: Speculative fiction, I guess.

Q: Which actors would you choose to play the characters from your book?
A: Not sure. I hate it when fiction adopts Hollywood aesthetics, so I'm tempted to skip this question altogether. Actually, I think I will.

Q: How long did it take you to write the first-draft of your manuscript?
A: Still working on it. It might be another month, plus I'll need time to put all the images together. This book will be very design-dependent, with lots of graphics and such. I really like fussing with how words and pictures interact.

Q: Will your book be self-published or represented by an agent?
A: Probably self-published.