1) The YOLO Pages 2) The Fun We’ve Had by Michael J Seidlinger 3) Left Hand by Paul Curran 4) Black Cloud by Juliet Escoria 5) Walls by Andrew Duncan Worthington 6) Tampa by Alissa Nutting 7) New Tab by Guillaume Morissette 8) Thunderbird by Dorothea Lasky 9) You Can Make Anything Sad by Spencer Madsen 10) The Collected Works of Noah Cicero Vol 2
I can’t use logic concerning my feelings, my feelings demand musical notes, violins, guitar solos, the stomping of feet, poetic language, metaphors, poetic lines about birds or deserts or tree-crowded forests.
Interview w/ Noah Cicero, the "Godfather" of Alt Lit, re his "Collected Works" volume, a Korean bartender, religion, politics, saying "yolo," etc.
1. First things first—let’s get this out of the way—you have a book that just came out, “The Collected Works of Noah Cicero.” I imagine this volume would be a good pick-up for anyone who wants to check your stuff out, get acquainted. Say something else about it. Also, aren’t you a little young to have a “collected works” volume out already haha? I guess you have enough material to make a “collected works” book, but it seems kind of tongue in cheek, to me, for a relatively young writer to do this.
I think saying, “young writer to do this’ is basing things off the old paradigm of publishing, when major presses ruled the world. But in the small press world different things matter and can be done. I wrote 6 books in 7 years, the books on average had 40,000 words. If I was a writer with Random House in 1985, all books would be out and sold efficiently at Barnes and Nobles, like they did with Kathy Acker. But big presses don’t do that anymore, they haven’t brought up an indie writers’ books in two decades and sold them individually (not that I know of.) I want my writing to be accessible and to be a nice new package. I thought a Collected Works would be an efficient way to do that. And seriously, I love “basic works” style books.
2. I describe you as “the godfather of alt lit.” When I was first trying to figure out this whole online lit thing I remember reading interviews with you in which people tried to get you to define “alt lit” etc., & you usually seemed to have a pretty good grasp on what’s going on with this whole contemporary online literary world or whatever—you were able to talk about it without sounding like an ass. I won’t make you define “alt lit” again, but do you have any thoughts on the current state of “the game”? In your Return to Relevancy vlog you talk briefly about how when you started there wasn’t really shit online, but now there’s a lot of shit.
I’m really happy about internet literature right now. I like seeing so many people gathered around the idea of literature. Usually something comes out every couple weeks that I enjoy. I really enjoyed Walter Mackey’s pokemon thing, watched it like 5 times. I don’t know if alt-lit is good or bad, i don’t care. It isn’t my job to judge people and their writing. I do what I do and try to have fun, that’s all.
I feel like alt-lit is kind of like New-Formalism or the Black Mountain Poets, little weird lit movements that will produce some writing that will end up in anthologies, maybe. I think to us, it is the biggest thing in the world, we are always meeting people, and doing our thing, and we assume it is amazing. But when we look back on movements, it is usually only a few things that survive. But I don’t think, as of right now, we can tell what will survive, and maybe nothing at all. Maybe it won’t end up being anything but a Tao Lin poem and a Sam Pink short story in a writing anthology in 100 years.
3. I think your subtly a very “political” writer. By “subtly” I mean you’re able to write politically without sounding like an ass. Most of my favorite “moments” in your books involve a fed-up character making some sort of diatribe against “the system” or “America” in an uncharacteristically large paragraph. For example, “The Insurgent” has this extended metaphor about society being a “monster” we don’t control anymore, “Best Behavior” uses the words “The Constitution” a few times, “The Human War” is about an American war. “Nosferatu” & “The Living and the Dead” satirize modern society’s fuckedness in a way that’t not far off from, say, George Saunders or someone.
A lot of writers in “Alt Lit” or whatever we want to call it seem either afraid or unwilling to write something I’d call “political,” I sense. I see a lot of people back away from making bigger claims amid their punchy prose & absurdism, but I feel like you don’t.
I grew up in a political family, on my mom’s side, my aunt is the head of the Republican Party in my county. You can look it up, just google “kathi creed.” My mother’s whole family is obsessed with Republican politics, they even go to the convention every four years. On my dad’s side (all democrats), my great uncle was mayor of a local town for like a decade, which made the family political. I grew up around people talking about politics all the time, politics is just part of me. I don’t have to ‘try’ to be political, which might be the difference between me and most writers. I was raised surrounded by politics, and when I went to college I got a political science degree, it comes naturally to me.
I don’t think alt-lit people in general know a lot about politics, but most Americans don’t, and strangely most politicians don’t. I also don’t think writing about politics is worthwhile, alt-lit writers have a very small audience, they aren’t going to reach the masses so why try.
When I write about politics, I try never to write about politics like it matters. In Best Behavior I tried to show that the Constitution is crumbling, that it isn’t working as a foundation anymore. The next year Republicans wanted a budget amendment, a marriage amendment, people fight constantly about amendment 2, people started fighting saying that campaign donations are out of control. The constitution is not just political, it is a psychological issue in America, and I tried to deal with it as psychology and not politically.
4. I find it hard to imagine your day-to-day life, whereas I can easily picture a lot of other online writers’ more or less. What’s a day in the life of Noah like, these days? Maybe it’s something about the way you maintain your web presence that makes it hard to picture your daily life. Your books seem maybe autobiographical but probably exaggerated.
Currently, I am home in Ohio. I got back from Korea two months ago and plan on going to the Grand Canyon to work as a cashier in a week. But currently, this is what I did:
Woke up at 8AM- checked email, drank detox tea.
Jogged around block, did 4 sets of 15 push ups.
Showered, went to coffee shop and worked on philosophy book.
Went to post office and sent a broken computer to an alt lit person that wanted it, and then returned movies.
Went home and ate hot dogs. The hot dogs had mustard and sauerkraut.
Went to store for friend’s mom, got her potatoes, water, and coke etc.
Got two books of Jatakas. Jatakas are books on the previous lives of the Buddha. There are a lot of Jatakas, so I needed two books. I read the introduction to one of the books.
Been sitting in this hot ass room doing interviews for a long time.
I tanned for awhile, I listened to KPOP while I tanned. When I listen to headphones, I close my eyes. I let the wind hit my body, it is good.
Then I mowed the grass, the mower kept going on and off, it was annoying.
Then I went in my bedroom and read Pageant of the Popes, it a book about the history of the papacy. I am reading it because I want to read Lives of the Saints, and the Lives of the Saints reference Popes constantly.
Yesterday I had a different day, I went to the Indian Buffet with Brittany Wallace for lunch. I think my favorite thing in the world is eating Indian food on a sunday with Brittany Wallace.
Then Brittany dropped me off and I went and brewed beer with my IRL friends Vince and Paul. Vince is the one who designs the beer, we just sit and talk. We drank a Galaxy IPA from Alaska which was amazing and a Dark Lord stout. The Dark Lord stout was insane, it is a beer that that contains 18% alcohol, but doesn’t taste boozy, and is full of insane flavor. Personally I liked the IPA better, but I respect the genius of the Dark Lord.
We sit around and just talk about beer for hours. I don’t think anyone suspects that I do that with my time.
5. You were in Korea. What the hell was up with that? Talk about Korea.
I went to Korea because Brittany thought it would be cool to go, I thought I needed to travel abroad. It made sense. Teaching in Korea was fun. I used to go down to a bar and play darts on the weekends days alone. I would sit at the bar and play games on my phone. I would play the game hearts. I would sit and the bartender would tell me I had beautiful blue eyes. She would say, “파란 눈 파란 눈.” She would stare at me for a long time. I would have to stare back, letting her look at my eyes. It was funny. We would play darts together. She couldn’t speak any English and I can’t speak Korean, so we played in silence. One night the owner ordered fried chicken pieces, she fed me the chicken pieces with chopsticks. Korean women always fed me, no one feeds me. I am like really lonely now.
6. From namedrops in your writing I get the sense that you’re a pretty avid reader. Can you namedrop some influences? & but also say "why” these particular writers “vibe with” you?
I don’t know who my influences are anymore:
When I go to the Grand Canyon, I am bringing these books:
Chuang Tzu, Lao Tzu, Confucius, Mencius, Buddhist Scriptures, The Jatakas, Digha Nikaya, Lives of the Saints, Upanishads, and Saint Teresa of Avila. I have read half these books already, but I do not believe I have read them enough. I am trying to get into religion, feel like I need more religion, feel like I hear people say, I’m fucked” all the time. But like, people have always been fucked, they didn’t have antidepressant medication or cognitive behavioral therapy, they had religion, so I want to enter the world of religion, to see what is there.
Also, I found out that Buddhists have an abundance of literature, Buddhism has folktales, dialogues, long stories, poems, etc. Buddhism is an endless resource for avid readers.
I usually read books in groups- like for a year I read nothing but history of books, I would buy books that said, ‘History of Latin America” “HIstory of Jews” “History of the Black Plague” and then buy it and read it.
When I was in Korea I read epic long novels, Infinite Jest, Gravity’s Rainbow, 2666, Sometimes a Great Notion, East of Eden, etc. Just long novels, one after another.
I read one to two hours everyday. I just read, it keeps my mind centered.
7. Another “online lit / alt lit” question (“sorry”): I get the sense there is, at this point, maybe a “first generation” & “second generation” of alt lit/ online writers, with yourself, Tao Lin, etc. being the “first generation” & with ppl like Steve Roggenbuck, myself, & a whole flood of other ppl being part of a second generation of onliners—Do you feel me at all on this?
Another thing I’ve noticed in this “generation gap” maybe is that the 1st generation seems to be characterized by pessimistic / bleak tone, whereas the 2nd seems to be characterized by some sort of new love for positivity / optimism. It’s a crude dichotomy I’m trying to draw here, but I think it more or less exists. Do you have any thoughts at all on what I’m saying or is this far off? Personally, I don’t really favor either posi or neg lit; I feel there’s a necessary place for both. I definitely characterize you as more neg / bleak.
I don’t know what pos lit is? Like saying yolo or something? Saying yolo is just pleasure. Telling people to live their dreams is just capitalism, that is what capitalists say to people, “Live your dreams.” The reality of the situation is that my generation and younger are condemned to underemployment, global warming, unwalkable cities, a corporate state, endless war, and strip mall suburbia. It is horrible. The only thing that has saved me is I barely own anything, I own nothing but a Chromebook, guitar and an iPhone, clothes of course. Besides that, I own nothing. And I don’t seek validation from the television media standards. I don’t watch television, don’t read the newspaper, I try to participate at least as possible with corporations and the government. Not because I want those institutions to collapse but because I believe corporations and governments make me mentally unhealthy.
I was walking through my friend’s the other day and there was a show on about aliens, the alien aficionado said, “We can’t get the government to say there are aliens.” I yelled at the TV, “Why do you need the government to validate you.”
I think that is ’positivity’ to me, is when someone doesn’t seek validation from standards set up by governments or corporations.
This is a hard question for me to answer, the person who wrote my early books doesn’t exist anymore/ feel like he died around age 28, I’m 32 now. I’m not interested in being bleak or not being bleak, I’m not interested in being happy or not being happy. I make of a list of things to do and I do them, and usually I feel fine or happy and sometimes sad. I try to be mindful of the people and things around me, I don’t know, is that positive, is that negative, what’s the truth here?
8. I will admit to starting to write at Denny’s because of things you have said about Denny’s. Imitation is the highest form of flattery. Respond to this embarrassingly.
I love the Denny’s slamburger.
9. Do you have a Netflix & if so what do you watch on Netflix?
The only shows I watch are It’s Always Sunny and Archer. I watch them over and over again, I study them like a preacher does the bible. Sometimes I watch Paul Newman movies like Hud, A Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Sometimes a Great Notion.
10. “Go to work and do your job. Care for your children. Pay the bills. Obey the laws. Buy products.” I’ve seen a bunch of images with this apparent title on it. Nice title. What’s the deal with this (I assume) upcoming book? Why are people making image macros with the title?
People are making image macros because Mathew Revert made a prototype copy, then Cameron Pierce publisher for Lazy Fascist showed everyone. People really liked it. Then I told Rachel Bell it was just a fake cover, she responded, “I want to make a fake cover.” So she made a fake cover and then everyone started making fun covers. It was funny.
Thanks to Noah for the thoughtful answers. Buy his new book or something; he’s cool.
As a scholar of the Beat Generation, the recent public attention focused on the current phenomenon known as Alt Lit has inspired in me some observations of similarities between the two literary movements. Indeed, one could provide comparisons to other movements or “generations,” but for me the similarities between these two sets of urban hipsters, sixty years apart, seems interesting.
The above quote, from Tao Lin’s novel, Shoplifting From American Apparel, shows an apparent awareness that the group of people he describes will become subject to, in the near future, the same sort of media scrutiny that was foisted upon the Beat Generation, who were derided in the press as “beatniks.” Indeed, Noah Cicero, another key member of the Alt Lit community, described as central to the Alt Lit movement “the idea of the return to the literary life.” He goes on:
The literary life is about ‘living,’ like Rimbaud, Whitman, Celine, Bukowski, Hunter S. Thompson, traveling, doing drugs, partying, standing on street corners in cities and thinking crazy thoughts, taking shits in gas stations in Nebraska at 4 in the morning, going to Asia to teach English, flying over from New Zealand or England just to get drunk with people who’ve met online. Staying up till 5 in the morning talking about philosophy and politics. Making a ten-minute long YouTube video about something you can’t get off your mind. It’s that kid walking down the street with headphones playing Ladytron, carrying a laptop, and a copy of The Stranger, who just feels like this is fucked.
In referencing Rimbaud, Whitman, and Celine he is acknowledging key influences on the Beats, and in mentioning Bukowski and Thompson he is talking about writers who’ve later been categorized as “Beat” or at least in the Beat vein. His language in the description, too, is Kerouacian and Ginsbergian. He is channeling On the Road and listing like Howl, yet applying these techniques to his own generation. In a word, he is placing Alt Lit as the next step.
Why is everyone so angry?
There seems to be an obvious contradiction in the media and in the US government and everyone can now see it.
The US government gives billions in aid to Israel, I guess 8.6 million a day. Israel is a small country located far far from the borders of America and produces nothing that we need. Have you ever owned anything that said, “Made in Israel?” Israel is obviously bent on the absolute eradication of Gaza and Palestine, which is not chill.
There might be a reason to be friendly to Israel, but to give them 8.5 million a day seems just odd.
The US Government is giving so much to a counrty that has almost zero to do with America while black men seem to be shot and put into prisons at an irrational absurd rate, 11,000 people die of gun shots a year in America, which is more than most warzones right now, and no one seems to care.
I think everyone is coming to the common sense conclusion that maybe we should be spending 8.5 a day million on helping poor people in America instead of helping people on the other side of the planet eradicate other poor people.
Alt Lit is failing as an artistic movement because it is aggressively incurious. Essentially, a lot of work is creative non-fiction, however the brilliance of the genre is the new approach to communication in a developing environment by technological natives. But the writers themselves haven’t proved to be up to the challenges those who aspire to make meaningful art are faced with–or that they’re even aware the challenge exists. In fact, Alt Lit seems increasingly preoccupied with reducing conflict, a comfortable see-no-evil sort of approach that is overly reliant on positivity or defeatism without offering solutions, rather than engaging with the struggles its readers face and representing meaningfully the consequences of the effects it has on all of us. I may be naive, but I think people writing on the Internet could make something great. Unfortunately, very few people appear to be trying.
Noah Cicero: I am sitting on a balcony in Las Vegas, the night is warm. I am sitting on the concrete floor of the balcony, listening to Langhorne Slim’s Hummingbird on repeat, and drinking IPA. I read Heiko’s comment on alt-lit.
I think it is a question of ‘goals.'
Before the internet writers, had 'a goal.’ The goal was to get published by one of the five major presses or one of their subsidiary companies. This goal led to certain behaviors on the part of the writers, how to write, what topics to write about, you had to go through middle-aged editors, you had to know people and probably live in New York or at least have a very good agent. But the 'goals’ of alt-lit are different.
The internet doesn’t have middle-aged editors editing your things, it doesn’t really even have editors.
To get published on the internet, to get your things seen on the internet, well, it isn’t that hard.
If your goal is only to get 48 people to look at your image macros, or read your 3 stanza poem, well, you can be an unread person that doesn’t have to care that much about writing.
If you want to get published by a major press, well you need to be well read and you need to learn how to write in a certain style, to appeal to the editors of major presses. That will take a lot of time and patience, and hard work.
If you want to compete with the great writers, if you want to write things that are truly emotional and well constructed and original, well don’t even try to publish something till you’ve written over a 1000 pages of prose, write 3 novels, trash them, and maybe the 4th one will work.
Personally I wish, everyone in alt-lit would go and buy a bunch of Wittgenstein, Sartre, Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, then sit and just read them over and over again, and really try to understand before they write anything.
The thing about writing is that, once you publish something, it is there forever, YOU can’t take it away, it is THERE for the whole world to see forever. Wait, till you your voice, you are a person, from somewhere, from some social class, from some sociological position in the overall landscape, your own voice, is somewhere inside there.
But ask yourself what your 'goal’ is? Do you have a 'goal?'
I hope you do.
Read Dostoevsky, yeah, read Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, The Idiot, The Devils, Crime and Punishment and the Adolescent. Don’t even write before you read all those books.
If you’re American, read Hemingway and Steinbeck, British Dickens and Hardy, Asian Murakami and Soseki, and if you want read them all.
Us Americans and United Kingdom Affiliates we don’t have religion, we have literature and philosophy, to guide our path. The Asians still have Buddhism, the Native Americans have their culture and beliefs. But we, we just these things called literature and philosophy, and if you want to add to it, you gotta be part of it, you have love it, you have to be a monk or nun for literature and philosophy. You have to truly believe. (most will never understand that last paragraph, but I hope some will, and you will know, whatever there is to needed to know.)
Wait, be calm, read a thousand books, write a thousand pages, feel a thousand things, write that book.
As Whitman wrote:
Poets to come! orators, singers, musicians to come!
Not to-day is to justify me and answer what I am for,
But you, a new brood, native, athletic, continental, greater than
Arouse! for you must justify me.
I myself but write one or two indicative words for the future,
I but advance a moment only to wheel and hurry back in the darkness.
I am a man who, sauntering along without fully stopping, turns a
casual look upon you and then averts his face,
Leaving it to you to prove and define it,
Expecting the main things from you.
or Ezra Pound:
I make a pact with you, Walt Whitman -
I have detested you long enough.
I come to you as a grown child
Who has had a pig-headed father;
I am old enough now to make friends.
It was you that broke the new wood,
Now is a time for carving.
We have one sap and one root -
Let there be commerce between us.
Yeah, like that. Have you tried taking a long walk, and listening to the wind.
It’s great that you guys are these superserious, hypersensitive writers. Seriously, your monomaniacal focus on some of the basic questions of being and society makes for some of my favorite writing today. Heiko, your work is hilarious and frightening at the same time. I appreciate how hard you are to pin down, how the “true” voice of the author is always slipping away, leaving me alone in a maze of ideas where I have to reconsider my own values in order to find my way out, except I never do and then the poem ends and, oh, that’s just life. Noah, you’re a documentarian of damaged lives that very few writers have seen and experienced as intimately as you have; but you’re also a writer with a distinct point of view that brings some light and even charisma to those dark places.
You are both extremely awesome writers, but you’re also both completely wrong and basically full of shit when it comes to alt lit.
See, most of us have more than one mood. Which may be one reason we’ll never be the great writers you are, or at least not the kind of great writers you are, but it also means we actually like the fact that alt lit is able to include more than one perspective re: ironic vs. serious, re: the value of “greatness” as an aesthetic category, re: whether there should be a canon and what should be in it if so. We find value and, yes, meaning in a funny-sad tweet from Spencer Madsen or Mira Gonzalez, or a manically upbeat Youtube clip from Steve Roggenbuck, the same way we do in a bleak look into the heart of human hopelessness and despair from one of you guys. We also encounter writers who we don’t find as well developed or gifted as those, and we give them a look and then move on, because we realize that there will always be a few things we appreciate more than most other things; and we recognize that those writers aren’t really hurting anyone or wasting any of the world’s resources by putting their first three novels up on the internet—where maybe someone who likes them more than we do might find them, even if it’s only forty-eight people (what’s wrong bringing pleasure to forty-eight people?)—rather than tossing them in the garbage.
Heiko, if you really think something new and great can come from writing on the internet, maybe you need to let it go its own way and develop organically, rather than prescribing some form for it that you’ve already determined is the nature of “great”/serious literature. Because doing that will only ever get you the same thing you already have fed back again. If you think the internet has so much potential, maybe you should try to listen to what it has to say and extend your values to accommodate some of the things that it seems to favor—like spontaneity, freshness, ephemeral exchange rather than timeless monuments, persistently being in/with our irreducibly troubling existence rather than “offering solutions” to our problems—instead of demanding that everyone else make their subculture over to suit your tastes. You can’t expect something to come along and change the world, and yet refuse to let it affect you.
Noah, literature has not replaced religion for people in the US and UK. Seventy-five percent of Americans still identify as Christians. Subtract all the Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Rastas, and everyone else with some definite religious creed, and you’re left with 15-20% of people who are a lot more likely to look to science or film/television to tell them how their world works and what it means than they are to literature or philosophy. So it’s absolute bullshit to claim that anyone who wants to write a poem or a novel is obligated to take up some kind of preistly mantle for the sake of preserving Western Civilization. Which is a good thing, because religions are pretty much obligated to always and only be serious and profound. A religion without some kind of answer for all life’s questions is basically pointless. Literature doesn’t have that limitation. A novelist can raise questions and then admit to not knowing the answers. He/she can write something just to express and alleviate pain, or even just to get a laugh. A poet can take everything totally seriously all the time and try to constantly address the meaning of existence or whatever, or they can just devote their life to writing funny limericks. Or they can switch back and forth, or do a little of both at once. And those different attitudes produce different kinds of literature that have different kinds of value for different readers.
Nobody needs to read Dostoevsky in order to learn how to write. Sure, a lot of writers might benefit from reading him, or anybody else, but every writer is different. You can get there by reading Dostoevsky and Wittgenstein and Sartre, Tao Lin can get there by reading Lydia Davis and Schopenhauer and Anne Beattie, Steve Roggenbuck can get there by reading Lil B and Horse E-books and Flarf (note that Steve also really likes some canonical literature, not the point). Somebody else might have their style ruined by trying to emulate a writer like Dostoevsky; they might take away all the wrong lessons from it and just get themselves confused.
The mass of alt lit writers, especially the ones you both seem to be specifically criticizing, are basically a lot of kids just learning and messing around and trying to have fun. They aren’t necessarily looking to create “great” literature (though some maybe are, and some will and have succeeded), and that’s fine. “Greatness” is traditionally just an ideological function created to make sure that women and minorities and young people and poor/uneducated people (ones who haven’t read the canon) don’t go around writing books and expecting their voices to be heard. (I don’t think either of you guys want to silence any of those groups, but I do think you’ve maybe unwittingly bought into an ideological construct that’s designed to do so. It’s no coincidence that Noah could only name white dudes and two Asians in his post about this.) “Greatness” is a burden on literature, it’s basically just an old way of justifying telling writers what they can and can’t do in writing, something to legitimize the authority of whoever wants to play the fun police for literary taste.
You two dudes don’t have to have fun if you don’t want to, but you’re too smart and too good to be the fun police. You are each really, really good at being Heiko Julien and Noah Cicero, respectively. So good, in fact, that nobody else really needs to try. So let the other writers be who they are, and maybe they’ll write something you like, and maybe they won’t. And literature will change and grow because kids will come along who don’t share your values and don’t think literature has to do the things you expect it to, and that will probably be okay. Literature, like all art and culture, has always worked that way, so it will probably not “fail” or disappear from the earth because of it.
Personally I’m looking forward to it.
Noah Cicero: Concerning the Canon comment: I never think about the Canon, I feel like maybe Paradise Lost and Hamlet are in the Canon, but what else is in there I’m not sure. I don’t have an English degree but a Political Science degree, I can easily be more scientific on what is considered to be in the Political canon than what is in the literary canon, just by training. Dostoevsky is awesome regardless of canon.
But the idea of me noah cicero telling someone to read the canon, doesn’t make any sense in the context of me being a real person, and not your instant judgements by random nouns I was using. A person that has read like two of my interviews or even one of my books would know that.
I feel like you read my post and didn’t understand it, but you saw several random nouns and concluded you 'knew’ something. But since you are a man and cannot get naked to attract undeserved attention to yourself, you decided to character assassinate me to bring attention to yourself by reaching for some sort of weird racist thing.
“Somebody else might have their style ruined by trying to emulate a writer like Dostoevsky; they might take away all the wrong lessons from it and just get themselves confused.”
I feel like that would never happen. Feel like somebody telling people not to read Dostoevsky is odd, like a scientist telling someone not to learn about Newton or a painter telling someone not to learn about Di Vinci, or a Nascar driver telling someone never to watch an old Richard Petty race, or a boxer telling someone not to watch an old Muhammad Ali fight.
That is what you said put into a different context.
Saying that 75% of America is religious is insane, either you have an inability to observe human behavior or don’t understand how polls are conducted or have never been to another country or on a reservation to observe different cultures and how they interact with religion.
Probably, maybe 15% of Americans go to church in reality. Then the other people who answer polls asking, “Do you believe in God?” A lot of them answer “yes”, that is true, but most don’t do anything resembling belief in God, most are nihilists with goofy praying hands tattoos and also at the same time believe in aliens and Mayan prophecies. I wouldn’t even answer, “I am an atheist,” and I never go to church, but still that poll puts me into the 75%. I feel like, even if you answer, “I believe in ghosts” they put you into the 75%.
Feel like viewing literature as religion is really fun, and I feel that your comment was strange, like it had nothing to do with comment.
Concerning the list of white male authors:
1. Dostoevsky is from Russia, Dickens from England and Hemingway from Illinois. Those places are vastly different culturally. To lump cultures together into one race is a trick created by Republican politicians in the 20th Century to get more votes. I am not going to argue with someone who bases their paradigm in Republican Political tactics. Feel like lumping a person from Russia, from England and from Illinois together is an oversimplification and not to be taken seriously. (Forgot Wittgenstein, a half Jew millionaire, who worked at a monastery, taught school children, fought for the germans in WW1, exiled from Germany in WW2, and sucked men’s dicks at public parks on writing breaks. TOTAL WHITE MALE DOMINANCE)
I don’t even comprehend how a drunk guy talking about his favorite authors of his early 20s turns into, “White male dominance.” If you were truly rational and not concerened with gaining attention for yourself, you would have asked, “Well, what have you been reading lately?” or something. But to immediately jump to a conclusion without asking questions to gain deeper information, that is a political tactic and not an intellectual one.
Also still: I think if you read even two of my interviews and one novel you would know that I enjoy many different authors, and that I was only listing the novels of my early 20s. But yet, without knowing anything about me, you decided to accuse me of horrible things to gain attention for yourself.
““Greatness” is a burden on literature, it’s basically just an old way of justifying telling writers what they can and can’t do in writing, something to legitimize the authority of whoever wants to play the fun police for literary taste.”
You are truly the Last Man amigo, given up even on greatness. It reminds me of harrison bergeron (sorry to mention the canon), where people are forced to be equal. Is this the “No Child Left Behind” version of literature, where everyone gets stars regardless of hard work or talent? “No writer left behind"
I love greatness, I want to be a great hiker, a great friend, I even want to be great at drinking craft beer, I love when others want to be great, greatness is awesome. I love to even watch TOP TEN greatest of sports athletes documentaries.
And every culture celebrates its great heroes, the world is covered with statues and memorials and legends of past people. The idea of greatness being only western, just shows a lack of knowledge of other cultures.
I just want to say, before anyone, accuses someone of such grand things as 'dominating white people’ or 'gender something’ or something. Please, at least go and read something they wrote, or an interview. Because if you don’t, then you need to have the self-awareness that you are only trying to get attention for yourself, and actually reading Dostoevsky can help you achieve that self-awareness required to notice such a thing.
Thank you, Noah Cicero
Stephen Michael McDowell: i think a significant idea that heiko is completely overlooking in this mini-essay/critique is the conflict of introspection
i think that in-action he is more often than not 'on-point’ in terms of asking the questions that initiate a dialogue or internal monologue, but also more often than not it seems that he prefers the murky upper layers of what happens to be a vast ocean of conflicts that, once pushed through, result in the warrior, soldier, person, whatever, realizing that the conflict at some point just becomes remaining oneself and not being crushed by the overwhelming force of introspection
i think that for centuries writers and artists have been looking at the world around them and seeing as much as they could see and doing as much as they could do and then documenting that, but as that pursuit became more and more an internalizing of the external, ppl, to some degree, have forgotten or ignored the really terrifying inner battle of 'why’ we do what we do
we have come up with words like 'why’ to ask each other (externally) but haven’t spent the time in our individual lives using this observational faculty we developed as a survival mechanism and now, thanks to the internet, thanks to the progress made by writers and artists over the past centuries and millennia, some of us have the comfort, security, and access to data that ppl were previously required to go out into the world and get, that we can spend time using this vast mirror of data to find out what happens to us when we close our eyes and turn off our language centers
'alt lit’, i think, is the first movement of literature where its main proponents and contributors are known as much for their introspection and how to benefit the world around them as they have been to seek fame and intrigue, they use their writing to go and explore the world, not as an excuse to do vice versa
i think (and i don’t want to assert that i /know/ anything that heiko thinks, but, i, personally think) what heiko has deemed 'unfortunate’ is a tendency on his own part to look at surface details and for his brain to intuit relationships between disparate types of human behavior in himself, process through the central mechanism of how he views his 'self’ and then parse it as ways of 'staying alive’, turning the mode, tone, and themes of his work into a giant, cacophonous self-manifestoed survivalism
but the other contributors to 'alt lit’ who the media fancies as its figureheads all seem to me preoccupied in equal parts with removing themselves from the equation enough to let other ppl, forms of life, of art, everything, assert itself first, then, when they have built up enough internal understanding of what’s been happening to them, they assert themselves enough to fill a need, sometimes, maybe often, at their own expense, something i’m not sure heiko would be willing to do voluntarily
i don’t think focussing on the obvious 'solutions’ is as useful, literally and literarily, the mode of trying to solve what’s external has been played out, 'alt lit’ and this coming generation of writers are, i think, for the good of the survival of humanity and life in the universe in general, ceasing and desisting looking outward for answers and fighting for resolution and the world, as humanity almost always tends to do with respect to landscape-changes in literature, will follow (into themselves, not out into the shitscape our ancestors keep building and destroying)
also feel rigidly aware that what i’m describing is a trend i’m observing, not a fact, i just typed some words, i don’t know what i’m talking about, i didn’t even edit this at all
Caden Lovelace: against the backdrop of discussions about writing 'doing something’… i find that i am often writing out of… love. that feels unfashionable to say, & embarrassing, and, but… it is true, isn’t it? for many of us? we write about love, directly or in some roundabout way. and yet, despite everything, the writing i read about love so often seems the freshest alt lit there be.
i read the first book of philosophical sexts and i think… this the exact same subject that has been tackled by practically every poet and writer throughout history. and yet it is still utterly fantastic. and i think, what is this shit about well-readness and incuriosity. there is still so much to be written and here it is being written right in front of us.
i am planning to start a gdoc and write about everyone i love when i love them, and to let all the affairs just mingle together into one dirty swimming pool of 'u’. do you write love? do you hide it? what does love mean to us right now when all love seems messy and the purity of the 'romantic poets’ seems as far-removed as the age of kings. how do you write it?
James Ganas: don’t write about what others need to do to be good writers. just be one
If you are working for $5.15 an hour, you can’t pay all of your bills, half of your friends are crack heads or drunks, you have cavities and no matter how little you make the government will not help you, you have not eaten a good sized meal in over two months, some days you barely eat at all, the rising gas prices just took all your fun money away (what little you have), you sit reading letters from your friends in prison, you know several people living in motels, and you can’t raise the thermostat in your house above sixty degrees because you just can’t afford to pay the bills, and if you have kids all that is even worse. Then the word ‘meaning’ means a lot to you. How much gas cost means a lot to you, how much food costs means a lot to you, if your car breaks it means a lot to you.
Noah Cicero talking w/ Tao Lin about whether life is meaningless
Concerning “Meaning”: If you are working for $5.15 an hour, you can’t pay all of your bills, half of your friends are crack heads or drunks, you have cavities and no matter how little you make the government will not help you, you have not eaten a good sized meal in over two months, some days you barely eat at all, the rising gas prices just took all your fun money away (what little you have), you sit reading letters from your friends in prison, you know several people living in motels, and you can’t raise the thermostat in your house above sixty degrees because you just can’t afford to pay the bills, and if you have kids all that is even worse. Then the word “meaning” means a lot to you. How much gas cost means a lot to you, how much food costs means a lot to you, if your car breaks it means a lot to you.