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Posts Tagged ‘Twitter’

Working on My Novel

July 28, 2014 | by

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From Cory Arcangel’s Working on My Novel.

I wonder whether there will ever be enough tranquility under modern circumstances to allow our contemporary Wordsworth to recollect anything. I feel that art has something to do with the achievement of stillness in the midst of chaos. A stillness that characterizes prayer, too, and the eye of the storm. I think that art has something to do with an arrest of attention in the midst of distraction. —Saul Bellow, the Art of Fiction No. 37, 1966

Cory Arcangel’s new book, Working on My Novel—based on the Twitter feed of the same name—is a compilation of tweets from people who are putatively at work on novels. No more, no less. On Twitter, this concept feels merely clever; printed and bound as a novel would be, though, it becomes a vexed look at novels’ position in the culture, and a sad monument to distraction. Or so it seems to me. Arcangel’s “elevator pitch” puts a brighter gloss on it:

Working on My Novel is about the act of creation and the gap between the different ways we express ourselves today. Exploring the extremes of making art, from satisfaction and even euphoria to those days or nights when nothing will come, it's the story of what it means to be a creative person, and why we keep on trying.

But the book piques my interest for the opposite reason: it’s the story of what it means to live in a cultural climate that stifles almost every creative impulse, and why it so often seems we should stop trying. Arcangel suggests there’s something inherently ennobling in trying to write, but his book is an aggregate of delusion, narcissism, procrastination, boredom, self-congratulation, confusion—every stumbling block, in other words, between here and art. Working captures the worrisome extent to which creative writing has been synonymized with therapy; nearly everyone quoted in it pursues novel writing as a kind of exercise regimen. (“I love my mind,” writes one aspirant novelist, as if he’s just done fifty reps with it and is admiring it all engorged with blood.)Read More »

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Witchcraft Then and Now, and Other News

July 24, 2014 | by

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Detail from Francisco José de Goya’s Linda maestra, 1797.

  • Profiling William T. Vollmann: “Although Vollmann these days sports the punctilious mustache of a maître d’, he still resembles the baby-faced boy wonder readers first encountered in his shocking late ’80s author photo, in which he affectlessly held a pistol to his own head … Along with the Internet and e-mail, Vollmann also foregoes cell phones, credit-card use, checking accounts, and driving.”
  • On David Mitchell’s Twitter story, “The Right Sort”: “The effect of reading was not feelings of disjunction and separation but rather one of surprising connection, a sense of disappearing into the scroll and the vortex of the story.”
  • From the Guardian, July 24, 1844: “a most lamentable difference exists between the witchcraft of modern romance and the witchcraft of ancient superstition.”
  • “Is there any consistent relationship between a book’s quality and its sales? Or again between the press and critics’ response to a work and its sales? … As of a few days ago UK sales of all three volumes of Knausgaard work in hardback and paperback had barely topped 22,000 copies … In the US, which has a much larger market, that figure— total sales of all three volumes (minus e-books)—stood at about 32,000.”
  • “As Amazon gains market share, we can no longer abide its self-proclaimed conceit that unfettered growth is invariably in the consumers’ interest … Amazon ought no longer to be permitted to behave like a parasite that hollows out its host. A serious Justice Department investigation is past due.”

 

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W.T.Ph

June 27, 2014 | by

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VectorOpenStock, via Wikimedia Commons.

And so the first round of the World Cup comes to an end with a bang from Thomas Müller, and—pace Ronaldo, who put on a fine late show—various degrees of whimper from the departing nations Portugal, Russia, South Korea, and Ghana.

At last, those of us who have followed Rihanna on Twitter for the last two weeks have found certain of her exigent questions answered: for example, to June 19’s “ENGLAND whatchu gon do?!!” we can now confidently say, “Nothing.” Other tweets of hers have been by turn prophetic, emphatic, and envy-inducing: “Uruguay defense is almost disrespectful,” also from June 19, uncannily anticipated Luis Suárez achieving full disrespectful status five days later. “W.T.Ph,” more exclamation than question, has been and will continue to be applied usefully throughout this free-ranging, attacking, and mesmerizing tournament. “Goal keepers getting phucking sleepy” has its own kind of lullaby poetry; and who wouldn’t want to be Germany’s Miroslav Klose, the coholder of the record for most goals scored in World Cup tournaments, who’s now, more urgently, an object of Rihanna’s undistilled affection? “My nigga Klose,” she tweeted on June 21. Lionel Messi, eat your heart out.

Coming up, eight games in four days. Brazil vs. Chile looks like a good one, while Uruguay, hobbled by a dementia of denial to which both team and country appear to have succumbed, probably won’t do much against Colombia. Mexico has played well, but we can expect the Dutch, with Van Persie and Robben, to outclass them. France should beat Nigeria, and most people who are not Greek will be rooting for Costa Rica to triumph over Greece. Germany vs. Algeria is a grudge match: at 1982’s World Cup, in Spain, Germany and Austria contrived a result that would see both teams go through at Algeria’s expense, a shameful performance that has not been forgotten in North Africa. Lionel Messi, whom Nigeria’s coach Stephen Keshi claims is from Jupiter (confirmation awaited from Tom Cruise) will beat Switzerland. And last of all, there’s what might be, in competitive terms, the cream of the crop: Belgium vs. USA. How far can this mercurial USA team go? Or rather: USA, whatchu gon do?

Jonathan Wilson’s work has appeared in The New Yorker, Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, and Best American Short Stories, among other publications. He is the author of eight books, including Kick and Run: Memoir with Soccer Ball. He lives in Massachusetts.

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The Last Word

June 6, 2014 | by

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Albert Goodwin, Apocalypse, 1902.

Late in 2007, a poet and programmer named Adam Parrish started @everyword, a Twitter account dedicated to tweeting all the words in English. The very first tweet, from 6:53 A.M. on September 2, 2007, seems to have been blasphemous, but after that came a, and things settled into a familiar alphabetical rhythm.

In the days of the early letters, we felt footloose and fancy-free. It seemed, for a while, that the dictionary and its roughly 109,000 entries would last us for the rest of our natural lives. Years passed. Words came and went at a stately pace. The most retweeted among them were sex and weed, those poles of the human condition.

But things took on a sudden urgency earlier this year when x, y, and z came around. None of us felt young anymore—we were living in the twilight of the alphabet, suddenly, acutely aware of our own mortality. @everyword, once a fixture of the Twittersphere, was soon to be snuffed out by Fate, as we all must be. As of this writing, zoril, zounds, and zoysia have just been tweeted, each one a harbinger of doom. The last word is expected to go up this weekend, if not later today. (One never knows exactly when Death’s cold, tenebrous hand will descend upon one’s shoulder.)

In an interview earlier this week, Parrish told The Guardian,

Whimsy is something that I'm very interested in evoking in people. I don’t like the concept of personalization on the web. When I get on the Internet it’s because I want to have a shared experience. I want to see what other people see. The Internet is a way to find out what life is like for other people. One of the goals of the stuff I make is to produce these experiences, and not sell you something, which is what a lot of the Internet is about these days.

Excellent points, but as the end beckons, whimsy is on the wane. (Or not—it was just tweeted a month ago.) Parrish never discussed why he chose to begin his series with blasphemous, but it augurs ill for us, now that we’re in the end-times. Has he been courting Satan with his word spells? Twitter’s eschatologists are predicting the apocalypse. What will happen when the final word goes up? Is there life after zed—or, more accurately, after zyxt?

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Your Aura Is Orange and Squiggly, and Other News

March 24, 2014 | by

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Annie Besant and Charles Leadbeater, “The Intention to Know,” a synesthetic illustration from Thought-Forms (1901).

 

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A Frock of Luxurious Distinction, and Other News

February 17, 2014 | by

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Image via Retronaut

  • It’s Presidents Day, and surely you’re looking to relax with a presidential biography. There have been roughly fifteen thousand books written about Abraham Lincoln. These are the ones worth reading.
  • New York Fashion Week is over, but it’s never too late to scrutinize these 1919 advertisements for “New York styles”: “a frock of luxurious distinction,” a “wool chiffon panama skirt,” a “bewitching little turban.”
  • “Signifying nothing is harder than it looks.” “At Starbucks I order under the name Godot. Then leave.” Behind the Adorno-esque Twitter presence of @NeinQuarterly, one of the medium’s finest aphorists.
  • Now that Valentine’s Day is behind us, let’s take a hard look at the history of divorce.
  • At last, scientific evidence that those who troll the Internet—lurking in comments sections and hurling epithets like so much feces—are sadistic and psychopathic.

 

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