Thursday, May 1, 2014

have a big old chunky lovely WALL O' TEXT.... celebration of my liberation from Tumblr, Twitter, gif posts, and people who can't read more than three sentences at a time!

Take the prevalence of websites where for your convenience you’re served culture as you might be served chicken nuggets in a drive-thru. You know who they are (but if in doubt try Flavorwire,, BuzzFeed, Huffpost’s book section or Brain Pickings). In the absence of imagination or depth and using the modern model, you could easily fire together a Top Ten Books/Films/TV Shows About Vampires/Zombies/Fashion/Love, preferably with each book on a separate page or their beloved “after the jump” to greatly boost the hits and thus advertising revenue of your site. You could make sure each book is dealt with in a cursory paragraph, perhaps lifted wholesale from its blurb or press release with a droll rejoinder tacked to the end. Or better still, just stick a quote or ten on there with images taken from other list-based culture sites who’ve in turn taken their image from other sites and so on forever and ever. Include endless ‘how to write’ articles written by writers so it has that familiar creative writing workshop feel. Don’t bother looking too closely or at too much length at anything. Feel free to share all of this via the widgets provided. Reiterate positivity, motivation, self-belief like Dr Phil if his moustache happened to be a permissably ironic one. Remember above all, your priority is clicks not culture. There’s little harm in any of this of course but there’s little substance to it either. It’s resulted in the elevation of the curator above the creator, taste above talent, pointing above doing.

Culture filtered through social networking (or more accurately the opposite) reaches its nadir with the tendency towards ventriloquism, the point at which it becomes damaging rather than just mildly irritating. Readers inevitably project their own views onto the writers they love (and loathe), it takes a curator or a critic to truly misrepresent a writer. In the past few months, I’ve seen writers whose work I adore be resurrected in horrifying forms. Gone are the edges, complexities and ambiguities that made them so interesting and unique. Instead we get a partially-pristine partially-malformed ventriloquist dummy replica. Worse still they all speak with the same voice. The words are theirs but the voices are not. Those have been changed in the editing process.

anais nin1

If I had first encountered Anaïs Nin by reading a quote of hers about love or dreams or fulfilling your potential or massaging your inner child superimposed on an insufferably twee image, I would never have picked up her wonderful remarkably-transgressive books. Perhaps this shows the shortsightedness of my own prejudices but it’s still not a fair or substantial representation of her work. What I want when I encounter Anaïs Nin is Anaïs Nin, not a therapist or a motivational speaker. The same goes for Susan Sontag or Henry Miller or David Foster Wallace or any of the other incandescently brilliant writers whose writing has recently been cherry-picked and repackaged as glorified self-help tracts. The quotes are certainly theirs, being culled from diaries, journals, speeches and interviews (with the double meaning of culled being entirely apt). The sentiments may well be true. Yet it seems to me duplicitous because the quotes have been carefully selected to fit a pre-existing agenda – us. I am a ludicrously solipsistic and selfish person but even I bristle at the idea that the only thing Susan Sontag or David Foster Wallace had to offer is advice for me. At the risk of impertinence, if I chance upon someone using the currently virulent “there is actually no such thing as atheism” quote by Foster Wallace out of context to bash atheists (ignoring its implicit ‘worship God precisely because He is so ineffectual He can’t harm you’ angle) with no further interest in his writing or life, I’m going to nail a copy of Infinite Jest to their collective forehead.

- the fantastic Darran Anderson