dematerialisation in literature

woops

is not like other people
who was the last novelist? obviously joyce

or pynchon / delillo might have squeezed in as he was leaving.

or maybe DFW? fragmenting the novel form into endless footnotes and endnotes, ventriloquising every voice he could get his hands on, complicated plotting that leads to addiction or suicide in place of denouement, postmodern dead end.

leaving us with endless how to be a man / woman / gay dad / alcoholic mother personal accounts, one for every one out there

and boring literary types trying to squeeze social media into their autobiographical yawns
 

version

Who loves ya, baby?
"Beckett is the last writer to shape the way we think and see. After him, the major work involves midair explosions and crumbled buildings."
 

woops

is not like other people
joyce tried to say everything beckett went the opposite direction, is that the "endgame"?
 

Corpsey

call me big papa
I reckon people still write great novels (or at least very good ones) but obviously it is an exhausted medium, there's no place for excitement and experimentation there.

(Speaking out of ignorance here as I don't read any contemporary fiction whatsoever so fuck knows if there's anything really amazing out there.)

And it's a form that made sense in the 19th and early 20th century but became less and less suitable for the times. Reading novels (serious novels anyway) is a minority pursuit now, and even people like me who consider themselves readers struggle to fit in reading alongside all the streamable content and video games and Internet. Whereas in Dickens day nobody had anything else to do but read his novels, and EVEN THEN they were serialised.

I think versions description of Naked Lunch as being something you can dip into at any point in it - THAT'S a suitable concept of the novel in 2020.

Saying all this I recently read the first Earthsea book which was written relatively recently and had nothing whatsoever to do with the contemporary world or even OUR world and was fucking great. So perhaps escapism still has its place. But is anyone able to write about modern, internet shattered life like Chekhov wrote about 19th century life on the steppe? You can only imagine it being cringeworthy. And besides, in fact, Joyce basically did that with Ulysses, only it was newspapers and other forms of mass culture that predated the internet.
 

Corpsey

call me big papa
Perhaps it's also that "high" art wasn't willing to really cede ground to popular taste and so became utterly irrelevant to the mass audience, and consequently impotent and infantile. (Compare the public appetite for complex narratives in Netflix and Hbo shows.)

See : contemporary art. Bricks on a floor. Installations. People sniggering or staring in respectful bemusement.
 

woops

is not like other people
Just checking thoughts at the wall.
dystopian!

but i'd (regretfully) agree that novels that even try to incorporate internet protocols are embarrassing and boring - ben lerner has a gmail chat in one of his books which is otherwise the tragic tale of a contemporary ben lerner character grappling with his residency as a poet in spain i mean come on, tao lin made a splash with gmail transcripts of his depressing / depressed existence that i can write and have written for myself. all very tokenistic and suggestive of a dead end. i'm sure there are more out there

infinite jest, written in 1996, anticipates dematerialising via video technology (and the famous video chat passage) without really diving into full social media touchscreen tech. but again it acts more as a requiem for the novel form than as a suggestion of its further possibilities.
 

version

Who loves ya, baby?
The fragmented and exploded stuff hits me on a gut level that more traditional stuff doesn't. I recognise it more fully, it's something I encounter every day. When I read Gaddis or Burroughs or Pynchon it feels like the book is having a conversation with me about all these things I can see happening but can't quite articulate or find anyone to discuss them with.
 

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Who loves ya, baby?
joyce tried to say everything beckett went the opposite direction, is that the "endgame"?
Who is the more "dematerialised"? Are they both equally - Joyce obliterating the individual, Beckett obliterating the world?
 

woops

is not like other people
The fragmented and exploded stuff hits me on a gut level that more traditional stuff doesn't. I recognise it more fully, it's something I encounter every day. When I read Gaddis or Burroughs or Pynchon it feels like the book is having a conversation with me about all these things I can see happening but can't quite articulate or find anyone to discuss them with.
well i think in the 1900s the formal experimentation (a step beyond just "innovation") really ramped up and kept pace with reflecting the things you would have "seen happening" in their time.

so alongside the fragmented naked lunch you had bs johnson's book in a box that could be read in any order. a similar approach from a much less beatnik milieu but perhaps equally anti-society.

reading perec or harry mathews i feel they matched their formal experimentation to the "human" subject matter they wanted to treat. delillo caught the media landscape in his language that shapes the lives and actions of his characters as in Players. Then back to Infinite Jest despairingly killing itself and od'ing on its own massive pointlessness.

there's a gradual dematerialisation of the form at work here
 

version

Who loves ya, baby?
There's that book ostensibly on the Great Fire of London that's the guy talking about how he couldn't write a book on the Great Fire of London.
 

woops

is not like other people
Who is the more "dematerialised"? Are they both equally - Joyce obliterating the individual, Beckett obliterating the world?
that's interesting 'cos that's thematic and i was thinking on a word level.

from

It is seriously believed by some that the intention may have been geodetic, or, in the view of the cannier, domestic economical. But by writing thithaways end to end and turning, turning and end to end hithaways writing and with lines of litters slittering up and louds of latters slettering down, the old semetomyplace and jupetbackagain from tham Let Raise till Hum Lit. Sleep, where in the waste is the wisdom?

to

Every word is like an unnecessary stain on silence and nothingness.

From saying as much as possible to as little.

Quotes nicked from handy quotation websites btw
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
I was gonna say about those kinda pseudo-internet novels. Ones that worked that before the internet came around, well that's fair enough, but a novel that has fake hyperlinks in or whatever written now? That's setting out to be a substitute for something else.
It's often been said (not entirely in jest - er you could say not in infinite jest I guess if you were a cunt and I am so I will) that those "choose your adventure" books that I (for one) read when in the mid to late eighties I guess were a kind of precursor of that kind of experimentalism which was a bit more critically regarded when DFW did it - and he didn't go as far as those and actually let people take their own path through the book. A fairer comparison for IJ is House of Leaves - very similar form, used by one to write the Great American Novel and by another to write a pulp horror. I loved House of Leaves - I guess I always mention it - has anyone here read it? What about his other stuff? In fact formally I think it goes further out than IJ.
I think that it would be harsh to say that the last novelist was someone before DFW so I guess we have to allow that it continued as a worthwhile form up to the 90s at least which is long after the idea of the novel being dead had penetrated to the heart of culture.
Didn't Will Self say that his (his own) latest books were searing works of incendiary modernism? I haven't read them though.
 

version

Who loves ya, baby?
that's interesting 'cos that's thematic and i was thinking on a word level.

from

It is seriously believed by some that the intention may have been geodetic, or, in the view of the cannier, domestic economical. But by writing thithaways end to end and turning, turning and end to end hithaways writing and with lines of litters slittering up and louds of latters slettering down, the old semetomyplace and jupetbackagain from tham Let Raise till Hum Lit. Sleep, where in the waste is the wisdom?

to

Every word is like an unnecessary stain on silence and nothingness.

From saying as much as possible to as little.

Quotes nicked from handy quotation websites btw
Yeah, I was thinking along the lines of Finnegans Wake pulling in the entire world, history and so on and The Unnameable eliminating everything but the internal monologue. Outside, inside.
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
Yeah BS Johnson and Hopscotch by Cortazar truly allow the reader to pick their path I think - I've got Hopscotch but never quite got round to it, last time I went to UK I took it there and back but never opened it. Does that make them novels more than anything else though or just curios?
This overlaps with that thread I started about experimental books I think Woops.
 

woops

is not like other people
I was gonna say about those kinda pseudo-internet novels. Ones that worked that before the internet came around, well that's fair enough, but a novel that has fake hyperlinks in or whatever written now? That's setting out to be a substitute for something else.
It's often been said (not entirely in jest - er you could say not in infinite jest I guess if you were a cunt and I am so I will) that those "choose your adventure" books that I (for one) read when in the mid to late eighties I guess were a kind of precursor of that kind of experimentalism which was a bit more critically regarded when DFW did it - and he didn't go as far as those and actually let people take their own path through the book. A fairer comparison for IJ is House of Leaves - very similar form, used by one to write the Great American Novel and by another to write a pulp horror. I loved House of Leaves - I guess I always mention it - has anyone here read it? What about his other stuff? In fact formally I think it goes further out than IJ.
I think that it would be harsh to say that the last novelist was someone before DFW so I guess we have to allow that it continued as a worthwhile form up to the 90s at least which is long after the idea of the novel being dead had penetrated to the heart of culture.
Didn't Will Self say that his (his own) latest books were searing works of incendiary modernism? I haven't read them though.
yeah i think you're right. it's the desperate rush to keep up with the internet that makes it seem so forced when people do it. maybe internet has turned up just in time to hammer the nail in the coffin.

good call on the choose your own adventure books, they had some funny tricks in them too. there was one with an entry that no other entry led to. it seemed to suggest you were about to win the game, and sent you to another entry which bollocked you for cheating.

House of Leaves is full of tricks but I don't think it works in the way I'm describing because the stories are not very good basically. all the fun layouts and post structuralist allusions are holding up (1) a trite fantasy of LA sleaze and debauch and a miserable insane hermit and (2) a crap mystery/suspense horror story that isn't very suspense inducing and goes really nowhere. good effort and reads well as a thriller but form and content don't work together in the way i think they do in Infinite Jest.
 

version

Who loves ya, baby?
I think using actual stuff from the internet seems trite partly because it's superficial and partly because people like Burroughs, Gaddis and Pynchon nailed how the internet feels and what it does to us decades before it really existed in its current form.
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
good call on the choose your own adventure books, they had some funny tricks in them too. there was one with an entry that no other entry led to. it seemed to suggest you were about to win the game, and sent you to another entry which bollocked you for cheating.
That's brilliant!
I wasn't the first to make that comparison by a long chalk I have to admit.

I think using actual stuff from the internet seems trite partly because it's superficial and partly because people like Burroughs, Gaddis and Pynchon nailed how the internet feels and what it does to us decades before it really existed in its current form.
Yes maybe true but also more simply, why read a book that simulates the internet when you have the internet?
I mean some books are like films but they can work cos you imagine the characters and locations etc how you imagine, that's why film adaptations are almost always disappointing. I can't think of one advantage that a pseudo-internet book has over the internet.
 

version

Who loves ya, baby?
No society has ever known enough about its actions to have developed immunity to its new extensions or technologies. Today we have begun to sense that art may be able to provide such immunity.

In the history of human culture there is no example of a conscious adjustment of the various factors of personal and social life to new extensions except in the puny and peripheral efforts of artists. The artist picks up the message of cultural and technological challenge decades before its transformative impact occurs. He, then, builds models or Noah's arks for facing the change that is at hand. "The war of 1870 need never have been fought had people read my Sentimental Education," said Gustav Flaubert.

It is this aspect of new art that Kenneth Galbraith recommends to the careful study of businessmen who want to stay in business. For in the electric age there is no longer any sense in talking about the artist's being ahead of his time.. Our technology is, also, ahead of its time, if we reckon by the ability to recognize it for what it is. To prevent undue wreckage in society, the artist tends now to move from the ivory tower to the control tower of society. Just as higher education is no longer a frill or luxury but a stark need of production and operation design in the electric age, so the artist is indispensable in the shaping and analysis and understanding of the life of forms, and structures created by electric technology.

The percussed victims of the new technology have invariably muttered clichés about the impracticality of artists and their fanciful preferences. But in the past century it has come to be generally acknowledged that, in the words of Wyndham Lewis, "The artist is always engaged in writing a detailed history of the future because he is the only person aware of the nature of the present." Knowledge of this simple fact is now needed for human survival. The ability of the artist to sidestep the bully blow of new technology of any age, and to parry such violence with full awareness, is age-old. Equally age-old is the inability of its percussed victims, who cannot sidestep the new violence, to recognize their need of the artist. To reward and make celebrities of artists can, also, be a way of ignoring their prophetic work, and preventing its timely use for survival. The artist is the man in any field, scientific or humanistic, who grasps the implications of his actions and of new knowledge in his own time. He is the man of integral awareness.

-- Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man
 

version

Who loves ya, baby?
Yes maybe true but also more simply, why read a book that simulates the internet when you have the internet?
I mean some books are like films but they can work cos you imagine the characters and locations etc how you imagine, that's why film adaptations are almost always disappointing. I can't think of one advantage that a pseudo-internet book has over the internet.
I reckon you have to do something only a book can do but which taps into what the internet does and is. The advantage a book has, imo, is it forces you to work with it. You can read things online which require a similar commitment but the other media on there are constantly nagging at you in a way that's a few steps removed when you're reading a book.
 
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