Friday, June 27, 2008

Sometimes I Pretend To Know What I'm Talking About

An interesting post on the Guardian Books Blog about independent writers and their lack of celebration. It is a good comparison - we celebrate independent filmmakers and independent musicians, but what about independent writers?

Most people I know have a very streamlined taste in literature. Which is odd as they may listen to Prurient, Six Organs, Pig Destroyer, or Pavement, but haven't gone much farther than Hemingway or Murakami. It assumed that people that seek out independent mediums practice a more free form of thought, one more challenging. So why not match your literary tastes to your musical ones? Not that there is anything conventional about the aforementioned writers. They invented the conventions. But why is the thin dude with a beard wearing a Pissed Jeans t shirt buying a Jhumpa Lahiri novel?
The writer of the blog post says it may be because of buyers in bookstores unsure of the product and confused by its mystery. This I think is true. It is hard to carry independent titles and often hard to sell them. So we leave it up to the reader then. But the books are there. You had to search out some esoteric website a copy of that sax/jazz/fuck 7", why not find something appropriate to read while listening to it.

I see poetry as more like indie rock, as it was conceived and practiced i th 80's and 90's, than anything else. It is embodies an independent aesthetic more than the "indie rock" we buy today.
It is small and deliberate, often meant for a select crowd (but if it gets bigger, so be it, no love lost). It is intelligent and people operate on a DIY (I hate this moniker, someone please invent a synonym) aesthetic. It is hard not to take a shine towards the good works of Wave and Fence Books- the Matador and Drag City records of words - as well as the micro presses like Kitchen Press, Dancing Girl, Greying Ghost, et al. I see these things as inseparable to their survival.


Spencer Troxell said...

I think there can be an opposite problem for those of us who would explore the frayed edge of culture as opposed to merely absorbing the obvious stuff. I can see why the guy in the pissed jeans tshirt might want to read Lahiri. When you spend large amounts of time in the wilderness, sometimes it's nice to dive into something that reconnects you with the larger part of humanity. I don't know why literature would be the point of this reconvergence, but as a writer, I kind of like it.

Matt Walker said...

I operate on a DKNY aesthetic. Just kidding. Good blog. Part of the problem might be that young folks just don't think of books as their territory, the way they do with popular music, so they might be unaware that good literature is being made by other young folks just like them--the thought simply doesn't occur to them, so it doesn't occur to them to seek stuff out.

Brian Foley said...

Matt, I think you're right, but it is odd that with so many writing programs in this country, that people still believe books not to be their territory. But then, the pedagogy is probably the problem.

Spencer, I understand the want & need to connect the dots to other dots, but it is interesting to me people don't necessarily navigate on the same latitudes as their other interests. Personally, I think a lot more people who sway towards more independently represented art forms would feel more warmed & welcomed by a Sam Lipsyte novel then anything by Jhumpa Lahiri. Also, just because the distribution/ representation is small doesn't mean the message isn't populous.


music is easy 'art'

people can identify and arrange a persona based on taste with little to no work, simply wallpaper style

books you actually have to put your mind into

people are lazy/disinterested/dumb/etc

people want the persona of an artist w/o doing shit about it

Spencer Troxell said...

"Also, just because the distribution/ representation is small doesn't mean the message isn't populous."

good point.

Shane Jones said...

no one really cares

p said...

great post. i think its equal parts ignorance and just not giving a shit. or are those the same thing? anyway great post.