Do Today’s Lit Scenes Represent You?

Internet Culture Reading
I picked up the New York Times Book Review this weekend. This is a better issue than most, featuring David Foster Wallace writing about Jorge Luis Borges and Jay McInerney reviewing Jonathan Lethem. A nice break from the Book Review's trend of giving political and sociological books more coverage than fiction and poetry.

Still, though, my basic reaction when I pick up a new issue of the Book Review remains the same: this is what "they" are saying about today's literary scene. I can't say I feel represented by or included in the literary world view represented by the New York Times Book Review. The vision is too proper, too corporate, too triple-filtered.

Then, my daughter is reading the 2004 edition of Dave Eggers' "Best American Non-Required Reading". I read the 2003 edition and I had to admit it included some great writing. I have a feeling I'll like this edition too. I don't love Dave Eggers as a writer -- I get weary after a few pages of pure concentrated irony leavened with moments of occasional sincerity -- but I have a lot of respect for him as an editor. I guess I feel somewhat included in the type of lit scene this book represents.

When I go to a live poetry show, either as a participant or an audience member, I usually feel energized by the poets on stage. But poetry readings tend to be frenetic and highly personal gatherings, which disturbs the inner autistic in me, and I often have a good time but leave these places feeling exhausted and drained. I guess I feel represented by the live poetry scene, even when it annoys the hell out of me.

In the end, the only place I really feel I can connect with others who share a vision of what fiction and poetry can mean to an individual and in the world is right here on LitKicks. But that's just me. I'd like to know what current literary scenes you feel personally connected to, if any.
33 Responses to "Do Today’s Lit Scenes Represent You?"

by Alexanderdeathpart2 on

What is today's scene?I don't know what today's lit scene is ... is it the New York Times bestseller list? I guess. I don't read the New York Times. I don't read the newspaper. I'm still stuck 50 years behind. But I was not alive then. I like the 'get as many kicks as you can' philosophy of life. My girlfriend eats a salad and I eat a steak soaked in lard. I see all the popular reading as this self-help stuff, like doctor Phil's books; I think that is crap. But I like the idea that I have to look a bit for what I like. New and exciting fiction is out there. And I have not heard of one of those writers you mentioned, but now I will take a gander in the book stores.

by jota on

Rathskeller rat cellarThere are few places anymore where I feel like I truly belong. The world has indeed turned and turned upside down again for the next four years.These days, I can't even read the newspapers, not even the arts and style and entertainment section.Literature, like chivalry, is not dead, but it is dying. Long ago, I used to be a copyboy at the Times. I learned firsthand what the place was really like and the hacks who just did their jobs there. Sad, so sad, to see the G Lady all gone to scheisskopf.So back then even then I left in disgust and moved 3,000 miles away.After last week, we're all subteranneans now. My notes from the underground are putting me at risk.I'm waiting for the winter to be over. Then, I plan on waking up from hibernating so I can fly north.If it wasn't for Litkicks, I would not be the person I have become.Thank you, and hold on, the cavalry is coming, and coming on strong.

by brooklyn on

Well said, Jota ...I hope it's true that we're all subterraneans now. I guess the question is, what can literature do to help? Maybe that's a LitKicks question in itself.

by judih. on

From over here, I see a different focus: our molehill needs to become a mountain.Our voices need to band together; coalesce into decibels impossible to squelch. Our topographical impulses must interlink and stand in undeniable force.Can literature be the binding element? Perhaps. But not as single monologues looped in a thread. Only in open active discussion, words considered and hearts tuned to pure essential hope, can we create a new sound that disrupts the white noise of mediocrity.Give me jazz in literature. Open the door to action poetry, where the inner voice awakens the sweet sound of creation.

by Andeh on

None, SwimmingI don't "feel" personally tied to any particular scene. And I never did. I feel affinity towards many scenes come and gone. Beat, Victorian, postmodern, etc. One is not the same person one was ten years ago. And so it is with writing. As you get older you write about different things, as you learn. The scene? It's those who are not getting published. For they are not following trends. Those who write from the heart. Some get published. If you go to a party with 100 people, you will not be completely satisfied. For not everyone will be exactly like you. There's always an emphasis on being "unique" in writing. Yet, does it get rewarded? How many books would be on the market if it weren't for advice, fads, relationships gone wrong or creative writing? Hmm ...I always find myself reading stuff that most others don't like. I don't read much literary books anymore. I enjoy learning from other people, and seeing other writing styles, though I won't write like that, I learn from it. I haven't been to a poetry scene in almost ten to fifteen years. I thought it mostly died in the 90's. Listen carefully. This writing scene is changing. Either roll with the wave or get swept under the crest. Or ignore it and bury your head in the sand. I am fighting writing everyday, I want to get away from it but it draws me back time to time.

by WIREMAN on

Yes Judih, bang that nail on the head, it's the Action Poetry that is the key, our link with pure originality. The only way to find a brand new day, original words tapped out upon thin cyber space air, like darts finding those that will dare, thus creating a wave, that just might save the day.

by WIREMAN on

Action Poetry is the keyIn my humble estimation I have this to say about great movements, when yer in the middle of it you don't even know it. I remember being part of the Madams Organ scene in D.C. back in 1979-82, and the birth of the now legendary Bad Brains, when we just got with the flow and let it go, one old hipster named Minor always saying, "these are the good old days!", and they were. I've been lucky enough to have been there for some of the best days. My opinion about the literary scene is that we are poetic pioneers and by sticking to our path we are creating something out here in cyberspace that will last. It is the doing that's the thing, the real dream, being an artist, creating movements. Coining names for these movements is for the writers and the critics of the future. Right "NOW", by being Action Poets we are laying that foundation. This is my sincere belief, enough said.Levi, you also brought up some interesting thoughts on performing. I have to agree with you about the drain and exhaustion after a read. There is no amount of physical labor that can equal it. I also feel that it is through the use of the live poetry reading that I, for one, have developed a more spontaneous approach to my writing. Being live and delivering words on stage allows me to feast on being alive, up there on stage and alive.

by judih. on

act oneaction is acting as onein the uproar of communitynew ways are forgedminds closed open into unknownslove starts to flowin sweeps of trustas hearts linkWe, poets, action-Onepoint a way to a wider roada faster synca tongue that speaks group talkin solo profusionbouncing from one to the otheract onewrites itselfwe, the infinite play,perform for the infinite audience

by WIREMAN on

Yes judih, and the jam is the key that unlocks this group "be". We are the voice of a vanguard that is moving past political and social boundaries, to a united states of grace and love for all human kind. The poets words lead the way, because it is the voice of inner peace and comforting sanity.

by judih. on

It's jazz. It's now. (If you have to ask what it is, you'll never know - so said Louis Armstrong)The most current literary scene is that of the present moment.It's energizing, it's a high, and then it's the aftermath. Words pouring through us resonating in the minds of others and inspiring word-responses - this is the scene of Now.Remember the story of the student who transcribed a Charlie Parker solo and showed it to him afterwards. Parker looked on in amazement - "I did that?" (he said in more or less those words).So it is with live action poetry - it happens without repression or affectation - it's pure expression.Can't get much more Now than that.

by Billectric on

Nowhere and EverywhereSome of you know how I always like to picture things to illustrate my ideas. Let's picture a train, on a track, with maybe ten freight cars, and each car is hauling rocks, iron ore, dirt, and a small amount of gold nuggets. Some people see things like this: One car is almost full of gold nuggets and the rest are loaded with nothing but the stony hodge-podge filler. Maybe one other car has a little gold in it that got there by accident. The way I look at it is, almost every freight car on the train has some gold in. Some gold is filtered down to the bottom from constant shaking; some is scattered throughout the load, barely detectable due to its scarcity, and one or two cars have a lot of gold, but none contain only gold.We can find good literature almost anywhere, but obviously, we all have our favorite places to go prospecting. My life is somewhat of a dichotomy. I have a whole group of friends who come to my house for cook-outs, volleyball, and partying. Almost none of them read the books I read. A couple of them read pop thrillers & romances, or self-help books by Dr. Phil, some read nothing but People Magazine, the newspaper, or Car & Driver, and some rarely read at all. They are all intelligent people with gifts and talents I don't have; auto mechanics, electricians, hair stylists, business majors, cashiers, baseball coaches. I don't push my enthusiasm for Emerson, Thoreau, Poe, Burroughs, or Kerouac on them because, for the most part, they are just not into it. But that's ok. I have another group of friends who I've met at places like the Fuel Coffeehouse, Boomtown Caf

by Rog on

Bland and BlaseI don't feel today's prevalent literature represents me. There is a bland, blase mood to most journals and literary publications. There is too much emphasis on a clean, minimalistic, spare style, which leads to the hero worship of writers like Don DeLillo and Paul Auster and William Trevor and the legendary short-story-writing Gang of Alices (Alice Munro, Alice Quinn, Alice Adams, etc.). Too polite, too inbred. I want passion, guts, craziness, intensity. I hate to sound like a curmudgeon but I feel the contemporary lit scene is stuffy and lifeless, and it has nothing to do with what I am interested in as a reader.

by slog on

me I do not know any other writers in person except myself and most days that seems to be enough. I want to qualify the word 'writer' as being someone who has had at least one publication in anything from a letter to the editor or the a best seller on the New York Times list. It leaves a completely open set from novice to John Barth to Stephen King. That kind of vacua is huge. So in short, outside of my friend Barb who I will include merely because she made it into the same non-qualifying high school rag I have made it into a dozen times (oh yes, being a junior in high school and having the girls fight over if one of my poems was written over them or being the terror of my high school class for scrawling lines like "I am a sad egg with sad egg eyes a torrent of third trimester abortions within my empty mind..."). Just about anybody with a little determination and web access can meet this definition. Many people cannot even meet that definition. John Barth quipped that of his thousands of students only a few made major publications. The art of the scribe is a rare art. It is far easier to be successful CEO then it is to be a poet worth a damn. In poetry (or prose), it is the philosophy of the mind that dictates whether the artist can draw the reader into the nether worlds. A good CEO merely has to turn a profit. When you can measure the veracity of things with an objective empirical standpoint, one's job to critique the nature of the work given is very easy. To determine if a poem is doggerel or masterpiece is something not even Aristotle can provide corporeal definition. Yes, we can compare forms. An abba quatrain remains an abba quatrain and there are forms far more complicated than the one suggested. The advent of free form poetry, much to the displeasure of the classic critic, opens a thousand new ways to write. None of these is intrinsically superior to the next. I am sitting in the library of a small liberal arts school in northeast South Dakota. The only literary claim to fame (outside of my future fame, of course) is that Frank Baum once lived here and Hamlin Garland homesteaded a few miles north of this place. I'm sure everyone around me at one point or another has scrawled down a few lines of a story or piece of poetry, the question is, was this ever seen by others? Wendell Johnson once wrote at great length concerning the nature of the teaching of English and one point of his is both as concise as it is accurate. The whole of the creative instructors at places like this tend to kill good writing. They get exceedingly caught up in mechanics. Grammar is a very trifle point, if the substance is lacking, no amount of picking over split infinitives will change the general lack of ability of the given writer. I have seen this happen. Mediocre men of letters at small schools who in a forty-year career can claim one or two minor publications in journals or anthropologies do not interest me. Joe Gould amuses me far more. Wendell Johnson says, and I believe, that English professors kill good writing. I further add, as poetry is an egotistic art, this is a due result of their own failure in writing. What can I say about what literary scene I believe in? What sets me aside from all the other writers in South Dakota? Well, damn it! The answer is I was in the new Litkicks book, Action Poetry. No, really I simply do not believe I could find a single other twenty-five-year-old in South Dakota that has Gide's The Immoralist for supper, Plato's Charmides for breakfast and William James Some Problems of Philosophy for lunch. In short, I am an isolated bohemian out on the plains, who apparently is the subject of a murder investigation. That almost makes me kind of a scene. Outside of Litkicks and a few other web resources, I have no contact with other writers. I guess I don't read Palahniuk or Welsh so I am really not current with the movement or whatever. There are no poetry slams so I can't do that. I just have the wind. I don't have any blood on my hands, but like Tzara if I could destroy everything I probably would. I truly hate this place. Like being a murder suspect, being the only one who reads Gide does bring a certain perverse pleasure, but I cannot get the satisfaction that Russell mentions from reading a book to impress people because no one within my circle has any fucking clue what I am talking about. I believe in me. I don't care about the New York Times book review. I don't care if I'm in the next LitKicks Book (thanks for including me in Action Poetry). I want to get famous and die. Kerouac never had his books reviewed when he was living and when they were it was negative. I am a cult of my own personality. I dig it. I don't care about the outside world, because the outside world doesn't start until Minneapolis, and that is three hundred miles away.

by slog on

I tell you over and over and over again my friend you don't believe we are on the eve of destruction.I guess its been said before. Poetry cannot and will not be televised. The second coming of Christ will not be a poetry slam. The world is a fucked up place. I have no hope for the future. I owe many people money that I cannot repay. Everyday I turn on the TV and people talk about giving dollars to Christ. How can god be starving?It is really things like that the give the entire notion of a christian end of the world any creedence. People spending millions of dollars to keep the signal on the air. Why don't they do some actual good with all that money? Selling 'Christian' products is big money. What's next, a Jesus "dildo"?

by beatvibe on

The Big S"on the general prospect of getting down with it""Ask not whether the literary scene connects with you, but whether you connect with the literary scene." ~Leslie M

by Billectric on

Jota, the literary world will be infused with life-affirming vitality if and when you ever publish your book, Watertown.

by Billectric on

"Amorphous giant with tentacles " - good metaphor. Yeah, I like how you laid this all down, natural habitat*, etc. Tatibah, - Bill*esuoh ees

by slog on

i rarely read new authors. i guess i follow joyce carol oates sometimes i agree there is a profound sense of non-urgency in writing. like it just doesn't matter. gone is the beat generation and the lost generation. the problem is nobody reads anymore. it has become a curio being literate. which is strange as everyone has a college degree. isn'it ?

by warrenweappa on

two 900-pound gorillasPower also exists in the ways in which social orders are arranged. Foucault argues that being recognized as having knowledge is also a source of power, because it lets you speak authoritatively about what other people are, and why they are that way - Foucault does not see power as formal, but as the various methods that ingrain themselves by way of social institutions and the positing of a form of truth.The two are popular opinion and the NY Times Book Review and one could argue that one is the tail wagging the dog.I don't know that live poet scene and don't know about any scenes except where I'm living, and here, there is no scene. When I lived in Austin, the only real trendsetting place I ever was connected to, the scene was music and then changed to films because of some locals' success.That zeitgeist changes quickly and scenes come and go just like popular drugs.People still love page turning thrillers but they too are discerning readers, e.g., numerous books recycled as pulp paper.A writer's only commandment is to be honest and stay true to art.

by Glorious Amok on

GoldenThe problem is not in finding a place which represents me, the problem is that I have not yet given of the me which I most want to present.LitKicks is the place to be, it's the groove on which I ride, the sun under which I tan my hide ... all that's required is the exposure, and with a little time and care, enough clear days ... all will turn out golden.

by PhilipHarris on

"Shh, quietly watch the supplanted beast in its steel surroundings; look at the way it devours smaller independent presses and consumes riskless hikers to allow its stomachs inflation without the threat of indigestion - such a magnificent monster..."You gave a succinct representation of that ambiguous idea of the contemporary 'Literary Scene,' and stands well without addition, but yet certainly as you wrote of us being, "disadvantaged by perspective," it does not prevent myself from countless hours of hypothesizing; in addition to your speculations I'd throw in the renegade historian William T. Vollmann (a prolific and under-read author) and the relentless madman Jack Saunders with his faithful 'Buzzard Cult' (a prolific and un/der-published author.) (Also, a rediscovery of forgotten literary scribblers; William Gaddis, Ronald Firbank, Laurence Sterne...)And perhaps, to some degree, Literary Kicks has had a few jabs directing the stagger of the future scene, (potential hip college conversation could be, "Man, it's unbelievable, all those great writers together, just shootin' the shit, I wish I was born twenty years ago, when Litkicks was it.")[Eight more days, Nov. 16, and 'The Saddest Music...' is finally released to disc - I lost myself in the images fully the first time I saw the film, several (5-6) months ago, and ventured forth for continuous viewings. Guy Maddin is a trooper, a certain Buster Keaton boom to his step, with the symbolism of Chaplin, and a Dr. Caligari monocle, all mixed up in Fellini self-indulgence. Have you read his writings, 'From the Atelier Tovar'? Also, 'Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary' is innards-twisting, the hints of color, and the decayed camera style, gets my temperature up. David Lynch who?]"No one, not even my mother, suspected Weber to compose such a large mass of the entire sub-culture literary scene of the early Twenty First century, and O' what a scene, what a sight it was." Lester M

by slog on

Jota, your letter to new directions is about the only thing that gives me hope in poetry. you do realize that writing such a letter is likely to get a restraining order placed on your ass don't you? very clever. how can business be poetry?I guess Wallace Stevens was a business man by day, and Kafka an insurance worker but considering how difficult the former is and how hopeless the latter is it all makes sense. Why must we spend our days hating our lives?

by slog on

the litkicks book 'action poetry'all i know about literary scenes is that they have to be self important. self-importance is key. ask hemingway. ask tzara. ask me. oh wait i'm not quite in the same category as tzara or hemingway. fine, ask john barth. as much as I find him a hero i think he puts self-importance to the ultimate test. what is a literary scene? a group of authors pretending to important to the point where by some magic process of derrida they actually become important. ask kenneth burke. just don't ask me.

by Arcadia on

ScenesI don

by jcarman on

I understand about being linked with scenes past. I'm deeply involved in Beat writing but the scene is beyond me. Nor does the hip-hop trend grab me,nor slam, but there's threads through them all I value as well as things I hate. So it comes back to fighting the writing, as you said. The practice of writing and the inherent difficulties is the only real scene and the people that take it up are those to whom I feel connected. Lastly, being unfriendly to being in large groups, yet yearning to be heard, I connect in a place like this, or in quiet places filled with a small group of "golden ears" that hear.

by beatvibe on

Guy Maddin's From the Atelier Tovar... Who else writes film treatments with settings described like this?"It was a time when almost everyone wore a hat and flirted with each other's spouses over tinkling highballs at office parties.""...suicide spread like a rash over all of us. Suicide, alongside its kissing cousin, Assassination, was the great fad of those years...""Uniformed as double-agents, children garbed in the large and flaccid flesh once worn by mother and father, they remain, nonetheless, loyal to their earliest unspoken oaths."These are from Maddin's treatment for The Child Without Qualities, as published in Atelier Tovar. His complete script was published as Cowards Bend the Knee -- curious dialogue for what would eventually be a silent film.My girlfriend and I saw The Saddest Music in the World repeatedly during its short run. Sometimes, we were the only ones in the theater laughing. ("My skin is far too excitable for wool, I fear.") Other times, we were the only ones in the theater.Maddin's films definitely influence/inspire my writing. (The DVD for Maddin's classic, Tales from the Gimli Hospital, also includes his first short, The Dead Father. Hint, hint...)

by judih. on

I like your train analogy, Bill. Have always liked trains.Great way to move thought, along a track with time to let the rhythm permeate - switch cars when the body craves action to stimulate new views.Glad you've got a real life lit-mate to accompany you. My lit-mates are net-real, and I wouldn't wanna travel too far from their voices.This train's heading north for the winter - against the grain. May it always rub complacency the wrong way.Judih

by panta rhei on

InteractionI don't think there's a scene that represents me or that I represent in any way - where I feel at home, though, literally, spiritually, poetically, are these places where words, writings and thoughts are shared, where they wrestle, dance, fuse and make each other glow and flash by contrast and correspondence in constant motion.Litkicks has been such a place for me. Its openness and possibilities of interaction have made me grow and expand as a poet and writer and have offered me what is the prerequisite for any of my writing: the stimulation of souls and minds to connect with in multitudes of written ways.

by WIREMAN on

Panta, you have captured the essence of it all in that statement. LitKicks is the place for the connection to other writers and that connection spurs us all onward.

by judih. on

literary scene - the expression is so expansive when we think litkicks and the wonderful branches that have sprouted from this motherlode.litkicks is where i met you, anemone, and so many other great minds.this literary scene is a thriving beehive of vibrations and electric scrawls - a true shock treatment, explosive remedy to today's mediocrity.

by phunky_womyn on

Thunder Bay BluesThe literary scene in the bitter temperaments of Thunder Bay, Canada is withering along with its decaying population. As an isolated city, one would think that Thunder Bay would be booming with writers and poets on the brink of madness. Sadly, that is not the case. Those wild eyed poets who sit on the fermenting carpet in a corporate book store, pawing at the abundance of literary magazines lack the inspiration to form poetry groups as they admire the poetry collective in such publications. The lack of inspiration comes from the lack of interest boiling in the bodacious bellies of consumers who buy but fail to act. If it wasn't for self motivation and utter boldness the literary scene would be dead in places where poetry has very little significance. Perhaps this is the perspective of a poet who has found it hard to relate to any ounce of scene roaming beneath the dimly lit lamp posts.Another disappointing aspect of the literary scene in Thunder Bay is the lack of influence the English department of Lakehead University has on its students. There is very little effort on the department's behalf to inspire writers to create groups for discussion. Some teachers would make perfect mentors for emerging writers while others seem to clip the seedlings in the bud. Either or, the literary scene seems to be a big city thing and even then it fails to be promising. The academic scene is duller than a spoon and the laymen scene is lacks the touch of the individual as it is laced with the coolness of trendiness.

by shamatha on

Scenes vs. CommunitiesInevitably, there are going to be gatekeepers like the NYTBR, standing at the velvet rope, deciding who can and cannot get in.There is just so damn much information out there, so many damn people who think they can be writers, that the reader has to turn to someplace to filter it a bit. Reading a book is an investment, not like spending to hours at a movie or watching 15 minutes of a tv show to decide of you like it. Dave Eggers is just another filter, with different tastes, but surely there were hundreds of stories he didn't include that are probably worthy of being read.That's why there's Granta, the Paris Review, all the small presses, etc. Unfortunately, most will align themselves with one to the exclusion of the others, because the desire to belong to something is strong and scenes are the cliques we graduate to after high school and the first rule of scene-making is you're either with us or against us, and with everyone aligning into scenes, the scene-less get battered from all sides.Outside of those who have the charisma/money to create their own scene, eventually attracting enough followers to be a force, one is left to conform to one of the existing scenes if you ever want to get noticed. Going it alone is a rough road. I'd like to think that someplace like Litkicks is different. A bunch of people drawn together by a common interest in writing but with no theology like the self-referential, irony-drenched gospel of McSweeney's, or the formal MFA schooled propriety of the NYTBR. It's more a community, than a scene. The dress code less strict, the law more lax, the borders more porous.All writers need a support group, networking in writing is no different that in business. It never hurts to have someone talking you up at parties. (The right parties, of course) As long as you don't have to sacrifice to much of your identity to get in the door.

by Andeh on

Your thing about filters reminded me of fragrances. "If you like modern non-fiction, try Dave Eggers!" Anyway, it seems there are too much of the same things or too much work concentrated to too few writers on the market. There's more (writing out there.) As like reminding me of a certain music station that shows only certain artists. You know there are many other styles of music out there, and artists, it's just not being shown. Solution? Have a place where the writers are not "bad" not the "best" but alright, true to themself, maybe following a scene, maybe not. Real writers. I am warming up to edited writing as I get older, but it's always good to have a place where writing can be heard, without being 10 out of 1,000 pieces selected or considered "le cream de la crop" or what have you.