Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Chuck Richardson, “Generation Breakdown”

Chuck Richardson


* AVANT-POP: FICTION FOR A DAYDREAM NATION, edited by Larry McCaffery, Black Ice Books, 1993.

* PP/FF: AN ANTHOLOGY, edited by Peter Conners, Starcherone Books, 2006.

* 30 UNDER 30: AN ANTHOLOGY OF INNOVATIVE FICTION BY YOUNGER WRITERS, edited by Blake Butler and Lily Hoang, Starcherone Books, 2011.

The desire to generate pleasure makes falsification a fictional necessity, both in its reading and writing.

This falsification can feel like spraying graffiti on the perceived modes of narrative bound truth operating in the heart of most fictional activity. And, sometimes, it ends up repressing the strange, new and/or tense, favoring instead what it might prefer to consume, or deem beautiful, in its own oddly new-fangled, uneasy situation…falsely writing away in the margins.

So “generation breakdown” seams a double entendre meaning broken/breaking production and chronological/evolutionary brokenness. But reading and writing appear regardless, representing personal evolutions in human thought that are neither linear nor chronological in their private, lived-in experience. Chronology is simply not the way such reading-writing works. It’s not the way we actually make sense of things, which resembles tagging, categorization and ownership more than rational thinking. The universe is information and our nervous system automatically soaks it up. The truth is nonsense, but reason seams to seem true.

So most readers want some sense of how things seem to be unfolding over time. They want to observe a particle-wavelength order amid the chaos, and I might be one of them. I like making believe the whole of life is a narrative slipstream and I’m just sluicing away...another psychic mutation voicing his evolving web of things…vibrating.

Accordingly, I’ve decided to adhere to a loose chronology, imagining the realities experienced in these un-commercial, unconsumed and mostly ignored delicacies of pioneering guerilla fiction. I wanted to catch a glimpse of their overall story, their imaginary development, and try to see the fiction of their nature rather than the nature of their fiction. I wanted to feel something odd, fresh and edgy from somewhere beyond myself.

I chose these three texts because each in its own way promises a variety of exciting and bizarre forms that seem to replace ethics with aesthetics.  I also believe they show the overall condition of seriously playful fiction in an increasingly conservative and therefore oppressive and repressive United States over the last 20 years, or generation [I think, however, we might be witnessing the return of the repressed in the OWS movement, which seems to be riding huge uncanny waves]. A hundred years from now, all these authors will be considered contemporaries. It might then be noted that the women were better writers than the men, though there were fewer of them represented, and a rather small number of anthologized minority writers, considering the alienation apparently shared by most of those included. This, of course, might be a valid, even necessary topic for some future review.

But nonetheless, let’s start at the “beginning.” In his introduction to Avant-Pop: Fiction for a Daydream Nation, Larry McCaffery writes that Kathy Acker refers to deconstruction as “decuntsrtuction.” Acker was, in my opinion, the most important American fiction writer of the 1980s-90s. I spell construction “cuntstruction” to conjure up her rebel spirit, hopefully sucking it into this uncertain, frustrated criticism.

The principles governing fictional cuntstructions are always philosophical on some level. By “philosophical” I mean the adequate writer takes into consideration each element of her fiction, selecting it and de-selecting it according to what makes sense in the particular situation, which is the present cuntstruction, the one enabling the current cuntition of things as one perceives them occurring out there on the page. And the framework in which all this occurs, the system making it all possible, seems the individual reader-writer’s imagined “philosophy,” or system of thinking. In this way an imagined philosophy becomes an ideology becoming a grammar, which is to say a “fiction” revealing how it feels describing what one thinks is happening—conveying some idiomatic apocalypse, perhaps.

That’s not to say all fiction is philosophical, only that all adequate fiction has a philosophical dimension in its emergence as a poetic object. And that object, if it’s fictional as opposed to nonfictional re: pretensions about factuality, has an apocalyptic or revelatory function in the reading-writing mind.

It also seems to me that passable art might be unavoidably political at such a revolutionary moment in human evolution, especially if one feels, as Raoul Vaneigem did in 1968, that “We are living under a permanent curfew. Not just the cops—the geometry.”[i]

And from where I’m sitting, r/evolution—philosophical and political—is, perhaps, where it’s at these days for playfully serious art in any genre or form.


One might say the whole of Larry McCaffery’s fiction for a daydream nation is something of a schizoid-tantric response to late-stage capitalism that’s striving for something, sometimes anything, via orgasm, jouissance or “psychic orgasm” in particular.[ii]

AVANT-POP has been an underground, countercultural icon at the edge of the “literary” world since its publication by Black Ice Books in 1993.

Earlier examples of the genre might include Donald Barthelme’s Snow White, Robert Coover’s The Burning Game and Ishmael Reed’s Mumbo Jumbo.

What makes a work fall into the avant-pop genre is its appropriation and recontextualization of pop culture icons to disturb the aesthetic sensibilities of the at-large culture.

Following in the footsteps of the Civil Rights and peace movements of the 1960s, avant-pop writers sought to alter the rules of ordinary conduct and public deportment through diverse methods, using all the required literary means. Consider…


This authoritarian, calculated and quantified shape of things is the focus of Acker’s “Politics.”[iii] Why does she use what punctuation she does? What does her apostrophe mean? The period, why does she use it so sparsely?

Acker’s text requires that the reader control the flow and rhythm of language for herself:

…every male’s a pimp in this cruddy society caters to his lousy moneyed disease you get fed it from birth and can’t get away except by severe disruption…[iv]

…no one else thinks like this anymore I say angelic I’m sick of fucking not knowing who I am.[v]

Those are the last lines. The narrator doesn’t know who she is; she knows her price for fucking, but not its value. The narrator’s value, or meaning, relates to her identity and interests, which are inherently political and wrapped up in the absented grammars and dictions of the language she speaks. Ultimately, the narrator seems to seek her soul beyond the merely human world in things she can’t omit, objects unlike commas that can’t find representation on the page.

What are the political aspects and scales of language and power, diction and grammar…and how can we fuck with them to become ourselves? What does it mean to subvert the norm on the “sentence level” the way Acker does?

Ishmael Reed does it in Mumbo Jumbo [vi]—“This is a psychic epidemic…This belongs under some ancient Demonic Theory of Disease…“ … “‘Jes Grew is the boll weevil eating away at the fabric of our forms  our technique  our aesthetic integrity,’ says a Southern congressman. ‘1 must ponder effect of Jew Grew upon 2,000 years of civilization,’ Calvinist editorial writers wonder aloud.’”[vii]

No typos there. The absenting of commas in the list is the “showing” of the “boll weevil eating away at the fabric of our forms”…and the Calvinist writers are “wondering aloud,” not writing, so they’re making Freudian slips, showing the uncanny, the return of the repressed, as a form of Jes Grew occupying its own space.

Acker similarly wants to subvert the very forms of language by seeking out the “romantic” worthwhile in a throwaway pornographic world. 

She makes political significance of the rare period, equating its placement with money and death. She minimizes the period as a means of writing decently in an indecent world.[viii]


This revolution in beauty and war on ugliness involves challenging the way we view things while looking for new ways of sketching reality. That and the un-masochistic desire to not take this shit anymore.

The most interesting art rebels against routine and the authorities dependent upon it. So “The Elements of Style by The Marquis de Sade/Painstakingly Translated By Derek Pell” fascinates with its voluptuous advice.

Pell’s a master of puns and innuendo, the gist being that style and grammar are “sadistic” [and fun].

This excerpt, from a short and very rare book published by Permeable Press, intended as a satire of Strunk & White’s Elements of Style, is beautifully and amusingly illustrated as if it were made in Sade’s time [by someone who ate moldy bread, perhaps[ix].

The advice is solid and funny:

…a title should never exceed the length of the author’s penis [I wonder if Pell followed this rule? If so, I’m impressed by his ruler].

Vir-tu-ous.”  Might mean ‘objectionable,’ ‘disconcerting,’ ‘distasteful.’ Select instead a word whose meaning is clear:  frig-id.

Dead meat. Sometimes means ‘blind date.’

Avoid the use of qualifiers. Rather, very, little, pretty—these are the leeches that infest the pond of prose, sucking the blood of words.

Do not explain too much[x]


Another point of fiction is to make our experience of life more intensely involved with the life of the world soul. And in the hands of Eurudice, that can be as humorous as it is terrifying.

In “Once Upon A Real Woman,” she writes of bereaved Ela, whose “cunt” has “ran away,” and who “needs the energy of a crowd.”[xi] Ela goes out on the town and gets picked up by a large lesbian with stubby fingers who takes her home. Each has their first orgasm in some time.

Eurudice, through gorgeously written prose, relays the strange relationship between these [apparently] two lesbians:

…with breasts bulky and hard like grapefruit… At once Ela drops her silver head face down into the stranger’s stupendous cleavage and wonders if she could actually manage to decuntate such a huge woman.

The firelight flares in her big eyes, and they in turn flare in the mirror. She is stunned by the unworldly flowerlike youth that looks back at her, animated with shrill pleasure like a choking girl on a rollercoaster. She suddenly resembles her cunt. A new thought blazes through her mind: ‘Am I my own lost cunt?’ The fire blazes up. Ela wants to jump in it…Meanwhile, in the same city, her cunt is flooding the world market, oblivious to Ela’s complex predicament.[xii]

The gender-twisting, huge-clitted, big-ass lesbian who picks Ela up goes by some 35 names, all ending with the letter “a:” Proserpina, Desdemona, Aspasia, Hecuba, Beiruta, Hilda, Wanda, Cassandra, Great Barbarella, Imelda, Hedda, Mata, Leona, Thelma, Zsa Zsa, Charlotta, Sandra, Renata, Vanna, Aglaia, Lola, Oprah, Aretha, Ofra, Isadora, Acapella, Yalta, Belinda, Matilda, Malta, Ida, Paola, Luella, Lucinda, and Helena.

It seems to me Eurudice has penned an onanistic tale of a possibly tantric sex experience that Ela has with her self—her schizoid lesbian szygy working its way into being her singular identity [a singularity of self] called “Ela.”[xiii]

“Once Upon A Real Woman” reads like something of a sexual mythology responding to contemporary changing gender models, showing the dream-state experience of sex in a hyper-evolutionary phase…what a Tibetan Buddhist might call “natural liberation” via orgasm.


One writer worthy of greater representation than he gets here is William T. Vollmann, whose “San Diego, California, U.S.A. (1988)” places nature at the center of the narrative.

Nature, not a human individual’s libido, seems the core of identity. The fact one is an Earthling trumps race, class and/or gender as the source and root of one’s being. Looked at from the standpoint of genetics, this seems irrefutable.

Various word-beings or characters representing human beings fail to hear their own voices and are, therefore, disobedient to their deepest selves.

By not hearing Nature—be-ing dis-obeir [xiv]—by placing one’s self both at the core and rim of the wheel, staining all the spokes in between with one’s me-ness—with civilization—with wildness forming against you beyond every boundary, informing every frontier within and without via every imagination...projections manifesting actualities mingling voices forming Nature—hearing and unhearing, speaking and unspeaking—where the narrator not only struggles with his aggressive tendencies against civilization, but also his suburban existence, which consistently provokes his violence against himself…Nature….and it.

But also, inexplicably, his desire to murder others of other species expands his homicidal urges into the whole of Nature—the entire universe—leaving us to ask what the killer’s limit is? Or, better, what’s the new city line? Where’s it sprawling to now? Over what new domains is it—civilization—claiming control? And, finally, could it exist in Nature if it were unnatural? Is this a natural effect of things as they are? Is this what we can expect from life?

Are we entropy?

In the words of Dirty Harry: “A good man’s got to know his limitations.”[xv]


One of the defining voices of Avant-Pop and PP/FF is self-described “literary terrorist” Harold Jaffe, who expresses the disruptive method this way: “…find a seam, plant a mine, and slip away…”[xvi]

In Avant-Pop’s “Sex Guerillas,” Jaffe describes a squad or cell of “sex guerillas” that meet daily for themed group sex.

For instance, on “Tough Tiddy Thursday” the narrator meets “s/he” in a hotel lobby and has sex in a public elevator. Other days include “Furry Fisted Friday” and “Mambo Hipped Monday” where Uno, Dos, Tres, Quatro, Cinco, Seis—the participants are numbered, not named—meet at Wells Fargo bank at noon, stand together in a long queue, and feel and grind each other up until they’re tossed out by the bank guards.

Jaffe uses a first-person present-tense voice—a narrator named “Dos” who likes tattoos—to re-present a daisy chain of events, an accumulation of acts and characters that consistently forces the establishment’s authoritarian hand by planned artfuck attacks every day:

One gang sprays on a stanchion, competing gang sprays on a billboard. Media compare them to animals scenting territory. Well, what do you think art is?…TV claims we’re black and brown males, gangbangers, child abusers, drug abusers, but that’s a lie. We’re females, males, in-betweens, all colors…The mind police are beside themselves…TV can’t report it ‘live’ because everyone and their mom is nekkid.[xvii]

It seems that, perhaps, according to Jaffe, art=sex=rebellion=literary/sexual terrorism. In his infamous mantra, quoted above, the “seam” seems the perceived spatial mechanism between the spectacle of popular culture and the life we actually experience as private individual human beings.

I think it’s what weaves and stitches together that membrane between the apparent singularity that seems “me” and the schizophrenia that seems everything else—two or more totally different dimensions, scales and/or aspects.[xviii]

It seems to me the suture binding black American skin to white American skin, sewing together the paranoia of the powerful to the paranoia of the weak, where each sadly finds out they were right about the other, and how their correctness only exacerbates the gaping wound left by Eros’ struggle against Thanatos, the will to live in the face of ever-impending death, the wound wanting stitches/sutures/sutras to form their tantric weave…an Arabesque carpet to fly away on.

Jaffe’s still at it 13 years later in PP/FF’s “Clown,” where an untrustworthy narrator, “captivated by extremity” [sex-crime serial killers in particular], recounts his relationship with John Wayne Gacy.

The narrator’s so dishonest and amoral one almost feels sorry for Gacy, almost as if it were punishment enough that serial killers attract these kinds of people. It’s the narrator’s depravity we see, not Gacy’s. The narrator basically gets off being a cock tease for the fat pathetic prisoner.

Jaffe’s “seam” in this case ties the guilt of the convicted to the guilt of those who are fascinated by them. The mine planted in the space between, in the gaping wound, seems the dishonest relationship the narrator starts with the condemned man. He slips away days before Gacy’s execution, leaving him all hot and bothered, and refuses to return his calls.


The seam, detonated by the narrator’s hostility, feels every bit as twisted as Gacy’s line of reasoning. What’s uplifting about it seems Jaffe’s ability to get inside the perverse dishonesty that captivates many human minds and reveal it, as honestly as possible, through a narrator whose voice leaves lingering doubts about one’s apprehension of the situation, which end up feeling like pieces of unexploded psychic ordinance. 


I also highly recommend Jaffe’s Straight Razor, a collection of stories from Black Ice Books with “visuals” by Norman Conquest; and Beyond the Techno-Cave: A Guide to Post-Millennial Culture, from Starcherone, which exposes the estranged and violated elements of society and their methods of going beyond their tense conditions toward something conversant with actual autonomy…where the self might value its self in new ways, perhaps…

Or not.


As things increasingly take shape in forms created by machines designed by others operating on alien motives [things like grammar and script],[xix] the necessity for overtly philosophical yet flirtatious, irrational texts rises [rather than going down as one might imagine].

For such texts to be possible, reason must regulate the vast surging ocean of data and intelligence that’s at everyone’s fingertips.

I think of “Falling Moon, Rising Stars” by Christine Boyka Kluge, which is one of my favorite pieces here for the way the author’s subconscious seems lucidly rendered to make terrifying sense.[xx]

Consider these from Kluge’s “Falling…:”

…Three other human polliwogs follow a beam of light to a lozenge-shaped hole in the sky. My babies!…Alice lies on her back in her sticky tarp in her strange backyard, looking up at where her miracle quints have vanished, zipped up in the twinkling night like five lost stars … Like a Portuguese man-of-war, the placenta glides over the fertile soil, releasing eggs to merge with the sprouting seeds. Then it sinks into the teeming ground, absorbed like summer rain … He [her alleged 18-year-old boyfriend, Alban] places [his brain] on the awakening soil. Pulsating vessels descend from [it] like pewter hoses, spouting blinding light. He lets his life run out in rivulets of brilliance, down into his sacred garden. There it flows to feed the planted constellation of his hungry, starry-eyed children, the true reason for his visit to Earth, for his one hundred year residency in an eighteen year old body, adolescent flesh guided by hormones. He is exhausted, extinguished by interplanetary passion and obsessive love.[xxi]

Kluge seems to show how a kind of Panspermia might work in a biocentric narrative. Pitting the impregnation of an 80-year-old woman within the impregnation of the planet dramatizes the scales and degrees of the biosphere’s living operations as they re-make each other on cosmic scales via frictive-transgressive activities that permeate one into the other, higher into lower, narrower into wider by varying degrees of organisms forever self-replicating into elsewhere, etc. & et al, getting ickier and stickier as they go.
Daryl Scroggins’ masterful “Prairie Shapes (A Flash Novel),” seems to paint the picture of the possibility of an infinitely compassionate universe.

Heartbreakingly beautiful, its theme seems manifold and systemic: two artists whose hearts are drawn to beauty live in a cycle of eternal recurrence, where genetic memory seeps into their art like wistful de ja vus, leading them toward each other then pulling them apart.

Here, topicality isn’t so much taboo, as Conners suggests in his introduction, as ignored, which means choices were made in its formation that were inherently sur-econmical [xxii] and philosophical:

Scratches on a wooden calendar showed the woman’s birthday was near, and the man had nothing to give her that was not already hers. She laughed when he asked her what she liked that she didn’t have. She told him there was nothing she didn’t have. And when he pressed her she laughed and said she wanted knowledge of what the hawk sees. She wanted colors that produced a reliable sound. And she wanted a bowl of shaved ice, dark with the juice of blackberries.[xxiii]

Spoiler Alert: He dies trying to get her birthday present, and the love starts all over again…I think.

That’s my conclusion, anyway. Call me a romantic.


For the most part, however, William Gass’s question of what the world would be like if people could respect each other the way I’m respecting this sentence’s composition, remains unanswered.

Cultural demolition artists and poet-guerillas like Kent Johnson serve up the apocalypse of our fundamental ignorance in “Lyric Poetry After Auschwitz, or ‘Get the Hood Back On.’”

Johnson performs corrective, satirical surgery on the pretentions of patriotic soldiers fighting for America, and knows how to wipe the smirk off a gung-ho volunteer’s face.

“Lyric Poetry…” gradually exposes the cruelty of so-called decent American torturers, the fat, smug everyday faces of horror. As the uncomfortable truth unfolds we discover no one seems immune from the disease of our national sins, that even poets, especially the kind supported by the Poetry Foundation[xxiv], perhaps, may find themselves situated as Johnson’s target.

Poets may not drive [xxv], but they do volunteer to go to war and commit atrocities on some level like all the other volunteers.

The final paragraph begins: “Hi there, Madid, I’m an American poet …and I know I live quite nicely off the fruits of a dying imperium.”

Poetry in service to the nation, which is to say politics rather than beauty, is complicit in the crime: “I’m going to box your ears with two big books of poems… poetry is hard, and people go up in flames for lack of it every day…I want you to take this self-righteous poem, soak it in this bedpan of crude oil, and shove it down your pleading, screaming throat.”[xxvi]

“Lyric Poetry’s” essence seems a zeitgeist with a decidedly dark undercurrent.

30 UNDER 30

If it’s not too far a stretch to move from Sade and Abu Ghraib to the problem of being young and powerless [like a 23-year-old Lynndie England, perhaps?], consider Danielle Adaire’s excerpt, from Selma, in which the amorphous and confusing educated middle class journey from grad school to group home, from student-teacher to consumer-patient, is documented in such a way that England’s journey from a selective-mute aspiring storm-chaser and West Virginia trailer park ingénue to Babylonian torturess can pop to mind, and then, of course, Justine.[xxvii]
Adaire’s narrator bares the shortcomings of language via diary entries: “The more I read the more I feel indicted by my convictions” that we are “patients” not “consumers,” nonetheless acutely impotent except for the expression, via fiction, of unsaid powerlessness.

Adaire’s narrator expresses, like Justine [aka Therese] a certain ennui regarding ambition, perhaps in light of a lurking future hiding just around the corner that suggests everything will work out regardless of her status, so everything’s good for today. Lynndie, on the other hand, was also bored, but ambitious. The future she saw was more uncertain. Rather than writing about it, she went to war.

There seems a kind of strength, however, in each kind of naiveté. Is it masochism that Adaire’s dealing with? Is sadism Lynndie’s thing? Imagine if we could, as Gass suggests, “adore one another the way the poet adores his words or the painter his colors”…deleting and scratching each other out at will…seeking a final solution to the forms we seek, perhaps not knowing what we’re doing…being Lynndie England or Danielle Adair’s narrator or any “younger” person unprepared for the situation they perceive themselves in.

The difference, of course, is the direction of their respective journeys. England, ironically, seems on a similar journey to the avant-popers and pp/ffers in that her actions are directed outward. Adaire, like many of her contemporaries, works inward.

I, too, wonder with Gass “what the astonishing result” would be if each movement, in whatever direction, was felt as a movement toward something more worthy than a flight from something less worthy.[xxviii] There may be a reason that, as I believe, most of us are born artists but culture, which seeks unity, kills the talent off.

It’s complicated, but in the end isn’t it best to simply have a loving heart and move forward from there?

I think all the writers in these three anthologies have loving hearts. The biggest difference is how they seem to respond to that love. The “younger” ones seem less adept at taking strength from what they love, as if they feel the times require more brains than heart.

I don’t know, but I feel that opinion’s somewhat wrong. We need more heart…and brains.


Matt Bell’s “Jumpman vs. the Ape” confronts nature in the form of his own rage, hatred and delusion, manifesting itself in the way he perhaps plays what seems like a video game, the imagined stakes making it real and meaningful:  An ape like King Kong has snatched his girlfriend and climbed to the top of a skyscraper that’s collapsing under the great ape’s tantrums.

Bell’s “hero’s journey”[xxix] is that each time he rescues his girlfriend she rejects him, he falls to the bottom, the game starts over, and it gets harder for him to climb to the top and save his girlfriend from his own hatred, anger and delusion manifesting itself as Kong, which he furiously destroys only to be rejected, once again, by his love interest…that which leads him on, and he “can’t help but feel like this is at least a little bit her fault” for giving the big Ape the wrong idea by being friendlier to him than she should have been. That makes him angry, and rightfully so.

Bell’s absurd piece is laugh out loud funny and philosophically and politically rebellious, but is it innovative?

It instantly reminded me of Sisyphus and the highly entertaining 2010 movie Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.[xxx]
Is he or any of these “younger” writers moving forward from the avant-pop rebelliousness of the 1970s to 90s and the genre-bending works of the last decade, or simply stunned and absorbed by the accelerating warp-speed of spatial change the whole connected world’s apparently experiencing? As artists are they taking a step back from or a step into their perceived situations? And if it’s the latter, what innovations are servicing their introversion? Could we ever see any of them hitting the streets? Or do they seem preoccupied by other things?

I don’t know. I’ll leave that for more judgmental readers to discern for themselves, but I will say the younger writers feel more conservative overall when reading them than their somewhat older colleagues. They seem less optimistic about the way things may eventually work themselves out. Who could blame them?

Or, maybe, they’re dealing with the fact it seems almost impossible to shock the sophisticated reader, who’s read, seen and heard just about everything by now. The old style literary terrorism doesn’t work anymore. Readers today seem immune to it thanks to having been inoculated some time ago.

What kind of R&D’s happening in the literary weapons department? The new form of guerilla warfare seems directed more at the system of self than the external culture. Could the idea of self-immolation be an effect of an alienating, introverted technology that had yet to emerge when “older” colleagues formed the earlier texts? Was the earlier, more extraverted and arguably relevant and effective fiction “better” because its “producers” were not shaped by their i-Phones? Does the difference in approach reflect the difference in the technology being used?

Is one way better than the other? Can this new strain of introversion prove as virulent as its extraverted ancestors? I may be going out on a limb, but I think the under 30-year-olds are accustomed to being “alone together” and together alone, allowing their gadgets to define the formation of ways they inter-relate with the world, prosthetically and vicariously. And if they’re not really used to it, they’re at least more open and prepared for it than some of their “older,” possibly more outwardly focused colleagues, or at least those whose writings seem to spotlight externalities and surfaces and such from whatever interior reality can be established. In the case of the “younger” writers, we seem to be starting with perceived surfaces and working inward.

And then again, as introverted as their writing may be, it’s more interconnected than ever, perhaps a thousand times more viral, potentially at least, than anything available to Acker and Jaffe even a decade or two ago.

The means by which we can write are changing so quickly it’s difficult to ensure we can read things properly. So, I just don’t know. I only have my opinions. It seems uncertainty’s more my thing than introverted-extraverted approaches to fiction, but I’m not too sure about that, either. Both feel useful, even necessary.

I think it all depends on the situation, which depends on how I perceive it all.


As I’ve suggested, it’s the general desire to serve and consume meat and potatoes, to feed the broadest range of people in order to make the most amount of money and increase the production-consumption-work rate, which these anthologies and the writers therein are trying to break down, or at least humanize.

It’s also something of a generational survey of how “innovative” writers are reflecting and effecting the rapidly changing realities of their times…or not.

So “generation breakdown” seems a double entendre that, in light of the current global political-economic situation, means broken production as well as a generational survey of living American weirdoes who write fiction to measure the ineffable drift of things as a way of revealing the fictionality of chronology, life’s apparent unfolding, the way one might discover the river’s water by getting wet and its direction by hopping a raft. Eventually, one arrives at the sea. The river doesn’t end, it explodes, and the old means of travel are no longer adequate.

The main thrust of all three compilations seems to me a potpourri of discontented identity politics and disobedience—dissing in general, come to think of it—which then seems to gel into a horrifying can of delightfully writhing, open-ended worms, spewing playfully all over the inadequacies of the cultures that brought them there.

But all said it seems the most relevant material in this survey might be the oldest. I think the Avant-Pop crew had the advantage of better understanding what it was they were up against. The editor, McCaffery, asks in an interview elsewhere: “…If you consider yourself a radical, dangerous, subversive artist, how do you do that in an age in which radicalism itself is so easily appropriated and recycled as ‘alternative’?”[xxxi]

I get the feeling that these “younger” writers, at least in the works anthologized here, have given up on this idea all together. Popular culture was until recently the main source of national myths, notions of identity and narrative archetypes.

But now it seems we’re entering a post-pop culture phase where traditional consumers and media may be collapsing, where large feedback loops are breaking apart and re-joining in to more but smaller feedback loops with greater potential, matching revolution with evolution so chaos can spar with entropy. The so-called “younger” writers’ works make sense to me in this context. If external reality does not function, move inward.

Coover, Barthelme, Burroughs, Acker, Jaffe and Reed, among others, recognized the importance of mass media’s ascendance to the creation of meaningful fiction, particularly American fiction. They weren’t afraid to go outside, look around and do something.

Who will be the writers that recognize the descent of mass media and probe its psychological effects? Who will be the ones that relay visions of a humane, post-external introverted world where we realize that information’s too big to be monopolized?

One can’t help but wonder what’s really next for paper fiction as forms of information keep evolving.

I think we need to find out.


TOPICS/TAGS: 30 Under 30, Kathy Acker, Danielle Adaire, Arabesque, Authoritarianism, Avant-Pop, Donald Barthelme, Matt Bell, Beyond The Techno-Cave: A Guerilla Writer’s Guide to Post-Millennial Culture, Black Ice Books, William S. Burroughs, Blake Butler, Joseph Campbell, Chaos Theory, Peter Conners, Norman Conquest, Robert Coover, Guy Debord, Deleuze and Guattari, Dirty Harry, Entropy, Eros and Thanatos, Eurudice, Evolution, John Wayne Gacy, William H. Gass, Grammar, Hero’s Journey, Lilly Hoang, Identity Politics, In The Penal Colony, Harold Jaffe, Kent Johnson, James Joyce, Justine, Franz Kafka, King Kong, Christina Boyka Kluge, Alexander Laurence, Magnum Force, Larry McCaffery, Monomyth, Mumbo Jumbo, Mythology, Panspermia, Derek Pell, Permeable Press, Philosophy, Politics, Pop Culture, PP/FF, Ishmael Reed, Revolution, Marquis de Sade, Schizoanalysis, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Daryl Scroggins, Situationism, Starcherone Books, Straight Razor, Strunk & White, Tibetan Buddhism, Raoul Vaneigam, William T. Vollmann

i. Vaneigem was a Situationist theoretician whose slogans were popularized in the 1968 Paris uprising. His best known book, The Revolution of Everyday Life, is a collection of these slogans.

ii. Raymond Federman said the best translation for what Roland Barthes means by “jouissance” in The Pleasure of the Text is “psychic orgasm.” He said this while introducing Barthes’ work at SUNY, Buffalo, autumn semester, 1993.

iii. I once saw Acker speak, and what I remember most about it was her fascination with Situationism and Spectacle and how William S. Burroughs was onto the same thing in his work many years prior to 1968.

iv. Avant-Pop, p. 161.

v. Ibid, p. 165.

vi. Mumbo Jumbo, Ishmael Reed, Scribner, 1972.

vii. Ibid, p. 5, 17.

viii. One of Acker’s primary concerns in her talk was the never ending search for new ways of “living decently in an indecent world.” Her writing was a reflection of her evolution and life. There seems very little space between signifier/signified in Acker’s fiction, in my opinion.

ix. See Ergot, a mold on rye-bread related to lisurgic acid, a key ingredient in LSD, that when consumed can cause hallucinations. The images here resemble 18th-Century pornographic cartoons, the kind that might be circulated in pamphlets.

x. Avant-Pop, pp. 49-81.

xi. Avant-Pop, p. 83.

xii. Ibid, p. 83, pp. 91-2.

xiii. In Chaosmosis, Guattari explains that schizoanalysis complicates and enriches the reading-writing process and/or method, moving it to a consistency of bifurcation and differentiation, seaming its way into an “ontological heterogeneity.”
xiv. Etymology for “obey:” late 13c., from O.Fr. obeir, from L. oboedire "obey, pay attention to, give ear," lit. "listen to," from ob "to" (see ob-) + audire "listen, hear" (see audience). Same sense development is in cognate O.E. hiersumnian. See

xv. What Dirty Harry repeats several times in the classic, Magnum Force. See

xvi. See Jaffe’s interview with Eckhard Gerdes at

xvii. Avant-Pop, p. 114, 119.

xviii. I think this somehow relates to Acker’s oft-stated desire to “explode the duality.” To be honest, I’m ambivalent about such a motive. It seems simultaneously disintegrationary and unifying. Each side becomes isolated, composing only itself. A new unity forms, but before long it loves itself so much it must replicate itself, knows another is needed for that to occur and a new integration forms. It’s all cycles and phases. Acker and her contemporaries seem to recognize the phase they’re in as requiring disintegration, and write accordingly, striving for decent language amidst all the babble.

xix. I think of Kafka’s apparatus in “The Penal Colony.”

xx. “Terrifying” in the way Burroughs’ Dr. Benway is terrifying—hilarious.

xxi. PP/FF, pp. 128-9.

xxii. The economy of economics.

xxiii. PP/FF, p. 66.

xxiv. Johnson’s son and another poet have been persecuted/prosecuted by the Lilly-endowed Poetry Foundation. See

xxv. From The Information by Martin Amis: "Poets don't drive. Never trust a poet who can drive. Never trust a poet at the wheel. If he can drive, distrust the poems ...," p. 3. Also see:,%20Martin%20-%20The%20Information%20(v1.0)_split_000.htm#_Toc34560419.

xxvi. PP/FF, p. 27.

xxvii. The full title is Justine, or The Misfortunes of Virtue. It’s the story of a young woman in pre-revolutionary France who goes by the pseudonym Therese. She tells her sordid long-suffering tale to her long lost sister to explain how she came to her terrible state, how she’s been repeatedly and thoroughly debauched by the pillars of society, etc.

xxviii. William H. Gass, Fiction and the Figures of Life, p. 287.

xxix. In The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell describes the hero’s journey in terms of Joyce’s “monomyth.” See

xxxi. See for a McCaffery interview with Alexander Laurence at AltX.


Chuck Richardson is the author of two novels, Smoke and So It Seams, and an e-book Dreamlands: 3 Fictions, all from BlazeVox[books].

RECONFIGURATIONS: A Journal for Poetics & Poetry / Literature & Culture,, ISSN: 1938-3592, Volume 5 (2011): Disappearance

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