John Hodgmania

John Hodgman, in between being the "PC" in those Apple ads and his work on The Daily Show, is promoting the paperback of his book The Areas of My Expertise, which book I would probably praise, had I read it. To this end, Hodgman has put this video up on Amazon, which is damn funny, and created this magazine ad, which is a parody of this obscure George Plimpton ad for Itellivision from the 80's. The original ad, the fact of the parody and the parody itself are all three quite funny. A little less funny, but more poignant, is this address that Hodgman gave to a literary reading just after 9/11, published on McSweeney's in honor of the fifth anniversary last week.

Bonus: Also from McSweeney's, somewhat surreal new Mac ad ideas. (Remember, John Hodgman is the "PC Guy.")

Serialized Fiction

I really like the idea of serialized fiction. One of the appeals of TV and comics for me is coming back to the same characters and seeing what they're up to (and how they've changed). In other countries, such as China (and especially Hong Kong), serializing fiction in newspapers is still widespread, and created the cradle which gave birth to novelists such as Jin Yong. In Scotland, Alexander McCall Smith is getting credit for revitalizing serialization in newspapers here in the West. Personally, I'm looking forward to Michael Chabon's "Jews With Swords" serial upcoming in The New York Times Magazine. For now content yourselves with Jaime Hernandez' excellent La Maggie La Loca. (Jaime's Maggie and Hopey characters I've been following loyally for quite some time from their adventures in Love and Rockets. If you like La Maggie La Loca, go check those out.)

Ten Directives for Writers to Be Listened to or Ignored at a Reader's Peril

1.) Don't Collaborate on anything that you think you can maybe do on your own if you push yourself.

2.) There is a difference to be elucidated between the Ecclesiastic writer and the Ecstatic writer. This division has to do with the nature of fascination and Ecclesiastics and Ecstatics are cut from all cloths, exist in all classes, and perdure in all history. An Ecstatic is one who believes in the power of fascination to impart some sense of immediacy on the work. The Ecstatic believes that work must fascinate first. The Ecclesiastic is one who looks down his nose at immediacy and fascination. He is more concerned with doctrine and the nature of convention, and believes that the work of its own merit will draw the reader if the reader is worthy of the work. It is better to be an Ecstatic than an Ecclesiastic.

3.) There is a difference to be elucidated between Commerce and Art. This is a treacherous road to be negotiated by everyone; it is a slim bridge of rotten wood stretched over a chasm of peril at the bottom of which live the ghouls who write Kirk/Picard Slash Fiction. Particularly the ones where Kirk is the top. As if. Picard would totally make Kirk his bitch.

4.) Being in this for the money is gauche and gross. If you get lucky, realize how lucky you are. Don't act like a dick.

5.) Never describe yourself to someone you've just met as "a writer." You're only a writer when you're writing: you are the furthest from writing when you're standing in a bar trying to get people to think better of you than you deserve.

6.) Never write a list of directives for other writers when you're an unknown nobody still trying to get his first novel and first poetry collection published.

7.) Reports of the Death of the Author have been somewhat premature. It may seem sexy and French and cool enough to help you nail some nubile young grad students to be spending your time [writing doing] the kind of nonsense John Cage perfected in the early Sixties (PSSST! That's over FORTY years ago, hippy!) where "the reader has to be engaged in the creation of the meaning of the text because even the writer is always already the reader etc etc." But in 2006 Language poetry is what old people did before we were born, it's mostly boring, and you aren't cool enough anyway.

8.) When in doubt: What Would Uncle Ludwig Wittgenstein Do?

9.) The oft mentioned by me here Ron Silliman has a point when it comes to his School of Quietude vs. Post/Avant division. He's also spent the last twenty years writing a single, long, multi-volume poem. Which, while it's fine, is a little off kilter as far as projects go. So take stuff he says with a grain of salt. School of Quietude doesn't always mean bad just like Post/Avant doesn't always mean good. Sturgeon's law applies to both, it's just that in the School of Quietude's case, way more than the usual 90% of the stuff is crap.

10.) If you don't read anything other than Poets & Writers magazine, don't write. There are too many like that already. We don't need more in the club.

Kenneth Goldsmith and the Cult of Pretense & Boredom

The twentieth century began with a question about what art is. Artists like Duchamp, Tzara, Artaud, Beckett and Breton challenged conventional notions and forced audiences to examine a lot of pre-conceived notions about beauty and the value of the aesthetic. That's done now. It's time to move on. That now, in the early 21st century, people like Kenneth Goldsmith have come to the point where they have completely inverted prior valuations, to the point where boredom is what is aspired to, well, I find the tautological truth that what they're doing is completely uninteresting rather revealing.

Slow Down

I know there hasn't been an article this week, including Reading Versus Watching. I'm moving and JF Quackenbush is busy at work, so I think there's going to be a significant slow down until at least the end of the month.

Keep your RSS readers peeled, though...

What If Adolf Hitler were Doctor Strange?

Fun link this monday; from Russia, it's Hitler versus Stalin in a magical showdown alá 1970's Doctor Strange comics. Just click on each image to advance to the next.

Stalin Versus Hitler

Reading Versus Watching: Toward a New Aesthetic

What I really question is whole division between art and entertainment; fundamentally, I wonder why it has to be this way at all. Why can't literary novels be just as entertaining as genre novels? Why can't genre fiction have the depth and psychological sensitivity of literary fiction? Who made this division in the first place and why do so many people take its existence as gospel truth?

The Criticism of George Orwell

For a really fascinating read, one can find nothing better than Orwell's early essay "In Defence of the Novel," first published in 1936.

Note

Reading Versus Watching this week is being pushed to Wednesday because it is long and involved and brilliant and needs editing. However, we do have something else planned for you all today.