I often imagine a point in the future where every possible expression of an idea has become a cliché. Even currently, an earnest expression has become sort of tired. The new sincerity already seems old. The ebooks of those associated with and deemed ‘alt lit’ could all be printed out and shuffled through, indiscernible from each other. The onslaught of content seems overwhelming and uninspiring. Gene McHugh writes:
One reason why it’s possible to spend that much time consuming media, is that there is now an effectively unlimited amount of instantaneously available, free media through which one may consume twenty-four hours a day as well as the devices through which one can execute this consumption. It becomes plausible to just sit and consume all day, popping from one interesting thing to another interesting thing to another — all of them different and equally interesting.
If everything is equally interesting then isn’t it all just boring?
And of course, this isn’t a new problem. Every movement becomes outmoded until there is enough distance from it to seem new again. It seems pretty obvious and basic.
Though, I can’t help but express my frustration, adding to the noise. I am trying to figure out what excites me about art, what excites me about the work that my peers are creating. Something that somehow fights against pretentiousness but doesn’t succumb to a laziness. Something that people care about, because really, it is asking a lot for someone to sit down and read a poem or a short story.
I was reading Honored Guest by Joy Williams at work and my co-worker approached me and asked what I was reading. I held up the book and said, ‘short stories.’ He considered the concept of short stories, trying to relate it back to himself in some relevant way, trying to connect, and said, ‘I only like short stories that have horror in them. Have you read 50 Shades of Grey?’ I’m not using him as a punchline here, simply an example. I showed him a book and he countered with the first book that came to mind, how could I blame him?
What I really am concerned with is of those that already read and are interested in art and literature. I’m concerned with the state of my writing community. How can we continue to innovate and create writing that is exciting. At first it seemed like internet poetry was a revelation and now it seems as cliché and tired as the old model, as these things usually go. In my own writing I have reacted by purposefully denying some of the tropes of the new aesthetic, purposefully choosing a more traditional literary style. I’ve felt increasing aversion to .PDF ebooks and macros and Steve Roggenbuck-esque tropes. I’m trying to navigate my writing out of minimalist hell. More than anything I know what I don’t want. I am a grade-A shittalker. Show me something, anything, I dare you, and I can figure out exactly what I don’t like about it. But what am I drawn to? What kind of art do I want to create? I DON’T KNOW. The greatest art is in not knowing. No one knows anything and here we are, continually writing about our ignorance. And this maybe brings us to the point of this seemingly pointless essay: Megan Boyle. How did we get here? I don’t know.
From the onset I felt aversion to Megan Boyle’s liveblog and the spur of liveblogs that it spawned. At that point I had become bored of mere confessional writing, bored of myself, really. I didn’t understand how someone could write of themselves in a banal way and expect people to care (Megan did state that she didn’t intend for her liveblog to be interesting, merely to use as a tool for herself). But as the weaker liveblogs died out, unable to survive in the climate, Megan’s liveblog championed on. The sheer scope of it seemed amazing to me. Every minute detail documented to the best of her ability. It was pushing confessional writing to its limits and I was starved for something that was in any way ambitions. Here was something I could get interested in. It was akin to Marina Abramović in the MoMA. It was Amanda Bynes’ twitter. It was life on display, not in some half-assed poem, not in a 3/4th-assed ebook, it was a commitment. I don’t think any form of confessional writing can be more exciting than this. In my opinion this is the final frontier of sorts. After this, we must find something else. Or not.
WHO WILL READ MY BLOG IN 2036? WILL MY SELFIES BE IN THE MoMA BY THEN? WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO MOLLY SODA?
In the future, essays will merely be a list of sentences punctuated by question marks and exclusively hosted on Thought Catalog.
I want to die soon so I don’t have to think about art anymore.
5:32AM: uploading…doing all of this stuff is so. the water is all out of the tub and conditioner is still on my hair. i feel soft. earlier i looked down at my abdomen and vag and pictured a for real person in there, like growing, felt excited, someday!!! get to…yeah…jesus, if you ever feel sad just think about how you can always do this crazy thing to your body and know someone all your life or theirs, rather. can’t talking about it well. want to make breakfast for my kids like michelle illiams in blue valentine only i’d LOVE MY KIDS and play with them because they do say the darndest things, truly, i feel. i’m just one of them too. we gon have fun. shit man. get ready for my baby squad. gonna reshape the game man. or like. what i mean to say is it will be different. ir. what the hell am i talking about
There were moments in Megan’s liveblog that seemed so human and unmediated. I appreciated this candid quality. I don’t think these moments would have had the same effect on me if they were in a book or in a more mediated format. The sheer voyeuristic quality that a liveblog has in its format adds an edge to the content. It makes one feel gluttonous and guilty as if they were watching reality TV and at the same time, as a passive onlooker, able to view the content at a distance.
On April 20, 2013, 4:22 PM, Megan Boyle wrote (in her liveblog):
4:22pm: something I have found extremely shocking:
In the month I’ve been doing this, no one has called me out on how self-absorbed/obsessed I am, how I’m not intelligent or cultured, how I’m not contributing anything to society, how it’s weird that my lifestyle is to rarely sleep/not talk to anyone but my parents, who I also live with, how irresponsible I am about my physical and mental health and how drugs are bad and I’m addicted, how I contradict myself (can’t think of ways but I’m sure I do it), how my ‘voice’ is just the combination of like 5 bigger clearer stronger ‘voices’ I like, how I’m still doing this, how bad something about the layout looks or huge sentence errors
I don’t know whether to say ‘thank you’ or
People just like it when I’m funny or insightful
No one really cares
I felt interested in this statement. I felt interested in the ‘consequences’ of putting your life online. Interested in the act of moving private life into a public space. Usually, when someone does this, it is met with a backlash, especially for women, for example, Marie Calloway who everyone ‘lost their shit’ over when she wrote ‘Adrien Brody.’ And I was trying to think, why isn’t there the same visceral reaction to Megan Boyle? What I came up with was: it has to be the scale, the liveblog format. It’s so much information, constantly, that it somehow adds up to white noise or something shapeless and softer. In reading her liveblog I was viewing it as a display, the way I would view the subject of a sociological study, as something I could only observe from a distance. The distance felt large and impossible. Every detail that she revealed about herself only made her more of an abstraction to me. She became a representation of a thing that I had built in my mind and named ‘Megan Boyle’. And through reading her liveblog I became more interested in the format and the scope of the endeavor rather than the content. It seemed different… In my reading of ‘Adrien Brody’ I was reading it for content, as it was a short story, but in my reading of Megan’s liveblog it was more like watching a performance.
I asked Megan, ‘what are your thoughts re having a constant audience? do you sometimes feel like you are performing actions that you wouldn’t normally do otherwise?’
i think i always feel like there’s an audience watching me. like, since i was a kid, or started being aware of myself as ‘person in body.’ i feel more like there is an audience because of looking at statcounter, but i still feel basically alone in here, or like, alone with ‘audience of me’ in here. it’s felt exciting to think about people suddenly being involved in that with me, like, still not to the extent that i am, but more than anyone would know normally.
Megan’s liveblog appeals to me because she exploits the trope of the liveblog and takes it to an extreme that makes the format interesting again. I think that a really beautiful function of Megan’s liveblog is that it forces everyone to be aware of their roles, in relation to each other. I am the watcher and Megan is the watched and between us is a distance.