Intent Seems Consistently Indiscernible, Opinions And Desires Exist In Brains; Articles, Poems, And Stories On The Internet Exist In Servers Somewhere:

Vague Thoughts in Reaction to Alt-Lit Is for Boring, Infantile Narcissists by Josh Baines Published in Vice UK January 16, 2013

By Stephen Michael McDowell

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To me, the word “love” seems fun to say/write to or when referencing a human I like a lot.

To me, the word “love” seems like a “place-holder” for an unobservable/unquantifiable complex of biological functions that prevent humans from indiscriminately killing other humans they perceive as similar to themselves. A distinct, paradoxically different definition of “love” seems to cause humans to spend a lot of time with one-or-more other, usually dissimilar humans, resulting in a physical and psycho-emotional dynamic conducive to making more humans

To me, the term “Alt LIt” seems fun to say/write to or when referencing humans who communicate feelings of alienation, re not being considered—despite exhibiting, I think, communicative and stylistic ability—to be poets, writers, or journalists by well-known literary critics, editors at “big” publishing companies like Vintage, Random House, at news companies, or private/government historical archives.

To me, the term “Alt Lit” seems like a place-holder for an unobservable/unquantifiable complex of behavior exhibited by a relatively small group of humans declaring they are [name-designation given to members of “[established profession]”] while behaving contrary to or with little regard for the way [stereotypical humans considered “[plural of established profession]”] are expected to behave/use language/memefy their output.

Assuming that every human brain is structured differently, individual humans interface uniquely when encountering different stimuli (i.e. reading/hearing a novel by Ben Brooks or Hannah Fantana, a short story by Frank Hinton or Codi Suzanne Oliver, a poem by Mira Gonzalez or Theo Thimo, or a tweet by Barack Obama), so each human reacts differently (e.g. liking aspects of the piece, feeling compelled to read more work by that writer, and/or emulating the patterns they perceive as enjoyable when writing their own work, or—disliking the piece—feeling disinterested in reading more work by that writer and/or emulating the patterns they perceive as not enjoyable; possibly enthusiastically sharing or shittalking the piece to other humans who are or aren’t aware of it).

Generally, when I read a piece by Tao Lin, I feel aware I am predisposed to enjoy it, possibly because I have enjoyed previous things Tao has written that I have read and consistently enjoy interacting with him.

Generally, when I read a piece by Willis Plummer I feel aware I am predisposed to enjoy it, possibly because I enjoy interacting with Willis Plummer and consistently enjoy ideas he communicates to me when sharing an unpublished poem or Twitter draft.

I think I enjoy interacting with Willis Plummer and Tao Lin simultaneously (i.e. at a house party, reading, at Willis’ apartment, out in public in New York) thus far, a perceivably similar amount as enjoying interacting with either of them individually.

There have been instances when I have felt disinterested in or did not like pieces by both Tao and Willis, despite my predisposition to liking their work/ideas, and there have been instances when I have had the opportunity to interact with them but did not want to, avoided them, or felt uncomfortable around them.

This dynamic seems consistent re many humans I have interacted with, via the Internet and in close physical space, who have been externally, group-, or self-designated as members of “Alt Lit”.

These opposing scenarios happen, I think, because my experiences, interests, likes, and dislikes vary from moment to moment, and sometimes humans I usually enjoy interacting with want to do things I don’t want to, because we are different humans and interface/react to stimuli differently.

I feel incapable of discerning the experiences I have had as acquaintances/friends with humans externally/group-/self-designate as members of “Alt Lit”, as the result of the existence or development of one or a group of discernible phenomena.

I feel capable of remembering, to some extent, previous interactions I have had with specific humans and groups of humans, and ideas they’ve communicated directly to me, or made public via the Internet or physical, interactive media, that I enjoyed and have influenced the way I interact with other humans and communicate ideas.

Because, at this point (though I have thought this since I became aware of the term “Alt Lit”), I think there are too many humans writing in too many disparate styles to designate their behavior any unifying descriptions besides: “use the Internet”, “write poems/stories/articles”, “are currently living”, and “are not considered ‘poets’, ‘authors’, or ‘journalists’ by people who could pay them enough to comfortably sustain their lives”.

I feel incapable of designating the term “Alt Lit” any of the following descriptors I have heard/read used: “social movement”, “writing community”, “cult of personality”, “writers group”, or “literary style”.

There is too much content, I think, to define “Alt Lit”, in it’s entirety, as “good” or “bad” in any discernable context or set of goals.

To me, “Alt Lit” seems like a term used to differentiate between types of behavior in a ~2,000 humans who consider themselves makers/curators of “literature”.

To me, “literature” is a vague term that references any use of linguistic ability/complex, tonal, visual (and potentially using other senses), to communicate information from one human to another human (ie. anything using language).

Use of “Alt Lit” only seems communicatively functional, to me, in-contrast to rhetorical usage of the word “literature”, which attempts to distinguish, as far as I can discern:

A piece of text, audio, or somehow otherwise communicated language, composed, curated, or performed by one or more humans—regardless of whether or not those humans group- or self-identify their work as “literature” (or use a derivative part of speech/contraction/abbreviation to describe it)—that expresses intent to communicate an empathetic portrayal of the experience of being an entity confined to a body-mind system for an unknowable, brief duration, capable of interacting with “concrete reality” and experience abstract thought—that, in at least one instance, one or more humans present to witness some iteration of the piece, designated—verbally or via text—the descriptor “lit”, “literary”, or “literature”, to the human(s) who composed, curated, or performed the piece and/or/with-reference-to the specific piece;


Every piece (including pieces designated a “dialectic equivalent” of “literature” in the piece’s respective language, or in at least one translation) that experienced this process of canonization, throughout all “known” and “unknowable” phases in human linguistic development, referred to as one, discernable phenomenon.


Everything else.

So, given that—at least in the context of this essay—the above statement is accepted as the definition of “literature”, the term “Alt Lit” functions as:

Any instance of language (similar to the above), externally, group-, or self-designated the term “Alt Lit” or “alternative literature” (by means similar to the above) with reference to the human(s) who composed, curated, or performed the piece and/or/with-reference-to-the specific piece.


A broad reference to every piece that went through this process at once.

This definition of “Alt Lit” seems unobservable/unquantifiable, to me. However, I feel confident saying I don't know anything about anything, and want to express—but somehow feel, by default, inadequate, inherently faulty—that this essay is somehow, or must be, an (unintentional) expression of me not knowing anything, at all, about anything.

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