Monday, October 27, 2014

Alt Lit is Dead but I Still Have to Read It

Well, it took me three years even to find out that "Alt Lit" was a thing. Now it is not a thing anymore, and it sounds like I saved myself a lot of time and trouble by not knowing about it sooner. Two major figures in the movement have recently been outed as psychologically and sexually abusers, manifesting a misogyny and moral irresponsibility that was expressed already in the social structure and content of alt lit.

I've read zero alt lit (unless you count Twitter). But if its principles are myopic and juvenile, I'd be justified in rejecting it outright. And Miles Klee is right in saying that alt lit "prides itself on a deadpan hyper-transparency, a blurring of fiction and bracing fact meant to signal a self-awareness that’s typically in frightfully short supply," then I do reject the movement. Unfortunately, this very rejection probably means that I need to read this movement closely, as a case study in the fallacy of post-irony (in brief, the delusion and social nihilism inherent in any attempt to "live without irony").

From Miles Klee's report:
Even before E.R. “lashed out” at Lin, readers had flagged paternally sexist trends in his and affiliated writers’ work—which might not be so disturbing were it not for their tendency to present it as entirely sincere and unfiltered. Just last month, in Luna Luna Magazine, Diana Dragonetti took Lin to task for “male projection” in Richard Yates and the way he fetishizes the power that his protagonist has over his young companion, “both in [the] sense of his adulthood and in his control of the narrative.” He also notes that the novel “acknowledges the impossibility of consent” in the relationship, with Kennedy’s character remarking, “You raped me like ten times,” and Lin’s researching the age of consent in New York: 17.

Dragonetti criticizes Roggenbuck, too, for his “‘sad girl’ misogyny,” and laments the sentimentalization of rape culture undertaken—in fiction and conceptual HTMLGiant blog posts alike—by Steven Trull, alias Janey Smith. What complicates these readings further is that the straight males of the alt lit community are educated and theoretically liberal, well-versed in the language of gender equality but able to throw semantic smoke bombs or cry “artistic license” when confronted for their objectifying language—this despite their reputation as the post-irony set. Yet, as Emily Swanson writes on HTMLGiant, Gawker is off the mark to blame Dierks’ behavior on alt lit’s supposed “boys’ club” mentality: Women—including Mira Gonzalez, Gabby Bess, and Melissa Broder—have done more than their share to define and carry the movement. Meanwhile, Dierks can’t truly be said to have occupied a place of special importance or influence within it; many of his prolific and chronically underpaid peers enjoy equal stature.
More at The Daily Dot