Litblog Roundup 16

Litblog Roundup 16

Litblog Roundup is a bi-weekly overview of topics, trends and highlights from the literary Internet. In this roundup: fragments of ancient poetry, writing of the future, and more.


Twice this month the New Yorker has published, in print and on their blog, an article about newly discovered lines of Sappho's poetry and a post about what her poetry might have sounded like.


Why is it so tempting, when writing about ideas, to proclaim the "death" of one thing, in order to emphasize another? We've had the death of the author, the death of the reader, the death of books, the death of writing, the death of print: death, death, death everywhere you look. Really, none of those things are dead, but they are evolving. The "death sentence" is just a figurative way to talk about what comes next.

Last week, The Guardian published "The death of writing - if James Joyce were alive today he'd be working for Google" by novelist Tom McCarthy. McCarthy compares writing to anthropology and suggests that the role of describing humanity has been taken over by corporate computing. He goes on to ask: what's next for writing? It's an important question, to be sure.

David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times Book Critic responds, like many others, to the headline: "I think we need a moratorium on essays about the death of literaturee." Ulin continues with a consideration of the real point of the essay: "I'm reminded of Wittgenstein, who once declared, 'If all possible scientific questions are answered, our problem is still not touched at all.' Something similar might be said about the ubiquity of data: It doesn't address the problem of humanity at the core." Neither writer wonders in very concrete terms about what forms writing might take in a post-Internet world, but McCarthy does say "It is impossible to prescribe these - nor would I want to. I just hope they happen."

Post-Internet Poetry

Kenneth Goldsmith, by contrast, has a piece in The New Yorker this month that describes recent trends in post-Internet poetry in very concrete terms. "Over the past few years, the art world has been throwing around the term 'post-Internet' to describe the practices of artists who use the Web as the basis for their work but don't make a big deal about it. For these artists, unlike those of previous generations, the Web is just another medium, like painting or sculpture. Their artworks move fluidly between spaces, appearing sometimes on a screen, other times in a gallery. A JPEG of a painting is often considered another version of a painting, and vice versa. We're beginning to see a similar turn in poetry." In this and his earlier musings, Goldsmith gravitates toward the aspects of digital aesthetics that resemble collage-making.

Predicate Understood

Speaking of new styles of writing, there's a trend among writers of short-form messages like tweets to use the subject to imply the feelings or situation of the author. Is it a new, interesting writing style or is it annoying? Why do people talk this way? A blog called The Message on Medium asks a few prominent linguists to weigh in on it all.

Ten Things I Can Say

In the last roundup I had a link to a post by a former MFA instructor who had some divisive things to say about MFA programs, writing, and writers. The hubub continues, with an overview of it all on Salon by Laura Miller.