Friday, February 17, 2012


 Piece in the Guardian on Zero Books, with interviews of many of its authors . . .
SS: What was the background to your involvement in Zer0?
MARK FISHER: When Zer0 started, I was very conscious that the culture which formed me – free higher education; innovative public service broadcasting; a music press that unashamedly engaged with theory – was disappearing. In place of this egalitarian space, where concepts and theories could be encountered in popular contexts, there was a rigid split between, on the one hand, specialist academic writing that didn't engage anyone and wasn't really supposed to, and, on the other, facile populism. Zer0 wanted to disrupt this; it wagered on people's intelligence and appetite for writing that was lucid but conceptually dense.
The Zer0 project promised to make available the kind of writing that I wanted to read myself but which you couldn't read anywhere except online. I belong to a lost generation, really, one forced into online exile online by the lack of space in print culture for the kind of writing I was doing – writing that's too journalistic to be academic, and too theoretical to count as journalism. I'd got so habituated to this exile that, before the first books were published, it was hard to believe that the books would ever actually come out, still less be successful.

SS: Does a physical book perform certain kinds of function more effectively or differently from blogs or ebooks?
NINA POWER: The thing that really surprised me was the very different status a book still has in people's minds, even if the arguments and the texts have already appeared online in blogs and journals (which is where most of One-Dimensional Woman came from). The book still retains a curiously weighty status in comparison to blogs. A book is a snapshot of whatever it was you felt was interesting at that moment, and it's fixed in aspic, which can have its drawbacks.

[NB Nina Power has deleted all posts on Infinite Thought before the riots of 2011 as callow stuff 20s crap.  I've heard from young editors in New York who were inspired by, er, all the callow stuff that has now been deleted from Power's blog -- readers may the ever-present possibility of de-publication is precisely where a blog has its drawbacks.]

SS: How do you see the relationship between pop music and "criticality" these days?
OWEN HATHERLEY: The writing many of us encountered in the music press in (roughly) the 80s-mid 90s was exemplary in its combination of mass audience, unpatronising erudition, politicisation and fearless, sometimes experimental prose, and it is in lots of ways a model for what we tried to do with Zer0. That world rather disappeared in the late 1990s and then reappeared on the internet, with blogs by Simon Reynolds, Mark Sinker, Ian Penman, Taylor Parkes. The writing has become more distant from contemporary music, for reasons that are debatable – certainly music doesn't seem to articulate conjunctural events as it used to; to use a banal example, a Ghost Town for last year's riots is now inconceivable, so broken is that link between the streets, the music press and the charts. So we're trying to produce the same sort of writing but on completely different subjects.

The whole thing here.


it said...

Blogs do perhaps make it too easy for self-critical tendencies to take the nuclear option in a way that books don't. I don't really think that everything I wrote was callow", but certainly some of it was. I spend a lot of my time now doing quite different things and having seven years of writing out there was starting to feel like a virtual albatross. At the same time, I think that some of the things blogs used to excel at - the longish essay-piece that fell somewhere between academic/journalistic/populist started to have a lot more places to go: the rise of the open left cultural/political online magazine/journal siphoned off these pieces and left what ... The fragmentary paragraph? The odd drunken personal reflection? The world (and I) can do without that! Hope all well, Nina

Helen DeWitt said...

There's a passage in Donald Ritchie's book on Kurosawa where he talks about Sugata Sanshiro, about how Kurosawa is interested in characters who are not fully formed, who are becoming - this is never an easy process, there is awkwardness, embarrassment, there are false starts, there is passionate investment in ideas, people, projects that later looks misplaced . . .

The thing that seemed valuable about the blog was that it made visible a life as a work in progress, the life an intellectual woman. I think that was why it meant so much to young women I met in New York (who were also inspired by One-Dimensional Woman). But I take down posts all the time, can certainly see the appeal of just leaving a blank slate.

it said...

The major criticism I got from friends for taking the blog down was that I was contributing to the side-lining of female writing online, and worse, erasing a historical block of text which people perhaps got something from at times, even when I did not. I accept that in retrospect, and must admit that hadn't crossed my mind when I blew it up, so to speak. I'm still not entirely sure of all my reasons for doing so - an impossible desire for a new kind of anonymity perhaps? Certainly a concern that things I'd written would be used against me in a forthcoming legal situation...a fatigue with the medium, with myself, with something intended as fleeting being all-too-solid, pragmatically too - a lack of time. All these things: I'm not sure. But I certainly feel less like an open wound pushing up against the world now that it's gone.

leoboiko said...

“Genetic criticism (French: critique génétique) does not focus on one particular state of the text, but rather in the process by which the text came to be.”

“Geneticists find endless richness in what they call the "avant-texte": a critical gathering of a writer's notes, sketches, drafts, manuscripts, typescripts, proofs, and correspondence.”

Richard said...

I'd submit that the blog, with its "fragmentary paragraphs" and "odd drunked personal reflections", combined with the longer-ish essayistic entries, still has much to offer. I'm still more likely to read them than the newly available "open left cultural/political online magazine/journals".

The other problem with blogs disappearing, is others have linked to specific pieces, links which are now dead. Of course, there is nothing permanent about blogs. To pretend otherwise is foolish. The internet itself is necessarily precarious.