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Why Alt Lit is Important

Posted on 10th March, by Andrea Coates in Andrea Coates. 62 Comments

I’m a Bit of an OutSider on the Alt Lit Scene. I can’t remember which Writer Originally said it, but there are Two Kinds of Writers, Putter Inners and Taker Outers. Melville is a Putter Inner. Hemmingway is a Taker Outer. Most Alt Lit Writing, as inspired by the Style of Tao Lin, is Taker Outer: minimal. Mine is Putter Inner: Maximal. Plus, I’m alReady a Part of my Own Arts Scene, the Psychedelic Realists, operating under the Media Label LLWAM (LotusLandWarriorArtMedia), an Aesthetic Consciousness that grew out of Artists’ interPersonal interActions in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Yet, I continue to court the Alt Lit Movement. Why? Because Alt Lit is Important.


It is Easy for People to dismiss Alt Lit. Most Alt Lit Writers are in their Twenties. Tao Lin (an Other Twenty Some Thing) is the Most Notable Influence: the Majority of Alt Lit Writing features minimalist prose relaying a Solipsistic Mundanity Common to the Diary /  Blog Form: this is what I did Today, this is what I thought about, with an Emphasis on Cuteness, Pop Culture, Food, and Estrangement. Most Alt Lit Writers are at the Poetry Chap Book Level of Publication. But this Analysis, focused in Prose Style and Traditional (Print) Media, is missing the Point: the Truth is, Alt Lit xemplifies Marshall McLullan’s Adage: the Medium is the Message.


Alt Lit is Important not because of what’s being written but because of how it’s being written: over OnLine Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, Tumblr, etc. Alt Lit may not, in the Literary Establishment’s View, be producing the Best Prose in Writing toDay, but it is ahead of the Curb in Terms of how it distributes its Material. While the University MFA Programs continue to focus on the writing of Complete, Polished Pieces, to be published in Magazines (Print or Web) before getting, Perhaps, a Book Deal for the Author, Alt Lit xists in the Free Form, Instantaneous Transfer of Written Material over OnLine Social Networks. (ASide: Many Alt Lit Writers are Students and Alt Lit is Some Thing they do in their “Free Time,” as Opposed to this Self Directed Literary Xploration being at the Kore of an Educational Curriculum.) Because they are being published on Social Media Such as Facebook and Twitter, Alt Lit Pieces are Often Roughly Edited, or Shorter than what has Hitherto been considered Literature, but a Site like Blogger allows a Writer to post Stories or Essays that may be too Long for publication by a Traditional Magazine (Either Print or Web): the Success of Marie Calloway’s Adrien Brody is Xemplary of this: the Story was too Long, and under Edited, for publication in a Magazine, but on a Blog it found Ample Audience.


This brings me to what is Xciting about Alt Lit: it’s Instantaneous and Self Directed Nature, along with the Web’s Social Apparatus (Gmail Chat, Facebook, Twitter, etc), makes publishing OnLine More Fun than publishing with Traditional Media. Not Only do you get to see your Work published as soon as you write it, how Ever you want to write it, you get to see People’s Reactions Shortly thereafter. This makes publishing OnLine (what distinguishes Alt Lit from Previous Literary Movements) More of a Social Xperience than Traditional Publication, which makes it More Accessible and More Enjoyable (as a Consequence: how Many Current Literary Movements can claim to have a Gossip Web Site?).


The inFormality of Publication in Alt Lit is Evident in Alt Lit Pieces: they Often contain Spelling Mistakes, Clichés, Non Sequiturs and Awkward Sentences. This makes them unFit for Traditional Print Publication, yes, but it grants the Reader Access into a Less Refined, and therefore More Authentic, Area of the Writer’s Mind. It shows that the Writer is Enthusiastic. That a Writer, Regardless of their Spelling or Grammar, would choose to publish an Opinion Piece on an Other Writer’s Work, as is Common in Alt Lit, shows this Writer is Xcited about Written Material and wants to share that Xcitement with the World. This is Encouraging. What redeems the Lives of Alt Lit Writers, which are, if their Writing is Any Indication, Often Depressed, is their Ability to share their Work with their Peers, who will then Provide Useful Feedback, or needed / wanted Validation for their Feelings.


Think what you might of its Prose / Subject Matter: Alt Lit is Honest.


What remains for Alt Lit, now that it has established its Self as the OnLine Literary Movement par Xcellence, is to Diversify. Alt Lit is Important, but it is yet under Developed: there is too Much of the Same: minimalism focused on the Mundane, when the Potential for Writing OnLine is Infinite: without an Editor to tell you what to publish on your Blog, Writers are Free to make up Words, Spellings, New Forms of Sentence, etc. What will make Alt Lit a Lasting Literary Movement, a Position it has its Foot on, for its Novel Medium, but could lose in Homogeny, will be for a Variety of Truly Distinctive Voices to rise out of the Network. Then again, Alt Lit might just be the minimalist american branch on “OnLit.”


  • neat

    I liked reading this. But I’m still existentially fucked.

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  • Henry Fry

    In terms of ‘honesty’, I think you’re right from the perspective of the writer. No one else is editing it and thus slightly altering the message. And likewise if a piece is more concerned with form rather than content. But if the writer is genuinely trying to say something specifically with that piece, then (as with a lot of post modern things) it often becomes lost, I feel. Lots of AltLit bits I’ve read are distant and don’t seem to want to connect with their reader in any more than a capricious way. So the piece is authentic in terms of writer, form and movement, but not necessarily in terms of what it’s actually saying. A curious dichotomy that I think we see a lot, no? 

  • nick lopez

    so much of “Alt Lit” doesn’t interest me, but i agree that the way in which it distributes information is on point.  i’m playing it pretty hands-off until i am better able to understand where the movement is going/how it’s getting there, but right now the overall quality makes me not very intrigued about participating.  

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  • Joe Bussiere

    love ur pics is this twitter???

  • Anon

    feel like you think more is better re everything, you seem solipsistic and v concerned w yr ‘brand’ or [anything] related to you, feel like you need to ‘stop being affected so much’ in terms of yr writing not being seen as worthwhile aesthetically

  • Penis

    Your Writing is Extremely Exciting 2 Read! 

  • http://who-will-kiss-the-pig.blogspot.com Richard Grayson

    “ahead of the curb”

  • Pingback: I don’t understand. « About that Writing thing.

  • bartleby_taco

    Not trying to “bait” arguments or anything, but the conceit of this argument seems to suggest that a lot of “alt lit” is actually not really valuable as literature as much as it is valuable as a ‘historical marker’ for communities finding their center via more advanced technological means, and while I guess this is worth noting and seems interesting, it also seems to suggest that if any of this stuff will be remembered, it will be thought of us in terms of ‘independent art distribution archeology/anthropology/history’ or something like that — so while people will still be reading uh, Kafka (or something…) in several years, I don’t know if the same fate really bodes for a lot of the writing being produced today (at least in this milieu), seeing as all of the ephemera that can be stored on the Internet will only compound exponentially, lots of things getting lost in the future, etc. Does this not seem fair to assume?

  • Jennny Lynnn

    So Xciting!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1110477952 Scott McClanahan

    I like this.

  • American Love

    I concur…….

    Less first person, more third person writing please

    • American Love

       Great post Andrea Coates.

      Necessary post, actually.

    • http://twitter.com/barrygfunk barry graham

      less 3rd person, more blubber please

    • david morntn

      I write in the 13th person. It exceeds 1st person standards.

      • American Love

         Hah 13th person! hilarious,,,

        I can’t think of a classic novel in the first person tense (except for the Catcher which was hella weak compared to Nine Stories). Can someone help me in finding one to read? Maybe then I can see where from bulk culture gets so much influence.

        • Anonymous

          I dont know about the bulk of culture – nor do I speak for bulk culture but Knut Hamsun’s 1st person books are good things. His 3rd person books are good things.  

          • American Love

            Okay, I’m sure there are great books in the first person tense. I’m not going to tirade the whole of first person books.

            I just think it would be helpful to some bulk writers to explore other writing forms, or maybe I don’t know – and they just absolutely have to write in the first person…….

            The 19th Century classics, which imo are the best books ever written could not be written in the first person (though Notes from the Underground was great, it can’t compare to the Brothers or Crime and Punishment.)

            Eh, wtf. Write what you will, shit; we all have the choice – fuck it and write everything in the first person. Why am I even discussing this bullshit. I’m fucking while I’m out of here! Go on!

          • American Love

             Everybody has their style of writing, and nothing will probably change it except for what they read.

            I don’t want to spend another minute on this discussion, or any bulk powwow.

            Everybody absolutely loves everyone else’ work. Oh! I Loled! so much. Oh I liked this part especially! Everyone has cute names for everyone when everyone agrees to be cute and tidy and spruced to the scene! Bunch of tarts and twats and louts,, Bulk needs some real critics. A person who will ravage everybody here! Bulk culture needs some American Luuvv!*Fart

          • Anonymous

            A POWOW? A FUCKING POWOW? A POWWOW! Stick this somewhere else, tidy rabbit! I am UNAFLILLIATED!

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