Dazed's ultimate guide to US creativity
As part of our new summer US project States of Independence we've invited our favourite 30 American curators, magazines, creatives and institutions to takeover Dazed for a day.
Rounding off State of Literature week, we welcome Gabby Bess and her all-girl takeover. The writer and poet behind Illuminati Girl Gang is dedicated to challenging preconceptions about female expression in art: she told us about her heroines, as well as curated a selection of female-penned lit that refuses to bow down.
Forget your burgeoning Flarf Twitter aesthetic and your poetry readings at boujis cafes: your path to becoming a literary legend really begins here. Our State of Literature week has seen guest edits ranging through every kind of writer and genre imaginable: poetry, novels, death notices, diaries, book-length essays, manifestos, diet tips, iMessage plays, concrete poems, spotify playlists, personal essays and even an opera-in-progress. What Giancarlo DiTrapano, Kenneth Goldsmith, David Shields, Dennis Cooper and Gabby Bess have in common, though, is their shared dedication to finding, publishing, writing or sharing their love of literature that pushes boundaries and truly reflects how we live now. So, budding writers – and there's no time like the present – look back on a week's worth of advice for those just starting out. With so many publishing routes to go down and genres to explore, it's pretty confusing stuff – but that's why, finally, literature in 2014 is more vital than ever.
YOUR FAMILY IS YOUR GREATEST INSPO
As this week's exclusive short fiction proved, family dynamics both dysfunctional and remarkably "normal" (but what's normal, anyway?) proved the best starting point for writers who aim to document the trials and tribulations of teendom. From Megan Boyle's liveblogging her dad's birthday party, to Jenny Zhang's tales of growing up in a Chinese-American household, inspiration definitely starts at home.
STRAIGHTFORWARD SCI-FI WON'T CUT IT ANYMORE
In the post-Internet world, the sci-fi genre can seem somewhat tired (it doesn't help that the classics of the 50s and 60s are set, like, now). But, no fear: as writers like Frank Hinton and Eugene Lim are proving, writing in the future tense can still have bite. These explorations of humanity in years to come, however, are subtler, bolder and ultimately more affecting treatments than the fan-fic of old.
WRITING IN LIBRARY BOOKS CAN BE A GOOD THING
We loved Ander Monson's extract from his book, Letter to a Future Lover – his compendium of found objects in libraries that prompt a philosophising series of essays on human ephemerality and purpose. Just goes to show that the writing in the margins can be as useful as what's printed on the page.
BOW DOWN TO BECKETT
It's testament to the power of the post-modern that Samuel Beckett is still influencing our youngest writers, nearly 25 years after his death. Sophia le Fraga's take in "W8ING" was more emojical than it was emotional, whilst Darby Larson's sparse passage was dense without being incomprehensible – when syntax and standardised paragraph structure are this unfeeling, it's the effort of the reader that takes precedent.
Is there any truly honest literature? For Giancarlo DiTrapano of Tyrant Books, Megan Boyle's upcoming Liveblog is as honest as it comes – and wonderful for it. As he said of Boyle's book, "As soon as it’s a memoir like that there’s chances for error – for misremembering. But Megan was just writing down every single thing as she was doing it. That seems like the most unfiltered thing I’ve ever read." Equally, perhaps more alarmingly, honest was Mira Gonzalez's "Diet Tips". Delish.
GIRLS SHOULD READ OTHER GIRLS
Gabby Bess's guest edit showcased the best in girls doing it for themselves. In the unabashed, personal essay she wrote for Dazed to introduce the day, she mused on her personal heroines but also on how she came across them. For Bess, "It is so, so important for women to write their own stories. It is equally important to read stories by women and to make sure those stories are visible. Because to so many young girls, like myself just a few years ago, they don’t exist."
FAILED RELATIONSHIP? LUCKY YOU
Like Taylor Swifts of the alternative lit scene, the difficult break-up provides untold sources of inspiration for the budding writer. But don't get us wrong – these aren't mere documents of smashed vases and public rows. Instead, its the processes of self-discovery after a separation from which beautiful literature is born. In her short story, LK Shaw's trip to the British museum prompts reflections on a relationship's past and possible lack of a future, whilst for Maggie Nelson and her Bluets, her falling in love with the colour blue provides a catalyst for falling out of love with another.
NOVELS SHOULDN'T PROTECT US FROM OURSELVES
Prolific genre manipulator David Shields did not mince words for his guest edit: a manifesto for how the book should be today. “We live in a culture that is completely mediated and artificial, rendering us (me, anyway; you, too?) exceedingly distracted, bored, and numb. Straightforward fiction functions only as more bubble wrap, nostalgia, retreat." For Shields, it is literary collage, not the traditional novel, that truly confronts what we are – and for him, that's what we should hope that literature can do.
IT'S EASY TO CHOOSE SUBJECTS YOU KNOW NOTHING ABOUT – BUT NOT BEST
Sarah Manguso's reflections on writer's block on Wednesday explored the difficulties of composition, but, more particularly, the difficulties of inscribing what is already composed: yourself. Indeed, as anyone who has written an essay overnight or a review for a book they didn't actually finish will realise, it's easier to write about what you know very little about. But, of course, that is not how great literature is born. As Manguso writes, it's when "everything feels too personal" that the real challenge arises.
FINALLY: THE INTERNET IS A POEM
“The internet is the greatest poem ever written, unreadable mostly because of its size. We are drowning in language. The best poets are those who can best repurpose that language, reframing it as poetry. Poetry will be made by all." So says Kenneth Goldsmith, the poetry whizz and king of archival kingdom, Ubuweb. Have you got a Tumblr, a Twitter, an Instagram, or a Facebook? Turns out you're a poet and you didn't even know it.
Follow Claire Marie Healy on Twitter here @clairehly
Read more from the State of Literature