Cory Arcangel is not a novelist. ‘Fiction’ is the word on the spine of his latest art project, but even that is a reach. The project is a book of retweets, published by Penguin in 2014, harvested from his feed of anything at all containing the words ‘working on my novel’. His decision to call the result a ‘novel’1 is pure provocation: it bears no resemblance to the books his tweeters intended to write. Bound together, one per page, these hundred-some reports of not-working – because whatever one was doing the moment before or the moment after, the tweet itself is not novel-generating activity – are to the artist ‘about the act of creation and the gap between the different ways we express ourselves today’.2 Reviewers see something darker. What is ‘funny, sad and oddly touching’ in the eyes of the Guardian3 is ‘an aggregate of delusion, narcissism, procrastination, boredom, self-congratulation, confusion – every stumbling block, in other words, between here and art’ to the Paris Review.4 The artist strains to explain that the project is not, in fact, out to ridicule its subjects, but ridicule is how it strikes these observers. What makes it ‘touching’ – not just ‘delusion’ but affecting, pathetic delusion – is the reviewers’ certainty that these tweeters who declare themselves writers are not writers, and never will be until they can close the app and get to work.
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- Who Are You Calling an Author? Changing Definitions of Career Legitimacy for Novelists in the Digital Era
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