To write the unreadable book may seem a strange quest, but for poet and archivist Kenneth Goldsmith, it’s the future of literature.
If Kenneth Goldsmith were writing this column—well, for starters, he wouldn’t write it; he’d turn in a piece of found art that had nothing to do with anybody’s book collection, or he’d transcribe our conversation, with all the ums and uhs (mostly mine—he’s on the Oscar Wilde end of the articulateness spectrum), or he’d plagiarize some other column and transform it into a sound poem by singing it and then post it to UbuWeb, the online repository for the avant-garde arts that he founded in 1996. His position on writing is as follows: Modernism and postmodernism are over, and the literary arts have entered a new technology-driven paradigm. Originality is out the window. “Writers don’t need to write anything more,” he says. “They just need to manage the language that already exists.”
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