It has come to this

At McSweeney’s Robert Lanham pitches his course in “Writing for Nonreaders in the Postprint Era.”

As print takes its place alongside smoke signals, cuneiform, and hollering, there has emerged a new literary age, one in which writers no longer need to feel encumbered by the paper cuts, reading, and excessive use of words traditionally associated with the writing trade. Writing for Nonreaders in the Postprint Era focuses on the creation of short-form prose that is not intended to be reproduced on pulp fibers.

Instant messaging. Twittering. Facebook updates. These 21st-century literary genres are defining a new “Lost Generation” of minimalists who would much rather watch Lost on their iPhones than toil over long-winded articles and short stories. Students will acquire the tools needed to make their tweets glimmer with a complete lack of forethought, their Facebook updates ring with self-importance, and their blog entries shimmer with literary pithiness. All without the restraints of writing in complete sentences. w00t! w00t! Throughout the course, a further paring down of the Hemingway/Stein school of minimalism will be emphasized, limiting the superfluous use of nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, conjunctions, gerunds, and other literary pitfalls.

Please don’t make me tell you he’s being ironic. That’s one problem he doesn’t cover in his syllabus: commenters who can’t read.

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  • Mike Manitoba

    That’s kinda funny: a link to a link.

  • I thought this might be of interest:


    As our lives are increasingly consumed by Facebook pages, IM, Twitter, RSS feeds, Digg Thumbs Up’s, url shorteners, embedded HTML, emoticons and hyperlinks, there is little doubt about the premium placed on timely information. It has reached a point where the value of information seemingly diminishes in direct proportion to how old it is. As if an article written six months ago might well as be ten years old.

    This tendency will only increase as we hurtle towards a real-time web. FriendFeed has launched the world’s first real-time, live streaming, social media service that is set to revolutionize all media. Yet as people constantly and seamlessly update their “lifestream”, I wonder about the role of meaningful communication?

    The funny – and yes timely – Flutter April Fools joke (below) parodied our growing obsession with instantaneous information, exposing the growing misunderstanding that the newness of a means of communication automatically makes that communication meaningful.

    The important distinction, as Zeus Jones points out, is that while real time information loses value over time, timeless pieces grow in value.

    When you consider brands also rely on an emotional connection with their customers to motivate their behavior, this confusion can be costly. Of course, a meaningful connection isn’t always timeless but the same limitations apply. Hoping to generate trust, interest or loyalty in 140 characters alone is as misguided as a guy wheeling out his best one-liner at a bar. Brands must use a composite of media to build an effective relationship with their customers, rather than see social media as an end in itself. Even when a brand, its products or social entrepreneurship becomes the focal point for conversation it must also play the overarching role of “aggregator and curator”, as Joseph Jaffe asserts, “to provide a place where consumers can see the conversations pulled together, engage with the brand, hear the story in the brand’s voice”.

    A means of communication is not an end in itself. It exists to create a connection that enables us to recognize ourselves in others. If our daily exchanges are reduced to a teeming sea of quips, asides and blunt reductions, we simply enlist ourselves in the service of data tracking. As if our lives were some enormous marketing focus group and our communication ticks for empty boxes.

    When communication becomes a shooting gallery, the first casualty is dialogue that adds meaning to our lives. As both marketers and consumers, we would be foolish to let this happen.

    PS. Thx for all the insights and great thinking, Jeff.

  • alexschmidt

    ironic, sure, but i wouldn’t be so surprised if it had been serious (or if you had taken it seriously and boosted it, jeff). where do we draw the line between the dogma of the digital age and old school predliections?

  • LeeAnn Kendal

    Where do I sign up?