Jack Kerouac’s vision of the Beat Generation was a synthesis of the “beaten down” and the “beatific”. The Beats defied societal norms and rejected the conventions of materialism. Nearly sixty years after Kerouac introduced the phrase along comes a group of writers called the Off-Beat Generation, “a loose association of like-minded writers working across different styles but united by their opposition to a mainstream publishing industry driven by marketing departments.”
Young, untamed, good-looking and as influenced by punk rock as they are by Proust, a new wave of loosely-linked writers dubbed The Off-Beat Generation have been blitzing the net with stories and poems via MySpace and supportive sites such as 3:AM Magazine to organise events and gain publicity.
Let’s meet some of the players…
- Travis Jeppesen – “Any attempts to trace the tributaries of Jeppesen’s influences fall away after a dozen pages because his voice is a fiercely independent and fresh one that casts a spell on the reader.” [The Stranger]
- Tao Lin – “Tao Lin is viewed as both the pied piper, leading the way to literature’s afterlife following the death of print media, and as a hack. His websites sell everything from “fuck america” stickers to shares of his next novel, subverting the major publishing house system. The amount of content on his blog is exhausting – a word often invoked to describe Lin’s writing style.” [James Renovitch, Austin Chronicle]
- Noah Cicero – “Some novelists gently chisel their thoughts and ideas into refined, disciplined works of art, taking care to respect tradition and leave nary a flake of rock where unneeded. By contrast, ulcerous Ohioan Noah Cicero uses the language like a baseball bat, pounding his mind and soul and channeling his rage and suffering through the simplest form imaginable, a style he calls “existential minimalism.” …Fans of Beckett and Bukowski are hereby placed on notice.” [Emerson Dameron, Zine World]
- Andrew Gallix – “Andrew Gallix writes as if he invented Warhol on Monday, punk rock on Tuesday and then took the rest of the week off after declaring the project a sodding mess. In this day and age when laundry detergent is bold and automobiles are innovative, Gallix’s prose is like a fresh breath of mercurochrome: sharp and acrid with truths that are hideous to behold even though it’s good for us. Never mind Gallix? Bollocks!” [Jim Ruland, author, 2007]
- Lee Rourke – “Many of the books we see these days perched perfectly in high street seasonal window displays are written by static, worn-out, curmudgeonly blatherskites, pitiful zombies who write by numbers. It’s not their fault, they’re writing for the tastes forced upon us. But they do not walk amongst us; they do not walk our streets. They sit, motionless, staring at blank walls, waiting for instruction. They write their books, these books are posted to publishers and agents in plain brown padded envelopes to be opened in modern, minimalist foyers, to be published in nice, clean pastel shades, to be displayed in identikit formulae – barbed fishhooks to catch the drab passer-by’s eye. These manuscripts have never touched our streets. They’ve been created for another purpose – and it isn’t ours. We do not belong. We are elsewhere.” [Lee Rourke, Scarecrow Editorial 8].
- Tom McCarthy – “What can you say to a writer who invents a character so perverse and controlling that he accuses the sun of poor job performance and employs squadrons of house hunters with no intention of seeing their picks, simply because their efforts will “scare my building out, like beaters scaring pheasants out of bushes for a lord to shoot”? What can you say to a writer who invents a world that contains the sentences: “I’ll start the liver and the cats. We’ll take it from there”? Only one thing can be said to such a person: Tell me more.” [Liesl Shillinger, New York Times]
- HP Tinker – “If HP Tinker didn’t exist, you’d have to make him up… he is as influenced as much by Woody Allen, Dr Seuss and Morrissey as he is by William Burroughs and Joe Orton. As one of the brave ones — and one of Britain’s most shameless writers — HP Tinker has been peddling his own brand of surrealism for years now, in stories littered with pop cultural references where you are likely to meet Dorothy Parker, Tom Paulin, Paul Gaugain as you are Dean Martin and Morrissey.” [Dogmatika website]
- Chris Killen – “The Bird Room is amazing. Beautiful, laconic, and chockablock with uneasy sex – like having a threesome with your girlfriend and Richard Brautigan.” [Richard Milward, author of Apples]
- Gavin James Bower – “Gavin James Bower is one of the Dark Young People, those bastard children of Fitzgerald, Ellis and Houellebecq whose subject matter is the all-consuming nightmare at the heart of the consumer dream. Dazed & Aroused, Gavin James Bower’s highly-autobiographical debut set in the modelling world, is nothing less than a Less Than Zero for the Offbeat Generation.” [3:AM Magazine]
- Paul Ewen – “Imagine Hunter S Thompson being sent out on assignment for Time Out reviewing the capital’s boozers. Imagine Jorge Louis Borges writing for beerintheevening.com. Imagine some lunatic trying to flood Bradley’s because he thinks it would make an awesome swimming pool. Or a dude trying to drive a piano out of the Golden Heart and cruise round Shoreditch.” [Tipped]
- Heidi James – Heidi’s Top Five Worst Injuries to Sustain Before a Date:
- Broken Nose
- Groin Strain
- Paper Cut on a Digit
- Torn Hamstring
- Fissure to the rectum
…and their literary cousins, the Brutalists:
Brutalism is a literary movement affiliated with the Off-Beat Generation that was formed in 2006 by three writers from the north of England (Tony O’Neill, Adelle Stripe and Ben Myers), and “may have been the first literary movement to be launched via MySpace,” where it announced itself with the following manifesto:
Brutalism calls for writing that touches upon levels of raw honesty that is a lacking from most mainstream fiction. We cannot simply sit around waiting to be discovered — we would rather do it ourselves. Total control, total creativity. The Brutalists see ourselves as a band who have put down their instruments and picked up their pens and scalpels instead. “The only maxim we adhere to is an old punk belief, which we have bastardized for our own means: Here’s a laptop. Here’s a spell-check. Now write a book. “Brutalist writing is open to anyone who shares similar ideas about the role of literature.
Much of the writing is raw, edgy, and intense. It is full of the piss and vinegar that fuels the young. It has all of the anger, joy, boredom, and exhilaration of being alive. It’s exciting! It feels as though we just caught the front edge of a new wave of writing and I can’t wait to see where it takes us.