Plan for an Autistic Mercury
There’s been a project I’ve mentioned on and off for a while now that I’ve been wanting to launch: a review of new content that would cater to the niche aesthetic sensibility that’s been percolating online. I used to enjoy logging on to websites like Pitchfork Media regularly in order to find new music that sounded appealing, and over the years there’s been similar sites I’ve browsed looking for movies to see or books to read. As time’s gone by though I’ve found that my own tastes and interests have diverged from those usually shared by the writers and editors of most of these publications.
I’d like to move forward with a project I hope will alleviate this deficiency, this gap, in our current content landscape. There’s really no shortage of websites which focus on current events and political strategy and analysis, in fact there’s really too many, and watching stories break and collapse and fade and reappear on an hourly basis grows tiring. For that reason the Autistic Mercury will not be a political or ideological organ, but an aesthetic and critical one. And this I think generates many advantages.
People spend all day talking about different books on Twitter, and people are always asking for more recommendations, but in practice there’s just too much to ever read and assimilate. A review serves a crucial function here in digesting some of this material and disseminating key lessons and information from works of scholarship among the community. When someone recommends me a work on ancient Roman demographics or esoteric psychic cannibalism, as much as I’d like to read them for myself, there’s never enough time to get to them all. A review solves this dilemma, by pooling reading knowledge, and just writing reviews to share information or give a detailed exposition of an author’s argument can be enormously useful.
This is what I found with my recent review of Angela Nagle’s book, and it’s clear enough to see why. I broke down and gave an exposition of a book everyone was talking about from a perspective no one else did. I wanted to read the book so others didn’t have to, but I wanted to give them a fair estimate of what it actually said that took the book’s pretensions seriously. This is the kind of critical aesthetic I’d like to cultivate, and I’d like to use it to not only expose the bad, but discover the good. A criticism is needed that is not only negative, but positive, and it’s only in this way that an aesthetic can be developed to its full potential.
To this end I’ve been speaking to many of my favorite posters about creating a new site that would concentrate on exploring contemporary literature, noise music, new theory and philosophy, international cinema, science, scholarship etc. Pop culture too would be covered, but with thoughtful reviews that fostered a critical perspective and held these works accountable to higher standards of taste. On the conservative side there are stuffy neoconservative ‘western culture’ journals like New Criterion, while the avant-garde left has difficulty getting beyond the limitations of its anachronistic ideological commitments. Something else is clearly needed that can both engage seriously with culture and also discover new avenues for its advancement and adaptation to the emerging facebergian future.
I’d like people to take on Žižek, or review Rising Star or Capital in the 21st Century. But alongside reviews of media out of the traditional press, I’d like to also take a serious look a new media as well. Blog roundups, 3,000 word essays about Chris Chan, satirical reviews of pay-to-win smartphone games, I’d like to mix all these elements into a pot and see what comes out. Hopefully the often absurd culture cultivated online would be elevated, and the serious culture of imposingly large works of scholarship and obscure critical theory would be digested and made sense of somewhat.
At the time of this writing around 30 people have expressed interest in contributing, including many of the what I’m sure most would agree are the best and most thoughtful accounts on Twitter. The format I hope to follow would be along the lines of 10 new reviews a week, 2 a day, Monday-Friday. Reviewers would have a month to read and write up their thoughts, and contributors would develop regular columns focusing on specific genres or subject matters. Ultimately I’d like writers to be paid for their pieces, and I’d like to invest some in web development to ensure the experience is done under a suitably aesthetic banner.
In coming days I hope to begin organizing the contributors, investigating funding, setting up a slack and commissioning the first reviews. Time frame will depend on interest and support I receive from the community at large. I’m still looking to bring writers on, and if you’d like to pitch a column I encourage you to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with an introduction explaining your angle and taste, what kinds of new content you’d like to review, and if possible writing samples if you have any. The more people I can bring on board the more coverage the site can provide on a daily basis, and right now in particular I’m looking for additional music reviewers and people interested in reviewing contemporary literature and philosophy. There are no requirements as to political commitment or ideological perspective, taste and aesthetic discernment are the primary qualities I’m hoping to cultivate.
I encourage feedback as to what you’d like to see, and I look forward to some quality content.