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The Literary Life: Michael Stutz, Net Generation Seeker

Michael Stutz began exploring the literary/underground/DIY culture of the Internet as a writer for Wired and Rolling Stone so long ago that, way back when i first showed up (which was a long time ago), he was already there to show me around. After a long self-imposed separation from the online world, he has now returned with a three-volume novel chronicling the entire life of a connoisseur of connected culture. Meet Michael Stutz.
Levi: Your novel Circuits of the Wind: A Legend of the Net Age is a coming-of-age tale, hearkening back to other classics of the genre from Henry Fielding's Tom Jones to J. D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye. But your hero's world is a new one for fiction: the emerging society of online culture, from the early Unix dial-up BBS's of the 1980s to the dot-com mania of the 90s to the more scattered social networking scene of today. What kind of reaction are you getting from readers to the idea that a life lived largely online is one worthy of heroic fiction?
Michael: The novelist Tony D'Souza just called the book's hero, Ray Valentine, "the Everyman of the wired age," so it seems to be natural -- and remember McLuhan: "technology forces us to live mythically." Yet, you know, heroic fiction of the kind we're talking about is almost nonexistent in contemporary literary fiction. Arther S. Trace, Jr., an outsider intellectual, wrote a powerful, prescient book in the early 70s called The Future of Literature. This is about the only book of literary theory to map out and show the decline of heroic fiction. It was a long process, but Trace shows how it really tanks in the day of postmodernism. And you know what? I've always been repelled by postmodernism -- in everything, from literature to architecture. I don't identify with it or fit in with it at all. For decades we've had the postmodern "antihero" in fiction, and everything has to be ironic and heartless, and that just doesn't connect with me. I'm Beat and before. Bring me back to that and let's go off in a whole new direction and forget all this other stuff. I want to do something totally different. So if the classical hero is the way, and the new world of the net is my ineluctable material, the combination is pretty much the way it had to be.
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"I once sent a dozen of my friends a telegram saying "flee at once - all is discovered." They all left town immediately."
Mark Twain

Random picks

  • How to finish a book? That age old question that every writer has had to solve. How many books are started but never completed?
  • Dear Pauls, It’s been a while. The cold is oppressive and also conducive, I fear, to doing nothing. I like to think about how people were before central heating, or before bricks and mortar, when it was a struggle just...
  • A new publication of Beowulf  translated by the poet Thomas Meyer has been recently released by Punctum Books. It is edited with a preface by David Hadbawnik, and includes an introduction by Daniel C. Remein, and an interview with Thomas Meyer. Hadbawnik writes: "This is an open access publication, which means it's available for free download; however, there is also an option to purchase a
  • The internet is full of useful knowledge that enlightens online viewers every day about the topics that they have some level of interest in or a need for particular information.
  • Each day leading up to the March 11 announcement of the 2009 NBCC award winners, Critical Mass highlights one of the thirty finalists. Today, NBCC board member Kevin Prufer discusses poetry finalist Eleanor Ross Taylor's Captive Voices: New and Selected Poems, 1960-2008 (LSU Press). Prufer's lengthier review of the book appears in the Colorado Review. Like many of our best poets, Eleanor Ross Taylor treads the same ground repeatedly—one might even say, obsessively. If her poems occur in a place, that place is the South. Her speakers are most often mothers and wives thinking...

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Fast fact about writing

The elements of fiction are: character, plot, setting, theme, and style. Of these five elements, character is the who, plot is the what, setting is the where and when, and style is the how of a story.