Working On My Novel
Penguin Books Ltd., 2014
144 pp., 13.2 x 1.2 x 19.9 cm., softcover
Edition size unknown
A bookwork (novel?) based on the artist's twitter feed, which re-tweets posts featuring the title phrase. "Hanging out in a cafe, working on my novel", for example, or "After an impressively long power nap, I am working on my novel again. Looks like it's taking shape!"
Even the most solitary of creative venture is now fodder for social media sharing, and included here are a wide range of approaches, including the overly proud ("I love my mind") and even the defiant ("I'm a writer, deal with it").
Those performing work or self-branding as writers are possibly easy targets (like the Hollywood joke that everyone in Los Angeles is writing a screenplay) but the selection here resonates in ways beyond the mere mockery. Collected, the tweets point to the many obstacles to creation, from distraction (one poster notes that he is simultaneously watching Family Guy) to competition. I recall a line from Hugh Prather's 1970 book Notes To Myself (which is itself mostly twitter-length observations) in which Prather notices that when he announces that he has finished writing his book his friends are mildly pleased for him, but when he gets its published they are besides themselves with praise. As though the accomplishment of producing is less than the success of getting it into the right hands.
Arcangel notes on his website that all of the tweets in his book are used with permission, which seems counter to what one would imagine his notion of copyright supports. Perhaps this was at the insistence of the publisher, or maybe it's relevant information after all. That the people who constantly update their friends on the status of their creative endeavours are happy to be collected here. Perhaps being re-tweeted in print (even in something that could be seen as satirical) is the highest level of 'like'.
The title is published by the company who invented the affordable pocketbook novel, and (not unlike Morrissey's memoir of last year, released - at the author's insistence - under the Penguin Classics imprint) there's something satisfying about seeing the penguin logo on the cover of this book.
In the "elevator pitch" description on his site, Arcangel asks "What does it feel like to try and create something new? How is it possible to find a space for the demands of writing a novel in a world of instant communication?"
"Working On My Novel is about the act of creation and the gap between the different ways we express ourselves today. Exploring the extremes of making art, from satisfaction and even euphoria to those days or nights when nothing will come, it's the story of what it means to be a creative person, and why we keep on trying."
The title is available from Amazon, here, where reviews range from "impossibly vacuous" and "this book killed trees" to "subversive genius" and "brilliant", all on the first page.