A review of

Userlands

edited by Dennis Cooper

Central question: What can the book-publishing industry learn about the state of contemporary letters by reading blogs?
Format: 370 pp., paperback; Size: 8" x 5"; Price: $16.95; Publisher: Akashic Books, Little House on the Bowery; Editor: Dennis Cooper; Print run: 5,000; Book design: Johnny Temple; Cover design: Joel Westendorf; Typeface: CalifornianFBText; Number of stories no more than five pages: eleven; Number of writers included born in 1980 or later: eighteen; Representative sentence: “At the beginning, it was my stab in the dark variation on a zillion other blogs: some fiction and poetry, snapshots, a little autobiography, a little porn, lots of links to recommended sites.”

I wanted Userlands to be confusing and tedious, “overly digital but always disturbing and loud,” in the words of contributor Robert Siek, or emblematic of writing that accounts for technology’s conversion of humans into networked entities, our “very bloodstream a hybrid of zeros, ones, and hemoglobin,” as contributor Mike Kascel sees it. But, like most anthologies, Userlands is hit or miss.

Many of these stories are short, like exercises, and while even certain of the lackluster tales have moments of lively scene-writing or evocative turns of phrase, this collection is more about writing as an emotional release than writing for the sake of storytelling. Because of that, it is interesting for what it reveals about our relationship to words on screens, even when those words have been corralled on paper.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please visit our store to purchase a copy of the magazine.

—Buzz Poole

Buzz Poole has written for publications such as the Village Voice and the San Francisco Chronicle. His book Madonna of the Toast is available from Mark Batty Publisher.

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