Just as we learned how William Burroughs invented the term “Heavy Metal” by cutting and pasting page fragments to form the collage-book The Soft Machine, there exist further forms of literary remix which copy directly from other sources and may or may not make more sense. In particular, Reality Hunger by David Shields is worth looking into if you’re interested in more ideas about remix and the search for originality. Shields actually picks and chooses from many different works he’s read and incorporates fragments, excerpts and sometimes even whole paragraphs into his book alongside his own original writing. The book does get difficult at times, but if you keep a dictionary by your side there are some incredibly valuable ideas you can take away that go into much further depth than what we covered in the lesson. In case you were wondering he does have a bibliography at the end, but conveniently includes some dotted lines along which you can cut out the bibliography to keep the book the way he intended it. Of course, somewhere along the way somebody came up with the idea of remixing Reality Hunger by copying the entire book directly onto a website, with each section paired with the source it is taken from (after all, if Shields is allowed to take from other works without permission, what’s to stop someone from taking from him?) I particularly recommend the chapters “J – Hip-Hop” and “L – Collage” if you’re looking for a quick once-over. “Reality Hunger, Remixed” can be found at www.realityhunger.com.
If you’re not down to hit up some heavy literature and instead want to check out and freely enjoy a literary collage, I recommend Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino. Calvino was well-recognized in his time as a talented story-teller, and Invisible Cities effectively frames a conversation between Kublai Khan and Marco Polo as the latter describes fantastical cities he has visited during his travels. We’re not even talking about Paris or Beijing here: Polo describes cities that are built in a day and completely disassembled in the evening, or cities within cities, and onwards. In a sense Calvino is sharing his dreams of cities and ideas in a collage where interpretation is left up to the reader. Quite honestly, it’s a book that everybody can get something out of (a sort of “Shawshank Redemption” in fiction, if you will). You can purchase the book on Amazon here, or look at one reviewer’s take on it here.
If exploring remixes and collage bores you or you just want to study other gems in modern literature and thought, you don’t need to look very far. If you haven’t explored it already, there are thousands of brilliant ideas being bounced around every day courtesy of TED and the ideas its speakers share. You can take a look at talks ranging from introducing empathy in American education to the demise of guys in modern society on the TED website here. Also, if you want another author, David Foster Wallace is a brilliant writer who I personally consider to be one of the pinnacles of contemporary philosophy. His writing and expansive vocabulary can be very tough to get through at times (though honestly not as bad as Nietzsche, who you’ll probably have to read at some point), but if you want a condensed version of a speech he gave on empathy just to get a feel for his style of thinking, you can check out “This is Water” here. Have fun and stay curious!