Alternative Literature (often stylized as Alt Lit or Alt-Lit) is a term used to describe a particular literature community that publishes and/or draws its motifs from the internet, internet culture, and "a population of people that are connected with one another through their interest in the online publishing world." It includes various forms of prose, poetry, and new media.
The term was first used to refer to this community of writers in the summer of 2011, when Tumblr and Twitter accounts named "Alt Lit Gossip" emerged, created by Cory Stephens (@outmouth). The accounts covered writers from presses and publications such as Muumuu House, Pop Serial, and HTMLgiant in a style akin to celebrity gossip sources like TMZ. After a few months the original accounts were deleted; they were revived by Frank Hinton in the fall of 2011, and began to gain popularity.
Alt Lit is characterized by self-publication, self-promotion, and the maintenance of a presence on social media networks. Josh Soilker has said that Alt Lit is "in blog posts, videos, gchats and Facebook status updates. In PDFs and folded papers..." and that the movement's principal figures were Tao Lin, Noah Cicero and Brandon Scott Gorrell.
Alt Lit writers share Gmail chat logs, image macros, screenshots, and tweets, which are then self-published as poetry books and/or novels.
Writing for the New Yorker, Kenneth Goldsmith characterized Alt Lit writing as "marked by direct speech, expressions of aching desire, and wide-eyed sincerity." He also noted that Alt Lit is "usually written in the Internet vernacular of lowercase letters, inverted punctuation, abundant typos, and bad grammar."
The German writer Marc Degens characterized Alt Lit "as a product of globalization": "What binds it together are globalized experiences (shopping malls, fast food chains, franchised stores) and the English language."
Authors and works
Literary magazines and blogs
Online and print Alt Lit magazines include Illuminati Girl Gang, New Wave Vomit, Pop Serial, Shabby Doll House, Have U Seen My Whale, The Bushwick Review, The Mall, Keep This Bag Away From Children, Everyday Genius, Metazen, Housefire, UP Literature, Parlor, Sadcore Dadwave, Red Lightbulbs, and Unsure if i will allow my beard to grow for much longer.
Presses and books
Presses publishing Alt Lit writing include Muumuu House, Civil Coping Mechanisms, Sorry House, Habitat, Boost House, Lazy Fascist, Nap, Scrambler Books, Publishing Genius, and Plain Wrap Press.
More than 150 books, e-books, and zines of Alt Lit writing, mostly self-published, have been catalogued on the Tumblr blog Alt Lit Library. Mellow Pages Library in Bushwick, Brooklyn, offers a wide selection of Alt Lit titles and hosts Alt Lit readings and book releases.
Alt Lit authors include Sarah Jean Alexander, Jacob M. Appel, Gabby Bess, Megan Boyle, Melissa Broder, Ben Brooks, Marie Calloway, Ana Carrete, Jordan Castro, Heiko Julien, Richard Chiem, Noah Cicero, Elizabeth Ellen, Joshua Jennifer Espinoza, Roxane Gay, Mira Gonzalez, Tao Lin, Scott McClanahan, Spencer Madsen, Guillaume Morissette, Sam Pink, Sian S. Rathore, Steve Roggenbuck, Timothy Willis Sanders, LK Shaw and Janey Smith.
Related concepts and movements
Many writers and critics in and around the Alt Lit community have proposed different labels to be used in conjunction with or in place of "Alt Lit."
Some critics have linked Alt Lit writers with New Sincerity, to the point of using the terms interchangeably. Notable Alt Lit writers such as Steve Roggenbuck, Spencer Madsen and Tao Lin have also been grouped under the label "New Sincerity", but many Alt Lit writers reject the influence of David Foster Wallace and prominent mainstream exponents of a "New Sincerity" such as Jonathan Franzen.
The New Sincerity connection entails the use of an array of literary techniques intended to create the impression of "sincere" communication, ranging from autobiography, self-revision and a conversational tone to minimal punctuation and sans-serif fonts.
Due to its temporal proximity, Alt Lit is often grouped with post-modernism and many other literary movements, including New Modernism, which most literary critics say began around 1999, alongside the Modernist Studies Association (MSA) and its annual conference. But unlike New Modernism, Alt Lit survives only online, in forums that perpetuate its gossip-like atmosphere. There are no annual conferences, no academic classes on the style, and no published anthologies outside of some self-published groupings. The movement seems to persist only through the addition and publication of new writers who are discovered on the Internet by self-proclaimed Alt Lit writers and publishers.
- Spilker, Josh. "Lexicon Devils: What Exactly is Alt Lit? A Conversation With Frank Hinton, Noah Cicero and Stephen Tully Dierks". Vol. I BROOKLYN. 20 June 2012. Web. http://www.vol1brooklyn.com/2012/06/20/lexicon-devils-what-exactly-is-alt-lit-a-conversation-with-frank-hinton-noah-cicero-and-stephen-tully-dierks/
- Roggenbuck, Steve, E.E. Scott, and Rachel Younghans, eds. "Introduction." The Yolo Pages. Boost House, 2014. Print.
- Sharman, Eleanor. "Contemporary Literature’s Nouvelle Vague: Interview with Frank Hinton". The Oxford Student. 26 December 2012. Web. http://oxfordstudent.com/2012/12/26/contemporary-literatures-nouvelle-vague-interview-with-frank-hinton/
- Goldsmith, Kenneth. "If Walt Whitman Vlogged." New Yorker. Web. http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/if-walt-whitman-vlogged
- Degens, Marc. '"All my Ex-Friends. Radically Autobiographical Writing, 2006–2016". Metamorphosen 17. Web. http://marc-degens.de/all-my-ex-friends-radically-autobiographical-writing-2006-2016/
- Crispin Best. "The dA-Zed guide to Alt Lit." Dazed Digital. Web. http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/17603/1/the-da-zed-guide-to-alt-lit
- Bridle, James. "Meet the 'alt lit' writers giving literature a boost." The Guardian. 28 June 2014. Web. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jun/29/meet-alt-lit-writers-giving-literature-boost
- Alt Lit Library. Web. http://altlitlibrary.tumblr.com
- Holloway, Dan. "Looking for a great self-published book? Here's where to find it." The Guardian. 19 November 2012. Web. https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2012/nov/19/self-published-books-where-to-find
- Crispin Best. "Read the best Alt Lit on the net." Dazed Digital. Web. http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/16317/1/read-the-best-alt-lit-on-the-net
- Pierce, Cameron, and Michael Seidlinger, eds. 40 Likely to Die Before 40. Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2014. Print.
- Allie Jones, Hip Alt-Lit Editor Quits Public Writing Career After Rape Accusations, Gawker, 30 Sept 2014
- Call, Ryan. "Daniel Bailey on 'The New Sincerity'/Alt Lit". HTMLGiant. 29 June 2012. Web. http://htmlgiant.com/random/daniel-bailey-on-the-new-sincerityalt-lit/
- Jameson, A. D. "What we talk about when we talk about the New Sincerity, Part 1". HTMLGiant. 4 June 2012. Web. http://htmlgiant.com/haut-or-not/what-we-talk-about-when-we-talk-about-the-new-sincerity/
- Jameson, A. D. "Theory of Prose & better writing (ctd): The New Sincerity, Tao Lin & "differential perceptions"". HTMLGiant. 28 May 2012. Web. http://htmlgiant.com/craft-notes/theory-of-prose-better-writing-ctd-the-new-sincerity-differential-perceptions/#more-89605