I’m trying to write a book. My working title is Softvideo: A Mereological Memoir. So far I seem to have spent a lot of words writing vaguely about methodology, and asides that mix anecdote, personal history and a muddled showing off. I’m not really sure what I’m trying to say, and at the moment rather than resolve this it seems I am busy performing reflexive pyrotechnics as a way to hide the vacuousness.
I haven’t written a book before. I have written a 25,000 word Master’s thesis (on Bresson’s Diary of a Country Priest) and a 20,000 word wandering exegetical sort of thing that accompanied my PhD by Publication. But not a book. I am intimidated by its scale. I know how to get enough words, I already have 25,000 of them, but a lot them really are rubbish. Some of them are just irrelevant, and I still feel like I’m casting around for what it is about.
I realise that must seem arse about. I don’t actually know, but I imagine most people know what their books are about, and how, before they begin writing. Well, more or less. However, one of the things I’ve always sought in my academic writing (which is one of the things that originally drew me so powerfully to hypertext theory and practice in the 1990s) is to write in a way that recognises that as a humanities theorist writing is my laboratory. Writing is not the device I use to report on my findings from an experimental practice that I undertake elsewhere, in other media (whether that be the lab or field work of the scientist or the project based artefacts of the creative arts researcher), but is my lab, field work, and my project based artefact. So I want to write, and write in a way, that lets some of the frisson and élan of thought be present, there so that the process and practice of thinking is there in its material messy clamouring sometimes confusion.
This might make for a book that will never find a publisher, because it could well be just too, well, I think bastard child is the term that fits best. Not quite theory, neither essay nor memoir. There are lots of ways to dress up such writing theoretically, and many models that inspire this, stretching from the late Barthes, through Wark’s books from A Hacker Manifesto, Shields’ Reality Hunger, Romb’s recent efforts, Mark Amerika’s riffs and even the pragmatic yet incisive informality of Bogost’s pamphlet like Alien Phenomenology. Though a list like that makes me worry that I’m finding an excuse for me to write indulgently, and without the theoretical depth and alacrity that that list contains.