January 31, 2023

Reviewing Working on My Novel by Cory Arcangel when I should be #workingonmynovel

On the back of Cory Arcangel’s new paperback Working on My Novel there is a quote from Jonah Peretti which states that it is ‘an epically brilliant work’. He jokes, or we have very different ideas of what is epically brilliant.

Cory Arcangel has taken over 120 tweets that include the words “working on my novel” and printed them one per page in a normal-sized Penguin paperback book. In amongst the tweets are a few drawings of kettles, one of which is also on the cover.

Is that epically brilliant? I hope not.

The book is a repository of other people’s excuses for not actually knuckling down and working on their novel. Though the tweets have been reordered they do not build into a narrative and remain one-off statements. They show the difficulties and enthusiasms of novel writing, but don’t add up to anything very interesting.

The project started as a Twitter bot that retweeted mentions of ‘working on my novel.’ That pointless repetition of prevarication was one thing, drawing attention to the way we fill our time with the pointless even when we know something more permanent is possible. To wrap some of the tweets up in a book and give it away is another. To charge £5.99 for it is yet another. Arcangel mocks the authors by compiling their attempts to write a book into a book.

Some further research would have been interesting – what has happened to the novels that were being written. How many have been finished. How many have been published. But there are only the tweets themselves. The blurb makes the chin-stroking claims that this book explores the ‘extremes of making art,’ and is the ‘story of what it means to be a creative person.’

It quotes from the lives of creative people, but its exploration of making art makes no attempt to go to extremes, being content to retweet on paper what other people have said online.

It is hard to see best-seller status heading Arcangel’s way for Working on My Novel.

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