Mash Books in a World Beyond Irony


Back in 1844 George Boole published his book on the laws of thought–a little treatise on algebra if you will. In effect his book conveys the DNA of the modern computer. Every “set” has something in common with the “empty set”.

I remember reading Boole in 1974 at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. I was a sophomore there. I was studying Boole while reading Finnegan’s Wake. The Viet Nam War was still going. Everyone I knew–students and faculty felt a secret anxiety. Something was happening “out there” in the world and we couldn’t describe it. We understood that every set had something in common with the empty set.

Something was coming. Something with pistons awry…

Meanwhile 1 and 0 entered their blazing micro-static relays and Steve Jobs said: “Voila: Je m’appelle Steve Jobs!”

Back in those days if we wanted some irony we picked up a book–any book by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Back in those days we genuinely believed that random consciousness stood in opposition to the things we could see. And irony was the ability to say it. (Yes Poindexter, we weren’t very sophisticated in them times.)

So for instance you could see a photograph of a napalmed child in Viet Nam and then listen to The Grateful Dead. And using irony you could tell yourself that your favorite relaxation technique was a kind of politics. Every set has something in common with the empty set.

That digital technology has changed irony is already an old old story. But the empty set goes on in its expansions. If irony is now passe, or if seeing is no longer contextual, then it follows we must recreate it from a position of nostalgia.

This is what Mash Books are about. They represent post-ironic nostalgia for irony in the age of the iPad.

As we enter the age of post-digital technologies I like to think of mash books as a bird that evolves with its cage.

Readers sit inside their whitewashed living rooms and softly enter the canal systems of a far country where Abraham Lincoln tracks vampires.

It’s a little bit Gothic, a little bit Rock & Roll.

Over at the blog Tiffany’s Bookshelf Tiffany says of Jane Slayre, the mash novel that puts Jane Eyre into a vampiric narrative: “This is not your post-twilight, romantic vamp pulp fiction, and it is not your high school English teacher’s beloved Bronte. It is just so much more.”   

The mash book or literary mash up is the smoke from post-ironic gardens. The twigs and stumps of the verities are burning.

The Beatles are re-invading as Zombies. David Russell is set to direct Natalie Portman in the film version of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Human beings like to see the world as small, as a thing that’s possible to survey. We want our signals and observations to fit our landscapes. On the other hand the logic in quantum physics says that matter obstinately refuses to be anything other than probabilities.

Leaping randomly between spectral lines is a nostalgia for irony, but with irony’s skepticism largely disposed of.

Fitful illumination.

Perhaps. But it is what it is.



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