Philosophy Weekend: From Chaos

The past week was a rough ride on the literary Internet. Thursday brought the sudden death knell of HTMLGiant, a rollicking community website frequented by writers like Tao Lin, Zachary German, Megan Boyle, Noah Cicero, Marie Calloway and Blake Butler along with a wide cast of erratic contributors and scattered postmodernists. This lively website always reminded me of the fun and psychotic days when Litkicks ran message boards.

The good news is, HTMLGiant is staying alive through October for one last gasp, promising to unleash a series of farewell blog posts “because if there’s anything this website deserves it’s an uncontrolled flameout”. That’s the way to do it, HTMLGiant!

The bad news, though, is that the immediate impetus for HTMLGiant’s closing is a charge of sexual abuse that has been leveled against the novelist Tao Lin, who happens to be probably the most successful and popular member of the whole “alt-lit” crowd.

I haven’t seen Tao in a few years but I used to enjoy talking with him at New York City literary events. I always had a positive impression of this quirky young writer. I would be very sorry to see his career destroyed for any reason, though I agree with others that if he has committed an act of violence against another person, he cannot be easily forgiven. I don’t understand the detailed facts about this case, but it is clear that people have been hurt, and that is sad.

The Tao Lin news wasn’t the worst bombshell on the scene for me this week. Ed Champion, one of my closest friends, and my longtime “traveling partner” on the literary blogging scene, has had a severe mental breakdown. This didn’t happen suddenly. Several of us have seen this coming for the last few years, especially the last two, as various paranoid tendencies got the better of him.

A dumb offense against another writer has (rightfully) generated tremendous backlash against Ed, who has by this point really hit bottom. Unfortunately for himself, he generated a lot of damaging publicity in doing so.

I felt particularly close to the events this week because the other writer who finally called Ed out on his increasingly offensive behavior was the novelist Porochista Khakpour, who is also a good friend of mine. I reviewed her novel The Last Illusion recently, and saw her read from this novel at a Virginia book festival just three weeks ago.

I wrote extensively about my personal feelings about the really frightening crisis that has occurred between two of my good friends and several others in the publishing/lit-crit community on my Twitter account, particularly in a stream of about 50 tweets on September 30 and September 28. Please go there if you’d like to read my perspective on the whole story.

All I’d like to say here is that I think Porochista did the right thing to speak out loudly when Ed started threatening her, and that I really hope Ed gets well. Many people have enjoyed his work at or Bat Segundo over the years, and I hope the literary community can find some sympathy for a guy who made big mistakes and is now suffering for them.

* * * * *

I call this Philosophy Weekend blog post “From Chaos” because life feels chaotic right now. But the emphasis is on the “From”, because I’m making some good changes on Litkicks right now. If you’re a regular reader, you may have noticed that I’ve been gradually reducing the frequency of blog posts, which used to come at the rate of two or three a week. Starting now, I’m going to stick to a slower pace of one blog post a week.

This will help me keep the quality level high (quality is always more important than quantity when it comes to blog posts, don’t you think?). It will also help me work on a new project I’m cooking up, something that is currently being born, but will take a little while more before it can emerge from the chaos.

I will still be writing often about philosophy and politics and ethics, but this weekend’s blog post will be the last one called “Philosophy Weekend”. Now that I’m doing one blog post a week, they’ll all just be “Literary Kicks”. This may take some getting used to, but I think it will work out fine.

I began Philosophy Weekend in June 2010 after ending a weekend series devoted to the New York Times Book Review because that had stopped being fun. I wanted to start using the Litkicks platform to share thoughts about the issues that were most on my mind at this time, particularly issues relating to history, sociology, psychology, politics, religion and philosophy. I think the series was a success, and I am thrilled that Litkicks readers embraced the experiment and kept up a steady level of intelligent and provocative debate in our comments. I hope this keeps going, and I have no doubt that it will.

I’ll be continuing to write about the same topics, but it will no longer be a separate section. I like the symbolism that the last Philosophy Weekend blog post is named after the primordial Greek god Khaos, while the very first Philosophy Weekend blog post was named after Sisyphus. Pretty cool, eh? That’s how I’m going out. I like to think dear Friedrich would approve.

* * * * *

A note about the artwork: before I began writing this article, I googled “primordial chaos” and found this image on the page of an artist named Vivi-Mari Carpelan, who has very nice work.

11 Responses

  1. Quality is of utmost
    Quality is of utmost importance over quantity in just about everything, especially @ poetry readings…..i’m interested to see what new turn u take, but i get the feeling it’s not gonna include action poetry, is that aspect of litkicks done permanently?

  2. Hi WIREMAN – I still think
    Hi WIREMAN – I still think Action Poetry deserved to live, but I didn’t have enough to give to keep it going. The kinds of things I’ve been writing about lately are what’s on my mind lately, and I have to devote my attention to that.

    However, I did learn how to integrate Facebook into Litkicks with the last version of Action Poetry, and that is something I’d like to keep building on with whatever I do next. But this will be something new, something from the ground up. Thanks for always being a part of it all, WIREMAN.

  3. Oct 5 14
    Oct 5 14

    LitKicks Ed Champion

    Far be it from me to defend Ed Champion. I know next to nothing about him, except from posts here and when I saw any of his posts I stayed away. 

    Too much anger, hate and craziness. I see a lot of hard leftists like this who have to blame every and anything on someone sinister outside force. George Bush being the biggest object of psychosis but it seems to permeate all aspects of life and personality like a hologram. 

    So, in saying what I say now, it is not in defense of Ed Champion. 

    I think Salon and Jezebel are in the same pod with Champion. The difference is only extremes and level of control over the chaos. 

    Ed Champion seems to have some mental problems. What’s Salon’s excuse?

    The Salon writer made a great observation:

    “Like many Internet habitués, Champion apparently found righteous indignation — and the opportunity to parlay it into attention and recognition — to be a heady drug.”

    Both the Salon and especially the Jezebel pieces you link to are almost purely righteous indignation mainline highs. 

    But that is almost the entirety of both publications regarding any subject and in anything they publish. 

    Physician heal thyself, take the plank out of your eye. 

    And to cavalierly use the term “Special Ed” but demand moral high ground to arbitrate misogynist speech?  Yeah right. 

    My advice to you Levi, is to drive about half hour over Manassas to Tom’s Diner on the East side of 29 and have a chicken fried steak and eggs. 

    It’s delicious and large. It fills the whole plate. 

    Enjoy Virginia. 

  4. looking forward to the new
    looking forward to the new direction you’re going, Levi.

    much respect for the many evolutionary changes you’ve implemented. i’m happy to have seen a few of them.


  5. — “I see a lot of hard
    — “I see a lot of hard leftist like this who have to blame every and anything on someone sinister outside force.”

    As if this has never been a problem with “rightists.” Sheesh.

  6. Yes, TKG, I must agree with
    Yes, TKG, I must agree with mnaz here. You are certainly contextualizing beyond all reason when you read this as a sign of anything but mental illness.

    For what it’s worth, I would not describe Ed as a leftist. He was suspicious of all parties and was not, for instance, a supporter of Barack Obama as I am. Though I think he was a liberal, I couldn’t usually agree with him on many political issues.

    Your comment contains a lot of cultural generalizations, and it does not capture the individual people we are discussing at all. Not up to your usual standards, TKG!

  7. wow, how unpleasant. been
    wow, how unpleasant. been seeing a lot of social ills working their way through online society lately.

  8. Our country is dis-eased by
    Our country is dis-eased by social ills, xian, as it seems the world itself is.

  9. social ills
    social ills
    swallowing pills
    action on
    action off
    liking finality
    wonder no more
    movin on philosophy
    destination poetry
    how much wood
    coulda woodchuck
    laughin it all the way
    there’s only so many
    hours in a passion play
    your fashion
    my rehashing
    the bell tolls
    in Baltimore, yet
    it’s all in storage
    eating her porridg
    then she stuck in
    her thumb
    found it was all
    outta plumb

  10. Hey Bill — the answer is yes
    Hey Bill — the answer is yes! That’s definitely one part of the plan I’m cookin’ up here …

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Litkicks will turn 30 years old in the summer of 2024! We can’t believe it ourselves. We don’t run as many blog posts about books and writers as we used to, but founder Marc Eliot Stein aka Levi Asher is busy running two podcasts. Please check out our latest work!