Maxi Kim on Jarett Kobek’s third book, If You Won’t Read, Then Why Should I Write?, a sobering diagnosis of the collective state of the American mind.
If you’re familiar with Los Angeles’s DIY art culture, the third and final anthology of Penny-Ante in 2009 left you with a certain inner satisfaction. Despite the decade-long decline of American popular culture, there was, in the three-hundred-plus pages of Penny-Ante, an archive of a contemporary cultural milieu that did not cater to the tastes of commercial taste-makers. After a three-year hiatus, to the delight of its admirers, Penny-Ante has rebooted itself as Penny-Ante Editions, an independent press and arts-based company. To mark their transition, a new series of works titled Success and Failure will be released throughout the fall, including a limited release of the film Dream Warfare 3 created by underground performance artist Jason Wallace Triefenbach and Blabber and Smoke, an edition of scratch and sniff stickers that smell like ashtrays by artist Jason Yates.
Along with Triefenbach and Yates’s new visual and olfactory art, Success and Failure will consist of literary works from avant-garde-minded authors, starting with agent provocateur Jarett Kobek. Set at the dusk of the neoliberal utopia, Jarett Kobek’s third book, If You Won’t Read, Then Why Should I Write?, is perhaps the most sobering diagnosis of the collective state of the American mind. Access Hollywood, Entertainment Tonight, National Enquirer, Radar Online, Sun, TMZ, Us Weekly, VH1, etc, etc: it’s all grist for our ever-increasing, ever-collapsing entertainment economy. And it is all undoubtedly the end result of a post-Enlightenment ideological obsession with “being famous for being famous” that, as prominent cultural critic Norman Klein put it, is aiming to metaphorically and quite effectively hollow out the Western psyche.