In which the Internet out-twits me (again)
November 27, 2011
A little while ago, I thought that maybe I had an original idea. As usual, the Internet proved me wrong. This is almost certainly a common experience and may even be generalizable.
My idea was straightforward: having stumbled across a copy of Luc Sante’s NYRB Classics translation of Felix Feneon’s Novels in Three Lines, I believed that the book would make for a good twitter feed or something like that. To illustrate just one of the many reasons why Feneon and the Internet might get along, here is a portrait of Feneon painted by Paul Signac in 1890:
If you’re not familiar with Feneon, the French Wikipedia entry on him is a helpful start (and if, like me, you don’t really read French, the Google Translate version of the page is your friend). Other good places to read more about him and his work are this book review by Julian Barnes and this blogpost (authored by one “Mr. Whiskets”). Basically, Feneon was a Parisian anarchist, literature buff, translator, art critic, and journalist during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Feneon’s “novels”were actually short “pointilist” reports of current events printed in the newspaper Le Matin. The texts are often funny, violent and ironic, maybe best characterized as a cross between the late, great “bus plunges off a cliff” NYT stories of yore; a poetic police blotter; and “metropolitan diaries” (sans smug New Yorker ‘tude). Here is another, somewhat more serious portrait of Feneon at work:
Nevermind all that, though. In fact, anything of substance about Feneon is besides the point here. A few quick searches revealed that I was late to the Feneon party. There exist no fewer than thirteen (!) Feneon twitter accounts <and> two Feneon-themed tumblr’s. As you would expect, some of this nouveau-Feneon content is good and some of it is crap. However, the point stands that long before the idea was even a glimmer in my eye, the Internet had already found Feneon and had reproduced, translated, imitated, and remixed him.
All of this suggests something like a Feneon Principle, or at least a Feneon Corollary to Rule 34 (H/T to Mako for that one).
Somebody on the Internet has already tried to turn anything you can think of into a meme.
Falsifiable hypotheses and empirical evidence to follow…