Mark Dery: Nothing's Shocking

Roy Christopher reviews I MUST NOT THINK BAD THOUGHTS.

Dery_Bad coverI read a review of a Weird Al Yankovich record several years ago (i.e., eons past Al’s 1980s prime) that pointed out that his schtick had become commonplace. When irony and parody become the norm, the edges move toward the middle. When culture jamming becomes culture, there’s nothing left to jam. When the news is just another reality show… After many binges on the fringes, learning the edge, culture jamming, and cyberpunking during the 1990s, chronicled in his books Culture Jamming (Open Media, 1993), Flame Wars (Duke University Press, 1994), Escape Velocity (Grove Press, 1996), and The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium (Grove Press, 1999), Mark Dery is back with a collection of essays from the meantime: I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts: Drive-by Essays on American Dread, American Dreams (University of Minnesota Press, 2012). It’s been twelve years since our last virtual sit-down, so I thought it was time to check in again.

I cracked open Dery’s first book in over a decade, and landed on the story about blogging, which, with an adept analysis of all-over-the-map, curiosity-collecting blogs like bOING bOING, explains further the plight of cultural criticism as Dery does it. Realizing I was getting ahead of myself, I backed up to Bruce Sterling‘s foreword, which coincidentally references the one piece I’d read. “This is prescience in conditions of historical inevitability,” Sterling writes about Dery’s blog piece (“World Wide Wonder Closet: On Blogging”).

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By: Roy Christopher