Mark Dery, “The Politics of Style”
The cultural logic of the Twentieth Century informs, even now, our notions of what constitutes good writing. Mark Dery excavates the Machine Age biases, not to mention the chest-thumping gender politics and latent homophobia, on which Anglo-American ideas about “good writing” are founded, directing our attention to the stylistic countercurrent running beneath the surface of Modernist prose style—a polymorphous, perverse tradition of exuberant overwriting and overthinking whose Proustian syntax, hothouse neologisms, polysyllabic exuberance, unapologetic embrace of the much-maligned adjective, and associative, digression-friendly mode of thought rejoice in the criminality of ornament.
Mark Dery is a cultural critic. His writings on media, technology, pop culture, and American society have appeared in Artforum, Cabinet, Elle, The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, Salon, Spin, and Wired, among others. Dery’s books include The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium: American Culture on the Brink (Grove Press, 1999) and Escape Velocity: Cyberculture at the End of the Century (Grove Press, 1997), which has been translated into eight languages. He edited the scholarly anthology Flame Wars: The Discourse of Cyberculture (Duke University Press Books, 1995) and wrote the monograph Culture Jamming: Hacking, Slashing, and Sniping in the Empire of Signs (Open Media, 1993). His latest book is the essay collection I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts. He is writing a biography of the artist Edward Gorey for Little, Brown.