There are plenty of approaches to the world of English literature, which has long seemed to many to be somewhat stuffy, insular and difficult to approach – particularly if you are a young person or outside the traditional scope of what a ‘writer’ is. When faced with this, many writers are turning to the concept of ‘alternative literature’, or a way of publishing and writing that is far removed from what you think of when you first imagine the world of writing and literature.
As the internet becomes more and more prevalent in everybody’s lives, there are a large number of writers who are incorporating much of the language and culture that the internet has spawned (particularly in youth culture) into the world of literature and writing. It’s an interesting meeting between the worlds of Gmail Chat, emojis, Tumblr posts and traditional writing mores. As such, it’s definitely intended for a fairly specific audience – the same kind of people who write alt lit are more than likely to be the ones who read it, as well as English Literature students and any kind of young person involved in or with a liberal arts degree. This isn’t to mean that these are the only kinds of people who can read this kind of literature, but in terms of cultural references and writing style, it’s clearly aimed towards them.
There are many who argue that the style of writing in alt lit is a little too ‘thrown away’ and doesn’t carry the same kind of weight or meaning that other fiction has. Much alt lit is extensively clinical, detached and dry in its writing style and narrative – in extreme cases, it seems like every alt lit story is disaffected mid-twenties white people taking prescription drugs and talking blandly, with plenty of play-by-play description of what people are thinking. This can be see neither as an attempt to convey the thought processes of the modern ‘alternative’ person, or as something that alt lit writers now expect they have to do.
At the very least, alt lit can be seen as a reaction to how prevalent technology, widespread dissemination of culture and absolutely instantaneous gratification have become integral parts of society throughout the world – and particularly for people under the age of 30 who have come to expect these kind of things to be completely natural and a part of life that will never go away.