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Lemin, Nathan Patrick (2021) Lovelines. Masters thesis, Northern Arizona University.

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This thesis is comprised of a novella titled Lovelines, which follows the title character, an Instagram poet and ad-agency copywriter. Lovelines writes for markets rather than art, and the plot is propelled by his grappling with disconnection from the physical world. He lives through the persona he has created in his phone and Instagram and exists to much of the world as an anonymous writer on the internet. Through self-doubt, strained relationships with other characters, and the solace of natural spaces, Lovelines attempts to discover the meaning of his art, as well as his life. The novella is built upon my interest in artistic liminality: where is the threshold
between market and art? Between persona and artist and who we actually are? How do we draw a line for “good” art or writing? And how should a writer create their goals as an artist? This interest in liminality has grown from the rapid digitalization of our world over the course of my life, which has been so amplified by COVID-19 and the isolation that the pandemic brought. Everyone tries to cloud or efface in some way how and who they actually are through their online presence. Lovelines attempts to process that effacement through his simple craft; he tries to project an image of life through a poem, through a caption, through hashtags, and yet each of those options falls short. The touch of social media is not a physical one. But purely physical touch is not what Lovelines is after either. His generation, which is my own, has been so thoroughly processed in an online, social media world, that there exists simultaneously pleasure and hollowness in both the complete absence of touch and the purely sexual touch, which complicates all intimacy. Furthermore, a product of our digital age is that we risk losing correct perception of ourselves to our personas; we’re depressed and anxious about ourselves because we buy into the way we have crafted this persona. And then we begin living to fit the persona we have created. In the novella, Lovelines starts to live the way he thinks his poetry dictates that he should. It is not until Mary, someone who lives the version of life that she has created for herself in what appears to be a meaningful, fulfilling way, that Lovelines begins to see that you can both create yourself and love yourself. But there is profound implication in that self-creation: there is a space—between the brain and the page, between the reader and writer, between a good decision and a bad—where exists the truth of art. The hard part for Lovelines is finding that truth. The novella at its inception was influenced by Nathanael West’s novella Miss Lonelyhearts. Nearly a century later, I wanted to rewrite the darkly comic, lonely book for our contemporary audience. An Instagram poet seemed the modern-day equivalent to the love columnist of Miss Lonelyhearts, with their relative anonymity, crafted persona, and potential inability to meaningfully help their audience. Beyond the basic structure and obvious naming homage, the dark comedy, profound loneliness, and absurdity of West’s novella influenced my own. And the hybrid form: a novella interspersed with faux “Insta-poems,” is one that further grows from my interest in liminality and hybridity, both informed by my experience in Northern Arizona University’s MFA program. The flexibility to take courses in different genres, as well as combine that creative work with meaningful literary theory has propelled this thesis where it would not have dared go two years ago. Increasingly, when writing, my attraction to liminality gravitates toward choice, whether it be on the line, or the action/inaction of a speaker. The cliche goes: there is always a choice. But art, truth knows that is not the full extent of reality: to be fully some body, choice is often an illusion or a privilege. By discovering the fictional in-between my writing hopes to learn its own agency, or what can be chosen and what is predestined. For Lovelines, meaningful choice is the ultimate discomfort. For him choice has become flattened because he believes his world is flat. He believes his world fits in a screen, is catered to him, targeted for him, propped up and flattened by our technology. When he finally chooses not to buy into this version of himself and his world, my hope is that he progresses incrementally forward. But he makes mistakes, profound mistakes. We all do. And at some level my fiction believes in valuing the humor and humanity found in these mistakes. Perhaps this is the final threshold the work hopes to elucidate: where does dark beauty and dark humor shake hands? As much as I want the reader to believe in the image of Lovelines’ poems, or the story itself, I also want them to smirk and shake their head. That does not mean I want sympathy for him, rather, something closer to empathy. My hope is that readers will realize that, like Lovelines, we often miss something in ourselves, something profoundly loveable, because we are buying into the created version of ourselves. This novella hopes readers will leap between all the clever, loving, and creative spaces in their minds. I believe in this novella, this idea, and Lovelines. Without the caring readers, collaborators, and teachers I have had here in Flagstaff, at home in the Midwest, and otherwise, I would not have been able to see this work through the COVID-19 pandemic. And I am so grateful that I was able to, because the extended isolation and further digitalization of our lives that the pandemic incited, amplified the meaning I hoped to reveal when I started this work.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Publisher’s Statement: © Copyright is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the Cline Library, Northern Arizona University. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
Keywords: Fiction; Novella; Human relationships
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PE English
NAU Depositing Author Academic Status: Student
Department/Unit: Graduate College > Theses and Dissertations
College of Arts and Letters > English
Date Deposited: 02 Mar 2022 17:42
Last Modified: 19 May 2023 08:30
URI: https://openknowledge.nau.edu/id/eprint/5786

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