Now that I am out of the magnetic sphere of Kenneth Goldsmith's rhetoric, I do have a couple of critical thoughts about his talk.
His criticism of the derivative and even plagiaristic quality of contemporary literature hinged in part on the Booker prize descriptions of the works. The fact that the same description applies to a contemporary coming of age story as well as Romeo and Juliet and To Kill a Mockingbird doesn't speak inherently to the evils of Literature as an art form so much as it speaks to the evils of marketing writing, which is an evil that I believe most authors submit to as a victim. Using the marketing copy written to sell a book to analyze the originality of the work is a little dose of bad faith.
Then, later, during the Q&A session, someone brought up the fact that there is not much new going on in uncreative writing since Quenau and Goldsmith exalted in the interestingness of the spiral of the same experiment being performed again and again in new technological and historical contexts. Why doesn't the same apply to conventional literature? Why doesn't this renewal spiral apply to the coming of age novel? Romeo and Juliet have a different historical and technological and political story than To Kill a Mockingbird which is different to whatever coming of age contemporary novel I'm not reading now or to Lena Dunham's Girls series. Why doesn't conventional literature benefit from the same mechanism?
I am moved by the idea of humans acting like machines, but I am also moved by machines acting like humans. There is a pathos to how crappy they are at it.
Other than that, though, great talk. Artists, like the rest of us, are allowed their contradictions. Just because you stand up in front of an auditorium does not mean that you have to have everything figured out. I hope I get a chance to buy Kenneth a beer before he leaves Berlin!