Support local journalism. Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club.

The awkward teenage blues 

Stephanie Barber's new book, "Night Moves," recognizes that online commenting has become a form of literary modernism

click to enlarge 1457265.jpg

Night Moves | by Stephanie Barber | Publishing Genius Press | 86 pages

Stephanie Barber didn't write one word of her new book, Night Moves. She didn't even place a punctuation mark in its 80-something pages. She did edit the text – if by "editing," you mean deleting the original authors' names. So, yes: Stephanie Barber didn't write, edit or come up with any of the words found on the pages of this new book that bears her name.

For Night Moves, Barber – a filmmaker and performance artist with a sublime knack for examining the creative process with the sort of wonder and determination that a first-year med student brings to a cadaver – performed a meticulous act of cutting and pasting. The text comes from comments that appear on the YouTube page for "Night Moves," the 1976 single from Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band. And, yes, we're talking the "Trying to lose the awkward teenage blues/ Workin' on our night moves" staple of classic-rock radio. Fleetwood Mac's Rumours probably served as the soundtrack to more first times, but "Night Moves" is the song that makes people think about that moment. And Night Moves is entirely sourced from what people wanted to say about this song.

Just don't let the ready-made approach lead you to brush the book off as a gimmick: It's a fascinating plunge into a fractured, melodramatic soup of American memory. Such bittersweet reminiscences get stomped on by the sort of immature spleen that populates comments pages. One-word to sentence-long fragments run into short paragraphs invested with embarrassingly candid feelings. Notions of accurate spelling are specious at best. The phrase "Comment removed, author withheld" recurs at arrhythmic intervals, becoming a metafictional jab at the book itself. And somehow it works better than it has any right to. So, while we're still waiting for an infinite number of monkeys to type Hamlet, millions of wired simians type "Briggflatts" every day.

That isn't meant to cheapen the writing of Basil Bunting or literary modernism one bit. Language is communication, and order complements meaning. Writing swims against entropy's current, casting one author's efforts to mimic disjointed polyphony as a mammoth crawl. With Night Moves, Barber recognizes that online commenting has become a kind of abstruse naturalism, acts of solitary typing that accrue a scarily familiar humanity en masse.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club for as little as $5 a month.


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Read the Digital Print Issue

October 20, 2021

View more issues


© 2021 Orlando Weekly

Website powered by Foundation