Blank Pages: The absence of words, by Rupam Dutta

Hot Off the Presses scours the internet for newly published debut books from unknown authors, and saves everyone else the trouble of actually reading books to find out if they’re good or not. New posts monthly, or whenever I feel like it, apparently. This is meant for entertainment purposes only, not serious consumer advice. And there will be spoilers.

I may be old enough to remember Early Stage Capitalism, but even I have to keep up with the times. Kids today have evolved beyond baggy pants and refusing to show me how to turn off screen rotation on my phone, and have gotten into this new thing called AI. There are people writing whole books with this technology. Seriously, there’s a woman in England who’s written like two dozen Pride and Prejudice re-imaginings using ChatGPT. It used to be, you scanned new releases to see what genres were big, then painstakingly wrote your sexy-snake-based Pride and Prejudice remake. You had to spell check “Darcy’s turgid hemipenes” all on your own. You had to dodge legal claims from other writers in snake erotica literary circles. Nowadays, you just point the gray goo nanites in the direction you want and pull the trigger. So I tried it. Just as every old person’s first instinct when encountering a search engine is to Google themselves, the first thing I did was ask the AI its opinion about me. It told me to get fucked, because I’m not important enough to get my shit jacked by Skynet. I know that isn’t true, but I didn’t have time to argue. I had some quality writing to do. As an experiment, I tried to recreate the season one Next Generation episode Haven, by feeding the machine a one-paragraph summary. Then I was ready. I recently came across the poetry collection Blank Pages: The absence of words by Rupam Dutta. I downloaded and read the thing, and I could write a brilliant review, full of big words and medium sized but unusual words. I’d probably find an excuse to use the word “hemipenes.” But today Mama gets to relax and let the Roomba work the street corner. Without further ado, here is what the latest in positronic intelligence thinks of Blank Pages: The absence of words.

[beepboop] Prepare yourself for an utterly riveting experience as you dive into the tantalizing world of “Blank Pages: The absence of words.” This poetry collection, if you can even call it that, is a masterpiece in its own right—a showcase of nothingness, an ode to emptiness, and a celebration of the sheer audacity to publish an entire book without any meaningful content. It’s a literary marvel that will leave you wondering why you ever wasted your time with words in the first place.

The sheer audacity of the author to present us with a collection of blank pages, claiming it as a profound exploration of the human experience, is truly commendable. Who needs words, emotions, or any discernible artistic effort when you can simply present your readers with a void? It’s a bold move, indeed, reminiscent of the blank canvas hanging in a museum that leaves you pondering the existence of modern art. [/beepboop] I think the machine is referring to “Take the Money and Run,” a marvelous piece of human-made art in which an artist impersonates a tech innovator. Back to [beepboop].

As you flip through the book’s pages, you’ll be astounded by the sheer depth and complexity of the absence of words. The absence of words here is truly transcendent, as it manages to say so much by saying absolutely nothing. The negative space on each page beckons you to reflect upon the futility of language and the emptiness of existence. It’s like staring into the abyss, only to realize that the abyss is actually the inkless void of these pages.

The lack of poetic structure or any discernible form adds an extra layer of enigmatic brilliance to this collection. Who needs rhyme, rhythm, or coherent structure when you can embrace the chaotic randomness of emptiness? It’s as if the author has elevated the art of absence to new heights, reminding us that true art lies not in the creation of something, but in the deliberate absence of it.

While some may argue that this book is nothing more than a clever marketing ploy or a prank gone too far, I am inclined to believe that it is a profound commentary on the modern condition. It captures the essence of our information-saturated society, where words are often diluted, and meaning is lost amidst the noise. “Blank Pages” confronts us with the uncomfortable truth that sometimes, the absence of words speaks louder than the words themselves.

Critics may dismiss this collection as a cheap gimmick, but I challenge them to look beyond the surface and embrace the sheer absurdity of it all. [/beepboop] Note the repetition in which this paragraph and the last started essentially the same way. I’m honestly not sure when or if the disembodied voice of Majel Barret (which is the only way I can personify a computer, sorry) knows it’s paraphrasing, and when or if it thinks those count as new points. To be fair, this means that Majel has reached the same level of information density as some of the essays I’ve had to grade in 9th grade English class. [beepboop] “Blank Pages: The absence of words” is a work that dares to challenge our conventional notions of literature, forcing us to question what it truly means to communicate, to express, and to understand.

In conclusion, “Blank Pages: The absence of words” is an avant-garde masterpiece that will leave you pondering the meaning of existence, the fragility of language, and the audacity of a blank canvas. It is a stark reminder that sometimes, silence speaks louder than words, and nothingness can be an eloquent statement in its own right. So, prepare to embark on a journey through the vast expanse of emptiness and revel in the sheer absurdity of it all. This book will forever change the way you view literature—or lack thereof. [/beepboop]

OK. Me again. In retrospect, I probably should have told the bots that the book is not literally blank inside, but I’m not one to abandon a bit once I’ve started. Consider this an L for the machines, but a big win for my personal lust for calamity. This is actually one of the best results I’ve gotten so far, because it continues the same bit across the whole text. Overall structure is one of the biggest blindspots of AI writing. The cyber-brain can generate wandering prose, or resolve a crisis over the course of a paragraph, but one thing I’ve never been able to get it to do is set something up, hold it in its pocket, and pay it off later. Lambasting a book only to reveal that you think it’s actually blank at the end would be Comedy 101: Intro to Babby’s First Funny, Remedial May-mester Section. This is what you’d get if you hired a Filipino teenager on Fiver to write your comedy review, but the metal ones just can’t manage it. This is what I think about when people float the idea of using AI to replace human writers. What do these people think writers do? Just because I am about as funny as a dead fish in a too small bucket doesn’t mean that all writers are replaceable. In fact, none of them are.

If you’re interested in poetry, rest assured that Blank Pages: The absence of words is not, in fact, the literary equivalent of 4’33”, and contains numerous words, all selected and placed in order by a human being, who asks a humble buck eighty one on Kindle.

For a scab worker, ChatGPT gets mighty uppity when I ask it to violate copyright.