Bliss is it in this dawn to be alive: Kanye West is writing a book, live on Twitter. There is no doubt it is a major event in the history of publishing: the first book to be written, as Yeezy puts it, "in real time", direct to 9.8 million people, without the filtering of publishers, editors, or even, possibly Kanye’s own superego.
Even better, as West trailed it in an interview with Belgian interior designer Axel Vervoordt for Hollywood Reporter, it is "a philosophy book". With the germ barely making its way into the world, the excitement is palpable.
For many of us the prospect of Kanye writing a book of any kind is, all alone, manna from heaven. He is a genius, though admittedly not of the Einstein or Picasso stripe – rather a sort of preternaturally fertile conduit for the transforming some of the worst aspects of our debased age into worthwhile art. He is also, like so many geniuses, a self-sabotaging ego-on-legs, very occasionally illuminated like an escaping prisoner by the flickering spotlight beam of his own self-consciousness.
You can take your pick as to which side of Kanye will make the book – provisionally titled Break the Simulation – more worth reading. Either way, its production, 244 characters at a time, live, and completely gratis, has got to be worth a watch. Especially with the tantalising trail that it is ‘a philosophy book’.
What sort of philosophy book, though? West told Vervoordt that he has "a concept about photographs". As one of the most photographed men in the world, he has some claim to expertise. But if this leaves the hopeful salivating over the prospect of Yeezy’s answer to Susan Sontag’s On Photography or Roland Barthes’ Rhetoric of the Image, all we know so far is that he is"on the fence" about photos in general. That is understandable in a man who has had to attend court mandated anger management sessions and community service for wrestling with a paparazzo, but it does not much whet the appetite for consuming his thoughts on the topic.
There are plenty of photos on Kanye’s Twitter feed, and the commentary is not scintillating. At the time of writing, though, they are almost all of shoes designed by Ye himself – "excited about the ability to give boots the true Yeezy shape". Either these are not part of the project, or Kanye is planning to be a very nattily-shod Peripatetic.
Take out the sneaker shots and a new album announcement, however, and the outline of Break the Simulation begins to emerge. So far it is is a disappointing hodgepodge of aphorisms that range from shrug-worthily fair to the cringe-inducingly platitudinous.
Many seem destined to find themselves written in cursive over stock-photo sunsets on elder relatives’ Facebook pages. Or at least, if they can be trimmed a little – Twitter’s new 244-character limit has let West push the bounds of the traditionally pithy apothegm into something altogether baggier.
One runs, "Be here now. Be in the moment. The now is the greatest moment of our lives and it just keep better. The bad parts the boring parts the parts with high anxiety. Embrace every moment for its greatness. This is life. This is the greatest movie we will ever see."
Another goes, "I don't believe in the concept of an enemy. We have been conditioned to always be in competition. Stop looking for something to beat and just be. You don't have to do all the work. Once you start moving in love the universe will assist you."
Others, similarly disappointing, deal with the ins and outs of creative life, in particular seeing past the Romantic fixation of originality. "Feel free to take ideas and update them at your will," Ye advises, ‘all great artist [sic] take and update’. That is both fair enough, and enjoyably meta in its echoing of T.S. Eliot’s famous maxim about great poets stealing. But I cannot say it leaves me thirsting for more.
Disappointingly, Break the Simulation is shaping up to be, dare I say it, boring. That is the last thing you would expect of Kanye, and yet, here he is tweeting "Don’t follow crowds […] Follow what you feel." While he might not oppose the basic sentiment, Nietzsche it ain’t.
And yet, there is always hope. As I too start moving in love, hoping that the universe will assist me, I remind myself that Ye is not a man to be predicted. As one of Break the Simulation’s tweets reminds us he is a man determined to drive himself, no matter what others thing: "Truth is my goal. Controversy is my gym. I'll do a hundred reps of controversy for a 6 pack of truth."
Here is hoping he does exactly that.