"What need we any spur but our own cause to prick us to redress?"
This week the hogs congregate in New York City.
The irony to me is that most of the black-tie people who'll be sitting at the $12,000 tables undoubtedly voted for a "Democratic" party. In the fantasies of their minds they fashion themselves democrats, while having no understanding of the meaning of the word-- which is inexcusable for literary people. Where will be the "many" at their high-priced tables? (Many feasting snorting farm animals is about all one can say.)
The setting for this year's National Book Awards will be New York's Marriott Marquis, a gigantic, lavish, and expensive playground for privileged members of the planet's richest city.
First, readers, for those of you who've never been there, obtain in your heads a picture of the metropolis where this monster hotel is located. Nowhere else in America will you see conspicuous wealth to such extent, and extreme poverty, side by side. The aristocrats wear furs and ride in limousines and carriages while down the street Third World types labor in sweatshops or in back of restaurants to serve these people; while scurvy homeless rifle through garbage. Towering wealth! Manhattan is the center of global finance. (It's a fact that the gold reserves even of Europe are stored in vaults beneath Manhattan streets.) Much of the wealth of the city's fortunate families is preserved in tax scam foundations like, well, the National Book Foundation.
(Is it a surprise that Rick Moody, whose banker father sits on another foundation, was chosen to play a prominent role by this one?)
Think of Manhattan and envision a fortress hotel at the center of it, by all accounts designed to be a fortress-- a perfect metaphor for the state of establishment literature today. (For security reasons the lobby is eight floors from street level.) Inside this structure described as "insular" by hotel guides is a gigantic atrium, countless large restaurants and bars, even a theater. It's patrolled by armies of security. One can believe that when the aristocrats arrive in expensive dresses and black ties, lacking only top hats to mark them as gilded Capitalists of the worst kind, they'll be whisked quickly from limos to inside. You know, the "democrats"; Mailer, Sontag, Oates, Franzen, Updike; the heads of various arts foundations; representatives of book publishing giants and influential high-circulation newspapers and magazines. Maybe even the "Leftists" will be there; all those champagne socialists and black tie radicals like Katrina von vanden Heuvel, Robert B. Phony Silvers, and Lewis High Hat Lapham.
Their persons will be as secure and safe as their ideas; as protected, bunkered, cordoned off; removed from any risk of equal exchange or free debate about their cronyistic world and the condition of their dying art. I don't know about occupiers in Iraq, but I know there are occupiers in Manhattan; Overdog occupiers of American literature who've dragged it into their own personal green zone at the Marriott Marquis-- but this gang of occupiers has no intention of ever opening their world to freedom and democracy. They've made no plans to leave.
(Part II to follow shortly.)