As many folks seem more upset about my approach to Tom Bissell's questionable borrowings, than to the borrowings themselves, I have here a short essay I recently wrote:
The thing to know about the trendy hip people at the exclusive penthouse party known as "literature" is that nothing for them is more important than manners. One of their number could be devoid of all talent (as most of them are), but that's beside the point. How hip is he? What clothes does he wear? Are his jeans faux faded-- or faded for real? Does he smell? Meanwhile, Dostoevsky and Rimbaud stand outside the door, but can't be let in; they're unwashed and unshaven, no clothes from Lord & Taylor: not presentable at all.
A famous Literary Figure at the hip party could be a known serial killer (looking suspiciously like Bret Ellis), well-dressed and hip, martini glass rakishly tilted, holding forth (in Agni of course) on, of all things, law and order. You point to him and say, "But you're a serial killer!" The crowd is outraged. Not at him, for his serial killing, but at you, for speaking of the matter in polite company. "It's . . . it's . . . ," a rich dowager blusters, "it's not done!" Outrageous! Throw the bum out!
The same mentality applies to their taste in literature. What matters isn't if the work contains emotion and truth, but whether the "proper" person wrote it, and if the work is correctly polished and clean; what clothes it's wearing.