Monday, February 07, 2005

The Ideology of Snobbery

The current lit world is infected at all levels with snobbery. Snobbery, snobbery, snobbery; all styles and kinds. Overdog snobbery demi-puppet snobbery Left and Right-wing snobbery prose and poetic snobbery even divisions between undergrounders due to the societal disease of snobbery.

I hear stories that certain bourgeois punks aren't interested in the ULA because we're too loud crass Barnum Bailey in-your-face breaking out of punk ghettoes megalomaniac difficult to deal with, but I attribute the problem simply to snobbery. Professional journalists high and low turn up their noses at us our Wild Bill Jack Saunders Tom Hendricks members they may not really be journalists only glorified desk-sitters proof readers make-the-coffee grunt workers but they embrace themselves in their bubble island of snobbery. Snobbery is all they have. That many highly-degreed literati who've been certified by society to be culturally safe or that many literary wannabes feel superior to us goes without saying. I'm not just a writer I'm a talker promoter organizer hypester this offends purists in cultural ghettoes all over the map I'm not a poet don't live the lifestyle full-time play the role I only write it is all! And the gentry run the other way at all of us we're not predictable we have no manners are too gauche our prose isn't regulated we complain we argue offend contend they throw up their hands ignore us scatter flee close the windows lock the door call security protecting themselves from the growing noise presence of this cast of crackpot hokey neanderthal grubby pamphleteer characters who call themselves the Underground Literary Alliance.
Many lit-folk are "too good" to give us merest respect-- when in truth no one is too good for anybody. (One has to be knocked down a time or two in life to realize this.) One of the codes I try to impress upon ULAers is not being embarrassed to be part of this group; to accept all of our writers and characters. Humility-- soul-- is a quality the greatest writers had in abundance-- Dickens, Dostoevsky, Dumas, and such. It's the most important asset a writer can have.


Anonymous said...

Snobbery can be a good thing. In fact the only time it's really a problem is concerning more entrenched social factors, such as race. There is no reason why--once you understand you have one life to live--Bill gates shouldn't feel superior to just about everyone.

The ULA is full of snobs, once again it is a dubious form of reverse snobbery, against targets such as status quo literary fiction/the establishment. I do not mean this pejoratively, but just to evince the point snobbery isn't bad, in all forms. If a man dedicates his life to something and becomes an elite, then I would hope he is a snob, sorry to admit it, but snobbery in the arts was in its advent a few millenia ago.

I find the Conservatives in literature to be more negatively snobbish, because it borders racism, in fact one must understand the psychology of a conservative, then a conservative in literarture, which is sure to show some sort of emotional/psychological problems (to a mainstream psychologist). The Liberals tend to throw a few social bones but are far more innocuous, then again you must understand what I mean by conservative, and liberal.

The Establishment, and Underground, are equally snobbish, in almost all artforms, Heaven have mercy it is most evident lately in music. At least in lit the sell-out label is applied radically different

Jeff Potter said...

I dunno about this good snobbery stuff.

I prefer the "God's own democrat" approach.

It is demonstrably superior to any snobbery. Doing things for affect rather than for their value is low, anyway. Get it?


I have a thin little pulp paperback I'm working my way thru. About bookbinding and book repair. Cool subject. Classic even. "A Degree of Mastery" by Annie Tremmel Wilcox.

Ms. T-W has a PhD from Iowa and teaches book arts in IA.

For some reason in the very fine print of this very fluffy pulp book (it's almost all of .5" thick) I noticed a bunch of legalese then acknowledgements of generous grants from:

Jerome Foundation,
N. Dak. Arts,
Dayton Hudson,
Minn. Arts,
General Mills,
Mcknight Found,
Star Trib Found,
New River Press.


Book-repair is a great topic but she literally spends pages of her thin, thick-pulp book on lifting a cotton swab, dipping it in water, then swabbing a stain from a page. This is called 'padding' or 'fluffing' a book.

Then it happened. I was reading along, about her attending her first bookbinding class...

"The class was an odd mix of students. There were two schoolteachers [...] There was Tom [...] And there was Nadine. She was a graduate student in Math who was good with numbers but not with her hands. She also took everything Bill said literally.

"For example [...pointless example]. Nadine had a habit of asking serious questions that seemed to show a complete lack of common sense."

[A page later.]

"One evening we were learning the Coptic,a four-needle stitch [...] Nadine was sitting next to me trying to thread one of her needles. [At end of lesson...] Nadine was still threading her needles."

Now what in hell is going on here?

4th grade snobbish horseshit! Do not pass Go.

It's typical grad student depravity. It has wrecked her book. It's ugly.

I must be too used to the civility of plain old no holds barred zeening where if you want to insult someone you just do it. You don't hide in something posing as scholarship.

I'm still going to try to learn something more about bookbinding from it, tho.

King said...

First, I don't buy the silly idea that the ULA and the Establishment can be "equally snobby," when the Establishment has at least 10,000 times the power as we. We don't exist in an equal relationship in this society. Everything has a context, you know.
Second, the ULA in person and in our dealings with people are not snobby, as those who've met us have testified.
On the other hand is the behavior of literary insiders. For example, the impromptu "debate" I had with Tom Beller at Philly's Dirty Frank's bar, when he humiliated a local journalist for his own amusement.
Or the time I was introduced to the McSweenyite organizer of the Eggers-founded "215" festival. I put out my hand; she refused to shake it, but instead turned and stomped immmediately away.
Or, worst of all, the Cullen Carter benefit show I organized in Chicago on behalf of the zine scene, to help raise funds for zine writer Cullen Carter, who'd been severely hurt in an accident. I invited all kinds of demi-puppets to appear or attend, in the interest of peace; in the interest of a good cause and a good time (it was a fun show). Local Chicago McSweenyites and other litsters who think nothing of flying a thousand miles for literary soirees couldn't be bothered traveling a mile or two to attend. (We did have the snobs of the Chicago Reader present-- Ann Sterzinger and Company-- but with their affected airs and fake accents they're more a parody of snobbery, and are quite funny.)
The bottom line is this: the ULA has always been open for peace with the lit-establishment. Even Moody was warned of our protest, and could have ended our campaign (and the ULA with it) at any time by simply giving back the money! That he didn't shows his stupidity. Here stands the ULA creation as a result-- and we're too far along now to go away.
The Overdogs and their demi-puppet acolytes can choose war or peace with us-- if it's war, we'll kick their asses all over the place, as always.