Nowhere is this country's two-class divide better seen than at the Philadelphia Free Library. During the day the building is filled with underclass people gaining access to the Internet, refuge from the cold, or simply there to read. The genteel class is nowhere to be seen.
In the evening the library's main auditorium is taken over by the clean and comfortable gentry arriving wrapped in smug bubbles to watch for twelve bucks appropriately tame literary authors, usually conglomerate puppets trucked in from New York City.
The town's largest newspaper, Philadelphia Inquirer, had a big article Sunday by Karen Heller praising these tepid affairs. The supposedly "liberal" newspaper consistently aligns itself with the upper end of the literary spectrum-- reinforcing, through their choices, the widespread belief that literature is boring.
ITEM: Has Lewis Lapham cancelled out of his March 10th appearance at the library? Posters that were once up announcing the event-- with Lapham's narcissistic mug on them-- have now vanished. Aristocrat Lapham was to be there to promote his new book about dissent. Was he afraid that he might face an expression of dissent at his own event?
It would have been a tempting occasion to picket with large signs. How appropriate! A conjunction of anti-dissent targets: Lapham, who won't acknowledge or address criticism of his own magazine, combined with the Free Library's lecture series, run by Andy Kahan, the guy who told me-- after I'd asked a few questions of Rick Moody-- that he was in charge of security and he'd have me banned from the library. (This self-important dude has no tolerance for dissent. He and Lapham must be buddies.)
It's fitting that Kahan's assistant is Sara Goddard McAteer, who's been one of the people behind the egregious Eggers-founded "215" readings in Philly-- a yearly yuppy showcase of mainly New York City yuppy conglomerate writers. Sara's partner in organizing that event has been Snob of Snobs Mary Richardson Graham-- the person who refused to shake my hand (in fact, turned and stalked away) a couple years ago at one of the dull affairs.
(Then again, before last year's 215 event Ms. Graham was caught making derogatory comments on-line about Ms. Goddard, along with trashing their own poetry reading, so I don't know how good of friends the two women are in reality. Their kind can often-- not always!-- hide their true opinions with phony smiles.)
The Bottom Line: In this town the gentry's selfish paws clutch tightly to control of lit, and the snobs are still running things.