Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Pod People: Columbia Grads Are Everywhere

I was going to ask The Believer to help protest the Paris Review poetry award consistently going to Columbia University grads (where PR Poetry Editor Richard Howard is a professor).

I thought, why not?-- but wait! Editor Vendela Vida is a Columbia grad, as is Heidi Julavits, whose husband Ben Marcus (a terrible writer and regular Believer contributor) is a Columbia prof.

We don't have to fight to drag the lit world out of the entire Ivy League's clutches. Just getting it away from Columbia for a moment would be a start.

8 comments:

King said...

Btw, I'm aware of the Monday Report glitch at the www.literaryrevolution.com fan site, and have e-mailed Yul and Steve about it. Though I don't always agree with Tony's institutionalized viewpoint, I'm eager to see what he says in his Report. (We may give him an extra week to make up for the delay, I hope.)
In the meantime, Jack Saunders's Report on non-profits is worth looking at.

King said...

p.s. Hiram F. "Rick" Moody's MFA thesis was done at Columbia (though he also attended Brown), as was his friend Susan Minot's, and Campbell McGrath, who as guest editor of Ploughshares published a story about Philly which seemed to take a swipe at me, and attended Columbia the same time as Rick. . . .

Tony Christini said...

Columbia's reactionary/elitist role in American literature has a considerable history, as Maxwell Geismar touches on below in his introduction to New Masses: An Anthology of the Rebel Thirties (Ed. Joseph North) (1969): “I welcome this anthology for several reasons, but mainly because it is part of something which I have begun to think of as our ‘buried history’ in the Cold War period. Recently a group of American historians have been digging into, one might say, ‘excavating,’ the true facts of this Cold War Culture – the curious period from the mid-forties to the mid-sixties – and the results are very interesting. We have had almost a quarter of a century of conformity, comfort, complacency and mediocrity in American literature – this epoch of ‘instant masterpieces’ – and only now can we begin to put the pieces together and find a consistent pattern…” (1).



“…it was the Cold War that brought about the downfall, in 1949, of one of the most brilliant journalistic enterprises in our literary history. At the war’s end, a new epoch of repression was about to start. Another great achievement of the Depression years was the WPA Federal Theater Project; and Halle Flanagan’s history of this, in her book Arena, ends with the congressional investigation and foreclosure of the Federal Theater by political figures who are, by Divine Grace or special dispensation, still active in Washington today… What was the real truth, the true historical dimension, of the Cold War? As I said in opening this Introduction, a new group of Cold War historians have been giving us a whole new set of impressions, which, alas, most of those who lived through the period, and are so certain of their convictions, will not even bother to read and to think about.

“For if they did…the Schlesingers, the Galbraiths, the Kristols, the Max Lerners, the Trillings, the Bells, the Rahvs, the Kazins, the Irving Howes: all these outstanding, upstanding figures of our political-cultural scene today…they would have to admit both their own illusions for the last twenty years, and the fact that they have deliberately deluded their readers about the historical facts of our period. Since it was they who fastened the Cold War noose around all our necks, how can we expect them to remove it? – even though, as in the cases of Mary McCarthy and Dwight MacDonald, and the estimable New York Review of Books, they have bowed a little to the changing winds of fashion today. Due to student protests at base, and student confrontations on Cold War issues, Professors Bell and Trilling have indeed moved on from Columbia to Harvard University – but after Harvard what?

“Mr. Trilling has even ‘resigned’ from contemporary literature, saying at long last that he does not understand it – but only after he led the attack for twenty years on such figures as the historian Vernon Parrington, the novelist Dreiser, the short-story writer Sherwood Anderson, and other such figures of our literary history. And only after the Columbia University English Department had taken the lead in setting up Henry James as ‘Receiver’ in what amounted to the bankruptcy of our national literature. The Cold War Liberals, historians, critics and so-called sociologists, also clustered around a set of prestigious literary magazines like Partisan Review, The New Leader, Encounter of London, Der Monat of Berlin, which had in effect set the tone and the values of the ‘Free World’ culture. When it was revealed, about two years ago, that these leading cultural publications and organizations (the various Congresses and Committees for ‘Cultural Freedom’), as well as some student organizations and big unions of the AFL-CIO, were in fact being financed and controlled by Central Intelligence Agency – the game was up…” (10-12).

Tony Christini said...

Today's MobyLives points out foetry.com's work on lit contest scandals, most recently involving U. of Iowa. As reported, with a variety of links at mobylives.com:

"Something the Times will no doubt cover . . . in two weeks: Website organizes class–action suit after University of Iowa employee wins the school's fiction prize . . .
The "cheatfest" continues at The University of Iowa, says an unattributed report at Foetry.com, which notes that for one of the school's recent awards, the John Simmons Short Fiction Award, the judge was an Iowa graduate who chose, well, an Iowa Workshop graduate. For another award, the Iowa Short Fiction Award, the report notes that winner Douglas Trevor "lives with his wife and son in Iowa City, where he is an assistant professor of English at the University of Iowa." Says Foetry.com, "Let that sink in for a moment. The University allowed current employees to both enter and win its contest. The University allowed graduates to both enter and win its contest. And besides being illegal, it's also pathetic. Would you want to be known as the writer who won a contest that was a scam?" Another report on the site also details similar conflicts in the school's poetry awards and publications. And Foetry.com's discussion forum includes a letter from Iowa's Holly Carver in response to the website's charges. "You can call the poetry world overly cozy, full of patronizing trade–offs and shady bargaining," Carver writes, "or you can celebrate the collegiality of its community." Foetry.com's response? "Foetry is calling for action. . . . Use our action form (anonymously or signed) to contact university officials and the attorney general. . . . And our most important call to action is this. . . . We would like to pursue a class–action suit against the University to recover victims' entry fees and end Foetry. If you entered one of their bogus contests, and would like to help us, we have a plan. Please contact us at any word at foetry.com. We will provide some financial support for court filing fees and telephone calls"."

Tony Christini said...

Today's MobyLives points out foetry.com's work on lit contest scandals, most recently involving U. of Iowa. As reported, with a variety of links at mobylives.com:

"Something the Times will no doubt cover . . . in two weeks: Website organizes class–action suit after University of Iowa employee wins the school's fiction prize . . .
The "cheatfest" continues at The University of Iowa, says an unattributed report at Foetry.com, which notes that for one of the school's recent awards, the John Simmons Short Fiction Award, the judge was an Iowa graduate who chose, well, an Iowa Workshop graduate. For another award, the Iowa Short Fiction Award, the report notes that winner Douglas Trevor "lives with his wife and son in Iowa City, where he is an assistant professor of English at the University of Iowa." Says Foetry.com, "Let that sink in for a moment. The University allowed current employees to both enter and win its contest. The University allowed graduates to both enter and win its contest. And besides being illegal, it's also pathetic. Would you want to be known as the writer who won a contest that was a scam?" Another report on the site also details similar conflicts in the school's poetry awards and publications. And Foetry.com's discussion forum includes a letter from Iowa's Holly Carver in response to the website's charges. "You can call the poetry world overly cozy, full of patronizing trade–offs and shady bargaining," Carver writes, "or you can celebrate the collegiality of its community." Foetry.com's response? "Foetry is calling for action. . . . Use our action form (anonymously or signed) to contact university officials and the attorney general. . . . And our most important call to action is this. . . . We would like to pursue a class–action suit against the University to recover victims' entry fees and end Foetry. If you entered one of their bogus contests, and would like to help us, we have a plan. Please contact us at any word at foetry.com. We will provide some financial support for court filing fees and telephone calls"."

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the excellent info, Tony, it's greatly appreciated.

I hope to hell these bastards burn (or are at least fired/sued/prosecuted) for their arrogant, illegal deceit, and here's to the ULA and friends for turning up the heat!

This is an issue that the ULA has been waaaay ahead of the curve on, way out in front for a long time. Karl most prominently, and Adam Hardin has been kicking ass on this as well.

To those who knee-jerk hate/deride/abuse the ULA, start paying attention, kids: the ULA ain't here just to snap you out of your careerist-lit torpor; we've got people doing some truly heroic muckraking and exposes on the real criminals who are screwing ALL of us.

Tim Hall

Jeff Potter said...

Here's the link for Tony's MR at the ULA site: http://timeliketoons.tripod.com/ULA/monday/monday.2.21.05.tc.htm

I used my 3rd grade math skills and looked at the code for other MRs then typed in the logical guess for next in the series and bingo!

I've recently been finding that one can easily drive a wedge in the MFA scene by mentioning the Iowa/Columbia cabal. Those who graduated from other programs don't like the idea of being ripped off, shut out, either. After that it's not too hard to get them to see that the whole thing should be opened up.

And, yeah, don't those published remarks about how content Moody & Friends are with tiny audiences just burn ya up?

On NPR last night an Iranian artist is making a movie because "thousands read a novel but millions watch a movie." A return to cheap relevant pulp novels could perhaps change that.

The next NPR story was about a Cuban story writer who fell out of favor then raised his family in London. What does that mean? When normal people "fall out of favor" they raise their family in the gutter. Normal writing reflects this! But what do the glitterati care about normal?

A friend just gave us a Joanna Newsom CD. I guess they call it emo. Its nonsense aspect intrigued me so I googled the cute singer (yessir!) and whattaya know, I saw that Eggers gave her a column in Spin, wherein he asks Why are all the popular singers cute? What a dip! It's because people like him only profile the hotties. He pretends he has no responsibility now that he's on top. We don't need rhetorical questions, Dave. Just write an appreciation of talent instead of looks for a change and fix your own problem.

This emo singer had me wondering. Here a person has this chance, this airtime, this talent, this equipment---and she sings nonsense. It sounds interesting. Quirky. Cool words and sounds. But what's up? Who has the time and money for airy nonsense? There's a lot of driving and flying and investing going into her clever etheria. I suspect it's the work of someone who has many options and a lot of back-up. They have time and air to kill, to splash in. There's a class-based place for songs that have no meaning...

I've even started to wonder about songs that aren't meant to be sung. Only heard, consumed. Why invest your time in a song that stays apart from you after you hear it? So many songs today have no song to them. No tune, no melody, nothing compelling or relevant about them. Sure, they SOUND neat. They evoke. What what are you left with? How do you share them, build on them? Shopping is the only option they leave us.

Having 2 little kids (sponges) helps me see this stuff better. I see what a CRIME passivity is. If they listen to something I insist that they bring something away that's theirs, that they can use, that helps them. Neither kids nor parents have a second to waste. None of us do.

It's part of the difference between a folk culture and an exploitive one.

YO!

(Back to shipping...then laying out the new Catazeen...)

Jeff Potter said...

PS: Tony's MR has good insight on the private-life trap of today's lit versus the public interest that's needed so badly.