Thursday, March 24, 2005

The Savior of Lit?

In the current (3/28) Newsweek literary insider David Gates reviews the new novel by well-connected rich kid Jonathan Safran Foer. Gates gives the book a lukewarm review while accepting Foer's importance as a writer. It's a sham; a joke.

THE QUESTION: Is this all the establishment lit world can come up with? From the accompanying small photo it looks like Foer could give Jonathan Franzen lessons in nerdiness. He appears to be not 23, but 12. Some "literary rock star"! The mandarins are getting desperate. Literary wunderkinds of the past like Jay McInerney at least had some style about themselves-- even if only foppishness. J.S. Foer is a blank; a void. Ms. Oates and Company: Do better! I guess in the halls of Princeton there's not much to work with.

Sorry, but I'll put my money on the ULA's young barbarians. I have the feeling that if the boy-in-a-bubble Rich Kid ever encountered Noah Cicero, Bernice Mullins, Marissa Ranello, Pat King, Jessica D and the like he'd shit his pants.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

King:
In the current (3/28) Newsweek literary insider David Gates reviews the new novel by well-connected rich kid Jonathan Safran Foer. Gates gives the book a lukewarm review while accepting Foer's importance as a writer. It's a sham; a joke.


You do the same thing, ULA members pat each others writing on the back. The problem is no matter the group, publishing tends to be dominaetd by writers, failed or otherwise, which is a conflict of interest. Theater/Hollywood and other genres don't suffer from it, because they are able to come from a more disintrested standpoint. He is doing nothing different than the ULA

King:Sorry, but I'll put my money on the ULA's young barbarians. I have the feeling that if the boy-in-a-bubble Rich Kid ever encountered Noah Cicero, Bernice Mullins, Marissa Ranello, Pat King, Jessica D and the like he'd shit his pants.

What does this have to do with anything? It reminds me of Black comics who constantly make the "If you came to my hood" jokes. Writers are supposed to be thinkers not macho half-brains. If he were running of at the mouth about physical confrontation maybe I'd be more sympathetic. What would happen if Noah Cicero, Bernice Mullins, Marissa Ranello, Pat King, Jessica D and the like ran into a few Iraqi Insurgents?

King said...

No, I'm referring to Gates calling Foer a "literary rock star." As you'll see if you read my post. Gates gave Foer the pose, I didn't. In truth, the writing of ULAers is closer to that of rock n' roll, as I've pointed out countless times.
Also, you seem to miss the essential part of my argument. Yes, the conglomerates and their flunkies, like Gates, laud their own, even when it's not at all justified, as with Foer. The ULA was created as a way to promote others-- to fight the monopoly. Our essential point though is that our writers can rescue lit from its doldrums-- to make it relevant to the mass public. The status quo has failed at this. I mean, look at Gates. He represents a comfortable 10% or so of America. I don't think anyone would argue that he's out living working hustling struggling to survive like many of us. (I just got back from a south Philly clinic picking up the results of a urine test required for a job I've applied for. This now seems to be commonplace to find gainful employment in this land-- for most of us. Oh no, this country isn't fascist!)
Does Gates have to be drug-free to write his puff pieces?
I'm talking about Zytron of course.

Anonymous said...

King:No, I'm referring to Gates calling Foer a "literary rock star." As you'll see if you read my post. Gates gave Foer the pose, I didn't. In truth, the writing of ULAers is closer to that of rock n' roll, as I've pointed out countless times.


This has been said about countless people, most famously that pompus ass John Gardener (he claimed he was the greatest writer since chaucer, but was out of print a decade after his death)

Keep in mind Rock Star does not mean Rock talent. Poison were rock stars, Styx were rock stars. Star just means famous, and is not an indication of talent. With the exception Dylan, few rock stars have talent and are popular (i'm sticking with those still alive) You saw what happened to punk rock when it got to the masses, dead in the 80's. It's a simple fact, to have mass appeal you have to dilute. Look at the big story this morning, about IMAX theaters in the south refusing to sure a documentary on volcanoes, because it mentions evolution. Micheal Moore is not going to be supported or accepted by about 60% of the country no matter what. I hold writers to a far higher standard, one is obligated to be political. ULA will eventually find that out, or choose to remain oblivious. I have yet to see a member advocate civil rights for gays, which would surely alienate conservatives, or since you are working class, questioning the prevailing wisdom of the minimum wage and state intervention. We are at the most politically charged time since teh 60's and the ULA is pulling a Franzen, and choosing to remain apolitical. That is one think commercial and literary writers share, an unwillingness to confront the ghosts they can see.
I hate to think if this was 1967 would ULA be saying they were apolitical?

What made Dylan and Lennon legends? In a politically charged time they stepped up.

Political Punditry is outselling commericial fiction. Christian Fiction is outselling all other forms except Romance.And everyone loves to ignore the changing, rightward tide.

--The Unabashed Truth

Anonymous said...

Hi Unabashed Alex,

The short answer would be, the ULA is an ad-hocracy of loosely affiliated individuals each with his/her own passions, obsessions, and focus. So forming any kind of political party line for the ULA would be impossible.

But I agree: the duty of every writer is to engage his/her obsessions to get to the core of one's personal truth, and expand from that center to (hopefully) encompass a bigger worldview and concerns, one that's not purely solipsistic.

I'm reading the Hunter tributes in Rolling Stone, and I'd love to believe that I could come to embody many of his beliefs, but they came naturally from his wildly individual outlook; he was an original.

If I believe in Hunter's own right to end his life when he was becoming too sick and feeble to live as he wished, how do I reconcile that with the killing of Terry Schiavo? The liberal bloggers I tend to enjoy reading are all in one voice denouncing any attempts to get her tube reinserted, but what if I personally ache in my heart that her murder is just that, murder, and I believe she should be given every opportunity to live and get better? I'd be immediately drowned out in a tidal wave of pro/con rancor and vitriol. Politics is a tar baby hydra that never stops oozing and sliming and everybody's an expert. What can I say?

I *am* working on bigger themes, more urgent/universal issues in some of my writing, but I don't know exactly what form it will take or where it will lead, if anywhere. There was only one Hunter, but can I add to his legacy or grow from it or change myself into something better? I don't know. It's a tough question.

Tim

Anonymous said...

Tim:
If I believe in Hunter's own right to end his life when he was becoming too sick and feeble to live as he wished, how do I reconcile that with the killing of Terry Schiavo? The liberal bloggers I tend to enjoy reading are all in one voice denouncing any attempts to get her tube reinserted, but what if I personally ache in my heart that her murder is just that, murder, and I believe she should be given every opportunity to live and get better? I'd be immediately drowned out in a tidal wave of pro/con rancor and vitriol. Politics is a tar baby hydra that never stops oozing and sliming and everybody's an expert. What can I say?


That is a writers duty. i am against the death penalty, when I mean against I mean it. I would not sentence hitler to death. I oppose it in ALL cases.

The law gives the decision to Terri's Husband. He says she didn't wish to live that way (I know I don't but yesterday filled out a living will.

The situation (for the writer) is far more complicated than I could speak on in this blog (especially in this format, i much prefer messageboard format, where messages move when replied to). My point is explore that contradiction or that belief, whatever it is within you. Humans are interconnected, there is not one cognitive trait within an individual that at least one other person doesn't have, that is why true art appeals to a certain segment. About 25% of men are attracted to children, but many believe they are the only ones. Let us look at even more henious traits, the guy who has his heart broken, and kills his girlfriend and then himself. Many hae had this thought.

I love Kurt Cobain, his life speaks to me, as does his music (Just for the sake of record, my expertise lies in Literature not music) He was political, but from a radically compassionate perspective.

To be a writer or organization and be apolitical is irresponsible. I respect the bigoted Christian fundamentalist more so than the apolitical artist.

Anonymous said...

The above message was written by the Unabashed Truth.

King said...

What do you mean by being political? I'd say there are few writers who voice their attitudes on society more than do those in the ULA.
Do you mean walking around with a sign reading, "I'm Political! Look how Political I am!" That's Eggers-style behavior: all pose.
The fact is that even Ralph Nader, with all his organizations and resources, has very little political power in this country. What, then, do you expect of us?
I believe that we as writers can best influence this society by setting up an honest, democratic cultural organization NOT dependent on the standard establishment means of control. This is what we're doing. I'd think, Abashed, that you'd applaud this.
Re the 60's. Let's remember that small radical organizations were inflitrated and destroyed by the government. I'm out to avoid that.
Re Schiavo. An objective person should realize that both sides are posturing and have agendas. I'm troubled by the whole deal-- without passing judgement either way-- because it's obvious she's clearly not brain dead. She's merely like a retarded person. This whole thing would have been solved had the husband turned her over to her parents and let them care for her; take her home, etc. If they want to, let them. He has his own life anyway. This would've avoided the current media geek show, which reminds me of the classic Billy Wilder movie "The Big Carnival."

Jeff Potter said...

My take is that politics is small.

I see the ULA taking on big issues. Issues that involve process, dynamism, give'n'take, interaction. We demand this. The literati try to sneak away from it.

In politics the issue of the day is just that: as big as a day. A temporary diversion exploited to get votes. It's never what's really going on.

Whatever a political view says is relevant, isn't. Literature explores what's relevant, what politics can't see. By definition. (What is politics? Poli-tic: the "strategy of the many"? It has its limitations.)

Choosing sides, to be binary, is small. The ULA takes its myriad individual stands, to be sure. But we don't stand in a camp, we stand for life, in its diversity. We're inclusive and we publish and make noise about what's left out, the people and work that are left out, the nonhomogenous, complex, fiesty markets that are neglected because they're not conducive to the factory model of service. Well, they're finding that no art is conducive to a factory model, but art CAN sell. And it doesn't have to be dilute to be appealing. Or political to be effective.

Sure, politics can get people to do evil and kill millions, but that's coz it's so small. Ya gotta shrink people to get em to do evil, to be scary, to be happy to die, to be willing to torture. It takes a zombie. I respect the impact of politics. But you don't fight it or explore it by getting small yourself or by using the tools of the small.

Jeff Potter said...

And there's this "you do the same thing" again. That's been shot down now and so many other times. Why not relent or defend?

Writers are DIFFERENT from each other. We show how ours are different. Read who ya like.

There's no conflict of interest per se, only per case. We're not disputing anyone's right to be a fan. State your case and let's evaluate.

We've called our enemies on their BAD CASES in detail.

We promote our writers. They commit mail fraud. There's a difference!

Tim Hall said...

Unabashed Truth:

Contact me privately if you want to banter without being bludgeoned to e-death. send anything to/at tim-hall "dot" com

The Gambino Crime Family said...

Anyway, enough about politics. Let's have a little more Foer bashing...

Isn't this the novel that our boy got $70,000 from PEN to complete? And after he'd already gotten the big $1 million advance? Well, sure hope a little more walking around money must have made all that weltschmerz a bit easier to deal with...

Noah Cicero said...

Gambino,
Foer's first book Everything is Illuminated" is going to be made into a movie with Elijah Wood as the star. And his new book is probably going to made into a movie too.
Foer talks a lot about Harry Potter in his interviews.