It's easy to laugh at critics in the past stupidly missing their day's brightest talents-- Melville mocked, Gaugin and Van Gogh scorned and ignored, "Vertigo" dismissed and misunderstood. Man, were those critics stupid! we exclaim with amazement. But are our times different?
Yesterday evening Lawrence Richette's Center City Philly reading was well-attended by friends and the curious. Though a bit nervous at first, Richette ably explained his book, answered many questions, and read several passages. But where was local media to cover the event? He's the city's best (maybe only) serious, adult novelist. Why weren't Carlin Romano or Karen Heller of the Philadelphia Inquirer, or reporters from the freebie "alternative" papers, there to interview Richette?
These Missing-In-Action journalists hurt only themselves. How should future lit-historians treat these goofs? Larry is Philly's John O'Hara. At least one of his books, The Fault Line, about the MOVE tragedy, qualifies in my mind as important. Here he is, writing hard, available to all, but the Approved chroniclers of the time are nowhere around. They're mice-- deaf, dumb, and blind-- scurrying around frantically but getting everything wrong. Someday they'll be laughed at.
How will future lit-historians treat Philip Roth's overhyped book? If they dig to the modest extent I did they'll know it's a joke. Which will throw relief on the sycophantic magazines-- Bookforum, Believer, and such-- which without an ounce of scrutiny or sense lined up to praise Roth's shoddy work.
Whether or not the ULA wins the critical battle now, we certainly will in the future when the pull of cronyism and corruption regarding this era's writers is no longer in force.