Monday, April 18, 2005

The Great Collapsing Literary Establishment

The nature of bureaucracy is to become complacent and fossilized, satisfied with the organization's accomplishments and modes of operation; out of touch with newer ideas and changes on the outside.

Classic examples are the monster American automobile companies. Forty years ago they reigned supreme, without competition. Since then they've faced change after change, assault upon assault, have struggled to compete as they've lost market share, yet remain, as organizations, as slow-moving and unimaginative as ever. GM and Ford's sales plummet, the companies on the verge of going bankrupt.

When Japanese competition appeared in the 70's, GM and Ford responded in laughable fashion with the shoddy Vega and exploding Pinto. American competitors were dealt with more ruthlessly-- John DeLorean set up on cocaine charges, federal agents involved in determining the state of North American business.

LIKEWISE, in response to the ULA dynamic the literary establishment searches for a quick-fix solution. Programmed mouthpiece David Gates, a long-time Insider stooge (has taught alongside Rick Moody at NYC's New School) is enlisted to find a current "Outlaw" writer. Who's available? Who does Gates know? In the corner stands bubble-boy Jonathan Safran Foer, raised in a protective hothouse, career nurtured by his brother (bigshot at New Republic); and at Princeton (home of outlaws, surely) by Joyce Carol Oates. Foer has gone on book tour with Insider novelist Francine Prose, his guardian away from home. A less likely candidate for outlaw-- domesticated pet milquetoast conformist-- could hardly be found. Gates hangs the "Outlaw" sign on him regardless. Foer remains quietly and politely in the corner wearing the sign. A hand timidly raises. "Uh, Mr. Gates?" he asks. "Can I come out of the corner now?"

Poster boy for today's literary establishment-- their version of the Pinto, without the gas tank explosions. Will the con work? David Gates thinks so. As long as genteel New York Times readers are steered away from genuine outlaw authors (hope they don't notice Jack Saunders and Bill Blackolive!) anything is possible. But I doubt even Times readers are that stupid.

As the ULA grows in size and scope, the response of the established lit-world and its David Gates car salesmen puppets will remain as feeble and ill-thought-out. They don't know how to find or create exciting American authors. They slap the label on what they've got. Foer, Chabon, Foster Wallace; newer versions of last century's designs trucked from university production-lines that haven't retooled in fifty years! Car salesmen hawk the stodgy overpriced products in gleaming empty showrooms. "This car is an outlaw!" Gates, wearing bow-tie and checkered sportcoat, bluffly announces to stray customers who wander through the door. The mad salesman with hair askew waves the people forward. The customers see colorless products lacking in horsepower. To the side stands Jonathan Safran Foer obediently wearing his sign, embarrassed at the hype but awaiting permission from Mr. Gates, Ms. Oates, or Ms. Prose to move out of his corner.


Adam Hardin said...

Foer and Eggers did not attend MFA programs, and so that may be considered outlaw for the WASPY set.

Foer is a very nice guy according to everyone who has met him.

Eggers is different because Eggers puts-on the nice-guy image, but behind the curtains he is a very controlling and hyper-sensitive asshole.

Foster Wallace is a hipster because he wears a five day beard, a bandana, and he slouches in his publicity photograph. In reality, he is a dork.

JDF said...
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JDF said...

JDF said...
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Adam Hardin said...

I would add this definition to your list:

Breadloaf-the place where American Literature has gone/will go to die.

- Leopold said...

sort of following the 'Rebels of Lit' discussions & Cry Bloxsome's Monday Report, this article appeared in today's globe & mail about a Canadian poetry chapbook being published in....THE US!!!

If you've read my Monday Report on the Canadian Lit 'scene' you'll see a lot of the stuff I was talking about.

1) Associate one cliche (Beer) with the story and then TELL THE READER it equals Canadian identity. pathetic.

2) While it's full of eliterati & MFA/Journal pre-approved authors, they think it's really aimed 'at the mainstream'. Was the 'mainstream' invited to the wine & cheese poetry reading?

3) Once again, it's up to the US to validate Canadian work.

4) Also showcases the bizarre American relation to Canada. If you're repugnican, you're on a real 'we're lucky we don't nuke you off the planet' streak and if you're lieberal, you somehow think 'oh those canadians, they're so CULTURED'. Unfortunately, I can vouch, this isn't quite true either.

The article:

it may ask you to register, in which case, don't, I've posted a temporary copy on my site:

Adam Hardin said...

One interesting thing I came across on a bogger was that Rick Moody has formed a band. One of the members in the band makes a comparison of themselves to Dylan in how they recorded their music. Another calls Rick Moody a great lyricist and a great musician.

Stephen King has a band that includes a few other writers. The difference is that they do it for fun and do not take themselves seriously. Rock Bottom Remainders I think is the name.

Desmond said...

So the Mood's compared himself to Dylan?--Great! It's one thing to "do" something like someone else (in this case as you say Adam, they record their shit like Dylan) but it's quite another to be original(something everyboyd claims to know, but how many really know it?). Moody, my God, my Pope, next he'll say he's like Beethoven yelling and cursing at people, or maybe he'll copy John Lydon (Rotten) and use carboard boxes instead of drums to get wanted sounds. He'll claim he's original.

And back up to Foster Wallace: I thin I read somewhere he said he'd be a hermit if he didn't force himself to teach. I figured that's why he'd be 'cool', you know, young writers lookin' up to him 'cause he's all mysterious and not-friendly to people or something.

jimmy the hyena said...

Here's a great and really informative site for all you Dave and Vendela fans out there!

The Gambino Crime Family said...

Yeah, it was a great site. Too bad it died. Then again, it probably would have been just a little too hardcore to keep it up after what happened to Eggers' sister.

Tim Hall said...

Calm, children, calm...

This year, 29th of September, the Underground Literary Alliance will formally introduce itself to the world.

I know, because I will be doing the introduction.

The Luce Empire (Time magazine), of the '50s, just like Newsweek of today (and Believer, et al), tried their best to stop the onslaught of Beat literature by labeling them (falsely) as anti-intellectual, barbarian, idiotic, no-talent...Where did it get them?

Well, they helped push the already alcoholic Kerouac over the edge, and they kept Ginsberg and Burroughs and Corso from receiving their due right up until the current day (it's only been the FANS, the READERS, who have proven these forgotten, hateful, malignant frauds wrong), but still, they did their obedient best and did their damage. And we have to expect today's crop of fraudsters to do the same.

Am I worried? No. Why?

If I told you I'd have to kill you, that's why.

We're going to stomp the proverbial mudhole in they asses, market-wise, and I'm here to tell you the violence will be starting for real on or about Sept. 29, 2005. Mark your datebooks, ladies, it's going to be quite a show...


King said...

Funny how no one is allowed to discuss the Eggers's sister tragedy-- which is directly related to his credibility as a person and a writer.
We've had instead a conspiracy of silence.

Anonymous said...

So what did happen to his sister? I missed that, I'm probably old enough to be all your mother(s), so take pity on an old lady who likes a bit of lit-gossip.

As for D. F. Wallace, his "fiction" is unbearable (like all "metafiction") but he's quite a good essayist.

Generally, though, I'd have to agree with you kids. To quote Gertrude Stein, "Hemingway, posing is not literature."

Nancy Irving

The Gambino Crime Family said...

Unfortunately, Eggers' sister killed herself. This was after the web site mentioned above ran an e-mail from her saying that they'd both raised his little brother together and that his memoir was a load of nonsense. I don't know if one had anything to do with the other. Supposedly she wrote a letter to Harper's later retracting this but really, who knows?

Yeah. I could happily read article after article detailing what a jerk Eggers is (how he screwed over this agent or what an paranoid egomaniac he is), but I think I draw the line there. Not that it shouldn't be mentioned someday in any long-awaited expose but just to dwell on it without giving it the proper context makes me uncomfortable.

King said...

You have the time-line wrong, Gambino. The website mentioned the matter; Harper's published something-- then the matter was quickly forgotten. Let's face it (and Eggers I guess doesn't realize this himself) the demi-puppet flunkies of the lit-world will pass over anything he does and smile inanely and say what a great guy he is.
Then along comes a writer doing a huge article for the Atlantic about the kid's fansite, and, indirectly, about Dave. Eggers gets wind of it and gets hyper. He makes a series of pleadings and threats against the Atlantic, because the article (mainly a rave about him) in the most inocuous fashion mentions the matter of his sister's dissatisfaction with the memoir. Maybe he got her involved. Maybe there were family arguments. He undoubtedly pressured her as he pressures everybody, and put her through a lot of stress. In the midst of this turmoil, she kills herself. The article is then dropped. At least, this is the timeline according to my sources when I heard about the story.
A bad taste was left in the mouths of several people about this. Who to get to speak up about it? Who else but me? Friends of people give me the story-- and the killed Atantic article. I do a quick zeen on the matter which makes its way to someone at the NY Post-- who receives threatening phone calls, as does the kid of the web site. (They don't bother with me. I guess they know, after stacks of hate mail and crank phone calls from the ULA's first days, that nothing stops me.) Page Six runs a brief note about the matter, with hesitant remarks from everybody, those who initiated the story afraid of the reach of the Dave.
Eggers, by the way, was supposed to retire and go into seclusion after his sister's death. That lasted about a week.
\That's the story.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for filling me in. How godawful. On which note:

"They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

"But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.

"Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.

-Philip Larkin

Nancy Irving

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