Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Why There Are No Great Writers

We've seen conclusive evidence that those who aspire and pretend to be writers, adorned with certificates, degrees, and positions in publishing, lack the fundamental requirements. No, not technical craft (which in itself produces only the writing of a robot), but instead, character, soul, integrity, humanity. So caught up are they on a hyperspeed treadmill of career and success they've forgotten to acquire personalities.

Ultimately, the writer presents to the reader, through the devices of words and ideas, who he or she is. If there's nothing there but a soulless empty shell of ambition, then nothing will be reflected on the page, despite the accummulations of cute-sounding phrases.

Those I call demi-puppets lack the very basics for getting along in life: respect for oneself; a personal code to live by. It's no wonder they grovel to their perceived betters, and skulk in the shadows like grotesque cowardly invertebrates, attacking anonymously. During the course of their lives they forgot to acquire spines. That many of them are Ivy League grads, the so-called "best of the best," is the saddest statement.

The photos of these affluent corporate-whore ladder-climbers gleam out from their sites. Such clean, well-groomed people! Raised with every advantage. I encounter more uprightness and moral courage in the ghettos I travel to on my sometime day job.

What I like about the ULA is that it's made up of writers and artists who've been around-- been knocked around, most of them-- have been kicked and felt the pain of hardest life; despite or because of this are open, forthright, and REAL. They're the writers I want to associate with-- not the collections of yuppie fakes one finds everyplace.

When the ULA faces false attacks, as it's done frequently of late, our first impulse is to clear our name as swiftly as possible-- or address and fix the problem. We have nothing to hide. We don't need fakery and tricks to make our case. (Though we're not beyond ballyhoo and noise!)

On the other hand, again and again, in case after case, those we expose run from the truth. There is no eagerness to deal with what we say. Either our opponents' reputations mean nothing to them, or they're irrecoverably stained.

Where in the entire realm of established Lit has been one person willing to take us on in the conflict of ideas? From top to bottom of the crumbling cracked structure there is no one.

Throughout the lit-world populated almost in total by self-serving "individuals" (euphemism for "assholes") there's no thought of accountability. The writers and editors who rot the soul of lit from the inside blithely continue on as if nothing is happening. They don't realize they're not hurting unknown writers by their actions and inactions so much as themselves-- adding splotches of ugliness to their personal portraits of Dorian Gray.

Never is given an apology by one of them; seldom an explanation. When an explanation belches forth, as with Rick Moody in The Believer, it falls apart like the tissue paper of falsehood it is after two minutes of examination. The essay becomes scattered vanishing scraps of lint. From The Believer afterward issues silence.

Yet "the believers" in these people-- including National Public Radio-- try to claim them as the future of literature. What future can be based on a foundation of fraud, unethical grant-grabbing, and lies? The Believer clutches the manipulators of lit closer. In their closet more splotches of rot appear on their portrait.
If there are to be great writers again, they'll come from our side-- not from the ranks of fakes and cowards.


Tim Hall said...

One point that I don't think I've seen stressed enough, if at all, here and among our critics, is just how much writer/readers like myself are searching for those great writers -- even among the anointed and adorned.

I loved THE ICE STORM; I enjoyed WONDER BOYS; I was excited by the initial hype surrounding AHWOSG but was ultimately left cold by the story and especially by the author's ugly interviews and notorious bullying. I'm reading EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED right now and it's made me laugh several times...but no, I don't see it as the mind-bendingly perfect WORK OF GENIUS that all the cozy reviewers pegged it as.

When I read the first 100 pages of THE CORRECTIONS, before I became aware of all the controversy around the NEA grant, I was already thinking, "Yeah, this is the 'book of the year', all right--problem is, the year in question is 1951, not 2001." Then the Oprah diss, which really bummed me out (whatever your feelings about her I always loved and appreciated that she was making literature such a big part of her show, and felt that it could definitely lead to bigger and better things in the culture. Those hopes were dashed by a vain and petty monomaniac. Funny that now, 4 years later, demi-puppets have been all a-buzz lately with belated regret.)

Point is, readers like me are not "against" anybody, per se. I approach all authors with hope, optimism, and "BELIEF". But they constantly lose me with their focus on trickery, deceit, hype, and careerism instead of great storytelling and/or a focus on things that matter. (And no, simply uttering "the H-word" doesn't pass muster). What kind of legacy are these authors leaving? It's a question that doesn't seem to occur to them, except in terms of auto-hagiography and literary Press Releases.

The grants/awards/cronyism revelations only cemented my suspicion that something truly is rotten here. What I wish our enemies would sometimes think about is how frustration can be born not via jealousy, but by feeling gypped.


frantic said...

you guys are just mad at eggers ever since he got that restraining order when you were stalking him and going through his garbage and stuff.