Monday, June 12, 2006

Intellectual Condescension or Cowardice from n+1?

Yesterday's post was actually written by me a couple weeks ago. Not everything I write makes it onto this blog. Many things I write for myself, as a way of figuring out the world.

I decided to post it after receiving an e-mail from n+1 editor Keith Gessen. In its condescension the e-mail was typical of the attitude of those at the center of today's literary world. He complained about a letter I'd sent the journal several weeks ago, in which I gave my opinion about some of the contents of the issue-- mainly a symposium about literature today, but I also included in the focus of my statements a few of the issue's letters, including an exchange between Jonathan Franzen and James Wood.

In his e-mail Gessen informed me he wouldn't be publishing my letter. He didn't like the idea that I hadn't addressed the entire issue-- an essay on global warming, for instance, which had nothing to do with literature; the kind of article included as a feel-good gesture, to say, "Look how concerned we are!"-- even though the essay included few if any real-world solutions, and would have nil impact on the problem of global warming regardless. n+1, after all, is a literary journal. Its impact is confined to the realm of literature. If I wish to address it, it will be on the subject of literature, where the interests of its editors, and the members of the Underground Literary Alliance, intersect. (If I want to get into a discussion about environmental issues I'll look elsewhere-- maybe writing to my congressman and Senators.)

Gessen, you see, wanted his journal addressed on HIS terms, not the reader's. I guess I didn't play by the rules. They went to so much trouble to set up the issue to make themselves appear so wonderful!-- constructing a well-ordered garden of ideas, and in true ULA fashion I trampled all over it.

Gessen spoke, in his e-mail, from the Olympian heights all his kind of lit-folk adopt-- even when they know little about anything beyond what was programmed into them in school. "You're better than that" etc etc, concluding with my letter, which criticized the issue, conveniently being shut out.

But Keith, this is 2006, not 1951. There are other outlets for my letter, and my ideas, including this blog. I'll post the letter here, and let the literary public judge its worth or cogency or irrelevance for themselves.

But do you really want me to address the rest of the issue as well? I can easily do so-- as I did in a couple paragraphs of my previous post. I'd rather stay on topic-- with the theme of the ULA campaign-- as I did in my letter to you.

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