The "L.A.V." System:
HOW THE ESTABLISHED LITERARY WORLD REALLY WORKS.
The Concept of Literary Assigned Value may take place only in the subconscious of the lit-world, but it's there.
Points are assigned to writers based on a mix of variables:
G.) PREDICTABLE WRITING STYLE.
No doubt one of the highest scores ever recorded was by Susan Minot. My guess would be in the 95-100 range.
Examine the evidence when she broke into public consciousness in the mid-1980s.
BACKGROUND: Connecticut blue-blood Old Money.
SCHOOLS: Prep school; Brown; Columbia.
CONNECTIONS: Quick connections made with Insiders like Robert Silvers and Ben Sonnenberg.
MANNERS: Well-bred. Highest score.
CONFORMITY: Without question.
WRITING STYLE: A competent-enough imitation of Ray Carver. Some of her short stories were fairly decent, within their strict limitations. Her ability, anyway, was adequate enough to justify the ensuing hype. There was at least SOMETHING there.
We see a similar case today with Marisha Pessl. One can envision her editors: "Well, it's not all that bad, is it? Derivative, pretentious; but not completely bad. It LOOKS like it's a good novel, on the surface, even if it isn't."
Now, for contrast, examine the score for a typical ULAer: Jack Saunders.
BACKGROUND: Low-rent 300-pound 65 year-old redneck cracker from Georgia.
SCHOOLS: At least has schooling, unlike some ULAers, though in a field strictly unrelated to literature.
CONNECTIONS: Zero, obviously.
LOOKS: See "BACKGROUND."
MANNERS: See "BACKGROUND."
CONFORMITY: Not politically correct. See "BACKGROUND."
P.W.S.: His work is totally unique. Very original. Lowest score.
Though Jack once famously received a "0" from an arts grants committee, under L.A.V. he achieves a total score of "3"; points given for "SCHOOLS," though they weren't the right ones.
Many ULAers (Joe Pachinko, for instance) score even lower.
A hapless but willing ordinary demi-puppet like Henry Baum will score 25-30, most of the points given under "CONFORMITY."
Some demi-puppets, Lee Klein for instance, familiar with the game find various ways to bump-up their ratings, through getting to know Famous Writers, MFA degrees from Iowa, and the like.
Susan Minot's sister, Eliza, carries a high L.A.V., though her writing is less than negligible. How else but through L.A.V. was she able to get recent attention in both New York Times Magazine and the New York Times Book Review?
Publishers like Morgan Entrekin likely have the L.A.V. formula handy at their desks-- or at least in their heads.
(How to determine L.A.V.: award 0-14 points in each category. Grant two bonus points if the writer's photograph has appeared in The New Yorker.)
That's L.A.V.! Simple enough. Aspiring writers, save the $200 classes at writers conferences, like the one upcoming at Penn. The L.A.V. formula is all you need to know.