Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Lependorf II

We come back to Jeffrey Lependorf's statement that the small press isn't in competition with the book monopolies.

No doubt people employed by the conglomerates believe this childish nonsense. Just as Wal-Mart might believe that their growth and corporate practices are healthy and good for everybody. Wal-Mart is on the side of small business also! (Look at Sam's Club.) But what it's really after is increased influence, power, and control.

Jeffrey Lependorf says that Rick Moody is published by small magazines as well as by the gigantic houses. That's the point! The guy is everyplace. Lependorf uses a circular argument. Moody is chosen for writing assignments because he's well-known. He's well-known because he takes so many writing assignments.

At some point the small press has to develop its own stars. There are plenty of talented, even known underground writers who could've written the foreword. (Lyn Lifshin or Aaron Cometbus.) There are better, more authentic writers than Rick Moody on Soft Skull's own staff.

(Instead the Great Rich White God Moody steps down from the heavens to bless the small-press project. Small press people look up with wonder and gratitude.)

To say that no one would buy the book without the endorsement of someone from the monopolies is inferiority-complex slave mentality of the worst sort. Rather better I think to introduce someone real, exciting, and new, than just the same-old MFA same-old. Who's next? Joyce Carol Oates? She's missed out on one or two writing assignments of late-- has some open time on the 18th of next month, at 7 p.m. She'll try to squeeze you in.

(I'd think most struggling writers need to vomit, as I did, upon seeing a Rick Moody or another of his fashionable ilk feigning to speak for them.)

(One can't really blame Jeffrey Lependorf for his opinion. In the swanky Manhattan rooms through which he circulates, the writers he meets probably WOULD buy a book if Moody's name were on it. They're hardly representative of the nation.)

Lependorf states that writers take their cues from the literary establishment. In some lap-dog demi-puppet circles this is true. There are a few trendy lit-journals, founded by literary Insiders like Elissa Schappell, Tom Beller, or Dave Eggers, whose sole purpose is to publish the same prepster authors the big guys publish. They exist as little more than promotional extensions of the big houses. (If there's no disagreement between these journals and the big guys, it's because they're from the same schools and backgrounds, carry the same mindset, have the same premises: can't for a moment look outside the walls of their privileged assumptions.)

For some, it goes beyond imitation. Beller's Open City is published, distributed, and promoted by Grove-Atlantic. McSweeney's Books does numerous joint ventures with the conglomerates, to the point it's become an embedded part of them. Do its journals qualify as independent? What do you think?

What we're being handed by the literary world as "alternative" is not.

I'm reminded of the end of Orwell's book Animal Farm, when the animals outside the house look from the farmers to the pigs, the pigs to the farmers, and can't tell the difference.

31 comments:

King said...

The demi-puppets have not been granted permission to speak!

Anonymous said...

Your claim is that a lesser-known writer penning the introduction would be more authentic. His claim is that a better-known writer attracts more readers. He'd have you accept that Moody's high profile will cause more people to purchase, open and read the book. You'd rather have the book attract fewer readers rather than sully independent publishing with Moody's name.

Which one of you is elitist, again?

chapman said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I fail to see how Thurston Moore, whose band has been with a large, corporate record label for about 15 years, is somehow more underground than Rick Moody.

As for Kathy Acker with an Updike introduction, I think that'd be a hoot, but I understand those who'd object to it. I'm cool if people don't want to sell out by attaching themselves to a larger structure. But face it: it's an elitist stance. If you wander around the cultural landscape deciding who's more "authentic" or has more "credibility" and thus is deserving of a writing gig, then you're practicing elitism. It's no different from Moody thinking that only certain people ought to celebrate Ginsberg.

Myself, I think Moody's lame. But if his name makes people pick up a Soft Skull book and learn about independent presses, I think it's worth it to have a lame introduction. Fuck, I'd be happy if Katie Couric talked about independent presses on TV. I think Kathy Acker should be sold at Wal-Mart so that kids living in places where there's no other damn stores could read Kathy Acker. I grew up in such a place, and I didn't learn about cool poets until I stumbled upon a zine in a bar when I was 25.

As for anonymous postings, well, I work for a living and try to make art at night, and I sneak back to the storeroom to go on the web during my breaks. I don't have time to have a blog. If that makes me a scared rabbit who's not cool enough to state his opinion - well, there's another elitist stance. If you're really concerned with freedom of expression and honest debate then I don't see how posting anonymously matters.

Noah Cicero said...

anonymous person,

The thing is, is that Rick Moody IS elitism.
1. Rick Moody's fans are all white collar upper class white people.

2. Moody and McSweeney's have a tiny niche of several hundred thousand they cling to.

Therefore if Moody fans picked up the book, Soft Skull would just become McSweeney's. And that wouldn't really be very underground or an alternative would it?

This is a question of pretense. You say you are an independent press and you are edgy but you get someone like Rick Moody to write the introduction. I agree with Chapman, they had other choices, Di Palma is still alive, Ralph Steadman, Dennis Cooper. Norman Mailer is still alive, he always supported the weirdos. Even Bret Easton Ellis, he might be a rich kid, but at least his books are fucked up.

Personally I don't know who is credible or whatever. But having Rick Moody write an introduction to a book concerning Independent writers is absurd.

There are two kinds of people living in 2006 America, those who know the media has been bought and being used as a propaganda machine. And those who don't know.

More points:

Katie Couric is a nazie.

Kathy Acker having a John Updike introduction is not funny.

I was going to buy Wayfarers by Hamsun, but I didn't because there was an Updike introduction.

Fran said...

"I'm cool if people don't want to sell out by attaching themselves to a larger structure. But face it: it's an elitist stance."

--Huh?!? Since when is not attaching yourself to a "larger structure" automatically elitist? People may not want to be big-businessized or corporatized or part of a corporate machine for many reasons, one of them being the way big business too often operates, which is too often discriminatory, polluting, exclusionary, wasteful--too often too many negative things.

I've debated this kind of thing with myself many times when there isn't any real "debate" because no one's offered me anything. But I wouldn't wanna be published by a publisher I despised, a publisher who regularly published works I couldn't stand and had questionable businesses practices, even for a six-figure advance. I wouldn't even query an agent who represented other writers I couldn't stand, not because I think I'm better than those writers, but because I don't like the stuff they say so don't want to be associated with them in any way--and I'd feel dishonest if I had to hold in my dislike. The less I get in life, the more selective I become.

"I think Kathy Acker should be sold at Wal-Mart so that kids living in places where there's no other damn stores could read Kathy Acker."

--Actually, I agree because I think Wal-Mart and other big places/companies can maybe be turned alternative and "green" (or at least greener and more alternative) by consumers making better buying choices WITHIN THOSE PLACES (which is why I try to buy only the better products in corporate stores, and I've noticed that they've slowly been getting a bit better). However, putting "big" writing names in books related to small presses--that's the opposite, that's like turning the small press system brown. To me, small press writers can often be part of big press publications but big press writers shouldn't often be part of small press publications. Smaller's probably better. That's the more ideal model--and it shouldn't be contaminated with brown shit. Maybe it's unfair that I don't think this stuff should work both ways, but, tough shit. The bigger press writers usually get more money and more publicity. Now they gotta steal the limelight from small press writers on their own street--they can't even allow them that? Bullshitey!

Brooklyn Frank said...

Although I can understand the argument of "How much street cred is enough street cred?" on these types of things, there is a line to be crossed, and Moody is way, way over the line. The guy was born with a golden spoon in his mouth.

And besides, as one critic said, "Rick Moody is the worst writer of his generation." Perhaps that should have been taken into consideration as well.

King said...

Besides, as I said, Moody will turn off more struggling writers than he attracts. He'll probably hurt sales.

King said...

("Anonymous" would probably think that the large plantations of the antebellum South were more populist than small independently-worked farms, because with their slave labor the plantations had more customers; could deliver their products to the market at cheaper prices.)

chapman said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
chapman said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

KW: ("Anonymous" would probably think that the large plantations of the antebellum South were more populist than small independently-worked farms, because with their slave labor the plantations had more customers; could deliver their products to the market at cheaper prices.)

Give me a fucking break. Disagree with me all you want, but don't say I'm supporting slavery. As I said, I think Moody's lame, but I'm all for getting more people into the tent. All the other suggestions I see here - Thurston Moore, Norman Mailer, Dennis Cooper - are all tied to the corporate publishing structure. How is a Norman Mailer introduction somehow less credible? That guy goes to black-tie dinners and writes in the New Yorker about Tom Wolfe.

And yeah, it's elitist to say "You're not [blank] enough, you can't play in my sandbox," whether the blank is "rich and well-educated" or "underground and street." Elitism is "consciousness and pride for belonging to a select group." Go ahead and be elitist - I don't want Matthew Barney making art next to me - but then don't go whining about how you're slaves. You're not slaves. I think I'm 10,000 times more free than some artist who has to suck up to the NYC gallery snobs.

And the stupid stockroom computer crashed nine times while I tried to register, so there's that. My name's Jim, if that's so important to you. I live in a crappy city and I'm tired today because I stayed up all night pasting my political posters to underpasses. You haven't heard of me. You haven't seen my art. I thought it'd be cool to check out the ULA but I see you'd rather compare me to a slaveowner. Cool with me. My art goes on. The poets in my town warned me you were schoolboys but I guess I had to learn for myself.

chapman said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Chapman: "no, you don't get grace paley or rick moody to introduce a soft skull anthology. you get henry rollins, thurston moore, ferlinghetti, whoever - somebody with some credibility."

Chapman: "dude, dance! forget these categories and dance!"

Which is it? You think Soft Skull chose a writer from the wrong category - whatever category that might be - or you think you ought to forget about categories? If you'd rather dance in the parking lot, then why are you all whining about Soft Skull's new corporate image?

chapman said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
chapman said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

word to that, chapman. let's both do good work.

(although I gotta say, sonic youth's DIRTY is a lameass sellout record.)

Emerson Dameron said...

I just posted this without registering for a Blogspot account, and it was easy enough.

If I hire someone to dance at my strip club, and I like the way they dance, then I'll keep paying them money. If a certain portion of my clientele disagrees with me, that might affect that person's future employment. But, for now, I'm running the business, and I can do as I please.

As much as I hate Rick Moody's writing and his career, and as much as I think his intro was another smug, self-serving turd, I didn't hire him. No one asked me to evaluate his performance. If the ULA wants to gang up on him, I'll politely decline, as I have better things to do and it's not my business.

Wenclas's last Monday report, though, is a thing of beauty. It's spiteful yellow journalism, but I'm glad someone's doing it, and I'm glad Wenclas is doing what he does best.

Whatever his motives, Thurston Moore has gone far out of his way to support independent writers and musicians. And I'd rather have "Sugar Kane" stuck in my head than the opening paragraph of Purple America.

King said...

I'd wager that "Anonymous" is a bullshit artist. Seeveral anonymous posters we've dealt with have been revealed to be bullshit artists-- Dave Eggers most famously, who was pretending to be someone else on Amazon.
That's the thing about posting without an identity-- the person has no credibility, can say most anything.
What distinguished the ULA from other lit people is that we put our names frankly behind our ideas, when we signed the original Protest in October 2000. We've taken responsibility for our words-- held ourselves accountable. If I've said anything slanderous or untrue, the high-priced lawyers on CLMP's board can go after me.
If someone can't see the difference, they're out of touch with reality. (As anyone who would call ULAers "elitist" is out of touch with reality.)
The people who hold power, who have all the access, all the cards, would love if we all do our own thing. Maintaining the status quo works in their favor. No way!

King said...

p.s. It's noteworthy that those who've been given and have used every lever of power available in this society, after they're sitting comfortably, want to insist, "We're all the same!" (They live in an abstract world without context.)
"Let the writing itself tell the tale!"
Really?
This is total bullshit, an argument floating in the air, removed from reality.
Frank Walsh is a better poet (and far better performer) than any poet promoted by the literary establishment. Put his words against theirs, side-by-side. Let him read publicly against Berman, Gluck, Shinder, any of the fakirs, and we'd quickly see.
But who knows of Walsh? Where's the apparatus for announcing HIS talent to the world? (Only the ULA.)
Writers from the bottom half of society are shut out; roads of access closed. The people who put up the roadblocks then say, "All is fair! We're all the same!"
Sure we are!
The writing itself will determine things when there's a fair, open, and level playing field.
Here's something to ponder, Sherlock. The writing itself can't determine anything if no one knows about it or hears about it. Without access, without noise, it'll lay on a shelf or ina drawer undiscovered. Moody isn't shy about putting HIS name out there, grabbing every benefit open to his highly-placed class to grease his way.
This is the point about the Soft Skull foreword. HERE was an opportunity to introduce some other writer, for a change, to the world.
Think for a moment about the business idiocy of it all. Richard Nash has his own writers to promote. Did he lobby for them? Was there not one small press writer available to write the foreword?
Forget Thurston. We can give you names from Nash's own list more qualified than Moody.
It's like Royal Crown Cola putting a photo of a bottle of Pepsi on the cover of their catalogue. It's like finding a book listing stores which sell beers from microbreweries-- and on the cover, a photo of a can of Budweiser! It's insanity.
There is not, by the way, even a short-term gain to having Moody there. People buy the directory for addresses. Period. It's why I found it in the Reference section: to look up a particular address.
There WOULD'VE been a long-term investment in having an outsider writer in the pages-- introducing his or her name to those who otherwise wouldn't have heard of it. A start in necessary promotion.
Instead, Nash is promoting: who?
Rick Moody!

King said...

p.p.s. "Let's both do good work" is something Moody himself would say.
How cute! Moody sitting around his place on well-guarded Fisher's Island is feeling very generous today.
"I will allow you to write," he thinks. "Let's both do good work!"
Meanwhile you're working some ultra-shitty job just to survive, which tires your body and burns out your brain, while he's casually collecting checks from the Guggenheim.
"Let's both do good work!" He smirks. YOU, unknown writer, will have no access to publishing entities. Your manuscripts will be returned unread. He'll appear in huge spreads in the New York Times, his latest book published in ample copies and assuredly reviewed all over the place. We already know the work he's doing. But the other writer's "good work" won't have a chance in this starkly inquitable society unless someone champions it-- as Mr. Chapman for instance is championing the cause of talented underground writers.

Anonymous said...

Well, at least I see now the schoolboy is Wenclas, and not other ULAers.
I told you my name's Jim and that you don't know me. Yeah, that means I have no cred. I know I don't have any cred. Nobody knows my art or what I do. But here's a news flash, King: not everybody who disagrees with you is a rich insider trying to fuck with your head. I'm just a guy. I think Moody's a loser. I don't care if he writes an introduction, but I don't think it's the end of the world. And yeah, I'd like everybody to do good work. I picked a bone with Chapman, we agreed the important thing was getting work done and not bitching at one another. Sorry if that's an opinion that doesn't have enough cred for you. I foolishly thought that me, an unconnected visual artist making underground posters at night, might be welcomed here, but fuck it. I'll never bother your precious comments section again - I'll just work.

And speaking of work, my boss is yelling at me now. And he's not the fucking Guggenheim Foundation.

King said...

I'll stick to my bet that you're a fraud: a bullshit artist. Nice story though.
(Next time try addressing the person's argument. Bye.)

King said...

Who was "Jim"? Maybe just a friend or fan of Moody's. (Note how little of my posts he addressed-- he ended defending not Lependorf or CLMP, but RM.)
The character, whoever he is, sought to accomplish two things that Rick Moody and Birnbaum sought to accomplish in their "interview."
1.) Stress the "we're on the same side" theme. The status quo will survive if we come to terms of agreement. What the aristocrat desires above all is societal peace.
This is shown well in the old western "The Big Country," when the winner is not the ruthless cattle baron, or his enemy the socialistic impoverished rancher, but aristocratic Greg Peck, who gains peace-- and control of the Big Muddy river to boot!
2.) In the interview, Moody sought to turn reality on its head, through potraying himself as the aggrieved party. Yes, everybody's been picking on him; it's been tough, but somehow he'll survive.
"Jim" here played the same little game. I was so mean to him! By alluding to the sweatshop slavery (very real) and prison slavery which fuels China's capitalist success-- by extension Wal-Mart's success-- I've somehow been too cruel; just too, too cruel. My final argument then was the last straw. He was willing to give us a chance! Yes, indeed. Meanwhile he addresses none of the hard evidence given in the Monday Report, in my posts, in the debate.
Moody can be the aggrieved party only by ignoring the evidence of reality.
Anyway, tactically manipulative, in both cases. Quite well done; turning reality on its head.

chapman said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
King said...

The "poets in my city said you were schoolboys" was a giveaway also. I can picture him talking out of the side of his mouth in a bad Jimmy Cagney imitation. (Or like Moody trying to sound "radical" in the Soft Skull intro.)
And what city would that be, I wonder? The poets I correspond with in other cities fully support what we're doing. (The non-academic ones of course, who i'm sure don't know who we are, or at least would never encounter us.)
The voice, though, of Jim sounds familiar.
If I had to bet, longshot in the dark, I'd say he's David Berman, friend of lit-insiders who attacked us once before, and not incidentally is a terrible poet.

King said...

p.s. My brain got ahead of my typing in that last post. I meant that academic poets in other cities have never encountered us. Except one or two in NYC of course.

Anonymous said...

my real name is brie.

please don't ask me to create an account, because i have never even seen a computer.

i am in favor of the overthrow of the capitalist system.

i work in a coal mine for 14 cents a day.

i think john updike and katie couric are awesome.

very truly and sincerely yours,

lonelygirl15

Brooklyn Frank said...

ha ha. just wanted to say that i got that joke by "lonelygirl15." funny.

chilly charlie said...

Anon. 9/17 is Tim Hall.

Have a nice day.

Anonymous said...

"There are a few trendy lit-journals, founded by literary Insiders like Elissa Schappell, Tom Beller, or Dave Eggers, whose sole purpose is to publish the same prepster authors the big guys publish. They exist as little more than promotional extensions of the big houses"

One has to wonder if you've ever read any of these journals. They all consistently publish first time authors. And if they were little more than extensions of the big houses, there would be more monetary rewards to keep them up to their "privelidged assumptions". But there aren't. It's done out of sheer dedication to facilitating creative, community conversations. Sheesh. Which one of them rejected what I'm guessing must've been some similar blather you sent their way?