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.