Monday, September 04, 2006

Moody the Pig

Should the very symbol of the literary establishment-- of connections and privilege, corruption and rot-- be writing the foreword to a book devoted to the small press, to the cause of underground writers, as Rick Moody has done for The Literary Press and Magazine Directory 2006/2007 published by Soft Skull Press?

Rick Moody, aka Hiram F. Moody III, first crossed paths with the Underground Literary Alliance in late 2000 by applying for and accepting a scarce $35,000 Guggenheim grant-- though he may be the last writer in America to need such help. Our Protest against this action led to articles on the subject in Village Voice, the New York Post's "Page Six," and elsewhere. No matter! Months later Moody was sitting on a National Endowment for the Arts panel, where he awarded scarce tax money to well-off buddies Jonathan Franzen and Donald Antrim. This also caused outrage and press coverage.

Rick Moody, by his own admission, has sat on dozens of grants panels over the years. Despite controversy, he continues to be appointed to more of them-- most infamously when he chaired the fiction panel in 2004 for the National Book Awards. The prize was given to New York City blueblood Lily Tuck, for a mediocre novel which has already been forgotten.

Rick Moody is the Insider's Insider, regularly attending black-tie affairs with $10,000 tables in Manhattan. He's the biggest promoter of the idea of literature as an aristocracy; has pursued this notion by helping found exclusive private clubs like the Young Lions. His selection of aristocrat Lily Tuck was an in-your-face affirmation of his belief that American literature belongs to a privileged few.

Moody has been assiduously hyped as a writer by giant organs of publicity in New York City like the New York Times, Vanity Fair, Esquire, and the New Yorker. His conglomerate-produced books are backed by p.r. budgets given to few other authors.

The question is not only why Rick Moody was given the assignment to write the small press book's foreword, but why he accepted. Does he not already grab enough space? He appears at swanky soirees-- and now in other guises. Rick Moody for everybody! Moody represents the wealthy, but wishes to speak for the overlooked, from his house in the guarded east coast enclave for the super-rich known as Fisher's Island.

The protests his behavior generated have had no effect on the man. He's completely without conscience.

Note the patronizing tone in his Soft Skull remarks, from these excerpts:

"This is a foreword that means to incite!
"Do you think things are bad out there in the big bad world of commercial publishing. Me too! It is bad out there in the big, bad publishing world! . . . Unless you are surpassingly beautiful or you know someone in high places, you are going to have a rough time getting the message out. . . . This is the state of things!"
"Information is liberation!" (Etc.)

What perfect cynicism. Rick Moody of course not only knows "someone" in high places (a lot of them), he IS that someone.

In the foreword Rick Moody, who sounds like he's speaking to five year-olds, is mocking his critics-- parodying them-- and mocking the struggling writers who'll be buying the book. It's one more in-your-face move from him. Too bad the Soft Skull editors didn't notice.


chapman said...
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King said...

A lot of writers blow up categories. Does anyone know of them or hear about them? If a tree falls in the forest and no one's around, does it make a sound?
One has to deal with the world as it is. A lot of great artists-- the greatest-- have blown up their art forms (Van Gogh and Gaugin for instance) and were unknown in their time; only by lucky accident, by the persistence of a few admirers, do we know about them now.
The ULA's role is to look for, find, encourage, and announce writers who don't fit the mold. We're building a platform, through an organization, to get such writers the attention they deserve.

jimmy the hyena said...

The thing is Soft Skull actually publishes some interesting titles. Did they really think that Moody was the best man for the job or did they just see it as a necessary compromise?

King said...

I'm disappointed that the small press publisher deleted his post. He's the guy who SHOULD be making noise about this. HE-- or better yet, one of his writers, should've written that foreword.
The passivity of undergrounders like him is a defeatist strategy. They insist on being neutral. Moody isn't neutral! He wants everything.

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

No! Don't delete them. They are great remarks. I find nothing in them to disagree with.
I, like you, am looking for that great underground writer. (For various reasons, the next great writer can come only from the underground. The conformist factories shun such persons.)
Maybe Noah is that person-- I applaud you for publishing him.
We have a few good ones in the ULA-- notably James Nowlan. I hope you read his book. (The ULA will soon be rereleasing it, after a "Not for Robots" wildly entertaining novel by Wred Fright-- which itself shows a direction literature can go in.)
I actually found the great underground writer you describe. I would never have gone ahead with this project without such writer-- the "Zeen Elvis" with unspeakable raw talent and charisma. My falling out with her-- largely my fault no doubt-- is the biggest reason the ULA has not wiped out the mainstream. We will regardless, because we offer simple truth about American literature, truth which no one, not all the monopolies with all their soldiers, can stand up against.
Recently Frank Walsh and I were in a bar fight-- we faced down an entire room, large bouncer and all-- simply by the strength of our voices. We'll do likewise with the flunkies of the aristocrats and the conglomerates.