A COINCIDENCE, SURE, BUT. . . .
Two days after I went after author Richard Ford as part of a general assault against status quo book reviewers I've been involved in on-line the last month or two, the N.Y. Times runs a piece on this very subject, with remarks by Richard Ford which make him appear to be something of an ass. Presented as the cutting edge of change are lit-bloggers who've been mostly on the other side of things, like Mark Sarvas, Maud Newton (a noted mainstream apologist), and Ed Rants. (Less than a month ago Ed was eviscerated on his own blog by myself and an ex-zeen writer calling herself May Barber for the very thing he now accuses book reviewers of-- writing a stodgy newspaper book review!)
What's going on?
First, the argument the Underground Literary Alliance has put forward for almost seven years is a winning one, because it's a reflection of reality. In that time we haven't budged an inch-- but now find the mainstream gradually moving toward US. The literary world is finally-- FINALLY-- acknowledging our most basic point: that what's presented as American literature is a failed boring enterprise in bad need of change. This recognition is the first step.
Lit-bloggers like Ed "Rants" are far enough along in their thinking to acknowledge this, but haven't taken the inevitable next step of looking at the System which produces our approved literature and asking what's wrong with it. If the writing is stale and flawed-- as book review writing is-- then one can't simply wave a magic wand and make things instantly better without changing the mindsets and premises of the individuals involved-- and the system which produces them. (As Ed, Sarvas, and Company are double-dippers, part of the System and not part of it at the same time, it might be hard for them to overcome their own contradictions.)
What we're seeing is an attempt to acknowledge that the ship is sinking but to still save it, by rearranging the deck chairs. They're going to present the illusion of change without changing anything. It won't work. It's not an overhaul. It's more like what happened when the Soviet Union fell apart-- the same ex-party hacks ended up in charge of business and government. The bureaucrats who created the stagnant mess remained. Only their titles were different.