Sunday, June 03, 2007

Book Follies Part I

THE LORDS OF OBSOLESCENCE

Events over the past two weeks have demonstrated to me the intellectually bankrupt condition of status quo literature.

Their Book Expo was a hopeful display in a metaphorical Green Zone in New York City; impressively staged panels of mandarins debating literature to themselves, filled with discussions over trivialities while their ship sinks.

Huge arguments took place over minor deviations from Elder John Updike's outdated "Rules for Reviewing." Minor deviations!-- when to save literature the Updike Rules should be dynamited.

Emanating from the affair was the overwhelming stench of mediocrity. We see now from established literature a parade of tiny-voiced caretakers; priests of an obsolete religion carrying on the handed-down rituals and dogma but no longer sure why. They clutch to weak connections to the Great Ones of Literature Past. They cannot create out of their own ranks new Great Ones. Their minds are too fearful and closed to look for them outside their halls of exclusion.

The National Book Critics Circle web site screams about failure and collapse-- THEIR failure as they finally notice the public has abandoned them. Instead of embracing change they clutch to things-as-they-are, using rusty buckets to bail out water gushing in from all sides, in place of escaping in lifeboats to start over. They seek to save a ship which is mortally wounded.

PANELS OF APPARATCHIKS AND PUPPETS talking to themselves, headed by the most reactionary of their number like new PEN head apparatchik novelist Francine Prose. It's a System without hope of redemption or reform.

NBCC ETHICS?
NBCC President John Freeman represents the UNdemocratic forces of literature; refusing to respond to outsider e-mails; keeping only those posts on the NBCC blog he approves of. What makes him special? Anything beyond the trappings of his bureaucratic role? One finds from him recycled thoughts in recycled modes. Not a trace of originality or independence is to be discovered. Sure, he makes the proper noises. "I Care!" this garden-variety Ivy Leaguer wears as a label pinned to his chest-- but push him just a trifle and his innate exclusiveness comes out. He's unwilling to give up the Privileges of the Club.

Which can be said for the lot of them. The Book Expo was a staged puppet show with simulations of democracy sprinkled amid constant affirmations that All Is Well. "Believe us!" the puppets cry as the shaky cardboard box they're in threatens to fall over. The Continuance of Literary Empire is the goal. This bad theater resembles more and more the puppet show from Baghdad; a series of paid-off puppets there representing the illusion of independent government while the real world outside their Green Zone palaces falls apart. Is the Book Expo fiasco any different? How? While it keeps the real forces of literary democracy, the voice of dissent, outside its walls?

LITERARY REVOLUTION?
Steve Augustine, friend of a leading co-opted lit-blogger, recently sent me an e-mail assuring me that he's for literary revolution also. But what does this mean? Is he against elitism, privilege, corruption, and monopoly? The NBCC's leading figures have embraced monopoly in the person of Carrie Kania. They've embraced the embedded corruption of the lit-grants process in the person of Prince of Corruption Mr. Moody. They've embraced censorship by shutting out the ULA and its books. They reject change, blaming readers and the culture itself for their blindness, instead of admitting failure, firing those responsible, removing their walls and allowing new ideas into their shrinking forum.

11 comments:

Kareem Abdul Shabazz said...

Steve Augustine, friend of a leading co-opted lit-blogger, recently sent me an e-mail assuring me that he's for literary revolution also

Steve has recently did interviews with Gerard Jones. I can't possibly imagine a bigger gadfly than Gerard Jones, he has probably pissed off at least 90% of the industry, including Hollywood, so I'd say Steve is probably in favor of some sort of revolution or at least against the status quo. I've seen him around a few blogs in the past few weeks. I don't doubt that he has a deep love of literature. I can't speak for him though.

They've embraced censorship by shutting out the ULA and its books.

This isn't censorship it's more or less preference or rejection.

Fran said...

"This isn't censorship"

--Because you say so? That's your opinion (in my opinion), yet you often present your comments as if they're "facts."

Censorship is sometimes defined as having a governmental basis and requires "prior restraint." Yet, in my opinion, censorship can be done by society at large and by certain parts of society toward individuals and toward other parts of society. And I think "prior restraint" is a very appropriate expression for the way publishers sometimes refuse to publish and therefore socially acknowledge certain writers and their works, especially based on things like the sex, race, socioeconomic status--whatever--of the WRITERS. Which would also be discrimination, but I see plenty of society's parts getting away with that exclusionary behavior because it's done in a subtle way that's difficult to prove in anal court.

But, to me, the systemic, persistent discriminatory censorship in publishing is still there no matter how many people won't acknowledge its existence.

fdw said...

Again preference or rejection is a rationale-- another case of defensive manipulating Orwellian dbl. speak to set up a Taboo namely censorship to prop up the Totem of elitism and totalitarianism in the hollow capitalist market Spetacle-- no different than the Iraqui War or the misdirection of the Amnesty for Illegal immigrants!

"Bullshit by any other name would stick as foul!"

King said...

Meanwhile John Freeman at www.bookcriticscircle.blogspot.com
has posted a discussion of "free range critics" introduced by someone from Harvard!
But what does he think free range critics look like?
Might they criticize even, gulp, himself?! THAT he apparently doesn't want.
(Keeping removing my posts, John.)
ALL THIS taking place in the context of protests against the G-8 summit in Germany.
Isn't it the same fight?
Isn't the outrage of a few scattered outsiders against tops-down control and monopoly which would and will destroy us the same fight?

Kareem Abdul Shabazz said...

--Because you say so? That's your opinion (in my opinion), yet you often present your comments as if they're "facts."

Find me the legal precedent that refers to it as censorship. They are private business, and private business are allowed to engage in preferences, unless it is based on religion (in most cases), race, gender, sexual preference (in some states) (military exempted from race).

It's rather funny. I would concede and call it censorship for the humor of the argument.

1. They don't anything to do with a certain group.
2. The group complains that they aren't accepted. They want a revolution.
3. But beg the group for acceptance.

hich would also be discrimination, but I see plenty of society's parts getting away with that exclusionary behavior because it's done in a subtle way that's difficult to prove in anal court.

Being published is not a right, it is a privilege. A court would toss a case out instantly, as frivolous. The government cannot prevent free speech, in relation to that, you are free to publish your own work, or start a company with like minded individuals.

It isn't very revolutionary or even reformist to complain about acceptance into what you are supposedly fighting against. It just appears to be another case of bitter writers wanting to be published, and the publishing industry deals with it every day. It's why they don't like dealing with certain people in the first place.

What are you going to do when the public ignores your work? Seek court action? Complain that they are censoring you?

jimmy the hyena said...

The structure as it is acts as a barrier that's all. Allowing priviledged access to some adds up to excluding others. I feel that there might very well be a readership out there for the work of the ULA. Moreover I feel that the more potential that the work had the more effort would be put into blocking it. I've had the same experience in other sectors. I don't see why I should have to pay a hundred thousand dollars to a corrupt, oh no I'm just saying they're corrupt because I'm bitter about not being accepted by them yes that's right I moved to another continent because I couldn't live with the disappointment of being admitted to Ivy league frat boy hood, yes all I really want is people like George Bush and John Kerry to like and accept me and invite me to their parties and make me a member of their special secret society. I guess I could just sell my life to a cult then I'd get places adds up to about the same thing in the end.

Fran said...

"It just appears to be another case of bitter writers"

--I think you're a publishing insider--you give it away with your snide superior tone toward struggling unpublished writers. At the least you're probably an already-published-by-"the-system" writer, with the typical I've-made-it-and-you-haven't elitist attitude. Your post makes me sick.

"Being published is not a right, it is a privilege. A court would toss a case out instantly, as frivolous. The government cannot prevent free speech, in relation to that, you are free to publish your own work, or start a company with like minded individuals."

--I think this is small-minded ignorant constipated commentary. In my opinion, censorship does NOT have to follow some dogmatic "legal precedent" or legal definition for it to be censorship. Ever heard of gray colors, shades of gray?

Just because something may not be proven in court to a legal system's anal questionable rules doesn't necessarily mean that something hasn't happened. Being censored also doesn't necessarily require that a person or that person's work must be blocked from being published/read/sold EVERYWHERE.

I think there are degrees of censorship. Milder censorship: certain writing is persistently excluded from being published/sold/presented/read in only certain segments of society; more extreme censorship, certain writing is persistently excluded from many segments of society; the most extreme censorship: certain writing is excluded from ALL segments of society--that extreme case, I can't even think of one. But that hypothetical case would be very self-limiting anyway: the numbers probably can't be known or tested for accuracy, because if the writing has been excluded from everywhere, that writing's very existence is likely an unknown. Speculating about the nature of unknowns is often fallacious.

Most censorship cases probably aren't cases where writers and their works have been censored on every square inch of Earth, including the writers not even being allowed to self-publish; being able to and being allowed to self-publish doesn't automatically mean writers aren't being censored in specific or in general. Censorship and self-publishing options are two different issues that may or may not occur at the same time. Your inserting self-publishing into the discussion is a strawmannish and switch-of-the-subject fallacious tactic.

Writer A queries every single publisher for her Outspoken Radical Work C; every single publisher/person who publishes writing on earth rejects her work. So she self-publishes Outspoken Radical Work C and gets only one bookstore to carry it. Congratulations to her! She hasn't been censored!

Horseshit.

D. H. Lawrence self-published Lady Chatterley's Lover and then the book was later banned from publication and censor-edited in some places, including here in the U.S. His simply having self-published that book doesn't discount that the work was subsequently censored by both banning and editing. That work was censored in certain places and not others, but it was still censored.

If has-been-excluded-everywhere were a requirement for censorship, there would probably be hardly any cases of censorship, which would belie the many historical written-work and writer bannings. (Though I suppose someone could theoretically and philosophically argue that "true censorship" doesn't really exist as long as a person can speak in some way somewhere. I used to think this could be true, but, sorry, after years at writing, I realized that writing philosophy isn't necessarily writing reality.)

One of my local libraries has a previously-banned-books bookmark; all the books listed had been banned by booksellers or/and governments or/and libraries at certain times in certain places, yet during those same times, all of them were available for reading in other places where they hadn't been banned. But their being persistently excluded in only SOME places is enough for them to qualify as having been censored, at least in my opinion, and, apparently, in the opinion of some historians.

Here's a link. But black-and-white constipated thinkers probably shouldn't click on it; it might make their constipated black-and-white minds melt.

Fran said...

One more thing: that link I posted, there aren't necessarily ban-women-writing-this-stuff business and government laws in India and various countries, including here, that clearly and specifically say for example, "Women can't write Subject A and get that Subject A-filled work published." But the way those writers and their Subject A works are treated by society, publishers and reviewers effectively is censorship because they and their works are excluded from being published, or if they manage to make it through to publication, their works are decried and given lesser attention. Their voices are either shut out from society from the get-go, or denigrated to a lesser small public position, or both--and many other lovely things.

Censorship can take many forms and be in many degrees, but it's all still censorship. And it all still sucks.

jimmy grace said...

I agree! It's wrong to exclude anyone from anything!
Oh, wait, I'm not welcome here.

Fran said...

"I agree! It's wrong to exclude anyone from anything!
Oh, wait, I'm not welcome here."

Strawmannish

fdw said...

"free range critics"
scrounging scratch by scarfing down strawmans and strawdawgs ?


Bon apettit!