Friday, June 01, 2007

What Are They Afraid Of?

ONE WEEK AGO I SENT a request for equal treatment for ULA books to the entire nine-member blogging committee of the National Book Critics Circle. I received a response from not one of them.

What Are They Afraid Of?

Their silence is their admission that the determining factor in who gets attention in the book world is not artistic quality; not originality or new ideas; but power and money.

They genuflect eagerly to Carrie Kania of the Murdoch media empire, treating her feeble p.r. remarks like revealed doctrine from on high.

The big publisher spoke to us!-- their reaction says between the lines. She gave us a minute of her time, assuring us that all would be well, because now the monopolists are on the case, riding to the rescue with their own blogs; increasing their too-dominant space in the literary world at the same time.

And yet, at the same time, this powerful billion-dollar book company, division of an even greater more powerful more encompassing empire, is also terrified of the Underground Literary Alliance. Present them with simple truth and they go scampering like vampires facing daylight. Their most highly-trained highly-paid soldiers are incapable of argument and debate. (Just like the NBCC Nine.)

One would think literati-- great credentialed intellectuals-- would admit the corruption of today's literary world (or defend it); that NBCC, supposed defenders of free speech, would acknowledge that the ULA is blackballed, and give their reasons. They haven't. They sit silent.

What Are They Afraid Of?

11 comments:

Fran said...

I still don't like what happened at my place with you, but I'll chalk it up to my post had hurt your feelings and you were upset by it, and then I got upset, etc.--because I just wanted to say that I'm no fan of the NBCC. I complained about them even before you'd ever heard of them. Yet I didn't think they were as bad as some other traditional places--until this post of yours. At the least, they do allow regular criticisms of them and "the system" at their blog, and I get the feeling that a few of the members are uneasy members, they seem to see there are problems with the current system. Whether they're willing to CHANGE the system is another story. Most people are afraid of change. And I don't know how to change that basic facet of too many human natures. I've tried, I keep trying, but people won't budge easily.

You're not the only writers being blackballed by the system though--there are plenty of others being blackballed (me included), just maybe for different reasons. You should start embracing writers' WORKS being blackballed, and stop focusing on WHO the writers are so much. I think you'd get more support that way from other writers--unless maybe you want to stay small, which is fine if you do. But I do think you should make up your mind there. Your mission is sometimes too mixed to be certain of.

I'm curious about your Miranda July article--I'll check it out when it's out.

Fran

fdw said...

With a belly full of toxic albeit stangely pleasurable vapors from polyurethaning "hung" doors all day I comes up recollectin' wi' dis heres line that as read KK's post recalled it back to the surface (splices somewhere in a poem ize bees work'n' on fur next weeks Carnevolution at the Tiberino Museum in Wes' Philly (not University City!)--

The Nazi Art Vault
is nothing to be feared
but is just as mediocre, comfortable, and boring as any
thing under the green zone gases
they might be beautiful people but we are better looking than Tories..

then I just catch on WHYY the end(thank Gawd!) of Terri Gross interviewing Philip Roth and a demi-puppet voice, male I think, shimmies on and interjects that Roth has just been awarded the BLAH, BLAH award and that he hence goes down
in History as the first novelist to recieve the same award three times.
It may have been the NBCC award but not sure as I wasn't really listening but musing upon the
Nazi Art Vault oracle.

King said...

Any writer against the literary status quo is fine by me.
The status quo is actually collapsing by itself. The NBCC panic over disappearing review sections is evidence of this. The deluge is upon them.
We are simply understanding recorders of this event.

King said...

One of the more hilarious and hypocritical happenings of recent times is the NBCC hosting of an ethics panel.
(Earlier today I put comments up on two John Freeman posts on the NBCC blog. He retained the more positive one; killed the other.
NBCC at the Book Expo is quite a display of literary reactionaries gathered together in one place-- those who are blocking or attempting to block necessary change. Not only do they carry the lingering aroma of corruption about themselves, they're also intellectual cowards.)

James Joyce Is the Greatest Writer... Ever said...

Fran Says
You're not the only writers being blackballed by the system though--there are plenty of others being blackballed (me included), just maybe for different reasons.

Does the system really blackball anything? Individuals are behind the industry. Individuals shouldn't be obligated to work with people they don't want to. If one wants to be revolutionary then one shouldn't clamor for acceptance in what one is protesting against. What many artists simply don't want to admit is that there is no public demand for their work. Doesn't matter if it is literary or commercial. Do artist who make noise get ignored sometime? Yes, of course. How many people can get a job and complain about their boss or the company all day and expect not to be fired? Few people want to sacrifice harmony for some ideal, unless it is going to make a lot of money or offer a lot of power.




King says
ONE WEEK AGO I SENT a request for equal treatment for ULA books to the entire nine-member blogging committee of the National Book Critics Circle. I received a response from not one of them.

You can't just make a request, it has to be earned. I'm not sure why one would want to deal with the NBCC, but if one has sufficient sales or recognition then respect from them would follow. Once again, they are a rather stuffy bunch.

Their silence is their admission that the determining factor in who gets attention in the book world is not artistic quality; not originality or new ideas; but power and money.

I would say it is also who you know. Dan Brown has power and money as well as a lot of other writers. This doesn't mean they get equal respect.

I don't think they are afraid of anything. They are insular, no surprise, groups are exclusive.

King said...

That's a flimsy argument. I've received enough recognition myself for them to at least answer my e-mails!
The ULA is a documented force in the literary world. Even overseas papers like the Guardian and the Glasgow Herald have recognized this.
The NBCC's leaders represent (inadequately or not) remaining book reviews around the country. They have power which should be used fairly, democratically.
If you go solely by sales figures, this leads ultimately to monopoly; to the biggest and wealthiest survivor. Rupert Murdoch.
Should he only receive attention?
Democracy presupposes an equal playing field; equal space for all voices.
The biggest argument for the ULA is that we have a unique voice-- were not just thousands more of the status quo.
Exclude our voice, and you exclude our very survival-- which is difficult enough to start with. We have no billions of dollars. Cut us off, and it's like denyong resources to a nation. What alternative is left in dealing with the boycotters than (rhetorical) war?
Intellectual cowardice?
Let's be honest here, joyce. You well know that not a one of this crowd would ever dare debate the ULA, or read against us. Not Francine Prose. Not John Freeman. Not Carlin Romano. Not Michael Signorelli or his feckless bosses. We could meet them in Washington Square next week-- or tomorrow.
They'd never do this because they know they'd
lose.
(Real identities only, please. Dealing with fakes gets old. The Culture of Lies is over.)

Fran said...

" If one wants to be revolutionary then one shouldn't clamor for acceptance in what one is protesting against."

--Who are you saying this to? I'm not "clamoring" for acceptance. I've been all over my blog about that, which is why I don't submit my work anymore to a system I can't stand and think needs changing at the least, abolishing at the most. Of course many of the prosystem individuals inside that system probably won't let me in the door when I think that door's made of shit, accepts a lot of shit and then pushes-publishes a lot of shit back out the door.

At the same time, I think all of that's bunk: you don't have to love a system to be producing something of value to that system, you don't have to love the field you're in to be doing great work in that field. Nothing else should matter but the quality of the actual work you're producing, in a logical world, that is, which this one isn't, in my opinion. This one's focused on "who writers are" and barely focused on the works they produce. No wonder the quality of writing being published in society has nosedived (in my opinion of course). All the crappy books being published and books sales and bookstores on the decline is probably evidence of the overall crappiness of published works today, though several other things are likely responsible for that stuff too.

Artists can be "difficult to work with"--this shouldn't be a newsflash. It's probably been going on since close to the beginning of the art business's history. Stories have come out of the publishing world about known writers being difficult to work with, and having been difficult to work with since they were first published--yet they got published and still do. The "you shouldn't be difficult" mantra is largely a myth: editors know writers can be difficult, agents know this, but they deal with it because the works written by difficult writers can still make publishers money. Editors/agents/publishers who can't deal with difficult writers should find another profession.

"What many artists simply don't want to admit is that there is no public demand for their work."

--Publishers, publicists, agents and editors help create public demand to a too-often clueless public that listens to what others tell it to buy, that values other opinions over its own. There likely can be no real public demand for something that doesn't yet exist to the public. What will sell can't be predicted with high accuracy before those items hit the market, until that for-sale-to-the-public situation has been realized. Even if many people suddenly demanded, "I want to read X!" most publishers are out of touch with what "the people" want to read. They'll more likely listen to whatever the marketing department bean-counters say sold yesterday and then assume that will sell for all tomorrows. They're consistently behind the times (note, I worked in-house at a large nonfiction publisher); they'll keep publishing the same damn copycat books for ten years while they lose money for nine of those years, until finally someone inside says, "Well, gee, do you think maybe less people want to read these works now?"

But, obviously, if publishers consistently refuse to publish certain works by certain writers, there will most likely be no real public demand for those works, or at least no real LARGE public demand from those works, because they've been excluded from the public's knowledge, excluded from society. That's blackballing, that's censorship. That publishing insiders and other literary people refuse to acknowledge complaints toward them, refuse to respond, refuse to weblink to certain writers and organizations--that's blackballing-by-exclusion too. I get blackballed from other writers even, when they're in the same fucking position as I am. They rarely link to me or support me. Even King has never linked to me, though I've linked to him repeatedly. I don't fit in anywhere. I'm truly alone. Nihilists usually are.

As for King's contacting the NBCC about the ULA's books, I think it should be clear that he probably knew the outcome would be negative, but he submitted to make a point about the NBCC's exclusionary attitude. And, predictably, they proved him correct....

King said...

Well said, Fran.
Neither of us is groveling for acceptance by Mr. Freeman and his gang.
What I ask for is equal treatment. Whether they like me and my colleagues or not is irrelevant.
Either they allow all voices into their influential forum (book review sections across the land) or they admit their exclusionary make-up, and drop their facade as liberal democrats.
They represent an inequitable, undemocratic system-- undemocratic from top to bottom-- which excludes the best voices and celebrates instead the mediocre sameness of Things As They Are.

jimmy grace said...

How can you ask for equal treatment and claim you're not seeking acceptance?
And, if you think all voices should be allowed into a forum, are you inviting me back?

King said...

I ask for simple honesty.
You and Mr. Joyce/Shabazz have shown yourselves to be dishonest by continually posting under fake identities.
We've been through this before.
I don't need you on this blog, whoever you are, sorry.
Look in the mirror and ask yourself why you're a phony.
Are you too embedded in the Cult of the Lie?
This is one of the major things the ULA stands against. There's no compromise on this issue.

jimmy grace said...

"I don't need you on this blog, whoever you are, sorry."

That's exactly what mainstream lit thinks about you, King: they think you're full of shit and don't want you around.

I'll honor your request and leave.

You, on the other hand, can't take no for an answer.