Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Lish Is Responsible

Gordon Lish is responsible for being a major influence on some of the worst writing in American literary history.

For instance, the anthologized story by the famous trendy author which begins something like this:

"I'm a dog, yes a dog, dog dog dog, a fast dog, like to go fast, fast fast fast dog, like to run run run fast fast fast, a dog, I am, yes a dog. . . ."

This kind of gibberish is one step beneath Dr. Seuss.

Gordon Lish, along with David Foster Wallace, were chief influences on an entire lit movement, the dreaded McSweeneyites.

The 1980's was one of the worst decades for American literature EVER. You had the George Plimpton-created brat pack of Jay McInerney and Tama Janowitz; assorted minimally-talented "minimalists" like Peter Cameron and Ann Beattie, and worst of all, the cutesy kindergarten level posing of Gordon Lish's journal, Quarterly. That he helped discover Amy Hempel is reason alone to put him in American Lit's "Hall of Infamy," alongside Phillip Lopate and Jason Shinder.

As bad as the Eighties decade was for established literature, however, things have only gotten worse. The retreat into thumb-sucking narcissism, as represented in journals like the afore referred-to McSweeney's, would now shock even a five year-old.


Michael Hemmingson said...

Sounds like your work was rejected by both The Q and McS.

FDW said...

Sounds like the same old same old misdirection, sir.
Like saying that because in the ritual of Catholic Baptism when the godparents renounce Satan and take an oath to protect the kid from the powers of Darkeness they are only doing so 'cos Old Scratch
rejected an application for employment in Hell by the Godparents, so they are taking sides because they're resentful toward the Author of all lies?
The pat criticism of King and other resistance fighters that appear on this blog that has been going on for a long time.

King said...

??? This is a typical wrong assumption, indicative of a narrow viewpoint.
Look into my background and you'll see that I come from the zeen ("zine") scene of the 1990's. My path toward writing was completely different from that taken by System writers.
My first zeen was actually a local union newsletter. (I was briefly a steward-- too much a "shit disturber" for people however.)
At the end of the 1980's I wrote an investment newsletter for a pirate-style commodity trader! Talk about jumping to the other side.
After that fell apart about 1990, and I moved to Detroit's infamous "Cass Corridor," I began hanging out at libraries. Browsing through lit journals, I saw immediately that the writing in the investment newsletter game was far more contentious, opinionated, and lively. I realized I could write at least as well as enervated "literary" writers.
I sent a few unsolicited manuscripts around, sure-- quickly realized no one was reading them. (Notes inserted between pages saying "Please destroy this" etc.)
I began my literary zeen in 1992.
By 1993 I'd made NYC gossip columns with it. Haven't sent an unsolicited manuscript out in sixteen years! Since "The Dave"
was in diapers.
(I've had a few solicited essays published in scattered lit journals.)
Stay tuned-- I'm working on a major report about how the publishing world operates. I WILL contrast it to the DIY way of producing writers-- and argue that the underground way is healthier for literature and for the writer.
Thanks for checking in.
p.s. Please get rid of your snobbery toward the writer! Your post assumes that I can't write-- when I had two 8,000 word essays published in the prestigious North American Review in 1994-- also could've been a regular reviewer for Bookforum after doing a review for them of JT Leroy's first novel in 2000.
You should be asking yourself why I've opted out of the System way of doing things.
p.p.s. Please read Lawrence Richette's new novel Private Screenings.
Thanks again.

jimmy grace said...

"At the end of the 1980's I wrote an investment newsletter for a pirate-style commodity trader! "

That means you probably had more influence than Gordon Lish.

King said...

Uh, circulation was very small.

King said...

I hope Hemmingson keeps reading-- there are many points I'll be making which might interest his particular crowd.