MALEVOLENT LIT PART I
We in the underground least of all should be blaming the victim when a fellow writer is abused by literary Overdogs. Ray Carver is a tragic figure and deserves our sympathy. He was an ambitious working class writer who was played for a fool; used as the class clown at writing programs then later turned into a Frankenstein monster or freak show attraction.
"Look at him! The Minimalist! Get yer tickets here, folks. Step right up! Behind this curtain, we have for you. . . ."
They tamed and mutilated him, then gave him to the public as if to say, "Here! This is what we can do to a writer."
Carver knew what'd been done to his work, and to him. He'd been psychologically lobotomized, as helpless as Winston Smith at the end of Orwell's masterpiece. Isn't this how so much of Ray Carver's work sounds to the reader? The stories were lobotomized. And so, trendy Overdog writers like Ann Beattie, Susan Minot, and Jay McInerney gloried in them.
It was subtle, what'd been done to Carver, as cruel in its way as any censorship devised by totalitarians. (Maybe because it came from literary totalitarians.) Ray Carver was censored and celebrated; celebrated BECAUSE he'd been censored in some kind of sick inside joke.
WRITERS CAN BE DANGEROUS. They're not wanted by the establishment if they've shown signs of too much independence. We see in the pages of lit journals and New Yorker magazines the domesticated pets of literature. Literature has lost its anarchy, its rebelliousness, and its excitement.
Safe pets all: editors, critics, poets and writers alike. Line them up in a row and that's what you'll find.
It'd always been a mystery to me why Raymond Carver was lauded as a great writer. He was a good one-- his longer stories like "Boxes" were pretty good-- but critically there was a wild overreaction to them. Something else was going on.