Tuesday, March 25, 2008

David Gates: Average Guy

On the "Value" thread below, someone posted a quote from the Washington Post as a way to knock the idea of "unflinching truth"-- as well as scorning, apparently, the viewpoint of "life at the bottom."

I surmised that its author is a yuppie. Is he?

Our authority on life at the bottom, David Gates, is an Insider's Insider. From an upper-middle class background in Connecticut, Gates briefly attended exclusive Bard College before "dropping out." He managed to quickly enough return to college and graduate-- in fact earning a Phd from U-Conn, where he met and married writer Ann Beattie, noted "minimalist" (read: pod). They both taught at Harvard shortly thereafter, no easy feat for new graduates.

Gates, no longer married to Beattie, has a residence in Manhattan and one in upstate New York. He's had a long-time staff position at Newsweek, where he reviews books-- some lit power there-- and also teaches at two Insider writing programs, Bennington and the New School. He's known for speaking slowly and quietly. If he raises his voice he becomes worried. His most widely-hyped book is named Jernigan.

There are few persons on this planet guaranteed to be more unsympathetic to current underground writers than him.


John said...

How did you come by this information? You don't cite a source or even say how you found out about his background.

Also, I think a much better argument here is how the quote was taken out of context. I feel talking about that would be more applicable than faulty the guy because of his economic and/or social background.

It's the attack on background that I don't understand. Just because a person is from a certain background, he or she automatically believes/acts a certain way?

Is that fair? You don't like to be pigeon-holed do you? Would it be fair to claim that underground writers are just sore losers because they couldn't get published in the major houses? Would it be fair to say, "Oh these are just blue-collar workers, they don't know anything about art?" I don't think that would be fair at all, and I don't think it's fair to assume a person's nature based solely on his or her background.

Are rich people bad because they have money? Are poor people good because they don't?

K.I.N.G. Wenclas said...

Oh, but I'm called a "sore loser" all the time.
Re background. I used google. You can find the same info in five minutes.
The question is not just the background, but the point that our literary interpreters, like Mr. Gates, come mainly from a narrow segment of American society.
That was the point of my 4-Part series on "Happy," which you entirely missed.
The point that most lit agents-- almost all of them-- come from a well-educated and conformist segment of society, and then look for writers who are just like them. Perfectly understandable, really. Human nature. But it's a disservice to American literature.
You're against stereotypes, you claim, but hasn't that been you (whoever "you" is) slinging around the "Beer and Beats" stereotype?
Do you really think our writing is JUST about that?
The fact is that the literary System-- like its agents-- DO make assumptions about what a writer is; all the time.
I didn't post the Gates quote. As I recall, you did.
I question his credibility, yes, given that he's lived in a bubble, never been knocked down or knocked around, without a safety net (oh yeah, took a few months off from college). He doesn't have a knowing perspective, not enough of one to comment in the way he did.
He was stereotyping, in his quote, himself.

K.I.N.G. Wenclas said...

p.s. You've talked about my motivation in this discussion. What's yours?

John said...

The beer and beats thing was from the wandering jew. An anonymous poster posted the quote. I posted the link to the article, which is perhaps how you knew it was David Gates to start with.

Don't start getting paranoid like you accused me of being and start attributing anonymous posts to whomever you feel like. I always sign with my first name.

Do you like being called a sore loser? I wasn't trying to say that you are not called those things, but that you probably don't like it when you are. You may not let such things bother you, but you don't think it's fair do you?

I get that you're saying most of the agents come from a narrow background. My point about your 4 part series is that it is nothing new. It is not persuasive because you are being too general and too vague. You attack generalities and individuals too sometimes, but you never quote from their work. You never analyze and critique their work.

Which makes me wonder if you are in this for literary gain or for personal gain. When you attack the man but not his work, it seems to me that you are merely a have-not who is covetous of those who have. That's human nature too, yet it is also a disservice to literature.

If you care about improving the quality of literature, shouldn't you be critiquing the literature more than the person who wrote it? The two do go together, but it's the work you care about more isn't it? If so, why do much talk about Moody and Eggers, yet no critique of how their novels are bad?

Gates was stereotyping, sure. The quote was taken out of context; I provided a link to give context to the quote.

Are you stereotyping writers who come from a privileged background?

You claim Gates doesn't have enough perspective because he hasn't been knocked around enough, hasn't life the life he's talking about, right?

Have you been rich? Have you been privileged? If not, then you must not have the perspective to talk about rich writers, then huh? Accusations work both ways.

My motivation here is to provide an alternate view, to suggest that maybe your efforts have failed because you're not persuasive, because you don't acknowledge the opposite view, you don't know your enemy. You claim too, yet you always present your view from your own side and never concede the other side.

As far as what I think your writing is about, I don't know. I would like you to analyze some of these great writers you want to promote so I can see for myself. What I've read on the ULA site/blogs hasn't impressed me, but maybe I'm missing something that you could point out to me.

John said...

Actually, I just realized we should have been talking about James Hynes, because he's the one who wrote the review of David Gates' collection of short stories.

Which makes me an idiot for not realizing that in the first place.

And that means you used Gates' background to bash him for a quote made by someone else about him.

King said...

Well, then whoever said on the "Value" thread it was Gates misinformed me.
I'll apologize for linking Gates to the specific quote-- but not for my conclusion.
YOU'RE still missing the point, John. (Whoever you are. Funny how you keep questioning my motivation without giving your own. Personal gain? Not hardly! Anything but. Obviously, after seven years of this campaign, it should be obvious I'm not doing it for gain. I mean, where? Let me know if you see it!)
I'm critiquing not individual works-- enough people do that-- but the System as a whole.
The point is that we live in a society where the gaps between the classes is growing greater by the day. We're easily at a point comparable to France 1789. Walking here (public library) to post, I passed as usual the usual Detroit homeless people-- many who could've stepped out of the Middle Ages in their condition of life-- the paupers side of the equation.
My point stands that our literary commentators live in a bubble world.
Do you think they want anything to do with the hidden segments of society?
They don't even see them!
They're running away from them.
It's obvious that they want nothing to do with our day's Jack Londons and O. Henrys-- nothing to do with the underground mob, which they see as an amorphous mass, "Beer and Beats," with no way of distinguishing between any of us. Not that they'd ever care to.
I'm going to play these themes a lot more, so be patient.
(Comments are disallowed for a few days from me. I'm spending too much time on them. But I am curious why you're interested in what we're doing-- again, why you seek to criticize our small but growing movement, but not the gigantic machine.)
(Ask yourself why you identify with the aristocrats. As Paine said, "He pities the plumage, but forgets the dying bird.")