Friday, April 04, 2008

Who Are the Demi-Puppets?

I've used the term demi-puppets since this blog began to designate servants of the Overdogs and defenders of the status quo-- opponents to the literary rebellion who aren't Overdogs themselves. Demi-puppets have been the most vociferous critics of the rebellion which began more than seven years ago.

Have the demi-puppets acted against their own interest?

Many haven't-- if it's in their interest to work long hours in a hyper-expensive city in order to be part of the established publishing game. A great many demji-puppets are the foot soldiers and worker bees of the literary System as it exists today. This includes not just editors, agents, readers,, but all the many English and Creative Writing lecturers and professors in universities around the country. Not all are chaired tenured profs like our disingenuous friend Phillip Lopate, who portrayed himself, with some exaggeration, as living in a dirt-floor hovel with countless mouths to feed. Many in the academy ARE barely getting by financially.

Another layer are those of literary bent who reside in the nation's newspapers; arts journalists and book reviewers; a vanishing breed.

The remainder of the demi-puppets could be called the lumpen literati: unpublished and underpublished writers, unemployed academics, and the like. Many lit-bloggers are in this category.

As the authentic underground which began rebellion may not be able to overturn the ancien regime on its own, the question is to what extent the rebellion can draw from demi-puppet ranks.

When it has, results haven't been promising. Boozhie writers who weren't true undergrounders were the quickest to betray the rebellion at every apparent stall or setback. But any gain they obtained from the betrayal has been illusory.

Many demi-puppets are getting little or no benefit from the current system, so their loyalty to it is perplexing. In many cases they're better writers and more intelligent readers than the well-connected aristocratic fops who inhabit the approved literary stage. It would serve their interest not to approve the System, or meekly comply with it, but oppose it. That would require from them artistic daring and imagination.

A rebellious demi-puppet is an oxymoron. The person will have to become no longer a demi-puppet. This will entail a new state of mind; a mind not of subservience and conformity, but independence, boldness, and freedom. It will require a passion for trailblazing, a love of the unpredictable, and an eagerness to make literary history.


Anonymous said...

What's the word for people who aren't defending the status quo, but think that your strategies for changing literature won't work and that you're an arrogant buffoon?

BradyDale said...

As a person who works for change of the systemic kind on a daily basis, I usually just sort of ignore people who are on my side but aren't working effectively. I don't bother to take the time to call them buffoons, because the worst that could happen, so long as we are on the same side, is turn out to be more effective than I thought and help me out.

That's why my guess is, Mr. Anonymous, that you are a bit more demi-puppetly than you want to admit.

Anyway, I logged on here to say that I think this is the key point. The current system is turning and churning out enough demi-puppets to keep the system profitable... but not as profitable as it should be and the emperor wears no clothes. They are dwindling and as they demi-puppets die off, so will the infrastructure of society's greatest art itself.

John said...

Art is, has been, and always will be; Art does not need a bunch of crusaders with paper swords to save it.

This "rebellion" is just an entertaining way to turn art into politics.

Don't give me rules and criteria and then talk to me about freedom and independence.

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

??? Rules?
Quite hostile to contrary ideas, aren't we?
I may be nothing more than a gadfly-- but EVERY institution, bureaucracy, art form, needs people taking pot shots at it.
I'm living in a city right now whose problems ultimately stem from its own complacency, when the U.S. auto companies truly were the "Big Three."
Their viewpoint became insular and in many ways is still insular. And so market share declines-- in the same way the standing of literature among other arts has been in slow but steady decline.
I'm trying to arrest that trend-- proposing reasons for it, and have been working to create a solution; other options.
From my point-of-view, I'm doing exactly what someone should be doing who loves reading, who wants better books to read-- yes, better art-- and wants literature to regain its place of primacy in society.

BradyDale said...

"I may be nothing more than a gadfly-- but EVERY institution, bureaucracy, art form, needs people taking pot shots at it."

Word. The notion that art is just this free floating thing is nonsense. It's largely controlled and constrained by big institutions and its movements that really move things forward. Movements that resist the status quo.

They may not have been as strident as we are (or maybe they were) but that's what Impressionism, cubism, dadism, the beats, punk and the harlem renaissance all represented. People who got together and said: hey, let's do something else -- this crap is played.

jimmy grace said...

Nothing controls art.
Institutions may control its distribution, but nothing controls art.
Your King attacks the institutions, and I'm cool with that. But where's the art? If this is like punk or cubism, where's Black Flag or Picasso? Where are the crowds of people, through word of mouth, who are attracted to the art and don't give a shit about the institutions?
Even other underground writers think the ULA is full of shit.

King said...

I'm no longer active in the ULA, "Grace." I'm speaking for myself.
Where is the art?
That's the fundamental question.
This civilization is spending huge sums of money to produce literature, beginning with hundreds of expensive writing programs.
Where's the return on investment?
Where's the art?
This is exactly the question I'm asking.
That's why I'm promoting new ways of creating art-- and getting word out about it.
Distribution has to be bolstered by marketing: by NOISE about the artwork.
One can't ignore the context within which the artwork is created.
You seem to be entirely ignorant of how this society operates. Do you live in a cave?

King said...

To further expand on my point:
The art in literature today is being created, and will be created, in the underground.
Re Black Flag: you ignore the sixty-plus years of history which preceded them, beginning in the 1920's with the first recordings of roots music; of artists like Robert Johnson, Leadbelly, and the Carter Family. After 30 years this movement emerged, as if new, with the rock explosion around 1955.
Punk was a fairly late development in the movement; at a time when a system for promoting such music was already in place-- from radio stations to music magazines open to its development. Entrepreneurs like Malcolm McLaren were actively seeking new bands-- or creating them. (There were no such entrepreneurs in Appalachia in 1920.) There was MONEY around to back the new scene; to get word out about it.Those crowds you mention didn't drop from the sky. Again, you seem completely naive about how things happen. Things appear "spontaneous" but there is a long line of activity behind them.
Punk had its noisemakers. NO art form used ballyhoo more aggressivly than rock n' roll, which includes punk. What I'm doing is well in that tradition-- transferred to a different art, that's all.
One gets tired of speaking to kindergartners. . . .

jimmy grace said...

I don't deny the value of hype.
I deny the value of hype unattached to art.
The artists in the ULA have detached themselves from you.
You speak only for yourself, and your art is the hype you make about the art which is the hype you make.
It used to crack me up but now it depresses the shit out of me.

King said...

The differences between myself and the ULA are merely tactical. Our goals remain the same.
What am I hyping? The need for a new American literature. It's an exciting fight. I'm not depressed at all.