Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Defenders of Corruption

Every established order will have its defenders, its reactionaries, those so heavily invested in the present they'll frantically fight to stave off the smallest moves toward future change. It's what we've been witnessing-- the favorite tactic being to focus on myself; to caricaturize the critic, so that at the end of the day I'm such a bad writer I can hardly string three words together; I'm merely "bitter" because I'm not one of the special elite, etc. etc., while my points, arguments, and evidence are avoided.

With Bennington, I located a sensitive spot on the Beast. If nothing else the place is a good example of the Buddy system.

Do you recall the questions of plagiarism raised about Harper's magazine? One of the writers involved was one of our Bennington friends. To defend the person, albeit indirectly, MacArthur grant "genius" winner Jonathan Lethem later wrote a long essay, full of sophistry, for Harper's, explaining how everything is plagiarism. After all, we all use words, and SOMEONE somewhere has used these same words before at some time. Had to have! (This is a variation of the chimps at typewriters writing "Hamlet" idea.) Lethem defined the word plagiarism out of existence, which for Harper's was quite convenient!

THIS is what qualifies as literary genius in this age-- demonstrations of originality in defense of the corruption of the mainstream. The game-show bell rings. "Come on down! Let's give this man some money!"

And now another of the Bennington Buds in the person of "Harland" is here defending the System's reputation. Examples of corruption? Can't be worried! Let's discredit the critic instead. Make sure to hide your identity, literary assassin. Oops! The mask is slipping out of place.

Know this, readers. These are extremely mendacious people with not a speck of character or integrity. It's how they achieve and maintain their station. Their facile, tactical brains are employed to defend the apparatus which sustains them. They have no vision of what literature can and should be. Their focus is at ground level, defending the perks, the sinecures, the positions; the incoming awards, advances, and grant money. The "art" itself-- skillfully empty posturing-- is merely an excuse for the process; a necessary inconvenience. Plagiarism, lies, financial venality-- all part and parcel of the established System of literature today.

Which is why that System must be unflinchingly attacked-- intellectually attacked-- and destroyed.

3 comments:

Harland said...

Can I please, please ask who you think I am? Just curious.

King said...

??? But I don't know who you are.
Isn't that the point?
Why the game playing?
Do you enjoy your own dishonesty?
(I've guessed you're connected to Bennington. I'd bet that way-- but have lost my share of bets in this life. . . .)

Rich said...

King,

I just put Miranda July into a cab after our lunch and who comes walking down the street but Jonathan Lethem? So I put it to him, I said, "Who were you protecting with that Harper's piece, anyway?" Lethem is usually a pretty smooth talker. Believe me, there've been many cocktail parties when all the whirl, flutter, wheedling, and mingling came to a complete standstill because Lethem was holding forth on this, that, or the other thing. The man can make wallet-size photos of his *dog* come to life! Anyway, he stammered here. We were up near the Bertelsmann building which, between me and you and the lamppost, is undergoing some seismic changes, seismic. He looked around nervously, grabbed my arm above the elbow, and whisked me into a nearby bar. Now, let me tell you. Jonathan Lethem is not a drinking man. The cocktail parties that have fueled the debauchery of our little milieu around here have also turned many a good man into a simpering dipso, but Lethem knows when to hit the sparkling water. He's worse than a pregnant lady, though I'd never deny the unique voice of a pregnant author who chose to share this unusual minority perspective with the larger bookbuying public. In fact, King, we have a new book coming out that you may be interested in, one undergrounder to another. It's called HOBO BABY. It's all about an infant forced to live like a bindlestiff after her father is fired from Enron and her mother quits smoking. The mother wrote it, her name is Bethany Ann Baqleau, and let me tell you: it hits home, and it hits hard. Like an iron glove to the kidneys. HOBO BABY: You'll never forget it once you've lived "the life." Anyway, Lethem is sort of like a pregnant woman who doesn't do anything interesting like write books or consign her infant to the margins of society. More like a person from Park Slope, unless that person is Nicole or Siri. But he ordered a double bourbon and downed it pronto. Then he told me a story. Good thing I had my tape recorder:

"Juyst this morning I received a call on the scrambled line, direct from Cologne. Turns out that the Harper's piece wasn't enough to silence the screams of protest about the plagiarism thing. I was charged with a mission. In return for having sold 654 copies of THE GIRL WHO CRAWLED ACROSS THE LANDSCAPE WE'RE IN YET, the company's into me for over half a million. Just about the whole of my undeserved MacArthur grant. I rode the Bennington Connection all the way to the end of the line and it's time to present my ticket stub or the railroad dicks will be kicking hell out of me in the yards. I talk a good piece but I can't take it. Can't take it. My orders are to steal into the homes of the literary whistleblowers under cover of darkness and make sure they never blow another whistle. Make sure their lips can't pucker. Make sure their lungs can't expel the breath it takes to get that whistle blowing loud and clear for all of us to hear. Can't take it. I'm thinking of making a break for it. But where do I go? Where, I ask you?"

By now he was hanging onto my lapels and slobbering a little. Then and there, sure enough, out with the wallet and all the pictures of the dog. Worse than a pregnant lady.

By the way, we have a new book about dogs coming out this fall. It's called DIJON: PORTRAIT OF A FORGOTTEN HERO. Dijon barked wildly and leaped in the air on the morning of September 11, alerting her deaf owner of the streaking death looming, and then crashing, overhead. She was buying endive at the produce market in the shadow of the doomed and tragic towers. Escaped death by this much. If she'd remained deafly standing where she was she would have been buried under a pile of remainders, blown out of Borders through the shattered plate glass windows there. Imagine that. Dying under a pile of copies of LOOK AT ME. How ironic.