Thursday, May 22, 2008

Letter to PEN

Text of an e-mail I sent to the PEN organization in New York two days ago:

To PEN staff, officers, and board members:

It's heartening to see your progressive stance in support of dissenting writers in distant countries.
What's your public stance regarding dissenting writers in the United States-- including those who criticize the cultural establishment?
Also, given that American literature is dominated by the upper classes; and that those scattered or token lower class writers who are allowed into the party have to aggressively conform to tightly regulated standards, with little to no control over their own work (see the career of Raymond Carver), what steps are being taken to democratize your organization; to bring in as officers or board members writers from outside the literary establishment-- including voices of American literary dissent?
I look forward to your reply.
Thank you.
-Karl "King" Wenclas

(I await a response.)


Michael Roberts, Executive Director, PEN American Center said...

Dear Mr. Wenclas,

Your letter was rushed to my office by my coolie, Luk Luk, whose tongue, unfortunately, was removed by his former master when he was working in the saline mines of Indonesia. He can express himself, though, and in this instance he grunted vociferously, while gesturing at the envelope held in his grimy fingers. "MMMmm! MmmM!" There's a lot of nuance there, but I took it to mean, "Read this immediately, master! Stop drafting that statement in support of MFA Programs!" And so I dropped my Cross Pen on my teak desk and snatched the letter out of his hands as if it were on fire!

Let me first thank you for your concern. Even though you're not eligible for PEN membership, due first to the technicality of your never having published a book, but mostly due to your status as a hostile outsider, I'm always happy to entertain the thoughts of the little people.

I had trouble focusing on your points, mostly because I was slightly hung over from the gala cocktail party I attended last night. Some of our officers and trustees were there, including Francine, Amy Homes, Jonathan and Nicole, Miranda flew in from California with the rough cut of her new film, Dave sent some canapes he'd had his "students" (chuckle) prepare for him in his lavish Pacific Heights mansion, Tom Beller wore blackface -- it was great. We stopped chattering about Coover and Pynchon and Barthelme for a few minutes to discuss your letter. I said you were concerned about dissenting writers here in the USA. The room fell silent: dissenting writers, here? You could have heard a canape drop. Salman, who's in charge this year of the committeee to force conformity to tightly regulated standards, set his jaw. As a former victim of his own big mouth, he knew what dissent could cost, and he said, "It wasn't worth it. Tell this nobody that he should rush to his nearest Conformity Factory and have the MFA program uploaded into his brain until smoke shoots out of the control panels and everybody falls out of their chairs." Then he pinched my neck and I don't remember anything after that until I woke up on my new $4500 leather sofa paid for with dues money shelled out by unsuspecting suckers who sit day by day grinding out stories calculated to please the market.

Thanks again for your concern,

Michael Roberts

Tom Hendricks said...

Is this Roberts guy for real or is this their attempt at some new kind of humor?
PS May I reprint your 10 points of literature?