Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Pod Way

The biggest crime a writer can commit today is to criticize contemporary literature. Its defenders all sound the same. (In a monotone): "Our literature is wonderful William Vollmann Philip Roth Nicholson Baker John Ashbery there is nothing wrong everything is fine people love what we make the conglomerates are hip everything is okay. Go home and don't make waves."

A person murmurs in your ear: "Shhh! Don't make waves," while your file is being stamped, "BLACKBALLED."

Not just criticism of the status quo is banned, but if you're too provocative, too loud, too exciting, too different. When mediocrity is the standard, anyone who stands out is suspect.

The small press and the lower-level writing programs follow the pattern, the unspoken goal of "Same as the big guys." It's the same compliant complicit boozhie people. They truly believe for instance that Alice Munro's coagulated New Yorker writing has "reinvigorated the story." Why do they believe this? Because everyone says it. It's an affirmation of blandess. (Anyone who believes that Alice Munro has reinvigorated anything lives in a world of delirium.)

The General Motors Syndrome:
"These are our best cars yet!"
"Are as they as good as Japanese cars?"
"Well, no. But we're trying!"

Complacency leads to mediocrity, which the literary world is drowning in.

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