Thursday, June 05, 2008

Amazement

AMAZING to me is the societal blindness of those who've been posting on this blog-- society's approved writers. They're proving they don't understand their own country. They can't even see it! This alone disqualifies them from their self-designation as the nation's best writers.

Visualize a pyramid. Socially and economically, that's what America is. Its structure is not all that different from ancient Rome or ancient Egypt. In many ways it's becoming an artfully masked slave-ocracy.

From what part of the pyramid comes William Vollmann? I believe both his parents were university professors, in Cali, which means he comes socio-economically from the top 5% of the pyramid, albeit near the bottom of that 5%. (He's from the top 1% intellectual class. Maybe you think this makes no difference; or maybe you realize, as I do, that his outlook on the world, BBC-liberal though it may be, is vastly different from, say, a Noah Cicero's, native of collapsing Youngstown, Ohio.)

Also from near the bottom of the top 5% is Francine Prose, whose parents were physicians. Ms. Prose portrays herself as a college dropout. When did she drop out? In the middle of her Phd program!

Are we beginning to see the unreality of today's literary class?

We may as well detach that top 5% peak, and set it alongside the real pyramid, because for the cliquesters of literature like Eugenides, Beattie, Hempel, Jorie Graham, Miranda July and Company that smaller pyramid is all there is. The other is out of their viewpoint. In that other, even the ULA comes from nowhere the bottom. More like halfway to two-thirds down, because beneath are the millions and millions of underclass; most who are people of color; from the millions in our nation's jails and prisons to black inner city dwellers to the more recently arrived twenty million illegals, who are here to serve, in some way or other, the Overclass-- those in the much smaller pyramid we've placed alongside, on the ground.

When I use the word "Overdog," it's an accurate designation.

What made the ULA hyper-- at least me-- was the realization that we were falling within the main pyramid. Falling, falling. Falling! I've arrived back in Detroit to see that, yes, this city and other cities of the industrial heartland are still in freefall.

But let's go back to the mini-pyramid, of the top 5%. Do you hear the chattering? Enclosed in there is the nation's intellectual class, almost in its entirety. Their premises, their perspectives, seldom go beyond their own little world. When they do look at the larger pyramid, it's from a great height.

Within the mini-pyramid circulates virtually all of literature's largesse; from large advances to grant money. You know what? For them, this is okay! Never mind that this money comes in large part, or is sustained by, taxes or monies paid by those in the larger entity. No matter! To the top 5% there is aristocratic entitlement. On this they thrive.

Sure, there are writers who make it from the larger pyramid into the smaller, elite one. Those like Ray Carver. What price do they pay?

I've been saying on my blogs that we need to free literature from the dominance of the top 5%; to bring it out of the mini-pyramid. Maybe I'm also saying that we need to dismantle the pyramids.

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

Parentage. That's how you're defining people--with no knowledge of anything else. Nice. This places you high in the Stalinist constellation, you know.

Do you know anything about Vollmann? How he's nearly died reporting from places that make Detroit look like Santa Monica? Seen the kind of poverty you can't even imagine? Yes, King--you, who romanticizes the socio-economic suffering you claim to oppose. Vollmann even rescued a sex slave from Thailand. He's smoked crack with prostitutes to get them to open up to him, because he's interested in their stories. He watched a good friend bleed to death next to him after being shot by a sniper in the Balkans. But his parents! Professors! How do you know Vollmann's whole life hasn't been his escape from that childhood, your idiotic conception of five percent?

King, you have no imagination, and because you have no imagination, you hate those who do. I don't think you want to be published, but I do think you hate anyone who's prominent (except for Elvis) because you're a bitter old broken down gila monster of regrets. Your grand creation, the ULA, kicked your ass out of it, after accomplishing nothing but irritating a few people. People want to "silence" you the same way they want Paris Hilton to fall into a sewer: it's amusing, watching a surreal level of personal certainty meet its karmic opposite.

King said...

Kudos for Vollmann, then.
Look, I have nothing against the guy. I might applaud his writing, if I could read it! (I tried some giant book about Greenland one time.)
Vollmann can become a literary undergrounder at any time. Right now his activism stops at the boundaries of the literary machine. If he denounces the media monopolies, publicly, and signs the Petition to PEN, to democratize literature, currently being held hostage, I'm sure we undergrounders would readily welcome him into our ranks.
(I'm working, btw, on resolving outstanding issues with the ULA-- I plan to meet Mr. Potter later this month to compare notes about things. I'm sure this makes you happy.)

Anonymous said...

Let's see: Which accomplishes more: publishing his books with a corporate publisher, which allows him publicity and the money to write more and a real audience, or tying his wagon to the dark star of King Wenclas's Underground, after which he would never be heard of again. Here's another question: Why can't he be interested in what he does, and leave it at that? Why your moronic and needless cleavering of everything into Overdog and Underground? Do you realize how dumb you sound? You talk about pod people, but you're the only one I ever hear actively encourage hive-brain thinking.

Harland said...

King, can we get that in a Power Point? I'd have an easier time seeing all that hierarchy, the two-thirds, the top 1%, the bottom of the top 5%, and so on, if it were graphically represented.

King said...

Re parentage.
Do you really want to speak about that?
Can you really deny background while accommodating yourself (Vollmann excluded) to it?
Does my background matter?
How does an ordinary guy from Detroit become radicalized, and what does it portend about the nation-at-large, is a question I'd think you'd be asking.
Who, after all, is more representative of the American populace-- the Fisher's Island resident, or myself?
My father wasn't an International banker, but an autoworker, sweating in industrial dungeons which created the nation's wealth. Yes, truly. I'm from an ordinary American family. Flag wavers. I have a brother out there somewhere who's a Disabled American Vet. Most of my life I've worked all kinds of jobs, some worse than others, and for years was simply a talkative guy at the end of the bar, who began reading intensively in a railroad yard and continued. At some point I became ambitious to change ONE small but important aspect of the world. (Ergo my "monomania.") Why? How?
What did I witness? Could it possibly have been the devastation of a city, and of the lives of so many people around me? (That's MY reality, chumps.)
Yes, I sought to write about these happenings-- and quickly realized I had no access; manuscripts returned unread. (I "just wrote," including a novel about Detroit.)
I realized the system of literature ITSELF must be changed, first. Changed and captured to become a voice of the people and not just of Overdogs. Only those with much to lose could oppose this.

King said...

Rick, it's called imagination.

Harland said...

Pop Quiz:

What do these writers have in common:

William T. Vollmann
Rick Moody
Dave Eggers
Francine Prose
Miranda July
Philip Lopate
Philip Roth
Jeff Eugenides
Jonathan Franzen
Anne Beattie
Amy Hempel
Jonathan Lethem
Lily Tuck
Jorie Graham
Heidi Julavits
Alain Robbe-Grillet

(a) nothing
(b) the King hates them
(c) all of the above

Harland said...

Pop Quiz Catechism

Why does the King hate them?

They are overdogs.

Of what does being an overdog consist?

One is admitted to the pantheon on invitation of the King.

What are criteria for admission to the pantheon?

Who your parents were, where you attended college, whether you are published by a trade publisher, whether you teach in a writing program or were educated in a writing program.

Are there other criteria?

The King will admit you at his discretion.

What sort of writer doesn't the King hate?

The unpublished, the self-published, the dead.

Is that it?

No, it helps if your fiction treats in some manner the plight of the little guy.

Wait -- don't some of the overdogs write about such things?

Yes, but their experience isn't a true experience.

What is truth?

The King determines the truth.

King said...

Parentage II
Is it unfair not to disconnect Mr. Moody from his background?
When has he been so disconnected?
When he went to an exclusive prep school, as I assume he did, as did so many lit folk from McInerney on down?
Who got him into the school? Who paid the bills?
Did he put Dad down as a reference to get into Columbia and Brown, or use his Dad's friends? Who paid his tuition? (I can't see him working nights washing dishes, sorry.)
Has he used Dad as a credit reference? Just how DID Rick get a house on Fisher's Island anyway, with the DuPonts and Firestones? The have a super-tough screening process. Even Oprah had difficulty getting on the island, if she ever did.
Does Rick not have a trust fund? Will he refuse to inherit Dad the banker's bankroll of bucks? (He surely hasn't hesitated to grab all that could be offered. I still want to know who filled out his Gugg application.)
These are a few of the many questions that could be asked about his kind of writer.
What we're being handed here by Moody and Co is BULLSHIT, 100% pure.

Anonymous said...

Harland, I love you.

Anonymous said...

Okay, once more: We really don't care about Moody. Not our concern. What is our concern: Watching a megalomaniac drag through the mud everyone he imagines attached to Moody and thereby piss all over the idea of contemporary literature, which some of us like to believe we help create. Moody: don't know the guy, don't like his books, don't really care. Literature: like it a lot, want to make it grow, want to produce it. King's way of thinking: wrong, misguided, sometimes frightening, always Tiger Beatishly obsessed.

King said...

Re Pop Quiz
Thanks for making my job easy, by outlining the clique.
The tactic here has been to isolate myself, even though I'm a nobody, and to pretend that Rick, Francine, and Co speak for the rest of the nation's writers.
But other writers out there-- a fraction represented by organizations like OW and the ULA-- have nothing, NOTHING, in common with these gamesters, who know how to game the system and have been doing so.
Are they really representative of the sound of America-- the 95% of the pyramid? Do you really believe so?
For that matter, are any of them really very good writers?
Are they what we should be offering as this literature of this huge and complex civilization?
BTW, ever see the movie "Citizen kane"?
Remember the scene on the train when Kane tells a fellow plutocrat that if he doesn't speak for the masses, someone else will?
The liberal-plutocrat mindset.
But maybe the people want to speak for themselves!
Consider that, please.

Harland said...

Pop Quiz Exegesis

The King would like literature to be more responsive to the needs of the People. The ability of literature to respond is dependent upon a purge of establishment literature at its highest levels. Also helpful would be a kind of ban on permitting members of certain social, economic, and intellectual classes to write. The closure of America's renowned research universities, particularly those in California and the northeast, would also contribute mightily. PEN should be reorganized so that candidates for membership and the organization's highest offices should submit, to other candidates, portfolios of their work for evaluation. Then, by popular acclaim, candidates will be voted in. Other suspect organizations: NPR, Housing Works Bookstore, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. These need to be watched closely.

Interesting findings of Dr. Wenclas: (1) Wealth is concentrated in the upper reaches of society, (2) commercial media conglomerates tend to favor commercial work, (3) graduates of elite educational institutions tend to stick together.

King said...

Uh, Rick, we're asking for ONE voice at PEN. Why is this so difficult?
Yes, it is a shame that the upper classes dominate everything.
Not quite the Jeffersonian ideal of democracy, is it?
is it possible I believed those ideals which were taught me?
Shouldn't we, as people alive today, try to realize them?
Why are you so opposed?
IS America a democracy-- or an aristocracy?
I think literature is a great place to start.
Let's get to it.

King said...

(Amazing how the Overdogs are panicked by ONE guy. Note this, undergrounders.)

Harland said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

It's true what Harland says in the comments of the "My Response" post. I don't know all the names mentioned (though I love the sound of "Wild Bill Blackolive), and I'd heard things were lively here, but the most interesting things here are from Harland, and that's why I keep coming back.

Harland you should start your own blog, or if King keeps deleting your posts you should guest-post on Maude Newton or An Elegant Variation. I'm sure someone would invite your comment.

Pete Houston said...

What do these writers have in common:

William T. Vollmann—sucks, turgid, pretentious, moralizing

Rick Moody—sucks, self-involved bourgeois ennui

Dave Eggers—sucks, thinks he’s clever, but he’s actually retarded

Francine Prose—never read her

Miranda July—cheesy, but I like the dirty parts

Philip Lopate—never read him

Philip Roth—sucks, long-winded exposition, objectifies women, reactionary falsifications of history

Jeff Eugenides—sucks, boring, only got through a couple pages of Middlesex

Jonathan Franzen—never read him

Anne Beattie—good writer, but very bourgeois; ignorant and condescending towards the working class

Amy Hempel—I’ve met her; she’s arrogant; her work is boring, self-involved, and bourgeois (she sucks)

Jonathan Lethem—Fortress of Solitude is the most racist, self-pitying, bourgeois piece of shit I have ever read (he sucks)

Lily Tuck—what the fuck? (don’t know who this is)

Jorie Graham (don’t know her either)

Heidi Julavits—???

Alain Robbe-Grillet—sucks, boring writing based on obsolete philosophical theories

The common denominator seems to be that all of these writers suck, and yet are somehow famous. (Miranda July excepted—her thing in the New Yorker about a girl who masturbated in a porn shop for a living was decent piece of soft core porn, no more and no less).

Harland said...

King, I think Pete's onto something here -- you need to add the phrase "s/he sucks" to your critical vocabulary and they'll all start coming around!

Anonymous said...

Harland,

I have a PhD from an Ivy League university. I teach at one of "America's renowned research universities." During my years in the educational racket, I've learned that the only real function these universities have, at least as far as the humanities are concerned, is class reproduction. It's very difficult to learn anything real about art or literature at one of these outfits; kids go there because their parents want them to, so that they can party for a few years and then use their degrees from a "renowned" university as the pretext for getting the jobs their family connections were always going to get them anyway. Oh, and if their parents are particularly indulgent, a few of them are allowed to study creative writing for a few years and play at being writers. You seem to be an "educator;" I'm astounded to hear that your experiences have been so different. (Or maybe you're simply deceiving yourself).

Anonymous said...

That's funny. I don't remember anyone here defending the Ivy League. Funny, isn't it, how some people can't hold two ideas in their heads at once?

Anonymous said...

My point was not confined to the Ivy League, but to the American educational establishment in general, of which the Ivy League represents the pinnacle. I mentioned my own academic background only to establish my precious "credentials." Harland seems to hold the American system of higher "education" in high esteem, and as far as the humanities are concerned, I see no grounds for this. Elite universities in particular are just vehicles for nepotism and instruments for perpetuating social privilege (while simultaneously providing the illusion of meritocracy). If one wanted to improve the state of American literary and cultural life, disbanding university humanities departments would not be a bad first step (and I say that as someone who makes a living in one).

Anonymous said...

Killing literature departments to save literature? You've obviously been an academic way too long. Plenty of us don't really care about school, scholarship, or what writing programs do or do not do to this farcical idea of what writing should do societally. Some of us just like to read what we like to read, write what we like to write, and live our lives as thinking people, with full recognition that plenty of people get the shaft, plenty of commercially published books stink, and cope with the general unfairness of life. I'm not rich, have a BA from a shitty school, and go about my business. But I know a crank when I see one. King is a crank. That he can read these posts and see fear, and you can read Harlan and see celebration of education, pretty much proves our point that you guys are not always the brightest crayons in the box.

Harland said...

Actually, if you read some of my posts, or read them carefully, Anonymous II (or whatever), you'd see that I haven't defended the Ivy League. What I'm doing is declining to blame the Ivy League for the state of literature, or to tar the graduates of its universities as being one type of person exclusively, much less one type of writer exclusively.

I don't know what would improve the state of culture in the U.S. I can think of far more attractive targets than the Ivy League or higher education generally, but I actually happen to think that the state of culture in the U.S. is just fine. What's in lousy shape -- and here I, once again, agree with the King -- is the culture industry, a phrase I used advisedly and which in itself speaks volumes about the problematic way that "culture" is retailed to people and their expectations. Real art is there, it's doing fine; unfortunately, one often has to seek it out. But I don't see how making wild, sweeping generalizations like the King helps in the least.

Incidentally, I teach at an Ivy League university. I don't have a degree of any kind, though. Which sort of skewers the King's fever dream of a perpetual incest machine.

Anonymous said...

Well, Hardland (this is Anonymous 1, your fan), you're obviously a pod person. When were you first approached? And did you hear about the meeting last week? We've finally been given orders to "neutralize" subject KW. The plan? Leave dog poo poo on his front stoop. But shhhhh! It's a secret still....

Harland said...

Another angle (since there actually seems to be an intelligible person here disagreeing with me):

Has anybody, except *possibly* the King, ever suggested here that once upon a time the literary establishment was the go-to place to determine the health and well-being of the art? I don't think so. Pound bitched about the academy and academic poetry a hundred years ago (NB, King: that's an opening. Tell me about Pound the Fascist now). I don't think anything indicates the King's naked hunger for publicity and mainstream recognition than this Sears-Tower-tilting quixotic mission to reform literature from (what he perceives to be) the top. I've suggested this before, in little bite-sized nuggets that perhaps weren't the brontoburgers the King requires to absorb the nutrients of a coherently made point, but literature isn't formed from the top. There aren't ukases filed by George Plimpton and Peter Olson and Nan A. Talese that give "us" our marching orders. People make what they want to make. Let's grant for the sake of argument that Moody is a lousy writer. So? Moody's lousiness doesn't necessitate that an otherwise good writer write in his footsteps.

The King, though, other than his shortlist of excellent authors, 95% of whom happen to have been deemed unpublishable by any but the ULA house press, never mentions any authors who deviate from the hierarchical norm, any authors doing interesting work, any authors, for that matter, he just likes to read when he's on a bloody airplane. The King has never once in response to my queries named an author he liked, or a small press he thought was publishing worthy work, or a literary journal that he thought consistently interesting. The King talks about the Real Voice of America and lectures about Detroit but doesn't seem to know the slightest thing about African-American literature, or the gut-bucket school of the '30s. The King's rhetoric is ahistorical and ignorant. I might accept the theses of someone coming on so persistently from a socio-political literary point of view if that someone actually *knew* what s/he were talking about and was capable of expressing it. But if, say, in agreement with the King I mention, say, Frederick Jameson -- can you imagine what the King's response would be? Hostility. Listen, guy -- don't sign on with the King. He'll bite your head off. PhD? He'll show you. He's a Doctor -- a Doctor of the Rough Streets. A Doctor of Real Life. A Doctor of America. PhD? You might actually...know...something he doesn't.

Harland said...

"95% of whom happen to have been deemed unpublishable by any but the ULA house press"

Evidence, of course, of the conspiracy.

Harland said...

And another thing:

Whatever the flaws of the Ivy League and the educational system, anyone in my class who tries to finesse a critique in the manner of Pete Houston gets a new one torn for him.

Anonymous said...

I read the ULA Press book Security. It was a mess, but not bad. Certainly not as bad as I was expecting. It was okay. Which is great. Good for the ULA Press and for the author. The thing is, none of the ULA Press books can get reviewed. Quick quiz. Is this because:

a) a far-reaching conspiracy so broad that every bookstore in America has received its orders not to stock ULA books, and every critic has received his or her orders not to review ULA books

or

b) King Wenclas's reckless and irresponsible and at times downright nasty rhetoric made everybody take one look at the ULA and begin backing warily off.

Tough one, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Harland,

Anonymous II here. You write that it's wrong "to tar the graduates of Ivy League universities as being one type of person exclusively, much less one type of writer exclusively."

This is all well and good, except that the very purpose of such institutions is to create uniformity. To say that the products of elite universities are all the same is not some form of crude stereotyping. It is simply an accurate description of the FUNCTION of these institutions. Undergrads learn to act alike, dress alike, socialize together, and mouth the same pretentious words that will allow them to recognize each other as fellow members of the educational elite once they are released back into the general population. Graduate students learn to think identically so that they can be marketed to other universities as known quantities. Hiring committees won't want to purchase something if they don't know exactly what it contains, so every element of a PhD candidate's intellectual make-up has to be rigorously standardized to ensure marketability.

You say you have no degree, which means that you have never undergone what is referred to, ominously, as "professionalization." You're lucky. I went into graduate school believeing in the ideology of "diversity," critical thinking, free discussion, and open debate. Unfortunately, all of these oft-repeated academic catchphrases are just so much Orwellian hogwash. One's job in graduate school is to learn to repeat back, as precisely as possible, exactly the views of one's advisors and/or the other established authorities in the field (everyone in the profession holds exactly the same views anyway), with the choicest jobs going to those who can most precisely play the role of human Dictaphone. Academia's tolerance for heterodoxy falls somewhere short of the Spanish Inquisition. Mention the wrong name at a conference or in a classroom discussion, or utter an opinion that deviates in the least from the norm, and one immediately becomes a target for exclusion, ridicule, and most likely unemployment. The level of (justified) paranoia in academia is right up there with Stalinist Russia, which is part of why the social atmosphere at academic conferences is often so tense, stilted, and awkward.

So, this is the anecdotal perspective of a self-confessed pod person. I have little experience with creative writing programs per se, but I suspect that they are as claustrophobically conformist as the rest of academia.

quazipseudo said...

as far as i can tell, the only ones bitching about this general topic are people who's work sucks. everyone i know who's got any talent is busy getting published. same goes for the art world. i've known a lot of hacks over the years, and one thing they all have in common is the inability to see their own shortcomings and/or take criticism. for example, a good writer will observe that his/her audience is not getting what he/she is trying to convey, and will figure out how to improve the writing until they do get it. or perhaps target a different audience. a hack will always blame the readers, or the editors, or "the man." this is the literary equivalent to those talentless individuals that go on shows like american idol and blame the judges for their woes. i can't help but imagine what might happen if one were to redirect the energy one puts into writing such rants into, oh, say, honing one's craft. just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Oh, my friend. Your breath is wasted on these dudes, I'm afraid. Go back and read the archives. It's been said before, in various ways, and all you'll get back is a sub-Marxist condemnation and an accusation that you're Dave Eggers or Rick Moody. Sad, really.

Harland said...

II,

I'm not here to defend the honor of the Ivy League, and I'll gladly concede the point, with reservations, and taking exceptions (you seem to be one) into account.

Not entirely sure I agree about "everyone" in a given field holding the same views. This blog, obviously, is an extreme example of a diversity of viewpoints, if one grants that the King is in the literary profession, which is a bit of a stretch. As for your experiences in the job mart, well, it just sounds like the usual at-will employment shuffle. Try heterodoxy when you're working as a shipping clerk.

MFA programs can be "conformist," or not. Really depends on the program -- director, faculty, and students. There are conservative ones, which mint miniature Richard Russos, and less conservative ones, which mint writers of varying stripes. The point in the present context is that the King values above all a kind of ambiently gathered, albeit apparently hard-won, wisdom, that evidently defies description since he's never managed to put into words what it consists of. Since he doesn't seem actually to know anything, I doubt that it has to do with disciplined autodidacticism, but it seems to find its most salient expression in a loathing of any activity, organized or perceived by him to be organized, that smacks of prestige, elitism, or professionalism.

Fred Fraternite said...

The Ivy League humanities academic and Harland seem to be getting a dialogue going.

Uh-oh.

Better take down the comments again, King.

And lean back, and light up a Pall Mall and dream of better days. The days of jousting with Plimpton. The days of yore.

King said...

Curious that there's from Harland/Hiram always a gliding away from realities of the publishing industry today. Fact is that the Ivy League is over-represented at the highest levels of publishing, and at what is represented to us as the "best" literary journals, such as Paris Review, the Believer, and n+1. It may, in fact, be the case that ALL of the editors of these mags are from the Ivy League.
These journals and their writers (look at the ample publicity Keith Gessen has received for his novel-- no, he's not reduced to writing his own Amazon review) get an inordinate amount of attention from the mainstream/conglomerate media. Maybe because the staffs at magazines like Vanity Fair, New Yorker, New York, Elle, GQ, Vogue, Esquire, et.al., are almost ENTIRELY from Ivy League universities.
Given this real-world context, it's pretty hard to overrate the influence of these places of privilege on American letters today.
**********************
They are, of course, just one example of what folks here are turning a blind eye to-- the influence of social position and connections on American culture. Not the only pernicious influence, certainly, but a chief one.
Nice that Overdog writers wish to believe the process for finding writers is a fair one. You all seem satisfied with the condition of American literature today. The main difference I have with the lot of you is that on this question I strongly disagree.
Re background: Noting it, and the differentiations of people throughout American life, is part of being a discriminating writer, to use Hiram's term. It's a talent that seems to be lost. read a Jonathan Lethem novel and EVERYONE is the same; from the same hipster class with the same premises and modes of thinking as the author.
Yes, this is a problem, when our nation's "best" authors know little about their own country.
Pods indeed!

Harland said...

"read a Jonathan Lethem novel and EVERYONE is the same; from the same hipster class with the same premises and modes of thinking as the author."

But that's not true at all, King. Three of the first four novels are dystopic science fiction. The other deals with academia. The fifth has to do with white orphans in Italian Brooklyn. The sixth deals with a broad array of characters, ranging from hippies, to poor urban blacks, to yuppies, and to gentrifying hipsters. In fact, that's the *point* of the novel. Only the most recent novel is as class-claustrophobic as you're asserting.

Harland said...

I've never turned a blind eye to the influence of social position and connections. Tell me again, when was it different? Tell me about Allen Ginsberg (who went to Ivy League Columbia, by the way) and Gregory Corso, your two big heroes, being welcomed into the poetic fraternity with open arms by Robert Lowell and Robert Frost. Somehow, they kept going. The real question is, why are YOU so preoccupied with social position and connections?

Anonymous said...

How does King know what Lethem's premises and mode of thinking are?

King said...

Ofg course you're turning a blind eye to this question, as it exists today-- a society much more hierarchical, stratified, than in the 1950's; the class gap much wider.
What's your plan for brining democracy to literature?
Will you sign my PEN petition when/if I get it going?
Re Lethem; yes, I'm going by his last book, which was pretty awful!

Harland said...

"Of course you're turning a blind eye to this question, as it exists today-- a society much more hierarchical, stratified, than in the 1950's; the class gap much wider."

So Robert Lowell embraced the Beats, is what you're saying? Or just that it mattered less?

"What's your plan for brining democracy to literature?"

I don't believe in democracy in literature. I believe good and perspicacious writers will be published and bad and perspicacious writers will self-publish and start blogs, and some tiny, lucky, percentage will be Rick Moody and publish "lead titles," with huge commercial houses, that get optioned by the movies, and most (would-be) writers will just give up. Again: when was it different?

"Will you sign my PEN petition when/if I get it going?"

Depends what it says.

"Re Lethem; yes, I'm going by his last book, which was pretty awful!"

Agreed.

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

"When was it different?" is hardly a compelling argument.
And you say I have no imagination?