Monday, November 03, 2008

Literary Bankruptcy I


My first example of literary bankruptcy is a brief mention by Tom Beller and Oliver Broudy in George Being George-- a new biography of a literary aristocrat. Broudy and Beller describe the ULA's 2001 debate with literary elitists at New York's CBGB's. Neither commentator has the slightest interest in presenting the truth of what happened. Instead they engage in the usual slur that undergrounders are "bad writers," because we're not automatons and don't write in approved Manhattan Machine style. That we write at all (an endeavor clearly above our station; an art reserved for rich guys like them) is considered "sad."

Sad to me is the narrow attitude admitted to by two unexceptionally gifted apparatchiks who live in a social and intellectual prison which is extraordinarily limiting; whose marbled walls they have no interest in climbing, and no ability to climb if they had the inclination. The mediocre Aristocrat, given every-- EVERY-- advantage in his life from Day One, is the Hero of their truncated tale, because he was able to say one word-- "Nonsense!"-- in a faux-impressive way, but was unable, due to his truncated intelligence, to say anything more. His performance that afternoon was a fit metaphor for his literary class, including the similarly limited Broudy and Beller. One word! Impressively spoken, signifying nothing. Establishment literature is an impressive facade of glossy covers and carefully wrought words promoted through every Overdog millionaires' institution and soiree available, a well-spoken patrician word, but like cardboard stage scenery nothing can be discovered in back of it.

Broudy and Beller would sit well as bureaucrats at the Ministry of Truth in Orwell's 1984, in that speaking the truth is the least of their concerns. They're incapable of being honest with the reader, or themselves. (How do such exclusionary hacks stomach themselves?) If any of their crowd were interested in the truth, rather than pushing standard upper-class propaganda glorifying the narrowness of their privileged and insular world, they'd release the film of the event taken by the Maysles brothers. Then we'd know who won the debate, and how exciting it was.
(The sad thing about George Plimpton is that, unlike Broudy and Beller-- cheaply malicious stage-play stooges as dense as Guildenstern and Rosencrantz-- George knew he lived in a bubble, and so was forever trying to break out of it. He'd never had to fight for daily survival, as many fight their entire lives for it. And so George constructed brief artificial tests of his character.

His debate with the ULA was part of this. He was so out of his depth amid a pack of street dogs it was pathetic. Like a chained wolfhound behind mansion walls he could only bark stupidly, "Nonsense! Nonsense!"

George Plimpton was a tourist in this world, skimming across its surface but never plunging madly into it. The superficiality of his writings shows this.

You want a sad sight? Try the image of Plimpton setting off fireworks at his estate, seeking any kind of stimulation against the boredom of his privileged existence.)


Anonymous said...

Very sad.

You know what else is sad? A guy who searches madly for mentions of himself in a book about a guy he hates.

King said...

Check the comment on "Crisis Mentality" I just allowed and you'll see I was tipped off about the book. (By you??) Natural curiosity dictates I'd eventually take a look at it.
"Hates" btw is a strong term. Do you know that I was interviewed for this book? My comments about GP were very generous. Obviously none were used-- because they didn't fit the slant the editor wished to use regarding the incident.
Beller and Broudy were not similarly well-intentioned. And why not? Who am I? Do I pose that big of a threat?
Like other undergrounders I'm pretty much treated as a nonperson, a writer who doesn't hold the right to speak for himself. I've received a couple mentions in nationally published books (the last was in the foreword to the Black Book anthology.) In both cases I was blasted. It's ludicrous, considering I'm a nobody who has no voice in this society-- other than on this obscure blog-- and no influence. I've retired from my actions and semi-retired from writing. Yet you're STILL threatened by me-- by my very existence. Why?
"Carthage must be destroyed!"
The literary Overdogs can tolerate no dissent whatsoever-- not even the merest hint of it. Which is why I say it's totalitarian.
This latest mention has me connected with the term "bad writer." Is this really fair?
A bad writer who says enough, "anonymous," for you to spend many hours tracking my every move. You spend far more time on this blog than I do.
Which is very mad and very sad.

King said...

p.s. Broudy and Beller owe me an apology for their remarks.
"Bad writers" is poor justification and bad argument for their exclusionary attitude.

King said...

I note how strong the pressure is today to vote-- even for someone like myself who has no inclination to. Things didn't used to be this way. We're living in a hysterical society in which the people are played by the mass media daily. Everything is amped up to a hysterical degree. "The worst President ever! EVER! The biggest economic collapse! The oceans rising! THE END OF THE WORLD! Save us, oh Obama! Save us!!!!"
It's right out of Orwell's 1984. Curious that no one can see it.

King said...

The editor of the book is Nelson W. Aldrich Jr. I'm sure he knows what I said and why it wasn't used. Will any brave literati ask him? (Aldrich has been described by the New York Times as "a scion of wealth." Does he have an axe to grind?)

King said...

One hopes there will be peace now in the political realm.
One arena where I see no room for peace is in the world of letters, which remains closed-minded and dominated by one class-- to the detriment of American literature itself. They hold the decaying art within a locked room and will take no steps to revive it, and bring it forth to the American public. This class controls the instruments of publicity in this society and if anything the last few days have strengthened their hold on them. We're presented one well-screened well-filtered voice.
For myself, I've thought to escape from the battle, have ceased my actions and chased off most of my audience except extreme die hards.
The result?
My every movement on-line (and off?) is still being tracked by malicious ghosts. I'm castigated, through endless anonymous remarks I won't post, for having any opinion at all.
These people are likely A.) Overdogs who must destroy any semblance of disagreement to their dominance in the art; B.) complete intellectual frauds. What p.o.'d me about the Democrats in this political campaign is that they reneged on virtually all their principles.
You want mean-spirited? They embodied it in their attitude toward Gov. Palin.
Privacy? That surely went by the board as they broke into her e-mail, and searched for dirt on Joe the Plumber on government computers.
Ageism and sexism were rampant.
How does one stomach such a crowd?
Literary folk, unfortunately, carry the same mindset.
THEY are the best because they are, that's why, and so can do and say anything, grab all largesse, legally (because they wrote the rules) and be fully justified in doing so. If any one person dare speak against them they're outraged!
Their actions are anonymous, under cover, behind the back. They fear the light of day because they're cockroaches.