A 3-PART REPORT ON LITERARY TOTALITARIANS
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.)