Tuesday, April 07, 2009

What Does PEN Stand For?

The word "PEN" in the title "PEN American Center" stands for
"Poets, Essayists, and Novelists."

That's it. There's no "S" at the beginning for "Some Poets, Essayists, and Novelists."

I guess, per Orwell's "Animal Farm," all writers are equal, but some are more equal than others.



King Wenclas said...

Think about PEN American's policy if it were applied to other countries.
What if only system-approved-and-published Chinese writers were allowed membership? Or Iranian-published authors? What if only the MOST approved of these were allowed onto a PEN China or PEN Iran board? Wouldn't the entire thing appear a sham?
Extreme examples, but the principle is the same.
As it stands, PEN American Center excludes dissenting American writers BY DEFINITION.
It's just one example of how the unrepresentative, tops-down literature in this country is maintained.

CS said...

But I don't think PEN excludes dissenting writers. It excludes unconnected writers. There is a difference, although I wouldn't defend that exclusionary practice.

King Wenclas said...

"H": Dissenting writers are going to be unconnected-- or have whatever connections they had be torn. (I actually had a few at one point.)
It's a difference without a distinction, as the saying goes.

CS said...

Well, I suppose it depends on what they're dissenting from, doesn't it? I don't think PEN excludes writers who "dissent" from majority positions in favor of governmental overstepping, or censorship, or infringement against their rights to assemble, say, or do as they please. I think, rather, that PEN's mandate is to include and support those writers.

PEN may exclude less-than-well-known writers from its board of trustees, although whether that's systematic of not, I'm not certain.

I don't see how these two things are mutually exclusive. You're not talking about the right to write and publish what you please. You're positing a right to be included as a member of PEN's upper echelon. I wonder if you've applied to be a member of PEN. If you are a member, I'm sure you can find out what's required to be nominated to become a member of the board of trustees.

King Wenclas said...

This is disingenuous sophistry.
The standard line which leaves Overdogs with a monopoly of power is, "Everyone has the freedom to publish!"
Which means nothing to those without the resources or access to resources to get their word out.
It should be plain to everyone who thinks about it that the amount of free speech one has in this country is the amount you can pay for.
Which means one man, Rupert Murdoch, has more speech than the entire bottom half of society.
It's a perversion of democracy, whose premise is that every citizen have a roughly equal voice in the forum of ideas.
Of course, the actions of myself and my colleagues over the past several years are weak attempts to level the playing field of speech and ideas just a trifle. That we have to on occasion scream and shout may make us appear crazy-- but what else are we to do?
This is a VERY exclusionary society; exclusionary based on class, but also on temperament-- with no place for those who don't get in line with the herd.
I happen to believe that literature is a very important forum for the presentation and discussion of ideas in any country-- if not the most important.
The shame of PEN is that this organization stands on the side of the establishment, the status quo-- those who hold unreasonable amounts of power-- and NOT with those trying to level the playing field.
Can't you see how important it is to HAVE representatives of literary outsiders on PEN's board?
As it is, as I will show, PEN stands withe the huge multi-national conglomerates; WITH as well the advocates of privilege and aristocracy. Anymore, judging by the swanky image projected, that's fundamentally what PEN now is about.
Censorship in this society is more subtle than the old-fashioned Soviet kind (though there are similarities when one examines the bureaucracies and apparatchiks). Here they tell you, "Say what you wish, to the trees or the air, while you starve!"
As for PEN's membership, I believe that it's still that one has to have published two books by approved outfits. To be a member you must be approved, and to be a trustee, more approved. But this is a side issue. Let's stay focused on how PEN operates, and what they do or don't do. Thank you.

King Wenclas said...

p.s. Since this is a public discussion about a public, government approved-and-regulated organization, I ask any comments here be done under real identities, so we know what stake all of us has or does not have in the discussion. If someone from PEN is responding, we should know about it. This is only fair.