Thursday, May 28, 2009

The PEN Monolith

We see from establishment literary people a monolithic view of American literature; a view of it which is elitist, New York-centric, which happens to perfectly align with the needs of the multinational book conglomerates, and is completely intolerant of any dissenting viewpoint. (PEN members are supposed to love dissent.)

Do you see the alternate view of American literature appearing anywhere? In approved lit journals? In public forums? In magazines which cover literature? The New Yorker? Poets and Writers? New York Review of Books? New York Times? PEN itself will not respond to any criticism of its organization.

The attitude is that the view of underground renegades like myself is not valid, and therefore SHOULD NOT BE NOTICED. Think about the implications of this.

Yet I can more than hold my own in debate with anyone from the established camp. Read the entirety of my blog and see that I make a strong case for the alternative view. These are new ideas which are healthy for our literature. They present the excitement of the new. Yet they're not allowed to be noticed.


Harland said...

"Approved" lit journals? Which are those, King? I see an alternate view of American literature from lots of different vantages, including many I've brought up right here -- but you don't acknowledge them. Let's try one. Just one. OK? No big overwhelming thing for you to fend off from me. Sarabande Books. They published a book called Other Electricities by Ander Monson a few years ago, a book I think you might like, King. It's about a small town in Michigan and the way certain events haunt the residents long after they occur. It did OK -- didn't get reviewed anywhere that you mention, but some in "the monolith" did pay attention, it was nominated for the Young Lions award. Not Jonathan Safran Foer, but not thrown away unread, either. Just saying, King.

King said...

In what sense does Sarabande Books represent an alternative view of literature?
In what way are they underground renegades?
If those who run it sign the Petition to PEN-- which I look forward to all lit folk signing-- then I'll accept what you say, but not before then.
As is, they don't speak out, as far as I know, against the current literary system. They don't publish radical literary criticism from myself, Tom Hendricks, Pat King, or others like us.
Sarabande is more of a token opposition, one sustained by those who live off the monolith-- individuals like yourself.
It's an eastern European tactic. It'd be like if Putin in Russia kept alive a much smaller, more liberal political party, simply so he could announce to the West-- "Look! We have competition. We're a democracy after all."

Harland said...

In other words, they're either for you or against you.

Check and mate.

King said...

As always you're looking through the wrong end of the telescope. You miss the essential point of my post. The literary establishment has a "with-me-or-against-me" mentality, and so ostracizes those who oppose it. As PEN's behavior shows. It accepts no criticism. Those who join the Petition are for opening up a closed world.
In check? I'm used to being in check. I'd say PEN's integrity is in check as long as it continues its stonewalling.
(The monolith's apparatchiks look down from Kremlin offices at a dissenter with sign who's standing in the snow below. He could be a bum or a madman, but he's not. He's a writer.
"He doesn't agree with us," one of them smirks. "He's against the status quo. He tries to get others to join his cause. You know: with him or against him.")