Friday, June 19, 2009

Reactionary Lit

WHAT'S HAPPENING to American literature today is insane. At a time when unemployment in America is nearing depression levels (in Michigan it's already there), the New York literati and media hold swanky parties celebrating 80's wealth-icon Jay McInerney.

I've documented the swing of PEN toward New York money power in the 90's; and mentioned PEN's own lavish party last year on the Queen Mary.(At the time I was examining the lit-world's celebration of Marie Antoinette!) Snobby "Gossip Girl" books have become a publishing staple. Literature's rush toward plutocracy shows no sign of slackening.

What's happening with this blog?

I've been accused of engaging in class war, because I've objectively described literature's transformation. But at some level it's true: the literary rebellion of this decade has been an argument between rich and poor; more specifically, between rich writers and poor writers. The rebels' whistleblowing angered a clique of very wealthy, very powerful writers-- those who have the power to dictate even to PEN about who to appoint, or how to behave, or what to say, or not say.

The argument at its starkest is between rich writers and poor writers, but it's about more than that. The Petition to PEN is a battle for the soul of PEN. It's a battle for the soul of American literature.

The choice is clear:
-Underdogs vs. Overdogs;
-Democracy vs. Aristocracy;
-Openness vs. Secrecy;
-Dissent vs. Silence.

PEN American Center has thrown its principles overboard and chosen the wrong side.

Which side are YOU on?

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