Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Best Literary Criticism

The best literary criticism in America is right here. Any scorn or hatred this blog has received is because it tells the truth.

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

"The less one makes declarative statements, the less apt one is to look foolish in retrospect."

King said...

Given the mass stupidity of today's established literary world-- its embrace of stupidity-- combined with its timidity, I'd say there's little chance of my statement looking foolish. In many ways I'm the ONLY literary critic around, in the sense of being the only one to look at American literature as it is, structures and all, and the only one willing to speak the truth about it.
The positive evidence for my statement consists of recent essays posted here, including "The Timid Generation," "Literature's Herd," "American Shakespeare," "Caste America," "The Debasement of Language," and much more.

King said...

(With much more to come-- observations and ideas you'll find nowhere else.)

King said...

Let me also add this:
After reading the work of the hyped writers of now-- how imitative, unambitious, and same-old same-old it is-- after seeing the crap the congloms are publishing and fobbing off on mind-dead mfa students as literature, I feel much better now than I have in a long time about what we tried to do with the Underground Literary Alliance.
Yes, we were far from perfect. Much of the writing we displayed and promoted was flawed.
But we also highlighted a few of the most original writers in America, including James Nowlan, Wred Fright, even the Bissell-disapproved Urban Hermitt, whose writing is five hundred times more genuine and moving than Harper-Perennial's entire new puppet catalog.
Is that declarative enough for ya?

Anonymous said...

I'm sure you're familiar with the word hubris? I think this applies here. You and your ilk are so afraid of looking inward that you don't realize how much of your own inferiority you project on the world at large. You accuse the "literary establishment" of pomposty while ignoring--in fact-- reveling in your own.

You are not the ONLY literary critic around. Not in any sense of the word. Your faux-literary-populism reeks of shit and you can't even smell it. The truth? Please explain. Because I read your entries, and I see the screeds of an irrelevant old guy who spends more time tilting at windmills than actually writing anything worth reading.

King said...

Hmm. Didn't take long to bring out the insults and ad hominen attacks, did it?
The truth is that you're afraid of the truth and you're afraid of open and fair argument-- otherwise you wouldn't hide as "Anonymous."
What exactly do you fear???
Yes, I'm tilting at windmills, as you say, given how corrupt the literary system is, which causes you to hide your identity. I'll give you that.
Are my statements over-the-top?
Sure! I'm trying to liven up the literary discussion.
There's also truth in what I say.
Thnk about it: the brave young geniuses at the Herd sat around wondering what I said at my premium blog. (What I said was fairly inocuous.) Not a one mustered up the wherewithall to ask for access. "Free sign-up." This was beyond them. It's as if they're trained NOT to think. Not to look at the world around them. Not to question a single happening in the literary world they're part of.
They've taken your advice of looking inward-- and it has made them stupid.
What you're peddling, by the way, is simple gnosticism, which was discredited two thousand years ago. It's certainly not a credible path for an art which should worry about maintaining a place of relevance in the culture.
Dig up what's inside you for art, and you know what you come up with?
Vomit.

King said...

p.s. Don't confuse hubris and confidence.
Of course I'm confident.
Why shouldn't I be?
The entire herd tried to stampede over me, and couldn't do it.
I grew tired of beating them up. I left so to not make it look more one-sided than it already was.
The stupidity kept coming. Sitting targets everywhere I looked-- like the new demi-puppet false narrative trying to paint me as a tea-partyer. (A stupid tactic, for starters.) (Six years ago I was being painted falsely as a Marxist. Make up your minds, folks.) They were saying this on and in support of a site that's funded, through Harper-Perennial, by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. Duh!

Patrick said...

Why would ANYONE be afraid of you? Because you tell the truth? Accusing people of being "demi-puppets" and established writers suckling on the teat of whatever boogeyman you can come up with? Yeah, those are some real inalienable truths. You're no better than those who you claim are shutting you out. You do your fair share of ad-hominem, too.

Christ man, you aren't making a good case for yourself. Explain to me exactly how the Urban Hermit is any more genuine than Blake Butler or Justin Taylor. Or why Wred Fright and anyone else you associate (or have associated) with is so much better than what is out there today (because I'm not seeing it). Make your case. Support your arguments. These things are so objective, unequivocal, right? Convince someone like me: an unestablished, not-published writer.

King said...

I've made the case time and again on this blog-- but will happily do so again.
Watch for a post next week which will address the difference between zine writing and literary writing.
Wred Fright is taking my "Challenge," so I'll have a link up to his writing.
The best way to answer your question is to compare the writing.
As counter-example I could use a story of Justin Taylor's posted on the Internet by Harper-Perennial: a generic literary story.
(p.s. Outfits like HP have a huge portion of the literary debate. Why are you upset by a sliver of disagreement? Do you really believe that because I speak out, the literary Machine will vanish overnight?)

King said...

p.s. Let me add that my argument isn't that Wred's or Hermitt's writing isn't that it's so much better than system lit-- but that it represents a different voice, from a different segment of American writers. It represents an alternate direction for the art.
By the way, Harper-Perennial isn't a "bogeyman." It exists, as does the AWP, and PEN, and other pillars of the established literary scene.
Is Blake "sucking on the teat" of same?
Are you kidding?
What's the Harper-Perennial about?
It looks to me like a badge of ownership.
How much funding does this embody?
Another post I'll have to come up with is the point-of-view of the HP marketing department, and what they likely think about HTML Giant, what a coup it is for them from a marketing standpoint.
Talk to ya next week!

Patrick said...

"Why are you upset by a sliver of disagreement? Do you really believe that because I speak out, the literary Machine will vanish overnight?"

I'm not upset. Not at all. And I don't necessarily disagree with you. I just think it's silly that you put so much time and energy into stating the obvious. I'm not some corporate shill. I have no vested interest in the "Machine." I just don't think I like your alternative (I've seen the ULA, and I've seen what you're doing now... and I have to say, it's not my bag).

I don't care if litworld™ remains as is or if it disappears completely. I will still write. I will still do my readings. Fact is, if you're looking for different voices, all you have to do is surf through the blogosphere for a little bit and you'll read all kinds of writing. Perhaps it should go without saying, but a lot of it will be garbage, some of it will be good, and a very select portion may be quite brilliant.

The problem I see here is that, like the "establishment," you have your own set of standards that happens to clash with theirs. And because you feel your voice is not being heard, you'd rather just counter that system with one that you perceive is more amenable to your own aesthetic. That's natural, I suppose, but it's rather unrealistic to think that you will be accepted smilingly by those bearers of the "status quo." You certainly won't be taken seriously by the "non-joiners," who will simply think of you as another in a long line of snake oil salesman, peddling your wares to anyone desperate enough to listen.

The reason I brought up the HTML folks (hell, you have about five entries directly or indirectly related to them, where you essentially re-hash the same point) is because I don't think these guys have the clout or connections you seem to imply. It can certainly be argued that there's a level of normalization of opinion, perhaps even of subject matter, but even then, isn't that to be expected? Are you telling me that the ULA embraced any and everything that was fresh and new, even if the politics were different? Give me a break.

I have better things to do than worry about who is being awarded what (deservingly or un), which assholes are gladhanding one another in workshops/readings/get-togethers, etc. I don't care.

Harland said...

Don't start agreeing with the King, Patrick. And definitely don't start reasoning with him.

The King does not like "published" writers unless they are dead. That's pretty much the extent of the "case" that he's made "time and again."

It does not matter if they write the sort of narratives that he claims are relevant and necessary.

It does not matter if they are reviled by the commercial literary establishment.

It does not matter if they actually are not making any money from their writing.

I can guarantee that if you browse through this blog you will see that while the King has his favorite targets with which he is utterly preoccupied, ANY WRITER WHO ACTUALLY SIGNS A CONTRACT WITH A PUBLISHER -- whether that publisher is part of a corporate conglomerate or is a nonprofit -- FOR ANY AMOUNT OF MONEY -- whether that amount is a million dollars or a thousand -- IS A DEMI-PUPPET. It also helps to make the King's "case" if the author in question teaches at a college, or lives in New York City, or has ever expressed the slightest interest in anything that deviates from the sort of proletarian gut-bucket realism that the King insists is the true stuff of literature.

King said...

??? No, my definition of demi-puppet is quite strict-- those who post under false identities.
(There are other categories-- like "Overdogs.")
Scorning all published writers would be unrealistic-- as virtually all writers today are published, by someone, somewhere.
Yes, I've made noise for writers I've been promoting. Right now I'm looking for other writers to promote, and espousing new aesthetics. I don't see anything wrong with offering an alternative.
I've well demonstrated that the Machine is not really presenting anything new.
I've also documented, with SPECIFIC ideas, mainstream corruption-- including that of outfits like PEN, which I examined very thoroushly last year. There's a ton of evidence for those who care to look for it.
Watch for new material on this blog!
(Thanks for stopping in.)

King said...

p.s. The variety of writing the ULA embraced was amazing-- far broader than I've intended. It was, in fact, bad tactics to not have a house style identified with our name. (Say, like beat writing identified with the Beats.)
The variety was in fact far more than the narrow standards of the established lit world. The zine world, from which I sprang, was extremely diverse. The way I write is much different from the style of a Hermitt, or Jack Saunders, or Wred Fright, or anyone of a score of original writers. True originals.
(If we examined the work of "Harland" and his buds, I'm confident we'd find it's very similar.)

Harland said...

I stand corrected. Your nomenclature is not as clear to me as it should be after all this time.

All writers, published, by someone, somewhere. It's like a nightmare for we demi-puppets and overdogs. But I think you know what I mean. I mean writers whose work is subject to some kind of editorial vetting. By your lights, I'm sure this phrase has deeply sinister implications.

What's funny about you, King, is that you're so right, about so much, and so often. But your frame of reference is so limited, and the vision of persecution that informs it so fanciful, that it throttles any points you have to make. Again, we're back to the ULA. Again with Wred, and Saunders, and good old Wild Bill Blackolive. I can't think of a single living American writer published by a single "real" (make of the scare quotes what you will) publisher for whom you have offered praise. Not a single one. And I'm sure if I were to make the mistake of mentioning Writer X, who publishes with a small press, or Writer Y, fifteen of whose previous books are out of print but who has one of those dee-light-ful sinecures (as you would have it) at a university, or Writer Z, who proved his complicity in the machine by being awarded a fellowship that kept him housed and fed for a year, you would tell me how any or all of them are fakes, collaborators, puppets, lapdogs...

I remember your "specific ideas" about PEN. The specific idea was that you should be named to the Board of Directors. And then there would be strawberries and cream, because PEN could then focus its efforts on making sure that Wild Bill Blackolive and Wred Fright weren't being mercilessly silenced by the machine.

Anonymous said...

Harlan and Patrick, have you read Heart Breaking Work of Staggering Genius or The Black Mask? Really how and why did these two works get so much praise and promotion they're total garbage. You don't think the publishing world is fucked up? I think the whole academic literary complex is a sick institution. The ideological instrument of a corrupt system. The ULA was seriously flawed in a lot of ways but they were some of the few who dared shine a light on the corruption.

Harland said...

In what way do Dave Eggers and Rick Moody (I take it you mean Moody) have anything to do with what I'm saying? The King's conceit has always been that there are but two camps, existing in diametric opposition. Otherwise his thesis of being shut out and silenced by "corruption" wouldn't hold any water, because then we'd have to admit that there are dozens and dozens of allegiances, alliances, economic and social hierarchies, geographic centers, aesthetics, and ideological pockets co-existing in the world of literature and none of them is interested in the King or in the generally very poor work of the members of the ULA.

If you really want me to explain to you how a "lead title" is promoted by a commercial trade publisher and consequently praised in the popular media, I'd be happy to. Do you really want me to?

Do I think the "publishing world" is fucked up? Yes. But I don't think it's "fucked up" in the way that the King (and you) do. The only thing that the ULA and King have ever "shined a light on" are the two dozen or so writers who are
being hyped at any given moment. It's not bringing out the existence of hidden "corruption," it's a redundant exercise in bringing attention to the process by which things, deserving or not, are brought to our attention. Bad books get hyped? Awww. But the big difference between the way bad books are hyped nowadays and the way that they *always have been* is that nowadays there are a hundred thousand demi-critics (to coin a phrase), with free Blogger accounts, a sort of quasi-literate command of the language, and gargantuan egos (see Edward Champion) who, in seeking to administer a corrective to the excesses and follies of The Machine, only stoke and stroke their own inflated sense of self-worth, and who, through the marvelous miracle of instantaneous worldwide self-publishing, feel themselves elevated above criticism, above debate, above the rules of the English language, nobodies who run around demanding the heads of writers, publishers, editors, columnists, reviewers, etc., their blogs fortified fiefdoms (by banning your IP address, Mr. Champion won't even let you READ his blog if you disagree with him).

I'll give the King one thing (and, verily, it is a big thing): he's a purist, and he doesn't suck ass when it suits him the way a Champion does. There's a wonderful fury to the King, an admirable fury, but as I have said many a time the effectiveness of his anger is totally undermined by his single-minded and simplistic agenda.

In fact, now that I think of it, the King has probably done as much to promote poor Rick Moody's career as any two publicists. I'm inclined to believe, now that I think of it, that the King is actually himself an unwitting shill for the firm of Commercial, Publishing, & Conglomerate. Think of all the authors the King *hasn't* pilloried on this blog! No, it's just Moody and Eggers, Franzen and Wallace, Lethem and Chabon. It's NOT FAIR, King. There are dozens, nay, hundreds of writers out there publishing books with the imprimatur of the "academic literary complex" who you totally ignore. OK, every now and then you take a token swipe at some postmodernist like David Markson or Gilbert Sorrentino, but for the most part you discriminate, too. So many writers deserving of your passionate contempt, and you ignore them!

Anonymous said...

No, I don't know the exact details of how the publishing world operates therein is the problem. Why should it be such a mystery? And if it is a mystery why shouldn't fall prey to demonisation by those that are on the outside. l'homme est un loup pour l'homme. Unfortunately that's the way things are. I see enemies everywhere even where there aren't. In this way I might be even worse than Karl. But at the same time you have to take into consideration the events and circumstances that brought us to such a view.

Harland said...

"No, I don't know the exact details of how the publishing world operates therein is the problem. Why should it be such a mystery?"

It's not a mystery. It's not even a trade secret. It's a practice: a title is pushed to the forefront of the list because it's perceived that there's a ready-made platform from which to launch it. The media accepts the tip, grateful that they don't have to slog through nine thousand galleys to figure out for themselves what to pay attention to.

"And if it is a mystery why shouldn't fall prey to demonisation by those that are on the outside."

Well, you've just summed up the process of mystification that so far has lent the appearance of rhetorical coherence to the King's arguments. The "if" means a lot, here. It isn't a mystery, it's a practice based on a flawed economic and marketing model.

"But at the same time you have to take into consideration the events and circumstances that brought us to such a view."

The events and circumstances are that big houses prefer to publish schlock that appears likely to make big money, and so most "real" writers are forced to publish small. Except for brief anomalous periods throughout the history of the novel, it has always been thus. Schlocky writers are, naturally, promoted as "literary" writers because the great mass of the people who read Arthur Golden and Alice Sebold don't want to be informed that they're partaking of middlebrow kitsch. As I said, the King has never once acknowledged that there's an entire huge world of writers publishing good books perfectly legitimately with small presses, and that they are just as shut out, just as cut off from the awards and grants and money and fame and influence, as he feels that he is, only with a lot more in the way of accomplishment behind their sense of grievance.

King said...

An interesting debate.
I run this blog because I believe the literary product is, in fact, very bad, and there might be an opportunity for an indy promoter like myself.
Good books? Where?
I'm focusing right now on the short story, because it's impossible for anyone to credibly argue that the form is in good shape.
I had a discussion with local author Lawrence Richette-- who happens to write readable, interesting novels. We talked about our favorite short stories (for instance, the collection "Ashenden" by Maugham). Few were written in the past fifty years.
The current "Best" American Stories collection is horrendous.
Yet, the postmodern "alternative" to narrow literary realism is equally horrendous.
Likely I won't be able to offer an alternative. I'm broke to the max. But I still believe the lit world is in bad shape across the board-- including with its corruption.
You know what?
"Harland" believes this also, or he wouldn't be here, investing so much time trying to derail one lone critic.
Harland is the Voice of the Literary Establishment, and he's fearful.
Why?
Amusing take on Ed Rants, by the way. yes, the guy has no credibility, no integrity, and in fact is a human invertebrate-- yet even that lump of jello feels free to openly take shots at me, so down am I; so little a threat to anybody.
Yet Harland still hides his identity.
I've finally figured out why.
Like my character, "Fake Face," his "real" persona is the fake one, and Harland-- and the photo he posts-- is the reality. The name person (an established writer) is thus able to pose as liberal, small-d democratic, generous, et.al., but the personality hidden beneath can tolerate no competition, no whistleblowing, no dissent.
Just my take. . . .

King said...

p.s. Harland's is the screed of the Gatekeeper. One sees him walking down hallways dressed in the navy blue blazer and tie of a security person, talking continually on a walkie-talkie to other security personnel. He looks concerned.
"What are all these unauthorized persons doing inside the Literature Building?"

Harland said...

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA.

I say the King only likes dead writers, he responds by singing the praises of W.S. Maugham.

I say that the King refuses to acknowledge any writers except the handful he ALWAYS brings up, he says there are no other writers.

I tell the King I agree with him in principle, but find his arguments too narrowly self-interested to be persuasive in themselves, he talks about the his own opportunities, and says that I'm afraid and trying to derail him.

Yes, an "established writer." My point exactly. If to you that equals unearned fame and privilege, well, that's your pathology, buddy. Unauthorized persons in the literature building? Come on into the literature building I so zealously guard from my position of power. Will you be bringing some...you know...literature? Uh, no? No literature? OK, well, come on into the literature building anyway. Are there any, uh...you know...writers you'd like to discuss? No writers? Oh. Well, all right. What? You find the literature building to be an unwelcoming place? Asking impertinent questions about your own work and work that you admire? I'm so sorry, you fail the test. Now Heinrich! Now Adolf! (menacingly jangles choke chains leashing two growling dobermans) Tear some underground ass!

King said...

??? Writers? I could give you a boatload of contemporary writers who aren't doing the job. I just mentioned the "Best" collection of this year. Name one of the stories which can stand for the great literary achievement of now.
I've also mentioned Justin Taylor's story posted at the big conglomerate. We can discuss that if you like.
But you're distracting the discussion from the question I posed.
What makes outsiders like me a threat to prosperous individuals like you?
Something about the mere existence of our voices must be bothersome.

Patrick said...

So... if Harland is Moody... can I be Eggers? Right now I'm working on an Elian Gonzalez autobiography called "¿Lo que es lo que?"

Wenclas, I saw that video where you and some ULAers sit around in a bar and pontificate on literature. What struck me is the fact that you guys do what a lot of people do when they get together and drink: you bullshit. At least that's what I'd call it. I mean, you can't seriously be all that self-aggrandizing, right? But I read this blog, and... wow, why so serious?

Harland said...

OK, King, well, I couldn't actually get through all of the Justin Taylor. Imitation Sam Lipsyte, or at least that's how it reads up to where I quit. So you win that one.

But I wasn't talking about writers who "aren't doing the job." So, I thought that to clarify I might provide my own Three Question Challenge. OK?

1) Can you discuss any living writers whose work you admire who are not published by ULA Press or similar DIY outfit?

2) If you cannot name any living writers whose work you admire who are not published by ULA Press, etc., can you discuss some of the living writers whose work you DON'T like without either (a) mentioning where they went to school, (b) mentioning which awards and other honors they have amassed, (c) speculating about how much personal wealth they have, or (d) lambasting their publisher's vast corporate holdings, i.e., by sticking to remarks about the work itself? NB: You can actually formulate a wonderful class critique of a writer's work without wandering outside the confines of the text. Richard Ford's work is great for that.

3) If you can't name any living writers whose work you admire who aren't published by ULA Press, etc., do you think that you can plausibly sustain an aesthetic that insists that no published work is any good, that all writers take the sins of publishing on their shoulders and are corrupted by publication, and that only self-published work is any good? Do you think it's a bit of a logical trap if worthy work (by your standards) becomes, mutatis mutandis, bad work once it is published? (OK, that's four questions.)

King said...

And not very concise questions.
What they do is show exactly where you're coming from.
My sin, apparently, was in not sticking to the writing itself-- like everyone else does-- and instead revealing some of the machinations about how the literary world operates.
Your attitude is exactly what's wrong with the lit world-- there's NO examination of the machinery. Writers hide from it. In do doing, they hide from the realities of America, because after all the literary machinery, the privileges et.al., are part of the larger machinery of the greater society.
On the one hand you accuse me of having a narrow viewpoint. On the other you ask me to narrow the viewpoint.
It's you, Harland, who have a narrow view, because you refuse to acknowledge that America has taken on the semblance of a caste-based society. One has to be blind not to see it.
Are there any good writers today? Give me a week and I might come up with a couple.
But recall why I became involved in the subject. I came to literature FIRST as a disappointed reader, who found in past writers-- Like Jack London and O. Henry, and later the great 19th century novelists like Dumas-- what I didn't find in the writing of today. (Or, that was the 1980's; I was reading at night while working as a clerk in a tower in a vast Detroit railyard, with time to kill between trains.)
A couple writers then did stand out to me. McInerney's first book was exciting-- much of it containing unpretentious, reader-friendly writing. Gaitskill's "Bad Behavior" really struck me as well-- not for the bourgie parts, but her looks at east Village reality, and her ability to put emotion into her tales.
Bright lights in a sea of disappointment.
Writing today, of course, has declined even more.
Around 1990, when I was living in Detroit's Cass Corridor, frankly drinking very heavily (two bottles a day!) I killed time in a Detroit university library and tried reading the lit journals, expecting to find exciting writing. Did I?
I thought, "Even I can do better than this crap." I also saw the lit-game as a vulnerable field.
The corruption and insularity, of course, turned out to be more than I bargained for. . . .
(More.)

King said...

THE PIZZA SHOP
Harland, think of my ULA promo work in this way.
My colleagues and I had this tiny little pizza shop where we created pizza made from fresh, organic ingredients, everything made by hand, the pizzas not to everyone's taste, but with unique flavor.
In order to promote our more natural product, we proclaimed that we did NOT sell the kind of processed, bland, tasteless frozen product found everyplace. Nor did we even offer the kind of generic pizza found at a chain store owned by PepsiCo or the like.
We wanted people to know about what we were doing.
We were under no obligation to applaud the competition.
In any other field but literature-- where mindless consensus is so important-- to do so would be thought crazy.
My contention when fronting the ULA was that the mainstream lit product was processed, generic, and tasteless.
I stand by that evaluation.

King said...

The problem with American literature today is a big-picture problem. The problem is structural. We can't determine WHY the product is so bad unless we understand the system which produces it. The art is hit from a couple directions.
From one direction we have the dominance of the Ivy League, whuich produces the most-hyped literary writers, for the most part, and maybe worse, produces the NYC media elite which decides who are the approved writers. I contend that none of these people understands too well this country.
From another direction comes the produce of the MFA mediocrity factories, whose writers are trained to be mediocre. Their work is politically-correct, unexciting, not entertaining.
And so, one can examine hundreds-- hundreds-- of literary journals unable to find a single entertaining story. These journals fill the shelves at the book chains. We all see them. No one buys them, because the product inside is crap. (Which is why all these journals have to beg for money.)
Entertainment is out-of-date in our pretentious literary world.
The latest news is that readability is out-of-date-- at least per a staffer at HTML Giant.
Hey, but they're "literary." Everyone is pretentiously involved in being "literary."
The word literary should be blown up. It's destroyed the art.

Patrick said...

"[...] the NYC media elite which decides who are the approved writers. I contend that none of these people understands too well this country".

Ugh... more faux populism. You sound like a fucking Republican. Let's be real here. I don't think you understand this country any more than the "elites." You operate under the delusion that "underground" writers need you. That you are speaking for a silenced majority, and the truth is, most of that majority would never embrace you because you are such a pedantic, condescending dude. If you would just be honest and admit that you are every bit as elitist and opportunistic as the opposition, it would be a level rhetorical playing field. Because that's all this is: rhetoric.

You begrudgingly give Jay McInerney (who I don't think has ever written anything worthwhile) and Mary Gaitskill (ugh, bourgie... is that all you got? That is such an empty designation these days) "props," and yet still cannot find a contemporary "mainstream" writer who you like? I'm sure you thought Noah Cicero was your bright and shining star until he turned his back on the ULA.

You can't handle dissention. Or the idea that there are unknown writers out there who think you have zero credibility. Who laugh at the mere mention of your name. Or worse: "Who?"

If you were such a good "salesman," Jack Saunders and Wred Fright would be superstars by now. Right? A good salesman can sell any old shit. Quality means nothing in that respect. So, you are either a bad salesman, or those guys just don't have it. Your contention: "It's the system!"

Yeah, the system's fucked, but sometimes you've got to take a look at yourself! Holy hell man! You snipe at anyone who doesn't have a book with the "ULA" logo on it. At anyone who isn't firmly entrenched in the zine world. But I've got news for you, the ratio of quality to shit is the same on the streets as it is in the high rises.

I can visit the indie bookstore down the street, go to the local section, shuffle through the zines and chapbooks (two different ways of saying the same thing), and find a LOT of shitty, pseudo-profound pablum. The difference between it and the mainstream shitty, pseudo-profound pablum? Cost. That means that when the underground shit is actually good, I'm getting something great for a STEAL. If it's bad, well, the investment didn't break my back.

You are so hardline and bound by your own aesthetic that I'm not even sure half the underground writers you support could live up to it. You simply support them because they are not Eggers or Moody. To me, that's pretty disingenuine.

Harland said...

So the answer to question number one is Jay McInerney and Mary Gaitskill. Say good-night, Gracie. Because when I think of all the hundreds of names, all the thousands of books, that you might have mentioned, you mention two writers who are (whatever their relative and absolute merits) prime beneficiaries of precisely the sort of machine-based, New York "media-elite" hype you always cite as the soul-killing essence of conglomerate, Ivy-dominated, publishing. Ironic: the King is just as susceptible to hype as the demi-puppets.

So the answer to question number two is no, you can't actually discuss the shortcomings of fiction you don't like by focusing on the text. I can well understand how one can formulate a criticism of a work of art that also deals with political or social conditions under which the art was produced, but you can't cite those things to the *exclusion* of the art. What you seem to be saying is that Jonathan Egg Moody is so reprehensible a person, so shamelessly and undeservingly connected, that the books are sort of afterthoughts that don't actually have to be, er, read.

Pizza shop, heh. I love the little struggling pizza shop, fighting against Domino's. It's kind of great that you'd put it that way, because it really does illustrate the black-and-white absolutism of your way of thinking. See, where I come from in Brooklyn (as you well know, since you track my IP address), there's the obligatory Domino's, of course, but there are also maybe a hundred little pizzerias that fit precisely that delightfully pastoral "hand-made, with love and care" description you provide (to which I respond: it is to laugh, King! I can imagine what went on in the kitchen of your little pizza shop. "You call that a calzone? That's not a calzone! This is a calzone!" "I told you, give the customer *two* napkins and *one* paper plate! We'll go broke if you keep giving out *two* plates!"). And, of course, while each of those pizzerias is in business for itself and takes pride in the unique goodness of its product, they know perfectly well that there are 99 other pizzerias out there providing the same sort of pizza, and that those pizzas are just as honest; you might have a quibble with this place because they use too much oregano in the sauce, or with that place because the crust is too thick, but the pizza produced by those 100 honest and upright pizzerias is on the whole pretty good. Though, by the way, I can't think of anything more yuppily hipsterish than opening a boutique pizzeria, King. How about a sports bar? That sounds more like what a brawling working stiff of a writer like yourself would open up. A sports bar selling honest beers like Pabst (union made!) and of course the nectar of your adopted city, Schmidt's of Philadelphia. How about we swap out the pizza thing, let's have King's Sports Bar vs. TGIFriday's, or something, hey?

King said...

Two incoherent arguments from Patrick and Harland, Harland and Patrick, very different animals, yet in some ways very much the same.
Yes, there may be 100 other little pizza shops. Again, I was promoting the ULA's pizza shop and the ULA's pizza, which was, in the context of contemporary lit, unique.
Obviously, I'm a flawed salesman. I did overreach a bit, but I managed to panic the giants. ("Harland" wouldn't be here otherwise.) For a few years we gained more attention for our shop than any other indy-- striking considering we never had the resources or connections of, say, an N+1. Needless to say, we also never had Harper-Collins (Murdoch) backing.
The point of Harland's posts is that he wants to be accepted, corruption and all. He's given every advantage in the game-- the rules are in his favor-- but he wants us to play against him without pointing this out. Frankly, this is the rich-kid version of entitlement.
(He's already accepted by the established literary machine, but, again, the mindset is perfect consensus-- that there be not one dissenting voice.)
Yes, I've tried to level the playing field. Guilty as charged.
Re Gaits and Jay Mac. Get real-- how would a non-lit person in the 80's be exposed to other choices?
But I was exposed to other choices at the end of the decade, in the Cass Corridor, when someone handed me a copy of the original version of Factsheet 5.
This was truly an eye-opener.
Re Patrick. He's fairly hysterical about someone who has no clout, sway, etc, over the lit-world whatsoever. He's outraged not about the system, or anything about the system, which is apparently run perfectly-- but at me!
Kind of a slave mentality.
(I've used the "Big Joe" "Miss Scarlett" analogy from GWTW too mnay times on this blog already-- but we know the scene. Go to it, Patrick. Must save Miss Scarlett!)
One could accept his argument, that a narrow clique of Ivy Leaguers know more about the nation's tastes than anybody else. They're the decisionmakers, after all.
Or you can choose to not accept his argument.
Btw, I once had a bartender job in Detroit which included making pizzas. Always a satisfying experience-- I'm not sure why.

Harland said...

I want to be accepted, corruption and all. Let there be no dissent. The line to receive your five-dollar payoffs will form at the rear entrance of my mansion at five o'clock.

Patrick said...

I would say my argument was fairly coherent, Wanklas. You just choose to ignore what is staring you in the face. It's this: you are no more trustworthy or unique than any other pusher.

"Try my shit, man! It'll FREE you! It's the best! All I want is for you to buy in and you'll see!" I'm not buying it. Your pitch sucks, broheim. Not when the freebase is purer in the next alley.

You act like you're this fuckin' sage who sees things so clearly; and I'm a slave because I dare question your authority? Dude, that is the last bastion of the loser. This isn't a teacher-pupil interaction. And you're not a victim, Wanky. If anything, you're a guy who talks a lot of shit, makes a lot of bold statements, and when you're called out for it, you resort to name calling (slave, demi-puppet, bougie, etc.) and condescension.

Harland, what should I buy with the massive advance Random House gave me for "¿Lo que es lo que?: Una cuenta autobiograf√≠a del destino comunista de Eli√°n Gonzalez" ???

Harland said...

The Collected Works of Dave Eggers.

King said...

??? Question my authority? Boy, do you have things screwed up. Dude, I have no authority.
(That you don't question literary authority is my point.)