Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Members of the Club


At the National Endowment for the Arts Pavilion this Saturday in D.C. you'll encounter not just grant scammer Jonathan Franzen, but a collection of other bonded and branded literary Insiders. Most of the names are Insider's Insiders like Thomas Mallon, Gail Godwin, Elizabeth Alexander, and Jane Smiley. Even the younger, less well-known writers who'll be appearing with Franzen are fully members of the approved Club.

I looked at two of them. Natasha Trethewey is an African-American symbol of diversity. Yet even she is the typical well-educated System person put forward as representative of contemporary literature. Trethewey received her Masters at Hollins, "where her father is a professor of English."

Allegra Goodman's father taught philosophy at the University of Hawaii, where her mother taught biology, directed the Womens Studies program, and served as Vice President for Academic Affairs. Her mother then became the first woman Dean of Arts and Sciences at Vanderbilt while her father accepted a position in Vanderbilt's philosophy department.

What's the point?

A.) These writers well know how to access the System. Again, as I've been discussing on this blog, it's about the literary bureaucracy.
B.) The minds of these two writers grew up within the System and have never left it. Can we expect them to be able to think outside that System? Can we believe they know much of anything about what average Americans are going through right now?

All of these showcased writers live within comfortable bubbles. They represent monothink: the point of view of the liberal privileged, which means, for the literary art, the same-old same-old that's been shoved at us the last forty years or more. This is Tops-Down literature, imposed from above. I don't know who these writers think they'll be speaking to on Saturday, but it's not Americans as a whole. You can believe that they'll be speaking to simply more comfortable people-- mirror images of themselves.

Yet it should be the job of the WRITER, if anyone, to truly and honestly know his country, the pains and dilemmas and heartaches of those who inhabit it. America is a vast place. A huge nation. We need voices who represent more than a tiny sliver of it. We need organic literature, not imposed from parasitic out-of-touch bureaucracies like the National Endowment for the Arts, but coming from the ground up, from the American people themselves. This was what the DIY zeen revolution of ten years ago was about, attempting to bring authentic roots writers to the forefront. We've already had enough preciously privileged rich guy Jonathan Franzens, thank you.

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