One of the major problems about American literature today is the refusal to be honest about it. By honest, I mean admitting that most writing today is very bad. It’s shit. You can’t compete unless you admit this fact, because otherwise you’re unprepared to rectify it. In the Underground Literary Alliance we were at least honest with our slogan, “Our Bad Writers Are Better Than Your Bad Writers.” Not a good slogan to run with, no. But it was essentially true. We were at least more interesting, and energetic, than the generic Franzens Lethems Lorrie Moores et.al. of the established bourgie literary world.
Try to get this point across to writers. Impossible! They’re all legends inside their own heads. There’s very little writing today that stands out, that in any way rocks. This applies across the gamut, from stories to poetry to novels; particularly in the first two genres. If a writer does show sparks of talent—think early Gaitskill—the system quickly enough strangles that talent as if it were an accidentally born baby in an abortion clinic.
Every writer in America produces his own vehicle with no thought to the audience, like producing an automobile with each of the four tires pointing in a different direction, misaligned axles, a dull gray paint job, and a motor that won’t start. They’re fit for the writer’s basement, but not to ever be sold. Curiously enough, the individualistically ugly cars all look similar.
THE LITERARY AUTOMOBILE OR WRESTLING CARD
Literary writers invariably inescapably disdain “the market.” Ugh! The market! Everything wrong with literature today, in their thinking, is “the market.”
What if other fields had this attitude? Fossilized Motors produces aforementioned automobiles unfit for driving anywhere. You point out the vehicle’s flaws. “The market!” they begin screaming. “Is all you care about the market?!”
An esteemed wrestling promoter—no, not Wred Fright—decides to present a proper wrestling card with “proper” wrestlers. No hype, no personalities, no masks, no caricatures. Not one of the contestants stands out. Two grapplers begin grappling in the proper, rule-followed mode. Which means getting one another in a regulated hold—and holding it for hours. “This is art,” the promoter complacently states. Meanwhile, in the arena behind him the audience escapes.