Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What Kind of Revolution Is It?


What does democracy look like?

If you want to see what co-optation looks like, see the list of big names at

Many of these people are the most privileged writers in America.

The 99%? Where?

The last time I saw many of these same aristocrats, they were running over downtrodden writers with their carriages.

These folks have been literature's snobby aristo class, holding swanky soirees in modern-day palaces. To the protests, petitions, and revelations of corruption of the Underground Literary Alliance they erected a wall of hostility. Many of them verbally and even physically attacked us-- or had their security people deal with us. Now the same people are suddenly outside the palace, manning the barricades. The very same crowd! They shift stances as easily as changing cloaks. For them, it's really that simple. Being in control is all.

Their most hilarious moment is a tweet from Thomas Beller suggesting an Occupy Hamptons, with rich writers and publishers like Jason Epstein involved. Uh, Tom, the Hamptons are solidly in the top 1% of America. maybe the top 0.01%. Who will they protest against? Themselves? What's next? Occupy Fisher's Island?

I write this as one who's fought against plutocrats and media monopolies for years, and paid a price for it.

The originators of Occupy Writers-- Jeff Sharlet, a professor at Dartmouth College, and Kiera Feldman, a recent Brown University grad-- seem well-intentioned. Their associations with top 1% colleges, however, indicate they live in a closed world. They may not understand the realities of how the cultural system operates. They're certainly not among the great unwashed.

If they support democracy, will they support democracy in literature?

How many of the big talents on their list ever-- EVER-- write about the themes of the Occupy protests, namely greed, corruption, and class?

Francine Prose? Rick Moody? "Lemony Snicket" aka Daniel Handler? Handler is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and was also one of the ULA's most persistent foes, working to discredit us at every turn. Keith Gessen? Gessen was lately observed celebrating the very UNeven playing field of American literature in the pages of a conglomerate magazine, Vanity Fair, which is devoted to the celebration of wealth. These persons and many others on the list are the literary 1%. Literary aristocrats.

What kind of revolution is this?

Can anyone answer?
To read tales of class in America now, pick up my Mood Detroit. To read a manic noir take on corruption, read Crime City USA. The e-books are available for 99 cents each at Nook or Kindle. Can you afford it?

1 comment:

JeffOYB said...

It's so ironic that their petition has a stampede of credentialed writers swarming it, when some years ago we offered petitions in a similar spirit only with specifics and actual protests against the 1% abusers -- and not a one would sign.

This list is doing nothing to stand against the machine that ruins the heart of literature today. It has no CONTENT. OK, it says it's for the Movement, which in turn is for the 99%, I guess. But it says nothing more. It takes no stand on HOW its stand can help it be more relevant or supportive of the 99%.

Maybe a problem with the ULA was that it was too specific. Its focus sure was effective. But perhaps focus made it a pariah of the cool, where pose is everything.

I wonder if the list-signers now would support giving more power to the 99% in terms of literature and publishing? Maybe like publishing, promoting, covering, reviewing, teaching about true alternatives to the literary status quo, showing that the 1%-corporate-MFA track means continuing the derailment of Lit. Are they ready to act? What would be a good first project for the list-signers to go for to truly uplift the 99% in terms of Lit? How can these writers really support those who want to take back Lit and publishing and academia and reviewing and culture from the 1%?