Monday, December 12, 2011

Crony Literastas


Of late I’ve been tough on the pseudo-intellectual literary journal n+1. At least, since Keith Gessen’s revealing essay about the cronyism of the established lit world which appeared in the October issue of Vanity Fair. n+1 deserves the criticism. This post is to explain why.

The problem with outfits like n+1 is they pretend to be radical, against the status quo. With such elitist pseudo-rebels about, what need is there for the genuine article? Co-optation might be the term.

The last time I encountered n+1’ers in person was May of 2009 when I stopped at Philadelphia’s Festival of the Book with another ULAer. Though I was no longer an active ULA member, I wore a ULA t-shirt for old time’s sake—and as an in-your-face gesture. The effect of the words “Underground Literary Alliance” on literary people is akin to that of showing a crucifix to a vampire.

We met in a park near the venue. The ULAer was a notoriously wild character. On the walk up we stumble into free food. A gift from God! We must’ve both been very hungry, because we destroyed the food quickly. The sun shone overhead, a cool but sunny spring day.

Among the many tables of literary people at the Festival was one staffed by n+1 people. Gessen wasn’t there. Marco Roth was the head guy, I believe. We verbally harassed Roth and his colleagues for several minutes. Such stuffy lit types are ridiculously slow thinkers and talkers. In the middle of our one-sided discussion, Marco put out that n+1’ers were “social democrats.”

We laughed and laughed—laughter the only possible response, because Roth’s statement was absurd.

The Voice of the People! Gessen told me once that n+1 was “written for everybody.” Just ignore all the pseudo-intellectual bullshit references then to Agamben and Agamboon. No doubt Gessen and Company consider themselves populist and anti-capitalist, while accepting large checks from media monopolies.

The duplicity in fact is staggering. n+1 took the lead in the “Occupy Writers” idea to support or co-opt the Occupy Wall Street movement. They did this at the same time a large banner at the top of their site advertised a joint promotion between n+1 and News Corp, whose megabucks, I suspect, are now indirectly funding their journal.

There are two kinds of capitalism. One is the free market, competitive kind—when there is a free and fair market—typified by ambitious small businessmen.

The other kind is Crony Capitalism with a capital C, whose every effort is geared toward squelching competition. It feeds on connections, conglomerates, elitism, hierarchies, Insider knowledge, monopoly, networking. Which was what Keith Gessen’s article for Vanity Fair was about.
A response to this post is welcomed.
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