WAITING FOR GARTH
I’ve yet to receive a response from Garth Risk Hallberg to my New York Times letter.
Most humorous about Garth’s review of Tom Bissell’s Magic Hours is that within the review, Hallberg attempted to coin a phrase, “New New New Journalism,” which he abbreviated to N3 Journalism.
What we know about N3 Journalism, at least as shown in Hallberg’s review, is that it accepts approved Insider writers at face value. Garth Hallberg accepted Tom Bissell’s presentation at face value. He made no attempt to look behind it to arrive at the truth—his research, in fact, as shoddy as Bissell’s. Tom Bissell is announced as the paragon of N3 Journalism. Given by Garth Hallberg as the exemplar of the Tom Bissell style is Bissell’s attack on the in-your-face rebel writers of the Underground Literary Alliance.
Could Hallberg have chosen a worse essay or more questionable writer to applaud?
In a couple ways, Garth Hallberg’s statements, more than he knows, define what N3 Journalism is about. Tom Bissell, after all, is the ultimate do-anything-to-get-ahead establishment hatchet man. Ass eater par excellence, like a paid mercenary Bissell hired himself out to the McSweeney’s organization to do their dirty work for them. Oh, he’s glib alright, but it’s glibness without character or conscience.
Garth Risk Hallberg is a more lukewarm version. Need an ultra-positive review which asks no embarrassing questions? (Like, “What were those plagiarism accusations about?”) Then Hallberg is the fellow you want.
Hallberg is one of a thousand such literary “journalists.” They’re the most conformist persons in America. Their entire buttoned-up careers consist of conforming to authority, questioning nothing. It’s how they made their way through the institutional education system, standing out by always giving the approved answers, conflicting with no one. (If you seek an original thought or action among their number, good luck.) They have their certificates and positions showing the stamp of approval on their foreheads. It’s not education, but schooling. Preparation for obedience. In this way they’re the direct opposite of ULA folks.
N3 Journalism, then, is a reflection of those who inhabit positions within the system. The only thing “New” about it is that it’s not journalism. The questioning, oppositional, investigative side of the craft has been discarded.
What we’ve discovered about N3 Journalism is that it’s already finished. Garth Hallberg, its creator, is unable to defend it—or even to explain it; to explain the book review in which the term appears. We can thus discard N3 Journalism in total. Toss it in a nearby trash bin. Its lifespan is over.