When I take a look at what’s going on within the literary establishment, I notice nothing there has changed. It continues to operate on the “I’m okay, you’re okay” philosophy. Everyone’s okay. Literature is okay. It’s wonderful.
See this article in The Daily Beast by Insider writer Ben Greenman:
(Note my comment at the bottom of page.)
What’s Greenman’s essay really about? The essay is a glorified sucking up to fellow members of the Club—and to writers in general. It’s of a piece with the mindset of trained writers; taking an insular viewpoint, from within the literary world, without placing that world within the context of the larger culture. From the outset it reflects a defensive posture, from behind the walls of the castle.
While reading Ben Greenman’s essay, one sees heads nodding: “Yeah, that’s right.” Protect the published author. The work is valued by fiat; by its existence.
Note the ready outrage and perplexity at a review not properly in line. It violates the First Principle of Insider Lit, which is the Principle of Sucking Up. The principle which undergirds the entire shaking establishment. An establishment powered by the energy of this principle. A principle, within that world, which is everywhere; on every level and in every corner.
With the essay, Ben Greenman is looking for agreement, as all writers are always looking for agreement. Consensus. Conformity to what is.
Their concerns are the concerns of privileged writers, those who already have station and standing. Many other writers, especially over the past few years, have been concerned with sheer economic survival, and with obtaining the time, energy, and availability to write.
Note that in Greenman’s view of literature there are no standards, and there are no distinctions—other than assumed workshop standards of the well-written sentence, meaningless or not, and mild situations and emotions sure not to displease writing peers. Agreement. Beyond these basics, there’s no judgment of literary works, and no way to judge them. “Some people will like the work and some won’t,” is the notion, all a matter of feelings and impressions with no thought involved.
After all, standards were thrown out long ago—again, except for making the writing sound good. Making it vaguely look like an example of literary art—a facsimile of what others are doing.
The qualities which make a good novel—pace, clarity, intelligence, structure—are never mentioned. “Some people will like it and some won’t.” Which means, it’s all good. If it’s produced by them, and approved by existing institutions, it must be good.
It’s all wonderful.