THE SHOCKING TRUTH ABOUT THE NEW YORK LITERARY SCENE
I was reminded of this truth—for the umpteenth time—in the follow-up to NEW POP LIT’s revelations about the n+1 lit journal operation:
I’ve been beating up that insulated crowd of “intellectuals” a little bit on twitter, simply to draw attention to our story. I paused to wonder if I would ever get any twitter response or byplay from them. (I did have some guy attacking me anonymously at one of my twitter accounts in advance of the story, but none too effectively.) It occurred to me that I’ll never get byplay from any of them—for the key reason. What’s that shocking reason?
They’re not very bright! I’ve yet to meet one well-hyped New York City “literary” writer who could think very fast on his-or-her feet. And I’ve met more than a few of them, even before the big 2001 debate between the Underground Literary Alliance and the Paris Review staff at CBGB’s. (An affair which was ridiculously one-sided.)
“The shocking truth” is a revelation which disgraced interviewer Ed Champion must’ve come to on more than one occasion. He talked to enough of them. I don’t know to what he attributed it—but the irritating truth led to an 11,000-word online blow-up from him and something akin to a nervous breakdown.
You see, he had bought beforehand the mythology that these are the nation’s best writers.
The question: what’s the reason? Why aren’t Approved literary writers very sharp?
It could be because of the slow and deliberate way they’re trained to write. (Think of a typically slow and excruciatingly long Jonathan Franzen novel.) Such writers end up thinking slow and deliberately.
Or it could be that most of them are trust funders who’ve never been challenged by life, were never required to move fast or think quickly.
Even from the best of them you find scantly a trace of wit in their conversations. Some of them can be humorous—Daniel Handler comes to mind—but it’s a warped, childish, frat boy kind of humor. As I depicted him in a satirical ebook novel (still available!), it’s the kind of humor which takes delight in pulling the wings off butterflies. Bludgeon-like humor. Which I take it didn’t go over very well recently at some swanky Insider Manhattan affair he was hosting!
Rambling: The last n+1 individuals I met in person was in 2009 at the Philadelphia Free Library’s Book Fair, at which those very radical n+1 people—looking very preppyish—had a table. I think Marco Roth was one of them, along with a collection of staffers or interns who looked like they just got done modeling for either Vogue or GQ magazines. I was with Philly-based poet Frank D. Walsh, who thinks and speaks so fast, with puns and asides, it’s tough for the best of us to keep up with his wide-ranging conversation. We chatted with the n+1’ers, an impromptu debate, for ten or fifteen minutes.
It was like conversing with pets. You know: the slow stare. They know you’re saying something, but they can only look at you with abject stupidity.
I’m not exaggerating!