Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Believer: Forty Years Out-of-Date

In the new issue of The Believer, Harvard prof John McMillian looks at the underground press of the 1960's.

1 comment:

Jeff Potter said...

Ha. That's rich. Sure, the 60's were cool. They did their thing, brought us as far as they could. But the game has kept playing! The enemy learned from its defeats. It's not even always intentional (it's not a smart enemy) but the entropy of the system has shifted and adapted. It's silly to look at the 60's when TODAY is unknown and the major factors in action are ignored!

Without a prior investigation of today's underground it's empty to look at the 60's. --Or the mag could say it's part of a multi-part exploration STARTING with the 60's. The implication of the way The Believer spun it is that the underground was in the 60's, that today there is no real underground.

It makes me laugh.

It's like the "Banned Books Week" displays we see everywhere everyyear. So smug! They're full of "Uncle Tom's Cabin," "Catcher in the Rye" and "To Kill a Mockingbird" and maybe "Harry Potter." Oh, look at what those backwoods people do! Look how they banned books so long ago! They're against evolution and teen sex. Ooooh! We're so much better than that now. --Especially here in this lovely, open-minded bookstore and library!

Why do NO NONE ZILCH NADA banned-book displays focus on exploring ORWELL'S WARNING that the MARKET is a far worse censor than any dictator! What about that?

Why not explore how censorship has evolved and changed. About how noise and arrests generally make censorship look bad so we use suppression instead. Or how about how the nearly-uniform MFA system has stifled diversity of expression, narrowing it to nearly one workshopper approach praised by two schools, with the rest following in lockstep. What's that done to the exploration of truth and reality, and access to it today? What about the relation of Hollywood and publishing? Any narrowing dynamic there?

What if you end up with voices unheard and things that can't be said even where there's no law against it? Touche' for the censors, eh? Doubly so when the trick isn't admitted or discussed!

Is there ANYTHING we can learn from the USSR? Near its end nearly all its culture was off the books, on the side, in the margins, on the black market---everything admitted, everything allowed, everything official wasn't actually real, didn't depict how Soviet people actually lived. People got their ticket punched for their fake work, then they printed their truthful samizdat on the side.

Is there any chance that a dynamic like this is at work in the USA?

Our enemies here on this blog say "Everything is free! Do as you please!" They dismiss the idea that there's a System in place. Oh, there are habits and tendencies, but who can blame anyone for that, they say. Just hone your craft and maybe you'll get lucky! Do they see anything wrong with how things go? Nope. If they saw anything wrong, would they make noise about it or organize against it? Ha! I suppose they see big presses, academic presses, indy presses, bloggers, MFA programs, grants, prizes, Hollywood and zeensters all in some free merry dance. Win some, lose some, tra-la. That two schools and friends of friends and fat-cats rule the roost and pull down the prizes doesn't bother them much. They're cynical: no surprise there, to them. Everyone would do the same, they think. Nothing to worry about or explore.

Just keep studying the 60's, man! Just keep putting up those "Uncle Tom's Cabin" displays!