Saturday, September 11, 2010

Breaking the Machine


Everybody hates the Machine. They hate the Machine in all its manifestations. We'll see this with the elections in two months. If the State tries to draw too much power unto itself, people eventually rebel against it.

The current literary system is becoming an extreme version of the Machine. It resembles one of those East European countries during the Soviet era, when the bureaucrats walked around with chests full of medals announcing their importance. Note today's literary writers, how their bios are an endless list of credits, this degree or that one; listings of publication in unread publications; most important of all, the various grants and awards signalling arrival within the System as a true Insider. The credits have replaced the art. No one cares, really, about the art, not to mention the art's connection with the living culture of society. That's why you'll see no mention of American literature by the lead apparatchiks of the Machine. American literature? What's that? The System's purveyors and participants seek to obliterate all distinctions and any distinction among the actual writing. There's widespread conformity/competence, with occasional nods to approved "avant-garde" behavior, Surrealism, say, which was cutting edge a century ago and whose rebellious distinction was long ago absorbed by the Machine and has lost all meaning.

The only way for the writer today to stand out is to reject the Machine. To move outside the System's mental and physical boxes in order to reconnect the literary art with the mass of the people. To take literature out of its castles and kremlins-- its prisons-- away from its controlling Directors of Approved Conformity, to liberate it. It takes courage though, and imagination, to step away from the System's comfortable intellectual chains.

When the Soviet Union finally collapsed it happened swiftly. Seemingly overnight. The Party ID card which one day had been worth everything, the next day was worth nothing. All the conformist safety-seeking writers who were Party members or who had otherwise embraced the Soviet system, who'd failed to speak against it, were instantly discredited. All their credits and glittering phony medals meant nothing. No one wanted the fake dead art of these fake writers, and nobody wanted them.

There's a cautionary tale in there someplace.

No comments: