Monday, September 20, 2010

Letter to NEA Chairman

Directly below is a copy of a letter I emailed to Rocco Landesman, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, regarding Mr. Franzen’s appearance at this Saturday’s National Book Festival on the mall in Washington D.C. I’ve also sent a copy of the letter to the department at the Library of Congress overseeing the festival. I await a response.


To Rocco Landesman, Chairman, National Endowment for the Arts

Dear Sir,
Isn't it a scandal that in this time of huge federal deficits, with accompanying public outrage, the NEA is celebrating author Jonathan Franzen as part of the National Book Festival this Saturday, without asking him to return his ill-gotten 2002 NEA grant??
It was a mini-scandal at the time, but seems to have been conveniently forgotten, dropped down the memory hole.
See the posts and links at
A few starving writers and burdened taxpayers were outraged then, that a millionaire writer was awarded public money he didn't need, and which he stated wouldn't be used for the intended purpose.
We should all still be outraged.
Karl Wenclas



Rae Hicks Brozo Zimmerman said...

i am so glad to see you are still out there giving em hell!

my health is not the best right now but it is not too bad either...undergoing chemo for breast cancer, but no evidence of the disease so this is a preventative measure...keep checking my blog for the occasional update as it pertains to my rants...i am shooting for tongue in cheek...

Shelley said...

I write about a whole generation slammed by a bad economy, and more and more I think that today any amount of windfall money--prizes, scholarships, awards--should be means-tested.

There's just not enough to go around.

King Wenclas said...

Shelley, the problem's with the nature of such panels and organizations. Right now there's no way a writer who truly needs the NEA grant is going to receive. The writer instead in effect needs to prove that he or she DOESN'T need it, by listing accumulated credits and markers of approval by the system. They show networks of connections, entrance into exclusive departments and the proper publications, bureaucratic badges. The art itself is secondary. And so, if you don't comply with and conform to the standards of American lit as it exists now, you'll receive no help. Yet those who conform, who have the ability to access the system and get secure positions (see my post about Trethewey and Goodman) are already doing fine. And of course, they're of a class to do fine.
But what of writers working shitty jobs or out of work or living in desperate straits? I know talented writers in desperate straits, to whom twenty thou is a huge amount of money. But no, let's help Mr. Franzen instead!
And yes, the new generation of writers aren't being nourished. Not the real writers among them that I'm sure are out there.
They're not being looked for. They're not being found.