Tuesday, February 07, 2012

A Necessary Book

In Coming Apart, Charles Murray documents what I've been talking about at this blog and elsewhere for quite a few years-- that America, including white America, has cleaved in two. There's clearly an upper caste and lower caste. As Murray says, it's a cultural as well as economic divide.

In the literary field, much of the upper caste won't even acknowledge that writers exist outside their bubble. When the ULA was going strong, they steadfastly denied this. (Tom Bissell: "All writers are outsiders.")

Those writers who do acknowledge the divide hold a caricaturized view of lower caste white people. For whites without money to be portrayed at all in American letters, they have to be depicted as angry grotesques. (See David Means or Jonathan Franzen.) Only the mutual skin color keeps this from being a nasty kind of racism.

Upper caste writers like Barbara Ehrenreich have occasionally been sent for brief forays into the Other America, as if they're Margaret Mead or Dr. Livingstone entering an unknown land full of unknown and scary inhabitants.

When lower caste individuals break out of their cultural isolation, and demand to be treated as equals-- see Sarah Palin-- they're hit with instant hostility, even visceral hatred. Bad enough was where she came from-- imagine, attending a few colleges to get her degree, and entering a beauty pageant to pay for it! Worse than her origin, is that she left that origin-- she made tons of money through Fox, and now has acquired a station where she clearly doesn't belong-- with them!

(So we get yet another election of Harvard v. Harvard.)
As for myself, how do I break out of my own blackballing? The fact that I'm excluded to the max, because I exposed corruption, and dared talk back to literary Overdogs? (And was too articulate and provocative in doing this?) The only way out I see against a wall of Overdog blackballing is to write a novel better than anything their own writers put out. A novel that'll blow overblown books like Franzen's Freedom out of the water. But you know, it still won't be enough. The closed-minded organs of literary power will refuse to read it.

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