Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Emily Temple’s Other List


As we’ve seen at a previous post, Flavorwire’s books person has rejected most of the giants of American and world literature. What remains? What’s approved?

We get more than a clue in Temple’s 12/30/11 list of “Most Anticipated Books of 2012.” The contents of the list are, for the most part, sadly predictable, encompassing the standard narrow New York hipster world view:

Not an accident that the first book listed is the execrably dull novel The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus. Columbia University prof Marcus, married to a Believer magazine editor, is one of the best-connected writers on the U.S. literary scene. Do we have a clue where Flavorwire, they of the roomy and amply furnished Manhattan office, is coming from? Do we now know why Emily Temple trampled ereaders and ebook writers?

The clincher on the list is the inclusion of Marilynne Robinson, who not only is the director of the University of Iowa writing program, she’s authored a stultifying essay collection oriented toward the bureaucratic writer mindset. One of the essays in the book practically screams, “Keep the funding coming!” These are people whose total existence depends on the system, and their place within it. Connections are all. They have to be, because the writing of these literary apparatchiks enthralls no one.

Others selected to be hyped by Flavorwire include MFAer Amelia Gray, MFAer Adam Levin, MFAer extraordinaire Michael Chabon, and Nell Freudenberger, who was first published in The New Yorker at age 25 and has been further hyped by same as a leading up-and-comer. The safe and approved.

Oh, there might be a ringer or two on the list, notably Roberto Bolano, who was adopted by the U.S. literary establishment once he was safely dead! Cachet for the literary gentry by appropriation and association.

Think France 1789, with a salon full of well-dressed aristocrats celebrating the irrelevance of their exclusive little realm. The new world of ebooks is the approaching deluge.