Monday, July 09, 2012

Letter to n+1


The trendy Brooklyn-based lit group n+1  made a post at their site which I agreed with--

On June 20 I emailed them a friendly note:

To the Editors, n+1,
 I love the essay about credentialism now up on your site. I agree with it 100%. The question has to be asked of n+1, though, regarding American literature: When do you put your principles into action??
  I have a populist e-novel I'm trying to market, written by an authentically populist, uncredentialed writer-- myself-- in a populist style, with the subject of protest, and one of the novel's themes being the divide between elitists and populists in this country, including on the Left.
  I could send you a free copy. Would you read it?
  This is a sore subject for me of late, with the reappearance of the Tom Bissell/Believer hatchet job on the Underground Literary Alliance, a lit group which was the very animal one would think you'd have publicly supported. Namely, a collection of populist, uncredentialed, mainly lower class writers. Legitimate heirs of the London, Norris, Dreiser, Farrell, Steinbeck stream of American literature.
  The credentialed literary elite distorted our message and tarred our populist writing styles.
When Bissell accused us of "classocide," no one among your credentialed elite came to our defense. Yet classocide is exactly what happened to the ULA. We were living on the margins, most of us, before the recession. The economic downturn destroyed us. Literally, physically, in every way.
  You can't have it both ways. You can't claim to want populism, yet at the same time cling to a refined version of literature whose very emphasis of style is A.) on the solipsistic self, not the outer world; B.) on trivialities of style-- "literary" descriptions of bourgeois furniture, say-- that are markers of a bureaucratic mindset (emphasis on the trivial) that comes from a bureaucratic, credentialed system for producing writers and literature.
  It was your own Chad Harbach, after all, who erroneously claimed "We're all MFA's now." What "we," paleface?
  To the credentialed elite, writers who are outside the system of credentials don't exist.
  Anyway, kudos to the unnamed one of your editors who wrote the piece. Good job.
  -Karl Wenclas

Needless to say, I received no response. Will they print my letter? Don 't hold your breath!

Still, I'm giving the literary elite every opportunity to live up to their own principles.  (They could, of course, respond on this blog.)

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