Sunday, October 14, 2012

Which Side Are You On?

THE GLARING CONTRADICTION is how establishment writers, like a Maria Bustillos but so many more, are able to publicly oppose greed, plutocracy, and corruption everyplace but in their own realm of literature—the one place they could change but which for them is untouchable. It’s the epitome of hypocrisy.

Bustillos has written for The New York Times and The New Yorker and has made her own accommodation with power, a relationship which is inviolate. She cautions me to “get back to your writing” and says, “Your obsession with the ULA’s ‘activism’ comes at a cost.” In other words, Don’t Make Waves! But it’s too late for that.

That she can laud truth-telling in her essays yet seem to oppose it in the literary world shows a conflicted mind.

The dual personality anyway is shown in this one of her essays, which appeared in The Awl:

A writer who can participate in this kind of childishness need not be snarky and superior about the ULA’s writers! What exactly is she and her friend talking about? They seem to have one foot in a mentality which utterly disdains what they call “luxury writing,” and at the same time they seem to admire and revel in the decadence. They’re tainted by the decadence, yet can’t pull back from it.

Pull back, Maria. Follow your better instincts. Give up a decadent literary scene which is slowly dying. It’s withering in and of itself, kept going solely by institutions that are museums of dusty art. Give up establishment literature’s dead art. Abandon the corrupting accommodations to literary power. Those who seek to dismantle and rebuild American literature need your voice and other voices like yours on our side.

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