Monday, September 13, 2021

The Truth About the Literary System

 NO ONE really wants to know how the literary system in the U.S. operates.

That thought went through my head last week when I tweeted, from my personal Twitter account, links to a few essays I wrote some time back about Tao Lin and other writers and how the literary game is actually played. Clues to how a writer-- such as this one-- can receive a $2 million advance from a Big Four Manhattan publisher for an unreadable 900-page novel which bombs. 

The truth is that no writer wants to know "how the sausage is made," to use an old analogy. The reality is too upsetting, too dislocating, so we dismiss it, block it out. There will be exceptions, we believe. There have to be exceptions.

Or really, most writers aren't ambitious, aren't hungry enough to want to change things, are content to find a place in the literary world, any place. A niche.

While abject mediocrities receive $2 million advances and the condition of literature continues to decline. 

MY THINKING when I began looking into how the literary machine worked-- chiefly during my days with the Underground Literary Alliance-- was that hearing the reality would so outrage the great mass of writers they'd tear down the Potemkin Village of the established literary scene. But it didn't happen.

Can change, real change, in the literary world, or with society itself, ever happen?

Maybe not. There will always be a significant percentage of people who'll take the easy-and-cheap payoff. This happened even with the sleep-on-floors radicals of the ULA, so it can happen to any movement, anyplace.

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