(Originally posted October 19 and 20, 2011.)
THE TRUTH ABOUT OCCUPY WRITERS
What does democracy look like?
If you want to see what co-optation looks like, see the list of big names at
Many of these people are the most privileged writers in America.
The 99%? Where?
The last time I saw many of these same aristocrats, they were running over downtrodden writers with their carriages.
These folks have been literature's snobby aristo class, holding swanky soirees in modern-day palaces. To the protests, petitions, and revelations of corruption of the Underground Literary Alliance they erected a wall of hostility. Many of them verbally and even physically attacked us-- or had their security people deal with us. Now the same people are suddenly outside the palace, manning the barricades. The very same crowd! They shift stances as easily as changing cloaks. For them, it's really that simple. Being in control is all.
Their most hilarious moment is a tweet from Thomas Beller suggesting an Occupy Hamptons, with rich writers and publishers like Jason Epstein involved. Uh, Tom, the Hamptons are solidly in the top 1% of America. maybe the top 0.01%. Who will they protest against? Themselves? What's next? Occupy Fisher's Island?
I write this as one who's fought against plutocrats and media monopolies for years, and paid a price for it.
The originators of Occupy Writers-- Jeff Sharlet, a professor at Dartmouth College, and Kiera Feldman, a recent Brown University grad-- seem well-intentioned. Their associations with top 1% colleges, however, indicate they live in a closed world. They may not understand the realities of how the cultural system operates. They're certainly not among the great unwashed.
If they support democracy, will they support democracy in literature?
How many of the big talents on their list ever-- EVER-- write about the themes of the Occupy protests, namely greed, corruption, and class?
Francine Prose? Rick Moody? "Lemony Snicket" aka Daniel Handler? Handler is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and was also one of the ULA's most persistent foes, working to discredit us at every turn. Keith Gessen? Gessen was lately observed celebrating the very UNeven playing field of American literature in the pages of a conglomerate magazine, Vanity Fair, which is devoted to the celebration of wealth. These persons and many others on the list are the literary 1%. Literary aristocrats.
What kind of revolution is this?
Can anyone answer?
OCCUPY WRITERS AS METAPHOR
Occupy Writers is a metaphor for aspects of America. The initiators, Kiera Feldman and Jeffrey Sharlet, recruited first the most successful or connected writers, who were rushed to the head of the pack. Several, like Francine Prose and Lemony Snicket, wrote original pieces for the site. The privileged always go first. Isn't this how society works?
Allowed next were credentialed folks, those with Approved credits that, if not exactly badges of full success, are adequate tokens of conformity to things-as-they-are.
Unwanted apparently are bottom level writers-- including actual literary radicals, those who've challenged the system, or written polemics outside the bounds of the domesticated "literary" art.
What we see in Occupy Writers is Feldman and Sharlet catering to Power. They've done the very thing the Occupy movements are protesting against.
To read tales of class in America now, pick up my Mood Detroit. To read a manic noir take on corruption, read Crime City USA. The e-books are available for 99 cents each at Nook or Kindle. Can you afford it?