Tuesday, November 27, 2012
If Tom Bissell is a literary villain, through his public attack on downtrodden writers, it’s only as an extension of a more powerful person, someone with the will, backbone, and standing that Bissell lacks. Bissell after all is a glib and characterless opportunist; a cheap gun for hire. It’s how he behaved in constructing his attack essay on the ULA.
But who stands behind Tom Bissell? Is it the figure in the picture? Using the facade of goodness, like my fictional character Fake Face in the e-book Crime City USA, does this person use others like Tom Bissell to express the darker and more vindictive side of his own personality? No one can be all good all the time. It’s psychologically impossible. I tend to believe that the more one pushes the image of pristine goodness, as this individual does, the more, to regain balance, is the actual person pushed toward the other side. If so, this bleaker meaner side finds expression through trampling outspoken underdog voices like that of the ULA. Not unlike the good Dr. Jekyll’s alter ego Mr. Hyde.
But who is this person? This ultimate villain? This font of evil in today’s literary scene? Beware! Let the photo above serve as warning that all in today’s literary world is not as it seems.
(Stay tuned for a host of fictional literary villains in the new satirical e-novel, The McSweeneys Gang, soon to be released.)
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
This is from a particularly gushy write-up about Believer editor Vendela Vida by Joshunda Sanders in the 8/27/03 San Francisco Chronicle:
“Some of the skill may come from her voracious reading habits. This summer, she started ‘War and Peace’ and made it to page 50 before she got distracted by ‘Platform’ by Michel Houellebecq—“
It’s easy to be arrogant when everyone tells you you’re great.
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Happy Face literary media. (Will the Dave now disavow the malicious smears in Tom Bissell's Believer Books essay on the ULA?)
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Keith Gessen talks about the McSweeney's Gang, and mentions they believe in being nice. But the problem is they're not nice people, not really. Like so many of their kind, the McSweeney's niceness is a mask hiding their ruthlessness. Cross them and you'll find out what I'm talking about. These "nice" people suddenly become capable of many underhanded and devious things. This includes renewing a fight with the shattered remains of the Underground Literary Alliance, via the smears in the republished Tom Bissell essay on the organization.
Yes, I know I don't fit the prescriptions of the Dave Eggers manifesto of being a nice writer and not criticizing anything. Two points which need to be made.
1.) Not speaking up means enabling the ongoing corruption of literary Insiders, who game the system again and again. When Eggers has spoken on the issue of "niceness," it's been disingenuous. It's excuse making for overlooking unsavory aspects of the game. For instance, the ULA didn't criticize Rick Moody because we were "envious" of his success; nor because we thought he was "selling out" by having his novel made into a movie. We criticized him because this successful writer, spawn of the top 0.1% of American society, heir no doubt to a humongous amount of money, was applying for and receiving tax sheltered financial assistance which might better have gone to writers who actually needed it. Mr. Moody was also caught sitting on a grants panel-- he's sat on very many grants panels-- awarding taxpayer funds to his friends. Fellow "New White Guys" writers. Were we wrong for speaking up about this, Mr. Eggers? Yes? No?
2.) We made our criticisms under our own identities, in as upfront a way possible-- which is seldom seen nowadays. We paid the price for upsetting very many powerful literary people.
"No criticism" aka "Be nice to everybody" aka "Be nice to us" is an excuse for corruption and conformity.
Sunday, November 11, 2012
Then we have this revealing interview done by website Days of Yore this past summer with Believer editor Heidi Julavits about her profound struggles becoming a writer after Dartmouth.
I like the part where Heidi talks about an American economic recession being a liberating experience. "Totally liberating." I write this on the edge of downtown Detroit, on the 19th floor of a somewhat rundown old hotel. From the window I see all kinds of "liberated" individuals, including a guy in rags and a wheelchair who sleeps-- and lives-- in the doorway of an abandoned building right down the street. All I can see right now is the bundle of rags and coverings. The man is about as liberated as you can possibly be liberated.
But it's an amusing interview. Like, her boyfriend, an aspiring businessman, was studying the Japanese sword. Okay? Like, wow.
Or the part where Heidi can't remember an incident which appears in her own, recently completed novel. Okay? No doubt she's simply absent-minded, in all connotations of the phrase. (Like, absent of mind.) I do suspect, based on the level of thought in the self-absorbed interview, that Heidi had a lot of editorial help with the book. Isn't that why the skyscraper bureaucracies of the monopolistic book giants, with their staffs of well-paid help, are so great?
Friday, November 9, 2012
Yes, as in "Killtown" aka Crime City, the literary world does contain a few ruthless gangs.
Thursday, November 8, 2012
If Eggers were so great, he'd come on here to explain or defend that essay, which came straight out of McSweeney's Headquarters on Valencia Street.
Notice one curious thing. In his entire career as a writer and publisher, Dave Eggers has endured not one tough interview. (He is, in fact, notorious for his intolerance of criticism.) If there's been one such encounter, please let me know. I can't find it. Only the usual puffy gushy puff pieces from sycophantic mock-journalists about how great he is.
In his career, from what I can find, Dave Eggers has never engaged in an open freewheeling debate, not offline or on. The great mind, the genius behind McSweeney's, has never exposed that mind to the buffets of dissent and free speech.
Here's his chance to remedy that. To assure us of his greatness. Come onto this humble blog, Mr. Eggers, or one of my other blogs. Let readers know about the thinking behind your renewed attack on the ULA. Defend the Bissell essay. Expose yourself to free speech and free thinking.
Don't let your fans suspect the p.r. greatness is simply stage scenery.
Monday, November 5, 2012
Here you have the happy worker. Appropriately McSweeney's-style cool. Glad to be there. The proper image for the proper McSweeney's-style world. No Bartleby he! Not in this day and age. Let the worker bees look relaxed and they'll be relaxed. Being relaxed means questioning nothing. (Can I ask Customer Service Rep Sunra about the Believer hatchet job on the ULA in Tom Bissell's Believer Books Magic Hours? Or would that go outside the parameters of customer service?)
Does the word Believer imply religion?
What a hip office.
This photo, this image is called McSweeney's Style. It's McSweeney's Image. Like the graphics, and the trademark McSweeney's writing style. Remember, in McSweeney's World, where everyone is happy, like the boss is happy, everything is style.
There's no cynicism in McSweeney's World, unlike this post, only be forever happy positive vibes because everyone is happy because McSweeney's says everyone is happy, because everyone who writes for or works for McSweeney's is perpetually happy. They've drunk the Kool Aid. Question nothing. Smile and be happy.
End of today's lesson.
Sunday, November 4, 2012
But what's meant by writing well?
Here's an example of McSweeneyite writing from nine years ago, by Heidi Julavits, one of their main players.
Is it well written? From the viewpoint of the creative writing seminar, yes. But 95% of the public encountering it would consider it pretentious shit. Insufferable overwritten overlong pap. This is what the established literary world holds up to us as example to follow. No thanks.
The Julavits essay answers itself, when it discusses the terminal illnesses of novels and book reviewing. The explanation for literature's decline is in front of us. It's because of writing like this.
It's horrible writing, backed by shallow thought, maybe fit for an academic paper written for a professor but a criminal act to inflict on the reading public.