A friend of mine posted the comment immediately below on Facebook that a friend of his had written to him. My friend is a writer and professor, who is about twenty-five years older than I am. He's put his time in, and has seen much, mostly at the literary journal, literary contest, and creative writing program level. Here's what his friend wrote to him this morning:
Literary institutions have failed our industry by promoting work that mostly appeals to the insular aesthetics of 4 or 5 MFA programs. The psychosis of their self-importance can be read in their regularly publishing obituaries for the English depts and novels that they've killed. "English departments are dead. We know because we've helped kill them. The novel is dead. We know because we helped make them irrelevant." Such articles should be read as murder confessions.
Here's what I posted in response when I saw this on Facebook:
The work itself doesn't mostly appeal, though; it holds no actual appeal at all to anyone, including the people in the program. The kind of person holds appeal. The one is a fellow member of the club holds appeal. Bad, formulaic writing and mediocrity hold appeal, because anyone can do bad writing, and that comforts the people who do it. But there is no one to whom this writing, as writing, actually appeals. Checked boxes also hold appeal. Certain skin colors, orientations. That is the appeal, which is also not real appeal. It's all pretend. There's nothing real anywhere in the system, save dysfunction, clannishness, and bad writing.
That's 108 words. Says it all, in a way.
Then someone comes along and writes:
Not sure what is meant by "literary institutions." Publishing houses? Serious magazines? bookstores? Unclear.
Because of course they do. This kind of person is always an impediment to change and rectification. Always. They are stupid, so that's a problem, but they're willfully stupid. They always play contrarian, which gums up the works, slows everything down, creates a morass. They force obfuscation for obfuscation's sake into everything. It's their "personality."
What the first person meant was plain. By literary institutions he was talking about everything under the umbrella of "serious" writing. What does that include? The book publishers. The few general circulation places that publish short fiction. The New Yorker. Harper's. Granta. The literary journals. The MFA programs. The agent system within the publishing system. The awards system within the publishing system. A lot of this can extend from NYC to the halls of academia. And that's obvious. That's what he meant. It goes without further saying.
But it's harder to get to a better place when people just allow this to happen, when they waste time and energy pretending it's not happening, when they practically fist their own navel with sexual delight--as the woman with the "unclear" comment did. That's why she made the comment. She's pleasuring herself by wheel-spinning. Most people just want to hear the sound of their own voice.
And then these evil people in publishing keep getting away with killing off writing and reading.
What goes along with that is the devolution of culture as the societal level, the level of individual, and from person to person, at the communal level. It changes how we think--or don't--and how we speak--or can't--and how we communicate, which we're now basically incapable of. The devolution of language--which publishing has a huge role in--is a large part of that.
These are sick, hateful people. And they're controlling this. They're doing this.