Are you familiar with the expression, to carry someone's water? What it means, essentially, is to brown nose someone vigorously and ceaselessly, such that someone else--a sane third party--wonders, "What on earth is going on here? Why is this one person working so hard to kiss up to this other person?" Adam Wilson is a writer. I don't know him. I have been inclined to like him, though he is not whom this post is really about. But he's part of this anecdote that says so much about why no one reads anymore and the corrupt way in which publishing works.
Wilson is from Boston. He is a Boston sports fan. Normally people in publishing hate sports, as they think it's beneath them, indicative of what the lower classes like. People in "the trades," as The Paris Review put it some time ago. Publishing is a locked class system. To do well in it (for whatever that is worth; usually nothing more than the fake approbation of the people of the system; which is to say, no legit interest from readers of the world, and no money, because there is not an actual demand, nor could there be, for most of what is issued by the powers-that-be of the current system) you are expected to have gone to certain schools, write like certain people, come from money and privilege, look, talk, think and act like the people in publishing, and you need to be liked by these people.
It has nothing to do with your work, save that if your work is great, unique, new, dynamic, and plentiful, these people, if you are not one of them, are apt to hate you and link arms so that you never penetrate their circle. They will keep you from the world. And you need to find another way to get to the readers of the world, a dwindling number (which nonetheless can be radically boosted--I intend to booster it), because publishing functions as I am going to detail it here, which has helped destroy the very experience of reading something worth your time and attention that can actually mean something to your life.
I'm not on Facebook anymore--there is nothing healthy about it--but Wilson wrote me there once, asking me a question about a John Lennon book, thinking I would be the go-to source based upon my Beatles writings and expertise. He seems like a nice man. But I watched Wilson, over and over and over and over again, carry water for Mark Doten. Mark Doten has absolutely no ability as a writer. He's an editor at Soho. He is highly connected. He checks a lot of the right boxes right now, in this age. He writes very little. But let me give you an example of how he writes every time he writes. This is from a new book of his--more on that on a moment. Keep in mind, the entire book is written this way. The entire novel is in this style. Leaving political affiliation aside, just read it as a consumer. Pretend someone gave you this book, and said, "Here, this is a present, you should read this." How far would you get?
Painful, right? Did you see the mega-paragraphs? Bet you enjoyed those. A knee to the groin, again, and again, and again. Nonetheless, Granta named Doten, some time ago, one of the best young novelists in the world. Think about that. What does that say about Granta, which is supposedly this paragon of literary excellence? What you just read is an excerpt from his novel. It's not like he has ten novels, in contrasting styles. That's what you get with this person. I am banned at n+1, the venue that, as you've seen, published "Piss Trump," the novel excerpt. Their editor, Nikil Saval, ignored me for over three years. He finally responded, with a sort of half-apology. He would read my work, he said. Okay. Along I would send this work. He'd say, by way of update--very rarely--that he would reply later on that month. But, that time would pass, multiple seasons would pass. Years would pass. After those first three years of being ignored completely had passed. What I sometimes do--though I don't wish to do this, because, as you see, if you read these pages, I have to compose so much, often 20,000 words a day, between pieces, essays, stories, book work, pitches, begging letters, bill collecting letters, etc.--is send new links. Call them curios. They need not be clicked on or read. You can only send an email so many times that says, "Just checking in on my story." It's not ideal, but if you have new links to your work, you can send those as a nudge. They don't have to be responded to, but they let an editor know that you're up to good things, you're writing well, you are surging, and also there is the tactful insinuation of, "come on, I can do all of this, surely, after fifteen months, you can respond to the idea or the story."
Many of these editors will come to hate you. They don't do that much. They will see what you do, constantly publishing, and rather than liking that and wishing to bring your talent aboard, they will despise you, because you do what you do, they don't do what they don't do. What they do do, as writers, comes down to people hooking them up. Cronyism. Nepotism. Well, with Mr. Saval, three years became five. Eventually, after it was clear that five years was probably enough and this man was never going to do what he said he would do or what someone behaving professionally would do, I said that this really wasn't right, especially as he was publishing the likes of "Piss Trump," which is the readerly equivalent of sticking your hand in the garbage disposal.
Is it not?
So now he is going to actually respond. This he had time for.
Now, when you say something like this, to someone who has defecated down your throat for half a decade, they nonetheless view it as you having beat up and bloodied their first born. They don't see the context, they don't see how shoddily they've behaved, they don't see the gargantuan levels of forbearance you've mustered over half a decade as you are ignored, debased, not treated as a human (as you watch them hook up cronies/system people that no sane person believes has a drop of ability). Let alone a great writer doing constantly great work. That story you offered them that ended up in a place that is more desirable like a Harper's? That doesn't make them think, "My bad, I Iet that get away, I should look at what he sent now." They think, "Screw that asshole." Then they will rip you to their cronies. These people being the same kind of people, they will fall into lockstep. There is no freedom of thought. There is certainly no vision. There is elitism, an insistence upon congruity, so much pettiness and attitude, and so much meaningless work put forward for all of the wrong reasons.
That's publishing in 2019.
As it were, after making this obvious and true statement after half a decade of ill-treatment, Saval termed me verbally abusive, banning me for life at his small circulation literary journal.
I want you to look at something and compare. Here is the News tab on my website. See how it's jammed full with achievements, things I've actually written? Note how much I compose. Note where it runs. Despite the closed circle of linked arms. (Less than 1% of what I write is making it to print right now, given the politics of injustice that have come to dominate this industry and my world. What is going to happen when it all goes--and it will, eventually--and people see that doozy of an artist in full, with a chance, with a platform, and they know to be looking out for that person and their work?) Despite max resistance. Look at its quality. Now, look at the news section of Mark Doten's site. Do you see the ratio of people doing things for him, as if on a payroll--again, connections--vs. how much he actually writes and the quality of his writing? Do you think anyone would say, if their child's life hung in the balance of the honesty of their answer, that a book, a full book, reading entirely like "Piss Trump," is any good? Why is it good? Is there anyone on Earth who could give me three honest sentences speaking to what makes it good? Because I know there is not such a person. That would would be like someone attempting to get you to believe that they workout at the gym to an album of a car alarm. They don't do that. They could say they did it for novelty points, but no one would do it and enjoy it. Same with reading this writing, or whatever you wish to call it.
The Nation ran a review of Doten's book. Again, connections. I've been banned at The Nation in the past. And I wondered, "Who would pitch this book for review? It's awful. No one would bring that forward as a pitch unless 1. They wanted to expose the putridity of writing like this and make a larger point about why no one reads now--a piece that few venues would allow, because we must pretend that everything awful in publishing is wonderful, nothing to see here, pretend pretend pretend--or else you're a baddie or 2. They were up to no good.
Want to guess which one it was in the case of The Nation? You ready for this? It's actually kind of funny:
The author of that piece works at n+1. In fact, she's the marketing associate.
It's always this. Always.
But back to Adam Wilson. He would post one hosanna after another for the "Piss Trump" book on Facebook. He was great friends with Mark Doten, and he even had the honor he said of reading an early draft.
So, this word slop of complete meaninglessness, which no one can understand, which has no point--but it looks arty, so it must be smart, because pretentiousness and nonsense is the market driver so often in publishing, which is why you see fewer and fewer people reading--had to progress through drafts? You could change any of this and it wouldn't matter a jot. It's just slop. it's like there's some vomit on the ground, and there are some peas in it, and you stir them around. Still vomit. He went on and on.
So you know what I recently saw? You'll like this, too.
Adam Wilson just sold a new book. To...you know where this is going...
Mark Doten at Soho.
Never saw that coming.
And that, my friends, is all that publishing is. And if you're not part of that system, if you don't behave that way, and you write well, you will be hated. That hate will increase in proportion to what genius you possess, how self-made you are, how productive you are, your range of expertise, your publication history, your character and integrity. If they think you are smarter than they are and they have tried to hold you back and you have achieved--earned--things that they have not and will not, despite their aims to hold you back, and with all of their hook-ups, you will become the devil to them.
Now, you can have work that millions of people will love, and you can change this system, and you can reach the world, and you can get people reading again--I'm going to, or die in the attempt--but this is what you're dealing with. This is the system you have to find a way around, or through, or destroy, to reach the people of the world. Because these people control the awards, the book deals, what gets reviewed, what gets hyped, what makes "Best of" lists, what gets anthologized, what the public is told to care about, from the book world. This is one tiny example from my day. There are six dozen stories like this I could share with you every single day.
That's all this is. Non-stop, and everywhere you turn.