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Everything wrong with publishing: Emily Nemens of...nothing

Saturday 12/16/23

I say that Emily Nemens is of nothing not simply because she has no affiliation presently; but rather because she is nothing. As a writer, as an editor, as a person.

Emily Nemens was the safe, bland, mindless Wonder Bread co-editor of The Southern Review, about which we have much to get into, and will. She had done virtually nothing in her career, because she's never really had a career. She was practically unpublished. All that she's done is the result of a being hooked up, and counting her career publications wouldn't so much as task all ten of your fingers, and it's not like she's twenty-four.

I'd send her stories there, and this person, with no knowledge about writing, nothing to suggest she knew anything, no writing of her own, just this prevailing unctuousness that defines the publishing system person, would invent some excuse that had nothing to do with the text.

She's so dumb that she actually said to me--she put this in an email--that publication is about a lot more than the quality of a work. There were all of these other factors that had nothing to do with writing.

Those would be things like how well-liked someone was within the publishing system, for instance. Who was "hot" at the moment. What boxes are checked. Skin color. Gender. Twitter followers. Number of Brooklyn writer friends. Etc. A book coming out with the reviews all but bought and paid for. Or bought and paid for.

The work itself? Bah. Whatever. But if someone was sufficiently connected and that could land a piece in Best American Short Stories, which features the most plastic, empty, meaningless fiction being produced by the most plastic, empty, meaningless writers in this country, then that was what matters.

Nemens was hired to replace Lorin Stein at The Paris Review, after he allegedly did what he did with his anal rapings and trading sex for publication. These are awesome people, right? Allison Wright of the VQR told me that many had knowledge of Stein's behavior. She knew about it. Didn't do a thing, didn't speak up. Like I said, good people, right?

I knew someone who was being interviewed as the token Black male for that job as The Paris Review's editor in chief at the time (in the press, he was referred to as the perfunctory male). I was the one who told him about the opening and helped get him to throw his hat in the ring, though he had very little shot, being male. They were going to hire a woman to follow Lorin Stein. Appearances and all. I got reports from him throughout the process as he flew into NYC. I met with this guy a couple years ago, and for two hours, he did nothing but brag about himself, so I really feel no loyalty to him. And as he bragged about himself, he sold out everyone at the VQR, which we'll also get into later.

There's this great bit where Ted Genoways--who had allegedly bullied his managing editor at the VQR into suicide, when Genoways was the editor there--gave this other guy who followed Genoways career advice regarding the University of Virginia. The latter simply didn't have his two-year contract renewed. He wasn't fired. They just didn't bring him back. And Genoways says to him that people thought he, Genoways, helped get a man killed, and the University of Virginia still gave him a nice severance package when his contract lapsed. So he says words to the effect of, "And you're Black! So how will it look if they don't give the Black guy a nice severance package if they gave it to me?" And so this guy says that to the university, and that's why they paid him off and out.

(Even just describing the behavior of these people, you feel like you should vigorously scrub yourself clean afterwards. It's always so disgusting.)

Nemens was and is a nothing. A prop. A vanilla flavor to use. As benign as can be, because she's as meaningless as can be. She was going to be the token face for the first post-Stein period for The Paris Review, before another system person, who is also wired the same way, took over.

She gets there, and then she won't even respond to an email with a story--any story--that blows anything else away, because now it's even more about the right kind of person for Emily Nemens. Her right-hand person at The Paris Review was a guy who did copy edits on a short story of mine at Harper's. I knew what Nemens was doing. I know how vapid and fake she is. So I tried this guy with a story. And he replied right away, and said, let me get back to you, I'll check with Emily, etc.

And that was it--gone. File a missing person's report. He walked down the hall, and Nemens would have said, "I hate him, and you will hate him, too, he's not one of us," and this eunuch--Hasan Altaf, who now works at The New York Review of Books, because all these people do is hook each other up--said, "Okay. I will now do and think what you told me to do and think."

Again, she barely publishes. She can't write. She has no ability. She'll never be able to write anything that is any good. Not gonna happen.

But now--back within the timeline--she has this post that people pretend matters. Or they're dumb enough to think matters. Let's say you have something you wrote that millions of people could love. You are not going to get to those millions of people via The Paris Review. You're going to get to the kind of person who has a tote bag from such a place. Do you know why they have that tote bag? Because they think they're saying, "Do you see my tote bag? Yes, I read the journal whose name is on my tote bag. I am very smart. I see you seeing it. You know what I am. Yes, it's true. I'm very smart." That's what they're interested in. They want credit. They want to think of themselves a certain way.

Emily Nemens lasted three years in that job. They were either using her as this token post-trading-sex-for-publication cardboard stand-in, or she couldn't hack it. (A lot of what hacking it is about at The Paris Review is getting elderly women with money to make large donations, in between simply putting in bad work by the right kind of people of the system.) Or both. But trust me: There is no way she left that job as some strategic career move, because that was all she could ever be. As such. That was the top for someone like that. Also: She must be borderline incapable of writing anything, because she could write any crap and it would have ran wherever.

What she did write was a bad, unconvincing, threadbare book--with a cover that looks like it was created via Printshop by a third grader in 1987--about baseball called The Cactus League. A novel. Which is just these under-developed scenes collaged together. Nemens knows nothing about baseball. Why did she write a novel about this thing she knows nothing about? I don't know. Perhaps her dad was really into baseball and she has father issues. But it sure wasn't because of her baseball knowledge, of which she has none.

So then she took these underdeveloped scenes and tried to fob them off as stand-alone short stories, because she can't write anything. Wouldn't you just write something new if you were any good? Wouldn't you write something new and amazing every day if you were great at writing?

Then, she got hooked up. For instance, n+1 ran what was provisionally titled "The Outfield." Yeah, n+1, with all of that great sports-related content.

Or do you think it was a case of different rules for someone who sucks at writing because of her title at the time and what that means to morons like this who are entirely dead inside unless you count bullshit as a form of life?

Look how prosaic this is:

The baseball wives know you don’t want to be the first to show up in Scottsdale, but surely you don’t want to be the last to arrive at the party. And it is a party: luncheons and spa days, cocktail parties and color consultations, mornings at the furrier’s and afternoons with the jeweler. There is a great deal of time between games, between the rare, preseason moments when they have their husbands’ attention, between the wives’ calls to duty. Those moments: cheer him from the family section of the ballpark, loud enough that he might just look over to the stands and spot you. Get him a steak on Sunday nights, rub his feet on Wednesdays, dangle a blowjob at the end of the week as reward for all his hard work.

Emily: You're not good at this. You will never be good at this. The whole writing thing. You just don't have it. There is no talent here. Replacement level writing by a replacement level writer. Who couldn't come in and do what you just saw?

Then, because she was the editor of The Paris Review, you had all of these puff reviews with the laziest, least sincere stock plaudits from people lying out of their asses and greasing the palm of publishing, because that's how it works. There is nothing here, and everyone would know it. But you know what? When there's nothing there, it's easy to trot out the platitudes of praise. "A real page turner!" Right. "Worth the price of admission alone!" Sure.

All done because she had this title. And, of course, she was one of them. A publishing system wind-up toy. That's Emily Nemens.

But you can hire her to speak to your school or whatever about writing. This person. It's all about the con, the grift, and it's never about the writing. These people have made it so that no one cares about writing. And when there's only indifference, you can do what you wish within your system that no one cares about, because everyone else is off doing other things--because of you. Because you made it that way. The price of getting away with the shit these places and people get away with is obsolescence. And these people are so devoid of substance, talent, and character--and any concern for writing, amazingly, and so much concern for their petty power, and so ruled by their neuroses, and so broken as people--that that's what they went with.

And remember BOMB where we have our friend, Raluca Albu? They hooked her up. It's like you see these things coming at this point, don't you? Want to read the first sentence of the Nemens story that Albu and co. ran at BOMB? This isn't me doctoring the sentence. This is actually what it was. Verbatim. This is how bad that sentence is, with no alterations by me to try and make it look as bad as it reads:

New Orleans has plenty of direct flights, and is even getting a new terminal out there in Metairie, but living in Baton Rouge, coming home from just about anywhere requires making a connection, changing aircraft in Houston or Dallas or Atlanta, finishing up with a quick flight in a small plane.

How are you so bad at this? Then, Raluca Albu and that BOMB crowd just let that pass. Remember all of her nonsense about meetings and more meetings? These masterminds of great prose, putting their heads together to make sure the best choices are made regarding the best work possible! Lies, bullshit, more lies, more bullshit. Broken people justifying their jobs, their very existences, because there's really no utility in either. That old bugaboo of reality. That's what you're telling me, you lying, foolish, simple, envious, hack-fraud, and that's what you're publishing? All because of a connection. That's the sentence that starts the story? Really? Do you even understand the rudiments of syntax? Do you have any idea at all? How literate are you, even? Quasi-functionally? Or are you that on the take? Both?

No one would keep reading after that first sentence. Not only wouldn't they be hooked, they'd be gone. Not worth it. Why keep going? There's so much to do. So much out there. Why spend any time reading any more of a story that begins that way?

And that, really, is what they want. Don't vet us. Don't vet the work. We are here to be a certain way and get away with it. Because there's nothing else we can be.

I can think of one thing: You can be exposed for what you are and what you're doing and why.

And look who we have here together, but Emily Nemens and Christopher Beha. Isn't that nice.

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