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Everything wrong with publishing: More from J.W. McCormack of The Baffler and Raluca Albu of BOMB

Monday 8/29/22

The other day in an entry in these pages we talked about J.W. McCormack, who is the fiction editor of The Baffler, and a talentless writer himself who aligns with every cliche of the talentless Brooklyn hipster-type writer, right down to the pretentious name. It'd be like me calling myself C.M. Fleming. He even looks the part, which, curiously, one finds that these people almost always do. He's an envious little bigot. I generously offered him story after story at The Baffler, where there is next to no financial remuneration, but of course that envy is the end all, be all for a person like this.


In that recent post, I played that version of the game we do where I go to the website of a place such as this one, and choose a recent--often the most recent--short story that they've published, for us to look at how bad it is. That's a key: I'm not searching. I don't spend my time trying to find an example of the worst there is in writing. You don't have to search. All you have to do--all you ever have to do--is take anything. Because no one is worse at anything than these people are at writing.


Then you have a bigot like J.W. McCormack, who is going to publish that writing and put the right kind of person forward. This is all that publishing is. There's nothing else. You are supposed to believe the impossible: that anyone actually thinks that the work in question isn't terrible. And also that all of it is better than anything I've ever done. Stick a crayon in your dog's mouth, give him a piece of paper, and he's doggy Proust compared to these people. It is impossible to mount a counterargument to what I am saying after you see the work. If you don't read current day fiction--"literary fiction"--you'll be shocked that anyone is pretending this doesn't suck. That's why no one says anything when I say what I'm saying here. What could you say?


In that earlier entry, I highlighted various recent stories from The Baffler, selected by McCormack. Then, because I was reading parts of one of them to someone on the phone, as we both laughed uncontrollably that anything could be so bad, I thought I'd make a point of providing examples from that work on here. Remember: you're supposed to think this is good. And also better than anything I could ever do.


The story is called "Venus in Transit," by Kyra Simone. Here are the first three paragraphs, which comprise the entire first section:


It is an overcast morning, a day inhibited by what old mothers out west wait all year to describe as “June Gloom,” though still brighter than one of Hemingway’s “false springs.” This spring is real. Perhaps more so than the others. Today, for the last time this century, Venus moves across the sun, magnifying hidden things that are new or have always existed—numbers in the dark and the viscosity of the human aura, the distance between stars, the taste of ancient light.


Every few hundred years it can be seen in transit, a black dot in the sky visible to the naked eye in the middle of the day, beaming down on half-clothed figures standing with eclipse glasses in certain oceans—the only female planet in the solar system, gendered for its beauty by the usual committee of shriveled men. Brides have lain in the shadows of its rays. Young girls have stood beneath it at night, holding their dolls up in sacrifice, looking for that mirror world somewhere above.


They crawl through the grass now, dragging the tiny bodies with them into the open fields of the park.


How in the world is anyone supposed to not laugh at how bad this is? You have a Hemingway reference in the first sentence of a short story. What elitist twaddle, in prose that isn't worthy of a mopey sixth grader. But let's look at this sentence in particular:


Every few hundred years it can be seen in transit, a black dot in the sky visible to the naked eye in the middle of the day, beaming down on half-clothed figures standing with eclipse glasses in certain oceans—the only female planet in the solar system, gendered for its beauty by the usual committee of shriveled men.


Gendered! The verb gendered! Which leads us into some good old-fashioned man hating! Nothing like some misandry to get these people going. Down with that patriarchy! Read this out loud. I defy you to read this out loud and not laugh. Gendered for its beauty. And the usual committee of shriveled men.


This is fun, huh? This is some reading. Don't you want to read 5300 words of this? Because that's how long this story is. And it's this way the entire time. The whole way through. And everything this writer writes is this way, because that's what she does. Each of these people does one awful thing, and they do that one awful thing every single time. They can't do anything else. Want to skip down and enjoy another section? We can do that. Do you like this one?:


One of the girls opens the newspaper to read the forecast:

Clouds, the collected works.

A density of paragraphs.

Page left blank for a moment of nuclear sun.

Melancholy over the lake.

Invisible gas.


Wow. That's super. She has a lot of skill. Seriously: What do you say to someone like this if you're her friend and it's your job to lie to her, because that's how this all works. How do you even pretend to praise this? But J.W. McCormack actually read this--and again, it's no worse than anything else he slaps up there--and said, yep, going to publish that, but Fleming, he's not good enough! He didn't actually say that. He thought, "Fuck him, he's better than me in every way, this is how I'll handle it, given my copious amounts of envy and my bigotry." File this away for now, though I'll remind you when the time comes, but J.W. McCormack was one of Bradford Morrow's senior editors at Conjunctions. Very few of these people, as bad as they are, are worse than Morrow, and we'll get into that soon. As someone said to me over the weekend as we discussed all of this, "It all comes full circle." It does. Every time.


How about we compare the above to this excerpt from a story I wrote over the weekend. Isn't that funny? Do you think it's possible for anyone, who was forced to tell the truth, to say that this excerpt is not better than what you read above? How could you even quantify the difference in quality between the two? What's the word? Infinitely better? It's not just a lot better, right? It's not a hundred times better. What's the word? It's clearly so much better that it's not possible to compare. You can't do it. It's that much of a given. And it's that much of a given to a bigot like this, who nonetheless does what he does.


Speaking of which. I'm sure everyone remembers Raluca Albu of BOMB. But whether you do or you don't, I'd recommend reading this entry on here from October 15 of last year. We must understand a few things. Albu would quote my work on her Facebook page, working it into her posts. She has done nothing. I would guess she's in her late thirties, and has published less than ten items. It may be less than five. She teaches at NYU. Why? What does she teach? Instability? Bigotry? She'd go on Facebook and gush forth all kinds of emotional statements, like how she had a suicidal family member and Albu had to provide support. I reached out to her, and mentioned my sister, who died when she was thirty-three. I showed this woman concern and kindness, as a person. One human to another. And people said to her, "I hate him, and you will hate him, too." Not because of anything I did to them. It's never that. It's because of my abilities. It's because of the envy. And Albu, in effect, said, "I will hate him, because you want me to."


Why am I mentioning her now? Because Raluca Albu, at BOMB, published work by Kyra Simone, whose writing we've seen above, and who we know writes the same thing every time. I want you to revisit that first blog post on here about Albu, in which you see our correspondence. It's impossible to read it and think, "Well, Fleming is the bad guy here," just as it's impossible to read it and think she's not unstable and a truly bad person. But note in the correspondence where she says to me that she sits with people and discusses what to include at BOMB. Can you even imagine sitting with five or six people, having work like the above story which I just quoted from, all printed out in front of you and for everyone there to see and read, and then people talk about that story and debate whether to take it or not? How could you even talk about this? How could you have a serious conversation about anything so obviously awful? So comically inept? How could you make points? How could someone say, "Okay, I see what you mean, but don't you think there's too much..." It's impossible to talk about work like this as serious writing, as good writing, as anything other than what it is, and that's the worst writing going.


Here's something else worth saying, for the people who read this journal to see whether they're being exposed on it: This was all going to happen anyway. I was not going to sit back and let bigots like J.W. McCormack and Raluca Albu discriminate against me, and keep my work from the world, and from where I am going. I was going to do, and will do, whatever I had to do to get past these people, and that meant and means exposing them for what they are. Which no one can deny once they see the evidence. That's not something I like doing. I hate it. As I write this right now, I'm stepping away from what is a 2500 word essay thus far--which I excerpted in the last entry on here--that I need to finish today, as well as write other things. I'm not a confrontational man. I am a good man. I am a man who gets up early on a Sunday when he'll be working all day and writes a letter to a friend's child who is being bullied at school so that she'll have that letter before she starts school the following day, which she's been dreading. My life is lived in the open in these pages. Anyone can see who I am and what I am about as a person and no one can deny what I am as a writer and artist.


But if you don't like reading about yourself on here, and it causes you great fear and anxiety, because the truth about you is coming out, you have Raluca Albu to thank for that more than anyone else, because when she did what she did on that day last October, that put me into a different kind of gear. Would you have been on here anyway if you didn't knock it the hell off and treat me and the work as both deserve to be treated? Yes, you would have. But something still changed that day, and you have her to thank for that. Imagine being her student? Imagine being the university--again, NYU--who employs her? This is who you got, huh? A person who behaves that way, who has done nothing in their life, and who puts forward garbage like what we just saw. She teaches kids about writing? Why? How do you defend that? How do you defend the behavior? How do you defend publishing garbage like what we've seen? How do you defend discriminating against me? How do you defend any of it?


I have no problem mentioning Albu's teaching gig, because you know what she did? She reached out to fellow bigot Katie Raissian of Grove, where she is an editor, and whom I had offered There Is No Doubt: Story Girls. There isn't a better book than There Is No Doubt. There hasn't been, there won't be. Albu said, "I hate him, now you must hate him, too." Raissian was not going to reply to my letter offering her this book anyway, because, again, you are dealing with bigots, and this is how bigots operate. But this person I had never heard of, whose name I forgot, I happened to see had blocked me on Twitter. I'd never been to her page. And then she went around telling others to hate me, as Albu was also doing. Again, that's what you're dealing with. Sociopaths. Unstable, incompetent, broken people. Let me tell you, Grove is one hive of evil. There are some very bad people there, and we'll get into that. You can't be worse than whatever it is that John Freeman is, for instance. Due time. It's all coming.


This is almost all of this industry. This is how it works. What is more twisted than this? What is worse? Again, there it is. All I have to do is show you what happens, and what is running. That's it. Do you want to mount a defense for any of this? Want to try and say that the quoted bits are truly excellent examples of writing and you can't wait to read more? Come on. It's not possible.


When does this stop if you're someone doing a form of this? How do you avoid being featured and exposed in these pages, or featured again? Because once you go up on here, you keep going up on here until there is justice. If I haven't gotten to you yet, it just means I haven't gotten to you, but I will. It doesn't happen, or stops, when you stop what you're doing. When your discrimination against me ends. It's that simple. I am looking to move forward, and I have masterpiece upon masterpiece, in every form--stories, books, fiction, nonfiction--and amazing idea after amazing idea. I am going to get where I am going, one way or the other. And you can be revealed as a bigot, someone who is incompetent, a joke, an evil person, or most likely some combo, for everyone to see, with something that is not only going to go anywhere, but will only continue to become more visible. Or you can just knock it off. I am not the problem here. And the work certainly isn't. And everyone can see that.


Clouds, the collected works. Ha. That's so hilariously bad.