I hate how everyone talks and writes the same way. You see it on Twitter. The same words, the same phrases, arranged the same way. No variation. A species of fractionally-working robots, on the same setting. So those are the "normal" people. Then I looked at some stories in Hudson Review, The Iowa Review, and Narrative. These are supposed to be the smart people, but they're actually dumber than the "normal" people, except more pretentious and even more neurotic and broken. The normal people talk and Tweet the way they do, the writer people all write the same way that they all do. Every last story was execrable. Every last one indistinguishable from the one before. Stock description for its own sake and to eat up the word count and an attempt to obscure the truth that the person who is writing has no actual story to tell. Fussiness, again, to cover up lack of substance. The same dah-dah-dah-dah-dunt rhythm. It's like trying to read a piece of plastic to the cliched typewriter sound you hear in old movies. I see the lifelessness, the writer's cowardice, lack of life experience, how sheltered they've been--especially emotionally--and their absence of wisdom. There is never any humor. There is never anything to compel you. To crush you. To make you feel alive. There are no epiphanies. No dimensionality.
I am not a proponent of the use of the word "privilege" as it's so often used now, but the page all but reeks of the stuff. The perfumed privilege of the sheltered life. Of people who have been coddled and lied to by people like them their entire lives in a communal exercise--paradoxically enough--of auto-fellatio. There is no individuality in the prose from writer to writer, let alone from piece to piece by a writer. The characters never have individuality. Why have these journals? They don't exist to illustrate quality writing. They don't offer any. You know what these people do, too? They can't take you on any kind of real emotional or psychological journey. They can't plumb depths. So what the writers do is they try and overcompensate by setting a story in India and using foreign phrases or Egypt or France or whatever it may be. But it's the same as if they set the story in their own lint-encrusted navel. It's just a bad trick that can only fool someone very desperate and wanting to be fooled. A cover-up for the reality that there's nothing there.
When you see the far-flung settings, but you get the exact same rhythm, the exact same tropes, it only makes it all the plainer that there is no one at these places that has a lick of ability. They were all recently at AWP right now tonguing each other. I saw this one woman whining on Facebook about masks and how some murderous individuals didn't have them on. You'll be okay, champ. Maybe ease back from the boxed wine on a Wednesday. Another woman was going on about having to possibly miss the conference and whatever should she do?
If you were an actual writer, you wouldn't go. You'd be somewhere writing something of quality that matters. You think Shakespeare would have been at AWP tonguing taints? Probably not, right? Because he'd have better things to do and things to write. Freaks cheerleading--insincerely--for other freaks. Writers write. And not like any of these people write.
Below is an example of something that will bore you out of your mind. It's a story in Hudson Review. Tells you everything about how almost all of these people write. It's the go-to tone and style of the amateur who is pretending to be an actual writer. It's playing dress-up. That's what AWP is--these broken people come together at a conference once-a-year, which is their big dress-up occasion, and they cosplay at being writers. That is the writing community. It's the literary magazine level of it, but it's indicative of all the levels. This kind of person. The cliques. The enabling.
They all but overdose--Hudson Review, that is--on publishing this droning fossil (forgive the mixed metaphor), Mark Jacobs, who is vain enough--and, of course, insecure enough--to have made his own Wikipedia page and listed all of the stories he's published in literary journals that have less of a valid, practical, useful reason to exist than the hair that blew under your bed. I shouldn't say "they"--by they, I mean Paula Deitz, who exemplifies the worst of these people at the literary magazine level. Actually, not the worst. I should be as precise as possible. There are people of even lesser character. But she typifies the problem of an attitude of elitism while being a delusional person who has never lived in the actual world. She graduated college in 1959. She's a bigot who only looks after her type of person. Since 1959, Paula Deitz has never left academia. She's in her seventh decade in that world of the mentally ill and entitled. She's been mummifying her brain for that long. She overrates her importance and the importance of Hudson Review, which is one of the "best" literary magazines. What does that mean? Nothing. No one reads it. Has heard of it. It's not made to be read. It's made to help someone like Paula Deitz live out a fantasy that is not a life.
Yes, she'll die off soon, and take her entitlement to the next world, whatever that is for her, so you might say this isn't a problem, but there are people like Paula Deitz in these literary magazine circles that are thirty-five. It's an attitude where they think they are better than you. They know nothing, have achieved nothing with their lives. They gate-keep with a desperate emptiness that would not even seen in some white country club owner in Georgia in 1850 against a Black man who wanted to gain entry. They are invested only in their prejudices, their terror of reality and creating safe haven, warped coves of balming delusion, and publishing people like them--Mark Jacobs being one example. No one is interested. Even if people read Hudson Review, they'd want nothing to do with fiction like this. It exists to suck and be in Hudson Review. Why write something if that's all it can be? And they'll publish this guy like once a year. Honestly, look how much they ram this garbage in there. They only have three issues a year. You really need to make sure that this is in there every year? Although I do think it's funny when people physically resemble their prose. They say that happens with pet owners and their dogs over time.
You can only see a few lines of the Jacob story, but that's all you ever need to see from him or any of them. You already know all you need to know. You know how boring it is. I have a friend who refers to what he calls Bunker Hill Creative Writing 101. Bunker Hill is the community college near me (and, as you'd expect, not far from the monument in which I used to run my stairs). Do you get the tone of that story? It's someone who can't write, pretending to be a writer, adopting what they think is the writer voice. The same way as if you had to take a creative writing 101 course and the teacher said, "okay, everyone write a story." You'd adopt that attitude, that persona. These people are so bad at writing that they can't do any more than that. And Deitz will pump this bilge in, this dead dust, and she'll think that you're beneath her. They don't care how irrelevant they are, because they're mentally ill. They don't live in reality. They don't think about readers and what can mean anything to them. They actually think they're doing a service, that they're the last of the smart people, the upkeepers of something precious. They are as far gone from reality as is possible. And all of the writing they publish is worthless. It's done to humor the mentally ill, talentless people who made it, and I don't even like using the phrase "made it"; is this making something? You urinate, and you didn't make something. It's at that level, without the necessity.