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Prose off: Story in The Georgia Review put forward by discrimination-oriented editor Gerald Maa v. Fleming story

Wednesday 4/24/24

We've touched on Gerald Maa, editor of The Georgia Review before, a man of no achievement in life, no ability that has ever been displayed, a person who has not and will never create anything of value, and an individual--I use the term loosely--obviously steeped in envy who will behave discriminatorily as when I provided him with what he believed was the opportunity to do so, unchecked, unchallenged, un-busted, if you will.

Having offered him fiction, which stands apart from and above all the other fiction the journal has ever published, which often comes down to cronyism, and always comes down to being the right kind of person, Gerald Maa told me to get out my credit card and pay him money in order for The Georgia Review to consider my work, which, of course, they weren't really going to do at all, for the reasons mentioned above, and many others besides.

This is the point in these things were I tell you that the fiction in The Georgia Review is, according to these people, in this twisted, incestuous, vile system, some of the best fiction in the world.

Hmmm. What do you think about that?

Let's just take a second while we're together here at this part of another prose off entry and let me ask if you believe there's any way what I'm about to show you from The Georgia Review is not going to be terrible?

What's your confidence that it will be amazing? Do you have any doubt about how bad the fiction you're about to see is going to be?

It's a matter of course, right? It's an automatic.

Do you know how difficult it is when I go to something like the fiction page of The Georgia Review what to even pick if I happen to look at more than one story? It's a suck-fest. Do I go with this one? That one?

I looked at all of two this time for the purposes of this prose off. They were equally as bad--these things are always as bad as all of the other things that surround them--but I'm going with "Taken" by Will Pei Shih.

We talk often about how these people are affectations incarnate. There's nothing real about any of them or anything they write. The indoor scarf has become the go-to visual for this concept, the outward symbol, and here we have a story that begins by talking about someone's indoor scarf, which is why I picked this story. That is hilarious.

What I'm going to do here is focus on the start of this story and then we'll do the start of one of mine that I've resumed working on this morning.

How long do you think we have to go in The Georgia Review story, which starts with a description of that indoor scarf--riveting stuff as always, from a Master of Fiction--which is also hilarious--before we get a reference to (French) literature and talk of writing instructors?

That's right--not very far at all!

I knew you were worried about that. Don't want to wait too long for that important stuff, right? Because readers care a lot about graduate program writing instructors. That's what makes the world go 'round and helps us better understand our humanity.

Ready? Here we go:

Estella Deng wrapped herself in a sea-green scarf and began to doodle on the page of bullet points before her—the beginnings of a royal blue star. She detailed its countless rays, luminosities. Because that’s what you are, her inner voice chimed as a reminder of all reminders. The brightest of stars—shine

She worked in I.T. “IT,” she would joke, when asked what she was working on. “I’m working on IT.” “IT is what I’m working on.” “I’ll get to IT.” 

At the moment, she was among those congregated for the Fall Semester Staff Meeting. The classroom was cold, the air conditioning unit still in need of adjustment. Students from the previous class had left behind coffee cups and candy wrappers, empty bags of chips scattered like debris over the conference-style table. There sat the administrators and instructors of the program, packed tightly together, sardine-like. Estella was able to get a whiff of Mrs. Aleman’s bergamot perfume. She could feel Mr. Smythe’s knees, pressed against her own. On the whiteboard were the half-erased remnants of what looked to be a chemical equation. And beside that, the next item on the agenda: the office. Students were taking things at their will—stealing. 

It was Rudyard Kahn who now raised the issue. He wasn’t the first instructor to make a report, but he was one of the most adamant that something must be done about it. Dry-erase markers, binder clips, gel pens, entire reams of paper, gone for good. 

“Objects that couldn’t have simply vanished into thin air,” Rudyard was saying. 

There was more: an instructor of biology mentioned his store of petri dishes. Another instructor—psychology—was suddenly reminded of the Eiffel Tower paperweight from her trip to Paris. It then occurred to one of the writing instructors that his autographed copy of Madame Bovary, signed by its most recent translator, Lydia Davis, wasn’t where he’d last left it. “And it’d be nice to have it back.”

The light was pale yellow, sickly in color. In the basement, there were no windows. Estella sighed. She caught sight of her reflection on the glass of a nearby monitor. Her graying hair, the sag in her wide, dark eyes. She would have never imagined herself to be the figure before her now—more rounded in the face than she would have liked, plagued by dry mouth, prone to frequent yawning. Perhaps she had been looking at her reflection for far too long. It felt as if what she saw was beginning to turn on her. And yet the affirmations that her life coach—a Trinidadian woman by the name of Marcia, whom Estella had been seeing on the Upper East Side—told her to recite to herself had always been an attempt at the opposite: a resistance to complacency. 

You feel so good today. 

You are the brightest of stars. 

Shine, shine, shine . . . 

You are the brightest of stars. Wow. That's fresh. Sure you are. Shine, shine, shine. (Motorollah, Motorollah, Motorllah?)

And we even have Lydia Davis in there. Lydia Fucking D. These people are living fucking satire of themselves. Satire come to pathetic life. Remember when we were talking about Carolyn Kuebler over at New England Review and how what these people do is akin to flashing the signs of their system to each other? It's their way of saying, "Are you one of us?" Lydia Davis. She is so bad at writing. Scroll down in that Jackson Howard entry that's linked right above and click on the link to the Lydia Davis "stories" in the VQR. Can you believe how insane all of these people are? How full of shit? No one outside of this system knows or cares who Lydia Davis is. Even if everyone read, no one would read Lydia Davis. The whole reason for mentioning her in a story like this is to say, "I'm one of us." Someone want to step forward and make a case for how it adds to the story? Go for it. And that's all this is about. This is the whole of the literary world is this bullshit. There is nothing else here.

And the editor who puts that forward, Gerald Maa, wants my credit card information before he will even have anyone--like an underling in training to be one of these people--form reject the work I have that is clearly superior, with a body of work and track record that is clearly superior, when I know, and he must know I know, how so many people get their work in those pages.

And dumbasses: You don't wrap yourself in a scarf. A shawl, yes, a scarf, no. When we say that someone wrapped themselves in something, it means that said wrapping involves a goodly portion of their body--not the neck.

How do you not know how anything works?

Someone who writes what you just saw has their work anthologized in Best American Short Stories. I know, it sounds like I'm joking, or exaggerating to make some point, but it's true. You can look it up. That's how fake this bullshit world of theirs is. That's the best. It was astounding.

Right. Sure the fuck it was. Same guy is in McSweeney's. We've talked about McSweeney's a bunch, haven't we? You see how fucking filthy this is all the way through? You see how it's never about anyone actually writing something good? Or something that is not what the rest of us can see is embarrassingly bad? Because you should be embarrassed if you write like this. "Shine, shine, shine." Are you kidding me?

Now we come to that fun part of the prose off, the pause before the inevitable slaughtering. Qualitatively, of course. As I said, I'm back working on this story, "Finder of Views," which is the second work of Big Asks: Six Novelettes About Acceptance. Ready? Here we go:

If there was anyone to whom he spoke about what he watched that he shouldn’t have watched and that he couldn’t stop himself from watching, Mason would need to be careful to avoid the phrase “splurge of cock.”

They’d be defense mechanism words, crass as they were, issued from a place of horror and heartbreak, but Mason knew there could be no earthly defense for what he was doing.

There probably wasn’t an otherworldly defense either. Having said the term, he’d find himself reeling and somehow more naked than naked—like the dust version of a skeleton where you can still make out the shape of the bones atop the dirt—in front of someone else whose mouth had turned into an unrivaled rictus of repulsion, as if the flesh of the face had melted and then come together again at the worst possible moment.

Of this Mason was certain. The joke didn’t exist that could minimize or deflect from how loathsome he’d become.

He’d say the phrase anyway—splurge of cock—practically able to feel the texture of the words as they went over the tops of his teeth, incapable of holding them back. It was sickening to be haunted by a memory of something that hadn’t happened yet because of something else that had.

He thought a lot about the concept of mercy. Who deserved it and who didn’t. As he’d recently realized, Mason had somehow gone most of his life never knowing how much shame and pain had in common, which now struck him as a colossal joke that anyone could be so ignorant, given how easily the pair rode together, like they were designed to be best buddies, road trippers through the darkest passageways of life who didn’t have to answer to laws of propriety, nor bother with any rules in how they haunted, where they haunted, when they haunted. They were free to roam, perpetually unchecked.

Whereas Mason had previously believed that the monster under the bed when you’re a kid was only supposed to come out at night to do its getting and grabbing. It wasn’t meant to stand next to you while you brushed your teeth in the morning, then pry your jaws open further and stuff itself down into your body so you could be together all day long, such that you had to be together all day long, but with the weird, crippling tweak of the monster-victim model that it was the sufferer’s responsibility to keep the ogre hidden so as not to inconvenience or repel others.

Yeah...I'm going to say that's not very close.

Just like I'm going to say that it's impossible for anyone to think it is.

And all of this goes the way it does on Gerald Maa's part because I am not like Gerald Maa and am as unlike him as is possible to be. In the good ways.

This is the very definition of bigotry.

And I'm supposed to pay someone to discriminate against me? I'm going to give you money to pretend that you considered what I offered you, which plainly would improve the quality of your journal, work that is better than what you publish, from the person who has done what I do, while you're hooking up others and for which you would have paid me next to nothing if you ran the work?

There are two reasons that Gerald Maa gets away with this, and they're the same reasons all of these people have been able to get away with what they do and being who they are: Everyone here comes out of the same system and sucks at writing, and no one gives a fuck about these places, or, frankly, reading, which is what people like Gerald Maa have helped bring about.

There are no checks and balances, no standards, nothing you can't get away with, basically, because no one is watching.

I know people like Gerald Maa don't believe it, but there really is more to life than shitty writing and discriminating against someone who is simply on a different level than you are.

It's not their fault. They haven't done anything wrong. What's wrong is you.


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