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Punch Hutton and Sven Birkerts

Saturday 12/10/22

I've been going through emails for various entries about these people that I will put up on here. A constant is how entitled they are to a degree beyond the pale of what one might experience anywhere else. If they do anything to you, for years, and you finally say something in a very polite way, or stand up for yourself, or you just say the truth, their reaction is wildly disproportionate with what is happening. They expect their asses to be kissed constantly. Even as they abuse you. Steal from you. Whatever it may be.

There was this monstrosity of a person named Punch Hutton--sounds like a grounded person, right?--at Vanity Fair. Just this abomination of a human. And I sent one amazing idea after another. For years. Pitches. Never responded because I wasn't in her sinecure, didn't come from the money she did, wasn't at the parties she went to, etc.

Finally--and it was after like three years--I said something along the lines of, "It's been three years, I've been really struggling to get a response, these seem like strong ideas"--understatement--and then she responded. Not to say, "my bad, what have you got?" or anything like that--but to yell at me and talk down to me.

That's how sick these people are. That would get the response, me saying basically, "um, maybe this isn't right?" It won't now, because they're too scared. I've done and achieved too much, they know they're guilty, and they know they can't get away with it for a number of reasons, this journal being one of them. They hope that silence will protect them. Silence will not. One thing will: Treat this writer and his work fairly.

So she writes back, "Are you seriously writing to me with attitude?"

That's the type of person you're dealing with. Punch Hutton.

There are other times when someone like a Sven Birkerts at AGNI writes to ban me. Which is laughable and also doesn't mean much, because people come and go and things change; circumstances, leverage, visibility. These people don't change in terms of who they are, but what I am doing, this whole saga which is bigger than them and their system, the pressure that will be put on these people from the outside as more people come to know me and my work for exactly what I am and, more importantly, what it is, and who will want answers--that changes. But on this particular December 2022 morning? I can't be in your literary journal that pays like $150 which hardly anyone sees and where you just hook up your writer friends and people who are like you and where everyone writes the same dreary, lifeless, soulless manner of blah-who-cares contrivance?

Years and years and years with this guy. I kept it together. I kept taking it. Giving and trying, and then just taking it. It's debasing. The patience I had to have, the time, the effort I put in, it's like being more than a saint. It's something very few people could do or endure, and just keep doing it, knowing what was happening, all of the hook ups, but still being so polite, so friendly, so professional, not spitting that bit from the mouth into that other person's face. Years.

He took a story of mine for one reason. That story was called "A Deux Cross," which was titled "The Deuce" at the time. It's in If You [ ]. There was this bit that referenced masturbation and a Hummel figurine. You know those terrible My Struggle books by Karl Ove Knaussgaard that publishing people used to pretend were awesome? Those droning, narcissistic piles of meaninglessness that came from his own boring life but he said it was fiction? Right. So inventive.

Birkert's deputy editor at the time, William Pierce--who is now his co-editor--wrote Birkerts comparing that part in my story to Knausgaard, who had written about masturbation. They had nothing to do with each other, but Pierce wrote this awkward line to Birkerts about how if it was good enough for Knausgsard it was good enough for him. He put an exclamation point at the end. I saw it. In other words, the only reason these two fools were taking this story and none of the others was because of this. All of those amazing stories I had over the years, and then all the ones to follow. I'm not some garbage writer like these other people who somehow manage to create one garbage story ever five years. Look what I have. How much of it. The range. The undeniable consistency of matchless quality.

So they run the story. Years pass and I'm offering Birkerts masterpiece after masterpiece. AGNI is a literary magazine that published a story by someone featuring these lines: "He worked to liberate her breasts from a restraining order imposed by a particularly officious brassiere."

How much worse at writing can you be than that?

Finally--because I knew exactly what was happening and had been happening all along--I said the truth to Birkerts, because what was left to me by then? I could have kept doing this for another ten years. If I wasn't his friend--meaning, like him and as bad as him--and I didn't write something that sucked, I had really no chance, with a relationship that was as ass backwards as ass backwards can be, because I was the incredibly generous one with the amazing work better than the other work and which I was essentially offering for free as I was doing what I do and lighting it up, even with a system against me.

I said that these were all excellent stories, and it's not like that one was better than all of the others, or any of the others. It was taken simply because it had a part about masturbation and a part in a Knausgaard book his deputy editor liked (pretended to, that is) was about masturbation (a twenty page horribly boring part, not to the surprise of anyone who is being honest about those books).

Birkerts didn't respond. Now, I knew what had happened. No one on earth is more sensitive and delusional and entitled than these people.

If they wore a hat made of their own feces, and you said, "Hmmm, that might not be the best hat for you," they'd ban you and hate you forever. And if you published constantly and were everything they weren't, and they knew that, and you could do all of these things at the highest possible level when they couldn't do anything well, that makes you worse than the devil to them.

But I still behave the same way, I try with you through the very last, until it becomes necessary to come to come to these pages. Then it's on. People get to see these people for what they are. And there is no one who can be like, "Oh, that editor sounds sane and fair and balanced and on the up and up to me."

I thought, "okay, you've said what you have to say, and that was right and good and necessary after all of that time. Carry on." It's not personal with me. I could care less about these people personally. I'm not here to be anyone's friend or enemy. It's the work. That's it. I am always a professional, and there are people I do have friendly relationships with. I wrote an editor last night whose mom is in the hospital. He's in NYC and she's in Massachusetts and I offered to do anything she might need. If you know me, you know that's typical of me. If one is an editor who has not discriminated against me, they've probably received something like that from me over the years. It's who I am.

I sent Birkerts more masterpieces. We should have been starting over, and I should have been treated more fairly. Air was cleared. Something needed to be said--again, after years--and I said it. Start again at that point. Start over. Obviously I knew this wasn't the case because I knew with whom I was dealing.

Eventually Birkerts writes back and says I'm banned, and in a statement that speaks to how delusional and entitled he is, he told me that though he's sure I want to apologize for belching--that was actually the verb he used--abuse in his ear, there is nothing that could make him accept that apology, no matter if I had been having a terrible day, because there was no coming back from what I'd done.

It's almost funny, right? Or would be if this wasn't how these people who control this system are.

I'd said a basic truth after many years. But do you see how he just assumed his ring should be kissed and that that ought to always be my inclination? This boring old socially awkward narcissist with nothing interesting to say or write in his life?

I asked why on earth I'd apologize to him? That's how they think, though. That's how they conduct themselves.

Then one of my publishers goes and uses some old Birkerts line as a blurb for one of my books. Didn't even bring that up with me. This is a publisher who thinks that blurb matters because it comes from a system person, but who won't so much as retweet a link to an awesome piece I have on Twitter from a highly visible publication that could help sell books. Ever. I don't mean that they failed to do this once, but they never do it. (If it comes to it, that is going to be such an unpleasant entry to put up on here. But I will do what I have to do. As I've said, my loyalty is to my work and my work only.) Then guess who they will blame if something that has no chance, is given no chance, is not helped to have a chance by them, has no marketing at all--not even a freaking retweet--doesn't sell?

Why does the publisher do this? Because these people just answer to the system. The system is holy to them. They can't even understand anything else. Doesn't register. It's like it doesn't exist. They don't even understand how an amazing piece in a place that a million people read can help sell a book they put out,. True, none of their other authors have anything like that, but it's also just not how they think. It's outside of the field of vision for them. I understand what would happen right now if they took the right approach. The long entries on here from last week explain that perfectly. But it will change. And in the meanwhile, you have to do the right thing by the author and the book.

Want to do that thing where I go to a site, grab a link to the first work of fiction my eye falls on, include it here, and inevitably it's a story that is boring, that does nothing, means nothing, goes nowhere, and which no one could ever truly care about?

Okay. This is "Laurel and Patina" by Christopher Notarnicola from AGNI. Did you think that was awesome? Were you floored by that? Did you think it was any good at all? Did you think you hadn't wasted your time in reading it? Was there anything at all there to keep your attention? And anyone who looks at that story knows the obvious answers to those questions.

Less than surprisingly, his work has appeared--because of course it has--in American Short Fiction. Always the same.

And here's a bonus nothing piece by the same person from those very pages of American Short Fiction. According to bigots Adeena Reitberger, Rebecca Markovits, and Nate Brown, this is better than anything I've ever written in my life.

Of course, no one thinks that. They don't think that. There's nothing that is less possible to think. But like we say on here, always the same with these people. What they are, what they do, how they write, what they run, how they act. Always the same.

A funny note on which to close. I met with Birkerts once. I've always tried everything. Such an awkward person. First thing he said to me was, "I expected you to have curly hair." And I was thinking, "What? Why? Because you do?"


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