Even when these stories by these people aren't dreadful, they're so limited in what they are. They describe an event, a scene. The words go no further. Nothing else is brought in, factors in, informs. A mother is giving birth, there's some detail about defecating while doing so as the father watches--which these people love, because they think that makes them some earthy badass that they can read of such a thing, not the robotic pod person they fear that they are, like nothing could be more real and they are in fact real despite all their crippling doubts to the contrary, when it's simply a detail of a biological process--and the mother recounts how she had some affair with a woman. The story just describes that. Goes no further. There's nothing even brought in from any other field, walk of life, to add to the story, because they don't know anything about anything. When I say not dreadful, I mean you can read the stories like these. You can get through them. If you had to. They have this easily teachable and re-producable polish, and they're virtually indistinguishable from one of these writers to any other. Like they all come out of the same can. But the ceiling is so low. They can only be liked by the kind of person who self-identifies as a reader and who needs to do so. That person will post a comment beneath the story--if it's published online--like, "So well written! I could smell the cigar smoke!" That's all they want and all they want to be able to do as a result of reading that story and others like it. It's the kind of person who supports a literary institution or two with an annual check or subscription, so they can pat themselves on the back as this contributor to culture and "the arts," who may dabble in writing a bit themselves, for whom it's important to read the weekly short story in The New Yorker, and something in Narrative or The Paris Review. It's about the having done so, and less so the actual experience. I don't believe it's possible for anyone to fall in love with any of this. To truly love it. Be mad for it, have to have it, cherish it. Whereas, I think millions and millions of could love what I do. There is no ceiling, popularly speaking. But that's putting things completely out of order, because I have no access to that opportunity right now to even test this out at all. But I believe people would love "Big Bob and Little Bob," to name just the most recent example, like their lives depended on it. I think it'd be like this fire inside of them that they absolutely had to have once they had experienced it. We're not talking just connoisseurs or the bookish.
I'm going to summarize "blank" to you. You had said it's a combination of someone having it in for me and incompetence. It's not the former, actually. I always know what is what with each of these people, and this isn't someone up to no good. Not that way. It's this: She's simple, by the book, unqualified, unsure of herself, over her head, visionless, and oblivious. She has the blinders well in place. She believes in the publishing system and the people of it. She can't conceive of anything else. She's obsolescence and cluelessness incarnate. She'd think better of something if she saw that someone like Sven Birkerts praised it. That would change what that thing was to her. She's someone who would have no clue whatsoever what I could say about her on the blog, all of this information I've stored up over time. Then, after that was done, she'd remember--and recall her own words--and see all of that evidence laid out, and panic. Rightfully so, considering how this would now always be there. It's not fuckery with her, though. It's what you get when someone like this and someone like me cross paths or more, because they are what they are, and there is no one else like me, and someone like this needs someone to be like how all of these other people are.
By the way: You'll recall that she dismissed "Present" as merely some nice story or whatever. That wasn't her trying to screw with me. She's both that obtuse and that ill-equipped to process how something like that is good and the wide appeal it can have. The very concept of wide appeal is lost on her. It's not "literary fiction," as she and these people mean it. She's not programmed--key word--to be able to see it for what it is. It confused her. Its very existence confused her.
What you have to understand--and it's a paradox--is that something that's accessible, imaginative, purposeful, and enjoyable to read--something that can be beloved--honestly confuses many of these people more than some unimaginative, narcissistic slog with a character that's a professor or in a writing program that's obviously just that author or something written backwards with made up words. With the latter groupings, they think, "I recognize that." With the former, they're baffled. It's totally foreign. They aren't here to read. They're looking at things for hallmarks, for that which they are used to seeing. So you'll see just total wankery and gibberish put out that no one understands, because there is nothing to understand, or cares about. The people putting it out don't understand it or care. It's about eyeballing it. Seeing, not reading. They understand that it represents this thing. Do you follow me? That thing from their backwards, anti-reading, fucked up subculture. Give them what someone else would delight in as an actual reading and life experience, and it is, amazingly, that which confuses them.
It'd be one thing if here was Colin, and to the right were publishing bigots, and to the right of them were readers if Colin could get past the bigots. Right now, there's no one to get past these people to. Decades of their system has killed off reading. Killed off there being anyone able to write anything worth reading. There are other factors, but this is an important one. So this is really the problem, and it's a two-headed monster. To get past the bigots and defeat the system--and create something else in its place--and also create readers at the same time. Create what you're trying to get to. That there's nothing on the other side of the bigots right now is what allows the bigots to do what they do. The bigots are the readers as such, but they're not actual readers. They're upkeepers of their system. They sell to themselves. It's mean girls-style power-broking at the middle school lunch table. Everything they do is for the confines of their system, not an outside world, and not for actual reading--joyous, worthwhile, exciting, insightful, important reading. There are no prying eyes, because they've made it so that no one cares. No one knows. They've made it so that it's almost impossible for people to know or care. The demons just get to do what they want in their system. They're not even sophisticated demons; they've just congealed against each other and this is the result. It's so walled away, this subculture they've created. There are no real stakes. What are the stakes for them? What are they actually most invested in and concerned with? Vanity. Eluding the truth about themselves. A petty and pathetic kind of power. Caste-maintenance. Zero accountability. There's no one to stop them. There's no leverage from outside, because when it comes to reading, outside hardly exists. So you can't get around their system and get to the readers, return with those readers massed, and create change and get what you have coming your way. Or at least you can't expect that to happen. I stand alone, because I am the last of the real writers. Or the first of something. Or maybe the first and only me, and that's going to be enough, as if this one artist might as well have been many other artists at the same time and in following. But everyone else has been raised as a writer--because this has gone on for so long--to do and write what is necessary to get a seat at that lunch table, and they are wholly unable to write worth a damn as a result. It's not like they can flip a switch. This takes years to begin to get good at all, allowing you were born with ability, and if you haven't poisoned your mind, heart, and soul. How do you get that poison out of you once it's had a couple decades' run of the place? How do you face beginning again? So that maybe by the time you're eighty you'll write something decent? But in my position, you have to create the readers. As you're also taking on the bigots, with all of their mental illness, incompetence, ignorance, insecurity, simplicity, narcissism, clannishness, lack of any actual education, entitlement, cowardice, and fear.