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Tin House

Tuesday 1/1/19


On the death of Tin House, one of the “important” literary magazines.


Magazines that publish short fiction are folding, or all but getting rid of short stories, or having their pages counts drastically reduced.

Now Tin House has closed. One less place for terrible writing, cronyism, and the worshiping of talentless system people to fester. Most Tin House stories would be endlessly overwritten, have no emotional stakes, no actual story, end on the formulaic down note, and were written--I don't even like using that word here, but okay--by system people, save in the instances when Tin House, for marketing purposes, would take a story by a "top" student in the MFA program at Iowa, so that said program could pump that info into recruiting literature, as if to say, "Come here and you can get this!" and Tin House looked like they were not all about printing yet another bad Joy Williams story, which, of course, is all they were about.


(Seriously: Look how pointless this is. Do you know anyone who wants to read that? Did that add anything to your life? Did it make you think? Feel? Did it entertain you? Did it make you laugh? Or did it make you laugh at this pretentious twaddle by the people and the system who are doing more than anything else--short attention spans, the internet--to kill off reading? If you shared that with your neighbors, would they be grateful? Would your dentist like it? Your mailman? Your sister? Anyone? If you're getting exiled to a desert island, and you're told you're taking that as your lone short story--ha, as if it were a story at all, let alone three--are you okay with that selection?)


You people just don't get it, do you? You can't connect the dots, no matter how closely they're arranged. All of this dreadful, lifeless, formulaic, pretentious writing by your friends, with no stakes, no point, no worth, no skill in evidence, and all you've done is create an Island of Misfit Toys where the sole consumers, such as they are, are the fellow people--the would-be writers, the professors who spent boatloads on "education" and inculcate the next generation of people just like them in the mores of the system, and the fake manufactured system stars--on the Island.

No one in the real world cares at all, or could care at all if they even saw it, can get anything from any of this work, learn from it, grow with it, be entertained by it. And none of these geniuses can realize that the reason people read less and less and less short fiction is because of what is published in the short fiction world, with the system that is currently in place.

What's next? Who will stock your precious MFA programs now that all of the space devoted to short fiction and poetry is going away? (And tell me: Would Shakespeare have been a better writer if he was in a program? Keats? Why, program people would have loved Kafka in workshop, right? That would have gone well. And Emily Dickinson? They all would have been better? Proust? How did these people--who made work that actually mattered and will last--manage without programs?) All of the readers are going away. They're already all basically gone, if we're talking people who don't live in Brooklyn who have jobs outside of the publishing system. Who is throwing out that cash--or having their parents throw it out--so they can be...what? So they can publish...where? So they can write...for whom?

Pretty soon these people won't even have their friends to hook them up any more with a favor trade and a $100 check and two contributor copies of an issue that is not so much as touched by anyone who is not in the magazine, and even the people on the Island of Misfit Toys only talk about reading this stuff, and carry that concept around like a badge of honor simply so they can go on Facebook and score toadyism points--"I am the leader of the obeisant crowd!"; "No, I am even more even more obsequious than you!"--as a pretend member of a pretend community that is killing off reading more than any member of the so-called unwashed masses that these people think they're better than.

I'm here to get people reading again. To give them a reason again. And I will, and I do. The person who dares to say the truth about what has happened here, who has his fiction run in Harper’s, let us say, and then faces a blacklisting because, not being a system person, he achieved what he did without their say-so. There is a song that goes, "If all the world should fall, then let it fall." And this all needs to fall, so that we can build something far better in its place. If you are out there and you have talent, come with me. Stay true to your talent. Be about your best work, not appeasing a dying system. And remember: It's almost always them, not you. Look who is telling you that. Not some ham-and-egger. It's someone who lights it up, all the time, who then pays a price for having done so. The only "us" that we should be interested in is a prevailing meritocracy where we sow and readers reap. Not our buddies. Not our former professors. Not the people--Lydia Davis, Wells Tower, Junot Diaz--we're told to blindly worship. The emperor deserves some clothes, and we deserve to stop pretending that's not his buttocks parading in front of us.