THE POSITIVE MESSAGE OF NEW AMERICAN ART AND LITERATURE

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Cosmic

HISTORIANS
have called the encounter 2,000 years ago between the ultimate bureaucrat, Pontius Pilate, and the ultimate rebel, a Galilean, "cosmic." It was a confrontation between legality and truth. Pilate asked, "What is truth?" because he didn't know. The little-known rebel lost the encounter, but that moment marked the beginning of the overturning of Empire: the known world turned upside down, as if the universe itself became broken.

The literary rebellion has had two such cosmic encounters in its short history, albeit on a much less important scale.

One was in 2006 during the underground's Howl Protest at Columbia University's Miller Hall, when Eric "Jelly Boy the Clown" Broomfield stepped unexpectedly onstage, and he and lit-Insider Jason Shinder stared face-to-face at each other. (An amazing happening.)

Before this, was my 2001 talk with George Plimpton at CBGB's gallery, in the aftermath of the ULA's debate with Open City and Paris Review. Plimpton allowed me to glimpse for a moment, as we talked over beers, the real person, tough and intelligent, behind his jocular facade.

He misread me, though; had no understanding of me whatsoever. Surrounded perpetually by sycophants, he believed there was no writer alive who couldn't be bought-- who wouldn't jump to his tune. The idea of an actual literary rebellion was beyond his understanding. It existed outside his complacent conception of the universe. He invited me to lunch at his house. I turned him down. He paused, then motioned to a flunkie for the money to pay for our beers, which he did with an extravagant flourish.

One afternoon in New York the aristocratic leader of the literary establishment met the beat-up leader of the literary rebellion; a signal turning point; the opening moment in one more revolution in the universe.

1 comment:

janine said...

This is seriously the funniest blog I've ever read.