Monday, July 13, 2009

The PEN Raj

In the realm of American literature, Manhattan is a Britain-like island dictating the standards for literature throughout the "empire." Centralized and hierarchical, it's an outmoded model. "I say, old chap." In some cases, like David Haglund at PEN, the administrators of literary empire have literally, not just metaphorically, attended Oxford.

The official "small press," evidenced through outfits like CLMP, is a token opposition used to forestall dissent. Even Dave Eggers-- now standing at the center of Imperialist literary power-- was a tool; his McSweeney's embodying fake change which was no change at all, but instead a reaffirmation of the status quo. The establishment becoming its own opposition started with him.

American writers as a whole represent latent strength, like an undeveloped India or China ruled by a handful of Imperialist administrators. Writers are powerless because they allow themselves to be powerless.

An organization like PEN helps grease the wheels of literary empire. Worldwide it connects upper-caste writers across the globe, from the U.S. to India, while fitting itself into the dominance of the multi-nationals. In America it's one of many tools used to control the direction of literature.

The resistance movement has centered around two main outfits: one run by a few feudal turf-conscious chieftains feeding off the carcass of past glory; the other an unmotivated mass unsteered by a silent, secretive, and apparently inert politburo. Yet the Rebellion has always worked best when it's been free-floating outside any real bounds or handcuffs, like rebellious Cossacks on the steppes in Taras Bulba or With Fire and Sword.

1 comment:

King said...

I'll add that you can't have rebellion without rebels. You can't have resistance without resisting. To fail to do so is to be crushed by the monolithic monopolistic steamroller.
Some people fool themselves into thinking that, because they're allowed to operate in any fashion, they're surviving.
I'm reminded of the fenced-off protest areas allowed far away from political conventions; where you're allowed to say whatever you wish as long as no one can see or hear you. Unfortunately, that's the current situation of underground/outsider writers.