Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Striking to me is the lack of knowledge, by everyone involved with the literary game, of the recent history of the art-- how American literature (including its writers) has been placed over the past sixty years more fully within a set of rigid, interlocking institutions. The art has become imprisoned: static.

This mirrors other historical phenomena. For instance, the way Bolshevism in Russia over the course of seven decades became bureaucratized and stagnant. A better analogy might be the history of Christianity, which began as a charismatic happening whose sole focus was the "proclamation" or message, only to be gradually institutionalized within church structures. Historian Schuyler Brown called it "the emergence of orthodoxy and the concomitant process of institutionalisation. . . ."

This happened to what's widely accepted as literature in this country. That the literary art has hardened into "set formulas" is why it's lost its excitement.

We can understand, then, the fear and hostility, by those who support, and are sustained by, institutional lit-- from PEN to Media Bistro to HarperCollins-- toward upstart literary undergrounders who exist OUTSIDE any institution; who are instead part of an uncontrolled charismatic movement whose focus is not on set formulas for creating writers or their artworks, but on the intent, the passion, the message: the PROCLAMATION of literature; the rebirth of the art.