Monday, October 18, 2010


ANY NEW literary machine intended to credibly compete with the established system of literature will likely have to be nonpolitical. I say this as someone who pushed a lit group, the ULA, which was perceived as very political. The current system, incidentally, is very political, in that it comprises a single viewpoint whose stance on a variety of public issues almost never varies—generally, the viewpoint of the New York Times and The New Yorker, which remain the pillars of establishment literary noise. The viewpoint of all the well-hyped approved novels, such as Franzen’s Freedom, match this viewpoint—which notably is not the viewpoint of a majority of Americans.

This leaves the New Competitor with several problems. One, because of the need to stand out from the pack, is the temptation to take an easy way to do it by differing from the literary establishment’s political assumptions. Another is the question of how to reach middle America without falling for that same temptation, especially during a period of populist revival. Yet another problem is the reality that the political realm is much bigger than the literary one, so that it stands as a way to bypass lit-establishment roadblocks, by going after what could be more productive territory from a noise-making standpoint.

Right now, for lack of much else happening, I’m making probings into this larger territory, in ways that would be consistent with what will have to be a more populist/popular new literary art.

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