Monday, January 5, 2009

"Farce & sheer ignorance & worse"

Monday-back-to-the-grind briefs:
  • New York state writers, there are only 10 days left to get in your applications for a summer 2009 residency at the Saltonstall Foundation. I had a month there last summer working on my new novel, and I can vouch for it: the place is heavenly. Don't think you've got a chance in hell at being chosen? Neither did I. Don't have an MFA, or connections, or fancy publication credits? Neither do I. But I got in. Maybe you will too. Give it a shot!
  • Second thoughts on cell phone novels. At first I felt kind of foolish for having speculated recently on the potential literary value of this new genre, which is currently riding a wave of popularity, especially among young women, in Japan. Then I got to thinking about the question of form, and how it doesn't interest me much at all. Content is the issue. As a reader my quest is always for books that reflect or illuminate one or another aspect of the class struggle, which, contrary to what the literary establishment would tell you, is a capacious approach since the class struggle encompasses all the world and all its peoples, every life and every aspect of life. It seems to me that there must be myriad ways of doing this with words, including forms not yet even imagined. So back to cell phones: they may be currently used in service of vapid and unoriginal romance tales, but might someone write something else on them? What about a worker on strike? Could she be moved while on picket duty to cook up a story that conveys the heat and heart of a fight for wages and benefits? What about a worker on the job, using break time to tap in imaginings inspired by days spent pushing hospital gurneys or typing legal briefs or tagging pigs for slaughter? There are so many obstacles to prevent workers from creating literature. Is it impossible that new technology, yes, even cell phones, might end up providing a way forward?
  • Tony Christini has posted some new thoughts about what he calls liberatory literature over at A Practical Policy. For a much more learned take on this than you'll ever get from the likes of me, check it out. Here's an excerpt:
Overt liberatory revolutionary fiction is so anathema to the lit establishment that it is filtered very much out, de facto censored. This is no game of who is more progressive than whom - it is an institutional and normative analysis of what is tolerated and encouraged by the establishment, and what is not. It is no game that so much of the lit establishment in the US virtually writes central, great liberatory novelist Victor Hugo out of history, particularly in lieu of Flaubert (a prominent MFA, political, and formalist establishment favorite), though it’s pretty close to farce and sheer ignorance and worse.