Junot Diaz: Captive of the System

THE HARASSMENT CONTROVERSY VIEWED FROM A DIFFERENT ANGLE

phantom monster

IF all men are monsters, then that psychic grievance needs continual proof in the form of visible examples. Junot Diaz fit that need.

THE NARRATIVE

Evidence shows the accusations against Junot Diaz to be flimsy– more a case of bruised egos or a dismissive personality than sexual harassment. Junot Diaz fans blame the accusers themselves for the controversy. (Two accusers, in fact, are ambitiously eager to exploit every opportunity to gain publicity.)

For me the matter is caused more by a politicized literary scene– and by the media which covers that scene needing a steady supply of victims and guilty. The accusers are the Id of that media– the realized expression of their beliefs and needs. Without encouragement behind the scenes, the matter would never have become a story in the first place.

THE MACHINE

chaplin_charlie_modern_times_01

One has to write outside today’s New York-centered literary system in order to see it AS a system. Those inside it have no perspective on it.

THE PRISONER

Junot Diaz’s reaction to the accusations against him has been constrained by his membership in the club. He became successful as a creature of the machine, but now the bill has come due and he’s paying it.

MUCH has been made about Diaz hiring a PR firm, and by appearing at his Boston Globe interview accompanied by a lawyer– but these are shackles on no one so much as him.

Handcuffs01_2003-06-02

Did you see the expression on his face in the photo by Suzanne Kreiter which the Boston Globe used? The expression of a prisoner. What you didn’t see are the invisible handcuffs chaining him to that lawyer. Said attorney and said PR firm exist to keep Junot Diaz from speaking his mind. From being himself.

That’s a hell of a position for any artist to be in.

BUSINESS

What was the quote from the Hyman Roth character in the movie Godfather II?

hyman roth

“This is the business we’ve chosen.”

Junot Diaz chose the world of establishment literature when he signed up for the MFA program at Cornell University he was later to write about in his 2014 essay “MFA vs. POC.”

Cornell_University_arts_quad

Diaz was one of the few writers of color in that writing program. He also may have been the only non-bourgeois person in it.

MFA programs teach students how to write in the proper upper-middle class “literary” style of long slow paragraphs of finely-detailed descriptions expressed in well-wrought sentences and it’s all very impressive to the cognoscenti but it’s also removed from the fast-paced real world lives of 95% of the American populace– a big reason why the short story, once the most popular American art form in the vulgar days of O. Henry and Jack London, is today only the delicate captive of writing programs, MFA grads, and New Yorker magazines sitting unread on Manhattan-or-the-Hamptons coffee tables.

manhattan c of alexkotlickDOTcom(Photo c/o AlexKotlik.com.)

It’s to Junot Diaz’s credit that his talent rises above the limitations– the handcuffs– of that very same refined writing style.

NOW he’s being judged by the same people he loathed when he was in those classrooms. Yes, those perfect beings currently staffing Buzzfeed, The Cut, Slate, The New York Times, etc. etc.; almost all from privileged backgrounds and in their Resistance daydreams looking for purpose, looking for causes, looking for harsh macho misogynists looking for anyone they can accuse hang and shred on the altar of their virtue signaling. Someone to nail to the wall for offending their sensibilities with too much reality brushing indelicately and intolerably against the fragile bubbles of their sterling New York City lives.

pelt on wall

-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit News

System versus Zeitgeist

TWO SIDES OF THE JUNOT DIAZ BOOK WORLD CONTROVERSY

Butler_Library_Columbia_University

I SAID at the outset of this examination the conflict was taking place within the established, New York-centered literary world. A narrowly exclusive yet still-powerful tower of connections, money, and power. The conflict has little effect on writers outside that world.

The impact, however, on those writers existing within the established system, and those who aspire to be there, is potentially enormous. The questions become, “How politicized is the literary world?” and, “What is the correct stance to take?”

SYSTEM

View_to_One_World_Trade_Center
Junot Diaz made his way as a writer as a creature of the established system, with all that entails. Compromises and rewards. Involvements with long-time flagships of status quo American literature like the Pulitzer Prize committee and The New Yorker magazine. When accusations against him arose, he looked for resolution and support from the institutions which sustained him. Chiefly, Boston Review, where he’s Fiction Editor, and MIT, which employs him as a professor. That those two substantial entities cleared him should have been enough. But wasn’t.

The matter was never going to be resolved by institutions, but within the court of public opinion and by media. It’s not an institutional struggle, but a PR battle.

The maneuvering continues– Julius Caesar and Pompey the Great attempting to overlap the other’s lines.

ZEITGEIST

lightning_over_the_city_20171218_1848356786
Junot Diaz’s main accusers placed their faith in the ongoing zeitgeist animating today’s established intellectual community– the political spirit and emotion existing inside institutions but also outside them. The #MeToo wave energizing journalists and writers across the nation. The Junot Diaz defense is static. His opposition, dynamic. Which puts him at a disadvantage. That he has long been himself a key part of the ongoing cultural revolution– the zeitgeist– only served to tie his hands when the rules of ideological judgement changed and the winds of correct thought and behavior shifted.

IDEOLOGUE AND APPARATCHIK

mbandlililoof(Monica Byrne and Lili Loofbourow.)

EVEN THOUGH her history of making shaky allegations was quickly exposed, accuser Monica Byrne didn’t flinch, confident in being on the correct side of the issue. Her instinct has been to follow the larger intellectual herd– more, to get in front of it, as she’s capably done the past several years, with hardly a misstep. The idea being that emotional outrage is a stronger force than evidence, facts, and truth.

So, also, is having the right politics. Interesting that Byrne’s baseless allegations one year ago about Melania Trump– about which she cannot give the slightest detail about how she was in a position to receive such information– has protected her from the scrutiny of the press. Not even the Boston Globe, which Byrne has accused of enablement, will discuss those unsupported allegations, or the rest of Byrne’s history.

Byrne’s chief technique in the Junot Diaz matter, as one year ago, has been the spread of gossip and rumor.

It creates hysteria for your side.

Reading this, who would not be worked up into a frenzy against Junot Diaz?

*******

Monica Byrne finds supporters everyplace.

One of them is Lili Loofbourow, whose Slate article I examined in my last two posts. If Monica is the full-bore ideologue, Lili is the media apparatchik whose ability to write articles for a variety of establishment publications depends on her knowing the zeitgeist.

That the commissioned article carries a slant is a given. Objective journalism is an extinct species in the realm of establishment media. Everything from a person’s writings and life can be thrown into the mix to paint the picture of villain. The emotion becomes so strong, readers don’t notice or care about the absurdities in the piece.  Notably when Loofbourow concludes it with, “Everyone is guilty.”

Everyone? Are we talking about collective guilt– or a secular version of original sin?

What, then, is the solution to the stated problem of collective patriarchy? Destroy society from top to bottom? Eliminate men? A matriarchal society with test-tube babies? Loofbourow never says.

But does she really mean what she says and implies? Or is it posturing? Following the zeitgeist? Loofbourow herself, by all accounts, is in a happy monogamous relationship with (gasp!) a man.

ANOTHER BUREAUCRAT

adam morgan
ANOTHER typical example of herd follower is Adam Morgan of the Chicago Review of Books, who has announced on Twitter his support of the accusers of Junot Diaz. Just so everyone knows. “Chicago’s premier literary critic,” Morgan, like Loofbourow, knows which side to be on in order to sustain his career. He has the bureaucrat’s talent for spotting the ascendant power, and accommodating himself to it.

An example is this article on “5 Books That Changed My Life.” For Adam Morgan, all five life-changing books were written by women. After he tweeted out a link to the article, his next tweet gave the game away: “Honestly, these were the first 5 that came to mind.”

Honestly. Adam Morgan didn’t expect anyone to believe his selections, because he didn’t believe them himself. (Glancing sideways as he sends the tweet to see if he’s fooled anybody.) He knows how the game is played. Jane Austen said, “In every power, of which taste is the foundation, excellence is pretty fairly divided between the sexes.”  Not in 2018!

THE MOB
Have we reached the point of what this old movie trailer calls “vigilante bloodlust”? Or a better question might be, “Who are the good guys and who are the bad guys?”

****
NEXT: Conclusions.

Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit News