FIRST in a series examining the radical stance of several of the literary establishment’s most prominent editors and writers.
OUR QUESTION: Are any of these people for real?
R.W. #1: Lauren Groff
One of the New York Monolith’s most hyped literary commodities, Groff recently sent out this tweet:
Among her other statements, Groff has also said “Thanksgiving is a lie,” and white people, including her sons, owe “a profound debt” for their “vast privileges,” “which they have to repay over the course of their lives–”
WHO is Lauren Groff?
Lauren Groff has been published by Disney’s Hyperion and by Penguin Random House, both part of gigantic “Big Five” New York-based media conglomerates. She has degrees from exclusive Amherst College and from the University of Wisconsin. Her father is Vice-President of a health care company which owns four hospitals and 23 health centers. She’s upper-class enough to have had her 2006 marriage featured in the society pages of the New York Times. Groff’s husband, Clayton Byron Kallman, is a real estate developer– a business he began in by managing an apartment building owned by his dad.
NOT exactly a person who’s bucked the system to date. But things change– NOW she’s ready to chuck it all and march in the streets. To the barricades!
(We invite Lauren Groff to join the D.F.S., or Disinvest From Success, movement, known also as Disinvestment Of Or From Unearned Success, or D.O.O.F.U.S. Instead of placing all burden on her sons, Groff can rip up her book contracts, her husband can give away his real estate holdings, and they can have undocumented refugees move in with them in their large home in Gainesville, Florida. This will tell the world that Lauren Groff is for real. Will she?)
COMING SOON: Revolutionary Wannabe #2.
CONSIDER THIS a standing invitation to anyone in the mainstream literary scene to discuss or debate the points made in our seven posts about the National Book Awards. (The posts previous to this one.)
Will anyone take us up on the offer? Not likely! What makes the scene a monolith, beside the fact everyone in it thinks alike, is that not a single contrary thought is allowed to enter into it. It stands impervious, like a block of steel.
What does a totalitarian intellectual community look like?
Why do we persist with our News blog, as only an irritant, maybe not even that?
There should be a place for honest news and information about today’s literary scene. Someone has to at least try to ask the tough questions– has to make the attempt, quixotic or not, to stir the lethargic and complacent literary-publishing apparatus and the apparatchiks inside it.
All sides represent contradictions, as American literature is in a state of flux and objective(?) observers such as ourselves wait for things to sort themselves out. For the moment, intellectual thought about all matters literary is polarized.
We pass over long-time conservative journals like Commentary and National Review, which are adjuncts of an internationally focused intellectual establishment based in Washington D.C. and New York. We’re talking about the new Right.
What is it? Can it be defined? We wait for someone to define it. There is new thought, new energy coming from that end of the spectrum. To us it seems a badly put-together Frankenstein monster; a contradictory amalgam of Nietzschean paganism and tradition-leaning Catholicism. Its origins are found in intellectual journals like Taki Mag, with writers ranging from libertarian to libertine to anarchist to all things. Hardly conservative– many have opened Pandora’s Box. The aesthetic attitude is often snobbish and effete, and as such, out of synch with the mass of populists who voted for Trump. The impact to date on the literary world of these writers is small.
The energy on the Left comes from a spate of journals like Jacobin Mag, The Baffler, and n+1— along with at least one interesting new one which we’ll discuss at a later time. All espouse some variety of Marxism. All editors, writers, and interns of these journals are from real privilege. Are they the Left? A curious form of it. Their common origin point is the Ivy League. What the publications present in their essays, editorials, poetry and prose is the skewed “View from Harvard Yard.” The tops-down acceptable narrative from cogs and creators of the established machine. Each individual has paid dues within the current literary system. They’re artistic conformists in every aspect.
Today’s nobility, representing a tiny sliver of America, peering at the Unknown from their Brooklyn/Manhattan fortress. Living a 2017 variation of Margaret Mitchell’s Plantation Madness.
(Former overseer Jonas Wilkerson and “white trash” Emmy Slattery getting thrown off the Tara estate.)
Well-bred aristocrats united with loyal retainers of color against the Enemy: white populists of sketchy background who carry the potential to upset their flimsy Potemkin facade. That high and narrow construction of paste and plywood labelled “LITERATURE,” which they present as the legitimate article– when it’s clearly NOT.
To understand these journals and editors and the role they play in literary culture, one first has to understand their predecessors. We’ll examine those in our next post.