Our contributors elsewhere + other links

“I can read, as I just did, stuffing my face with a disgusting greasy croissant, and I am still totally immersed in the world of this poem which resists weeping so desperately the whole thing feels like spring to me, all desire.” PEN America 10 contributor Lucy Corin on Frank O'Hara's “Morning” over at The Rumpus.

“...what stops me is a remark that Franzen makes about his Chinese guide. David Xu has 'the fashionably angular eyeglasses and ingratiating eagerness of an untenured literature professor.' In that throwaway phrase, in its quick malice and wit, I come home... I realize that I'm a sad provincial; for years, I've been living in a place called the English Department.” -- PEN America contributor Amitava Kumar in the minnesota review.

You can read four of the essays from Burn this Book, published by HarperStudio in connection with PEN American Center, at DailyLit, starting with a speech by Toni Morrison, which you can watch her deliver here. See also this review in the Los Angeles Times.

The first story in Knockemstiff, by recent PEN honoree Donald Ray Pollock, is available online.

Jedediah Berry, former associate editor of PEN America, recently published his first novel, The Manual of Detection, and he talks with Geoffrey H. Goodwin at The Mumpsimus. He also gets a nice review from Thomas Jones in the London Review of Books.

PEN America 10 includes a poem by Kyi Maung Than called “Deeperinga,” which is the ancient name for Depeyin, in Burma, where Aung San Suu Kyi -- a leader of the National League for Democracy -- and her motorcade were ambushed in 2003. Now, as PEN America contributor George Packer notes, she has suffered a very different kind of ambush, one that may have been well-meaning, but which has nonetheless resulted for her in a stay at Insein Prison, a new trial, and the likely renewal of her current six-year house arrest.


King said...

My exchange on the post below with the masked PEN member-- who I'll wager has more clout within the organization than you, as you're not allowed to comment-- is an example of the kind of lively debate which can ensue when the stonewalls are lifted a trifle. Isn't that what free expression is about?
The Masked Man is wrong on most of his points; most of all when he implies that PEN is representative of all writers, and when he refers to PEN as fragmented and decentralized.
In fact we're seeing just how centralized and controlled PEN is, when no one is allowed to respond under their own identities to my posts. (Here and on other PEN blogs.)
Doesn't this strike anyone besides myself as bizarre?
PEN is as closed and secretive as North Korea. Plying any information out of it, any whisper, hint, or rumor, is extremely difficult-- but I have heard rumors from inside it about how tops-down and controlled it is. Your behavior affirms this.

Harland said...

King, can I just say one thing? My girlfriend used to work for PEN (that's the extent of my clout, other than my lapsed membership), and when I mentioned your comment about North Korea to her, she said, "North Korea? It's just very clubby. More like the bunch of 14-year-old girls who get to decorate the gym for the prom."

Which is, I think, precisely the fearsome level, both socially and economically, on which PEN operates. I know, I know: the forty thousand dollar prizes, etc. You reveal a lot more than you think when your eyes pop open as wide as they do over forty grand in these late-capitalist times. But if you're going to speak of world revolution, and so hyperbolically, you owe it to yourself not to be dazzled by the Korbel and the pigs-in-blankets, at least not so blatantly.

Just FYI, I certainly didn't suggest that PEN was representative of all writers, and if I had it seems odd that I also would have suggested that PEN was fragmented and decentralized. I believe what I suggested was that PEN represents a coalition (which sounds much more cohesive than I'd like) of writers' interests, ranging widely and often conflictingly. That's all.

I think Haglund's just ignoring us, King. But you're a hell of a guy to bring up "lively debate" -- you're the guy who has comment moderation enabled on his blog(s).

King said...

??? Comment moderation for good reason. Without it I'm flooded with a mass of ANONYMOUS and often vicious attacks, as has happened. You know this, as you've been part of those attacks. Others can check my blog's archives.
You know, when you're making minimum wage, FOUR thousand, much less forty, appears to be a huge amount of money. I've been living week-to-week since 2005. (Really, for much of my life.) Getting small paychecks which are immediately spent; staying in druggie hotels when necessary; crashing on friends sofas on occasion. I budget my money assiduously. To send out fifty copies of my recent "PEN Gala Celebration" mini-zine kept me eating very little for a couple weeks.
In short, I live like many millions of Americans today.
Right now forty thousand is a dream world.
BTW, your remark, on the other thread, of me not liking the "other," people who don't look like me, was amusing. For most of my adult life I've lived and worked with people most who don't look anything like me.
What you've attempted to do continually is to create a caricature of me which has scant connection to reality. (Justification for the blackballing?) You've questioned, on the previous thread, my motivations; my alleged "resentment." Yet my motivations are the same as those of most PEN staffers and activists: resentment against injustice.
I believe, as I'm sure most PENsters believe, that PEN was created to do good and should be doing good; that it should be about more than hyperexpensive galas. I believe that if PEN is to be a watchdog for the society and culture, that it SHOULDN'T be in a symbiotic relationship with the richest and most powerful members of that society and culture. To do so is to be co-opted; to lose its independence and its objectivity-- which then leads the organization to disgrace itself through such actions as stonewalling and blackballing, or drunken yacht parties for rich people.
Sorry, but PEN was originally supposed to be more than prom gym decorations.

Harland said...

The point, King, isn't that the money isn't significant, it's that you would begrudge other writers the amount, would miss the forest completely by calling the *recipient* the token rather than the *amount*, when there are multi-million dollar transactions going on in the lit biz all the time. You love to aim right in the middle, though, King -- at the Pollocks -- because whenever I've brought up a writer like, say, James Patterson, you've irritatedly dismissed it. Get indignant about guys like James Patterson, King. They're making megabucks, they eat forty grand for breakfast, and *they're* the ones who are wrecking literature, cranking out dumb shit for ADHD America. I know you love your sob stories about living solely off the nutrients in the glue on all those stamps you lick to send out your zines, but please. We've all had hard times. I'm living on unemployment right now, dude -- hope that doesn't mess up your bedtime story about my "affluence" and "influence."

Leave it to you to interpret my remark literally. The point I was making had nothing to do with your Middle European looks, handsome.

You are going to have to make up your mind whether you want to excoriate the PenPeople as masters of deceit or hold them up as selfless champions of justice. Your arguments are inconsistent from paragraph to paragraph. I think they probably feel really good about teaching writers in prison, sending relief checks to impoverished American writers in crisis, petitioning foreign governments to release imprisioned writers, and so on. I have a lot of trouble imagining any of them getting particularly worked up over zinesters -- who've deliberately set out, as a matter of principle, to exist *outside* the literary establishment -- demanding inclusiveness on the part of the institutions they've rejected.

I'm not clear, King, on the blackballing charge. Blackballed how? Have you applied for membership? Or are you talking about literary rejection, like, "approved" journals turning down your writing? Or are you talking yet again about the refusal of editors and magazines to assign you book reviews? Isn't that sort of like a member of the resistance getting upset because he hasn't been asked to join the tyrant's mobile death squads?

Maybe people just don't like having to deal with you? To have to patiently explain what they meant when what the meaning of what they'd said was perfectly clear? To be called insulting names, or libelled? To have their opinions and ideas, their values and their enthusiasms, their personal lives and their politics distorted and demeaned? And for what? Your persistent tautology, the underground literature of the real America which reflects the real values of real people and rejects fake values of fake people and the fake America and its overdog literature. What's real American literature? It's not fake -- thanks, King!

King said...

Oh, what a rant of sophistry and fakery.
I'm sure many PEN people are honest, good people. Probably most of them. But the organization is a mess, as I've been documenting for two months on my blog, with hard examples in most cases.
Yes, there's a difference between a nonprofit charity giving tax-sheltered dollars to successful writers, and James Patterson. If Patterson applies for a Guggenheim I'll be all over him.
Which doesn't mean I'm for the monopolies. I'm not. But surely it's distressing to see an organization whose JOB is to speak truth to power, instead in bed with such multimationals. You've got ex-CEO of Time-Warner Books as PEN VP-- so really, what's the difference?
Is PEN doing good things? Giving checks, you say, to impoverished writers in crisis? REALLY? Where??? (I and my friends are impoverished writers in crisis. Why don't you come to Philly and we'll drop in on poet Walsh and see how this talented guy lives. It'll surprise you, rich guy.)
Funny, but I examined the PEN tax records for 2007, available for anyone to peruse on-line, and saw where PEN's money is going. I suggest you reread my blog posts. By far the largest expenses were for A.) PEN salaries; B.) PEN parties. I checked the list of grants to writers. EVEN the one designated for needy writers went to a chair of a writing program who isn't needy at all. It's all outlined on my blog, for readers of this blog to see.
This isn't, as you say, libelous. It's facts, man. Just as I gave facts from 2000 to 2002, when fronting the ULA, about grants going to millionaire writers, and was accused of making personal attacks. Nothing personal about it. I was simply turning up a rock and exposing the cockroaches beneath. They did do some hollering.
Blackballing? Well, it's curious when NOBODY at PEN, not Haglund, nor any of their bloggers, nor any of their staffers, will answer my communications in any way. Obviously my reputation precedes me. But reputation for what? Exposing wealthy writers gaming the system?
I guess it's insulting for you and your friends to have your hands caught in the cookie jar-- but I've always documented the corruption while trying to clean up, sometimes too exuberantly, what is a messy literary scene. I'm far from done with my presentation.
I don't know if it's a tautology to state the case for underground writers-- really, for an entire stream of American writing which has now become marginalized: writers without MFAs or other credentials or connections or certifications, who are not associated with any tax-shelter or academy or corporation. This is, after all, from where the greatest American writers came; largely self-taught and self-made individuals from Mark Twain to Hemingway to Kerouac; as authentic a stream of American writing to be found, and which is still out there.
How many PEN members would you say DON"T have writing degrees, or aren't associated with universities? A mere handful, I'd wager.
But then, why am I telling you? You're the guy who claimed not to care about PEN. You don't think it should even exist, it sounded like. Just an unnecessary plaything. Hmm. Er, then why are you here?
You've questioned my motivations.
You can talk a lot about who you are or aren't, but won't even give us your name. Hardly a monument of courage and integrity.
If someone has ordered the stonewalling from this ostensibly independent organization, it's as likely you as anybody. I'll ask you, politely, to cease the stonewalling and blackballing. Thank you.
Have a good evening.

King said...

p.s. The "begrudging" writers the amount is the key to this particular writer's anger. He doesn't get it. Yes, 40 thou is a huge amount for many, maybe most, writers, and should NOT be going to Philip Roth. (As he agreed on a previous thread.)
His attitude toward the amount gives him away. If it's "only" forty thousand, it may as well go to anybody-- even those who don't at all need it.
After all, look at James Patterson. The existence of James Patterson (I have no idea frankly who James Patterson is) excuses everything. Get that hand back in the cookie jar! James Patterson is alive and well and all is right for lit's trust-fund gamesters.
Zinesters? Who are they? They don't even have books in their name, most of them. Only zines. They purposely reject the system not because of its massive hierarchies and inequities; not because it turns writers into hat-in-hand supplicants; not because it'd take away artistic control of their work; not because it has no place for their kind of writings and ideas; but just because, that's why. Zinesters are just another stereotype to be dismissed. (Talk about rejecting the Other.)
Our masked man who doesn't care about PEN is here because someone offended his sensibilities by daring to state that there are problems with American literature today-- a criticism he perceives as aimed directly at him. And who knows, maybe it is.

King said...

p.s I can distinguish PEN members from the organization, because as far as I can determine, the membership has little say or power in this tops-down organization. The organization itself is worth examination. Remember, there were many others before me who had strong criticisms of the way it operates; from James Purdy to Ted Solotaroff to George Garrett to Carl Rollyson, among others. If you were reading my blog, folks, you'd have gotten this information.
The test is whether PEN staffers and bloggers are allowed to speak. Are they? Yes? No?
So far the argument for PEN being a democratically run outfit doesn't look very promising.

Harland said...

King, I know that if David Haglund were dumb enough to respond to your "comments" you'd just lunge at him. You'd tell him that he's corrupt, you'd insult his work, you'd call him names, you'd reject each of his arguments, you'd pretty much do what you always do. So he's not responding. That isn't "blackballing." That's sensible resistance to incoherent hostility. If I move from one subway car to another to avoid the ranting smelly bum, I'm not "blackballing" the bum. If that bum is refused entry to a restaurant, he's not being "blackballed."

Now, here's an interesting and "literary" point in my little illustration. I'm sure you're picturing some restaurant that looks something like "21" or The Stork Club, with hulking bouncers in ill-fitting tuxedos barring the door to keep the smelly bum away from the swanky patrons. Right, King? Admit it. I'm just thinking of a diner somewhere, Greek guy named Nick, waitress named Margie, formica counter. They're the ones keeping the smelly bum out. That's really what you ought to keep in mind, King. Bertelsmann and the Queen Mary aren't ignoring you. Holtzbrinck and Lincoln Center aren't refusing to work with you. It's regular folks, King. If I remember right, it was your own organization, sharing your own aims, that first pioneered this alleged "blackballing" tactic against you. Nobody's afraid of you, King. I mean, I'm sure there are plenty of people who'd hate to be alone with you on an elevator if you took it into your head to unload your stump speech, but you don't "represent" anything to be feared. You're just a particularly loud unsolicited manuscript. There are all sorts of people who think the same conspiratorially-minded thoughts you think. It's hard not to, when you see dummies winning medals and selling massive quantities of books. Not everybody turns it into this loopy cosmology, though, where PEN = Queen Mary and Haglund = blackballer, and where people who agree with you don't agree with you enough. You're an angry guy, King, and if you had the slightest bit of confidence or faith in what you were doing, you wouldn't be hanging out by the stage door with a bouquet in one hand and a vial of acid in the other.

I love the way you view "the literary world," King; as an otherwise featureless surface with several salient bumps on it: one is PEN. Another is the Guggenheim Foundation. Another is the archetypal MFA Program. Another is Dave Eggers. Still others are Daniel Handler, Tom Bissell, and Rick Moody. If, one day, while you were walking through a bookstore, a book entitled "Guide to Literary Agents" were to fall on your flat head, you'd start mentioning Andrew Wylie and Binky Urban. You just haven't gotten around to thinking about them. Meanwhile, there are a world of writers out there who have nothing to do with PEN, who don't even apply for Guggenheims, who didn't attend and don't teach in MFA programs, who don't live in New York, and who've never set foot aboard a cruise ship. Somehow, they go about their business thoroughly ignoring those organizations, institutions, places, and things. And -- oh, screw it. I'm bored.

King said...

Simple misdirection. Those who disagree with you, no matter how articulate, no matter their facts, are simply "smelly bums"?
(It's too bad David Haglund can't speak for himself. But then, he has you speaking for him.)
A couple amusing highlights of your posts:
1.) Your quick embrace of Mr. Pollock, which reminds me of rich Republicans embracing Joe the Plumber. Quick! Photo ops!
2.) The equal phoniness of your chumminess here, before more of your real attitude came out.
"Yeah, King, they're ignoring both of us!"
Uh, yeah. Me and "Harland Funderbunk," who doesn't exist.
Quite a laugh, I guess, when the real you is sipping champagne on a yacht!
(Harland: "No story here, folks. Move along! That's not the Queen Mary in the harbor you see with PEN insiders sneaking on board. Those are not cases of champagne. No $40,000 checks to Philip Roth. Pure illusion. It never happened! Daniel Handler and Dave Eggers caught posting anonymous attacks against underground writers? Never occured! All bogus. Move along now, folks. Move along!")

Harland said...

Amusing highlights of my own:

1) Your rejection of a working-class writer, who seems pretty much to embody everything you insist that the literary establishment should pay attention to, because the literary establishment has paid attention to him.

2) Your typical humorlessness about -- well, anything, ranging from the dumb mask I'm wearing in the picture (as if you'd recognize my face) to the pretty funny (I think) portrayal of PEN folks as a clique of high school alpha girls.

You know why I conceal my secret identity. It's because I fear for the safety of Lois and Jimmy.

No such luck about the yacht. I've only been to one PEN function, I'm afraid -- but (here's some ammo, King) it was at one of your very favorite targets, Housing Works.

King said...

Hmm. Let me know if you ever care to address my points about PEN (there are more to come on my blog), instead of simply attacking the messanger.

King said...

(There's a basic contradiction to Harland's arguments. On the one hand I'm a "smelly bum," a madman on an elevator, unworthy of notice. At the same time he's expended many hundreds of words noticing this madman.
Characterizing an opponent, or anyone who speaks words you don't like, as a madman is an old tactic which has more often been practiced by societies and establishments more regressive than ours. A sad point for PEN to come to.
What's undeniable is that PEN is standing AGAINST democracy, AGAINST dissent, and for the old clubby ways of business-as-usual.)

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