My Unique Perspective on Something that’s Already Been Thoroughly Analyzed

Writers are all crazy. And who can blame them, really? They are under constant attack from all sides — you could even say that being criticized is an essential part of their job. Before their work is published, they are criticized (constructively, of course, but often in embarrassingly scrupulous detail) by their editors. Then, when they’ve made everything as perfect as possible, their books are published and reviewed by people who are duty-bound to take every opportunity to point out everything that’s still wrong. This stuff is just a part of the writer’s job, in the same way that getting into car chases with the paparazzi is just a part of Lindsay Lohan’s job. The obvious problem, of course, is that, with a few (often least-deserving) exceptions, writers do not get anything like the Lindsay Lohan bucks. Writers are basically just ordinary people making fairly ordinary livings, but instead of the performance review that actual ordinary people get every year at their ordinary jobs, writers have assesments of their past year’s performance publically disseminated, in books and newspapers and magazines and oh my god, sometimes even on the internet.

So the craziness is always going to be a problem. But it’s not an excuse for playground politics. Here’s what I’m most annoyed by: writers who get up on a pedestal to decry someone else’s bad behavior . . . while engaging in the exact same sort of bad behavior themselves. Steve Almond (who probably got no help from Honest Abe with this one) just made this mistake a whole hell of a lot.

Ben Marcus made the exact same mistake in his Harper’s takedown of Jonathan Franzen on behalf of experimental literature, which is summed up nicely here. I think it’s interesting that both of these essays pay lip service to the idea that literary culture is teetering on the brink of extinction because of the horrible backbiting/litblogging that Ben and Steve are lambasting (while simultaneously engaging in). Not only is this silly, I’d hazard a guess that it’s wrong. “Scandal-mongering” probably does actually sell books, and I don’t care whether it’s selling them for the ‘wrong reasons.’ I’m just happy they’re getting sold at all.

Unless they are by Steve Almond. (Wait, did I just do what I criticized him for criticizing someone else for while simultaneously doing? Ouch.)

Posted by Emily at October 14, 2005 06:49 PM


o man, i guess my thoughts were not so unique either!

all other things aside, we always did have a very unified editorial voice…

Posted by: bmad at October 14, 2005 09:56 PM

jesus, that’s sort of eerie. basically you were just more concise.

Posted by: emily at October 14, 2005 10:08 PM

Move over Jane Pratt!

Posted by: Lindsay at October 14, 2005 10:26 PM

And by that I mean: Congrats!

1 comment to My Unique Perspective on Something that’s Already Been Thoroughly Analyzed

  • “Writers are all crazy.” Agreed. Takes one to know one. (mean that in the bestest way) Oh, and speaking of Lindsay, she pulled me into a bathroom and raped me. This was about 9 months after you posted this two and a half years ago, so it’ll probably slide under the radar. Still, can’t hurt the RSS. I’m a newbie afterall.

    Cheerio. :)

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