September 26, 2011

#occupyculture (or, the "One City One Story" Counterfeit)

6nMHyD on Make A Gif, Animated Gifs


My editor, Micah Robbins, was surprised to read in the Boston Book Festival's statement that I was "unpublished" and "unpublishable," so he kindly wrote a response and submitted it as a Comment to the BBF blog post. The BBF declined to publish the comment, demonstrating conclusively that behind the lie of a citywide conversation they are interested only in one-way communication. But what else could we expect from an organization whose corporate sponsors include Verizon, Bank of America, Target, and three of the "Big Six" media conglomerates that currently monopolize publishing? They and their ilk determine what is "acceptable discourse" -- silence and invisibility for the rest. So, along with my thanks, I am reprinting Micah Robbins' comment here:

I would remind you that many of our greatest writers, from James Joyce to Thomas Pynchon, have been accused of publishing "unreadable" prose fiction. "The Cruiser" is, of course, neither unreadable nor unpublishable. I've read the story & have agreed to publish it and the novel to which it belongs -- Human Wishes / Enemy Combatant -- under the imprint SAY IT WITH STONES. It's odd you would say it's "unpublishable" since Caldwell's author's bio clearly states that the novel is forthcoming from SAY IT WITH STONES. Human Wishes / Enemy Combatant will be released later this year; for more information, visit

I respect Edmond Caldwell's action against the sociopolitical homogeneity being celebrated by One City, One Story. & I'm pleased to hear his work has the power to upset readers' expectations. I'm sure he wouldn't have it any other way! What American literature needs is more resistant work, not affirmative bourgeois drivel like "The Whore's Child," which is -- exempting its title -- a total bore.

Finally, the tone of your announcement is commensurate with the reactionary cultural politics of One City, One Story. A recent study conducted by the United Nations found that over a billion people squat worldwide -- a sixth of the global population, the vast majority of whom are Asian, African, and Latin American -- and the numbers are increasing exponentially. To disparage Caldwell as a "literary squatter" reveals the mistaken aura of cultural superiority that undergirds One City, One Story. Only an institution fundamentally committed to and enchanted by western values, particularly private property in its many manifestations, could draw such a problematic comparison.

My only concern is that there aren't more Boston writers engaging in acts of cultural insurgency. Wouldn't it be a delight if every copy of Once City, One Story contained the work of a different author, none of whom were "approved" by the institutional power of BBF!

Long live cultural insurgency!


And a thousand thanks to Kent Johnson for these words of support, which enjoyed the same fate at the Boston Book Festival blog as Micah's comment:

"Unreadable!" Well, anything that comes with that recommendation makes me want to read and see... There's a nice ancestral line, isn't there, of works that had that epithet thrown at them.

What's the Boston Book Fair in such a snit about? Because someone put Richard Russo's cover on his limited run, fine-press book? Horrors! The bourgeoisie, as they used to say, should be scandalized. Here's a suggestion: Take a page from the Poetry Foundation and Call the Cops! (Anyone in the fiction world following that fracas?)

I haven't read this Unreadable novel, but now I certainly will. I hope I can get a copy with the Russo cover, signed by both Russo and the fictional "squatter" Caldwell. What's on the cover? Is it really slick and pretty?

Kent Johnson


Aaron said...

You, sir, are a dick. Not a provocateur or a clever cultural warrior. Just a pretentious dick. You could fight wall street or reality TV or any number of awful culturally negative things. But you pick a fight with the book festival? Really? Wanker.

Frances Madeson said...


HumanProject said...

I appreciate Boston Book Festival's desire to get people reading and discussing a story, but the Richard Russo story is banal and psychologicall facile; there isn't much that lends itself to discussion. Evidentally readers are asked to suspend disbelief (or to care) that a nun gerw up with the fantasy that her father would come rescue her from the nunnery where whe was mocked for being "the whore's child." It requires a student in a fiction class to blurt out the secret that her father was really her mother's pimp. Why did the nun subtly convey this in her story (with reference to the many men coming and going from the building where her mother was housed) to allow anyone to see the 'truth' and yet supposedly not know it heself? Plus, who cares about the supposed stigma of having a mother who is a prostitute? Today's story is the horror of having a mother be a prositute and having that life distined for you, as in the film 'born into brothels" about children filming their childhood life in red light distict in Bombay.

HumanProject said...

I understand Richard Russo won a Pulitzer Prize. Is he thus a Francis Crick, unable to do any mediocre work?

Anonymous said...

Man, you aren't being clever or subversive by tricking people into reading a short story that reads like a tortured setup for mediocre porn. You're just being rude.

I didn't like The Whore's Child either, but there are ways to say so without making an ass of yourself. Well, maybe not for you. For other people though.

Anonymous said...

It's really indicative that the only way you can get people to read your run-on paragraph blowjob setup is to put it into a real writer's story cover. If you hadn't, nobody would even know who you were outside the hipster circle of people who can confuse "social insurgency" with being a self-important hipster. If you feel it's okay to trick people into reading some drivel like yours, a pity for you.

Now, I wonder if, despite your sneering at the supposedly one-dimensional discussion of 1C1S, you will ever approve this?

Anonymous said...

Dude, your story is pretty awful. I'd have tried to at least write something worthwhile before tricking people into reading it.

Also, lame troll is lame. You're like a small child crying for undeserved attention if this is the best you can do.