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My editor, Micah Robbins, was surprised to read in the Boston Book Festival's statement that I was "unpublished" and "unpublishable," so he kindly wrote a response and submitted it as a Comment to the BBF blog post.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

September 22, 2011

New Work at A-Minor

I'm very pleased to have two new pieces of flash fiction, "The Lord Will Provide" and "Foxy Lady," featured at the revamped A-Minor Magazine website, now under the revivifying curatorship of writer-editor Nicolette Wong. Please visit and be vivified.