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Authors have to make a living as well. Therefore nothing wrong with getting money for what they're doing. What i find digusting is the big boostores, merging with publishing houses and printing only what grants them the safe profit.

"nothing wrong with getting money for what they're doing"

Always the excuse for continuing to prop up the system.

Yes, win a prize and you're corrupt or a dupe. Accept a fellowship and you're corrupt or a dupe. In fact, the position can be extended as far as you like: publish with a trade house? You're corrupt or a dupe. Publish with a small press funded by private and government grants? Well, uh, obviously you're corrupt. Or a dupe. Sounds a lot like King Wenclas.

No, King Wenclas would be fine with winning prizes and awards; he just thinks he and his favored writers don't win them because the wrong people are deciding. Prizes and awards are to me inherently stupid.

Could be that they're stupid, though I don't think they're inherently so. I was responding to your response to commenter #1, "Always the excuse for continuing to prop up the system," which seems overly simplistic. The National Endowment for the Arts is not the Lannan Foundation is not the National Book Foundation is not PEN. It seems to me that at the very least each of these entities represents a "system" that has concerns at least partially exclusive of those of the other entities, and that if we are talking about supporting "systems" then it is equally "scummy" to pursue and accept a PhD or to do anything other than to self-publish.

And it seems as if, in positing "capitalism" as the abstraction behind the equally abstract (in this formulation) concept of "prizes or any other fellowships or awards or anything of the sort," what you're saying is essentially that "the wrong people" are deciding.

I would object to using prizes or awards as a measure of literary merit in any system. That in the current system we're only contributing to the triumph of cash value as the supreme value makes them all the more objectionable.

I don't think they're the "measure of literary merit" in our "system," if by system you're referring to commercial publishing and the media generally. I think cash is the measure of literary measure in that system. If literary awards had any but the most token significance within that system, they would translate into sales, which they don't, at least not in the USA.

But you used Michael Orthofer's statement as a jumping off point without amplifying on it in any way -- he speaks of the sordid filth that is at the source of the money, not the sordid filth of a literary establishment that (allegedly) uses its awards either to confer added value upon its products or rewards those whose products have already made a profit. I don't see a clear connection between the two, and in order to make it I would have to be convinced that (say) a Guggenheim Fellowship and a National Book Critics Circle award are distinctions (false or not) of the same kind.

If the amount of space devoted on literary blogs to keeping up with the latest prizes and awards, or the number of prizes offered by various literary magazines, are bellwethers, prizes and awards are definitely taken as a measure of literary merit.

I also speak of the sordid filth of the source. I think the "literary establishment" should stay as far away from that sordid filth as possible.

Well, I guess I don't know what a "literary blog" is, exactly. A blog that discusses literature, a blog that keeps up with the publishing industry, or a blog intended as a sort of Baedeker for "emerging" writers? I don't know of any blogs that I read seriously for their treatment of books that discuss prizes other than incidentally. I don't see, either, how the intensity of what is discussed among a self-selecting group of people constitutes a "bellwether" that can be extended beyond the confines of that group.

I don't know if you mean "sordid filth" as in blood money from foundations that aren't divested of immoral investments, blood money from government agencies that perpetuate war and aggression, corrupt awards from associations that are essentially extensions of the publishing industry, or simply small-scale fraud, like Glimmer Train's bilking thousands of entrants out of submission fees. I'm still not sure whether, in your view, a Guggenheim fellowship is the same sort of thing as a Pulitzer, or whether you think that Small Press X or Literary Magazine Y should forgo private or federal funding because of its sordidly filthy nature.

No,I don't consider a Guggenheim fellowship to be the same thing as a Pulitzer. I don't really know what "private or federal funding" of literary magazines has to do with prizes. Presumably if more literary magazines had such funding, they wouldn't be offering so many prizes (which are usually funded by entry fees).

Regarding both, I was just referring back to Orthofer's question ("do you really think any of the money that gets laundered through such prizes or any other fellowships or awards or anything of the sort -- whether private/corporate cash or government-channeled disbursements -- isn't so through and through sordidly filthy..?"), with which you seemed (granted, as a "short answer") to agree. Orthofer appears to think that people and (presumably) cultural entities like small presses and magazines accept private, corporate, or government cash of any kind at the risk of being unable to bear living with themselves.

I can understand the dramatic temptation to divide people into collaborators and resisters, although (again) the impulse seems intellectually suspect, and in this case appears to be attempting to tar the achievements of people who are awarded such things, whatever their artistic worthiness, as morally dubious. As blanket condemnations go, that's a doozy.

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About

  • Daniel Green is a literary critic and sometime fiction writer. His reviews, critical essays, and fiction have appeared in a variety of publications, both online and in print. He has a Ph.D focusing on postwar American fiction and an M.A. in creative writing.