Essays and Notable Articles

Keepers of the Flame: A Reply to n+1

By posted at 11:31 am on March 10, 2007 22

It’s not that I’m biased… or, rather, my biases pull me in two directions. On one hand, I greatly admire the new journal n+1 – its moral seriousness, its elegant writing, its stewardship of the Frankfurt School legacy. On the other hand, I regularly contribute reviews to the blog on which this post is appearing. And so, while part of me wants to sneer along with n+1‘s backhanded compliment to literary bloggers – that they represent “the avant-garde of 21st Century publicity” – another, better informed part of me rebels. The current issue of n+1 raises many legitimate questions about the transformation of consciousness and culture we are (proximally and for the most part unreflectively) undergoing. I am myself suspicious of the Infotainment Revolution, and it seems peevish to dismiss an entire critique in order to defend a scrap of turf. But when n+1 stoops to the kinds of gross generalizations and straw-man-thrashing we are accustomed to seeing on the covers of the newsweeklies, it threatens to undermine its own mission. A little background…

The Winter 2007 issue of n+1 – “The Decivilizing Process” – concerns itself with technology and the culture industry, and if its unsigned, front-of-the-book essays are polemical, they are generally justified in being so. The spirits of Marshall McLuhan and Theodor Adorno hover in the background like a beyond-the-grave odd couple, the former insisting that media are only as good or bad as the uses to which people put them, the latter asserting that those uses are likely to reinforce the worst tendencies of the capitalist world-order that birthed them. Thus one writer points out that silence, a hard-won legacy of literate civilization, has, in the age of “Whenever Minutes” begun to disappear. (No doubt some enterprising corporation will soon be marketing “silence spas” or “silence earmuffs” – selling back to us what we once had for free.)

In a short piece called “The Blog Reflex,” n+1 extends its critique to the blogosphere, suggesting that reflexive antagonism and an imperative for speed have undercut the much-hyped democratic potential of the blog:

Yet criticism as an art didn’t survive. People might have used their blogs to post the best they could think or say. They could have posted 5,000 word critiques of their favorite books and records. Some polymath might even have shown, online, how an acute and well-stocked sensibility responds to the streaming world in real time. But those things didn’t happen, at least not often enough. […] The language is supposed to mimic the way people speak on the street or the college quad, the phatic emotive growl and purr of exhibitionistic consumer satifsfaction – “The Divine Comedy is SOOO GOOOD!” – or displeasure – “I shit on Dante!” So man hands on information to man.

Not least among the problems with this premature obituary for the blog is that it is, in many small ways, accurate. Anyone looking for an Ebert-style thumbs-up or thumbs-down on Dante will no doubt find one on the internet. Google will even tell you how long the search took. Blogs both reiterate and catalyze the coarsening of the culture… the dumbing-down, the, uh…whatever. (Tocqueville knew that democracy tends to aim toward a B-minus.) And for reasons too complex to go into here (I’m intentionally trying to illustrate one of n+1’s points) the blog as an instrument of kulturkritik may be as compromised as those other artifacts of industrial capitalism – film, the photograph, the short story, jazz, rock n’ roll… even (gasp!) the magazine.

Yet, depending on one’s degree of fatalism about world history, the medium may not doom the message. Some of us on the American left believe that Jean-Luc Godard, Walker Evans, Donald Barthelme, Archie Shepp, and The Clash managed to transcend the limitations of their respective media, to push some kind of shake-up in the system, to preserve a space for free movement in an increasingly die-cut, cast-iron (or, later, iPod-sleek, powered-by-Intel) landscape. If n+1 took Adorno’s suspicions about mass culture more seriously, why would its editors seek to penetrate the citadels of Random House and Doubleday? Why would they run ads for HarperCollins? Why would they continue to publish? (Why would they demand 5,000 word critiques of favorite records? (Why, in Adorno’s case, did bourgeois high-culture continue to matter?)) Obviously, some accommodation with the system has been reached, and more power to n+1 for continuing to fight the good fight. But to call out others for their own accommodations is to devolve to the level of intellectual pissing match. Or maybe King of the Hill is more apposite.

Lit-bloggers “represent a perfection of the outsourcing ethos of contemporary capitalism,” we are told.

Why should publishers pay publicists and advertise in book supplements when a community of native agents exist [sic] who will perform the same service for nothing and with an aura of indie-cred? In addition to free advance copies, the blogger gets some recognition: from the big houses, and from fellow bloggers. Recognition is also measured in the number of hits – by their clicks you shall know them – and by the people who bother to respond to your posts with subposts of their own. The lit-bloggers become a self-sustaining community, minutemen ready to rise up in defense of their niches. So it is when people have only their precarious self-respect. But responses – fillips of contempt, wet kisses – aren’t criticism.

Just for clarification, dear reader: this isn’t a fillip of contempt. It’s a fusillade. (Flame on!)

Here we must grapple with the anonymous writer’s rhetoric: call it the Argument contra Fortiori. He or she proceeds from the premise that “I shit on Dante” is the alpha and omega of lit-blog discourse. But just as the lazy researcher can Google up coprophiliac reductions of il divino poeta, he can also easily find the sorts of long essays n+1 values – the kinds of essays (not incidentally) at which n+1 excels. For example, Scott Esposito’s Quarterly Conversation, an extension of his excellent blog, recently ran the most considered critique I’ve yet read of William H. Gass’ The Tunnel… and I’ve read many of them. The Lit-Blog Co-op, mixing old-fashioned boosterism with serious discussion, helps to bring overlooked novels, many of them progressive and anti-capitalist, to the public’s attention. The LBC does it not for the publishers, little enterprises like Minneapolis’ Coffee House Press, but for the authors, and for the readers. Ed Champion’s recent round-table on Against the Day, meanwhile, offered readers much-needed context for that profoundly leftist novel.

Many of us engaged in this work feel that the institutions that might have done it in the past have vanished or sold out (the book club), refined themselves into impotence (the salon), or abdicated their critical instincts in favor of precisely the kind of PR-flackmanship n+1 lays at the feet of the literary blog. I won’t make the case that my own writings for The Millions are anything other than superior versions of newspaper-supplement reviews, but I do know that serious literary bloggers see themselves as an antidote to a vertically integrated media sector and a closed-circuit publishing industry.

There is merit in n+1‘s attack on the hyperlink ethos of the blogs. In lieu of critical writing, a list of links can easily decay into an endorsement of an industry’s buzz about itself. Does tracking down links count as journalism? An interesting question. But, given that many of the lit-blogs least vulnerable to charges of thoughtlessness link to one another, and given that these blogs are quite popular, it seems to me startling that n+1 didn’t manage to stumble across them in its internet divagations.

Indeed, I seem to hear the call-note of territorialism sounded beneath n+1‘s write-off of the literary blog. (Note the way “their clicks” shades into “your posts.”) The “aura of indie cred” paired with recognition “from the big houses”… once upon a time this intersection might have been the exclusive province of literary journals. But the best literary blogs, free from the economic vicissitudes of the print journal, have begun to encroach. What can editors who have “only their precarious self-respect” do but fire a warning shot? “So much typing, so little communication…” In this summary dismissal, I learn more about n+1‘s own anxieties than I do about the potential of the blog as a medium for “the free activity of the mind.”

But perhaps I’m inferring too much. In any case, n+1 has little to worry about. Its editors are prodigiously gifted, respected, drowning in “indie cred,” and despite (or because of) such stimulating missteps as “The Blog Reflex,” the journal provides a much-needed antidote to the inanities of consumer culture. The biggest danger would be for n+1 to fall through the trap-door of elitism, around which Adorno himself danced. Communication requires both speakers and listeners, and by making common cause with like-minded bloggers, n+1 might swell the ranks of the enlightened, rather than going the genteel way of the salon. To that end, its introductory essaylets would do well in the future to forgo simplistic binary code – Literary Blogs: Thumbs Up Or Thumbs Down? – in favor of sustained, thoughtful analysis.

See more about n+1‘s “The Decivilizing Process” here. “The Blog Reflex” is, unsurprisingly, not currently available online.

Update: If you’re not tired of this yet, see the follow-up post: Love: A Burning Thing.





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22 Responses to “Keepers of the Flame: A Reply to n+1”

  1. Dan Wickett
    at 1:31 pm on March 10, 2007

    You really can't be too surprised, can you? Remember, one of the editors, Keith Gessen, was interviewed by the New York Inquirer late last year (http://www.nyinquirer.com/nyinquirer/2006/11/an_interview_wi.html) and didn't have much nice to say about litbloggers then:

    "Obviously the blog is a medium, a format, like television is a medium, so to say something in general about blogs is kind of pointless. I think blog diaries—those are fantastic. For a while a couple of us were reading a blog by a guy who was trying to date strippers (unsuccessfully, but there was a lot of texting involved). It was fascinating! Some of the blogs by soldiers in Iraq were pretty incredible, though I've lost track of those. I wish someone would do a blog about the new season of Laguna Beach. Or maybe someone is.

    The trouble with blogs arises when they go from being diaries (very private expressions, telling us something only that person knows) to being basically attention-grabbing mechanisms. That fake blog we had up was the result of my frustration with lit-bloggers. Back in the day, you would occasionally stumble upon some person blogging about their very private reading, what it was like, what their reactions were. Those people still exist, but they're drowned out by people who are just purveyors of literary gossip–who comment on books they haven't even read, who, as Marco likes to say, are just basically freelance publicists. It's one thing to be corrupted by, say, the pressure of writing for the New York Times Book Review, or the prospect of employment somewhere, or a blurb. But to sell your birthright for a couple of review copies and a link on a blogroll! For shame. So I spent a few weeks making fun of lit-bloggers and it was therapeutic. But then I stopped when I discovered the Alexa traffic ranking system and saw that I was practically the only person reading these things."

    While I'm guessing there are a few people out there who heard that if they began blogging they'd get some review copies from publishers, I can't say I know any that didn't blog for some time before that topic even came up.

    One might note that that same Mr. Gessen had no trouble doing an interview with a litblogger, nor did n+1 feel working with a freelance publicist would be a negative when they rolled with the literary journal editor e-panel. Seems pretty fucking hypocritical to find that said bloggers have sold their birthrights for a little attention, but it's cool to appear on them for that same little bit of attention.

    These essays have pretty much become something to chuckle about – be they from journal editors, or book review editors. As has been noted in numerous responses to similar essays or verbal shots – litbloggers have become print reviewers, put together their own journals, sold books, and moved on to become publishers. I don't think we're all in it for the free books and to link up to each other.

  2. ed
    at 7:41 am on March 12, 2007

    First off, I've examined the essay in question. Are you really sure that this was penned by Keith Gessen? The section you quote from comes from an essay that is anonymous. Therefore, I hold ALL editors of n+1 responsible for the essay's speculative quality, its failure to support examples, its piss-poor argument, and the way it clings to generalizations like a undergraduate just barely getting by with a C average at a state university.

    As such, I refuse to give n+1 any further attention (The Believer is a far more constructive magazine anyway) and I am disinclined to interview or pay heed to any of these idiots in the future. n+1 has demonstrated that it is more concerned with noise than it is with signal.

  3. Dan Wickett
    at 2:22 am on March 13, 2007

    While my comment above about Keith Gessen being hypocritical stemmed from looking solely at his comment about attention – I did not consider the possibility that when he replied to my own questions that he might have been doing it out of kindness to me, after all, I had asked him if he would. That was pretty disingenuous of me considering I rarely consider my own site a place one goes for attention, so much, as compared to a place one might go for some information – which he was nice enough to provide.

  4. King
    at 2:35 pm on March 13, 2007

    Literature needs all the noise it can make. What did just-dead Baudrillard say?
    Something to the effect that things do not happen if they are not seen to happen.
    In this extremely noisy society, writers can be recognized only by making noise– contention and noise; disagreement and noise; actions and outrageous behavior public shouting anything they can do to make noise.
    Re n+1; they make some good points about lit-bloggers. Neither side is going to much shake up society. Lit-bloggers seem to be a mere reflection of and homage to status quo literature, with the same eagerness to exclude those who disagree with them, or who they disagree with. (Note all the links to the ULA.) Free debate? Contention? NOISE? the essence of free and necessary expression in the polite lit world leads them to hand-wringing.
    n+1 itself? At its base it's a journal by an overeducated elite designed to be read by same. To tear down the castle of class and hierarchy within this society, within the culture, would be to destroy themselves.
    Or, it ain't gonna happen, not by them.
    -King Wenclas

  5. Steven Augustine
    at 4:48 pm on March 13, 2007

    The writer-reader feedback loop on Lit Blogs is many thousands of times smaller and faster than it ever was for the print-based ancestors, obviously…to that extent it's all very much a Mendelian experiment with fruit flies and pea-plants: a time-lapse film of simultaneous blossom and decay.

    Lots of able, well-read critics are blogging these days, but they'd have to have the cast-iron inner-austerity of Sam Beckett to fend off all that goopy comment-section praise that comes with the territory; sometimes, reading the more popular blogs is a bit like watching a pickup basketball game consisting chiefly of high-fives and fanny-pats. But the talent is definitely there, and I expect the discipline to follow…the unserious will move on to the next thrill at some point, anyway.

  6. Marco Roth
    at 8:30 pm on March 13, 2007

    Dear Garth,
    Thank you for that very fair and thoughtful post, neither filip nor fusillade, I think. I've already posted a defense and partial recantation over at Long Sunday http://www.long-sunday.net and I'm far too lazy to repeat myself. New to this post: It's odd that so far no one has noted the way the "blog reflex" fits into the other polemics against email, cell phones, and masturbation technologies. All of these are pretty much inescapable aspects of our lives. So, bloggers, please relax. You have arrived. No one will pull your plugs and they can't even if they wanted to unless America turns into one big Baghdad. One purpose of polemic, however, is to drive reform and mine the depths to raise people out of them: Garth's essay, by its civility and serious engagement, is the best reproof we could have hoped for. Unfortunately, the comments and links to his post on other blogs do much to show that the worst cases are still out there: Ed Champion's post is tabloidese at its worst: "Worthless rag?" Are you going to wipe your ass with us on YouTube, Ed? You could. Did you read Basharat Peer's memoir of growing up in Kashmir, Ed? Did you read Gessen on torture or Meghan Falvey on post-feminism or Imraan Coovadia's story? Where are you teaching your brilliant undergraduates, and how do you manage to give them such low grades in this day and age? The giveaway, though, is that you refuse to give us any more consideration. This is the attitude of the insulted publicist. Like us or lump us, Ed, but judge us fairly or we'll take our business elsewhere. Note that our critique of blogs focused on tendencies rather than instances (hence the problem of examples that Garth hit on in his essay), and while "I shit on Dante" is one extreme of a tendency, Ed's extremism strikes me as not far from it. Then, the extra-curricular nonsense: The Believer's stock rises as ours falls, fine. But this isn't criticism and it's not even as though you've established a betting market for literary magazines in which this sort of intervention makes sense. Who's keeping score here and what's the game? And then there's Mark Sarvas who once got very angry with me when I used him as an ambiguous example in my last blogging foray at the Valve and, overnight, shifted into high dudgeon. Mark, is "the blog reflex" really, in your judgment "a jeremiad?" And let me congratulate you for your brilliant use of quotation: "I know you are but what am I" worked pretty well in fourth grade. Has it come to this now? So it is when you only have your precarious self respect. Of course, you see, I'm falling now myself. I should really address Garth's more substantive critiques and the question of whether blogs will really be an antidote to vertically integrated media. But it's late and I'm tired and know that I'm procrastinating, and it's so good to have an outlet for anger. Isn't it? So I've had a blogging accident of the kind described in the essay. This isn't to say that I couldn't be as controlled as I'd be in person or in work, but I'm not a wonderful human being much of the time. Maybe there's a follow-up piece to be written about saints of the blog-o-sphere. They're out there, I'm sure, but so are the demons to tempt them. In other words, it's a lot like everywhere else.
    yours,
    Marco

  7. Anonymous
    at 9:16 pm on March 13, 2007

    I thought N+1 lost a lot of whatever "cred" it has, indie or otherwise, when it published that ridiculous attack, written by Alexandra Heifetz, on the Nietzsche scholar and rankings guru Brian Leiter. He demolishes it — Heifetz probably still blushes bright red to think of it — here.

  8. TEV
    at 10:44 am on March 14, 2007

    Marco only gives part of the story, of course. I will be reproducing all my n+1 correspondence at TEV in the near future, so readers can judge for themselves. Marco seems to feel that the only reason one can have for criticizing n+1 is having been badmouthed by them first. But I think his answer here clearly supports my point that they are remarkably thin-skinned for such Vanguard Angry Intellectuals. In the n+1 universe, the only two reasons you can have for criticizing them are either (a) you haven't read them and don't understand their brilliance or (b) they didn't like you first. It's a claustrophic, angry little hole that will burn up its own oxygen before too long. More to come, I promise, when I can summon the necessary enthusiasm.

  9. ed
    at 11:52 am on March 14, 2007

    This may be a first: a King Wenclas comment that is less hysterical than one from an editor of a print-based magazine. And if this isn't a sign of the vast anti-intellectual chasm that n+1 now occupies, I don't know what is.

    I'll give Mr. Roth a minor benefit of the doubt and amend my above comment. I refuse to give n+1 any further attention — for NOW. Unless someone I trust informs me that it shapes up or seriously ups its game from the current cacophony of sophist articles it now passes off as high-minded polemics. As I stated with utter clarity, I felt similarly about The Believer's early days and anyone could have detected this from my post. But let me spell it out for the remarkably thin-skinned Marco Roth: The Believer, after two years of struggling, found its sea legs by expanding its scope and considering a broader intellectual and human spectrum. Are you capable of such a task? Or are you more content to play a tenth-rate Jean-Paul Sartre, constantly bitching about how your genius is misunderstood and how ANGRY you are? Yes, we're all out to get you! That you misconstrue a criticism of your work with a direct attack on your character reveals the place you currently reside on the Human Maturity Index.

    With hundreds of quarterlies competing for my attention, and nearly all of these alternatives offering nuanced and cogent arguments, n+1 IS, by comparison, a worthless rag. Or didn't they teach you n+1 boys about such writing basics as metaphors? This is not a "tabloidese" qualifier, but a legitimate comparison. Not something to smear against my backside, but something that I can do without. Ergo, worthless. Ergo, comparable with a rag that I can pick up at any supermarket. And certainly not something that I'd waste $12 for. But in case you still don't understand how "worthless" is a valid modifier, let me be clear: I'd get more joy guzzling six overpriced bottles of lager than reading an issue of n+1.

    That you fail to respond directly to any of the criticisms I raised, and wish to raise a stink of self-entitlement here, demonstrates just how useless your claptrap is to me as a thinker. Of course, that's just my opinion. I am one man. And I'm sure that others get some value from your work, in much the way that some suburbanites can have their brains assuaged by Judeo-Christianism. Good for them.

    But seeing as how I am JUST one man, if you can't stand the heat, sir, and if you cannot play with the big boys, and if you cannot listen to and respond to criticism with humility and a level head, I suggest that you take up a job as a pizza delivery man, where your services will will likely be a greater boon for humankind, and your raging arrogance will, at long last, be truly humbled.

  10. Steven Augustine
    at 1:33 pm on March 14, 2007

    Oh, come now. I like a little sword-play as well as the next guy, but dismissing either n+1 or The Believer or the better Lit Blogs as "worthless" is menopausally shrill, if not Don Knottsically bug-eyed shrill, and it screws up the spectators' ability to judge this tournament. Some precision-decapitations would be appreciated here. And I don't give a damn about the personal quirks of the n+1 staff and contributors…there's a very good chance they're all every bit as unlikeable as I am (it's a well-known fact that brainy types are unlikeable: that means ALL of us)…but I enjoy grazing on the online version of n+1 just as I enjoy House of Mirth and TEV and The Millions and a handful of other sites…a precious few, really, in a virtual sea of idiot swill. Print vs Online has a false Mason-Dixon running up its middle…I thought the operative dichotomy was dummy vs smart-ass? Anyway, if you're going to flame, flame well. More wit, less spittle, please.

  11. TEV
    at 4:44 pm on March 14, 2007

    Oh, at the risk of beating the proverbial dead horse, it's also worth noting that for someone who seems to disdain litblogs, Marco is a bit obsessive in checking up on what we have to say about him/them. What was that about "precarious self-respect"?

    The posting of the n+1 letters has begun. Hereinafter, I'll let them speak for themselves.

  12. ed
    at 8:10 am on March 15, 2007

    Well, Keith, I'm glad that you, at least, are more level-headed than your fulminating colleague. And you're right to impute that one's preference for n+1 or litblogs is just that: a personal preference. Of course, calling Scott or me "ignorant" without citing specific (and helpful) examples, no matter how genteel your manner, is still a straw man argument. And you still haven't addressed the many criticisms hurled n+1's way (such as why you would publish the ignorant piece written by Alexandra Heifetz — ignorant not as an word bandied about as ad hominem, but for the clear reasons cited by Brian Leiter).

    I think everyone here probably shares more in common than they realize, but this discussion has become nothing less than a bunch of hot and bothered men publicly flaunting the sizes of their penises. I suppose this works well in locker rooms, but I don't see how name-calling, of which I certainly don't abjure myself, is indicative of a "higher" debate or a constructive literary discussion, no matter how rudimentary or eloquent the phrasing.

    And that also extends to the sham of an article (again, no supporting examples on why litblogs were bad) that spawned this thread in the first place.

  13. Levi Asher
    at 9:22 am on March 15, 2007

    Keith, at the risk of shifting the focus to an already all-too-familiar topic — yes, the NYTBR *has* been dumbed down in pursuit of a broader audience. This is evident in the emphasis on celebrity-book coverage (Ron Jeremy's biography gets a full page?), the "Food issue", and more than anything else in the prose voices the NYTBR editors find palatable, the selection of pedestrian writers who fill their long pieces with insipid jokes and friendly chatter designed to appeal to a "Today Show" audience.

    Just thought I'd defend my words on this point. On the bigger questions of blogs etc., I think the exchanges above mostly cover it. It's all good. Even N+1.

  14. TEV
    at 10:23 am on March 15, 2007

    Keith,

    When it comes to dishonesty you take the cake. Where is the mention of the vicious broadside you sent me? Where is the mention of my email to Marco after his Valve post?

    Stick tight. I will link to the Valve Post, I will include my email to Marco, and I will include my response to your attacks. I will also talk – in detail – about the James Wood exchange. If my readers agree with the notion you put forward – that my ire toward n+1 comes from a single, passing aside in a buried comment by Marco on an academic blog – then so be it. But I think they are less paranoid then you, and you guys have a clear history of lashing out at any criticism. It's also worth pointing out that even since the time of my supposed switch to the dark side, I've posted positively about your own work (though your Amis essay was too incoherent for my taste), and I also asked people to support n+1 when your party funds where stolen. None of which you mention. So much for your honesty.

    I also question your critical judgment if you think that, at any time, the LATBR was the best supplement in the country. You're in a minority there, friend. And, if you were honest, you would also note that not only have I not shared in the NYTBR bashing, I've been supportive. But none of this suits your dudgeon does it?

    I admire your tack here, Keith. You're trying to the divide-and-conquer thing. Again, most readers will see that for what it is and recognize there's no competition between bloggers to be the last one standing. That kind of pugilism might be the n+1 stock in trade but the blogosphere is – generally – a much more congenial place, where all sorts of different voices are allowed to thrive. That clearly makes you uncomfortable – any voices which disagree must be silenced or, at least, ridiculed. As for me, I am content to be judged by what I've offered on my site over the years – interviews, reviews, support of less known authors.

    The problem, when all is said and done, is all you guys really have to offer is your anger. Its' there in your original statement of purpose; in your email to me when you attacked me on Marco's behalf, you talk about being angry; in Marco's comment above he's angry. It's exhausting and contributes little. It's mildly charming and understandable in grad school but isn't it time to grow up?

    Anyway, you've shown you're just as good at the name calling and mudslinging you profess to detest. Ignorant? Annoying? Derrida would be proud of you, Keith.

    Best, as ever,
    Mark

  15. TEV
    at 10:40 am on March 15, 2007

    Wow, I can't believe I'm back but this just sunk in:

    "Marco is not a tenth-rate Sartre, by a long shot. He is one of the two or three best critics now working in America–period. "

    Good Lord, Keith, are you so addled with Roth-love that you've lost all perspective? So which of these critics should move aside from the top two or three to allow Marco his deserved berth:

    James Wood
    Louis Menand
    Daniel Mendelsohn
    Frank Kermode
    John Updike

    Loyalty and a little self-love can be healthy, Keith. But you guys go a bit too far.

    OK, am off to be annoying and irritating.

    Best,
    Mark

  16. Steven Augustine
    at 1:08 pm on March 15, 2007

    There's a Vietnamese saying: "When the elephants fight, the grass is trampled." At the risk of being trampled, I've imported some observations from the vatic trance I've been in since the wine (great wines are cheap in Berlin) I had with supper:

    1. Is this dispute about conduct or content?
    2. Is Mark really expected to defend all of Litblogdom? Does he really expect it of himself?
    3. Is this such a conservative era, hardened by so many shocks, that we can't allow or even imagine the overthrow of its Olde Garde by its angry young (wo)men? (re: Mark jumping on Keith's apparent elevation of critical Roth over critical Updike).
    4. I always assumed that TEV and n+1 were "non-overlapping majesteria".
    5. Can't help thinking (returning to the first point) that publishing old pre-hostility emails, while being a devastating flame/divorce tactic, is meaningless in re the question of Litblogging's overall place and value vs n+1's authority to calculate same.
    6. Wouldn't it be fabulous if something 'good' came from this debate?

  17. ed
    at 2:06 pm on March 15, 2007

    I always assumed that TEV and n+1 were "non-overlapping majesteria".

    Steven Augustine wins the thread.

  18. Anonymous
    at 8:55 pm on March 15, 2007

    This post, along with the comments and supolementary links kept me off the internet pron for over an hour! Talk about saving reading in america.

  19. Anonymous
    at 10:52 am on March 16, 2007

    To someone who is not a lit-blogger, nor a fan of n+1, it seems like you're all arguing minutiae. Yes, lit-blog people, it does often seems like you're all just linking to each other and patting each other on the back and occasionally saying, "Oh, I love this book, and look, Maud Newton does too!" The N+1 people have the luxury of time for editing and not having to write so much, but seriously, you all look like rival frats arguing over who throws the most awesome kegger. Personally, I think you all need to re-evaluate what it is you think you're doing. Very few of you are adding anything to conversations about literature, unless you think talking to yourself is a conversation.

    -marisol

  20. Anonymous
    at 9:46 am on March 19, 2007

    Great blog. The Clash were crap by the way. Hannay

  21. Anonymous
    at 1:11 pm on March 16, 2009

    One feature I think left out of the original discussion, before it turned into a cat fight, was regionalism. As the traditional intellectual epicenters of American thought have become bastions of elite privilege due to artificially high housing prices and absurd costs' of living, countless intellectuals who would have migrated to dense urban areas now chose to stay in the provinces. How is one to be a professional book critic in New York, Boston, or San Francisco today? Certainly there are the lucky few who are either born into sufficient wealth or are fortunate enough to fill the paucity of full time critic jobs to enable them to fraternize together in the same bars and at the same parties, but for the rest, the internet provides the only meaningful medium for the free exchange of ideas across enormous distances. It enables communication between vastly disparate parts of the country. As much as they want to believe otherwise, the traditional epicenters of intellectualism in this country have greatly corroded and will continue to corrode due to the ridiculous nature of hyper-capitalism. In a decentralized world, the internet is a superb corrective to that decentralization's attendant distancing.

  22. Publications « Garth Risk Hallberg
    at 2:42 pm on January 5, 2012

    […] Wallace, 1962  – 2008 * Short Story Week: An Introduction * Love: A Burning Thing & Keepers of the Flame: A Reply to N+1 (pts. 1 and […]

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