Today is

   "A word to the wise ain't necessary --  
          it's the stupid ones that need the advice."
					-Bill Cosby

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A little something to brighten your day

Stefan Beck at The New Criterion scoffs at the "artificial gravity" of the new literary magazine, n+1:

What kind of person—other than a Teaching Assistant, who has no choice—would subject himself to hundreds of pages of what Keith Gessen jokingly called a “critical mass of stuff that nobody would want to publish”? Who could endure all that flashy, empty-headed prose? Only someone very keen to reassure himself that he’s wise, that he’s a step ahead of the game, that he perceives and appreciates what others cannot. The kind of person who’d happily walk the Trail of Tears from Manhattan to Red Hook just to drink Schlitz in an old factory building. A real “intellectual.”

Speaking of intellectuals: a digression, for comic relief. In college, we joked that every issue of the student literary magazine had to include at least one story that opens with a long, baroque description of the author, er, “protagonist,” lighting and smoking a cigarette. I’m pleased to note that the kids are all grown up and they’ve still got it. From Marco Roth’s fifteen-page “Last Cigarettes”:

"Boredom is a moment of danger. Cigarettes can be a way of harnessing this danger, the crisis of confidence that ensues when a writer is stuck or lonely and wonders whether his regimen is really a regimen, an honorable structure independently chosen, or, as he has doubtless heard throughout his American life, an extravagant form of shirking. He must prove everyone wrong and show what a good worker he is. Type, pause, light up, type, type, type, ash, type, inhale, type."

If boredom is a moment of danger, I just fell out a fifth-story window into an abandoned mineshaft full of quicksand.

I shouldn't laugh, though. If I ever attempted to write fiction, I'd love for it, above all, to be funny. But I'm sure any true comedy would end up being of the unintentional "Last Cigarettes" variety. So I'm not laughing at the n+1 gang; I'm laughing with them.


Blogger Jeff said...

Thanks for the link to this. I wonder, where does that weird self-conscious style of college lit-mag writing come from? Even if students are immersed in 20th-century fiction, very little of it is obsessed with those particular conceits. Kids must pick up those writerly stereotypes from sitcoms, or maybe from somewhere else in the popular culture, but I'm not entirely sure where.

January 14, 2006 9:04 PM  

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