Wednesday, January 21, 2009

This is a Photograph of an Art Installation Showing the Non-Gendered Nature of Flabby Thighs

A recent anonymous commenter (apparently from the past) posted this criticism, and so I thought I'd share:

I too think there's a problem with LROD. About a year ago W/R started to chase real dissidents away. By dissidents, I mean people who think that there is somthing basically wrong with literary fiction today. We were characterized as attack dogs; we got taken to the woodshed for incivility (others could be as nasty as they wanted); when one of us made an appearance, comments immediately appeared, belittling what we had to say (and not addressing the content of our thoughts). I think W/R has backed off; he could see a deadly blandness setting in (which means a loss of readers; this blog, for him, has become a form of success). I think the only thing that bothers W/R about the literary scene is that he's not Inside it. Those who want to tear down the country clubhouse are threatening the building he wants to be In. Some predicament! Sorry if this sounds harsh. We all have an agenda. I just don't find yours, W/R, to be one I agree with. I've referred to you as a "he." Don't know about that. Women are typically concerned about flabby thighs.

Agree or disagree—or in between? (Since I'm third-gendered, I necessarily fall somewhere in between.)

38 comments:

Anonymous said...

no comments on this blog's fall/stagnation/whatever since i am new to it.

but a comment about your post: when you start out calling someone a "hater", you've already closed your mind.

it's all too common today. just do a blog search on "haters". it's such an ugly word with an ugly attitude. so you disagree ... vehemently ... with someone. you hate them, they hate you. but THEY are the "hater" and you are just ... self-righteous. it's sucks. it's stupid.

and please, get that filthy image off the top of the blog. gross!

Anonymous said...

(actually, i don't want to be accused of telling you what to do. but if you want ME back, please remove that rude ugliness.)

barbara said...

I want to interject a question for the critics:

What's the URL of *your* blog, or other blogs you follow? If you think LROD lost it, can you tell us what *has* it?

Writer, Rejected said...

Which ugliness? The word "hater"? (I thought that was a fair criticism and I changed it.)

Oh, maybe you mean the sculpture of the human bodies above? I don't think they're ugly. I think they're kind of cool.

heynonnynonymous said...

Trolls are back

Anonymous said...

"Trolls are back"

You mean the blog is going to get good again, with smart posters and real insight?

Anonymous said...

W/R--

Here's some scoop for your "Reason #2001 For Struggling Authors To Slit Their Wrists" category: Britney Spears is getting between $14 mill and $20 mil (reports vary) from a major publisher to publish 3-5 books that she is going to be writing herself (*cough*) about her life.

Because, like, we need 3 - 5 more books about Britney.

And because, like, she deserves $14 to $20 million.

And because, like, you know that they will all be bestsellers because all the fans in her demographic are such big fans of reading books.

YIPES.

heynonnynonymous said...

"You mean the blog is going to get good again, with smart posters and real insight?"

Yeah. That's exactly what I mean.

Anonymous said...

W,R, I think you mean "installation" and not "installment", unless your next post will show the tops of these folks.

Writer, Rejected said...

Oh you're right. My senility is showing: approximate word substitution...It happens all the time in my old age. Terrible! Thanks for the correction.

rmellis said...

Is that commenter essentially saying that you must be a guy, because women are more concerned with their looks than with writing? I had to read it about five times before the sexism sank in.

WR isn't chasing anyone away; he or she is just putting a lid on some of the crazy that pops up here, as it does on all good blogs.

indiana said...

i don't understand what the post commenter is talking about. if dissidents' opinions weren't wanted here, wr would just delete them from the comment queue. that's how Blogger works, you can choose the comments you want to appear. but i've read plenty anti-establishment, anti-anti-establisment, anti-anti-anti-establishment comments on this blog over the past few months. it doesn't seem at all like certain voices or views are getting censored. the comment threads read pretty much like a free for all.

if another commentard tries to belittle you by calling you an attack dog without considering the merit of your observation, well, that person has his own problems. there will always be commentards who deem themselves the thread police and defenders of the status quo. it's a tic for some people, an uncontrollable impulse, i know struggling writers like this who will defend a publishing system that doesn't give a shit about them.

but nonetheless, your original comment still remains in the thread, and so does the dismissive reply. just ignore them as everybody else does.

also, dude, wr is a lesbian. i guarantee.

peace and love

Anonymous said...

By dissidents, I mean people who think that there is somthing basically wrong with literary fiction today. There are only a few cases where rejections are interesting. If they really mean your work is somewhere between inexpressibly bad or just not for us this time, they aren't interesting, even really to the recipient.

But if the rejection is because the editors have MFA program sclerosis (e.g., "I am listing seven sentences from your submission where you use adverbs. Adverbs destroy your credibility as a writer, &c &c") this is interesting. If the rejection is because the zine clearly is nothing but a venue for a clique, this is interesting. If the rejection is because the editor clearly has difficulties with reading comprehension, this is interesting.

One problem here is that the uninteresting often trumps and inhibits the interesting. But I'm puzzled that there's so little on line outlet for interesting discussion.

Anonymous said...

that is really interesting!

Writer, Rejected said...

Definitely interesting...start that blog. We'll all come around to your place and try to be more interesting. (I actually mean that sincerely, not defensively.)

quescaisje said...

I'm new to fiction (writing, not reading), and I'm curious about the MFA vs non-MFA antagonism. What gives?

blogmouse said...

"But I'm puzzled that there's so little on line outlet for interesting discussion."

I'm with you 100%.

I know, in the past, several with this point of view have posted on this blog. This is essentially the message of dear commercial magazine editor, one rejected writer's manifesto (I bet that talented writer is still agentless, right W/R?), and has short fiction gone the way of the old fashion movie star. That's it. You got it right there W/R.

Today you can be a "rebel" in so many ways, but it's all on the surface and inside it's all the same. (In music terms you can be emo or punk or hardcore or hiphop or trance or reggae or heavy metal or whatever this crap is called, but musically it's all three chords, verse-chorus-verse, utterly infantile compared to so much of the great music of the past).

In fiction, what you can't be today is what you, anon, have called "interesting"; you can't write stories that fall outside the cliches of "good writing." (No, I am not recommending that bad writing needs its due. This is something else, and subtle, and if you see the point about "interestingness" above I think you understand what I'm getting at.)

For one small off the cuff example read the stories in the current Atlantic fiction issue. All are very well written, very competent. Not a comma out of place. But there is something seriously wrong with all this fiction. Those stories are not going to be read and loved and enjoyed by everyday people, by non-writers. Why?

I think your "interesting" thing and the LROD links above might have the answer. You can pick out the metaphors, the similes, the elements of these stories as if they were highlighted on the screen. It's all technique, and it's all by the book. Pastiche. Even the best of the Atlantic's current stories, "Tess," has this problem: it's so scripted and so conforming to this narrow view that the whole thing unfolds and reads just fake, just like what some people criticize as a "workshop" story. And the message of these stories (not quite the "moral," that's not exactly it, but I mean the worldview assumed and the meaning given, the depth of the story) is the same kind of message you would expect from the storyline of a commercial from Pfizer drugs, the same "message" as broadcast on stock photo images used by any Fortune 500 corporation in their current-year Prospectus. It's corporatized and safe, inoffensive (well, to those that it's no ok to offend; one seeming requisite of this kind of fiction is that you must be offensive to some while staying inoffensive to others, ie politically correct). These writers all blend together and they're going nowhere. Competent and talented, every one of them, but none of them will have the effect of a Defoe, a Hemingway, a Tolstoy. There is not a museum piece or culture-shaker among them.

In general, this kind of fiction is practically a waste of time to read -- which is why it's been relegated to the ivy-grove ghetto of unpaying academic "journals" and well out of the eye of the common man.

Why have things gotten to this, and how can we change that? ("We" as in those who don't like how things are and want to change it; a good many readers of LROD take the opposite view and probably wish our type would go away. Even if not, if we wish to be successful and effective we've got to leave anyway and get to work.)

Anon, hurry up and go to blogger.com and start that blog. We're waiting.

Anonymous said...

Really like the comment above, a lot to it (though I don't know what blog people are talking about).
Checked out the 3 old posts/comments s/he gave links to (in blue). Interesting. Yes, there was a spirit to the debate then that I don't see often now -- (but do here, again; hope for more; I don't believe w/r would stifle it).

Anonymous said...

I think the debate died out because it began to follow a script, pretty much the same script it is following now. Someone calls for a revolution in literary fiction. Someone lays the blame on the MFA (usually this person has had no experience with an MFA and is talking out of his or her ass). Another person steps up and mocks literary journals. No one has used the word incestuous yet, but we're getting close. The truth is you're not interested in the discussion. You want to be told, "yes, you're right. Fiction is messed up. It's not your writing that is the problem," but you're wrong. The scope of what it considered good fiction is much larger than you think. The Atlantic is one magazine. There are thousands of journals. Not all of them print the same stuff. Many deliberately seek out good stories that the editors of the Atlantic wouldn't dream of publishing.
Now if you don't believe me (or are unwilling to listen) and you think something really is wrong, then do something about it. Become a reader for a literary journal (one season of that alone will change your mind about the state of fiction), or if you're really set on changing things up, get together with a few like minded people and start your own journal (start online, it's the future anyway). Create a space for this variety of writing you feel is ignored. Then, when the next group shows up and whines about there being no place for their fiction, you can say, "here's one. spread the word."

Anonymous said...

So 11:27, which are those journals? Are any of them ones that Darin Strauss (or some pseudonym he claims not to be) would have heard of?

gimme said...

Of course, part of the "script" is that someone always has to pop up and say (per anon above):

"or if you're really set on changing things up, get together with a few like minded people and start your own journal"

Yep, THAT's what'll fix things here... another non-paying LITERARY JOURNAL!

Cracks me up...:)

I think the vaguely bitter, defeated tone of this place stems from the fact that most of us know, on a gut level, that there is nothing to be done. Literature does not matter anymore. It never did matter MUCH, but for most of the century survived mainly through the largess of moneyed benefactors and aristocratic editors.

Now that the whole thing is in the hands of corporations, the game is over.

Everyone here is still railing against the obviousness of this, but eventually we'll all move on to the next phase: *acceptance*. We'll accept that literary fiction will never bring us money or fame, that those days are dead, never to return.

I think once we reach this stage, we can begin to reconcile the degree of energy we want to devote to complaining, but it takes a strong person to accept that their "dream" of making a living writing interesting fiction is pretty much preposterous.

blogmouse said...

"I think the debate died out because it began to follow a script, pretty much the same script it is following now."

That's right, folks like you got in the way. That and the fact that this is LROD, a funny blog about literary rejections, and myself & the others who are interested in this topic of "interesting" and looking behind the the media mask need to find our own venue and not take over W/R's blog.

"Someone lays the blame on the MFA (usually this person has had no experience with an MFA and is talking out of his or her ass)."

Usually? You don't know me. We've done the MFA debate before and it's not worthwhile to even bring it up here. And my ass doesn't talk.

"The truth is you're not interested in the discussion."

No, that's not truth. We want to have the discussion. Us, the interested parties, and no that obviously does not include you.

"You want to be told,"--

You don't know me. You don't know what I want to be told. But I will tell you certainly that I don't want to be told this: "'yes, you're right. Fiction is messed up. It's not your writing that is the problem,'"--

"but you're wrong."

You don't know me. You are assuming that I am an unpublished, would-be author.

"The Atlantic is one magazine."

Yes, and one example -- all I had time for. Although if you comprehended what I said, you wouldn't be bringing it up.

"Not all of them print the same stuff. Many deliberately seek out good stories that the editors of the Atlantic wouldn't dream of publishing."

Of course. And I never said otherwise. Country, rap, hardcore and reggae all have their venues, yes.

"then do something about it."

Actually, I am. The suggestions you bring up completely miss the point of the discussion here.

"Become a reader for a literary journal"

I'm against "literary journals."

"one season of that alone will change your mind about the state of fiction"

It didn't.

"or if you're really set on changing things up, get together with a few like minded people and start your own journal"

We will start no "journal." Most pro writers don't even have time to blog, or twitter, let alone launch a major publication. So no, that's a non-answer.

"(start online, it's the future anyway)"

I totally agree with you. It's also the present, right now, right here.

*******************

Anyway, I don't want to provoke this discussion or take up your blog space, W/R. But when that blog finally does get launched, I expect you will pass the URL!

Anonymous said...

Re 1:15, there are dreams and dreams. The population of inevitably disappointed literary wannabes is nothing new: Steinbeck's agents, McIntosh and Otis, started out working for a fee-charging scammer (this in the 1920s). The Famous Writers School has, I think, morphed into distance learning MFA programs, but the idea that you can send in some money and learn to be a successful writer has been around since the 1950s. Same with vanity publishers. I don't know how long fee-charging contests have been around.

The issue is there's never been a shortage of people with "dreams" who are willing to give people their money. The "dreams" are basically inauthentic. I don't see an issue if there's just a new cohort of suckers out there. One difficulty with this blog is it doesn't always distinguish between the unreasonable and inauthentic dreams of suckers and authentic efforts to get published. Thus this blog is often a pity party for the justifiably unpublished, which is probably why some folks in the comments are irritated when the blog veers into simple narcissism, as it often does.

There are in fact non-paying journals that are making at least some effort at creating a better literary space. Once you drop Cinderella fantasies and recognize that serious literary effort is something that people have to do -- take the parallel instance of Mozart, knowing he'd never make money out of his final works, wrote them anyhow -- you're going to want to find out who's fostering this effort.

This is my continued question to 11:27. Why not some sort of list of journals that are making an effort?

Anonymous said...

"So 11:27, which are those journals? Are any of them ones that Darin Strauss (or some pseudonym he claims not to be) would have heard of?"

Wait a minute, I recognize that paranoia. Is that you, John? Are you still clinging to your delusions? To answer you question, no Darin Strauss(and no, I'm not him) would probably not have heard of them, but that doesn't mean they are not important. You should be proud of your published work. Why you need to put down other, more well known writers is a mystery to me. Try some of the links on HTML giant. I admit that most of it is not to my liking, but I respect the fact that they are banding together to promote often ignored writing.

"it takes a strong person to accept that their "dream" of making a living writing interesting fiction is pretty much preposterous."

Oh, you want fame and fortune as a result of your "interesting fiction" (btw what the hell do you mean by interesting. Can you give us a few examples) Is that what you mean when you say that literary fiction in broken. I get you now. I had assumed that it was universally known that making a living as fiction writer is next to impossible and that you were just looking for a place for you interesting fiction. We have a slightly better shot at it than poets, but there's a reason why so many big names in literary fiction teach. So really the problem is you haven't bothered to learn how the world of literary fiction struggles along.

If you think about it, the corporations don't own literary fiction. They don't want it. In that sense, yes the genre is all but dead. Low paying Indie-presses and the non-paying journals you belittle are the only things keeping it alive. They won't make you famous, but at least a few more people will read your work and with the major publishing houses imploding, who knows? Maybe the indie-presses will start to get more attention.

Anonymous said...

"Why you need to put down other, more well known writers is a mystery to me." Same reason Alexander Pope put down Colley Cibber. Same reason Mark Twain put down Sir Walter Scott. Some writers are better than others, and their putdowns sometimes become classics.

Anonymous said...

You are not Mark Twain, or Alexander Pope, my friend. Your put downs will not become classics.
As for the list of journals, first someone needs to explain how this "interesting fiction" is different from the non-interesting fiction. Do you mean interesting as in experimental? Do you mean interesting as in not about somber people who think a lot and have epiphanies? (I'm not a fan of those stories either). Or do you mean interesting as in stories about supposedly realistic people? Who are the authors you think are interesting? What is it that you're writing that is interesting? Interesting tells me nothing.
Blogmouse: Folks like me get in the way. Yes, the opposing perspective does tend to get in the way. You and your group of anti-journal anti-establishment people don't take hard line stances. You just continue screaming, "good writing sucks," but you fail to offer an alternative. Tell me what do you want literary fiction to become? That will push the discussion forward. That will break from the script. Here I'll start. If there is to be a change in fiction, I would like to see more Authors like Ron Carlson to gain recognition. Authors who write books for men. I want to see more stories about guys who sweat through their problems. Perhaps then men would start reading again. Does this mean I'll reject any and all journals who don't publish that kind of story, no. You want the discussion to start up again, then stop repeating yourself.

And now because I feel that I've been entirely too negative. I enjoy the blog W,R. You are clearly much more level headed than I.

Anonymous said...

I agree, this is a great blog, keep doing it, don't let these rejects double-reject you...
And on that note: I don't get how you are an award winning writer, W,R, but still see yourself as rejected...Being a finalist in a Potomac review contest is a big deal...so?

gimme said...

"but you fail to offer an alternative. Tell me what do you want literary fiction to become?"

I have no alternative and it's not going to "become" anything.

Personally, I was more or less satisfied with the state of American literature and publishing up until somewhere around the early 90s.

Up till then, it seemed to me that, while, of course, there was much published I didn't care for, there was a wide variety of diverse, interesting literary fiction. Good writers tended to find their way to editors. A handful of great novels were published every year. Things seemed dandy to me.

Then a lot of things happened: the demise of the short fiction market, the collapse of the paperback distribution system, the corporate consolidation of publishing companies, rising costs, big box stores running small retailers out of business, general economic malaise... blah blah blah... we all know chain of events, right?

And then, far more abruptly than I would have thought possible, contemporary literary fiction virtually vanished. Bingo. Bye-bye.

And now, here we are.

What's my advice? Get used to it. It's over. Go home.

Anonymous said...

Gimme: Thank you. I can see where you are coming from. I still hold out some hope. for the future of fiction, hence my vehement defense of it. I just think fiction's future is tied to the new content distribution systems. Narrative magazine, for all of its flaws (even I think that journal is a joke) seems to get it. It is now available on Kindle. E-readers will never replace books, but I think they, and the coming generations of smart phones have the potential to save the short story. Journals and writers could potentially sell individual short stories in digital form. I've been toying with the idea of starting a new type of journal. It would essentially be an itunes for literature. If you wanted the whole journal, you could buy it or you could download just the pieces you wished to actually read for fifty cents. Ideally half the money would go to the writer and half would go towards the journal's operating costs. The money going to the writer would still be small, but it would be something. The only thinkg stopping me is my complete lack of web-design ability. I need to find a professional willing to donate some time to the arts.
I also like the thinking behind Publishing Genius. They produce pdf chapbooks. I've read through a couple. Again, not all of it was to my liking, but that's to be expected.
It's an exciting time to be a writer. Who knows what's next?

silly said...

more posts should be accompanied by pictures of silly putty dicks

ET said...

Too many anonymi! Chickens!

Writer, Rejected said...

Don't be silly, Silly, and don't be so putty-penis focused; there's more that meets the eye than just the man member....perhaps it's the claymation vajayjay that has inspired this fervent conversation.

Anonymous said...

Claymay vuhjay!

Anonymous said...

glad you posted this but wow, if it's as bad as they say (rings true), just wow. it sux.

lisaalber said...

Wow, this is the first time I've read through all the comments on any blog (kudos to all the interesting debaters), and I'll admit that I'm not exactly sure what the debate was about since I'm a new LROD reader...

My take on the world of literary fiction is that it has always been tough to earn a living at it, even back in the day. As tough in the 1800s as now. Nothing's really changed about its insularity and particularity. Gotta do it because you love it and expect to earn most of your living in other ways. (But that's not to say the publishing industry isn't seriously flawed -- I'm not say that all.)

What has changed it the number of people who are writing. Millions of us with computers wanting to express ourselves within this crazy, mixed-up, fast-paced world. The supply of writers is up, but the demand for literary fiction, not so much. A supply and demand thing, basics economics. The miracle would be to find a way to increase demand for literary fiction -- then we'd see journals and mags accepting more of our stories!

This said, in a discussion of "literary" (a term I don't actually like to use) the classics we read these days--which we usually place under the category of "literary" fiction--were often the commercial fiction of its day. So in Anon.'s original criticism, I don't understand the statement "something basically wrong with literary fiction today." Today as compared to when?

Thanks to our host and all commenters for a thought-provoking blog-read (which is rare, which makes it interesting).

Anonymous said...

lisaalber, that's it. i personally hate "literary fiction." i'm interested in mainstream, commercial fiction. and for that, for short stories, where do you go? who buys mainstream fiction anymore?

gimme said...

"the classics we read these days--which we usually place under the category of "literary" fiction--were often the commercial fiction of its day."

That's actually seldom been true.

Take a look at the bestsellers of any given era and you'll mostly find stuff you've never heard of.

And I know that it's comforting in some way to think that things have always been tough, and that nothing's really changed, but it's just not true - things HAVE changed, fundamentally and on many levels, and I think ignoring that disadvantages us further.

You're right about the massive increase in the # of writers, and the whole supply/demand angle. Absolutely. But the fact is that, while the DEMAND may not have changed significantly over the years (though it would seem to have gone down a bit), the SUPPLY has been entirely constricted, since the DEMAND is not deemed large enough to bother with by the corporate entities that control the SUPPLY.

If you follow me...:)

In the "old days", literary fiction was not viewed as a profit venture - that was what allowed it to flourish. Once it became part of the corporate bottom line, there was no earthly reason (from a business point of view) to allow it to continue.

And so it has been discontinued. Simple as that. If you read the annual reports of any of the big publishing companies you'll find stark confirmation of this. They are ALL saying the same thing right now: no more literary fiction - it's a waste of money.

If you think that's not new news, you're not paying attention.

Anonymous said...

"And I know that it's comforting in some way to think that things have always been tough, and that nothing's really changed, but it's just not true - things HAVE changed, fundamentally and on many levels, and I think ignoring that disadvantages us further."

You're so right. That's the thing I'd like to discuss, here or elsewhere. Yes it's controversial, and not P.C., and it's a boat that the vested interests of the MFA programs are not for rocking, but we've got to do it.

Fiction is dead. I saw a specimen mounted kindly on the pages of the Atlantic annual "fiction issue." The universities are also mounting specimens in all of their little journals, for their students to study and emulate (so that maybe they can generate new specimens for another generation to look at). But fiction, for the world, for the people out there on the streets, that beast died with all the other things that died in the "counter-culture." The world of fiction (like the old fashion movie star) was the "culture" that the 60s/70s ("80s, 90s and today!") "counter-culture" was counter to. I grew up in that world. I hate it. It's time for a counter-revolution.