Some unhappy literary trends—

  • Self-cannibalism. That is, “personal essays” where writing is reduced to “self-expression,” and the self is reduced to a set of opinions about TV shows. Most often and prominently the TV show the writer imagines his/her life to be.
  • “Write what you know,” i.e. repeat the same set of assumptions and formulas to yourself and your friends forever, so that the mind and the language have nowhere to go.
  • Clamping the reader’s hand like an ingratiating salesman. So to speak.
  • Professional Internet bombast. A literary quality in its natural habitat, probably, but: assembled-for-pay blog posts composed exclusively of exclamation marks and stock phrases are the McMansions of writing. And they are legion.
  • Speaking of Online Content: Not only the language but the ETHOS of the corporate world has taken possession of art and literature. Writers and artists must “brand” themselves (even cows understand the pitfalls of this). Poems, paintings, novels, and sculptures are start-up projects in need of investment. Imagination is, as ever, an unaffordable production cost.
  • Inordinate pride about being a Cultured Literary Person who, you know, enjoys the occasional superhero movie or reality TV show.
  • Believing that enjoying and being interested in pop culture as well as “high” culture is any way new, or a radical shaking-off of chains.
  • The curious tribal belief that—despite the fact that we live in an age where translations are plentiful and access to foreign literatures is easier than it’s ever been—certain neighborhoods in New York City =
    the world.

We write no prescriptions for these maladies.
But we do, perhaps, offer a diet.