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SECOND IN A SERIES
CAN THE LITERARY LIFE
EXIST IN A POST-1984
DWIGHT GARNER, REBECCA SOLNIT,
AND ADAM ENGEL
REVEAL ABOUT THIS ENORMOUS
AND IMPORTANT QUESTION?
WHAT'S WRONG WITH SELF-PUBLISHING?
AND WHY IS IT MORE IMPORTANT NOW THAN EVER BEFORE?
Some will remember that back on February 11 of this year, I announced that I was going to discontinue writing political essays and articles and that I was going to return to literary work.
Here's part of what I said. Let's take a look and see how true to it I've been—or not been:
I'm going to, as I've hinted before, give up writing about "politics," at least for now. There are many others far better than I at doing it, and I'm leaving it to them to keep on—Rand Clifford, Mike Whitney, Chris Floyd, Jerry Mazza, Mickey Z, Paul Craig Roberts, Wayne Madsen, Linda S. Heard, Sheila Samples, Karen Kwiatkowski, Sherwood Ross, Glen Ford, Margaret Kimberly, Tim Gatto, Dave Lindorff, and many others. And there are in fact even some highly significant reasons for a degree of hope that truth will in fact be given a hearing widely enough heard to make a real difference—at such time, for example, as the qui tam case being brought against the hopelessly corrupt National Institute of Standards and Technology by the great scientist and researcher, Dr. Judy Wood actually comes to trial, or at such time as the similar case being brought by Dr. Morgan Reynolds does the same.
·All right, there it was, the gauntlet I threw down—for me myself to pick up. I haven't yet answered the great "post 1984 question," but I've done a lot of work toward answering it, and I very much fear that I'm getting closer. I fear it because that answer is a dreadful one. And the truth is that if it's going to have any real positive effect, not only is the question itself going to have to be asked many, many, many times, but the answer is going to have to be given even many more times than that.
What have I done since last time? Well, I've started a press—The Oliver Arts & Open Press, which has its eloquently beautiful web site here. Please have a look and poke around. There will be much more added to it regularly—given time, peace, and good fortune.
In case it's not obvious at the outset, Oliver is, from sole of boot to top of cap, an opposition press. It's been brought into existence in an attempt to prove—what a coincidence!—that there can be a meaningful literary life in a post-1984 state, even while at the same time I myself, founder, editor, publisher, and president of Oliver, am becoming more and more—and more and more beyond that—doubtful that there can be or ever again will be.
This conflict between what I want and what I fear is something we'll have to clear up as we go along in this series of pieces. Speaking of opposition, though, one of the writers I mentioned above, the greatly gifted Tim Gatto, has in fact become Oliver's inaugural author, with his intensely personal, compulsively readable, and—yes—highly political and extremely oppositionist book, From Complicity to Contempt: An American Writer and Veteran Speaks Out Against American Lies. You can read about—and buy—the book right here on Oliver's own site. And while you're at it, you can also read a splendid Tim Gatto "sampler" just by clicking here.
And you can also, as with any other titles published by Oliver, get Tim's book from every brick-and-mortar bookstore in America, Europe, or the United Kingdom (if you happen to be in one of those places) just by asking for it. And you can also buy it from online sellers everyplace.
·All of this may seem promotion for The Oliver Arts & Open Press more than prologue to answering the looming and insuperably great question we have about literature, literary life—and therefore about truth—in a post-1984 nation. Again, trust me: Oliver and The Question are not unrelated matters.
For example, speaking of oppositionism, get a load of this: The fact is that Oliver's second published author is—yes—none other than me myself. Now, is that or is that not the most shameful example of "self-publishing" you've ever heard of or seen?
You'll pardon me, I trust, while I ask you to hold on just for a minute. I seriously think a word or two are in order about those two cursed and accursed words, "self-publishing." Or, to put it another way, maybe the two cursed and accursed words should be identified as "self" and "publishing."
First huge point: If everyone doesn't know this, well, they're going to know it now, after they read this next sentence, containing one of Larsen's Laws: The only thing that brings essence and value to any piece of writing,¹ fiction or non-fiction, political or other, is that that piece of writing be true, that it be wholly true, and that it be nothing other than true.
Well, sure it does. You wouldn't settle for any lower a standard in a court of law—and neither would anyone else who's both honest and moral—so why would anyone willingly settle for less in the equally-great matter of writing? of language? of the arts, salient though not sole distinguishers of mankind from all the other animals?
I've written about this idea before—a lot, in fact. It's everywhere throughout A Nation Gone Blind: America in an Age of Simplification and Deceit; it's in a great many of the pieces I've written and posted on my website over the past three years; and it's also in the interview I had with myself on the occasion of publishing A Nation Gone Blind.
In that "interview," I asked and answered of and to myself the following:
Q: You're hard on your colleagues, as well as on your fellow writers, and you're certainly hard on publishers.
You'll have to click on the "interview" if you want to find out what the answer was to that last question.²
And now back to that stupid and stupidly maligned phrase "self-publishing." To put it in a nutshell, what intelligent, sane, and normal person cares a fart-in-a-hurricane's-worth who publishes a piece of work if it's a piece that meets the standard of truth and truthfulness, and of truthfulness to the truth, that we're talking about?
I know that I sure don't.
On the other hand, I know perfectly well—and you know perfectly well, too—that most of what's published by anyone anywhere consists for the most part of junk, dreck, bilge, and falsehoods. I know that some of you are likely to say I'm being mean, harsh, glib, and simplistic in putting into that last sentence the particular words I did. But forgive me—if you can. I'm mad. In fact, I'm mad as hell. And I'm mad not just because the legitimating standards of truth and meaning in the arts that I was born, bred, and raised on have been betrayed—no, not because of that, even though that is enough to drive a man mad, as I hope I showed in A Nation Gone Blind. But what makes me really mad is something even worse than the wholesale betrayal I've just mentioned. And this is what makes me really mad: That lies and the untrue are deliberately, constantly, and unremittingly sold, peddled, promoted, and passed off as being true by every "mainstream" institution and element that's left in our diseased, demented, and dying nation.
You can be absolutely and positively sure that "every. . . institution and element" includes the entire "industry" of so-called mainstream publishing. Mainstream publishers—all five or six of them, when you whittle them down to their world-gobbling corpo-owners—have no interest in truth of any kind whatsoever, whether of antiquity or of today, whether of politics or of the arts. No, being corpo-people and being corpo-driven, they want one thing and one thing only: They want sales.
Not that there's anything wrong with that, unless sales are all you want. And nothing—nothing whatsoever—sells better than lies, especially in America and especially today.
These can be lies of omission, lies of simplification, or lies made up of the plain declaration of falsehood.
In what we still sometimes, though with increasing infrequency, call mainstream's "literary" or "quality" publishing, the kinds of lies that are far and away the most common, especially in fiction—lies that are virtually essential in and to any books if they hope're to be published in this category—are lies of omission and simplification. In non-fiction of the same "literary" range within mainstream publishing, plentiful supplies of those first two kinds of lies will be found, but there will be also a considerably greater proportion of the third kind, lies consisting of plain falsehood.
·To read most "literary" fiction today is to die a thousand deaths of tedium. Or, on the other hand, it's to give in to a steady diet of "entertainment," or even what's called "intellectual entertainment," this including the realms of historicals of various kinds, memoirs, mysteries, espionage, and other genres that can escape the profit-damning category of "serious" or in any conceivable way "difficult" while still maintaining the label of "respectable."
But art? Literature? Actual literary fiction? Gone. Dead ducks, the lot of them. These are too hard. These are too rarified. These are too demanding. These are too unsellable.
But all of this is only a small part of my complaint. My complaint extends far beyond book publishing alone and into all of the media, including magazine and newspaper publishing, movies, television-and the much more fundamental element or aspect of this medium, television advertising.
Lies, all lies. All lies all the time.
Some examples, and then we'll bring this prologue to a close. The greatest example is the simple truth about who "did" 9/11-the U.S., that is, attacked itself-a truth that's been obvious now for eight years³ but that not only has been so overwhelmed by lies that it continues to be buried but has also been so enormously lied about that it has successfully made way for the illegal and treasonable crime against humanity known as the Iraq war, the near-atom bombing of Iran, and, now, the illegal and treasonable crimes against humanity known as the wars in Afghanistan and in Pakistan.
The "war on terror," in a nutshell.
But how about some smaller matters. What about the lie that the Iraq war was intended to bring freedom and democracy to Iraq? You can clear that one up pdq simply by reading this extraordinary piece by scholar James Petras, "The US War again Iraq: The Destruction of a Civilization." You may not sleep well afterward, but that's one of the reasons Petras' article is so important: It doesn't do what the blacked-out corpo-media does all the time: That is, it doesn't lie to you for the very purpose of putting you to sleep. No, the Petras article tells you the truth-for the very purposeł if possible, of waking you up.
In another nutshell, we're the Nazis now. Petras shows that the U.S. is now so far out of the control of any humane or democratic internal powers that the situation is quite beyond imagination. We, the United States, and we, the citizens of the United States-it's we, as just said, who are the Nazis now.
Unpleasant to hear, I know. And, thanks to the complicity of the corpo-media throughout the entire United States, it's not something that you will hear or will be able to hear-unless you deliberately seek it out on the only remaining bastion of news and free speech left to us, the internet.
And that's why The Oliver Arts & Open Press is a web-based press. I beg of you to wish it luck.
Next time, we'll get on to Dwight Garner, Rebecca Solnit, and Adam Engel. Here's some homework for you, though, to undertake in the time between now and then. First, read Ray McGovern's article, "Blackwater's Unwritten Death Contract."
Second, read Frank Rich's column from the New York Times of Sunday, August 23, 2009, "The Guns of August," and look for the lies, the varieties of lies, and the kinds of lies that form the very fabric of the piece through and through.¹
And finally, a tiny exercise. Some newspaper readers will remember that on Monday, August 17, 2009, the Times ran an article about a speech that President Obama delivered "to an audience of 5,500 members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and their families" in Arizona. The article read, in part:
"We must never forget," he said. "This is not a war of choice. This is a war of necessity. Those who attacked America on 9/11 are plotting to do so again. If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which Al Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans. "So this is not only a war worth fighting. This is fundamental to the defense of our people."Well, the lies are plentiful enough here to fell an elephant, and for the most part they're strictly of the "plain old falsehood-in-place-of-truth" type. But something interesting happened-and it helps tell us something about the liars who lead us.
In that Monday's paper, the article ran under this headline:
Obama Defends Afghanistan As a 'War of Necessity.'
But when I later did a search for it, the article came up under a different headline. Now the headline was this:
Obama Defends Strategy in Afghanistan
The only thing I can imagine that might account for the change is that the Times editors realized that the first headline wasn't fit to print. Why not? Well, it wasn't fit to print because the lie it expressed was simply too true. That is, the lie was so true a lie that it stuck out like a sore thumb. So, in order to get away with the lie, they had to euphemize it. That is, they decided to hide the lie just a little bit—so that at least it could pass for something pretending to be the truth.
¹...Ditto for any artwork, for any work in the entire broad family of the arts—EL.
²...(A hint: It was "no.")
³...Please see this page on my website—EL.
¹...If interest in this assignment leads you to desire more analysis of Rich's lies, you might see my "The Pernicious Hypocrisy of Frank Rich of the New York Times."