Some years ago, while suffering through a bout of emotional miasma I found myself with nothing better to do then watch Bill Maher. Maher always strikes me as the guy who is just smart enough to fail to impress people who are actually intelligent and just dumb enough to annoy anyone who is too stupid to realize he isn’t worth the sweat required to take him seriously.*
However, every now and then he manages to say something worth considering and that evening he was for once talking about a subject for which he is qualified to opine – certainly more than when he offers lectures on comparative religion or the intricacies of history.
In this case he was pointing out that the Comtesse De Paltrow, Gwyneth to the serfs, was both absurd and smug to claim that while it was certainly true that her famous parents got her in the door to a meeting, after that, it was all her – the charm, the looks, the poise and of course the talent.
Assume all of those things are in quotes as they’re all subjective but, within the spectrum of what sells in the entertainment empires she qualifies.
Maher went on to point out that the truth is that in their business (he meant entertainment) getting a meeting was 90% of the struggle. Getting a meeting, taking a meeting, having a meeting etc are in truth a kind of currency. The very act of being granted an audience is a kind of exchange and recognition of power.
Comments like Maher’s were and remain rare. Letting the serfs peak behind the curtain to see the aristocrats take a shit or exchange a fuck for a job is bad for business. It doesn’t happen often and the first one is likely to hear about it is when the chamber pots and used condoms are emptied into the street or on your head.
Which brings us once again to, The New Yorker.
We are at pains to point out that it’s not that we have an obsession with the old whore and frankly we’d rather not talk about it at all but as a symbol of the utter decadence, and aristocratic inbred senility, debauchery, arrogance and conceit of contemporary America’s liberal elite and ruling class, there really is no finer example than the dear old rag.
The most recent turn concerns a newish novel written by what we are assured is a blazing comet of talent. We are treated to a modest review of other recently published glories, all given a nice hand job and a box of mints, and, then shuffled off the stage so that we can bask in the wonder that is Lisa Halliday’s debut – Asymmetry.
The novel concerns the amores between a young woman in her 20s (who is – shock – a book editor in New York City) with a man several decades older than she is.
The man everyone tells us, in twitterpated review after twitterpated review, is based on…(drum roll please…or squirt from a seltzer bottle if you prefer) none other than Nathan Zuckerman himself…Portnoy in the flesh (or liver)…yes, it is the one and only…Philip Roth.
Because, we are also told, the author, while a lowly assistant at the Wylie Agency had an affair with Roth.
While we could stop right here and begin to talk about just how utterly corrupt that arrangement is, just how decadent, depraved, unethical, aristocratically Gwyneth the whole thing is, we first want to talk a little about the rest of why this reeks of ulcerated vomit.
The writing, we are told in review after review, is sumptuous, gorgeous, intelligent, alive to this nuance and awash in that observation.
We are provided with an example, which we are told is a riotous eruption that happens almost as if by accident:
“Light shimmered in the trees, whose leaves, when the wind ran through them, sighed like the gods after a long and boozy lunch.”
Oh for fuck’s sake it makes me want to thow up.
First of all, before we return to crucifying the old whore, let’s consider this gem.
Do gods (of any sort) actually sigh? Do they not sigh? And really, does that soft rattle of leaves, pushed, agitated by the wind, sound anything like a sigh let alone one of divine boredom or contentment? We think not. What’s our point of reference? Something Greco-Roman (or is it the gods of Manhattan and the People’s Republic of the Upper East Side?), seems on order, as that’s the direction the line nods towards – a sort of bacchanal is just ending perhaps and the gods have finished discretely vomiting behind the vases?
And of course, since they’re gods, exactly why would they be boozy? What’s a boozy god like anyhow?(1)
Isn’t it a stunningly bad and cliched piece of hackery? Isn’t it arch? Isn’t just a howler of bad writing and lackluster thinking?
Oh don’t be such a persnickety literalist…
Except that’s just the thing. Similes and metaphors work, or fail, based on how true they are as alternatives to a simple fact-based description. John ran across the lawn, works but, John, ran across the emerald stretch of Eden, like a tired boozy god – is the stuff of the Harvard Lampoon, which gets away with it because, it’s the Harvard Lampoon.
And The New Yorker, by contrast, gets away with passing off this illogical and tripe soaked hackery as brilliant writing for one reason and one reason alone: Corruption. And it is the specific corruption of the insular, inbred, isolated liberal aristocrats who only speak to each other or god (boozy or stone cold sober).
Which brings us back to the old whore and its friends.
The Wylie Agency is named for its Pasha, Andrew Wylie, known in the business, as The Jackal – a man of such profound situationally flexible ethics he almost certainly wears his nickname with a sense of pride. After all, it’s nothing personal, it’s just business. Or to put it another way, he’s the sort of man who would have met Gatsby for lunch to discuss details and would want to be seen, doing it.
But, nary a word about him – nothing about how it’s all no doubt just a coincidence that Halliday got the job in the first place, a coincidence the book found an agent, another coincidence that its received nothing but stellar reviews, and still no doubt yet another coincidence that since the author was sucking Roth’s weak nozzle, she’s being feted like the second coming of Grace Paley, only more fun.
And that’s the crucial issue. The New Yorker and the rest of the bought and paid for whore house of the media, are falling over themselves to shower this literary con job with the praise usually reserved for the discovery of a previously unknown manuscript by Virginia Woolf or Mary Shelley, precisely because the complete absence of competition generally and then the absence specifically in the monopoly of the Conde Nast Imperium means they can say whatever shit they want.
And they’re all buying it and then regifting it to each other because, of course, they’re all in bed with each other. No one is going to shit on this parade because Wylie owns stock in their souls and they mortgaged their ethics when W. sold them the cherries from the cooked up intelligence about Saddam and his non-existent nukes and assorted other WMD and they all jumped on the patriotism bandwagon and if either of those two reasons weren’t incentive enough just remember that the publishing world, especially at the haute corner of it, is a very small place where everyone knows everyone and where they sleep and with whom.
And now, here they are, after nearly 20 years of collaborating with the regime, telling us how they will see us at the barricades.
But first, a word from our sponsor.
It has been decades in the making but as the publishing houses were colonized and became wholly owned subsidiaries of entertainment empires the entire industry morphed into a whore house that used to be cool and even interesting, and from time to time, both interesting and dangerously subversive, and instead, is now nothing but a whore house designed by Disney. And about as interesting, and surprising, as one would expect.
Consider this brazen effort at having your cake and eating it too:
“The novel surely owes some of its event-ness (2) to the voyeuristic thrill of reading about watching baseball in bed next to Philip Roth…”
Well, if that’s your idea of a voyeuristic thrill, god help you and what the fuck is “event-ness”? Exactly how does such a piece of total crap and offense to all linguistic decency get passed the editor? Answer: What editor? (William Shawn must be spinning in his grave).
But we digress.
What stinks in that of course, is the attempt to admit to being a voyeur (as if to get it out of the way before anyone can hang them with it as an example of their seedy bullshit) but to (wink wink, nudge nudge) then stick the landing by claiming that it is, by definition, interesting. This tautology of literary sodomy rests on the claim, presented as a truism, that Roth is interesting and that watching a baseball game (because upscale New Yorkers love baseball the same way they love Shakespeare in the Park – cue romanticized tropes about America’s pastime) with him offers some sort of unique and oh-so heavenly slice of decadence, even though Roth went from youth to senility without ever experiencing being an adult. A condition demonstrated by his jaw shattering blow job for Norman Podhoretz in the musty pages of Commentary, way back in 1961(3), with the result being, it’s closer to the truth to say he’s been an uninteresting, cranky old man and a reactionary hobgoblin for the better part of fifty years.
There is a grotesque conceit at work in the idea that we overcome our sense of reluctance to peek through the curtain because, well, it’s Roth dahling, and surely that’s of interest.
And of course then what becomes glaringly obvious, is that the entire production, the book, the backstory, the reviews, the queasy-making details, are in fact, Rothian. And yet, not a word about how the entire conjob reeks of Roth just prior to his courage Camille declaration of retirement. Oh the wounded old lion, unable to get it up, betrayed by a former young lover whom he nurtured and she, with respect and cold-hearted honesty, gives him the very denouement he secretly always wanted – to be exposed as both depraved seltzer soaked satyr and wayward mensch.
Notice there’s no reason given beyond the empty caloric injection of faux literary heroin; there’s just a statement of faith stuffed into the sausage casing of incestuous justifications.
Then we are given the palate cleansing offering which is designed to allow the reader to feel superior and to give the author the benefit of the doubt as she displays the ACME version of gimlet-eyed razor sharp truth:
“He (Roth) came like a weak water bubbler.”
You see, she’s not a sweet young thing taken in by this cad. She’s Chekov-esque, in fact, she’s downright…Rothian; steely, ferocious, and (twitter twitter, giggle) after all these years of his being accused of mysogony, we get to make fun of Roth’s wee-wee.
This is not fiction (though it certainly is not the truth in the sense that it declares its descriptive dishonesty in every word) but rather, liturgy and propaganda.
This is the opium fog of an incestuous circle jerk that has been fucking itself for so long the lagoon of stale sweat and jizz would require a full HAZMAT team to clean the residue. This is the grotto at Hefner’s mansion pretending to be something cooked up by Roth.
Offered up as an example meant to confirm the assertions we are treated to another well used sibling, in the form of Alice Gregory, writing in Time Magazine (a rag of such staggering irrelevancy and corporate banality that it’s no longer even worth a chuckle to say: Time, lies and you are there) who tells us that the book is “ So strange and startlingly smart that its mere existence seems like commentary on the state of fiction.”
And so again, the catechism in full bloom. The bought and paid for hacks echo each others banalities, and their stale advertising glistens with more of the same as if it has substance.
Does it feel like a commentary on contemporary fiction?
And notice the absence of self-awareness – “seems like” or actually is commentary?
Unintentionally ironic or just utterly tone deaf?
How many novels, stories, and poems were published in the English speaking world in the last year? And of that group how many were not mentioned in The New Yorker or Time?(3)
The inbred Romanov-lizard-children-just-before-the-revolution-stench of it all is enough to gag a maggot.
This is not literary criticism, or even criticism as social commentary so much as it is the slurping sound of an orgy and the depressingly sad fart excreted from a nearly empty bottle of lube.
But worse is yet to come.(sic!)
The strangeness, we are told, is down to the structure. First, the young literay vixen and the weak bubler. Then, circa 2008, an “abrupt” introduction of the other narrator – Amar Ala Jaafari – oh yes! See, we’re aware of the wider world! We know how our brown brothers have been tortured, and all that other ugly stuff (and didn’t I see you at Zabars?) and to ram home the liberal virtue signaling the section with Jaafari is entitled: Madness.
And as you would expect Jaafari is detained at Heathrow, for a “Kafkaesque” round of questioning. My gawd Dahling it’s positively Stalin –esque!
Oh yes, we are told, the tale tips everything into an upside down Alice in Wonderland Mad Hatter’s hat and spills them willy nilly into our brains – East meets West, and older man and younger woman and gosh it’s just so terrific let’s all go down to the retro malt shop or quaint dive bar and talk about it.
But then, just towards the end the article gives everyone an escape hatch. This wonder of a novel, may not be a literary event, the old whore confesses, but instead may just be “the song of the summer.”
A statement that should by all rights come with a warning for diabetics to have their insulin injector handy. Notice that this is another example of the collapse of editorial ethics and standards as well as yet another example of third rate writing and fourth rate faux-criticism. “Song of the summer” again allows them to have it both ways. This is serious literary art, we are told, but already it’s been calcified by the use of cheap sentimentality in the service of the equally cheap advertising patois that shovels “meaning” and “significance” like elephant turds and with the built-in understanding that precisely because it’s cheap lingo used to designate ephemeral shit, the powers that be have already moved on to whatever is next on the assembly line of crap posing as substance. This reveals a true aspect of the decadent aristocrat – namely the manufacturing of sentimentality and nostalgia for a manufactured (or prefabricated) moment that is sold as having significance but is devoid of responsibility precisely because the language employed to sell it robs it of weight and meaning beyond its expiration date.
The contrary interpretation of course is no more gentle and just as damning. If a cheap phrase of teenage angst, like “song of the summer” is meant to be taken seriously then the catastrophe becomes wider still as we are then required to lower ourselves to the standards of the contemporary tin pan alley tripe and its mass produced faux-emotionalism while standing on a razor’s edge – it’s significant art but, it’s a passing moment of no substance and that’s what makes it significant or insignificance is to be taken seriously a we watch our standards collapse and vanish into the event horizon of a aesthetic black hole from which neither light nor substance will escape.
Either way, what is revealed (except to the ones guzzling the Kool Aid) is a desert of thought, and a swamp of hypocrisies all in the service of selling the faux experience of the “authentic.”
This is the transformation of criticism, literature, sentiment, empathy, sympathy, thought, and publishing into a fetish; the hallmark of the wastrel elites. Behold the emotional whiplash of the collaborating aristocratic liberal who must twist their souls into a pretzel of contradictions in order to support their emotional drug habit. It is, in the end like the old Saturday Night Live routine where Gilda Radner says: It’s a floor wax! No, it’s a dessert topping!
And of course what piece of self justifying liberal piety and propaganda would be complete without a reference to #MeToo.
And it doesn’t even matter what point the old whore is trying to make by bringing it up but what does matter is that with all the surprise of a paint by numbers canvass, of course they have to mention #MeToo.
And so it goes, and goes and goes, gooey like melted cheap candy you find stuck to the bottom of your shoe.
I am reminded of another piece of pretension masquerading as profundity. Years ago, when the television show, 30 something was, “important”, someone wrote that (I paraphrase) the thoughts of the characters on the show, were “the dust on our furniture.”
It’s not just that such statements are meaningless and collapse under even the most threadbare of exegesis, but what matters is that nowhere in any major platform, is a contrary voice heard; nowhere does anyone have a significant platform upon which to make a stand and declare such shit to be shit, to be cheap advertising shit, to be propaganda shit in the service of a morally and intellectually and spiritually bankrupt empire at the end of its rope, spewing shit and claiming it’s a mouth wash.
We note with grim satisfaction that despite lingering as a voyeur over the corpse of the nation, with what is truly sadistic glee camouflaged as refined intellectual consideration, while the book uses the issue of assaults against civil liberties and the Bill of Rights being violated by random checks at airports, in this post Snowden, post wikileaks, post Abu Ghraib madhouse, it also manages to keep alive the tradition of the collaborationist who, despite all incentive to the contrary, makes no mention of the fact that the government is spying on everyone – even pert young things who work for literary pashas and suck weak bubblers attached to rusted literary reputations. In other words a total lack of self awareness or critical intelligence. No mention of the fact that Muslims in New York were at the time of the novel’s events, being subjected to one of the most nauseating and egregious attacks on their rights, and no mention of it except in an enormous blow-up doll of virtue signaling in the form of a set piece designed to pretend the book dazzles with brilliance but in truth baffles with bullshit.
It is this absence of the actual (a thoroughly average American-Muslim living in New York) who is under illegal, unconstitutional, terrifying, soul-crushing permanent surveillance, and the use of the fabricated pretending to be actual that insults both dignity and intelligence, we have a fraud. Instead of the real, we get Jaafari who is an Ivy League educated economist. And, no doubt, the author and her coterie would say it’s his elite education that is actual and valid precisely because he, as a member of the elite, is stripped of the patina of protection that status is thought to offer. But this is really just more of the same limp dead hand of aristocratic liberalism which has no experience of the average and is incapable of either seeing it or conveying it. What we have instead is that the Muslim is the victim where as the privileged Anglo can’t imagine their own complicity, or that they too are victims of the Orwellian panopticon.
Jaafar is offered as a brilliant Exhibit A of the evil and danger and inherent degradation of being labeled “other.” But in truth he is Exhibit A of the author’s total lack of intellectual and artistic rigor and integrity and the total absence of honor or honesty or intellectual rigor on the part of the media. He is the worst sort of caricature – both elevated and degraded but degraded precisely because he is falsely elevated to serve as a historical, and literary cut-out whose purpose is to allow the aristocrats to appear woke (and god how we loath that word) while being emotionally and morally somnambulant.
By 2008, the timestamp of the Madness section, the Cheney-Bush junta was well into it’s Blue Period of Orwellian overreach. With the now sanctified Robert Mueller at the helm, the good old Hoovers (with an assist from both the goons at Langley and the NYPD) were well into their neo-fascist phase. Badges? We don’t need no stinkn’ badges – we’ve got The Patriot Act; a blank check of utterly toxic unconstitutional power.
But, what we are given istead is the safe-space version of the truth; a depiction of the horror of the modern Orwellian police state that leaves no stench or burn marks that could distress the interior design or the conscience. And at the same time we are told that we are being given a guided tour through the contemporary minefield of the Orwellian hall of mirrors.
Consider this passage, quoted at some length, from the New Yorker review (emphasis added):
“The coda, which confirms with the lightest of touches that Amar sprang from Alice’s head, suggests that our inner lives hold more nuance than can be contained in the boxes we check on a census form. This nod to the promise of artistic universality could account for some of the book’s popularity: in granting the white woman (qualified) permission to imagine the Muslim postdoc, Halliday challenges the “stay in your lane” vigilance now dominating young-adult fiction in particular. Ironically (or maybe not, given his provenance), it is Amar who struggles to press his own experience onto paper. He finds himself unable to write about the devastation in Iraq…”
In other words, as we have made clear, Jaafari is a fraud. Unable to write the truth or to write a fiction that conveys with moral and intellectual authority, what the truth feels like, the author resorts to a trick and the New Yorker applauds it as if it were a case of the writer sticking the landing on an especially difficult routine.
This is followed by the suggestion that there is something brave (in an oh so liberal sense) in Halliday’s appearing to stand up to the dictates of the politically correct. Thus: “…in granting the white woman (qualified) permission to imagine the Muslim postdoc, Halliday challenges the “stay in your lane” vigilance…”
Except of course both Halliday and the old whore are betrayed by the last line where we are told that the poor invented Muslim can’t bring himself or is incapable of writing about what he sees in Iraq – except of course, obviously, or as obviously as a nose in the middle of your forehead, the truth is that Halliday, privileged, white princess of Manhattan, can’t bring herself to write about it because she knows nothing about it except what she’s seen in the movies and on TV or read in, The New Yorker. Thus, the truth about the conceit – not just that it’s a fabrication, and not just that it’s a badly constructed third rate fiction, but that the hacks surrounding her, and the ramparts of Manhattan are, like trained seals, leading the applause. And of course, by hinting that Jaafari may be a fiction, within the fiction, we circle back to the neo-Nabokovian hijinks (who is Sebastian Knight transformed into, who is Jaafari?) of the Rothian gambit in which the student’s attempt to best the teacher comes to naught at exactly the moment it appears to succeed precisely because she has so perfectly apped the master’s style and technique.
No, nothing to see here – sure a coy reference to good old Franz but safe within the bubble that surrounds Manhattan there is a village, on the grounds of Versailles where the queen and her court can play at pretending to be like everyone else.
This is collaborationist writing and collaborationist media at its finest.
It would, to borrow a phrase, require a criminal lack of imagination, to see it any other way.
For a look at the jizz see the following:
And note that the title of the New Yorker piece is posed as a question, that the article, without even a shred of self-awareness, claims to answer. Versus, the answer being that the reason it’s a “literary moment” is because The New Yorker is a collaborationist rag.
1.Yes, we are aware of examples but that’s not the point. The point is it’s just awful writing being sold as genius. Which is really just polishing the same turd twice.
2.”…event-ness”!?! What the fuck is that!?! It’s such a hack attempt at being cool that it suggests parents who rap with the kids because ya know…they’re woke as fuck yo.
3.See our previous look at Roth and his Blue Period work for the bund, and an examination of what doesn’t get published vs what does. See the link here:
We also want to remind our readers that The New Yorker also employs stealth Tory and apologist for bigots and fascists, James Wood. For a deep dive into the catastrophe that is James Wood and the ways in which he attaches to The New Yorker’s former reputation the way a cancerous growth attaches to a healthy cell see the following:
*Generally Maher really isn’t worth the effort required to point out that he’s a fairly run of the mill or standard cultural issue demagogue. However, as an example of an ongoing cultural defect alongside more robust goons like Jordan Peterson, he does deserve attention and we will offer an extended consideration of Maher at a later date.
Recently The Guardian ran a piece on “neglected” books and settled on William Kennedy’s Ironweed. We don’t recall this Pulitzer winning book (made into a film with shrinking violets, Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep) being neglected but we were amused to discover that Kennedy was, at the time he submitted the book, on the edge of falling into the abyss of remainders and literary has-beens. His two previous novels were out of print and Ironweed, deemed too depressing, had been rejected by 13 publishers.
Enter Kennedy’s writing teacher and friend, Saul Bellow. Bellow called Viking and raised a stink. The book was subsequently accepted, published to much fanfare, received raves, the aforementioned Pulitzer, and Kennedy received a movie deal and a MacArthur.
What little we know about the book suggests it’s not bad – certainly better or less awful that say, White Teeth – but at no point that we are aware of has there been any discussion of what it means for the industry’s integrity (as such) that the rise and fall of literary reputations, the awarding of major prestigious prizes, the appearance of laudatory reviews in media that proclaim their integrity at every opportunity, are subject to the caprice and whim of one powerful patron doing a Medici impersonation.
On the one hand, there’s no rule that says friends can’t help each other or that they shouldn’t and in fact there’s a great big rule that says you are free to say whatever you want.
But let’s not pretend this isn’t exactly what it is – nepotism in the context of an inept, and corrupt industry driven by petty feuds, rivalries, the catastrophic stupidity of marketing goons and the intricacies of byzantine court theatrics.
And keep in mind that Bellow reviewed the novel. Thus, he intimidates the publisher, who either coerces the media or looks the other way while Bellow (or his friends with a vested interest in keeping him happy) do it and the book gets glowing reviews and a manufactured reputation.
The idea that the book was “too depressing” to be published, by itself opens a host of disturbing questions. The idea, such as it is, that the publication of novels should be subject to how much of an antidepressant they are, not only explains why there are no contemporary American Dostoyevsky’s or Kafkas but it also explains that the publishing industry is nothing more or less than a whore and that it’s pimp is Wall Street. What gets published is a question of what sells and what sells is a question of what a small incestuous gang (bang) of courtiers, conmen, marketing weasels and sales vermin believe will please the lowest common denominator.
And consider what this exposes about the decision process in publishing. The host of editors and agents who passed on Ironweed could not have been insignificant. These are people, these gatekeepers, who are paid a not insignificant amount to utilize their expert judgement on what is good writing, what is good writing that will sell, and garner accolades, and as a result two possibilities present themselves.
Either they are all completely, catastrophically bad at their jobs, possessing neither the wit, and erudition nor the critical antennae that are essential for success, or such skills are completely irrelevant to the enterprise because, what sells is what they tell people to buy. In other words, either the book was too depressing but the conjob was a success and the reading public is a gullible spineless mass of morons, or the publishers are a gullible spineless mass of morons completely lacking any skills beyond how to survive and get paid.
Either way the circular firing squad that is American politics with its steady parade of scandals, morons, charlatans, conjobs and crimes, is not an anomaly but a template for the rest of the system. Beyond that what they have in common is the insistence that they are not corrupt and/or moronic. Publishing insists it remains essentially a small batch artisanal endeavour devoid of big industry corruptions and continually admits to profound lapses in judgement but also retains the right to shrug off those lapses as if they were charming. Politics (by which we mean everything from “what did the president know and when did he know it” scandals to corporate behemoths who hate socialism right up until the moment when they need a bailout because they ran their company off a cliff) follows the same argument but in place of the small batch defense it insists that it’s always looking to the future and that any and all scandals have been dealt with – yes, they say, mistakes were made, but lessons have been learned yada yada yada.
Hence the absence of anything truly great but also the persistent presence of paid members of this sorry crew claiming that x novel and y writer are truly great and in their latest magnum opus have laid bare the soul of the nation. After all, just read the reviews.
But it’s all a goddamn lie.
The books are not great the reviews are paid propaganda, and the same disgusting machine that cranks out political sausages is cranking out bestsellers and prize winners.
Here’s The Guardian on Ironweed with a slight sly mention of Bellow’s part in the story as if like some sort of literary version of the Grassy Knoll, any deeper examination of its meaning is by definition the stuff of cranks.
For a look at how the sausage gets made see the following: