The Rightness Contest is Full of Winners
I understand that this blog has seen its share of roughntumble word fights, but it’s nice to be reminded of how much worse these things can get. Witness the casserole of ridiculousness triggered by Andre Alexis’s response to Zach Wells’s critique of his Walrus piece I mentioned here a couple months ago. I’m not sold on the original essay, but I remember being quite happy to see it. A pugnacious public rant in a decently-well-read magazine is the kind of occasional kick to the head literary culture in this country can use. Wells’s response makes a lot of good points, despite giving up his smarmy conceit (that of a faux rejection letter) three paragraphs in for a crushingly humourless piece-by-piece digesting of the original. All things being equal, I prefer Alexis’s botched emergency room surgery to Wells’s gracelessly studious post-mordem.
Anyway, that’s neither here nor there. What’s really notable is how shitty the conversation gets. Alexis matches Wells first on smarminess (“dear mr CN&Q, i am, of course, devastated by your rejection of my piece” and whatnot) and later on humorlessness . It’s a bit like watching two basketball teams try to grind out a defensive win, with the result being a 0-0 draw, and a sea of empty stands. What follows includes a series of “why pretend like you don’t care” messages and, perhaps least palatable, the appearance of some college sophomore who makes an simplistic analogy and is heroically attacked by the hoard of Supercorrect Rightness Warriors.
Twenty bucks says that’s the end of that kid’s interaction with contemporary literary criticism. We’ll lose him to the lawyers or the MBA schools. Well done, intelligentsia. Fortress defended.
I post this early into what I imagine will be an increasingly stupid event. I hate to shine my little flashlight on something so uninspiring and petty, as I know you have limited internet reading time, and i wouldn’t want you to waste it. I guess what I get out of this whole thing is a reminder that my intelligent, creative, friends, who don’t read contemporary literature or care about critical trends aren’t self-appointed philistines. Rather, they know a mug’s game when they see it, and have quite correctly moved on.