Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Gone Soft

I used to think that writers were an outdoorsy, fearless, and radical lot. They faced into cold wind, got tanned by too much sun, and were lanky, if not underfed students of hard work. I thought they did go to school at some point, but got thrown out for questioning the merit of sacred cows.

Lately though, it seems to me that writers have backed away from the edges of controversy and independent thinking and have sold out to the dark side of fluff, Hollywood hype, or academic support. Teaching, reading pieces on NPR, writing about pets, and performing for college MFA programs seems to be the favored path, one I have taken.

The result is that the fringes of society, those of us who work, or have worked, for a living doing manual labor and other menial tasks get left out of loop. We tend not to be represented fairly or sympathetically.

How many working class intellectuals can you think of from film or literature? Of course, there are exceptions, like Winter's Bone or T.C. Boyles' Tortilla Curtain, but they are rare.

I think this is because that kind of writing and that kind of writer are dangerous. They point out the growing disparities in wealth and opportunity in actual, day-to-day America.

Readers want to read writers who will entertain them, distract them from an increasingly dismal social and economic reality.

Even if a writer produces a piece, it is likely that it will die an unceremonial death before reaching an audience. If he or she draws blood from real life, someone is going to be offended. And, in this publication climate, it's not so good to offend anyone, even if those people are robbing you blind.

So, what to do? What to do?

I guess, be brave and honest and support beautiful writing that shines a light and takes a stand.

Then, open the door and feel the wind. 

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