Diameter of a Circle Jerk
The recent “Bubble Boy” hoax may be read as an example of how people are, or wish to be, famous for being famous. Think of “New York” (person) from Flavor of Love who got her own show for being an awesome ho, or Octomom, or those bitches from The Hills or The Kardashians. People work on being famous instead of just working. These examples are “lowbrow,” but we are not exempt.
I have a hard time commenting on someone’s blog, or even this website, telling so and so I really liked their post or their story or whatever. If my feelings are very strong, I email them. If I can’t find their email, I say to myself: “This person will do fine in life without getting an email from me,” or “it should not matter to this person if I like their story — they should be writing on behalf of the story, not its reception.” And it all fits perfect in my head: 1) writers write, 2) readers read, and 3) everybody lives a nice modest life, 4) in relative obscurity, and 5) maybe one day, if applicable, a writer may be recognized, however mildly, for their contribution to literature.
That’s not the formula, rather: 1) start a blog, 2) comment on everyone else’s blog until your name is so pervasive that out of sheer curiosity one clicks on your blog, 3) continue doing so for >6 months until 40 – 60 strangers recognize your name. This is a shortcut to fame, a diluted and over-eager fame.
Enter Fictionaut, a “private” workshopping literary site in which authors can help other authors out using forums or comments. This sounds nice, but it seems to me, essentially, that published stories are being reposted simply to garner positive feedback, a way to milk the egotistical currency of each publication. Does one really need people to say “great story,” “love it,” and “nice”? Can not the story simply reside in on its own without being tugged from every angle with glib sentiment?
And for the commenters, the selfless enthusiasts and supporters of their peers’ work — is there some part of you, deep down inside, that is really more invested in propogating/promoting your own name (with that golden link to your account) with each comment? Isn’t “love it” simply a stand-in for “click here”? Is not the so called democracy of comments really micro self-promotion?
I’m not trying to be small, and while it is Mean Week, I really do respect everyone in this literary community on some fundamental level. But here’s my problem: Fictionaut is simply too nurturing of an environment, and it makes for weaker writers who are more n’ more dependent on constant affirmation. I think writers should write with that bug in their brain that tells them they fucking suck, without any reassurance. Each story should be a terrifying self-challenge to escape from suckdom. I like my writers unsatisfied, maybe a little self-loathing. Kafka did okay for himself.
David Foster Wallace often hated his writing, and the adverse opinions of our most esteemed literary critics didn’t really matter. “Great story,” even “Genuis” simply didn’t do it for him. His writing, perhaps more than any other writer I can name, was bigger than his concept of “self,” and what little “self” was left chewed away at him. He was a guilty writer, the best kind.
I think we should all slow down with all this ostensibly nurturing support — because it’s actually corrosive; it turns writing into a comment competition. Every one is having too good a time. Too many people are too good of friends with too many other people, and I don’t trust it. If a circle jerk is to be our metaphor, this bookake is just too messy for me — look out.