Latest Seedy Lit-Establishment Scandal

What’s new in the clubby world of New York literature?

There seems to be controversy about a memoir by television producer Lena Dunham, which was attacked by a blogger named Kevin Williamson. Author Emily Gould has come to Dunham’s defense, in this Salon article:

http://www.salon.com/2014/11/03/the_rights_lena_dunham_nonsense_just_wont_stop/

Lena Dunham apparently received a staggering $3.7 million advance for the memoir from Random House, the same Big Five publisher who gave fellow scandal-subject Tao Lin a mere $50,000 for one of his books.

http://gawker.com/5966563/here-is-lena-dunhams-37-million-book-proposal

Meanwhile, Emily Gould has apparently had her own dispute with Lena Dunham.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/21/emily-gould-lena-dunham_n_5607265.html

Emily Gould was also at or near the center of the recent Ed Champion blow-up.

http://www.dailydot.com/lifestyle/new-york-lit-emily-gould-ed-champion-subtweet-war/

Emily Gould is also dating Keith Gessen, editor of the chic Brooklyn literary journal n+1, which recently published a long profile of Tao Lin by Frank Guan. To date, both Guan and the journal have refused to answer our questions about the profile.

Are you keeping score?

Are we seeing the cannibalistic death throes of a corrupt and incestuous artistic scene? Sure seems that way.

Emily Gould refers to Kevin Williamson as a “right-wing blogger.” Keith Gessen and his magazine have repeatedly stressed how left-wing they are. We’re forced to ask: What’s the difference? Members of their scene all seem to come from affluent, well-connected backgrounds. Their “art” invariably isn’t concerned with the larger world, but an obsession with self.

Lena Dunham’s memoir fits the model. Per Gawker, “it’s an invitation to get lost in the mind of a girl who is lost in her mind.” Emily Gould herself in her Salon argument for the book doesn’t argue for the artistic value of scenes of Dunham masturbating next to her sister. The scenes are justified and advocated for as therapy, a story Lena Dunham simply had to tell. (Inflicted on the public for a mere $3.7 million.) Tao Lin writes in the same vein of course; advertisements/exhibitions of self, but apparently doesn’t do solipsism well enough.

The larger question is whether any of these characters are generating meaningful ideas about art, culture, and the world. The question is whether this literary scene is creating relevant and meaningful literature.

-K.W.

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