September 20, 2006

Tao Cicero

Tao Lin annoys me. There’s no good reason to attack someone like Tao Lin, a writer who doesn’t sell a huge number of books, doesn’t have a lot of power, and so on, but…he annoys me. Noah Cicero does sometimes as well, but for different reasons.

There’s a controversy at Reader of Depressing Books. Tao’s been banned from Pindeldyboz for submitting a previously published story. Here’s something in the comment section:

"I run a literary magazine with the single and simple intention of giving talented writers like yourself a forum to present your work to the masses--"

if that was true you would not care about 'first serial rights'

by publishing a story you will increase its readership by a certain amount no matter if it was previously published or not

so there is something else involved, probably that you want to have a 'good' online literary magazine that people will think is 'good' and by extension will think that you are 'good' and will then 'respect' you and the people associated with your magazine.

I get what he’s saying. If the small online lit press was really interested in the story being read, he’d let it be published a 100 places. But he wants “respect” and to be a “good” magazine. And after all—this is a big Taoist thought—respect is an abstract concept. My response, so what. So what the man wants to have a well-respected literary magazine. It may not be about promoting the writing in the way Tao would like, but the litmag is an artistic project—he wants the project to be unique. I think Tao is disingenuous in saying that he does not care about concepts of respect and being good. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t blog, he wouldn’t write, he wouldn’t be happy about being published by Melville house. He’s an opportunist like anyone who wants his unique vision to be respected. If he says he doesn’t care, it’s a fiction.

Noah Cicero says something that also gets under my skin in another provocative post on his blog. He writes: “No one likes John Updike and no one likes classic guitar. it is cool to hear some classic guitar every once and awhile, but to actually like it. Well, it is like violin players, they are just people that want to be construed as intelligent.”

This is bullshit. As if anyone who likes “high brow” stuff does not do it sincerely, only to be self-important. Not true, Noah. He continually derides fiction for being for educated people—like Rick Moody—and then says how Nausea, Dostoyevsky, Mailer are good. Man, those are read primarily by educated people. And there’s nothing wrong with educated people, nothing wrong with books not about people destroying themselves. Basically, Noah Cicero writes too many absolutes.

Thing is, I like both these writers, especially Noah, I like how they give the finger to how things are run. But they’re also nihilists. But half-nihilists. Saying nothing matters on the one hand and espousing good literature on the other. I think they’re both young writers who are going to be around for a very long time who haven’t completely figured out what they’re trying to say. Both of them seem to talk out of both sides of their mouths, which is what gets under my skin—which is really the point of good writing, to get a rise, but there’s something here that irritates me. They’re both bold and honest, much more than most other writing I see out there, but they're also misdirected.


Tony O'Neill said...

I just started reading Noah's blog postings. I have to say, came down firmly on the side of Noah. I have no opinion about John Updike - never read his stuff - I have opinions about Stevie ray vaugn (hate all of that shit), but got involeved to rigidly defend his right to an opinion. Its hard to take criticism seriously when the person doing the citicising refuses to reveal their identity, and says things like "writers shouldnt criticise other writers"

But thanks for turning me onto this discussion. very stimulating. And - aaargh! - another distraction from working.

Goddamn you, Henry Baum.


Henry Baum said...

Yeah, I wasn’t really getting into that other part of the discussion. I find Updike unreadable. He’s never written a direct thought. I was just talking about it last night. My wife’s reading the Witches of Eastwick and couldn’t get through it. And Stevie Ray Vaughn is boring. A Hendrix rip-off who plays bar music. Never understood the fascination.

I wasn’t siding with that commenter. He seems to be someone who likes fusion jazz because they can play their instruments fast. I agree with what you said there that punk rock, stuff that’s flawed, can be much more meaningful cause it’s honest. But there was writing in the post that got to me.

Joel said...

The only point here is whether or not it's disrespectful to ignore a publisher's stipulation that they only want exclusive material. I think that's a reasonable request. If a writer doesn't agree to it, they shouldn't submit. But giving an appearance of agreeing and then flouting it behind the person's back is just fucking them around. It doesn't matter how much literary special pleading a writer comes out with after the fact, the plain truth of the matter is that he's fucked someone around, and if he doesn't understand that then maybe he'd be better advised to plead lack of social skills if he wants sympathy.

Henry Baum said...

He's reading like a teenage contrarian. "i don't have beliefs, ideals, morals, or ethics, i don't know what those words mean; you have to make assumptions for those words to have meaning." That's impossible, unless you're a robot. Not to mention that outlook is a belief in itself. I think he's in over his head with this one.

Thanks for your recent link.

Anonymous said...

What he needs is a good psychiatrist.

Anonymous said...

You are just stupid like most males.

Henry Baum said...

Hey, Anonymous #2! Thanks!

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