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A Typical Literary Soiree: Part II


Tonight I saw Richard Rodriguez, in my opinion one of our greatest living writers, read and speak at a small bookstore in Brooklyn. The last time I was at this particular bookstore was for an event (in every superfluous sense of the word) thrown by a local lit mag with limited readership, whose idea was to have mediocre writers collaborate on a ‘story’, each one writing a section prior to which he/she was allowed only to read the previous section written by someone else, etc. Point is, at that event the place was packed, the networkers were out, mingling, drinking beer, enjoying the absolute nonsense reading and in general acting like most young people do: like frat brothers and sorority sisters. At the reading tonight there were 16 people, including a mother and her young baby (who left when the child began to pipe up, halfway through), and the (I presume) editor and publicist at Viking Penguin. That makes 12 fans, in Brooklyn, NY, who made the subway ride out to see Richard Rodriguez.

Indignant tone aside, this isn’t surprising, it’s a testament to the sad state of the publishing industry, whose eager ranks fill Brooklyn apartments of a certain price and neighborhood, and whose bookshelves of the recently-published are dominated by cookbooks and shallow memoirs (and memoir-cookbooks!). It was disheartening to not see any other writers there, but this was (almost) as expected too, for one main reason: Rodriguez lives in and writes about California. Far, far away California. The East Coast distaste for the West has been around a long time, and is as alive and well today as ever, as I can personally testify. The clique-ish culture and inbred support system is what I had not expected (to such a great extent, at least). It’s disgusting. Good fiction is published (and thus cared about) less and less today, and only feeds into this insular lifestyle. They act as if it were Wall Street, as if it were (it isn’t) glamorous, some preconceived nostalgic romantic ideal. As I mentioned in Soiree Part I there are very few young people who attend the readings of the masters, yet they line of walls to listen to their sycophantic frenemies.

Rodriguez, of course, knows these things, and so is content to live peacefully on his own coast, and when he comes East talk to a crowd of 16. I too hope to, in the future, be content in just this fashion. But you have to get through somehow, NYC.

One Comment
  1. Grant permalink

    You speak the truth.

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