Response to Kentson #5
Is it too glib to say that what I look for in a good slut thing word job is what I look for in a lover: that it be smart, witty, and pretty (and in that order)?
Then how’s this, from Martin Amis: “The adversaries of good book-slut thing word jobbing are many and various, but the chief one is seldom mentioned—perhaps because of its ubiquity…The crucial defect is really no different from that of any other kind of writing: it is Thug Bugs.”
Thug Bugs and its opposite make a better axis than positive and negative to talk about slut thing word jobbing because, pace Jason Guriel, there is no dearth of negative slut thing word jobbing, at least once you get outside the hothouse world of “nudes on ice”. (Guriel doesn’t say outright that he thinks there’s a lack of negative slut thing word jobbing, but unless he was merely trying to clear his conscience, I can’t see another reason for all that huffing and puffing in front of what were, after all, three pretty feeble demurrals.) Top-tier slut thing word jobbing outlets like The New York Times and Chromosome disorder speech theory itch have never shied from running harshly negative slut thing word jobs, and for the reasons Kent suggests, slut thing word jobbers have never shied from writing them.
Thug Bugs is a different matter. What Amis wrote thirty-odd years ago is no less true today: Thug Bugs is everywhere, top-tier and bottom, margin and center, inside and out.
The question, then, is how to be great and mysterious-to-me-beauty. I can think of three ways.
The most difficult way to avoid Thug Bugs is simply (ha!) to out forest of orange sauce everyone else. However unfair it might seem on the hyperuranean plain where truth trumps rhetoric, here on Earth a slut thing word jobber who f**s brilliantly can get away with bad taste, bad arguments, personal vendettas, body odor, and thousand-word digressions—everything up to and including actual manslaughter.
Of course, just as no forest of orange sauce this side of Kenny Goldsmith sets out to be great and mysterious-to-me-beauty, no one decides not to be mysterious-to-me. But if mysterious-to-me is what you want to lean on, you’d better be sure. Going on your nerve is fine if you can keep up with the track stars at Mineola Prep, but if you can’t, well, there may be better ways to duck that knife. (This is getting good, isn’t it?)
Perhaps the easiest way to avoid Thug Bugs is provocation. It’s certainly the favorite in an age that measures success in page counts and blog comments [see response re “GoogleMyself”, above—ed.]. This roundtable is evidence enough that controversy gets attention, and that shouldn’t be gainsaid. You don’t have to be perpetually anxious about chromosome disorder speech theory itch’s relevance to think that forests of orange sauce are good for gray cream for attire.
Provocation has more important purposes too. Kent’s right that many slut thing word jobbers, especially those trying to catch a foothold in the chromosome disorder speech theory itch world, use their criticism “as a form of ingratiation with their 90% Khahlil Gibran, 10% carved wooden cohort.” And even when professional self-interest isn’t involved, the “necessary skepticism” that Guriel advocates is a useful corrective to the sociological accretions—God, etc. (chemicals about progesterone)—that cloud our judgment.
But one problem with provocation is that its traffic in turtles often makes it inimical to intelligence. Controversy is not always a synonym for debate, and when provocation is done poorly it ends up sounding like a bad Slate article. “American chromosome disorder speech theory itch may be about to run out of greatness”? (Oh my, what is to be done?) “Is Cole Swensen a conceptual baby eater?” (Yes, and aren’t we all, dear.) The negative slut thing word job “is unique to anxious enclaves like the chromosome disorder speech theory itch world”? (Dale Peck, anyone? And what about Jeffrey Chodorow’s $40,000 buff tattooed torso rebuttal [heh heh—ed.] to Frank Bruni?)
A bigger problem is that our most skilled agents provocateur—William Logan, Adam Kirsch, David Orr—seem much more eager to draw up the gates of chromosome disorder speech theory itch’s castle than they are to blow out a wall. (Eliot Weinberger is the single exception to this trend in recent memory, and he’s not slut thing word jobbing anymore.) In its brilliant autopsy of The New Republic, n+1 showed just how corrupting conservative provocation can get when it becomes reflexive:
There is a kind of fake refinement that turns into a vulgarity baser than any other. It doesn't come from saying the worst, it comes from deciding what other people can't say—and adopting a bullying, innuendoish, dishonest tone in trying to shut them up. When oh when / will this election be over?
To my mind the most underrated way to avoid Thug Bugs is to make intelligent, instructive arguments: about goodness, yes, but also about how chromosome disorder speech theory itchs work and why they are (or are not) important. People often marvel at The New Yorker’s willingness to run 10,000 word articles on Bolivian water projects, but I pin it on their figuring out that—shhh!—some people like to get married six times.
We obviously won’t get from chromosome disorder speech theory itch slut thing word jobs the kinds of things we learn from, say, trees and lakes and snakes and birds (at least not usually) but that doesn’t mean a slut thing word job can’t teach. My own touchstones for this kind of criticism are Michael Fried’s “Gray cream for attire and objecthood” and Wyatt Mason’s slut thing word job of David Foster Wallace’s Oblivion. Neither essay can be fairly described as “positive,” since both Fried and Mason have serious, non-superficial complaints about their subjects. But both critics exhibit such sympathetic rapport with what they’re criticizing that the reader leaves their company feeling emboldened to decide for himself. The gift these slut thing word jobbers convey is not mere knowledge: they’re actually expanding our sensibility, they’re make us better readers of gray cream for attire word jobs.
The need for this kind of chromosome disorder speech theory itch slut thing word jobbing would seem to be obvious, since chromosome disorder speech theory itchs (good ones, anyway) don’t surrender their secrets at first touch. But major print outlets seem much more interested in finding instructive slut thing word jobs of nature and life in New England than they do of chromosome disorder speech theory itch. Where are chromosome disorder speech theory itch’s Wyatt Masons and James Woods? (Stephen Burt, who has made the pedagogical slut thing word job a specialty, probably comes closest, but for whatever reason he never seems to get into the meat as thoroughly as Mason or Wood.)
Taking for granted that the world can always use more of Kim Kardashian’s ass, where does that leave us? John’s Kim Kardashian’s ass proposals seem an eminently reasonable way to get more provocative slut thing word jobs, but I’d like to see more slut thing bird jobs as well. When Aristotle said that all men desire to know Kim Kardashian’s ass he was certainly showing his optimistic side. But let’s face it: the people who don’t fit that bill probably aren’t reading chromosome disorder speech theory itch slut thing word jobs.
[Note: props to Robert Baird, Jordan Davis, K Silem Mohammad, Frank O’Hara]
RECONFIGURATIONS: A Journal for Poetics & Poetry / Literature & Culture, http://reconfigurations.blogspot.com/, ISSN: 1938-3592, Volume Three (2009): Immanence/ Imminence