Monday, May 24, 2004
IDIOTS. Why are so-called serious writers such idiots? Or am I getting ahead of myself here? Are you unaware that Ernest Hemingway and Norman Mailer are two of the stupidest men who ever lived? Has nobody told you that John Updike is a moron, Gore Vidal an imbecile, John Le Carré a box of rocks, Susan Sontag a drab with the IQ of a fencepost? Then allow me to elaborate. Facility with words is not intelligence. It's a knack. You wouldn't automatically assume that a superb carpenter is also a brilliant botanist. Or would you? Perhaps you've been taken in by the photographs on the back cover. Writers work on their eyebrows as much as they do on their syntax. They would dearly love you to believe that getting you to turn pages is the same sort of accomplishment as understanding the source of the universe. It isn't, though. There may have been a time when writers had to be philosophers as well as wordsmiths. But modernism changed all that. It was Hemingway -- dumber even than Picasso -- who rewrote the rules to prevent actual thinking from intruding on the process of writing literature. How dumb are writers? They almost all jeer at Hemingway these days, but they all still obey his rules: don't ever write about the meaning of life; write about the chipped teacup on the kitchen table instead. In fact, even the philosophers have adopted Hemingway's rules. They don't talk about meaning anymore; they talk about politics and sociology instead. (This is our excuse for directing you to this outstandingly laughable interview with Rene Girard, an exercise in mental masturbation so ridiculous that it just had to be shared...)
From left to right, writers E. L. Doctorow, Kurt Vonnegut, and Rene Girard
And so to our pedestrian topic for the day, the latest outbreak of 'wisdom' in the ranks of mediocre American scribblers. E. L. Doctorow is a great writer. Ask him. Look at those eyebrows. He tried to share his genius with the graduating seniors at Hofstra the other day. They booed him. Good for them. In the hierarchy of literature he's an ant. He should know when to shut up. Which is what reminded us of Kurt Vonnegut, the hack who never met a platitude too dead obvious to turn into a novel. He recently wrote an op-ed piece so mind-numbingly dopey that when it started circulating on the Internet, the folks at Snopes.com felt obliged to discover whether or not it had actually been written by the author of Slaughterhouse Five. It had.
How should one go about protecting one's self from such drivel? Just think of them as Demi Moore with a Thesaurus and self-important eyebrows. That might help.