Tuesday, August 24, 2010

THE STRAND LOSERS: books they don't buy

I have a friend who works for one of the Conde Nast magazines. Every few weeks he takes some shopping bags of review copies to The Strand to sell. At one time they bought everything but now with the computers there is always a reject pile of books they have too many copies of and which are unlikely to sell. This week he showed me the pile:

WORLD ENOUGH. Maureen N. Mclane. Poetry. FSG
GO, MUTANTS. Larry Doyle. Novel. ECCO
MOSCOW STING. Alex Dryden. Novel. ECCO
BANANA REPUBLICAN. Eric Rauchway. Novel. FSG.
BEACH WEEK. Susan Coll. Novel. FSG
DANCING BACKWARDS. Salley Vickers. Novel. FSG
PIERCE THE SKIN. Henri Cole. Poetry. FSG

The novels he gives to the building super who sells them for a dollar when he has a sale for cleaning out the basemen storage. My friend has put the poetry in the entranceway of his building where people leave magazines they are finished with. Eventually, the super has to throw them away with the three week old Barron’s Weeklys.

Friday late afternoon at The Strand is when you see the kids at their first jobs in publishing selling their weekly stash of books at The Strand. Most of the kids don’t stick around very long in publishing. They are newly graduated from Ivy League or pretend Ivy League schools, still living off of Mom and Dad, but they need some money for cocktails.

Eventually they get tired of publishing: the smell of formaldehyde is finally too over-powering. They go into real estate or into God knows what else but they have had their year or two years at a New York publisher and now they can think barely about being alive since to be within the walls of a New York publishing house is like being in a South American morgue where it is hard to tell the difference between the living and the dead.

Now that these kids have left New York and can resume reading, something that is not really encouraged in New York publishing, they will look back with a certain fondness at their year or two and realize that it was probably better than working in a bottling plant but they know that if they have children they will not have to discourage them from working in publishing since the publishing of what is now called a book no longer exists.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


ONE I noticed a flier for something that sounds truly revolting as the old comedian might have said: THE ACADEMY OF AMERICAN POETS PRESENTS THE 2010 POETS FORUM and then the listing of the verse makers is even more revolting: Anne Carson Ron Padgett Victor Hernández Cruz Marie Ponsot Marilyn Hacker Carl Phillips Lyn Hejinian Robert Pinsky Edward Hirsch Kay Ryan Galway Kinnell Gerald Stern Khaled Mattawa Susan Stewart Naomi Shihab Nye C.K. Williams Sharon Olds.

TWO It will cost $110 dollars to attend all the events. I have left out the list of the “critics” and others--- ass kissers to the post--- who will talk in a language ever more remote from the trivial squeaking of the carefully multi-ethnic- gendered-balanced verse makers.

THREE I’ll except Anne Carson---though the more Carson appears in public the more she diminishes her claim to my attention and maybe Ron Padgett though in the latter case I am dreading the probable forthcoming collected works which will run for many hundreds of pages… all reminding one of his attachment to the so-called New York school presided over by XandYandZ or should it be AandB andC? but of the others: have they in their collective endeavors which must now amount to thousands of pages of “verse” come up with a line that moves over ever so slightly slightly the line of T.S. Eliot, “April is the cruelest month” or even approached within a mile the memorable title of Eliot’s THE HOLLOW MEN… most of these “poets” are on the academic gravy train with six figure salaries for doing remarkably little--- a couple of hours a week preparing candidates for the gravy train… they are all in Flann O’Brien’s phrase members of the “standing army of American poets”… ever prepared to collaborate with the powers to be and never more fervently with the current regime in Washington, collaborators with the status quo, ever remarkable for the banality of their “verse”…. ever prepared to take part in “discussions” with each other and the other writers of “verse”… now that there are no longer any readers of “verse.” In the announcement there is mention of previous years when verse makers such as Gluck, Bidart, Hass, Dove were present though one can be sure that their spirits will also be present…