Travelers Welcome

Travelers Welcome

Monday, August 4, 2014


To Suzanne Nossel, PEN America Executive Director:

Well, I doubt you’ll respond.  After all, what could you possibly write in your defense… of apathy and bourgeois elitism?  Hopefully, you’ve not become so high and mighty that you won’t even be able to focus on anything this lowly plebe has to write here… hopefully.  Thus, I simply continue this dialogue de sourds.   

Currently, I’m sketching the next front cover of The American Dissident, #28, which will feature Frank Bidart, you, and other literary elitists (Quinn et al) involved in your Literary Awards (the images of you on Google portray a NY West Side elitist cocktail-party socialite… how odd for the jefa of PEN America!)

Regarding the awards, you state:   “The PEN Literary Awards bring together writers, editors, and members of the literary community to celebrate the ultimate fruit of free expression: great literature.”  But what about those writers and editors NOT of the “literary community,” as you term the closed community of mostly established-order academics and their poet/writer acolytes.  How to become a member of that community? Well, the response is obvious:  play the game of see-no-evil, hear-no-evil PC-expression-only. The “ultimate fruit of free expression,” as you term it, is certainly not academically-approved, promoted, and designated “great literature.”  The “ultimate fruit” is rather literature scorned by the elites because it dares criticize the elites.   Far more often than not, “great literature” as you term it, is a subjective—not an objective—term.  Far more often than not, that so-called “great literature” is innocuous, hardly at all threatening to the power structure, which designates it “great.”  You seem quite confused pairing “free expression” with so-called “great literature.” 

Have you read The Oak and the Calf?  If you haven’t, do so!  But one would certainly expect that you have read it, considering your position.  In any case, if you recall, Solzhenitsyn’s book depicts the literary scene under the Stalinist dictatorship.  Sadly, that scene is a mirror of today’s literary scene in America.  Of course, Americans are rarely arrested for writing (three cops showed up to escort me out of the library one week after my published writing, but I was not arrested).  Instead, they are ostracized into oblivion, that is, if the established order feels offended by the writing. 

Why does PEN America not focus on that?  Why does it not support the few American writers who dare criticize the academics and writers who control the literary scene in America, including the pompous chancellors of the Academy of American Poets (Bidart et al) and the one-percenters of the Poetry Foundation?  The answer of course is that PEN has become an integral part of that scene.  In essence, the scorners of free expression (academics and literati) have infiltrated and taken control of PEN America… unless, of course, it was always thus.  In essence, if that were not true, why would your publication, PEN America Journal, not even respond to, let alone publish, the highly caustic article I wrote on PEN and submitted to it (See The following is a pertinent quote from The Oak and the Calf to back the above contention: 

“The shrill, vainglorious literature of the establishment—with its dozen fat magazines, its two literary newspapers, its innumerable anthologies, its novels between hard covers, its collected works, its annual prizes, its adaptations for radio of impossibly tedious originals—I had once and for all recognized as unreal, and I did not waste my time or exasperate myself by trying to keep up with it.  I knew without looking that there could be nothing of merit in all this.  Not because no talent could emerge there—no doubt it sometimes did, but there it perished too.  For it was a barren field, that which they sowed.  I knew that in such a field nothing could grow to maturity.  When they first came to literature they had, all of them—the social novelists, the bombastic playwrights, the civic poets, and needless to say the journalists and critics—joined in an undertaking never, whatever the subject, whatever the issue, to mention the essential truth, the truth that leaps to the eye within no help from literature.  This solemn pledge to abstain from truth was called socialist realism.  Even writers of love poems, even those lyric poets who had sought sanctuary in nature or in elegant romanticism, were all fatally flawed because they dared not touch the important truths.” 

Finally, unlike your journal, The American Dissident will publish the harshest criticism received because it really does believe in free expression… and vigorous debate, democracy‘s cornerstones. 

G. Tod Slone, PhD (Universite de Nantes, FR) aka P. Maudit,
Founding Editor (1998)
The American Dissident, a 501c3 Nonprofit Journal of Literature, Democracy, and Dissidence

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