2016 in Review: American Literary Establishment continues to dig own grave


It is abundantly clear that the American publishing industry has been hemorrhaging money over the past five years. While this is in part due to the increase in Kindle, and other self-published e-books taking the place of the Big Five’s traditional mid-list, the political decisions of Big Publishing have had an impact in the decline in reading over the past two decades. Lit Hub released its top literary news for this year; we will see what some of their top stories really mean about the state of American letters. The picture is not pretty. The literati of New York have fashioned their own breakaway culture from Middle America, which explains in part why readers turn increasingly to e-books, or not reading for leisure at all. Part of this is due to the makeup of the publishing industry. Eighty five percent of its newer employees are women as of 2010, and almost certainly of a liberal bent. Naturally, this means that fiction especially meets the tastes of these literary agents and editors.


a metaphor

The literary establishment’s reaction to President Trump on the campaign trail, and after Election Day was telling. A “Who’s that?” of American “literature” attacked the President with assertions that he is a fascist or a white nationalist, when he is a centrist, slightly civic nationalist businessman. At the very least, they are putting their English and Creative Writing degrees to good use. Whatever you may think of Trump’s policies, he–and Bernie Sanders’ movement–are weather vanes that many Americans feel disaffected by the system. The scribbling class betrays its commitment not to the art of fiction, but to kissing the ring of the donor class that keeps its failing media alive. New Pop Lit reported on N+1 magazine’s inherent contradictions: a site full of liberal rhetoric, yet supported financially by corporate publishing money.

One of the trends Lit Hub noticed was publication of unpublished material from several old masters, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Mark Twain, and William Faulkner, among others noted in their piece. While this is part of the trend of rehash and reboots common to Hollywood, it also demonstrates that there is a market, somewhere, for good stories.

The National Book Awards  became an agitprop show:

The National Book Awards [SS: click this link to see radical agitation propaganda great American literature] came at a moment of shock and despair for over half the country, just a week after the presidential election. So it’s no surprise that the awards—hosted by Larry Wilmore, no less—took on an overtly political tone, as writers used the stage (as anyone should) to preach messages of tolerance and resistance, highlighted by award-winner John Lewis’s inspiring speech.

Related to Awards, this woman became head of the National Book Foundation. Lisa Lucas is the head of Guernica magazine (“a magazine of global arts and politics”) whose authors have all the predictable, acceptable opinions. It appears as if the death of the novel as a serious force in American culture is proportional to its abuse as a propaganda tool. The “death of the novel” is not from natural causes, but murder. Big Publishing is not about finding good stories to tell, its about pushing writers with an axe to grind in their fiction. The establishment’s pet writers are no better at crafting real stories than Ayn Rand, because it is not about portraying human life but a caricature of it to poorly show a message.

This year showed that the establishment was completely out of touch with most of America, literary included. The literati will fare no different from their political counterparts, living on life support from wealthy donors and not the support of an audience of readers. Writers rejected by the NYC literary machine need come together and build something of value; what that will look like, is probably not going to be just hitting publish on KDP. The future does not belong to the MFA programs or the magazines no one reads.We need to give people what they’ve needed for a long time: good stories. Make it new.





2 thoughts on “2016 in Review: American Literary Establishment continues to dig own grave

  1. Pingback: From the ashes of Postmodernism, a New Sincerity? | Samuel Stevens

  2. Pingback: “Writers Resist” or, Color Revolution in miniature | Samuel Stevens

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