Tuesday, July 27, 2004

I've been steering clear of the ressentiment machine that is Foetry, but then I stumbled across this. I happen to doubt very much that David Lehman was showing any favoritism to Christine Scanlon, the most recent Barrow Street Book Contest winner. One can be an editorial advisor to a literary magazine without ever setting foot in the magazine's office (if it has one); it's conceivable he's never even met Scanlon. But what burns me about this is their willingness to tar the entire contest with their sloppy brush—which means some of the sticky stuff gets splashed on me. I am not, as I've said before, a committed defender of the contest system—not because I'm worried about conspiracies and unfairness but rather because of the way it fosters an overly "submissive" relationship between authors and editors. But there's no better solution to publishing poetry right now; even print on demand costs more than most publishers will recoup from selling the books. I dislike having to defend myself from unseen enemies, but for the record, one more time: I had no pre-existing relationship with either of the judges of the contests I have won. If publishing books was only about who you know, I would probably not be published.

Okay. Ahem. In other news, how about that Democratic National Convention? I was generally heartened by the spectacle of Democrats looking and sounding confident. It was strange to think of how the Republican convention will seem to take place in an utterly different world, one in which George Bush is a visionary and successful leader. (I saw a sticker on a pickup truck's back window the other day: GEORGE BUSH IS OUR CHURCHILL; next to it was the more puzzling message VICHY IS HERE AGAIN. Does this refer to the treachery of France or to the fifth column of peaceniks at home? Churchill, incidentally, was in favor of using poison gas against rebellious "natives" in the first half of his career.) No one broke away from the "war on terrorism" paradigm, although Clinton hinted at this toward the end of his speech when he said there was no military solution to the problem of Islamic radicalism. (He didn't use the phrase "Islamic radicalism" but I find it vastly preferable to "terrorism"; as many have remarked, terrorism is a tactic and a symptom, not the problem itself.) And certainly no one was going to fault the larger project of neoliberalism; the general theme seemed to be that Kerry would do what Bush is doing, but more tactfully and more successfully. Still, I'm voting for Kerry, because I believe at least it would be possible to have an intelligent conversation with the man on the subject (on any subject). The most terrifying thing about Bush is his complete inability to engage with any reality beyond his own political plurality.

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