Literary Politics

Any “editor” who boasts of his “rejections” is not a publisher but a policeman. The aim of editing is publishing, not unpublishing, which is the business of people who think themselves censors.

Small Press Review (July-August 2003)

The theory of “affirmative action” is that minorities should now be favored as recompense for previous neglects. While this principle has pointed validity in the construction industry, enabling minority poor to obtain jobs previously closed to them (and thus more easily to become middleclass), it is considerably less appropriate in humanities funding, where every applicant is already middleclass by virtue of the fact that he or she is a professional scholar. The true humanities underclasses today are independent scholars, as noted before, and Ph.D.s who have never been able to acquire professorial tenure and thus bounce from one low-paying teaching job to another until they bounce out of academia. They are mostly under forty and, incidentally, disproportionately male and white, with respect to both the population as a whole and the current composition of university faculties. Characteristically two decades behind in its social sensitivity (and perhaps unable as well to think in unobvious categories), the NEH has scarcely caught up with the inequity of their condition and the loss of their possible contribution to scholarship.

The Grants-Fix (1987)

The fundamental (unasked) question is whether CCLM’s trustees (and those agencies funding it) think the organization should be an extension of the U.S. government’s Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO), repairing historic economic neglects; or a cultural agency responsible primarily for the precarious future of literary magazines (and of literature) in America. My own opinion is that it should not be the responsibility of a small literary funder to pay off the debs of slavery, segregation, and discrimination (let alone the Jewish holocaust); American society has endowed other organizations with that mandate. Secondly, there was no reason to believe that writers and literary editors of minority background were any more needy than those who are not. Indeed, the former are more likely to be better off, simply because, after the Civil Rights Act and “affirmative action,” publicly accountable agencies, such as universities, have necessarily been more eager to hire them than comparably qualified non-minority writers. That accounts for why most CCLM board members of minority background have had permanent academic jobs, while most of the Caucasians did not.

The Grants-Fix (1987)