Wednesday, January 01, 2014

On the Selector Class System (1)

A while ago, I wrote to Dan Green to ask him some follow up questions to an article he wrote entitled "The Standard of Literature" at his website. In that piece, Green argued against Alison Walsh, who had previously published an article in the Irish Independent on the need for gate-keeping in literature.(Walsh is a semi-regular contributor to the Irish Independent, and generally writes on the publishing scene there.) The question at stake is a rather complicated one, since on the one hand it hinges on issues of taste and on the other rests upon very commonly held -- one might almost say axiomatic -- beliefs about the great proportions of amateurish junk that get produced in any society by people who dream of being professional artists but do not possess the requisite talent. For Walsh, it seems, this axiom is incontrovertible. Or to be more precise, for Walsh, the axiom justifies gate-keeping as it is commonly practiced by the publishing industry. For Green, this justification is questionable; the true determiner of a work of fiction's worth is the reader, and the conventional gate-keeping model -- driven by profit motives as well as personal aesthetic taste -- is not adequate to ensure the production of what the publishing industry claims it produces: the best novels, short stories, etc., that are being created by living writers.

I wrote to Green with some follow-up questions after he posted his article, and he was kind enough to answer. I'm going to post some of that discussion here. I'm also going to ask a few more questions on top of my original ones.

When I emailed Green, I asked...


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