Saturday, November 03, 2007

Nathaniel Tarn on "competitiveness"

"Bored to death on the one hand by the interminable repetitions of the MFA clones of their MFA teachers and, on the other, by the unreadable so-called writing of the reigning avant-gardists, the last general reader left, faced in addition with this lemming-like overpopulation, has a desperate need of selection. This leads straight into the terminus of competitiveness: the winner-take-all syndrome, another familiar 'late-capitalist' life-enhancing marvel. The award system is the crowning glory of this syndrome. It is deleterious not because it is unjust (nothing human is perfect) but because it inflicts an apparently consensual body of opinion on a public not usually aware of its options. The moneybags, playing it even more safely than the universities, select a group of allegedly trustworthy canonizers and mainstream writers conveniently gathered in a number of 'Academies'--a group in whom the public can be induced to trust since they are already, are they not, 'so trustworthy'--and regularly disburse large sums ... almost always into the pockets of the already fortunate."

from "Octavio Paz, Anthropology, and the Future of Poetry" (1999) in The Embattled Lyric (2007)

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