READ IT NOW, BEFORE IT’S REDACTED: “Goodbye to All This: On Leaving True/Slant.”
The unspoken goal, in too much American journalism, is not to tell people what they don’t know, or never even imagined they might want to know, but to tell people what they already know, since it logically follows that anything they don’t know is too weird to survive in what we Americans, in our inimitably irony-free way, like to call the Marketplace of Ideas. It’s this failure of editorial nerve, driven by a cringing fear of scaring off advertisers, that has rendered largely extinct the sort of narrative nonfiction Lawrence Weschler describes as “pieces you might curl into, of an evening, having no prior notion that you could even become remotely interested in their subject, and through the sheer narrative energy of the writing, you’d find yourself becoming caught and then held, completely immersed, lost to the world for hours at a time…”
And one must tell people things they already know in language they already use—PowerPoint prose that is easily bullet-ized in the reader’s mind. Like William F. Buckley, I never scrupled at sending my reader to the OED if a sesquipedalian word was the best word for the job. Nor did I feel any obligation to smilingly submit to the intellectual straitjacket that constrains too much American journalism, namely, the presumption that a writer’s allusions and references should be bounded by the cultural literacy of Kim Kardashian.
Is this thing on?
How can you NOT attract commentaters he asks? This must be broken, yes?
Damn, this does work.
I obligingly read the article and following comments, and this piece revealed more than other works of yours that I’ve read, about that Don Quixotesque quality of yours. I should say ours, as Dreyfuss’s model-building urges are all too familiar here. Alas, as I cannot afford the many hours to craft a proper intro, nor shift well to remain entirely “on topic,” nor attempt to forge my often overwhelming flood of thought into proper English, I shall just try to spit it out for ya.
I can’t begin to tell you about the countless hours I’ve spent pondering your words here, expanding my inner world by chasing down so many references that were entirely alien to me. Bouncing off of your “riffs,” I was sent sucking down page after Wiki’d page the postmodern crew I had previously only had an inkling of from grumbling academics. Ballard was off my radar, even though I had slept through one of his short stories in a hard-SF anthology, You brought me to the gist of the guy, opening yet another dimension. Eric Davis, Wark Makenzie (sp?), so much that I might have missed otherwise. I want to discuss way too much for a post on a blog, and I am internet shy to the point of paranoia.
Your wordsmithing is superb, you give so damn much here and they ain’t botherin to feed back? Are we such swine to not even nod at the pearls before us? Maybe it’s just broken. I must say more, but ‘tleast I broke into began.
You were one of the most generous, interesting and brilliant writers to grace the True Slant pages. Your article expressing disdain over Superbowl mania in this country is still on the hard drive of my computer, copied as it was the first time i read it (would have been glad to pay for it).
Keep up the good fight, for those of us whose souls are stretched thin by McCulture; those of us who crave passion, creativity and lovingly subversive thoughts and ideas as we continue cranking on the wrought-iron hamster wheel of commerce. We applaud you Dery!
Gentlemen: Apologies for the lateness of my response, and for rattling off this one-size-fits-all reply to both your comments. Huge thanks for your kind words; I’m thrilled to know some Very Large Array, on the far side of the Web, was receiving my pings. It gives a man hope. (As does the mind-blistering confession that somebody, somewhere would have dropped some loose change in the tin cup, if there had BEEN a tin cup. Simply staggering. I’m not sure many would follow your lead—paywalls are still widely reviled, and Radiohead’s pay-what-you-want experiment was an epic fail, if memory serves—but I may take the leap of faith and self-publish an anthology of my more obscure essays, in an attempt to test the waters of DIY publishing. Should be an interesting experiment in seat-of-the-pants capitalism, in any event.
Pardon my gendering. Zaz may have been female, for all I know.