Litblog Roundup 27

Litblog Roundup 27

Is there such a thing as a writer that’s too prolific? What’s it like to work at Amazon? What does the CIA have to do with literary magazines? All this and more in this edition of Litblog Roundup, a bi-weekly overview of topics, trends and highlights from the literary Internet.

CIA-funded Literary Magazines

During the Cold War, it was commonplace to draw the distinction between “totalitarian” and “free” societies by noting that only in the free ones could groups self-organize independently of the state. But many of the groups that made that argument—including the magazines on this list—were often covertly-sponsored instruments of state power, at least in part. Whether or not art and artists would have been more “revolutionary” in the absence of the CIA’s cultural work is a vexed question; what is clear is that that possibility was not a risk they were willing to run. And the magazines remain, giving off an occasional glitter amid the murk left behind by the intersection of power and self-interest

By now it is fairly common knowledge that, during the cold war, the CIA was involved with a kind of cultural warfare, in particular with the sponsorship of Abstract Expressionism . This sponsorship also extended to the literary arts, and The Awl has a run-down of some Literary Magazines for Socialists Funded by the CIA, Ranked . Are cultural ideas any more or less valid when they’re sponsored o even originated by the powers that be? It’s an interesting question.

Accusations and Defenses of AWP

The literary publishing and small press world has been buzzing with accusations and defenses directed at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP). Last week, charges of discrimination and insufficient transparency were leveled at the organization. Then, on Monday afternoon, an op-ed appeared on the Huffington Post defending AWP against those charges.

This isn’t the first time it has happened , but the Association of Writers and Writing Programs is again under scrutiny for the inclusiveness (or lack thereof) of its programs, committees, etc. It would be interesting to see a cogent proposal for a more inclusive alternative structure, in addition to the thought-provoking dialog about the issue(s) that AWP is facing.

All About Amazon

When writing the Litblog Roundup’s highlights of activity on the literary Internet, I’ve learned that there are a few topics that are eternally ongoing. One of those topics is Amazon, so ordinarily I don’t do too much to highlight that conversation, since it is so ubiquitous. Lately, though, there’s been some noteworthy conversation about the monolithic corporation. This month, The New York Times published an expose about what it’s like to work at Amazon . Many people say they avoid Wal Mart because of the way it treats its workers, but those same people might find this article to be revelatory, if not enlightening, about Amazon as well.

“The joke in the office was that when it came to work/life balance, work came first, life came second, and trying to find the balance came last.”

Amazon responded quickly to the negative publicity, with a letter from the CEO and a reduction in Kindle prices, presumably in order to offset any stock losses that might occur until the controversy subsides.

The End of Beach-Reading Season

Did you make a summer reading list this year? Did you choose just one book to get through? How did it go? Are you ready to make some more selections, or to try again? If you’re looking for some interesting new releases , you might enjoy reading the roundup on Literary Hub:

Summer beach reads now dispensed with, all evidence of sand and flip-flop summarily destroyed, it is soon time to return to real life (the lateness of Labor Day notwithstanding)—this means reading even more books. With this daunting task in mind we asked our bookseller partners across the country to weigh in about the forthcoming titles they are most excited about this fall

Or maybe you disagree with those highlights. What books are you excited to read this fall?

Is it Possible to be Too Prolific?

I once heard a joke that goes like this. Two people sit next to each other on an airplane and strike up a conversation: “What do you do for a living?” “Oh, well, I write Stephen King novels.” “Fascinating!” “What do you do?” “Well, I also write Stephen King novels.”

It’s just a joke. Surely Stephen King has written all of his many books, but has he written too many novels and not enough good ones? Stephen King himself recently tackled the question of whether a novelist can be too prolific , without much regard for his own work, so it was amusing when Quill and Quire summarized the essay: “Overly prolific author Stephen King says overly prolific authors are still good authors”