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Friday, October 14, 2005

Oh, those bitchy literati...

Just the opinion of a wanna-be genre writer here peering from the trenches as two literati (or wanna-be literati) hash it out in a fang-and-claw-bared catfight (and no, this isn't a case of schadenfreude on my part). It seems there's a writer named Steven Almond who has taken extreme exception to two years of badmouthing and baiting from another writer named Mark Vargas, who also happens to be blogmeister of Elegant Variation, a weblog popular among the literati (a fact which may explain Almond's obvious peeve). Although both writers are unknown to me, I can't help but be pulled in by this candid airing of a male catfight...uhm, I mean a misunderstanding between two arteests.

Both writers have been published in literary journals and must have achieved some cred to rate a write-up in Salon about their until now one-sided feud. Almond attests in his essay that for these two years he's maintained the high road, refusing to respond to the baiting, such as Vargas' blog entry on a recent reading given by Almond:

We found his story to be wholly not our cup of tea, its literary sensibilities a bit too informed by the pages of Penthouse Forum for our tastes ... We're scarcely prudes but Almond's work is all assfucking and facials without much to commend itself for ... we're struck by an absence of context ... of character ... of depth ...

Then, is Almond's article simply an example of a writer bitterly responding to criticism of his work? I might have initially read it that way if it were not for the fact that Vargas explains his entry into blogdom with this little dig:

I launched The Elegant Variation in a fit of madness on October 14, 2003 with a declaration of my love for James Wood and my loathing for Steve Almond. Nine months later, my positions remain unchanged.

That just seems too damned personal to me. And as you read Almond's essay, you do get a nagging feeling that Vargas might be a wee bit obsessed with his self-declared nemesis. Almond even jokingly implies Vargas may have some underlying pseudo-homoerotomania going on. How else to explain one basically unknown writer's all-out war against another basically unknown writer? OK, nix the homoerotomania (love that word). It's probably just another cut-and-dried (and, therefore, boring) case of professional jealousy.

Whatever the underlying verve pumping life into this catfig...uhm, misunderstanding..., I have a feeling that the claws will be growing even longer. Check Mr. Vargas' response to Almond's essay in his blog:

Steve Almond takes a full six pages of precious Salon space to tear us into little pieces. We're flattered that he took so much trouble.

Then further down:

(Oh, Steve, as you're surely reading this, we make one minor distinction. We certainly don't hate you. We're, at best, indifferent to you. What we hate is your writing. Such as it is. We've actually got a soft spot for hacks, being one ourselves.)


(Note: anyone who refers to himself with the royal "we" is a little creepy; at least, that's what we think, anyway.)

(Another side note: we genre writers would never stoop to such petty feuding...smirk)

Sharon Cullars Coffee Talk at 10/14/2005 07:07:00 AM Permanent Link     | | Home


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