Saturday, June 12, 2004

Diss Believer.

Allow me to jump on the Eggers-bashing bandwagon. After successfully avoiding Eggers' literary magazine, The Believer, for 13 issues, I broke down and bought number 14.

For those unaware, The Believer was created by Eggers/the McSweeneys crew as a response to the Dale Peck brand of spiteful (but hilarious) literary crit.

A quick recap-- in the pages of The New Republic Peck created a firestorm when he tore into novelist Rick Moody beginning a review with this line: "Rick Moody is the worst writer of his generation." The review ended with Peck placing Moody in "the highest of canonical postmodernism ... a bankrupt tradition ... that began with the diarrheic flow of words that is Ulysses; continued on through the incomprehensible ramblings of late Faulkner and the sterile inventions of Nabokov; and then burst into full, foul life in the ridiculous dithering of Barth and Hawkes and Gaddis, and the reductive cardboard constructions of Barthelme, and the word-by-word wasting of a talent as formidable as Pynchon's; and finally broke apart like a cracked sidewalk beneath the weight of the stupid -- just plain stupid -- tomes of DeLillo."
(For more on the Peck/Moody spat, click here.)

So you get the picture. Eggers is horrified and vows to right the wrong. He creates The Believer to elevate the discourse and create a supportive, positive resource for those interested in lit... or something.*

Anyway, I always found the issues I flipped through to be smug, dry and totally self-serving. But then they lured me in with their inaugural music issues. It promised illuminating profiles on Elliott Smith, Q-Tip and David Byrne. Pieces on L.A. music and film music. Plus it came with a CD of PL-approved bands (TV on the Radio, The Walkmen, etc.). So I bought the thing.

Dumb move.

So this Elliott Smith piece... Yeah, it's written by this woman in her mid-30s who whines about how her friends think she's uncool 'cause she won't take down her Hole and Mudhoney posters from her apartment walls. She talks a lot about how Elliott's music was such a help when she was going in and out of hospitals 'cause she's super sick. Which means it was probably written by that chubby girl who went to Elliott's in-store at Newbury Comics in 1998 and not only made him sign her Needle In the Hay 7", but her Hello Kitty backpack as well.

The Q-Tip piece is worthless and the David Byrne interview was (are you ready for this) conducted by Dave Eggers. I won't really get into it, but you can get some insight into the merit of the piece by Eggers' first "question." It goes like this:
"You're on tour right now... Where were you tonight? Here is my guess: Mumbai, nee Bombay."
What can you say about that? Oh yeah: Good work, douche bag. Give up your career in rock crit and go run the pirate store.

OK, that's all. I'm over it.

* Allow me to reprint the exact mission statement of The Believer:
The Believer is an amiable yet rigorous forum for writing about books. It seeks to extend the ever-shortening shelf life of new books (and revives interest in books long overlooked), and stresses the interconnectivity of books to pop culture, politics, art, and music. To that end, the focus of the magazine includes essays on these topics, as well as lengthy interviews with philosophers, upholsterers, geneticists, and Martin Short.


At 1:26 PM, Blogger Dashiell said...

That is kind of a kickass comp. cd for them to be putting in there. Having just read "white noise" anyone who can say that it is "just plain stupid" deserves to have an entire magazine devoted to making him pay. my only lit. crit. experience involves 'the new yorker' so i can't say that i even know what i'm talking about.


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