Thursday, October 22, 2009

Search for the Literary City on the hill

At least it wasn’t the Manhattan of my parents and grandparents’ world, a baron wasteland full of borsch belt comics turned ad men on Madison Ave. or literary dilatants turned journalists at the Times and the New Yorker. New York was a place of debutants and professors. A place where everyone was simply brilliant and everything was swell. Yes Manhattan was like that in the 1920’s, 30’s, 40’s 50’s and even into the 1960’s and I wanted no part of it.

I wanted red meat and New York City was nothing but honey. There was no room in that tight little society for a newcomer, a raw talent in need encouragement. No, the New York City literary society could grind you up and spit you out like so much meat through a sausage grinder.

I went to Boston. The idea was this: Find a town where I was likely to find smart people at roughly the same stage in their career as I was. That meant college students not afraid to scribble without an assignment. I found lots of them. Then they left when their school days were over. What was left were a bunch of shriveled academics that refused to engage in enlightened banter outside of their own hallowed halls. The academic world of Boston was not the literary hub it once was. The preferred attitude is to snub anyone of lesser stature in your own microscopic field and to ignore everyone else. I had better chats with plumbers than with Nobel laureates. I went underground, I had no choice there wasn’t anyone to talk to.

Later I realized that Boston was just a suburb of New York and that anyone seriously into a literary career was already in New York not Boston. Dorothy Parker was dead but someone took her place at the Algonquin even if they no longer talk of poetry and polemics there. In Boston it’s hard to find anyone that knows what polemics means save that old adjunct professor of Rhetoric still hoping to get tenure after all these years. Good luck buddy.

No comments: