stumbled onto this Stephen-Paul Martin interview where he makes this opposition: experimental fiction as legitimate alternative network to the corporate publishing world… or experimental fiction as a minor league system for that corporate publishing world:
SPM: I think the main claim to significance that avant practices can legitimately make is that they constitute an alternative network, as opposed to the small press scene, which functions more as the minor leagues for mainstream publishing. However, when avanties start to function as narcissistic egos desperate for recognition and power, the whole idea of an alternative network collapses.
KPG: So if the middle-browing, standardizing, bureaucratic process of “professionalizing” our poets, radical critics & experimental writers has insured them middle class salaries in our universities at the risk of betraying their roots, where is our sense of community now?
SPM: I hope you are not thinking of the downtown scene in New York City during the late Seventies and early Eighties because money—and the future—were so little on everyone’s mind.
KPG: I’m thinking of your non-fiction book, Open Form and the Feminine Imagination. published in 1988. You helped coax us into a variety of texts that were difficult to enter. You demonstrated how writers as diverse as Susan How[e] & Clarence Major, for example, were speaking to our condition, only requiring us to develop alternative interpretive skills, an act of transcending/seeing through limits that are culturally imposed. I’m wondering where that kind of encouragement has gone. I’m also remembering the impact of Central Park. I got bombarded by so many new ideas, challenging perceptions, contrasting styles & approaches. It was a beautiful thing. Put more plainly, has a lack of tenure & adequate health insurance, coupled with bourgeois fantasies of fortune & fame, compromised the avant garde?
SPM: Compromised in the sense of turning it into its opposite, my answer is, “At least to some extent.” Letting the text unfold (as writers and readers) may be the only real community we will ever have. Exchanges between people are the ultimate value of literature. Yes, there’s the undeniable value of the energies we invest in creating the work and reading it carefully. But then what happens? I think most writers, perhaps without fully acknowledging it to themselves, see their work in a career context: Where can the work get them in terms of jobs and recognition? This is the mainstream approach, with the work seen as a way to assimilate into the dominant culture. But when the work is seen mainly as a trigger for discussion, it pulls the writer and reader away from the condition of semi-consciousness encouraged by mass communication and into the shared contemplation of ideas that exist only because the intensity of the interaction creates them. It’s precisely this kind of dialogue that cannot be appropriated by capitalist culture. It helps us stop worrying about how “great” the work is and puts the focus on the depth of feeling and imagination the work can generate and encourage.