On Ambition, Empathy, and Literary Editing

September 2, 2010 § 1 Comment

The always interesting Steve Almond cuts through the haze once again to find meaning in the tragedy over at Virginia Quarterly Review.  Here’s an excerpt of his Rumpus essay:

12. My own sense of Genoways is that his ambition outstripped his empathy. He had the drive to put VQR, and himself, on the map. But as he rose to prominence, the demands on his time overwhelmed him. Here were all these writers and underlings demanding his attention, sending him needy, guilt-provoking notes (like mine) and so he punished them with neglect. Most of this, I suspect, was unconscious. He lost touch with how he was making those around him feel.

13. This happens all the time. It’s happened to me. And to you.

14. Earlier this year, Genoways wrote an impassioned piece for Mother Jones lamenting the decline of the literary journal. He expressed disgust for the ranks of newly minted MFAs who want to write but don’t bother to read, and for those authors who “seem to have forgotten how to write about big issues – as if giving two shits about the world has gotten crushed under the boot sole of postmodernism.”

15. As cri de coeurs go, this was right in my roundhouse. But there was also a curious impatience in his tone. “Stop being so damned dainty and polite,” he concluded. “Treat writing like your lifeblood instead of your livelihood. And for Christ’s sake, write something we might want to read.”

16. It was almost like he was angry at the people who submitted to him.

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§ One Response to On Ambition, Empathy, and Literary Editing

  • bookfraud says:

    there is always an inherent tension between writers and editors, writers and agents, and writers and other writers, but, as almond deftly points out, there never seems to be a great balance between these tensions; everybody’s conflicting agendas become paramount and nobody is happy (even those lucky enough to be published in, say, VQR). i don’t even sense that genoways is a happy fellow, always trying to reach a utopian literature that the less-than-talented writers submitting to VQR can never hope to help construct.

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