Sunday, November 29, 2009
Toward an Ecology of Local Literature
What does a behemoth publisher like Bertelsmann AG, the German firm that owns Bantam, Doubleday, and Random House, have in common with an agricultural giant like Cargill, Inc.? Besides the obvious, that they are both transnational corporations, they both replace local harvests with bio-engineered invasives.
Unlike “frankensoy” shipped from China, of course, literature in this digital age does not leave a long carbon trail, unless China is where it is printed. Hence, I do not object to disseminating the multicultural garden sprouting from the soils of every bioregion or under the feet of our migratory human race. It’s a vital part of thinking globally.
What I object to is the silence, the engineered inability to sense the here and now, to lift one’s nose and sniff the rot in the local breeze. What does a neighborhood smell like when a bank owns all the politicians and peddles bunko credit? What does the water feel like as it slowly heats the proverbial frog?
Non bio-engineered local writers may ask, “If we don’t submit to altering our genetic codes, how will we earn our daily bread?"
We know how the current publishing model promotes only block-busters and their imitators, how books by unknown authors get but a few months to justify space on the global book shelves before being remaindered to the dollar store or extinguished in the shredder.
How much less might a local writer find a market, with his provincial interests in, oh, say, some biker tased and gunned-down by cops as he rolls forward vomiting on a city stoop and the attorney general whose dad is the Vice-President of the United States saying it’s OK or some black chicken catchers at a downstate farm replaced by machines after they sue for years of stolen wages? What local business or multinational corporation headquartered here would bankroll that sharp nose?
What state grants would do more than keep a non-bioengineered native writer chasing a perpetually receding horizon?
Here’s what we do. Local progressives activist: read and promote local literature and use it as an organizing tool. Reformist non-profits on the sugar-tit of corporate grants: utilize local literature to generate a common vision and uncommon strength. Local writers: turn from all that “how” of writing you get with MFAs and workshops to the “what’s going on” you get when you turn on your senses and engage with your neighbors. Using both cyberspace and local space, meet, collaborate, and forge deep alliances.
When each local community sows its political and cultural seeds in its own soil, we’ll weed out the corporate invasive strains and reap literature that’s alive and change we can smell, taste, and see.