The bodies are piling up.
Earlier this month, the influential and semi-pernicious New York media blog Gawker lost its top editor and star writer... not entirely un-because of an essay critiquing Gawker that appears in the Winter 2008 issue of the New York-based intellectual and literary journal n+1. Gawker founder Nick Denton, who
couldn't find anyone willing to brave n+1's terrifying critical salvos decided to transform Gawker from top to bottom, has stepped in as managing editor himself.
All of this happened, mind you, before n+1 hit the newsstands; as you know from my earlier posts, Gawker's editors read the anti-Gawker essay when it was literally hot off the presses. Now that n+1 is in bookstores, and in the mailboxes of subscribers like yours truly, what will happen next? Will one of n+1's other targets go down in flames?
I think it's safe to say that two of n+1's favorite punching bags are the "Eggersards" (associates of Dave Eggers, whose "sub-literary work," according to n+1's inaugural "Intellectual Scene" column, includes the journals McSweeney's and the Believer), and litbloggers -- that is to say, bloggers who blog about literature. In their most recent "Intellectual Scene" column (Winter 2007), the editors of n+1 described litblogging as an unholy mixture of guerrilla marketing and vomiting; and in the current issue's "Intellectual Scene," they contemptuously dismiss litbloggers in a single sentence, after having praised Amazon.com's anonymous book reviewers. At least the "Amazonians," they claim, actually read the books they're writing about. Ouch!
So who's going down -- the Eggersards? Although Eggers did reportedly once threaten to give up writing forever unless the Atlantic Monthly killed an anti-Eggers essay by future n+1 co-founder Keith Gessen (the essay was killed; Eggers kept writing), this outcome seems unlikely. But the effort to single-handedly silence scores -- maybe hundreds -- of litbloggers is as quixotic as Cuchulain's fight with the sea.
Or is it? This morning, I visited one of the most popular, and reliably informative of all litblogs, Edward Champion's Return of the Reluctant -- hoping, like everyone else perched anxiously on the margins of the lit-review world, to be titillated by (among other things) Champion's fearless, if over-the-top denunciations of New York Times Book Review editor Sam Tanenhaus, whom the Brooklyn-based Champion has described as an enemy of literature. And what did I find? This: "I'm done with blogging. And I'm serious this time."
That's right, Champion -- "the litblog world's preeminent gadfly" -- has suddenly quit litblogging. (Say it ain't so, Ed!) Can the timing be mere coincidence?
For his part, Champion says he's just tired of blogging -- and that he plans to continue producing his literary podcast, The Bat Segundo Show. But he might appear to be taking the advice of n+1's editors, whose "Intellectual Scene" column ends with advice to a litterateur between the ages of 24 and 40: Instead of writing book reviews, he "should go off and produce the literature that is to be reviewed, if he can." What will Champion -- a playwright and aspiring novelist -- do instead of litblogging? "There are pages of crazed dialogue to bang out," his farewell entry concludes. "Stories and essays to write. Podcasts to unfurl. Actors to recruit."
Seems to me that n+1 has added another notch to the barrel of its gun. Look out, Eggersards.
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Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.
Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.
Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.
Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.
Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."
Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.
Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.