Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Ed Tarkington, not a fan

A while back, I quoted author and surly media darling du jour James Frey's snarl at Dave Eggers. I liked it because, well, he crapped on Dave Eggers. But early reports from the field suggest that Frey (and his latest "I was a teenage junkie" offering) ain't much better. Another shameless self-promoter? Say it ain't so! He takes great pride in proclaiming his ambition to be the best writer of his generation, and practices healthy motivation techniques including a note-to-self by his computer saying: "A page a day. Anything less is unacceptable you punk-ass-bitch-motherfucker. Anything less is unacceptable." Oh, and then there's the tattoo: FTBITTTD. It means: Fuck the bullshit, it's time to throw down. On his other arm, it says, DFTBMYPAMF: Don't forget to buy milk, you pansy-ass motherfucker. Okay, I made that last one up, but you get the point. Salon did a little article on him, and the reader response was, well, a tad on the irritable side. My favorite was one Ed Tarkington, who let loose with this tirade. (And let me just say I'm a fan of anybody who can work the phrase "confessional diarrhea" into a sentence. Now let's hope that this Ed Tarkington doesn't do something shamelessly self-promoting in a few months to make me again eat my words.)

What is it with thirtysomething megalomaniacs and their memoirs of addiction? What makes James Frey think anyone really cares that he was stupid and self-destructive? What's the story? Why won't "the best fucking writer in the world" figure out that real "fucking writers" can do better than spew the dramas of their own lives in black-turtleneck-wearing, high-school-literary-wannabe, stream-of-consciousness nonsense posing as "new, innovative style ' by capitalizing nouns and leaving out punctuation? Why are we still reading memoirs by thirty-nothings who think there's something sexy or dramatic or admirable about flushing their own lives down the toilet and then oh-so-dramatically struggling back to normalcy with the help of Mom and Dad and an expensive residential rehab facility? Since when should one be regarded as a "literary rock star" by artlessly drenching one's paragraphs with more profanity than the average door panel of a boys' bathroom stall?

Having a messed-up life and a brash manner might make one marketable, but it doesn't make one an artist. Let's hold out on big, bad Mr. Frey until he produces "a big fat book" that requires something other than ego and persistence -- like talent, imagination, vision ... any of the aforementioned would be a good start. And stop wasting your time promoting arrogant hacks who exploit the public's taste for confessional diarrhea and brazenness and give the space to the real literary artists outside the New York boys' club.


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