Last night I was dragged to a poetry and fiction reading in the damp basement of a Greenwich Village restaurant. The space, cramped and dark, was stuffed to the gills with friends and family of the people reading their work.
Almost all of the people reading--that is, the writers--had had their work published in a small literary magazine I had never heard of. They had a list of published credits all from small presses and from magazines and anthologies with names like "Clogged Drain: An Anthology of Fiction about Plumbing Problems."
The work, some of it anyway, wasn't bad. There were intermittent laughs and a moment or two of genuine emotion. But what occurred to me was how much this reading reminded me of the "awards-industrial complex."
Those listening to the work being read were other people who were reading. Those being published in "Clogged Drain" were the only people reading it. In other words the group was closed, self-supporting and, to a degree, solipsistic. What was going on was important to those attending but had little or no relevance to anyone else. It was all extremely circular and ego-driven.
There's nothing wrong with any of this. No one is being hurt in the process. And, to be honest, it's not that much different from me assiduously keeping a blog very few people actually read.
But despite all that, I somehow left the joint in yet another shitty mood.