Thursday, September 21, 2006

Brouhaha over BAP

I couldn't sleep last night. I was anxious about several situations that have arisen -- mostly the usual, jobs and money. No need to bore you with the details. But I was also thinking about the recent reunion I went to and a parallel to the brouhaha (an onomatopoeic word if there ever was one) over the BAP 2006.

Years ago, in the dawn of prehistory when I was in high school, I was first literary editor and then co-editor in chief of the literary magazine, called the Compendium. I was very serious about my responsibilities, worked hard to get submissions from all six grades (the school was 7-12), did my best to find unobjectionable if not stellar work, and put together a prize-winning magazine. Upon publication, however, there was a huge uproar. A certain faction accused me of elitism, nepotism, and probably a lot of other isms they wouldn't say to my face. A countercultural version of the magazine came out, called True -- no I'm not kidding. It seems that I had rejected the work of the guy who was considered the school bard -- oh, he was cool, he was. It didn't seem to matter to his fans that what he had submitted to the Compendium was word for word copied from the liner notes of a Dylan album. I also sinned and published my two sisters, the other editors, and myself. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, do you think I had a lot of other possibilities? Besides, if I didn't publish my sisters, my mother would have creamed me.

So why do I remember this many years later? Because the person who put out True was there at the reunion and still held a grudge. He still considers me to be a JAP, a person of privilege (if only he knew!), and evil to the core.

Well, why does this remind me of the BAP? The situation is different, but honestly, I don't think those editors are evil. I think, well, they must have had their reasons. I'm sure they felt and feel that the book they put out was the Best one they could under whatever circumstances they worked under. I don't think it's terrible that Lehman's assistants are published in the book. I don't even think it is so darn terrible if Lehman's wife is in the book. She is a poet. Her poem was published in a legitimate magazine. Maybe if she hadn't been Lehman's wife, her poem wouldn't have surfaced -- but there are an awful lot of ifs in the publishing world, in the art world. If Eliot hadn't known Pound, he wouldn't have been published in Poetry. If Ashbery hadn't been called to Auden's attention, he wouldn't have won the Yale Younger. The list is long.

So I don't mind that this book is out there as it is. I say that even acknowledging that I don't like a lot of what I've read of the current book so far. I say this even though I find Lehman's introduction to be inane and Collins's to be insulting. I find the BAPs interesting and usually buy them, if I can, even though I've only thought a couple through the years were really good books and sometimes find the contributors' notes the "best" part.

I agree with the bloggers who feel the fuss is way out of proportion -- and doesn't even help the situation. Honest, if you don't like the series, don't buy 'em, don't talk about 'em.


Peter said...

Great story. Amazing how someone could still hold a grudge.

Diane K. Martin said...

Yes. Amazing.