Now America’s Literati Know What Scorn Feels Like

By Neal Comment

caridad-ferrer-headshot.jpgHere’s another take on Horace Engdahl‘s condemnation of American literature: Novelist Barbara Caridad Ferrer zeroes in on what National Book Foundation head Harold Augenbraum said when he learned that the secretary of the Swedish Academy described American literature as “too isolated and too insular” to deserve the Nobel: “Such a comment makes me think that Mr. Engdahl has read little of American literature outside the mainstream and has a very narrow view of what constitutes literature in this age.”

“‘Mainstream’ lit is more than accustomed to being slammed by the American literary establishment,” Ferrer emails us. “Kind of interesting to see the shoe on the other foot—the American literary establishment being dissed by the Europeans for, in essence, the very things they tend to slam mainstream lit for. Which, once again, begs the question, who the hell decides this stuff? At what point did deeming something ‘mainstream’ or ‘commercial’ automatically render it less worthy than something dubbed ‘literary’ and what does it all mean anyway?”

“I don’t even pretend to know,” Ferrer says. “I just write books.”