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Is There An Echo In Here?
A review of a review of reviews

I've often complained about the proliferation of literacy. This is supposedly a positive thing; if all the Johnnies can read, all the Johnnies will get better jobs, and the world will be a better place, right? ENHH!! <<<Insert Game-Show Buzzer Noise Here>>> We're sorry, but that is not the correct answer.

The availability of desktop publishing has enabled anyone who has a computer and the necessary software to feel like a writer. Like us, for instance. This seems to have the unfortunate effect of diluting the median quality of all available print material. These days when you pick up a book, it has a far better chance of being crappy than it did even twenty years ago. It's just too darn easy to get published. The term "Vanity Press" has been rendered meaningless. This general downward spiral of culture is taken to a new level by B.R. Myers in a recent Atlantic Monthly web article, "A Reader's Manifesto - An attack on the growing pretentiousness of American literary prose". In this long-winded (about 13,000 words) pretentious critique of contemporary literature, Myers praises popular writers like Stephen King all the while desperately trying not to sound as pretentious as the authors he derides. He then proceeds to slam some respected names, using lengthy excerpts to make his points. He even apologizes for the length of one of the excerpts. He really should apologize for the length of the piece in general, since his editor hasn't.

We're not really here to criticise B.R. Myers, though. We just found his piece funny, even if we couldn't finish it because of its fragmented prose and its sorry attempt at common-ness. What really concerns us when it comes to literature is the proliferation of mediocrity, the waste of paper, and the demise of the owner-operated book store. Mostly, we just love the irony of the fact that we're criticizing literacy on a web site (the ultimate Vanity Press), an idea probably best summed up by Bruce Sterling when he said: "Most of the Internet will be banal because people are banal".

Banality is kind of a fetish for us. Just visit our discussion boards or the "Diablog" to see what we mean. We hope to build an amusing but otherwise useless collection of information here at Echopraxia.org --- We hope you'll visit again, and again, and maybe contribute to the mass of text already cluttering servers everywhere...

Ian Gray
August 2002

Re-Read of The Week:
cover
Time's Arrow , by Martin Amis, is way too cleverly contemporary for B.R. Myers, but well worth pulling off the shelf again.


Re-Read of The Month
cover
Who could say it better than Gore Vidal, in The New York Review of Books:
"Of all tasks, describing the contents of a book is the most difficult and in the case of a marvelous invention like
Invisible Cities , perfectly irrelevant."

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