07 May 2009

All The Living

All The Living, by C.E. Morgan: San Francisco Chronicle, 26 April 2009: Buzz is a marvelous thing (especially for the writer being buzzed about), but it can, perversely, skew a potential reader's expectations by promising too much, or too lavishly. Kentuckian C.E. Morgan's first novel has been compared to the work of Marilynne Robinson and James Salter, and no less than Farrar, Straus and Giroux editor Jonathan Galassi has declared, "Katie is going to be one of the remarkable writers of her generation."

Friend, if C.E. *Katie* Morgan is going to be one of the remarkable writers of her generation, then don’t bother buying anymore contemporary fiction, just read again Dostoevsky, Dickens, Celine, the rest of the classics.

There is powerful literature in all big cultures, but you can't get away from the fact that Europe still is the centre of the literary world--not the United States. The US is too isolated, too insular. They don't translate enough and don't really participate in the big dialogue of literature. That ignorance is restraining--Horace Engdahl, permanent secretary of the Nobel Literature prize jury.

All The Living is a perfect example of all that is wrong with American literature. Some provincial publisher pokes around for somebody who would look good sitting with a couple shirt buttons undone next to Oprah, talking loftily about the *human condition.* The provincial publisher, like a crack dealer giving away free the first rock—thus creating a whore who will do anything to stay high, then gives the novice novelist a huge cash advance, hooking them on the *voice of a generation* narcotic. High on literary credit, the scribbler imagines herself a *writer,* and unashamedly plays the part in public.

Next, the provincial publisher, months and months before the book is released, sets about creating Media *buzz* through a carefully crafted marketing plan largely dependent upon payola-procured *advance praise.* Then when the book is set to hit the store shelves, the provincial publisher purchases and places *glowing* reviews in everything from the lowbrow Entertainment Weekly to the pseudo-highbrow New York Times Book Review. This will generate a decent initial sale. . .but after a few hundred *real* people have read the book, which turns out, contrary to the *glowing* reviews, to be SHITE, and said *real* people don’t bother recommending it to their friends, the shite book, suffering from lack of *word of mouth* (the only genuine *buzz*) begins to collect dust on the store bookshelves and in Amazon.com’s fulfillment centers.

When this threatens the provincial publisher’s cynical campaign to spontaneously generate a *voice of a generation* (a *voice* rises from a stinking, maggot-infested shite book), the provincial publisher leans on bricks-and-mortar book retailers by threatening them with credit holds unless they instruct store personnel to hand-sell the book. *Make* books, they call them. $7.00-an-hour book clerks harass customers with dishonest recommendations. Stores must meet their sales quotas, or the corporate office will cut the stores’ payroll hours. This often forces minimum wage employees to buy copies of *make* books, which they promptly *reshelve* in the dumpster.

If the *make* book scam doesn’t work, the provincial publisher’s last resort is to start buying his own author’s book. Yes, the provincial publisher will inflate the sales of the shite book, desperate to make it a *best-seller* and validate their *voice of a generation,* by buying thousands of copies of the shite book from online retailers and having them shipped to hospitals, schools, public libraries, old folks’ homes, prisons, even to the provincial publisher’s own offices. There must be stacks to the ceiling of All The Living at 18 West 18th Street in New York.

As for the shite novel All The Living, well, Hell, it’s not even a novel, it’s an overweight short story, it’s Kirstie Alley-as-novel, and it tells the rather spartan story of a Kentucky orphan girl named *Aloma* (how regional, eh?) who takes up with the first swinging dick who comes her way, a Kentucky tobaccy farmer named Orren (how regional, eh?). After Orren’s mommy dies, he brings Aloma to his tobaccy farm and then, apparently because he’s so grief-stricken, he proceeds to neglect poor Aloma, and sometimes he is even a little brusque with her. Why did he even bother to bring her to the tobaccy farm in the first place, if he was heart sick over mommy? I guess he needed somebody new to sleep with—Aloma, the teddy bear with a vagina.

Anyway, lonely Aloma, who had learned her some piano at her *settlement* school, goes down the road a piece to a little clapboard church and asks the preacher, Bell (how regional, eh?), if he needs a piano player.

I’m sorry, we have a piano player, a good one. I reckon she’s gonna hold up for a while, the preacher says. (p. 64).

Four pages later, the piano player is dead and preacher Bell calls Miss Aloma. . .the rest you can likely guess.

Though if you guessed Bell got himself a piece of Miss Aloma, you guessed a little too far. Bell don’t actually tap dat azz, lessen you reckon on maybe a Matthew 5:28 tap o’ de heart.

Well, I’ll jes go ahead and tell you the res of the story, it don’t make no difference, no how. Miss Aloma don’t tell Bell she’s shacking up with the tobaccy farmer, but when one of the town’s old hens goes a gossipin’ to de preacher about her, he seems real hurt like, and tells Aloma he caint have her to play the piana no mores. This after they’d been kindly warming to each other.

Meanwhile, dat ole boy Orren been gettin anxiouser and anxiouser over his tobaccy crop, waiting for de rain to fall. He gets hisself into such a state, he damn near drives Aloma crazy. . .but in de end, they ain’t nowheres else neither one of them can go, so’s they stay where they are, fixin to make de best o’ it. And dat’s how de shite story ends.

199 pages of the thinnest domestic soap opera and most tepid of love triangles. . .

Listen, I’ll never joke about Stephenie Meyer or Charlaine Harris again. After about 40 pages of this shite, I was praying to the Good Lord to send a creature of the night to feast on Aloma’s and Orren’s blood.

Katie is going to be one of the remarkable writers of her generation.

Yeah. Well. . .

You can tell the author, C.E. *Katie* Morgan, was *trained* in literature. . .she *learned* what passes for her *craft*. . .for this is one of the most over-studied, over-labored novels I’ve ever read. They should have printed this shite in purple ink:

The ragged porch clung weakly to the wall of the building, its floorboards lining out from the door, their splintering gray now naked to the elements that first undressed them. (p. 3).

The cows had all wandered up a hillside to a stand of brazen green trees and stood blackly on the fringe of its shade gazing out, their bodies in the cloaking dark but their heads shined to a high gloss like black pennies in the sunlight. (p. 5).

Orren placed his hand on his own chest flat-palmed and she saw the dark line of dirt under his nails like earthen parentheses. (p.7).

Listen, we’re only seven pages into this shite, and I’m ready to have C.E. *Katie* Morgan flogged for crimes against literature. *Earthen parentheses?* And it just gets worse:

She studied the morning light as it forced itself through the pocked and splintered wood boards of the batten walls so that it shot through in silty bands of white like roughspun silk. It caught and lit the barn sediment as morning sun lights the mist and bugs that hover over the skin of a still river. (p. 131).

A dwarf story stretched out to 199 pages with the most tedious, pretentious purple prose imaginable. 199 pages of inanimate objects *yawning,* *fretting,* *whispering,* *quarreling* and *worrying.*

This is literature for pale, nervous women who need to lay in darkened bedrooms for days at a time. . .

I read this shite thing all the way through just to see how bad it could get, and for the laugh-out-loud *drama* of Aloma being attacked by a rooster, which leads to this, maybe the single most absurd line of dialogue I’ve ever read:

I want not to be murdered by birds! (p. 58).

Ha ha ha. . .what a shite book! *Voice of a generation!* Pray this shite isn’t translated into French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian or any of the Scandinavian languages. . .we don’t need anymore scorn from Horace Engdahl and the rest of the International Literati.


  1. Ha ha! You should post this on Amazon. And yeah people should just stick to the old stuff for fiction. Maybe I'm forgetting something but the newest fiction I can think of that I like is Cuckoos Nest by Kesey and some of Bukowskis stuff. The sad thing is there are probably many a great novel that has been written in the past 40, its just they never got published so we don't know about them.

    I've never met an Aloma or Orren in all my years in Kentucky. My family tree is thick with Morgans, I hope I'm not somehow related to this dumb cunt. Jesse Stuart is my favorite Kentucky writer.

  2. Oh, gah, this writer looks like some Agnes Scott grad. . . . Agnes Scott is a girls, ahem, womens uni here in Atlanta. Lots of "lesbians." Well, really, lots of confused girls with hairy twats that smell. . .

    I'm probably over simplistic with fiction. I like Larry McMurtry a lot. I like Elmer Kelton. An overlooked author is Enrico Remert with his Ballad of the Lowlifes. . . though he is Italian.

    But this mess you describe. . . gah, in my undergrad I had to take some "humanities." So, I picked out one that looked interesting enough called "19th Century American Literature." I was really hoping we could really study some Melville or something. What happened? I get into the class and the teacher, some short skirted broad with a hyphenated last name, added a lil something to the class title. . . "Feminist Authors." Other than this broad wearing her short skirts and showing the cooter when sitting up on a desk with her legs crossing, the class was horrible. I accidentally titled the class on a paper "Bitch Lit." Woops. My complete unapologetic attitude probably got me a passing grade. . . honestly, the woman looked like a broad that liked getting smacked around.

    Anyways, the little snippets you put in there from this book remind me so much of the crap I read in that class. The Lamplighter, Unpunished, some other crap. It sounds like this author-chick lifted a bunch of crap prose from those indomitable wrecks and hodge podged some shit she can sell while flashing some tit.

    Anyways, that class turned me violently away from fiction for 5 years. What brought me back? Ah, McMurtry, Bukowski, Kelton, Remmert and other not so femme authors.

  3. Cwn annwn, I agree 100%. . .I know there have to be tons of great manuscripts sitting around collecting dust. . .stuff that would blow us away, but will never get an OK from a publisher because it's not *commercial*. . .at least, not in America. There is still some decent fiction in Europe and Scandinavia. . .but in the US it is all crap. . .vampires and the holocaust.

    I could make a fortune pretending to be a *survivor* and telling some story where I was a 10 yr old boy who had to suck some catholic priest's cock to keep from getting turned in.

    It would be hilarious if you were this chick's cousin or something. . .maybe you could do the literary world a favor and edit her next book--which I hear from a reliable source will be about *horse racing and race relations!* I wonder if Aloma fucks a horse or a negro stable boy?

    Itpdude, I can honestly say there is only one writer with a vagina who was any good, and that was Flannery O'Connor. All the rest are garbage.

  4. This is not a new phenomenon. What few writers from the 20th century who were any good (aside from O'Connor there were Greene, Maugham, London, Hemingway, Steinbeck and a few others) can probably be more accurately described as 19th century novelists who were born a few decades late.

    The dumbing down of the novel is fairly synonymous with those bozos who paint soup cans or hang lengths of twine in art galleries, and the idiots who view MTV interviewing a cracked-out rap star in his gaudy 'crib' as groundbreaking, authentic journalism.

    The degeneration of art to trash, appealing to the lowest common denominator, is the most obvious symptom of a reified society.

  5. Degenerate Art.

    I agree.

    To a more extreme degree, so did Hitler:


    Good book.

  6. that actually does look pretty interesting. here's walter benjamin for ya...


    theodor adorno wrote from a different angle but came to similar conclusions.


    great article... incidentally, one of the few new releases worth reading to me was Pynchon's _Against The Day_? What say you all, literati of the FTBTFI blog?

  7. Last Pynchon I tried to read was *Mason & Dixon.*

    I send him to Treblinka for that. . .

  8. I take it my Velvet Elvis wouldn't get very far with this crowd.

    However, this woman, this C.E. whatever, from the snippets X includes from merely the first few pages, shows this woman's "literature" is dressed in the drag of high culture. "I wish not to be killed by birds." Fucking kidding me. . . though I can hear the broads at Agnes Scott getting a hearty chuckle from such lines.

    Puke, worse yet I can see this getting a belly laugh from the cows in the Oprah studio.

  9. This is what der Fuhrer was trying to protect the German people from:


    Degenerate Art. . .

  10. ugh, the Bodies exhibit. We had that mess come through Atlanta.

    I wonder if that man has gotten intimate with one of his cadavers.

  11. Well, at least he had to get the consent of the parties involved before they kicked the bucket.

    I mean, just think of some poor, unsuspecting bastard seeing his dear grandmother engaged in a post-mortem double-penetration.

  12. Shoot, imagine the kin seeing granny getting DP'd knowing she gave not just consent, but suggested the DP.

    At least I can basically choose not to go to Bodies. . . though they had the ads inside the bus stops. Can you imagine being one of the poor slugs, waiting for the crappy bus, and having to look at that mess for 20 minutes?

  13. "Post-Mortem Double Penetration" is probably the name of some Cannibal Corpse song.

  14. I guess this one fits:


  15. Well, you're gonna want to put me in a boxcar for Dachau too, 'cuz early on I thought your own style was often a little like Pynchon's. Multilayered, rigorous, punny and cynically sarcastic. Maybe it was just displacement, but I still see the resemblance.

    Mason & Dixon was a particularly difficult work to get through. Most people dig Crying of Lot 49 or Gravity's Rainbow... but some hate him altogether, and I can see their points as well.

  16. I take that as a compliment. . .but Pynchon is *writer* whereas I am just trying to amuse myself, really. I call this shit I do *lunchtime literature,* as I cobble it together on breaks at work.

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