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I’m excited

13 December 2017

I’m excited when an independent press is publishing something other than literary fiction. Literary fiction was, in all seriousness, established by the CIA during the Cold War—it belongs to the state. As such, an independent press with no ties to the state should inherently not be interested in “literary fiction.” Semantically!

M Kitchell

PG has no idea what this quote means.

He found it at 50 Quotes from 50 Presses: The Small Press Database Hits 50 Interviews.


21 Comments to “I’m excited”

  1. I do. It’s a clumsy, over-stated reference to a historical truth: which is that the CIA funded journals, conferences, and programs after WWII (including the Iowa Writer’s Program) that coalesced into the burgeoning industry of University MFA programs which then had a major influence on the trajectory/style of literary fiction in the second half the 20th century.

    • I miss good Cold War spy books. Perhaps the CIA should start funding them again.

    • Richard Hershberger

      Also the Darmstadt International Course for New Music. The idea with both music and literature was to show the glories of Western culture in opposition to its Soviet equivalent.

      It was a weird era.

      The Darmstadt course is still a thing. My nephew is a composer, and has attended it. I asked him if it is still funded by the CIA. If he knows, he isn’t telling.

    • It was linguistically and culturally focused, rather than “literary”, but I have an area certificate from a department which was created and sustained based almost wholly on financial contributions from CIA, DOD and State.

  2. It means that M. Kitchell is a raving lunatic who sees spies under every bed.

    If any single group of people established literary fiction in the English language, it was the Bloomsberries in London in the 1920s and 30s – when the CIA did not exist.

    • I’m pretty sure he’s referring to the MFA-version of U.S. literary fiction that is heavily influenced by John Cheever aka the stereotypical New Yorker short story that deals with the concerns of the college educated American upper middle class and culminates in a quiet epiphany.

      • The U.S. version of literary fiction derived heavily from the British version. In the 1920s, American highbrows were still claiming that New York and New England had the sole claim to any intellectual life in the U.S., because of their superior access to Europe. A lot of the early authors of American lit-fic were émigrés in Paris in the 1920s, where they were heavily exposed to the school of the Bloomsberries, and a lot of cross-fertilization followed. The stereotype you mention was a big thing among the English literati of the day, to the point where it was almost regarded as vulgar to write stories in which anything actually happened.

        In any case, American literary fiction certainly was not created by the CIA; it existed long before there was any CIA; and in fact, some of its most prominent practitioners in the early days were Communists or fellow-travellers. I’m sure John Dos Passos would have given a good deal to get hold of this Kitchell character and administer a bit of education.

        • You’re absolutely right, but I’m referring to the specific strain of American literature that the quote above is invoking. There’s a whole narrative about this that Kitchell is drawing on to make his rather facile point.

      • Perfect description.

  3. I went back to the original “50 Quotes” post and stopped after about 15 of them. Some of them made my brain hurt.

  4. It was written by autosuggest.

  5. It makes a lot of sense, actually. The whole modern art movement was basically a CIA operation against the Soviet Union. One of the more successful ones, I might add.

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