RESPONSE TO AN OPEN LETTER: with the stated intention of subverting any hard conclusion

Yesterday we published Steven Gray’s open letter to City Lights, claiming that Jarett Kobek‘s Jan 18th reading there from his novel ATTA was “evasive in the extreme”, and the final slide of his presentation—Mae West kissing W.C. Fields—”a meaningless conclusion that the neo-cons could live with, particularly as it lets them off the hook.”

Kobek has responded:

Mr. Gray,

You expected more from my appearance at City Lights. Forgive this assumption, but it seems as if you were looking for something that fit within easily identifiable and comfortable patterns of hoary-eyed Leftism.

To quote Kirk [sic] Vonnegut, that type of thinking can go take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut. It can take a flying fuck at the moooooooooon.

Your letter caught me by surprise. Despite the exaggerated state of your hyperbole, I suspect that the actual differences between our political outlooks are miniscule. Only within the hothouse of the Bay Area could there be any measure of disagreement. For the rest of America, you and I are peas in a pod, crazed pinkboys hellbent on destroying the dollar’s moral stranglehold over the USA.

But I am not someone who confuses his literary output with activism, and I will not shuck and jive to reassure audience members of their own rightness.

As you mention controlled explosions, I infer that you are, for lack of a better phrase, a 9/11 Truther. I am not.

Whatever your personal opinion of 9/11’s causative factors, I hope you would agree that the historical event itself was the product of ideological rigidity. In short, it was the work of men, in the worst sense of the word, and crafted through the inflexibility that hovers around the far extreme of what we consider masculinity. The response to such an event should not be an emulation of its perpetrators’ self-righteous praxis.

For over ten years, we’ve suffered every imaginable asshole offering every imaginable opinion about the ultimate meaning of 9/11. It is my supposition that, alongside crass materialism, such jingoism and overexposure has rendered the hypersaturated media event as a thing beyond meaning. No one may know it because it is unknowable.

Your uncharitable description of my final slide neglects to mention that the image was offered with the stated intention of subverting any hard conclusion, as a reflection of this unknowability.

That you experienced discomfort with such meaningless is understandable. That you willfully allowed your discomfort to misrepresent the intent of my event is, at best, unfortunate.

Regarding my indifferent prose, all I can offer is a mea culpa and mention that the book has received a variety of favorable reviews, not the least of which were a notice in the Times Literary Supplement and five stars on from a deranged Canadian teenager who calls himself Brosephicles.

– Jarett


P.S. As for Ballard, he is my favorite writer. As for Mailer, he is only slightly below Ballard. As for Martin Amis, his story still sucks.

P.P.S. That ‘woman in London’ was Katrina Palmer.