Franklin Foer, in discussing the reports of Scott Thomas Beauchamp:

I hadn't worked with Stephen Glass, who made up stories out of whole cloth, but I knew the lessons derived from that scandal. Fabulists are often nabbed by the little lies, the asides they assume that no one will check.

Here's Wikipedia, quoting Glass's 1998 article 'Hack Heaven' — the one which it says 'triggered his downfall':

Ian Restil, a 15-year-old computer hacker who looks like an even more adolescent version of Bill Gates, is throwing a tantrum. "I want more money. I want a Miata. I want a trip to Disney World. I want X-Man comic number one. I want a lifetime subscription to Playboy, and throw in Penthouse. Show me the money! Show me the money!"...

Across the table, executives from a California software firm called Jukt Micronics are listening – and trying ever so delicately to oblige. "Excuse me, sir," one of the suits says, tentatively, to the pimply teenager. "Excuse me. Pardon me for interrupting you, sir. We can arrange more money for you ..."

The little lies? This is bad fiction. You don't, or shouldn't, have to be a hotshot critic to see that.

And here's an excerpt from Beauchamp's first 'Diarist' piece:

[...] a short but unusually healthy-looking Iraqi kid approached out of my periphery wearing an Adidas hat and snowboarding t-shirt, his lower torso swallowed by one of Little Venice's excrement canals.

We are to believe, then, that the Iraqi child has become so debased by the conditions of war that he is willing to wade up to his stomach, or chest, in shit

"Mistah Mistah, give me $50," he demanded, somewhat politely compared with other children. But I was still taken aback by the sum

to obtain money. I don't know if I believe it. 'lower torso' could be the slip of a bad writer, an artefact of bad editing, or one of those 'little lies'.

Or it could be true:

His first piece, a Diarist titled 'War Bonds' published in our February 5 issue, described the woes of an Iraqi boy named Ali who adopted the moniker 'James Bond.' Soon after James Bond chit-chats with American soldiers, Beauchamp learns that thugs—most likely insurgents—cut out his tongue. This first piece didn't receive much attention, but the attention it did receive was positive. Hawks, in particular, liked that it sympathetically described the plight of sensitive young soldiers on the front line.

That it was received positively implies its readers thought it true. That it was received positively, and thought true, implies its readers accepted that a young Iraqi was desperate enough for money, or so used to the indignity, he would walk navel-deep through shit for it. What does this say?



Ghost Work
for the formattings sake.

by Jameson Farley
guest blogger

Pu Ling-en. A correspondence


from: Oxford Poetry
to: jhp13[at]cam.ac.uk
date: Oct 7, 2007 6:57 PM
subject: OP08

Dr Prynne,

We are committed admirers of yours
here at OP. If there is one thing
which bugs us about the state of English
literary culture, it is that poetry of the quality
you write goes relatively unacclaimed.
We understand you must receive many such
wearying requests, but still we are determined
to ask if you would like to contribute (in any form:
we do not affect to leash our writers to particular
modes) to our 2008 issue. It is most
important to us that the poetry in our journal
avoid the pitfalls many successful poets
wander into it seems guilelessly. If we were able
to include something of yours, it would invigorate
and encourage both us and our student contributors
in the task. With sincere thanks,

Ben Mullen & JCH Potts
editors, OP08


from: J.H. Prynne
to: Oxford Poetry
date: 07 Oct 2007 23:22:51 +0100
subject: Re: OP08

Hmmmmm. I don't think I have anything I could send you right now, thought this might change. Let's see if passing time turns out to make a difference.

J.H. Prynne


from: Oxford Poetry
to: "J.H. Prynne"
date: Nov 9, 2007 5:27 PM
subject: Re: OP08

Thank you for your kind reply; and for your extralong 'Hmm', which we cherish as a measure of how much our offer meant to you, and how much thinking it took to say no.

Your contribution still and always welcome.

Oxford Poetry

Super Songs. Keston Sutherland, Timothy Thornton, Ron Paste — I’m persuaded by people who’re persuaded by Prynne. Owing to their commendations I have his brick of Poems and I paid £14 in money for Sub Songs.

I have his Poems and I have not read it. I read Sub Songs the day it arrived.

The characteristic conservative response to novelty is the scoff. Conservatives’ scoffing — their bluster and bluffness — reacquaints us gently with our certitudes, as if it wasn’t these that were unaccountable. To hazard an answer must be the worst way to defuse live questions like those asked by novel poetry, so the flummoxed conservative must avoid this without giving off any guilty air of evasion. Dr Johnson missed the point but not the stone. Kingsley Amis just hoicked the pale postmodernism of Money at the opposite wall.

Reading Sub Songs it occurred to me that the book was — in a far from unimpeachable way — a challenge: perhaps a test. It seemed to covet the role of foil to my philistine — the philistine it needed me to play, hoicking arm primed for its dismissal. But the book’s provocation wasn’t directed at philistine taste as a target so much as it sought, in the service of the solace and self-regard of those who do endorse the Prynnian style, to conscript the philistine to stand in bogus contrast to its correct method.

Practitioners in the humanities are often smart. Scholars or poets, they are both encouraged in and inclined to a certain intellectual pride. But it’s impossible for them not to sense, on the scene of their success, their culture’s unstudied commitment to their neglect. The society that voted for New Labour in three elections before trading them in for the Clameron chimera denies its avant-garde not only status in reputation but meaning in recognition. For poets who want to respect themselves, then, in a culture that shows its estimate of their value (and to an extent of that of poetry) by an impenetrable obliviousness, it is therapeutic to promote and imitate an art whose signature is its difficulty but whose raison is a retaliatory exclusion; under its sway, the more these poets praise what most won
t contemplate without philistine complaint, the more they can feel themselves companions of an elite. It’s the fact of this process that justifies Archambeau’s intervention in the matter of Prynne and school’s claiming for their work validity as a means of protest. That the poetry is unviable as such — and no more viable as a means of resistance — should be self-evident, and I do mean to be patronising when I say it’s a shame if smart people ever had convictions to the contrary. That the poetry, with its decadent esotericism of diction, is as a medium hostile to those it roots for, but unstinting in its passion in this cause, implies an insanity that precludes political significance. Before politics is even a prospect, though, the extent to which the style’s practitioners can devote themselves to a sense of its radical potential becomes a qualification — like a tenet of a cult, the more admired the more ardently it is held. Who better than nobody to serve and defend in a book that nobody reads? ◦ 2011 

How short

Kafka, of a woman (I don't know where): how short must be life, if something so fragile can last a lifetime. But sentimental! Kafka’s words betray a watcher’s remoteness, for women’s bones are strong; women of beauty are still flesh, as you are when you stub your toe, or knock your head on a shelf. You would not want to touch a thing that would shatter or dissolve in your hand. I see there’s romance in what’s ethereal — fairies and such. That women are girlish and frail and we ought to protect them (or that we must). Under their burkhas and chastely enticing veils these women aren’t pixies — airy features strung with beads of light together — and I’m not the awed rustic, on the streets of Oxford seeing the travel of light in covers; these are people, part-animal, bent like men to make superior versions of themselves (ones better at making more and more versions), in that way perhaps machinelike, but on the human scale of no graver fragility than lean and short men. Yes the word angel is beautiful but I have always hated its use in simile because how do they write or sing? Like Shakespeare and, what, a choir? Not priests, not enraptured, nobody knows: they’re imagined beings, unconcrete, without flesh. Women aren’t fleshlessly angels, they have solid nerve and muscle, it’s why they live out meagre allotments. Kafka’s is male sentimentality, a kind of refuge, to see in those desired for their cleavages, their symmetrical faces the angelic; if angels are immortal the angelically dreamlike, no substance — impression all.