Sure, we’re making a big fuss about William S. Burroughs’s 100th, but in the Times Sunday Book Review, James Parker argues that the idea of the literary bad boy is “a legend only, a creature of folk memory,” and the media isn’t as interested in Norman Mailer types these days (even if Matthew Barney is). In an accompanying essay, Rivka Galchen points out that even Burroughs mocked the idea of the literary bad boy.
So what’s replaced the Bret Easton Ellis type? Well, Ellis himself, interviewing BJ Novak for his podcast, points to one of today’s literary stars, Tao Lin, and acknowledges he has a “Greenpoint kind of glamor,” vs. Ellis’s days of living on East 13th Street and running with the brat pack.
Here’s the spiel:
Ellis: I think I do have that rep that you just said – the glamorous literary figure… I do think that it was in an era where that was still possible. I don’t know if it’s possible now. I look at interesting writers around your age. I think Tao Lin is a very interesting writer, I know Tao and I’ve tweeted that I thought the book was kind of boring but undeniably, as a stylist, there’s something very interesting – I can’t get through Taipei, it’s not my kind of thing, but I do like Tao’s style.
Novak: And he has a real following, too — it’s small in the grand scheme of popular culture but it is intense and real.
Ellis: Yes, and it does have it’s different kind of, I guess, kind of, I don’t know, Greenpoint, kind of, glamor compared to the Manhattan literary world glamor that really I think we saw the end of at a certain point, in terms of when books were so central to the culture (’80s, ’90s) and when there was a point where young writers could suddenly become these kind of national or international symbols of, whatever, glamor in America in the late ’80s. I don’t know if books kind of travel that way anymore and the idea of the author of glamorous literary figure exists. I think I kind of got the tail end of that.
So what else qualifies as “Greenpoint glamor” — other than Hannah working on her e-book, of course? Well, for one thing, there’ll be a tea party with bestselling author Gail Carriger at Word bookstore next month and a prize will be awarded to the best steampunk costume. Glamorous enough?