Thursday, June 17, 2010

It's the Pictures that Got Small

At Askesis U., we have a fairly aggressive PR department. The big announcement at fall commencement a few years ago was that we'd gotten a spot on the premiere national morning show. In the interim, a number of faculty members are called upon to participate in all sorts of local news pieces---the city paper, the local NPR affiliate, etc. I suppose it makes sense. It's a good way to get the name of the college out there, although sometimes I have to wonder if what the faculty contribute is really solidifying our reputation in quite the way that the administration might want.

Case in point: a few days ago, I was contacted by Mr. Micawber, our PR guy. [He's actually a very nice man. But there's just this slight air of despondency about him. But what the hell do I know?] A local paper--not the big city paper, mind you, but the Podunk Town Register from up the road--needed an interview with a literature prof. The writer was doing a piece on an emerging trend in contemporary fiction, and would I be willing to talk with him? Seldom has someone been so quick to participate in her own exploitation. "Sure! I'm familiar with this trend! I can talk to him!"

So I had a brief conversation with the guy. I should have known that I was in trouble when I came out of the box explaining how I thought this trend was part of a larger concern about the role of books in contemporary society. How many hours of Fox News would I need to watch to realize a loaded question when I heard one? "But really, isn't this all just really a fad?" "What do you think classic authors would think about this stuff?"

Whoa there, cowboy. You've got yourself the wrong lit girl. I think you were looking for one of my colleagues who like to pound the table about the necessity of the canon. What, Stanley Fish wasn't available? Sadly, if you want a blurb from me for your article, you're going to get the line about how books are related to movies are related to rap music. After our increasingly uncomfortable chat, I looked up his blog, only to discover that he's a 55 year old cranky white dude who, in addition to writing for the Podunk Town Register, also owns a business that sells "authentic" trinkets from a certain Western European country known for clogging and abstruse Modernist writers who spent a lot of time in France. You all know one of these guys, I have no doubt. In making his argument---I mean "interviewing me"---he said: "I don't know if you're old enough to remember these guys in the early 70's who did this kind of thing in music." There's just no way for me to respond to that graciously.

Yesterday, I got gussied up so that they could take my photo for the PDR. I hope there's airbrushing involved, but I doubt I'm going to get that lucky. I'll be curious to see what, if anything, the writer includes of my incisive theory about the books. I expect to see single words like "and" and "the" as the only ones in quotation marks. Someone remind me never to go into politics. As a latter-day Norma Desmond, I'm afraid that I'm not ready for my close-up.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous The Bittersweet Girl said...

Wow. I guess journalistic integrity is out the window even when the story is "just" about literature.

Way to set the story straight, KF! That is, if he chooses to represent you accurately -- which doesn't seem likely.

Say "cheese"!

Friday, June 18, 2010 8:02:00 AM  
Blogger kfluff said...

We'll see how it turns out---I think the article is scheduled to come out at the end of the month.

Saturday, June 19, 2010 10:45:00 AM  

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