A Real Caricature



Most literary editors, I think, know of G. Tod Slone, though I doubt very many readers do.  He’s the crated dog to our mailman — a constant but ineffectual yapping in our ears from some unknown location (is it Massachusetts?), always tilting at the same windmills with the same catch-phrases (“vigorous debate, cornerstone of democracy!” “tenure track literati!”).  The general consensus — and Megan’s opinion, too — is that he’s not worth the paper it takes to reply to his emails.  And that’s mostly true.  But to me he’s a delightful foil — like a tertiary character on some sitcom, a lovable curmudgeon, inconsolable crank that he is.  To me he’s Newman (“Hello Newman!”).

We’ve had some vigorous debates in the past — he strapped a homeless man to a rickshaw, I changed the size tags on my skinny-jeans, you know the drill.  Actually, we published a review where he trashed Best American Poetry, because I wanted to show reviewers that it was okay to go negative, and I figured BAP could take it — but it included a false accusation that I had to retract, and then he took his contributor copy and wrote a negative review of that, which would have been fine, except it included more false accusations, and I decided we couldn’t trust him enough to publish him anymore.  So he got all huffy, and then we had a highly entertaining email exchange.  It’s all recreated here if you care (but why would you?).

You can read any of his articles or reviews or missives to get a sense of his argument, which never changes.  The poetry world is run by a bunch of academic/PC gatekeepers, too comfortable in their cushy jobs to be willing to rock the boat.  There’s a small kernel of truth to it, but also a strange loop involved where I’m never quite sure what boat needs to be rocked, other than the establishment itself.  But it is what it is, and he’s the love-child of Chatty-Cathy and the Energizer Bunny.

Anyway, the best part about G. Tod Slone is that, such a caricature himself, he publishes caricatures in his literary magazine (www.theamericandissident.org).  What artistic layering!  As soon as I saw this cartoon of The Pedestal Magazine’s John Amen, I knew I had to have one of my own.  How would he render my receding hairline and boyish good looks?  In what ridiculous setting would he place me?  The possibilities were endless, and that’s what gave me the energy required for the vigorous debate above.

It took him a year and a half, but yesterday he finally sent me the caricature you see in this post, and I have to say I’m very disappointed, on two fronts.  First of all, I’m not in it.  I assume that’s Thoreau on the mock-cover, and interestingly my high school English teacher used to call me Thoreau, because I sported that awful beard (couldn’t grow the mustache until senior year).  But I’m not going to give Slone the psychic or stalkerly credit to have known that.  So I’m not there.

What’s much worse: I see two ways to read the parody of Rattle, hinging on the “Courage Issue” label.  The “Courage” might be ironic — we think we’re being courageous, but really we’re publishing White American poetry along with a ghettoized sub-genre to justify patting ourselves on the back.  That would be an interesting critique — I don’t think it’s true, but it’s something that I worry about, and try hard not to do.

Unfortunately, that’s not the point Slone is trying to make.  I asked him.  Instead, he’s trying to say that this is what a Courage Issue would really look like:  an article about reverse-racism, a tribute to White Americans, a posthumous interview with Thoreau — and no lesbian sestinas!  Yikes.  Here’s Slone in his own words:

Yes, I thought, how unoriginal can one get with the Tribute to Afro-Amer poets and how thoroughly PC.  America seems to favor anything but raw, risky truth telling.  The scope of diversion from such truth telling is immense!  For me, it gets hackneyed to see on the front cover of every other lit mag the diversity dogma in one shape or another, as in Latina Haiku or Queer Senryu or Asian-American Poet.  So, I thought, original would be the white poet thing, knowing it just would not happen RE an est-order lit journal, which by definition would automatically be PC.  By “courage,” yes I was evidently implying that you would not have the courage to do something un-PC.  So it implies not that you SHOULD but rather that you likely NEVER WOULD.   I’m of course quite aware that the Left knee-jerk balks at the term PC and ad hominizes anyone who dares evoke it or otherwise simply suggests it exists.  And that’s sad because the left cannot grow if it does not confront its weaknesses.  PC is a real phenomenon, serving to muzzle and enforce groupthink, as opposed to individual questioning and challenging.

Rather than knee-jerk balk and ad homenize, I think I’ll just let that statement ad homenize itself.  Apparently Slone’s had this problem in the past.  As always, it looks like Megan was right — this guy isn’t even worth the LOLs he brings with him.  And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.

But stick around for the comments, I’m sure Slone will show up.