In the August 29th issue of The Nation, Lee Siegel publishes a very interesting review of Sean Wilsey’s new memoir, “Oh the Glory of It All.” I haven’t read the book, but I read and enjoyed the excerpt published in The New Yorker a while back. In the first paragraph, Siegel writes:
“One of the open secrets of literary life is that it’s easier to get a book deal for a first novel, or for a work of nonfiction, than it is to get a short story or an article published in a serious magazine. This is because book publishing now revolves less around the book itself than around the marketability of the author–physical appearance; ethnicity, race, religion or sexuality; media or social connections–while serious magazine publishing, for all of its shortcomings, is still about writing. To a large degree, writing a book has become just another form of producing and selling, another project of the entrepreneurial or egotistical American self. That makes most books being published social, not cultural, events. They are the type of calculating, transactional social occasions that authentic cultural events sublimate into clarifying expression. These simulated books should be reported and investigated in the national news sections of newspapers, not reviewed in their culture pages.”
If you’re guessing that Siegel doesn’t think much of “Glory,” you’re right. It is, he says, “less a book than a very long e-mail.” He writes: “Wilsey is a person venting rather than a writer writing,” and that taking in the book is “eavesdropping, not reading.” Siegel seems most bothered that for a memoirist, Wilsey isn’t truly inward-looking. The book, he says, “seems to have been written by an unreflective person, which is the literary equivalent of being a color-blind painter.” Siegel goes on to make a final point about wealth and class, a point that produces an unexpected comparison. The piece is certainly worth a look. And, based on the New Yorker excerpt, the book is as well.