Mat Johnson: Debating Black Books

Mat Johnson continues to offer some interesting arguments and definitions on his blog, this time in a posting about the differences between high and low culture and their respective relationships to the marketplace.

Of interest is that he puts his reasons for trying to start a dialog at the end of the posting (which I include below). But the essay is worth a look, if only for his willingness to lay out the kinds of demands different kinds of writing have not only for their readers, but also for their writers.

Why I’m Bothering

Another thing that has come up repeatedly, from emails and other responses, is why I’m even bothering to trying to have a critical dialogue at all. For those that wonder, here is a list of my intentions for this dialogue:

1. To create an understanding of the difference between highbrow and lowbrow art in the African American community, and for an intellectual space for both of them so that they might better co-exist.

2. To make aspiring literary writers aware of the pitfalls between them and their goals.

3. To foster inter-community discussion about the current direction of African American literature.

4. To bring a discussion about quality of writing to the black commercial fiction arena.

5. To turn these resultant discussion into an anthology to be published by my new imprint, Niggerati Manor Productions ($39.95 hardcover). Then to come up with a nationwide speaking tour, charging college campuses another $8-12,000 a pop to have a live debate on their campus (think Carl Webber versus Edward P. Jones). Next, I’ll spin that off into a reality show on BET where 10 writers live together, struggling to get published, but one team is commercial and the other literary. We’ll kick one off each episode, with the tag line “You’re a hack!” This show will of course be hosted by LeVar Burton, the winner being published by Niggerati Manor Productions with us retaining the movie rights (because let’s face it, it’s all about the movie rights). Then it’s just sit back, and let the revenue streams pour in.

Now, dear reader, it’s time to test your critical thinking skills. Which of the above statements is false?


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