As a white male literary publisher, life is hard. Like, I want to put panda bears on everything, but no one will let me.
What way-past-its-prime lit blog would be complete without stories of writers behaving badly?
Take Kyle Minor, for example. He showed up at the Virgin Megastore in Orlando when I worked there as a bookseller 13 years ago. “Holy shit, you’re the guy who founded Identity Theory?” he said. “But you’re just a 23-year-old minimum-wage slave who lives in his mom’s basement. And you don’t have an MFA. That’s amazing.”
“I know! Isn’t the freedom of publishing whatever we want on the internet great? Not only that, but we’re white! And we have cocks! Let’s put panda bears on everything!”
“I don’t think that would be a good idea,” Kyle said. “That might prevent Philip Roth from blurbing my forthcoming book.”
“That goddam Philip Roth ruins everything.”
Claire Vaye Watkins is Wrong
She says she wrote Battleborn for white men. I read both Battleborn and her new novel, Gold Fame Citrus. Not a single panda bear!
Stephen Elliott Comes to Town
In 2004, I edited an interview with Stephen Elliott in which he did not mention panda bears. 6,068 words, no panda bears. (Though he did go on and on about his admiration for con artist JT LeRoy.) I wrote a scathing email to the interviewer, Robert Birnbaum, about the lack of panda-bear questions, but since he was using AOL at the time, the evidence is long gone.
Years later, Stephen Elliott posted on Facebook about starting a magazine similar to Identity Theory, with deeply (embarrassing) personal daily emails and all. “Put panda bears all over it,” I messaged him. “Trust me, I’ve been at this a long time, it’s a sure thing.”
He wrote back, “Thanks, but we already have a mascot, and it’s not a panda.”
Then, no doubt just to spite me, he put a line in his website’s manifesto about how he’d never post a thoughtful essay next to a panda bear’s opinion of the war on Iraq.
My History of Watching Panda Bears
I really don’t give a shit about panda bears. I’ve never once looked at a panda bear. The great thing about being a white male with no life problems is I can pretend to care about stuff and then drop it at a moment’s notice, then go drink a venti latte and play poker all night while monitoring my fantasy football team’s performance. Hey, I’ve got 100 bucks on those guys.
Suddenly I care about panda bears again.
Let’s punch down.
The pain of our knuckles hitting the ground will remind us of the suffering we all endure: First-world white women with postgrad degrees, popular social-media accounts, and major book deals who still can’t say what they want to say because of that goddam Philip Roth; Syrian refugee kids who just got raped and can’t find a home because white American parents don’t want them eating free school lunches near their kids; and most importantly, white male online-lit-mag publishers who can’t put panda bears on everything.
Let’s burn this motherfucking system to the ground and put panda bears on motherfucking everything.