Thursday, February 9, 2012

National Academy of Literature

American literature has a great tradition, yet we have not as yet institutionalized it in the way that the French did with their Académie française.  How can we separate the great literature from the works of scribblers?  Well, we have the NY Times Best Seller List, which reflects sales in certain urban settings.  We don't have a Montgomery Advertiser Best Seller List, for example.

In a way, this is an oversight of government by the Nanny State: after all, they do have the National Endowment of the Arts that occasionally comes under fire if present-day grantees somehow produce allegedly sacrilegious works or do something completely foreign to mainstream tastes, which trend towards bullighters on black vellum or the SI Swimsuit Issue. 

The French, in their Gallic thoroughness, elect up to 40 members of their Académie; they are designated as immortals.  When one inconveniently dies, they revoke his or her immortality status, and elect another one.  And so it goes on.  Now I'm sure the President and Congress together can come up with 40 or so authors that we can designate as immortals.  They play so well on other occasions!  Congress can assign them some worthy task as weeding out the bad words from Webster's Unabridged like some of their French counterparts do with their language. 

In a way, the American English language is fearfully compromised.  There was no single authority in place to vet possible words and slang expressions as they crop up like crabgrass on a suburban lawn, so American English is like the girl who is the easy lay in high school; or at least easy to get to second base with!  And we have in effect a perfect storm of three happenings: the notorious easiness in which words come into the language, the closing of a major bookstore chain (and, in my opinion, the best of the big box bookstore chains), and the rise of e-publishing, so that the great unwashed can also get in the act of being authors.  Oh dear, this will not do!  Publishing companies and high-salaried editors with opulent expense accounts will be hurt in the pocketbook!

Yes, it's time for big government to step in.  The President should propose a first list of one hundred authors as a starting point.  A Joint Committee of Republican and Democratic congresspersons should narrow the list down to forty, possibly adding others as needed, and the whole Congress vote to establish the National Academy of Literature.  You can imagine, perhaps, some possible members: Tom Wolfe, Stephen King, Janet Evanovitch, Michael Connelly, Thomas Pynchton, P. J. O'Rourke, Elmore Leonard, Nicholas Sparks, John Grisham, and Jennifer Crusie.

And, let's not forget, design some cool threads for our official novelists or nonfiction writers to wear on ceremonial occasions like appearing on late-night progrrams like Jay Leno or David Letterman.  It would so totally be worth it to see Elmore Leonard or Tom Clancy decked out in their National Academy of Literature outfits!

And this would lead to a revival of American literature.  After all, where do our novelists come from?  Too many undereducated and failed journalists, for one.  English majors at small colleges.  Nice old Southern ladies with a twisted sense of irony and realism.  Guys who took Word Processing in school as an elective.  Sports writers.  Equipping every one of the immortals with a cool uniform would make being a writer instantly cool!  After all, don't women like guys in uniform?

I especially liked the Good Humor man.

Here's some members of the Academie française, in l'habit vert, their official uniform.  Not only does the winner of the Masters' Tournament and King Babar the Elephant get to wear green!

Other countries have followed in this tradition; here's the Academia Brasileira de Letras.  Presumably, they must be good at Sambas to qualify.  Does the best dancer get to wear the sash?


Svejk said...

Great idea! Have grown-ups play dress-up while on government dole.

Bilbo said...

What a great post! I think your idea has real merit, except for the part about "The President (proposing) a first list of one hundred authors as a starting point" and, "A Joint Committee of Republican and Democratic congresspersons (narrowing) the list down to forty, possibly adding others as needed, and the whole Congress vote to establish the National Academy of Literature."

We are, of course, talking about the Congress that can't agree on ANYTHING, and is willing to let the country swirl down the drain rather than cooperate with the opposition to get anything of significance or importance done. Perhaps if you let the members of Congress dress up, they might go along ... otherwise, I see no hope. Good idea in principle, though!

Duckbutt said...

A great post!

I second Bilbo's idea of letting Congress doing the dress up: they can't look any more ridiculous than they look now!

Mike said...

I thought the Urban Dictionary was the new authority.

Big Sky Heidi said...

I thought so too. Slang defies codificstion through some running dog academy.

I thought academies were snooty girls' schools.

eViL pOp TaRt said...

I'm re-thinking my idea: what preposterous uniform would Congress come up with. These are the peopler that birthed the Tax Code.

Banana Oil said...

Liked this post.

bakku-shan said...

The costumes are a bad idea. You'll just wind up with poseurs instead of serious authors. Literature is not superficial!