Whether or not you know the writings of film critic/blogger Glenn Kenny (who used to write for the now-defunct US version of PREMIERE magazine and is now a contributor to Roger Ebert's website rogerebert.com), this is a really worthwhile, thoughtful piece where Kenny examines past animosities towards some of his peers and his efforts to make amends.
Some sentences that resonate for me:
I also had some idea that it was my duty to call bullshit on everyone who I thought was propagating bullshit.
I can still be fairly intemperate, online, in person, wherever. Every day I try to be better about it, to use my wits, such as they are, for constructive purposes. But I’m in no position to pat myself on the back. I am in a position to state that my past behavior, of which my nasty baiting of Emily Gould was only a small part, cost me, and it cost me across the board, in terms of reputation, professional and personal, and other things that you can probably guess. And I earned the cost.
When you’re a drunk, and have some facility for words, and things aren’t going so great for you, you can read something and infer that the writer’s situation is better than your own, and it can throw you into a frothing bloody rage. You think, “Why is the world paying attention to this NOBODY?” or “why is this NOBODY making more money than I am?” and “why isn’t this NOBODY beset with paralyzing depression and fear like he or she deserves to be instead of me?” and so on, and then because you fancy yourself a critic or a perspicacious observer of the cultural scene, you mold these resentments into a theory that there is something VERY WRONG with the culture and that the person you hate is the one responsible for that thing being very wrong.
Speaking for myself, I'm not quite in the place Glenn Kenny has been. My (as Kenny would put it) "resentments and disappointments" haven't been fueled by alcohol, since I don't drink. They've been formed from observation and personal experience. And, akin to Kenny's relationship to East Coast literary/journalistic peers, I've been guilty of finding certain men and women now and formerly in the Southern California poetry community to be poster children for vanity, ill-treatment-of-others-professionally-personally, egotism and public boorishness. In certain cases, my opinion of some of these people may never change. But I do have to grudgingly accept that I have unnecessarily alienated several people in the community that extended some degree of friendship/graciousness towards me.
Having admitted this, I also need to state how difficult it is for me to make amends or be permanently forgiving when certain people in the poetry community either created or cheered on an anonymous website meant to goad and humiliate me--plus harassing me into ceasing the blog you're reading now. That's not "community" behavior, no matter how one might justify it. Instead, it's the equivalent of the scene in the original CAPE FEAR (1962), where Gregory Peck crouches behind a dumpster to watch two men (hired by him) beat up the threatening, villainous-in-many-ways character played by Robert Mitchum.
The present conundrum for me is to figure out how to speak out (when I feel occasions demand it) about unnecessary inequity, dubious behavior and diminishing opportunities in the LA/OC/LBC community without adding my name to more Enemies Lists. In a way, this approaches the rigor of balancing equations in high school Chemistry.
If you've been following me on this blog (or when I contributed to various listserves), hopefully you believe that my level of vitriol has decreased markedly over the past decade.
If not, please use the comment section to speak up--using your own name.