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On an open fire

Marc Bousquet has now “put up” on the “internet” the full and unexpurgated transcript of the controversial minnesota review parody interview Janet and I conducted with Jeffrey Williams in 1994, which has just been published in the collector’s-item mr “Roast Issue.” Warning: This interview is not for the faint of heart!  (NSFFH!) Williams is a notoriously difficult interviewee who curses, as they say, like a sailor.  “Profane, forthright, daring and stylish, Williams made editing an academic journal into a platform for public intellectualism to an extent unmatched by anyone of his generation,” Bousquet writes.  Yes, well, that’s the polite version.  There’s a more accurate way to say this:  I’ve seen grown men pull their own heads off rather than try to interview Jeff. 

Here’s Marc’s tribute post and his own (real) interview with Jeff.  And here (NSFFH) is our interview.  The first third of it is taken almost verbatim from “reality,” that is, from a real conversation Jeff, Janet and I had fifteen summers ago in North Carolina.  Then it gets a bit more fanciful.  (My favorite part is the bit about the steam-powered linotype machine and the binding glue.  And people who have been reading this blog for untold eons will surely pick up the latest variation on Ye Olde Grundrisse joke.)

Also in this issue, as Marc works overtime to digitize the analog:

Tina May Hall, “Fictional Flowchart”

David Downing, “The Roast-a-Way”

Katie Hogan, “Student Debt”

Amitava Kumar, “At the MLA with Jeff”

Bruce Robbins, “For Jeff—An Undone Roast”

H. Aram Veeser, “The Disquieting Jeff Williams”

Jess Wilson, “The Editor Hits the Court”

ARG Collective, “Top Ten Jeff Williams Editorial Comments”

ARG Collective, “A Mad Lib”

Jeffrey R. Di Leo, “Top Ten Reasons that Jeff Williams Should Continue to Edit mr

Vincent B. Leitch, “A Most True Portrait of Jeffrey Williams:  A Dozen Little-Known Things about the Man”

Kathy M. Newman, “An Entry from Jeff Williams’ Day Planner”

And—I promise this is not another “read the whole thing” Grundrisse joke, because sometimes those little jokes make people angry—you can read the whole entire issue (with contributions from Michelle Massé, Louis Menand, Lennard Davis, Gerald Graff, Jeff Nealon, Cary Nelson, and many many more, including truly inspired parody-interviews by Eyal Amiran and Dick Ohmann) in a “portable document format” right here.

Many many thanks to Marc for stuffing all this material into the Intertubes, and, once again, to the inimitable Heather Steffen for putting together this Top Seekrit Project in a matter of weeks.  And most of all, congratulations to Jeff for eighteen remarkable years in which he made mr one of the most lively and important journals in the humanities.

Posted by on 01/07 at 09:14 AM
  1. Steam-powered linotype machine? Wow, that’s advanced. Back in 2004-09, when I was an online journal editor, I had to assemble the bytes by hand. The 0’s were pretty easy to wrangle, but the 1’s could bite your nails off.

    “But you try and tell the young [editors] today that… and they won’t believe ya’.”

    Posted by Sherman Dorn  on  01/07  at  12:00 PM
  2. My favorite part is the bit about the steam-powered linotype machine and the binding glue.

    Chicka-Wow Chicka-Wow Wow!*

    Many many thanks to Marc for stuffing all this material into the Intertubes

    Ibid.

    Anyhoo, presumably all this means we successfully persuaded you to stay swathed in your Blogger’s Mantle?  Huzzah!

    *I’ve also failed in my new year’s resolution to give up cigarette smoking, since I haven’t gotten around to starting yet.

    Posted by  on  01/07  at  12:20 PM
  3. Well that interview is fucking hilarious. I especially like:


    Williams Fuck no. I rewrote those motherfuckers from scratch.

    Bérubé Really? What did their authors say about that?

    Williams I didn’t ask them. Why?

    anyone who’s ever edited anything can relate…

    Posted by  on  01/07  at  01:51 PM
  4. I’ve also failed in my new year’s resolution to give up cigarette smoking

    Said the bishop to the actress.

    Posted by  on  01/07  at  05:46 PM
  5. Too bad MB gave up blogging again; it’s the kind of thing he could write an interesting post on.

    Posted by  on  01/07  at  07:37 PM
  6. What, Michael’s tossed it again, JP?  Perhaps another temporary respite will prod me to finally plumb the innumerable unexplored links in this and sundry foregoing entries.  The glue may bind slowly, but it binds mighty stickily.

    Been busy lately, and all that.

    Posted by  on  01/08  at  06:29 AM
  7. Dear Sir, I am very concerned that as the 2nd vice-president-elect of the august Modern Language Association, you would choose to associate yourself with modern language so vile as that contained in this post. I’m referring, of course, to “Intertubes,” which is a vile slur on all Alaskan-Americans. I suppose you’re going to concoct a fanciful time line showing that Senator Ted Stevens used the term. But sir, he did not! He said, and I quote, “the internet is a series of tubes.” You see the difference, I presume.

    Yours, more in sorrow than in anger,

    Ernest Pudding, (Brig. Gen., ret.)

    Captcha: “read” as in “with you as 2nd vice-president-elect of the MLA, I’m concerned that our children will never learn to”

    Posted by John Protevi  on  01/08  at  09:52 AM
  8. What, Michael’s tossed it again, JP?

    Yes, I guess we’ll just have to talk about things like this *here*.

    Posted by  on  01/08  at  10:02 AM
  9. I enjoyed reading, um, some of that stuff even though I never heard of the guy before (don’t judge me for that; I’ve been very very busy with various south-campus type pursuits). (Hey, I’ve heard of Ploughshares, does that help?)

    Interesting to note that Williams is credited repeatedly with superhuman editing skills, his strong stylistic preferences characterized as “concise,” “snappy,” “brisk,” “get-to-the-fucking-point-ish.” Which can only make a reader of this blog wonder: what happened?

    Posted by  on  01/08  at  11:20 AM
  10. I agree with Brig. Gen. Pudding. As a potential fellow Corrupt-American-case-gets-overturned-because-of-Federal-prosecutor-misconduct-yet-Don-Siegelman-is-still-in-limbo-WTF-is-up-with-that-Eric-Holder-?, I am outraged by the same things that he is. Confused people have rights too! As Associate Justice* Scalia has said, “A Constitution in which the right not be mocked for self-inflicted travesties is not implicitly understood to be one of the un-enumerated rights covered by the Ninth Amendment is a Constitution for a country I do not recognize.”

    *That’s ASSOCIATE JUSTICE Antonin, you little prick! ASSOCIATE, ASSOCIATE, ASSOCIATE!! And that little nancy boy John Roberts runs around playing at being “Chief”; doesn’t that make your hot Italian blood boil-- especially since you have sired nine children from your manly loins while Johnny had to adopt his**.

    **Any perceived slurs in this rant are covered under Blog Commenting Safe Harbor Filing 247-C, which I understand this blog is party to.**

    Posted by  on  01/08  at  12:04 PM
  11. More on topic: The review name must indeed now change. Whilst it was Pittsburgh-based it could still be stretchily linked to Minnesota by joint semi-Midwesternism*, but now that it has migrated to the other side of the Indigenous Appalachian-American Patriots Homeland, no way.

    *See previous discussions in the archives.

    Posted by  on  01/08  at  12:10 PM
  12. O holy Moloch, people, I didn’t say I was thinking of retiring from blogging—I just asked whether I should take the show over to that fine blog where the timber is crooked.  And don’t tell me we couldn’t have our little in-jokes about the Appalachians over there, because iirc, we’ve done it before.  (Though one wonders what Erin would say this time around—perhaps “if he’s moving to CT, then he should go see ‘A Christmas Sweater’”?)

    Interesting to note that Williams is credited repeatedly with superhuman editing skills, his strong stylistic preferences characterized as “concise,” “snappy,” “brisk,” “get-to-the-fucking-point-ish.” Which can only make a reader of this blog wonder: what happened?

    Simple, dude.  I came here to get away from Jeff’s vicious blue pencil.  There’s no way he can write “blah blah blah” in the margins of the Tale of the Three Broken Hockey Sticks, bwah hah hah.  (Speaking of which:  the new stick is official.  Five goals on old-guys’ night this Tuesday, a goal and two assists—yes, one off a rebound—in a B game last night.  The stick has passed the stick test.  Woo hoo.) More seriously:  the line in the parody interview about Jeff rejecting 8 of my 9 essays has a basis in fact (as does much of that interview).  I really did submit a scattershot essay to him at some point in 1994, and he cut the first nine pages of it.  I am not kidding.  I responded by saying, “you’re right, this thing sucks, and I should rewrite this Molochfucker from scratch.” I could say that kind of thing back then, because I wasn’t the second vice president of the MLA.  (As of Jan 1, I am no longer 2VP-elect—I am the actual 2VP.)

    Speaking of which, Brigadier Pudding, if that is your real name.  Janet read that entire thread the other day (sometimes it’s good to see these things through a fresh pair of eyes that aren’t familiar with bloggy things), and her reaction was basically WTF?  (She can say that too, because she isn’t the second vice ... oh, never mind.) She asked me that evening, so what if “teabagging” has an alternate sexual meaning that precedes its more general use?  “I remember,” she said, “when you couldn’t say ‘sucks’ in public.  And now who could care less?  And who in their right mind would think that saying ‘teabagger,’ in reference to someone who mails teabags to the White House, implies that the person is dipping his scrotum in anyone’s mouth?” To which I replied, OMG, you’re right—I’m so old I can remember Laraine Newman doing a Barbra Streisand parody on SNL in which she sang, “and even if one of my films sucks/ it’s still gonna make four million bucks” (which was a lot of money back then), and everyone gasped and screamed at “sucks.” So daring!  So in-your-face!  Because, you know, back then, if you said something “sucks,” you were clearly implying that it was engaged in fellatio, or more generally includes fellatio in its sexual repertoire.  Its utterance in public required extra extra doses of the smelling salts, because, you know, think of the children.

    It’s an interesting analogy, but I do feel the Tea Party Patriots™’ pain.  It must really sting having snarky liberals tell you that you don’t know what you’re talking about—on the economy, on health care, on how Hitler had health care, and even on ordinary language use.  That really must suck.

    Posted by  on  01/08  at  02:40 PM
  13. O holy Moloch, people, I didn’t say I was thinking of retiring from blogging—I just asked whether I should take the show over to that fine blog where the timber is crooked.

    Oh, you’ll pay for that suggestion, Professor.  Especially the “purple monkey dishwasher” bit. 

    And do you really think that you aren’t getting enough abuse from the Leftier Left here?  The Overhead Proyector himself showed up at CT again recently to call everyone a pack of namby-pamby liberals.

    “if he’s moving to CT, then he should go see ‘A Christmas Sweater’”?

    Wait, that’s mandatory?

    Speaking of which, has anyone in the MLA leadership made the connection to that Steven Wright joke about getting a sweater as a present?  Because that would be hilarious dreadful.

    Whilst it was Pittsburgh-based it could still be stretchily linked to Minnesota by joint semi-Midwesternism*

    I will grudgingly accept this formulation.

    Posted by  on  01/08  at  05:18 PM
  14. It wasn’t all that long ago that “butt boy” was an acceptable substitute for “sycophant”, especially favored by oxycontin-gobbling talk radio hosts.

    Like “suck”, “ass” and “jackass” were impolite speech even in reference to donkeys back in the days before steam ships. I still can’t figure how Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me was able to advertise in this country.

    Posted by  on  01/08  at  06:28 PM
  15. "Butt boy” is so vulgar, black dog buzzkill.  I prefer “brown-noser.”

    Posted by  on  01/08  at  08:06 PM
  16. I prefer “middle manager”.

    Posted by  on  01/08  at  10:33 PM
  17. "graduate student”

    Posted by  on  01/09  at  02:27 AM
  18. I’m so old I can remember Laraine Newman

    So you were creeping through adolescence lusting after Laraine eh?  When she wore that GD t-shirt as one of the coneheads that pretty much made me lust after her too.

    Posted by  on  01/09  at  06:29 AM
  19. NSFFH = Not Safe For Farm Hands? Feral Hipsters? Festive Hoosiers? Furtive Homunculi? Fetid He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Referred-To-By-His-First-Initial-and-a-Drastic-Truncation-of-His-Surname?

    Posted by  on  01/11  at  09:21 AM
  20. All of the above, and the Faint of Heart as well....

    Posted by  on  01/11  at  09:40 AM

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