Democratizing PEN

Z Magazine Net Briefs – “Petitioning PEN”:

From and comes the news that PEN American Center in New York, an organization to protect and defend dissenting, outcast, and marginalized writers, has virtually shut out impoverished writers. The centerpiece of the PEN American Center is its gala, which occurs every year in late April. The funds are raised by wealthy attendees—$766,625 gross receipts in 2007. (Tickets are usually in the neighborhood of $1,000 a head.) The expense to hold this swanky aristocratic affair was $247,773 in 2007. PEN holds other literary affairs every year—such as the International Writers Festival, staged at the mind-boggling expense of $536,005. PEN promotes its festival as an “answer to American cultural insularity.” Of the $111,000 monetary awards to individual writers in 2007, the top three were: $40,000 to Philip Roth, who’s published by both Houghton-Mifflin and Random House; $35,000 to Columbia professor Janna Levin, published by Alfred Knopf; $10,000 to James Carroll, published by Houghton-Mifflin. By giving grants to authors who should be fully paid by their giant publishers, PEN American Center is in effect subsidizing billion-dollar book conglomerates. Various writers are petitioning PEN, asking people to sign the following:

“We the undersigned petition PEN American Center in New York to democratize their organization by appointing, as Trustees, not solely writers who are entwined with book companies owned by media monopolies. This includes writers who’ve dissented against the established U.S. literary mainstream. We ask all writers, from all backgrounds, to sign this Petition, including current PEN members and Trustees, in the interest of realizing the PEN mission, voiced by PEN’s Larry Siems, of ‘bridging intellectual chasms and cultural divides’.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s