Plum on Koch
from Hilary Plum, "27 Essays I'm Not Writing About Elizabeth Koch"
14 I’m grateful for the existence of the books Catapult has published. I don’t know what other options for publication its authors had. (So often it’s fewer than deserved.) But I don’t like how money gets to disguise its criminal origins using artists’ good work. No artist intends their work for this use, which means that when we sell good art to bad money we’re letting that money get something extra, a bonus we’ll ignore but that was in fact its main aim: a disguise in the form of our own names, the work we’ve done that the bosses could never do.
I don’t know how to call this use of Koch money meaningful wealth redistribution, as its online defenders seem to be vaguely claiming it is. A few thousand dollars to a writer here, a writer there, in exchange for which Koch money gets plenty of value (suddenly, for example, it’s re-christened black sheep).
If wealth redistribution is what Catapult intends—if the press sees its cultural work as a kind of reparations for the source of its funding—shouldn’t it say so? Why are we left to do this ethical work on its behalf, serving money by dignifying it with a politics it has never bothered to support?
from Hilary Plum & Lucy Biederman, "Literature, Capital, Catapult, and the Kochs: A Dialogue"
HP: ... So what’s the alternative? Where is this purer money I seem to think we could get? There isn’t, we can’t. If you don’t have (Koch) money, your press will be poorer, and fewer people will read those books. Fewer people will know these names, that work, whatever it was working hard to do. The presses with money make the culture and if you don’t have money, it’s sure harder. So shouldn’t you take it, make something good? If you turn it down, do you at least get that good righteousness? I hope so. But I think probably the something we should do is to use our language, to do the work of language, like writers, to make our hard homes in the complexities of language. To make homes for one another. So far Elizabeth Koch has not had to do that work. What she’s written in public is no account, no kind of thinking about the moral complexities her very name announces. If we think we want her money, that shouldn’t be enough for us (even if confessionalism will not save us).
What question would we want to ask her? I’m thinking with gratitude of how Rebecca Wolff has endeavored to talk about money and Fence. I’m remembering an &NOW Festival a few years back, a short talk she gave. What I remember was discomfort in myself, in the room. To talk about money, in public, like that; to change the whole room, like a poem. Money loves your thanks and then it loves your silence. So I think that, as money, we should talk. What is the uncomfortable utopia I’m trying to picture?
from "Literature, Capital, Catapult..."
HP: Yes. I know now what I want to ask Elizabeth Koch: what do you want from us? What would happen if she had to name her own desire? But we don’t have to wait on that—we can name our own refusal, even if it’s endlessly incomplete. So much of writing is the work of naming. “Uncomfortable utopia” I said but I should have said “dirty knowing.” ... I want this dirty work of literature: to keep naming the web we’re in, the web that’s us.
Without even knowing our own choicelessness, we’ve let the Kochs house and clothe and feed us and turn on our lights. We’ve let them profit on natural resources that were never theirs; we’ve let them evade taxes and pour millions into our political system to bend it to their will. We’ve watched the money made on our labor flow mercilessly upward. We need to name what they’re taking from us, what we would refuse them. Their goal, as you note, is a social and economic privatization so complete it will end the ways we need, for survival, to know and care for one another, to be for one another.
from "27 Essays..."
WE HAVE DIFFERENT POLITICS.
WE WORK IN THE SAME FIELD BUT WE DON’T HAVE THE SAME POLITICS.
WE DO NOT AGREE ABOUT WHAT THE WORK OF LITERATURE IS.
DO NOT BELIEVE THOSE WHO TELL YOU THAT THERE ARE NO CHOICES EXCEPT THEY WOULD LIKE YOU TO BE LESS ANGRY.
IF YOU ACCEPT THERE ARE NO CHOICES YOU LET MONEY MAKE ALL THE CHOICES INSTEAD OF KNOWING YOUR AGENCY THROUGH THE ENDLESS STRUGGLE AND FAILURE THAT DEFINE OUR EXPERIENCE OF AGENCY AT LEAST IN THIS WORLD. THAT JUST MEANS YOU WANT MONEY TO CHOOSE YOU AND AFFIRM YOU IN A TASTEFUL ENVIRONMENT OF MONEY’S CHOOSING.
SMALL PRESSES DON’T WANT TO GROW UP TO BE BIG PRESSES. WE’RE ALREADY VERY OLD.
This whole time—while money keeps waving itself around—we’ve been working. Every day we write and edit and publish different books and magazines. We reject and critique and love each other constantly. We put all this difference into the world and we actually don’t judge it by how many people wanted the same thing.
OUR WORK IS A GIFT WE ARE FREE TO GIVE DIFFERENTLY.
WE DO NOT NEED YOUR MONEY TO DO OUR DIFFERENT WORK.
WE ARE “CELEBRATING LIFE.”