Shivani on Contemp (which stands for contemporary) American letters

Russell Valentino

Some of his assertions about the fifteen most overrated writers hit very close to home: There is a tone in common here with John Palatella's piece from The Nation a couple of months back (, a general angst about the absent moral core of American letters. In Palatella's piece, the decline of print seems especially key; in Shivani's, things are much worse -- there's no one to pronounce real judgments, only spin and promotional hype, self-promoting "prized" authors, philosophizing poets who don't understand philosophy, a lack of attention to real quality, overblown academic theorizing that has little or no artistic sense and has lost its humanist bearings--there's more but I'll stop. Palatella's piece seems tailor-made to accompany the announcement of the launch of the Los Angeles Review of Books in the fall (, and in fact, the model of the NYRB seems to lurk somewhere in the background here, or at the very least a slower, reflective, judgmental (in the sense of discriminating) conversation about the life of the mind, informed by a clear historical sense and generally anti-totalitarian politics. Basically, it would seem, what we need is the 1950s.