Some of my best friends are opportunists


so i just read gary’s post about the spt aggression conference and he really drags me over the coals (i just heard this expression the other day and really like it). i wasnt going to respond since i have to teach dictee this week and have not yet finished curriculum, but since i never miss an opportunity to be an opportunist, i will.

gary first points to my lifting of the joke in magee’s poem ‘Dear P’: “‘Me Chinese, me play joke, me put pee-pee in your Coke.’—Michael Magee, ‘Dear P.’” in my essay, i do quote the joke with the proper tags, so it’s clear that the quote isnt Magee’s but Magee quoting the joke. however, this doesnt come out in the recording. my choice to use this passage as an epigraph is two edged: to show how things can be taken out of context if not given proper context (to flarf the flarfist, so to speak), and to show an alternative to Magee’s use of racialized language that we see in “their glittering guys” (compare/contrast “Dear P” to “their glittering guys”). I wanted to ask, why doesnt magee treat the language he finds through “their glittering guys” in the same way he treats the joke in “Dear P”? imagine if “their glittering guys” was written like “Dear P”.

gary writes that after i read the epigraph, you can hear the audience responding with what one can only imagine to be horrified silence.

actually gary, chris chen laughs at the joke (i havent heard the recording, so i dont know if you can hear it).

gary writes: had anyone familiar at all with Michael’s work been invited there would have been an opportunity to question Craig about his use of the epigraph, and to explain where it had come from, and how it actually functioned in the poet’s work.

um, hey gary, i’ve read ALL of Magee’s books of poetry and his critical book. you must mean if anyone who defended Magee’s poem would have been invited right?

yes i must apologize for making jokes on Magee’s expense–that was very unprofessional of me.

but this is crazy when gary writes: Craig wrings a bigger, now derisive laugh out of them when he states that he believes this is because Michael must have seen the announcement for the SPT Aggression conference, wherein Craig called Michael’s book, Emancipating Pragmatism, “brilliant.”

I did not imply that Magee added me as a friend because i called his book brilliant. i called his book brilliant in my description of the panel because i do think Emancipating Pragmatism IS brilliant! i recommended the book during my talk. i recommended the book to other people after the talk! i had a conversation with tyrone williams after the panel in which i recommended the book to him after he said much of what i said about Magee’s book reminded him of Ellison, and i said Magee has a brilliant chapter on Ellison and tyrone said he was going to check out Magee’s book! that’s one copy i’ve helped sell, what have you done to emancipate pragmatism lately?

and for the record, i’ve always been a fan of Magee’s poetry, “their glittering guys” being the ONLY exception!

gary says: Craig told me that he had, in fact, gotten a nice e-mail from Michael, who said he had enjoyed the paper and thought it was well-done, although he—like me—disagreed with Craig’s conclusion.

i think this may actually be true. my memory is dead, my apologies.

gary says that magee never repeatedly emphasizes that “thier glittering guys” should be read in the context of Emancipating Pragmatism. this is just not true. in writing my essay, i compiled all the comments before they were deleted and he does say this several times. and what is so bad about it anyways?

and cmon gary, the whole ‘some of my best friends things’ is funny. magee embarrassingly walked right into that one.

gary says, in reference to Laura’s response: (Listening to Craig’s talk, you’ll hear him stumble over too many phrases to actually count, including Mike’s title—it seems more hopeful than accurate for Laura to suggest that Craig is vexed by the title.)

yes, i stumble over the title (as if in pain–could you see my facial expressions?), i stumble over the theory-jargon i parody (as many folks in the discussion stumbled over theory to defend “their glittering guys”), and i stumble over the word “gaiety” pronouncing it “guy-ity” as a joke. get it? i know, i know, decidedly unfunny. my english is not that bad is it? tho it was my third conference that month so i couldve been tired. so i’m either a stumbling idiot or a stumbling pragmatist. a fine line indeed (please reward me with laughter, O Group Mind).

anyways, i’m glad gary commented on the whole thing as i do feel bad that i took a few unnecessary stabs at Magee when bracketing my paper. i hope i can be forgiven (or adequately punished in the afterlife). also, i know that Magee has suffered both professionally, personally, and poetically from the discussion about his poem (tho i hope not from my essay or my talk at the conference) and i wish him the best.


p.s. there are many interesting comments on gary’s post, so you should read that too. i will probably respond to some of the comments, since what an opportunity it would make!



2 thoughts on “Some of my best friends are opportunists

  1. Hi Craig,

    Thanks for this response. I do think the idea of contrasting “Dear P.” with “Their Glittering Asian Guys” would have been a fruitful discussion.

    But this discussion didn’t happen in the paper nor in the talk. Not even the book that “Dear P.” appears in, _MS_, is mentioned.

    You’re of course not the first person to suggest that by not providing context for Michael’s poem, it’s a kind of “flarfing the flarfer.”

    Well, yes and no. In Michael’s poem, he does not attribute any of the language to any specific person. The poem–whatever faults one may find with it–is not an exercise in targeting any one person’s character. It targets language use and attitude and bias.

    Some may argue that this is a subtle distinction, too subtle to bother pointing out. And I welcome any argument to that effect, if a convincing argument can be made.

    Hope all is well,

    Gary Sullivan

  2. hey gary,

    i won’t argue that there isnt a distinction, clearly there is (it is not subtle), but i dont see how quoting from ‘Dear P’ targets Magee’s character (in a negative way). if anything, it points to his positive character and desire to interrogate “language use and attitude and bias,” something that “their glittering guys” does not do. perhaps that is too subtle (especially since i do nothing else in the essay / talk to suggest this).


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