Fighting The Monster
ROUND 1: A left and a right to the mid-section.
Welcome to CYPRUS, the play Literary America hates. But no, the word hate is not strong enough, even in bold type and underlined. It’s still the understatement of the century. After all, they’ve done their damnedest to relegate CYPRUS to the garbage heap and drive the author to suicide. CYPRUS is the play Literary America scorns, scoffs at, loathes, snubs, mocks, makes fun of, jeers, sneers at, derides, despises, ridicules, disdains, abhors, finds repugnant, revolting, insufferable, disgusting, detests, pours scorn on, belittles, can't stand, runs down, turns their nose up at, knocks, dislikes and holds in contempt is more like it.
I mean, I can see why some of the plays that won the Pulitzer Prize might deserve this kind of abuse, but CYPRUS? CYPRUS is vastly superior to any of them. (Hey, look, you don’t have to take my word for it anymore; or what Literary America says either. You can now read CYPRUS free on this web site and make up your own mind.)
Why then these powerful feelings of aversion? After all, it is one of the most original plays ever written, and certainly one of the best. Funny, tragic and honest at the same time (a combination hard to beat), it is far more up-to-date – relevant to today’s events – than anything written 10 minutes ago. But hey! Hey, wait a minute. Aren’t excellence and originality…aren’t these the very virtues Literary America preaches – extols? The virtues they try to instill in their Creative Writing courses? So why are they being hypocritical when it comes to CYPRUS? Why are they two faced?
Because they don’t know any better.
Nothing, no work of art, has stuck in Literary America’s craw like CYPRUS. Even though they must know better, even though they are purposely leading the Literary World astray, and even though fewer and fewer people believe them anymore, Literary America persists in heaping scorn and contempt on CYPRUS and branding the author a Child Molester, a Racist and anti-American (by the way, who is anti-American now?) among other things. But my God, what if I’m wrong?! And they really don’t know what good literature is! What if they really think CYPRUS stinks! And their attacks on me, though spurious, spring from righteous indignation. Is originality to them just another version, possibility a better version, but still a version, of the “same old thing?” Has Literary America confused mediocrity for excellence, conformity for originality? Is America doomed to mediocrity and conformity forever – in the name of excellence and originality?
Because they don’t know any better.
Because they don’t believe in Free Speech.
One thing is sure, excellence and originality and honesty count for absolutely nothing if you don’t toe the line and write the crap Literary America wants you to. And the better the work of art they disapprove of – if they can’t just shrug it off – the more ferocious is their criticism. And woe to you if it’s really, really good like CYPRUS. Literary America will go to the ends of the earth to do-in both you and your masterpiece.
Because they don’t know any better.
But it goes a little deeper than that. It’s about greed for power and control. About who gets to set the literary standards: what is, and what is not acceptable in America. (And, of course, CYPRUS has been labeled persona non grata.) It’s about who gets to bestow NEA’s money and the Countries’ literary prizes. (The “faithful” must be rewarded – or is the better word, “bribed?”) And most important of all, it’s about who gets to be the literary critics in the newspapers, the magazines and on TV: The “Enforcers,” who relegate you and your masterpiece to oblivion for breaking the rules. (Critics have always been the literary police of the clique in power.) And, although, there is no formal structure, surprisingly, even astonishingly so, Literary America is pretty much of one mind. (Need I say more about conformity?) And, I have to admit, at present they have American Literature, to its detriment, in their clutches. If your aim is success at all costs, these are the people to sell your soul to. Write their trash and grow fat on their rewards.
Because you don’t know any better.
Look at CYPRUS: there hasn’t been a better play written since it was written – only worse ones. Yet these are the plays Literary America gathered to its bosom and breast-fed with fame and fortune. Theses are the plays that garnered all the literary prizes, and the “ohs & ahs” of the critics. While CYPRUS, that paragon of excellence and originality, they assigned to oblivion – in other words, ignored – as they helped heap scorn and scandal on the writer that almost drove him to suicide – twice. This proves beyond a doubt that Literary America is more interested in keeping control of the literary scene in this country than anything else; and about the last thing they are interested in is good literature. In this respect, they are similar to Tammany Hall (1790s –1960s), a corrupt, Democratic political machine in New York, whose first and foremost concern was to take and keep control of the nominating process, and only after that, to win elections.
BECAUSE THEY DON’T KNOW ANY BETTER, THIS THEN IS LITERARY AMERICA’S ADVICE TO WRITERS:
“You can strive for excellence if you want. The same goes for originality and truth. But why stick your neck out if you don’t have to? You might step on someone’s toes and make other writers jealous. Better to paddle your canoe close to the shore and with the current. Be a salesman, be a politician, butter The Country up one side and down the other. (No wonder America has a swelled head!) You’ll still be on the Short List to milk the NEA for money – and win all the literary prizes. Look at that play CYPRUS, what happened to it (we shat on it and flushed it down the toilet and almost got the author to kill himself), and compare it…to…to… Damn, what’s the name of that play we gave the Pulitzer Prize to this year?... Anyway – ha-ha – there was no comparison, CYPRUS was fucking brilliant! Why, you ask, this 2-faced double dealing? WE HATE TO HURT OTHER PEOPLE’S FEELING.” (ASIDE: “But what we really hate is some smartass ridiculing our people and holding our values up to contempt. Love, Peace and…and Optimism, are not laughing matters. Go poke your Satire somewhere else. We’re sacred. We’re Jesus.“)
…“Let’s see, where were we?... Oh yea: you want to succeed, don’t you. Then remember the New York Times booklist is the 10 best sellers – not the 10 best books. That seems to confuse some writers; they think they have to write something good to get on it. Not at all. Not at all. Just please the masses. Write what we taught them to like. Fairytales, for instance: anything that never or seldom happens. And, of course, there’s always Cops & Robbers in its many shapes and forms (use templates for the plot). But hell, write whatever you want. It’s a free county. Ha-Ha. And don’t think you’re slacking off, bad literature is harder to write; you won’t have any enthusiasm for it.” (ASIDE: “Just remember – I can’t impress this upon you enough — whatever you do, don’t be fucking brilliant about stuff we don’t like, which, by the way, is just about everything that hasn’t been said a hundred thousands times before. Anything original might disturb someone. Then, if your masterpiece is the literary equivalent of a comic book, you’ll get your slice of the literary pie. We guarantee it. The two cardinal sins here are ROCKING THE BOAT and BITING THE HAND THAT FEEDS YOU.”)
… “Come to think of it, what’s the use of knowing any better anyway? It’s risky. And the chances are you don’t get fame and fortune – if we have anything to do with it. Learn from what we said about CYPRUS: if it’s too damn good you could get dead. Ha-ha. In America, it pays not to know any better.
“P.S. By the way, you won’t miss your soul; no one thinks we have one anymore. Ha-Ha-Ha.”
MY ADVICE TO WRITERS:
For God’s sake Writers of America, stop trying to please these literary jerk-offs! So what if they brand you a Child Molester, a Racist and anti-American. You can live through it. I lived through it. You may not save your soul, but you’ll still have some pride and dignity. You won’t be ashamed of yourself at the end of the day. And you just might write something great. As always, there are no guarantees. But Jesus, take a chance; let’s free America from this straightjacket of mediocrity and conformity!
Because we know better.
Literary America retorts: “He wouldn’t have lived through it if he hadn’t of had his own money.”
I cry out: They’re absolutely right. That’s why they went after it. (But I am head over heels ahead of myself: that’s for Round 6 or 7.)
ROUND 2: A left hook to the chin.
Fuck Literary America! They can disagree with me or not if CYPRUS is a great play. The same goes if I’m a Child Molester or not, a Racist and un-American. I don’t give a damn what they think. I want nothing to do with writing, promoting and defending bad Literature – oh yes, and lest I forget, blackballing good literature and honest writers. (A little trick they picked up from McCarthyism a while back. Fas est et ab hoste doceri.) They can go ahead and blackball me for the rest of my life, and then my memory, for all I care. And burn my books. I want no part of that vicious clan of mediocrity. And least of all, its approbation!
(The above is me on my high-horse trading hate for hate with Literary America.)
But what if — ? It’s possible. (I start to squirm.) Stranger things have happened. What if they change their mind in spite of me – if I want them to or not? My worst nightmare! I mean, it’s not unthinkable. Once in a long while people do come to their senses – occasionally. (Wringing my hands.) Can disdain really turn to praise? Might they admit CYPRUS is a masterpiece after all; and that I’m not a Child Molester, a Racist or anti-American? Oh horror of horrors, what then? Will I still be able to stick to my guns? After all, I’m not Super Man. What writer isn’t susceptible to flattery – AND REWARDS (and young girls!)? It’s only natural that I should want people to like CYPRUS. (Crying out in despair.) What if they try to befriend me? Will I still be able to mow then down? (Wailing.) It’s easier to hold out against hostility…. Will I, too, be tempted to write, promote and defend bad literature – and blackball good writers? (Weeping.) What if they promise me the earth?... Will I sell my soul – like the others?
GOD KNOWS THEY HAVE LONG ENOUGH! Let’s see: the Cyprus web site has existed now for 7 years, and if it’s going to be around for a hundred years (100 – 7)…until 2101! They still have 93 years to change their mind! To come their senses! (Tearing my hair out.) Only the dumbest of the dumb could take longer.
No, I’m being paranoid. Bah, that won’t happen. Thirty years of hate doesn’t evaporate overnight. There’s a whole generation of haters out there – hating CYPRUS. They were brought up from the cradle to hate me and my play. Thank God, the whole Country’s against me. (Immediately I begin to feel better: I won’t be tempted to write, promote and defend bad literature – and blackball good writers.) Besides, anything beyond Conformity & Mediocrity is beyond them. I was right the first time: they are the dumbest of the dumb. You couldn’t change their mind with a sledgehammer. And how can they come to their senses if they don’t have any? Ha-Ha…. THEY DON’T HAVE A MIND TO CHANGE! (I roar with laughter.)
I’m saved! I don’t need their rewards anyway; I have enough money of my own. (I begin to feel like a drink to celebrate. But even before I can reach for the Scotch bottle the old “What Ifs” come marching back.) What if CYPRUS is a huge success? What if they don’t have the balls to buck public opinion? CYPRUS is already a cult classic! (I wail.) What if they corrupt me before I finish my movie?! Will it be crap? (But, thank God, my paranoia enters and settles everything.) “That must be it then, why they didn’t want you to put it on the internet – like they didn’t want you to publish the book. Because it might snowball; you both might become famous, CYPRUS & You – even best sellers. Don’t kid yourself, they’re still up to their old tricks. They’ll never give you a chance to defend yourself. They’ll never stop beating you up behind your back. And – thank God for this anyway – they’ll never tempt you to write bad literature. They’re no better than Mr. Kill Kill Kill himself, President Bush, that, whenever the veil is lifted, even a little, we see a MONSTER."
My only regret about writing CYPRUS is that somebody else didn’t write it. Then I, like you, would be reading it for the first time. I know it would blow my mind. In this world of mostly the mundane, I’m sure it will blow yours, too.
Freedom Fighter Briggs
Author & Publisher & Critic
P. S. It’s the only play I know – depending on how much Literary America has brainwashed you – that takes guts to read.
Click here to read (download) Cyprus, The Play free.