view. Truth is the Georgia Review was sternly warned andnpressured not to publish the Masters piece, the danger beingnthat not only the magazine, but also the University ofnGeorgia Press and the university, itself, would pay deariy fornthe indiscretion of allowing a forum for criticism of thenNEA. Stanley Lindberg, editor of the Review, was somewhatnhesitant and tentative, and he did allow David Wilk,ndirector of the Literature Program, space and opportunity tonrespond to the implications of Masters’ article in the samenissue; but it was and is to his credit that he allowed the piecento be published at all.nIt is a devastating report, and some measure of its impactnand Wilk’s failure to produce an adequate response isndemonstrated by the rash of letters forming the “Readers’nForum” in the winter 1981 issue of the Georgia Review;none of which came from Wilk, himself, and concluded: “Fornanyone who may wish to know, I have resigned from mynposition as Literature Program Director, effective 20 Novembern1981.”nAfter the shake-up, things, in the Literature Program atnleast, have never been quite the same. Applications forngrants are now cloaked in anonymity. There are now somenspecific guidelines covering such routine problems as conflictnof interest and cronyism. These were a long timen(almost twenty years) coming and can still be deftly evaded,nbut they help keep the process of grants and awards — tonindividuals, to little magazines and small presses, involving,nall in all, millions of dollars — cleaner than it used to be.nThere is a very serious question as to whether it is possible tonembrace any more purity or to eliminate any more corruption.nImyself have been actively involved, first in the very earlyndays of the NEA and then more recently, during then1980’s, in the advisory Literature Panel. I can report that anlot of people work fairly hard on these matters and try to donright while doing a good job. I must also report that, in thenhighly politicized society we live in, various kinds ofncensorship, quite aside from aesthetic quality, are regularlynpracticed in the selection process. Most prominent ethnicnand special interest groups are well represented on thenpanel. This allows for the establishment of a subtle kind ofnquota system — everybody gets a little gravy. And ideally, Insuppose, they tend to cancel each other out; though I havenseen any number of occasions when an application wasnvoted down and out for the failure to demonstrate politicallynand socially “correct” attitudes. This kind of snap judgmentnis often, even in its own terms, extremely unfair, since it isnbased upon unacceptably crude critical assumptions andnpractices such as believing that the chief character orncharacters of a story can be taken as directly representing thensocial and political views of the author; unless, of course, thenauthor steps in and boldly disassociates creator from thencharacter. For many contemporary special interest groupsnthe only truth is their truth and the only criteria of qualityn(itself an “elitist” concept) are those things which work tonsupport the group’s goals and point of view. No big newsnhere. Every student at UVa knows that the same kind ofnthing can make a serious diff^erence in the grades he or shenreceives.nIn sum, then, the system may be as fair as it can or evern20/CHRONICLESnnnwill be. But it is, nevertheless, inherently unfair whennthousands of professional artists apply for grants and supportnand only one in twenty, say, has any chance at all. Thenadvisors are looking for reasons to reject people. These daysnthose reasons are often (and automatically) political andnsocial.nAll of which means that long before something or otherncomes to the attention of a Jesse Helms or anybody else, allnsorts of censorious forces have been at work. It also meansnthis: what is chosen is not at all accidental. It simply followsnfrom the process of selection that the notorious Piss Christnwas deliberately chosen from among many, many competingnworks of art. It was chosen, then, as it had to be,ndeliberately to offend those sensibilities which can (still) benoffended by such things in this country. To that extent it wasncertainly a wonderful success.nIhope you see clearly what I am saying: that once (andnwhenever) the government is involved in the arts, then itnis bound to be a political and social business, a battlenbetween competing factions. The NEA, by definition,nsupports the arts establishment and the competition and thenwinners.nWhether or not it is fair and just to ask the mainstreamnAmerican taxpayer to support the NEA and all its offspring,nthrough thick and thin and with no influence at all on thenprocess or the results, remains to be seen. Meantime it isnaltogether appropriate for the problem to be posed, for thenquestion to be asked.nThere are, of course, all kinds of solutions. One is to donaway with the personal grants altogether and for thengovernment merely to support needy cultural institutions —ntheaters and dance companies, operas and orchestras, payingnparticular attention to equitable and geographical distributionnof funds all across the country. This matter ofngeographical distribution is, however, a matter of debate.nNew York City, believing itself to be the cultural capital andnheadquarters of the nation, central in all the arts, exceptnmaybe clog dancing, demands the wolf’s share (the lion’snshare is all there is) of cultural support. We can go to themnand pay for the privilege. In terms of established accomplishments,nthey have a point. But so do those who believe that,nwith some support, this nation is large enough and variousnenough to need more than one cultural center.nIf you have to have personal grants, a lottery, like the oldndraft lotteries, is probably the fairest way to do it.nI have heard a reliable rumor that a friend of mine has justnturned down a $40,000 lifetime achievement grant from thenNEA. Not because he doesn’t need the money — he hasnprecious little. But because he has long been an outspokenncritic of individual grants, and meant it, and did not wish tonbetray his principles. He also happens to come from NorthnCarolina and had a well-founded feeling that his award was,nin fact, a move in some kind of a game with Senator Helms.nHe didn’t want to be anybody’s pawn, not if he could help it.nPerhaps he represents the only real solution to thenproblem. All we need is astounding courage and integrity —ncourage and integrity in Congress, at the NEA, amongnartists of all kinds and yes, among the patient and loyalnmainstream Americans who know full well, integrity or not,nthey will end up, as always, paying for all of it. <§>n