ridiculous, but we do not live in a free market economy.nLiterature is controlled by monopolies and cartels that arenabout as open to competition as the postal system: Northeasternnpublishers, book agents, reviewers, foundations,ngovernment agencies, and the vast network of libraries andnuniversities, private as well as public.nThe vastness and diversity of these enterprises rule outnanything so harmless as a conspiracy. Indeed, the authors ofna major sociological study of the book trade {Books: ThenCulture & Commerce of Publishing) argue that the diversitynof the various intellectual circles and the lack of connectionsnwithin the actual trade have reduced the significance ofn”networking” in recent years (although they make annexception in the case of academic publishing). This objectionnto conspiracy theories is less cogent than it might be. Innthe first place, the fact that there are a number of differentncircles does not necessarily make the publishing businessnmore open to outsiders: among academics, for example, thencircle of Yale liberal philosophers does not overlap with Yalenliterary theorists; however, both circles have privileged accessnto certain elite presses, and neither group is particularlynopen to alternative points of view.nIn the second place, it is probably misleading to speak ofnthe publishing business in broad terms. What connectionncould we expect between, say, Alex Haley and ThomasnSowell? If we are interested in the control of ideas, then thenarrangements made for publishing pulp fiction and dietnbooks are irrelevant. What is important is control over thenfirst several tiers of influence upon opinion-makers, and innthis environment the publishing industry is a set of closednshops. Richard Kostelanetz, by the way, includes LewisnCoser, the senior author of that major study, as an importantnmember of the establishment. It is important to bear in mindnthat we are not dealing with an infinite set of personalities:nthe same people move easily from chairs at major universitiesnto seats on the National Arts and Humanities Councilsnto editorships at publishing houses to positions as refereesnand directors of every conceivable granting agency; ofncourse, they are also among the most frequent recipients ofngrants from not only such government agencies as NEH,nNSF, and NEA, but also from the MacArthur, Ford,nGuggenheim, and Rockefeller foundations.nConsider a few of the most obvious examples. Some timenago we pointed out the astonishing career of Gordon Lish,nwould-be novelist, editor at Esquire and Alfred Knopf, Yalenprofessor, and recipient of awards from the ColumbianSchool of Journalism and the American Society of MagazinenEditors. Even more instructive is the cursus honorumnof Alfred Kazin, who has worked for The New Republic andnFortune, taught at Smith, NYU, Amherst, Berkeley, Hunter,nand Stonybrook, and received money from Guggenheim,nRockefeller, NEH, and the American Academy innRome. Kazin’s entertaining memoir. New York ]ew, is annimpressive roster of the operatives who have kept the culturenmachine oiled since the 1930’s: Lionel Trilling, RichardnHofstadter, Edmund Wilson, Saul Bellow, Norman Mailer,nSylvia Plath, Paul Goodman, and Robert Lowell amongnmany others. Some are bright, some talented, some—likenKazin himself—merely ambitious, all hustlers.nSomewhere in Kazin’s circle of friends is Jason Epstein,nformer editor at Doubleday, editorial director of RandomnHouse, a director and founder (along with his wife, RobertnLowell and his wife Elizabeth Hardwick, poet JamesnMerrill, A. Whitney Ellsworth — also associated with ThenAtlantic and Harvard — and Robert Silvers) of The NewnYork Review of Books. Silvers, a member of the editorialnboard of the Paris Review and former associate editor ofnHarper’s, became co-editor of the NYRB. Those who havendone the tedious work of reading back issues have noticednthe strange coincidence: publishing firms with strong ties tonthe founders just happen to get their books regularlynfeatured in the NYRB.nNone of this networking and logrolling is exactly new. Asnlong ago as 1849, Edgar Allan Foe made the samencomplaint against “the manner in which the cabal of ThenNorth American Review first write all our books and thennreview them.” Today, however, the same people not onlynwrite and review the books, they also arrange the money andnthe prizes.nIt is not that all of these people are without talent or donnot deserve the summer homes of which they are, as Kazinncomplains, so proud. Lowell was far from being the worstnpoet of his time, and for all his weaknesses Edmund Wilsonnwas among the best of a bad lot of American culturecritics.nEven Kazin is capable of an occasional insight, but doesnanyone really think that the richness and diversity ofnAmerican life is fairly represented by Kazin, Epstein, Lish,nand Silvers? Was their friend Delmore Schwartz, whosendismal life has been immortalized in countless novels,nmemoirs, and biographies, even a passable poet? Js therenanyone who better sums up the rotten state of Americannverse — its dullness, incompetence and careerism—thannJames Merrill? It does not require the imaginative paranoianof Richard Kostelanetz to find something awry, when thenliterary life of a nation of almost 250 million people is undernthe control of a few dozen New Yorkers who, by the way,nhave no qualms about boasting of their success.nIn figuring out the situation, some form of Public Choicentheory might be invoked. In his interview with MadisonnBell {Chronicles, June 1988), George Garrett pointed outnthat the market for contemporary poetry is not readers andnbook buyers, but the people who decide on grants andntenure. To a lesser—but very real — extent, the same holdsntrue of most serious writing: novelists above the level of E.L.nDoctorow and Jay Mclnerney, more competent historiansnthan Barbara Tuchman, sounder scholars than MichaelnGrant or Allan Bloom — all of them have to write with atnleast one eye on the professional colleagues who have thenpower of life and death over their careers. Under thesencircumstances the life of the mind is reduced to a labyrinthinenweb controlled by a number of powerful spidersnsensitive to every move within the network. An originalnwriter who enters the web hasn’t the fly’s chance of makingnhis escape.nThis has litfle to do with “capitalism” — although thenconcentration of power makes it easier to make money offnpublishing — and only a little more to do with the regionalnarrogance of the Northeastern literati — although it is theynwho have controlled nearly every aspect of our impoverishednintellectual life since even before Foe’s time. (The rise of thennnJANUARY 1989/9n