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This report is taken from PN Review 208, Volume 39 Number 2, November - December 2012.

'We Don't Publish Assholes' J. Kates
nam si discedas, laqueo tenet ambitiosi
scribendi cacoethes et aegro in corde senescit.

                                         Juvenal, 7th Satire

Eight thousand seekers milled around the lobbies and corridors of the New York Hilton for the 2008 conference of the Associated Writing Programs. They were all looking to hook up - some professionally, some intellectually, and some carnally. Most of them called themselves, or willed themselves, writers, for that was the programmatic essence of the conference they were attending. Jostling elbows, few thought to question their own presence, to think of themselves as readers and to see the others as authors of something they would choose to read. I know that, because one of my favourite games at conferences like this one is to ask, 'Who are you reading now?' The usual answer is a startled stare, a missed beat, a blank silence - and not because of my informal use of the interrogative pronoun. Then, if I get a name at all, it's likely to be that of a most recent workshop leader, their professor, someone who might help lubricate the tracks of advancement.

I was there to sell books. Each year we set up our tables by number in long, neon-lit lines, array our brightly designed covers, and watch the parade through the aisles of the book-fair aspect of the conference. In New York, the book exposition was divided into two separate areas, one of these illuminated only in crepuscular gloom, but we escaped that fate. Usually, ...

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