Dear Emily Post-Avant,

We are a grad student in English at the U of Pennsylvania, so we earnestly request you not reveal our name to anyone, much less hint at it in any response you might offer. Obviously, there would be “repercussions,” as Charles Bernstein puts it in his comment at Best American Poetry, about Dispatches co-Editor Kent Johnson: Who is Emily Post-Avant, and What Tickles Her Catastrophe About “Borges, Scary Coins, Spanish Grammar, Homophones”? [By Molly Arden]

What I can tell you is that a number of us here (we and others, that is) follow your strange columns closely, and we admire your moxie, even if we don’t always agree with what you say. The main reason we are writing you, though, is that we saw Kent Johnson’s comment at BAP, in which Johnson states that the remark by Bernstein (wherein Bernstein calls Johnson a “mountebank”) seems to be an obvious forgery written by someone pretending to be Charles Bernstein. Actually, Johnson is wrong. We can tell you for a fact, and on very good authority, that the comment is by Bernstein himself, who seems to have made a somewhat weak attempt at self-parody, perhaps in an attempt to provoke Kent Johnson into some kind of melodramatic outburst, which he is of course infamous for.

I just thought it our duty, however risky, to clear up the misunderstanding. Dispatches has pissed Charles Bernstein off a great deal.

–Your fans in Philly


Dear Your Fans in Philly,

Thank you for this. I myself had heard some days ago from a leading critic (someone who knows Bernstein quite well) that the seemingly faked comment was indeed written by Charles.  My own take is that Chuckles didn’t mean it as “self-parody,” even though that might be the end effect of it. Rather, in his legendary hyper-competitive anxiety, he was trying to outdo me in cleverness (falsely claiming, in the bargain, that I am Kent Johnson), in a vain attempt to show his subtle chops at games of “forgery” (i.e., in this case a forged-forgery). Yawn.

Anyway, I know Kent Johnson to be many things: self-aggrandizing, selfish, subject to attacks of anxiety, quick to offense, obnoxiously needing of flattery, self-pitying, and miserly (he and Fric pay me $10 a column, and this, as you can see, is likely to be my last one).

But he is no “mountebank,” as the mafia Don of U.S. avant poetry ironically wants you to think.

Do you ever get to that wonderful old dive bar, it’s on a corner, Mac(something), I think it’s called, it’s been in movies, the one that poor Frank Sherlock used to bounce at? I was there once with Linh Dinh, before he became a Russian asset. What’s more fun, do you think? Being an asset for Russia, or being an asset for China?

–Emily Post-Avant