Earlier this year, I wrote a post in re: the growing tendency of literary journals to simply not respond to submissions they don't intend to publish. That is, instead of sending a cute little rejection slip or email ("sorry!"), they just blow you off.
Now part of that phenomenon is undoubtedly due to the geometric fecundity of MFA programs and other poet-procreators, & to the overworked, don't-give-up-your-day-job status of editors. I lose track of emails, so why shouldn't they lose track of submissions?
But now it seems like it's becoming a standard response to any request. Don't want to write that letter of recommendation? Don't answer the email! Don't want to serve on that committee? Blow off the request. And so on. If they call you on it, say "sorry - I lose track of emails."
Part of the problem is undoubtedly email itself, and this is a good argument for the good ol fashioned phone call. Sometimes you need to put someone on the spot. But not if they don't want to help you - you don't want them to say yes if they're not going to do it, or do a half-assed job of it. But if the answer is No, and if you're facing a deadline or time crunch, you need to know No.
Part of it may also be a creeping nicey-niceness in US culture - a way of papering over the thoroughgoing instrumentality of many if not post human relationships in this country, or compensating for conditions of universal competition in a "down" economy. This is a particular problem in the Midwest (tho Califas has this problem too; in the South, you just think up a sweet and clever way to say No).
Then again, maybe I'm just being a sucker. I actually write the person back and say things like "I don't know your work well enough" or "I'd love to, but I'm swamped." Those phrases seem so quaint, as I write them now. But I get sentimental, don't you know.
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