Monday, July 20, 2009

Finding the New Avant-Garde

is to herald the new; to recognize the real talents of his day-- particularly those who exist outside the walls of the status quo. To always seek a new direction for the art.
For me, pushing the envelope in any art form means reaching new levels of emotion.

I was thinking this after viewing the classic Western movie "Shane" at a public library several weeks ago. The film is very much art, in that it pushes and pushes to new emotion, right to its very end, with the shadowy climb of a wounded rider matching the risen level of emotion of the audience.

I was thinking later about the difference between talent and genius; how Madonna is supremely talented, much moreso than the Britney wannabes who followed. Yet for all her pop masterpieces like "Beautiful Stranger," another singer exists on an entirely different level: Bjork, creating the undefinable; reaching new levels of what Bjork herself calls "emotional landscapes."

Are there writers doing with stories or poems what Bjork does with songs?

At the peak of the zeen scene in the late 90's, and since, I've read several striking talents whose absence of prescribed craft allowed art and emotion free reign. The underground writers who were brought to light inside and outside the ULA never really fit my needs, my espoused doctrine, but on their own they were busting aesthetic barriers. (What's Jack Saunders if not a new form of Dada?) A few of them at times have approached levels of undefinable genius; writing that can't be controlled or quantified. This is what any new avant-garde has to be about.
1.) Marilyn Monroe: "The Misfits"
2.) James Cagney: "Angels with Dirty Faces"
3.) Marlon Brando: "On the Waterfront"
4.) Audrey Hepburn: "Breakfast at Tiffany's"
5.) Lana Turner: "The Bad and the Beautiful"
6.) Richard Burton: "The Robe"
7.) Al Pacino: "Scarface"
8.) William Holden: "Bridge on the River Kwai"
9.) Winona Ryder: "Girl Interrupted"
10.) Errol Flynn: "The Adventures of Robin Hood"

Monday, July 13, 2009

The PEN Raj

In the realm of American literature, Manhattan is a Britain-like island dictating the standards for literature throughout the "empire." Centralized and hierarchical, it's an outmoded model. "I say, old chap." In some cases, like David Haglund at PEN, the administrators of literary empire have literally, not just metaphorically, attended Oxford.

The official "small press," evidenced through outfits like CLMP, is a token opposition used to forestall dissent. Even Dave Eggers-- now standing at the center of Imperialist literary power-- was a tool; his McSweeney's embodying fake change which was no change at all, but instead a reaffirmation of the status quo. The establishment becoming its own opposition started with him.

American writers as a whole represent latent strength, like an undeveloped India or China ruled by a handful of Imperialist administrators. Writers are powerless because they allow themselves to be powerless.

An organization like PEN helps grease the wheels of literary empire. Worldwide it connects upper-caste writers across the globe, from the U.S. to India, while fitting itself into the dominance of the multi-nationals. In America it's one of many tools used to control the direction of literature.

The resistance movement has centered around two main outfits: one run by a few feudal turf-conscious chieftains feeding off the carcass of past glory; the other an unmotivated mass unsteered by a silent, secretive, and apparently inert politburo. Yet the Rebellion has always worked best when it's been free-floating outside any real bounds or handcuffs, like rebellious Cossacks on the steppes in Taras Bulba or With Fire and Sword.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Art or Truth?

THE DECADENT CLASS in their gilded palaces forge not literature, but "art." It's the effluvia of literature; the ornaments, baubles, and squigglies, so that eventually all that remains is ornament, with nothing behind it. Which is fine for their class of affluent narcissists listlessly drawing circles in penthouse sandboxes. Greater society is something they stay safely positioned above, behind barricaded walls monitored by unthinking guards.

What literature needs is more anger, more polemics, more passion; raw gutter outrage at the conditions of life as civilization collapses. This isn't a time for dessicated "art" positioned in airless museum boxes of plexiglass. The boxes need to be shattered.

The Real American Voice

has come up as to what's the "real" literature of this country.

What should be obvious is that what's presented as our literature by the insular skyscraper world of New York is incomplete and inadequate.

Fifty years ago one of the largest figures in the cultural universe-- one of the world's giant personalities-- was a writer. Ernest Hemingway had a greater and more influential persona than any pop star. Movie stars like Gary Cooper and Ava Gardner clamored to hang around with him. HE set the cultural tone.

Today, the death of a pop music star is cataclysmic. The greatest establishment novelist died this year and garnered not a fraction of the same attention or emotion. Or was it this year? Or last year? Who was he again? We've forgotten.

The Caretakers of Lit-- they're nothing more than caretakers-- have failed with their stewardship of the art. They've failed to connect with the soul of the American public.

The good news IS the literary underground, the sound of America's streets; an unfiltered noise that's raw and authentic.

That its leading practitioners are outcasts shows the movement is the new avant-garde. The diversely original writers inhabit uncoopted literary territory; a plot of independent ground. Neither their writings, nor their attitude, are acceptable to the caretakers of status quo. Check the names at
This is the sound of America now.