Wednesday, October 31, 2012

New Literary Media

What’s evident is that there is no true literary journalism to speak of—no examining or questioning of the literary scene today. Only blind acquiescence. Gushy puff pieces.

The task of a new Underground Literary Alliance will be to once again become the voice of truth in literature, exposing the cronyism and corruption of the approved literary scene—ripping away the cover of falseness to reveal the cockroaches beneath.

We’ll have real literary journalism, as well as real literary criticism outside the narrow bounds of literary groupthink.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Why Restart the ULA?

For me the reason would be the same as the reason why I helped begin the original version in 2000. Namely, the realization that with established literature, nothing is there. A cardboard castle filled with posers and phonies. Am I surprised that the "great" Tom Bissell refuses to defend his smear essay? Not at all. He's a literary con artist, with the facade of substance but not the reality of it. Is he the best they've got? It's scary to consider how far American literature has fallen. Bissell has touchy-feely glibness, and is an artful propagandist able to fool the perpetually naive, but of any semblance of real intelligence he's lacking. Bissell is a herd follower whose ideas are guaranteed to consistently conform with those of the herd, allowing himself no variation, due to his limitations. He better than anyone knows this. In a fair discussion about his essay-- or literature in general-- the paper facade would be exposed for all to see.

Why restart the ULA? Because if we got a team together of kickass underground writers, and stayed on track-- instead of disintegrating from internal disagreements (or our own poverty)-- we'd rip through the paper established literary scene of today. Constipated arrogant personalities living in a make-believe world of self-importance, sincerely believing they're "great" writers and thinkers.

Sunday, October 28, 2012


Here's a definition of the word defamation, from thefreedictionary:

Any intentional false communication, either written or spoken, that harms a person's reputation; decreases the respect, regard, or confidence in which a person is held; or induces disparaging, hostile, or disagreeable opinions or feelings against a person.

Does this apply to portions of Tom Bissell's Believer magazine essay on the Underground Literary Alliance, reprinted in his collection Magic Hours?

Monday, October 22, 2012

What Do I Want?

I ask Dave Eggers and his outfit to disavow the Tom Bissell essay on the Underground Literary Alliance, republished in Bissell’s collection Magic Hours—or at least to renounce the most egregious passages of the essay smearing the ULA maliciously, such as the remark that the ULA’s actions would cause “lots and lots of tombstones.” One can’t present oneself as a generous liberal and stand behind those remarks.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Three Movies

I TOOK my inspiration for the forming of the original ULA—the creation of a team—from three different old movies. The stories of all three deal with putting together a small team of diverse talents in order to accomplish a specific mission. The three, in no particular order, are

1.) “Seven Thieves,” starring Rod Steiger, Edward G. Robinson, and a very young Joan Collins. The mission in this instance is the robbery of a casino.

2.) “The Magnificent Seven,” starring Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen. The task is a more noble enterprise: the rescue of a village of farmers from a gang of bandits. A striking parallel to the fight of the ULA against the McSweeney’s Gang.

3.) “The Guns of Navarone,” starring Gregory Peck and David Niven. In this case we have a team of commandos whose objective is to blow up a pair of giant German cannons.

Following these models, I searched for what I gauged to be the most talented and/or striking writing talents in zinedom. Most I corresponded with through snail mail for some time before actually meeting. One I met during a visit to New York City. Another, on the steps of the art museum in Chicago. Another I met in western Pennsylvania when I drove to Philadelphia to lay the groundwork for the ULA campaign. Steve Kostecke I had met first of all, in Cass Corridor Detroit. It was during this meet-up that we first hatched the ideas that led to the ULA. The sixth founding member met the five of us at our Hoboken weekend in October of 2000—almost exactly twelve years ago.

During that weekend we created the necessary unity and morale that kept us focused and together long enough to make our initial explosive waves—which included our CBGB’s debate with George Plimpton, Tom Beller, and their own team of establishment puppies (we destroyed them); the notorious “crash” of a tepid Vanity Fair reading at KGB; and our own kickoff kickass reading at the Amato Opera House in the East Village. We created from the beginning tremendous excitement. Shock waves through the established literary scene. Unfortunately, the team was so explosively volatile, with contentious personalities that matched mine, it immediately began breaking.

Find in the three movies enough clues or speeches about how to run an effective team. You won’t understand where I’m coming from without seeing them.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Doing the Gruntwork

Don’t think concerned parties could snap their fingers and ULA 2.0 would be ready to launch. We’re a long way from that point, even if we go ahead with the project. We’re a long way from making any significant noise. Right now all we could do is lay the groundwork for the noise.

We’d first need to decide on a compact, impactful image, then recruit a handful of new members who could fit into that image and other requirements of the team. Like commitment and loyalty. For the first version of ULA I chose the core team carefully, searching out zeensters who had talent and personality, along with manifest commitment to underground (team) ideas. We’d have to have that again. Once the journey begins and you do receive some attention, the stress on the team becomes great. If you find yourself portrayed in widespread media (Village Voice, say), the portrayal of you and the team will usually be a stereotype. (Due to the nature of today’s media the coverage is inevitably a stereotype.) You enter new territory. Everyone you know begins to read about you doing strange and nasty things. Attack dogs from the other side are unleashed. (The malicious Mr. Bissell only one of those obedient dogs.) Etc. I remember the ULA’s first press conference. Meeting Plimpton and his staff was intimidating for a few ULAers. This is inevitable. We’d have to understand, in advance, every aspect of how the lit world would react to a new ULA campaign and how we’d react to it.

Staying obscure isn’t stressful. Attempting to break out of that obscurity is extremely stressful.

Every part of the new campaign would have to fit completely into the presentation, but also be, according to our lights, of top level quality—because it will be scrutinized.

I’m going to emphasize again that I’ll not be part of any half-assed campaign. I’m interested only in going all the way.

Fortunately we’re a long way from launch point, so we have time to think about things.

Don’t expect results yet, even if we somehow go ahead. Next year: maybe.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Living versus Dead Art

THE GREAT IRONY about the treatment of the ULA dished out by literati, labeling us as “bad” writers, is that within their snobbery and arrogance they fail to see that THEY are the purveyors of a dead style of art which has all but killed American literature. The academy poem is dead art and the literary short story all but dead. Both forms have chased away audiences and given literature a bad name. Those who most strongly defend literary writing are dullards unable to look outside the cardboard walls of their indoctrination to see where the future lies. I can’t name one established writer—sorry, not one—who in mental attitude and intelligence is above the level of mediocrity. Instinctively they know this, which is why they refuse to debate ideas with me. They’re frightened, conformist sheep.

Beyond their mediocrity, they’re typical apparatchiks lacking character and integrity—which is how they can adopt stances in defense of “the people” or “the 99%” or “democracy” that they don’t for a moment believe. The phoniness is so widespread it no longer surprises me.

Such a phony literary scene deserves literary insurgency. The task of a new ULA will be to promote the pop/populist literary future, but also to find and create sympathizers to our cause throughout the country. A grass roots movement able to rise up to expose the phonies wherever encountered.

We need to be literary insurgents and walk with the boldness and belief of insurgents.

Case in point: I note Bissell is giving a reading in Beverly Hills October 22nd. We used to have a core of sympathizers in Cali. Can we still find some? Does our list of contacts remain? Or do we do the slow job of creating a new list?

In dealing with the arrogant fakes who for the moment still wield control over the lit scene, our major weapon need only be the truth. Speak the truth about their corruption and their dead art. They’re like cockroaches who scatter at the light of day.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Our Winning Message

My exchange with establishment journalist Maria Bustillos shows that our populist message can’t be opposed. All credibility is on our side. The future is on our side as well, because we oppose a dead art and back American literature’s only possible course. All we need do is get our message and our credibility out there, then all will be converted, or all fall before us. THIS is what the devils of the literary establishment fear.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

In Denial

MOST WRITERS and even many undergrounders are in denial about the nature of the established literary and media worlds, and the character of the individuals who inhabit those worlds.

Those highly-placed individuals live in a narrowly constructed, hierarchical, and very competitive environment. They've been trained to be ruthlessly conformistly competitive since the age of three. Ethics? What's that? They're amoral by philosophy. Ruthless to the verge of sociopathy.

How do you think they view undergrounders and other outsider writers?

The biggest mistake the outsider can make is believing the literary Insider has the same worldview you do.

Clueless underground writers sometimes believe that if only we're polite to the bigs, they'll be polite to us. They're waiting to welcome us into their tent! This notion couldn't be more wrong.

Those well-placed within the system, who assume their own talent and importance, look upon all underground writers not of their station as literary insects. "Losers," "bottom feeders," and all the other appelations that were heaped upon our heads because we dared demand to be treated as equals.

From the establishment standpoint, they have no choice but to scorn us. To think and behave otherwise would be to deny their lives. To deny their expensive education and training, and whatever positions they've obtained.

Literary rebels have a second strike against us, in that we're a threat. We're insects that could possibly be harmful to them, and so they'll continue trying to stomp us out.

Why then run a ULA-style campaign? Is there a way to succeed? Are the odds too great?

Those within the system are practical. They've been trained to assess weakness and power, to smell out power and attract themselves to power. It's the way of their world.

Undergrounders gain respect only through exhibited strength. The more leverage we create for ourselves and demonstrate, the closer we come to being treated as equals.

Or, we need to have, and present, total credibility.

The idea that we can approach the obsolete but hugely powerful battleships of the literary establishment in a rickety and goofy underground boat, waving signs of politeness and saying, "Hey, guys!" in a friendly way is an absurdity. We'd be blown out of the water, or more likely, simply run over, to disappear under the waves. We have to see the world as it exists in reality.

They'll respect us if we carry torpedoes.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Fine-Tuned Literary World

I don’t know how many of you have read Stephen Hawking or others talking about the fine-tuned universe. This is the idea that the odds against the universe supporting life—or maybe the odds against the universe itself as we know it—were a trillion to one. Everything had to go right in a series of steps—maybe a billion of them—to create the conditions that led to us. Every step, every choice, the right one. It’s an interesting theory, and might at this point be more than a theory.

When the ULA was formed in 2000, the odds against us getting anyplace were great. We had an infinitesimal chance. We were a band of unknown writers without funds, without connections, without credentials of any kind. Every step we made had to be on point—and they were on point, because all of our opening moves had been plotted in advance, the same way a football coach will plot out the first dozen plays in a game. Nothing happened by accident.

Think of a science fiction novel in which the ULA spaceship is hurtling through space. A giant force field stretches before us, too extensive to go around. It may stretch to eternity on all sides. Our only chance to get through the field is to spot a temporary hole in it—one of a very few occasional holes opening up for brief periods of time, then closing. Windows of opportunity.

In 2000/2001 we spotted one of those holes in the literary galaxy map, and almost got our tiny craft through it, before the hole closed and the ULA vehicle was shattered. Now we’re searching for another window through the dense field. The opportunity, if it arrives, will be brief.

This is why we need a set plan and a cohesive team, with everyone on the same page. A captain of the ship, perhaps, but for certain a navigator, preferably a navigator who’s been on the journey before, has seen the waiting pitfalls, and who may also be carrying a map.