Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Reflections on Literary Rebellion Part I

On the approach of the ULA's Four-Year Anniversary:

The ULA Difference is that we're a cooperative group of writers and others who believe that by working together and looking out for one another we can best create: an all-for-one and one-for-all mentality.

By contrast, the lit world is soaked in snobbery from top to bottom. The System pits writer against writer, beginning with the ranking of colleges, to writing workshops where students must compete for the attention of the prof; a structure that encourages apple-polishing. The professor is God and gathers favorites, a collection of pets. This carries through to seminars and writing conferences (well-depicted in Routh's CAMELLIA CITY)-- mass exhibitions of toadying-- on up to relationships with editors and publishers. The writer against the pack-- networking the key to success (including regarding monetary grants, as the ULA in its protests and reports has demonstrated). Any talent discovered is a side benefit when toadying is the chief criterion. From top to bottom when writers find their places in the industry the attitude remains the same; worker bee writers gauging where they stand in the hierarchy, with the writer gods who must be fawned over high above.

In this hostile, coercive atmosphere, the attitude writers hold toward others is akin to the sad history of ethnicity in this country; the lower groups identifying themselves with the perceived top dogs as they fight among one another for acceptance, trying to claw up a greased mountain, always looking, wishing, hoping someone else is below them at the bottom: "I may be dirt poor, dressed in rags, living in a shack, but at least I'm not one of them!"

(As this toadying competition rages within the literary castle, the outside world-- the reading public-- what THEY need and want, aesthetically and spiritually, is ignored.)

One witnesses literary snobbery in the realm of lit-blogs, the most prominent of which are great toadying venues for fawning over the literary establishment. This manifests itself in their attitude toward the inconvenient rebels of the Underground Literary Alliance, dismissed as "know-nothings" and "bottom feeders," the bloggers unconsciously making their mindset transparent.

A funny example is on Maud Newton's famous site. When the ULA first received a flurry of press coverage, we became impossible to ignore as a factor in the lit world, so that Maud, who lists seemingly hundreds of lit sites, had to list us somewhere to show even a microdot of fairness. And so, scroll down, and there we are-- dead last! Right at the bottom, which is where we like it. Our positioning says something about where Maud's head is at, but says more about the ULA.

From the beginning, by the nature of our organization and our campaign, we've willfully put ourselves last among writers, "the lowest of the low," embracing this status. We recruited the most disgraced, overlooked, scorned, alienated, angriest, craziest outcast writers in the nation, desiring those at the bottom, complete underdogs; active outsiders.

WE BELIEVE that if writing genius is to be found anywhere, it'll be found here, among the writers who've faced the most obstacles, felt the most pain, suffered hardest and longest for their art yet continued writing. The examples of Dickens, who endured untold hardship before he even became an adult, and of unpolished Dostoevsky, the greatest novelist-- whose books create vast spiritual depths and heights caused by his pain, his acute sense of outsider status-- stand before us. YOU look for your writers in the privileged schools and salons of this land; I'll look in the streets, alleyways, and wilderness shacks, and we'll see who comes out ahead.

My belief that the ULA is on the right track was affirmed when I read #18 of URBAN HERMITT. Here is an outcast writer who, on a reading tour with a punk band, placed himself in a position to be endlessly mocked, scorned, and ignored. The depiction is harsh but enlightening: among the cat calls, thrown rocks, smelly van rides; the scamming and starvation; the journey through the antiseptic sterility, ignorant cruelty, bleak landscapes and seedy urban pizza parlors that define America there are stray touches of humanity, poignancy, acceptance-- beyond the crafted words the games the posturing the snobbery that's what life, what literature, is really about.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mr. Wenclas, you should read Toole's "Confederacy of Dunces." The character is much like yourself. Always has theories and conspiracies and reasonings for his own pathetic existence. Look in the mirror Mr. Wenclas. Look in the Mirror.

You still do not understand. The ULA has no talent. The Urban Hermit is a sad joke. You proclaim #18 as a zine masterpiece. That is sad, and it shows that you do not understand what literature is, and what it requires, and literature is certainly unrecognizable to you. You are a clown. You are a mockery of yourself.

Bill Walton

Adam Hardin said...

Mr. Walton needs some medication.

I stole this information from a certain other blog, but I want to comment on it. Three Americans are rumored(and so you know how accurate this may be) to be up for the Nobel Prize. None of whom I think deserve it.

Joyce Carol Oates-Short Stories

Susan Sontag- the feminist essayist.

Phillip Roth- The novelist.

Here is how the Nobel Prize works. You award prizes on the basis of National Origin, Sex, Race, or Literary Genre through a combination of such categories as has never been awarded before.

So if a White Jewish American Novelist has never had the Nobel before it favors Roth. Sorry, Roth, Saul Bellow got their first.

What about White Jewish Woman Essayist who has Survived Cancer? Bingo, Sontag has 3:1 odds, not counting the international crowd.

But then a White Woman Short Story Writer from America has never been given the Prize either, so Carol Oates has a 4:1 because she has not survived cancer.

But Consider this. America is Hated in the World. So any American's odds are not good.

The strong bet would be on a Muslim Woman Writer who has Survived Cancer.

But Cancer does not rank with AIDS.

The Strongest Bet is now a Muslim Woman Writer who is HIV Positive.

There you go. Place your bets.
(And you thought merit had anything to do with it?)

Anonymous said...

Mr. Hardin, the Nobel Prize committee takes its responsibility with the utmost integrity because it is the most distinguished prize in the world. What you have said sounds as paranoid as Mr. Wenclas.

It is a merit award, but the problem is that it is an award given to one writer in the world each year, and since writing is a qualitative judgement, the selection process is not an exact science.

Of course, the Nobel Prize committee will try to spread the award across the globe because great writing is to be found in every culture, and so what you see as the selection based on the criteria you listed is actually just the random outcome of trying give the reward as fairly as possible so that no country, and no one kind of writer continually receives the award.


Bill Walton