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.