Thursday, November 04, 2004

(Literary) Common Ground?

The question has come up whether the ULA is looking for common ground with other lit-groups. Yes we are! But we do so without sacrificing our integrity and principles. We ask that potential allies accept our minimum premise.

That premise is mentioned in my previous post: The idea-- the truth-- that American literature has failed its public and is in need of change. (We could extend that to literature in the English language.) Is this so hard to acknowledge? To fail to accept this is to have no ambition about literature and what it can accomplish.

The ULA is optimistic not just about our organization and our mission, but about literature itself. Literature-- the written word-- IS our mission. That mission is fully our identity. No other writers have as much faith in literature as we do. No one else seeks to spread it to everyone. Others are outright defeatist. "Woe is us!" they exclaim. "Against MTV, how can we compete?" So they don't try to compete. To spite the public they regress into thumbsuckers, constructing works ever more inscrutable and inward-looking; behaving like angry two year-olds. This is the philosophy of the MCSWEENEY'S crowd, the negative alternative to the ULA's positive outlook. They intentionally flip off the world, putting up barriers of language, jargon, and footnotes, allowing only the Elect into their snobby ranks as they congregate fearfully within their 826 Valencia bunker.

Other writers express their pessimism in quieter ways, becoming ticket-punching bureaucrats; caretakers; monks in office hideouts trying to preserve the art while barbarians circle outside the monastery walls.

ULAers are those barbarians. We're saying, "Hand your religion of literature to us. Let us spread it, not like monks but crusaders." We've drawn to our banner those who'd never be thought fit subjects for the art; for the word. We've taken it up without prodding or payment, on our own, from sheer love for it. What could be better, or stronger? What could be more radical?

We want writers, poets, and related folk of all kinds, at all levels, to join or aid our rebellion; our crusade to re-energize literary culture. There is no more necessary task for this civilization. We offer not a cocoon but a cause.

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