Thursday, November 04, 2004

The Rejected Letter

"It's nice to see spirited defenses from Stefan Beck and John Jackson to my blog posts-- but again, they avoid the substance of my argument. Instead, all that these great minds weaned on the Great Books can do is produce irrelevant quotes or engage in weak and snippy attacks.

"The substance of my argument is that:
1.) American literature is largely irrelevant to the American public;
2.) The present overseers of literature have failed;
3.) The NEW CRITERION has no discernible program for addressing this.

"You don't think there's a problem so you fail to address WHY literature doesn't affect the lives of the vast bulk of the American population, as, say, pop music does. Could it have anything to do with the fact that close to 90% of those on the mastheads of major magazines which promote and publish fiction, or at editorial positions at the major book companies, come from less than 1% of the population? (Ivy League grads.) These are either the most privileged or most conformist members of society. I say this is the wrong place to look for great artists.

"John Jackson is wrong when he says that 'real literary movements grow up organically.' Please study the career of Ezra Pound, and the literary movements he started. (I'd recommend the book 'Geniuses Together' by Humphrey Carpenter.) One would have a hard time finding movements of any kind which weren't sparked by intentional action, even plans, from Christianity to Communism to rock n roll, however much they took advantage of organic happenings-- just as the ULA is doing through its use of the organically created zine scene.

"All I see from Jackson and Beck instead is smugness which reveals more about the workings of their minds than about any flaws in what I said. . . .

"Jackson and Beck avoid my question about what distinguishes their aesthetic ideas from those of the NY REVIEW OF BOOKS. They avoid my points about funding, and what, yes, has made the ULA controversial, as evidenced by the many write-ups in Page Six. I was merely stating a fact. Don't words have meaning to you, Mr. Jackson? Or do you think they can be airily dismissed through nice-sounding aphorisms which mean nothing?

"Lastly, the Beats for all their faults represented stirrings of activity in American letters. They had energy. At least at the start, they wrote from amid the public, not looking down from on high on the world, and the best of their work is vibrant and alive, though admittedly not very refined. For the ULA they are among many role models, because they were serious about keeping the spark of the word alive. (The substance, you Overdogs, of literature is words-- communication through words with other humans. I can guarantee that we could put well-educated department store mannequins alongside ULAers in any venue: hall, saloon, or outdoor park; and one side's words would have much more energy and power.)

King Wenclas, Underground Literary Alliance."

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