THERE ARE many possible strategies for literature to follow to survive in a changing world. It's not easy to pick the right strategy. One way is to look at failed strategies-- at roads NOT to take.
The strategy employed by classical music in this society is a perfect example of a failed strategy. It's wrapped itself in its elite status, and in so doing cut itself off from the mass public. Its attempts at outreach to the general public are token and laughably limited. The supposedly wise part of its snob appeal was in gaining a large stream of funding from rich people, government, and foundations. Despite this lavish flow of money, it's uncompetitive against forms of music which receive no such dollars.
Finally, it's put its entire effort at creating musicians, and an audience, in academia. Classical music has had a dominating position in universities the past couple hundred years. Every year thousands of competent classically-trained musicians are cranked-out by the academies. This represents a gigantic investment. Yet again, despite this tops-down approach, the position of classical music in the culture, in society, continues to dwindle.
Classical music sections at record stores shrink or vanish, as do sales. Classic rock, a tired genre, fills the radio airwaves, while classical music can hardly be heard anywhere on the dial, except part-time on NPR. In sum, the art has followed a LOSER strategy.
Yest this is exactly the strategy establishment lit is following. The recent black-tie National Book Awards resembled a classical music gala. Master of Fine Arts writers make up 90% or more of the lit world, while their art appeals to little more than 10% of the potential audience. Just as classical music's audience is reduced to a sliver of rich people, and to those many thousands of unemployed college-trained musicians (not enough to sustain the art), so is literary writing's audience reduced to small cohorts of MFA grads. (Who sustain the nearly-unreadable McSweeney's, for instance.) It's a plan guaranteed in the long-run to fail, which is why the ULA rejects it in total.
All those many writers who now scorn the ULA will soon enough be imitating us.