Saturday, January 15, 2005


Aren't writers, journalists, and lit-mags supposed to be icons of free speech? This is myth.

I e-mailed both Agni and Harper's asking for responses to my posts of this past week. No responses have been forthcoming. Only silence. Not a peep from Birkerts, Lapham, and their staffs; these supposed advocates of open discussion. Not a whisper. They close their eyes, block their ears, and pretend not to notice anything.

Thick curtains are pulled around their offices; steel walls brought in to surround these, steel doors sealed shut with heavy padlocks. Wide swatches of tape are put over mouths of employees; bags over their heads to close off the world so their tottering empire remains safe.

I've e-mailed, written letters, asked again and again here and elsewhere for a comment from Harper's about Bissell's plagiarism. From 666 Broadway has come only silence.

I've asked New Criterion, supposed opponent to Lewis Lapham (they're really not; they're buddies), for a comment about the mysterious "Bryan F. Griffin" who wrote a controversial two-part article for Harper's in 1981, which preceded Lapham's (temporary; cosmetic?) firing. I've received silence. Bryan F. Griffin has vanished down the memory hole of history.

YOU'LL FIND that those who run the established lit world, and their demi-puppet flunkies, aren't at all champions of criticism, controversy, and discussion. They flee from it.

(p.s. Those who embrace Bissell now have wrapped themselves around a tar baby. They're stuck with the guy.)


Noah Cicero said...

Concerning the blog: Tom Bissell did peace corps work in Uzbekistan, that's what his book is about and is the first question of every interview. Concerning peace corps workers: America has cities like Youngstown, Philly, Cleveland, Detroit, and a bunch of others where people live in horrible poverty and mental hell. And American suburbs must cause mental hell or there wouldn't be so many damn books and songs on how miserable it is. Point 1: There is a good amount of misery in America and it is not hard to find. You don't need to leave the country to find human misery. Point 2: People who do peace corps work negate the suffering of Americans because they do not want to admit that they themselves are suffering and that they might be the ones helping oher people suffer.

More important though: ULA Review Blog is opening soon. All underground novelists, zeensters, eziners, poets, and underground presses contact me at so I can tell you where to send your shit. I will also be finding ezines to get the reviews on. The aim of it will be to alert the world that your writing exists, what it is about, what your bio is, and where to find it. DO NOT send me anything about rich people riding horses or your trip to some third world country! Thank you, send me your work!

Noah Cicero said...

ULA Review Blog is opening soon. All underground novelists, zeensters, eziners, poets, and underground presses contact me at so I can tell you where to send your shit. I will also be finding ezines to get the reviews on. The aim of it will be to alert the world that your writing exists, what it is about, what your bio is, and where to find it. DO NOT send me anything about rich people riding horses or your trip to some third world country! Thank you, send me your work!
The Tim Hall Half Empty review will be first. Beware all Demi-Puppets Undie Press is coming!

Anonymous said...

[Tim Hall reporting]

Karl [sigh] yeah it's tough to get a response from these guys, whatever. Here's what I think:

-Their silence = agreement. If you said something untrue and outrageous about me you can be shit sure I'd be de-fucking-MANding a retraction, pronto, lest your nuts be roasted over an open fire. Their silence is complicity--it doesn't make them any less men for hiding out, but we should accept their acquiescence as admission of total defeat and move on.

-They and their ilk still represent an extremely powerful cabal of insiders and taste-makers who are not going away any time soon, if ever. Ergo, they feel they don't NEED to answer you, as that would only give "substance" to your spot-on criticisms, etc.

-We are going to meet them, and beat them, on their own turf: the "marketplace of ideas." Going back to Seven Samurai (and Lao Tzu and Sun Tzu and others): "If you merely defend, you lose. You must attack as well as defend." With Undie Press I'm going to THEIR fucking castle, THEIR fucking networks, THEIR fucking bullshit National Book Award Winners and battling them on THEIR fucking turf. Anybody wanna make a book on the outcome? I'm going for the fucking throat, and their comfy tax-sheltered bullshit hallucinated imaginary lit-scumbag bandit worlds can only exist so long.

-Hello, Lew: I'm coming after YOU, bitch. You'll have my cock in your mouth inside a year, or I'll pay you $100 in nickels, which you can then (Hemingway) jam up your ass.

Please, all of you: read the WINNER of the NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FOR FICTION, which RICH MOODY administered. It's a word-processed Harlequin novel, absolute fucking bullshit toady middlebrow shitfuckbullshit. Where is Isak Dinesen when you need her? Where's Dawn Powell, Karen Lillis, Anna Kavan? Why these fucking menopausal fucking wanker romance bad historical/hysterical romance novelist fucktards winning shit? I'm fucking sick with this SHIT.

Timothy David Hall

Anonymous said...

This is part of a conversation my friend had at a bar:
Underground Novelist: It is impossible to get something published by a major press unless you have an MFA from one of the major universities.
Professor's Daughter(tending bar at a local trendy/dive just because she's bored): That's not true. If you work hard enough, you'll get published and Oprah will feature your book even if it was printed on a small press.
Underground Novelist (after grappling with the dark reality of what was just said to him): That's not the way it works. How can you say that?
Professor's Daughter (baffled at his disbelief): Because I think it.
Her response was a dark twist on traditional Descartesesque reasoning: I think it, therefore it is. The rest of their conversation (which I did not witness, but only heard about afterward, and of course he doesn't remember all of it because he was forced to consume more alcohol to try to numb the blows of stupidity with which he was assaulted) consisted of her arguing the evils of the ULA and trying to intimidate him with her pronunciation of the names of French authors. Whenever he shot her flimsy argument down, she could only respond with silence.
It would be nice to think she was quietly awed by these new thoughts. Or at least admitting through her silence that he was right. But the truth is she wasn't. If I showed up at the bar and started a similar conversation she would say the same things and shut her mouth at the same spots.
They are silent because they are insulted. Not by your words, but by the fact that you wrote them. They are as offended as if you showed up at their wedding reception without an invitation. They are appalled to silence because you "don't know your place." What right do any of us have to speak to them? But they insist that if we would only work hard enough, they would welcome us with open arms. After all, to admit that the system does not allow outsiders would be to admit that they are elitist scum-fucks. There's nothing wrong with the system, god damn it. They built it. And if you kiss their pristine asses long enough and grovel at their feet, and waste ten years of your life and thirty thousand dollars in loans to make it through one of their programs (after you've proven yourself toadish and suck-ass enough to be accepted into one) and most important if you "work hard enough," maybe when you're sixty, they'll put one of your stories in one of "their" magazines.
You guys have shown up at their party; uninvited and violating the fuck out of their dress code. Now crash the hell out of it.
Bernice Mullins

Jeff Potter said...

My earliest impression of one of the main strengths of the ULA was the getting attention and reaction from the mags due to collective action. One person writing to a mag is easily ignored. 12 people writing in about a crime, all refering to the same home base, gets respect and reaction. I saw the effecacy of having a rallying base.

We've showed that this works like a charm several times now.

However, it could be that at this point the ULA is so well known that the fear factor has entered in and they're simply shutting us out. But I think not. I think this method would still work. If a buncha ULAers and allies wrote in to Harper's then they'd respond. Now, I'm not sure that Harper's would ever respond to a challenge to the interior machinations of their editor. There may be a better place, tactically, to send a dozen letters.

We definitely have their ear. They're watching this. And they will respond to the forces of publishing physics. Basically: find the right place, then pile on.

Anonymous said...


Crazy. Typical. Glad you took up the fight. These people need to be challenged at every moment, every time, without giving up.

Total surprise: latest Nobel Prize winner, Elfriede Jelinek, from Austria I think, is an amazing and surprising win: I just started reading Women As Lovers and Noah, I was reminded of your work and think you might really like her. The only downer is that Serpent's Tail is using totally shitty papers for their books and yet STILL charging a premium for the novel: I paid $14 for a piece of shit product, but the writing is amazing. Check it out.

Tim Hall

Anonymous said...

This is going to sound dark and sad but it must be said. I looked up the book Woman as Lovers and it costs only 8 pounds so it's cheap in England. But America's dollar is so low it is expensive for us. The good news is though if we can get distribution in England we only have to sell half the books we would in America to make as much as we would in England.
If an American press produced book is ten dollars it will be around five pounds in England. Our books over there will be like Wal Mart products, and we know how good Wal Mart does. LOL. The exporting of cheap literature.
The dollar is falling, govt confidence is falling, the middle-class is falling, and the literary elitist are falling with it.

Noah Cicero

Anonymous said...


Actually, 8 pounds is about 16 dollars US, so it's hardly a bargain. You'd think, because ST is a UK press, that it'd be around 5-6 pounds. But no, they're ripping off their own just like they are us. (and I'm sure they have a US printer to keep costs down; they aren't exporting every book, no way). Plus, in the UK they have that VAT which is really expensive, tho I don't know if it applies to books (tho probably does)


Anonymous said...


When you don't think it can be any more miserable, more facts come in. Thanks for the info.


Anonymous said...

For an underground literary association, the ULA seems to worry an awful lot about what the people at Harper's are thinking and saying.

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