Monday, January 31, 2005

Zeens, Blogs, and Novels

I have a stack of underground novels to read and review (beginning with Tim Hall's). At the same time I keep receiving great zeens in the mail. The huge advantage zeens have is they're so reader friendly. Their very simplicity and brevity says, "Read me!"

For instance, Underground Crawl took less than fifteen minutes to read. A perfect, relaxing fit for anyone's schedule.

This caused me to muse: What if novels as a literary form have been superceded? There hasn't been an exciting establishment novel to hit the scene in decades. (Sorry, but White Teeth doesn't qualify.) The ULA is betting that the promotion of underground novelists like Tim and others and their more real and direct prose can save the art form.

Still-- the novel wasn't always the centerpiece of literature. Before the novel there was theater and the narrative poem.

It could be that the literary form of the future will be-- the blog! Who knows. It's why I've been trying to maintain an overarching theme to this blog (figure it out)-- and put everything into it; essays, rants, satire, exposes, poetry, fiction. The blog form has endless possibilities.

Jack Saunders's various web sites over the years have been kind of a super blog or super novel.

My favorite literary form remains the zeen. This is a personal preference not having much to do with the ULA. The zeen form simply allows me to be more expressive; more creative. (I like doing my own covers, which may explain my thinking.)

Though zeens (zines) remain today a marginal lit form, they have huge advantages which could someday be exploited. First, the affordable price (one to five dollars). Second, they're inviting, not intimidating to those who normally don't read anything-- the mass of Americans who are the ULA's target audience. Zeens' quirky colorful lo-fi look and crudeness puts off some, but welcomes those who have no interest in "literature" or in massive chain bookstores filled with long shelves of densely-worded volumes; echoes of the dread of high school and college. Anyone who has seen the excitement of zine shows knows what I'm talking about.

Just some stray thoughts!


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Jeff Potter said...

This post doesn't relate to media formats other than that it's about the unstoppable OPENNESS of today's best media.

I want to comment some more about a previous post. Tony C. suggested that we try to work with outfits like Z-Net. This sounds good, but King reports that they won't answer their phone, mail or email. Tony reports that when he calls Mr. Z answers the phone. Something weird is of course going on here...and it looks terrible for Z-Net.

Tony, what do you mean by us working with other groups? As King reports, we do try to do this, all the time. We actually do get along with some of them. But don't you find it SHOCKING that Mother Jones and Utne won't report on us busting millionaire grant frauds and on our progress at wresting literature away from MFA elitists and Ivy Leaguers? These mags usually love reporting on The Man getting taken down a notch. It's part of their charters. Why do they betray their integrity and mission by ignoring the ULA? Why don't they care about populist lit and literary access? They come off looking awfully bad.

Our job is to bust crap and to break open literature and to launch the next big thing. Any decent activist media group could work with us easily.

The fact that they shun and sneer instead is making them look awful bad. Indeed, they're bigoted against us. We're apparently picking on the wrong line of limos at the curb. Ouch.

These activist media cover and give respect to work by folks who aren't totally Leftist. They'll cover the Amish. They'll cover the Anarchists. So why do they protect millionaires taking need-based NEA grants? We've got a live one here! We're onto something! It's a weak-link, a window in. Somehow we hit too close to home, basically. What we're doing isn't cute or interesting. It's WORKING. Something is going to HAPPEN. And, again, it's too close to home. There are MFA-holders in the building, millionaires on the board. Something sticks in their craw.

And, Tony, we haven't said that MFA's are totally worthless or that they've done nothing. Only that we've seen nothing great or socially momentous from them since that system took over. Sure there's talent there. As King also says: they get plenty of chances, too. They get all the airplay. We're just expanding the paradigm. We're inclusive. We're not going against the MFA charter. We're exposing how they've strayed. They should thank us. We try to reach out and work with them all the time. We tell them to put zeensters and populists on their panels. What more or less can we do? Do you mean to suggest that we 'work' with them by, say, agreeing to NOT have zeensters and populists on panels? It's not rocket science. It's obvious where the dialog has to start. They just don't like openness---if we'd sued them then a term of settlement would've been SECRECY. Instead we want debate and public dialog. THAT'S what they hate.

When our activism for the poor, homeless and downtrodden gets broken out in People and USA Today and all these snubs by erstwhile activist groups and people with supposed literary concerns are going to come to light...Hooo-eee...that's gonna hurt. Them. Unless they start answering us! They DO NOT have all the power anymore. They can't keep art down. I only hope that they get moving, for their sake. I mean, there have to be some regular people in these outfits---some people who don't think that sneering is fashionable, who look at the art before they look at the degree, who enjoy good old rabblerousing and have a sense of humor, can take a joke, don't mind an oldtime roast, can take a skewer in stride and even learn from it. There's gotta be some folks who aren't fragile out there in the activist scene.

Anonymous said...


Utne and Mother Jones? You brought them up. I never did. Nor do I consider them to be left magazines. They are more progressive in general than most mainstream magazines, but not a ton. Mother Jones after all was the magazine that hired and then almost immediately fired Michael Moore for being supposedly so radical, Michael Moore is far from a radical as he will be the first to say of course--despite what the far right would have people think. Remember I don’t think of “left” and “right” as the mainstream usually does. I think on this weblog I’ve given two examples of left magazines/organizations. Z and Dollars and Sense, well, and also some other presses most of which publish essentially no fiction and only publish overtly political materials like South End and Common Courage. If you have issues with these organizations and the very like, I’m willing to discuss them. But Utne and Mother Jones, as I view them, are very much liberal mainstream mags. Mother Jones herself was a leftist, as far as I am aware, but not the mag. Politically, I think Utne and Mother Jones often have lot of problems, or are fairly weak.

About MFA. The statement that MFAers produce no good writing or all produce lousy writing has been repeated endlessly on this weblog. That’s a fact that anyone can look up. I don’t know if, and never said that you ever said this. But plenty of people have--easily looked up.

I posed the question as to whether or not ULA could work with Z. And I’ve gone beyond that in trying to get Z involved with ULA. I’ve said that there is a lot of dissent regarding MFA programs within MFA programs, and I’ve said that some MFAers thus might be sympathetic with ULA and willing to work with them, and I’ve said that I think ULA should be open to that--to MFAers working with ULA. I don’t recall suggesting that ULA try to go and work with MFA programs, though if ULA would like to do that, I don’t think it can hurt. I don’t know that it would come to anything. All I remember saying is that I think ULA should be open to MFAers--like myself--who want to and are able to participate in ULA endeavors. I don’t think you are opposed to my participation, so it seems to me that we are totally in agreement on this topic. If I said something more than this, you’ll have to quote it to me. (On a side note, I have no idea what the “MFA charter” is, that it exists or what it says.)

As I recall, Karl wrote that Z would not answer phone calls. Does Karl know if Z has caller ID and has memorized his phone number? And he never implied they did. So not answering phone calls means nothing personal against ULA. As far as should they answer every call that comes in--a point Karl raised. I hardly answer my phone every time. I’m often tied up with something else. Maybe it should be noted that I was surprised that Michael at Z picked up the phone given the immense amount of correspondance and activity that he and the tiny handful of Z workers are involved with. (I find it hard to believe we’re even having this discussion.) And as I pointed out last time, Z is essentially a political organization. They’re very focused about that. About as focused on that as ULA is apparently focused on not being officially political. So if ULA wishes to work with Z it is probably going to have to do so via its political members on political issues where both Z and ULA have very common ground. And Z can’t do everything. They’ve got limited resources. The monetary abuses that ULA has uncovered--compare that in scope and scale to what regularly appears in Zmag and on Znet. I don’t think it’s a good fit myself. Karl hasn’t said exactly what he sent. I’ve sent Z stuff that I thought and still think was a good fit for them that they have not used--maybe with good reason, maybe not. And yes sometimes I never heard back from them--they are a small organization that has operated for years on a shoestring and done a tone of work, producing a full-blown international monthly magazine for years with a staff of 2. Which is almost unheard of. Maybe they are up to a staff of three or so now. Yes, I think people should respond to people who contact them, unless they’re getting hate, lunacy, or are simply overwhelmed. I can’t speak for Z, but I don’t doubt, in fact I know, that they are sometimes overwhelmed with the volume of work. But with Karl it seems to go beyond that. Based on the limited info Karl has given, it sounds possible that Z is simply not interested. Why should that surprise anyone, since ULA is so determinedly offically apolitical and Z is so determinedly political? If Z and ULA can’t work together, so be it. There is no certainty about the best course. Maybe ULA should stay apolitical. I don’t think so, I certainly disagree but that’s ULA’s decision. And if Z won’t work with ULA because ULA remains apolitical, or for whatever reason, that’s their decision. There’s no fault or blame to be thrown around in this regard, it seems to me. Every time there is a difference of opinion doesn’t mean the other opinion/action is despicable; to think so would be utterly arrogant. I don’t know specifically how Karl has tried to work with Z. That’s his business. I don’t agree with everything Karl/ULA does anymore than I agree with everything Z does--as I’ve said repeatedly. I could dig up the very quotes on this weblog. I know that ULA and Z have two versions of a single essay of mine. So obviously there are shared concerns and areas of interest. To what extent Z and ULA can work together is an open question. Z does a lot of great work. So does ULA. In my eyes, it would be a shame if they can’t work together. But who knows? So be it, if not. That’s all I’ve ever said.

I don’t know what you mean by “There's gotta be some folks who aren't fragile out there in the activist scene,” but if the insinuation is that the Z folks are fragile, that’s ludicrous. The fact that corporate media sometimes genuinely covers ULA’s actions could easily be seen as an indication that those actions are not seen as much of a threat to power, big power. Chomsky has said that if the corporate press were to start saying nice things about what he does, then he would begin to suspect that he was doing something wrong, that is, acting in a way that really did not threaten the fundamental system of power much at all. The corporate press loves minor scandal. Fundamental threats to power are tolerated much less frequently. It may be food for thought as to where the “non-political” ULA comes in, in this regard.


Anonymous said...

Shorter Jeff and Tony:

"We're both on the same page, just on different paragraphs."

Can't we all just get along? [grin]

Keep it up, gents, I do believe we're getting somewhere...


King said...

Sorry, but I never phoned Z, and never said I did. I've sent them occasional flyers and zeens over the years-- from my New Philistine days-- but that's all.
(Many don't see Chomsky as a serious threat to the establishment, but more of a safety valve for many folks. And after all, he supports much of the establishment agenda-- world organizations, U.N., "free" trade, and so on-- just wants them to work better is all. That said, I have no intention of getting into a debate about Chomsky, who is off topic. Despite his claims though, he's hardly an anarchist-- a word which does mean something.)

Anonymous said...

"And Z not responding to the ULA's charges against the Lit establishment, not even answering the telephone"...

Okay, somebody from ULA phoned Z, and my point holds.

To say that Chomsky supports what is called free trade, as the establishment defines it, is simply false, tons of his writing and work to the contrary. He supports much of what is called fair trade, yes. To say that Chomsky "supports much of the establishment agenda" is a wholesale mischaracterization, again, tons of evidence. Chomsky accurately characterizes his political orientation as anarchist, and anyone who is interested can take that up with Chomsky himself.


Anonymous said...

"Anarchist" means "without government." That is not Chomsky's viewpoint, sorry. Fred Woodworth for one HAS taken on Chomsky, again and again, who's blown him off.
A case can be made (I think Kostelanetz for one has made it) that the Chom at the outset was an establishment pet, given his strong ties to the New York Review of Books (not to be confused with NYTBR), which was founded by Random House money, and whose editor Robrt Silvers has quite a record with the establishment.
I agree that this isn't the place to discuss Chomsky-- but someone keeps bringing him up!

King said...

p.s. Re: The Chom. Don't get me wrong. I laud what the bow-tied prof is doing. Sam Phillips is way more of a role model for me-- but all power to the Chom. I hope he's successful at overthrowing the present system-- because it will then take five minutes for authentic revolutionaries to replace him. (When I think of Chomsky, why do I always have the image of the moderate in the headlights in "Viva Zapata!"?)

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Cialis said...

Tony reports that when he calls Mr. Z answers the phone. Something weird is of course going on here...and it looks terrible for Z-Net.