Saturday, February 12, 2005

Addressing Several Points

To respond to a few points made by one of the abashed anonymous ghosts who post comments on this blog:

1.) Shakespeare's reputation was made not by academia, but by wildly popular performances of his plays through the years by outstanding actors like Ed Kean, Edwin Booth, John Barrymore, and Richard Burton. In fact, his reputation is suffering now greatly among the populace BECAUSE he's currently thought to be a creature of academia. The best favor universities could do Shakespeare at present is not to teach him! (I hope to produce an abridged version of "Hamlet" in Philly later in the year. I have several candidates in mind for the roles.)

2.) Regarding fundamentals in literature and in sports: Fundamentals are all well and good (I'm even occasionally aware of them), but the problem we have in lit right now is not a lack of fundamentals. Natural talents like Wild Bill Blackolive and Urban Hermitt are not dominating our literature (though they will, they will!), but instead, careful and cautious craftsmen like John Updike, Munro, and their ilk.

The problem is that literature is filled with wannabes who so much want to be big league players they assiduously learn the fundamentals, but have no talent to go along with their desires. It's like the a young baseball player watching video and learning the rule books, becoming through hard study a very mechanical version of a baseball player. The coaches applaud his effort, but shake their heads when he delivers a pitch and it hardly goes anywhere. Then another kid comes along, some rawboned unlearned farm kid, winds up awkwardly and delivers a 100 mile-an-hour fastball.

Basketball may be a better analogy. In the affluent burbs parents drive their children to basketball practice once a week, and wait in the cars while the darlings receive professional instruction from an ex-athlete Phys Ed grad who needs a job. At the same time, in the hood kids are out on the courts playing their game on playgrounds, day and night, hours upon hours, without any instruction at all.

What I noticed about standard lit writers when I began corresponding with them in the 90's (through the modest success of my newsletter), was how little actual writing they did. For a Tom Beller or even a Mary Gaitskill, writing a story seemed a laborious process, entailing numerous drafts. A couple 5,000-word stories a year was a major effort. (Indeed, for all her incredible talent, Gaitskill's production over the years has been noticeably small. Where are the novels??)

By contrast, undergrounders are always writing-- doing nothing but. Wild Bill and Jack Saunders crank out hundreds of issues of their zeens. Larry Richette is always writing novels. Frank Walsh writes poetry like breathing. E-zinesters do nothing but write and write and write. None of us needs to take expensive courses to find the motivation or energy to produce a few much-sweated-over pages of prose.

3.) Regarding libertarians: I don't know why the ULA wouldn't appeal to them as much as to other groups. Our D-I-Y philosophy must have some attraction for them-- we should certainly appear better in their eyes than conformist bureaucracy-laden lit realms.
I do know that many libertarians have their minds too much within the mindset of the corporate world, just as many Lefties have their minds inside government or academia. (As I'll point out in an upcoming post, these bureaucratic entities are in the process of merging.)
Anyway, to my knowledge there already are a couple actual libertarians in this outfit, but don't tell anyone.

4.) Finally, about "rational pragmatism," what history shows us is that those who change the world are seldom rational and only intermittently pragmatic. The most influential movement of them all, Christianity, was hardly rational!-- but was pushed by a small collection of wacked-out fanatics, whose ideas to rational people seemed fantastic. The notion that a group of semi-illiterate fishermen and farmers would transform the world with their message appeared at many times in their history to be totally nuts. Their enthusiasm was enough.
One could say much the same thing about many other historical figures and movements-- like the small band of Bolsheviks hiding out in coffeeshops like stray bums in Vienna or Switzerland before World War I.
One never knows who is going to cause change-- or how it will occur. But unless people get out there in the world yelling, advocating, pushing, making noise, nothing will happen.
The rational pragmatist spends $100,000 or more getting an MFA diploma and still by and large can't get published. How rational! How pragmatic!


- Leopold said...

Yeah, I understand and realize there is an attraction for libertarianism in the ULA and I’m not against that, either. I suppose what I meant (but didn’t make clear) was that The ‘Truth’ was merely hoisting up his rule-book (it could have been any philosophy) and was using this Libertarian rule-book to rationalize why we will all fail; Pre-determining our success or failure, dismissing our arguments through his/her self-guarded, prescribed worldview. Someone like that who has already decided the ULA’s cause will fail and comes to your blog merely to state it over and over really isn’t interested in the ULA.

It seems to me that the underlying goal and cause of the ULA is to break down the rigid, inbred structure of publishing to let writers of all kinds – libertarian, left, right, anarchist, apolitical or otherwise – have a fair stab at access. I think anyone interested in that would be interested in the ULA.

King said...

The "Truth" is one of these rationalists who see only THIS moment in time-- understanding only that as their truth-- not realizing that the universe is in flux and that change is constant. Surveys and focus groups assessing consumer taste are obsolete the moment they're done, because they're snapshots of the market at where it is now but not where it'll be next month or next year.
Maybe one reason that libertarians never get anywhere is their personalities are invariably uptight and buttoned-down; "logic" without imagination or vision.
Yes, the ULA would ask them to step beyond their unbending abstract logic, to add empathy, emotion, and passion, which literature requires.