Friday, February 25, 2005

Moderates or ULA Radicals?

Many writers still believe the entire MFA system of expensive degrees, seminars, conferences, retreats, grants, awards, agents, etc., can be saved, only improved on the margins a bit. This is nonsense! The system has failed writers. It's failed literature. It needs to be junked. Modest repairs to a crumbling structure of corruption won't cut it. Best to blow up the tottering tower of elitism and start over.

Even the most laudable of the new literary activists-- MobyLives, say-- are moderates reluctant to cut loose from the status quo. Some time ago I sent MobyLives a copy of Phillip Routh's Camellia City, and urged him to read it. The Routh novel strongly criticizes the present system of finding and creating writers. MobyLives wouldn't read it-- practically refused to-- as if afraid of its words. Only later did it dawn on me that Dennis himself was a "literary" writer, product of the system. He and his mouthpiece (alter ego?) B.R. Myers criticize the type of literary art the system hands us, while leaving the foundations of that system untouched. They don't examine too closely the rusted machine of literature, or draw up a different blueprint.

History shows us-- with Lafayette; with Kerensky; with Gorbachev-- that moderates who try to fix a broken machine inevitably fail. The design is too flawed, and the parts which keep the machine barely operating are worn.

The ULA is eager to work with other writers and lit-groups, but will do so without abandoning our principles. Those who wish to work with us have to leave their snobbery and their old suitcases of failed ideas at the door.

We're creating an entirely new, more democratic kind of literary machine, starting over from the beginning. To do things this way is a hard process. We'll take occasional steps backward. Ours will be no easy success. But what we build will serve the writer and artist, instead of the reverse. It will leave us with a literature more responsive and relevant to the public because it will be of that public, with as few layers of mediation, professionalization, and hierarchy as possible.

(Those who don't like the ULA way should instead purchase for $14.99 a book from Writers Digest, Some Writers Deserve to Starve, an apology for the corrupt lit-system by lit-idiot and WD shill Elaura Niles. I would subtitle the book "How to Be a Demi-Puppet.")

10 comments:

The Librarian said...

Listen here young man, you are going to require legal assistance if you keep writing in this way.
Have you thought about getting yourself skilled in some trade? That way you can make a living instead of sitting at a computer all day you can get paid to sit in front of a computer all day.
You ought to leave this creativity business and writing to your betters, those who can afford a college education.
Who wants to hear what working people think or say?
Really young man have you considered getting yourself some mental health help?
Thank God we've got alcohol and illegal drugs to keep the working classes muddled and muzzled.

Steve B- said...

I went to Columbia on a full scholarship, and come from the Bronx. I worked hard to get there, and for what? To sit in class with a roomfull of entitled candy-assed brats like Jimmy whose parents paid their rent while they played "poet"? That MFA degree is even more useless than a piece of toilet paper. At least a piece of toilet paper can rid you of unwanted shit---and I saw nothing but shit literature everywhere I looked in academia.

I don't want to put my work into the world until it's good and solid. I don't send out ever scrap of paper with words on it like Jimmy and his friends do. Visibility does not equal quality. Look at Jim Berhle, or whatever his name is. Is Paris Hilton "quality"? Is Ashlee Simpson a good singer?

Adam Hardin said...

The Believer announces that they are sponsoring their own books awards. That is what the Literary World needs, more awards given to poorly written books. The Award will go to "brave and ambitious" writing which translates into books that may not be good, but as long as the author tried hard, he or she deserves an award anyway. I remember our grade school gave out "Positivity" awards that typically went to students who did not achieve anything in academics or sports.

Anonymous said...

"The Award will go to "brave and ambitious" writing which translates into books that may not be good, but as long as the author tried hard, he or she deserves an award anyway."

That wouldn't be so bad, actually! But the fact is, The Believer has no intention of doing anything of the sort. Deeply cynical, underhanded, and almost pathologically passive-aggressive, The Believer will do exactly what McSweeney's has done, and hand out the awards to friends, volunteers, and insiders, using fake names and coded, "cryptic" cover letters that will provide the "judges" with a fig leaf of respectability, to give them that, "We had no iDEa!" cover story again.

Him Tall (note the clever pseudonym)

Jeff Potter said...

Yeah, not a bad award value: they'd be brave if they went against academia and ambitious if they reached out to nonacademics. Ho!

A good laff on awards should be had every decade or so: we should submit some lesser-known story by a world master to some MFA-cabal and watch it get shot down to make room for one of their pals. Then expose em and laff. (Crad Kilodney did this in Canada a couple times. Chekov didn't make the first cut.)

PS: Hey, Him, did you take a cold shower yet after getting revved up by Bernice, Ada...and me! : )

Anonymous said...

Or how about giving out awards for the most dubious awards?

Anonymous said...

The way to support writers outside the establishment is to buy and read their books! No need to plow through The News From Paraguay, the National Book Award winner for fiction, with the panel chaired by industrialist and fainter, Hiram F. Moody III: it's a lame, cut-and-pasted Harlequin historical romance that actually deserves belly laughs and open, finger-pointing derision, it's so fucking awful. Instead buy and read THE HUMAN WAR by Noah Cicero, my own HALF EMPTY, The Slush Pile. Think poetry sucks? Find yourself a copy of THE LAST GREAT GLASS MEAT MILLION by John Thomas Menesini and sit down.

Elaura Niles is an idiot, but her title is clever and the book follows the standard WD, aspirational, female, self-help, catty tone that the typical WD, aspirational, female, self-help-seeking, catty reader adores: "X ways to spice up your dialog!" "XX techniques to make your romance novel sizzle!" "5 paths to bigger breasts!" And so on. Perfect example of preying on the doubt of people and using insulting "blame the victim" logic in a schoolmarmish tone. Fuck her.

Tim

Adam Hardin said...

The best review of Rick Moody called his work "grotesquely pretentious."

Adam Hardin said...

I didn't finish the last post:

The first few sentences from Purple America by Rick Moody:

"Whosoever knows the folds and complexities of his own mother's body, he shall never die. Whosoever knows the latitudes of his mother's body, whosoever has taken her into his arms and immersed her baptismally in the first-floor tub, lifting one of her alabaster legs, and then the other over its lips...."

The whosoever part goes on for over a whole page.

If you think that was bad, I urge you to read "The Black Veil: A Memoir with Digressions" by Rick Moody. This is the epitome of the poor little rich boy memoir.

He likes people to compare him to Faulkner, but there is no real comparison there.

Mark said...

Jim B. doesn't have an MFA, and neither do I.

He's always lived in the same sorts of shitholes that I have since I graduated from college in 1995. The great majority of folks in the Boston experimental scene do not have MFAs, and are completely broke and from working-class backgrounds. I give you myself and Christina Strong and Joe Torra and Guillermo Parra, etc. etc. ad inifinitum.

You're turning an aesthetic issue into a class issue, and it is fallacious.

-mdl