Thursday, March 24, 2005

Viewpoints

Like a chess player viewing his position from his opponent's chair, I've been looking at the ULA the way demi-puppets see us. Their stance has a rough logic-- from the pristine isolation of their perspective.

The ULA and its opponents look at writing from two very different directions. The question isn't so much which side is "right" (as demi-puppets believe), but which viewpoint is healthier for lit and the survival of lit in this ultra-mad culture.

The demi-puppets honor "fine" writing. Perfectly understandable. It's how they've been trained. Their training is the justification for their careers as writers. THE PROBLEM is that the public doesn't view literature through their trained (brainwashed) eyes. The demi-puppets don't want to accept the truth that the ULA has arisen organically from that public-- we see writing through the public's eyes, because those eyes and ours are one and the same.

The demi-puppets can see the ULA's writing, then, only in terms of the rules and limitations that were programmed into them as students and editors. They've lost the ability to respond spontaneously. Like the opera record producer put into the studio with Big Brother and the Holding Company in 1967 to produce the Janis Joplin band's first album, they can only shriek that we're off-key and not hitting the proper notes! They miss the whole point.

We look back at the 20's Paris collection of underground writers-- Joyce, Stein, Pound, McAlmon-- as having great significance. Their works and lives are discussed and taught. Yet this is not how they were viewed in their own time! For a long while they were unpublished or self-published; were scorned and mocked. How could that day's mandarins have been so stupid?

History tells us that status quo critics and the writers they favor are usually wrong-- because their viewpoint is too of the moment (which means, in a swiftly moving world, of the past); within a box narrow and closed.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

King:We look back at the 20's Paris collection of underground writers-- Joyce, Stein, Pound, McAlmon-- as having great significance. Their works and lives are discussed and taught. Yet this is not how they were viewed in their own time! For a long while they were unpublished or self-published; were scorned and mocked. How could that day's mandarins have been so stupid?


Give me a break, if these writers were alive today they would be at the top of the ULA hit list. And it's ironic you have Pound on there, who famously detested democracy and the masses. Is there a writer that Academia loves more than Joyce? Hello? Finnegans wake is one of the most experimental, difficult novels on the planet. It was the common people who rejected them. Remember what Joyce said about writing for Academics. Remember the famous advice to joyce?
"sensible books that people can understand."


Fitzgerald got on his knees (literally) and kissed JOyce's hand calling him a genius, Woolfe even imitated his stream of conscious style, he was respected by true literary talents, not the masses.

As far as artists being admired after their death, that is just a fact of life, very few exceptions. You have to wait until death to fully assess talent and impact. There is a difference between the intellectual artist, and the Entertainer

--The Unabashed Truth

King said...

I used the 20's writers as an analogy-- not an exact replica of today's situation. And I do think the modernists of that era had great flaws-- which the ULA's writers don't, because we are trying to reach the populace, not run from them.
The pendulum swings. back then, obscurity was mocked. lately it's been in style. Time for raw authenticity and clarity, of the Norris, London, Dreiser kind, to move back to the forefront. The nature of cycles. Beyond your understanding.
Shout and yell. Block your ears. But the ULA's writers are here and the noise we make will only increase, so you'd best get used to it.

Anonymous said...

Make all the noise you want. But don't mistake childish farting for actual argument. Your arguments shapeshift more often than a lycanthrope. You retreat more often than the French army. Noise, glorious noise! It's all you've got, isn't it? Poor man...

And here's my fucking name: Alex DeRusha. I live in Colorado. I'm no one of note. I'm just a reader who came here, months ago, hoping for something interesting. That "brave" enough for you?

Okay: Have at me! Tell me I'm a demipuppet! You know I want it...

Anonymous said...

Hi Alex,

Nice to meet you. Your posts are good and contentious. We all need to air our theories in order to have them challenged and even proven wrong, and you're good at that. Welcome.

Tim Hall

Noah Cicero said...

demi-bitches. I see that you've conceded on the Street Vs. Professionals thread. But The ULA point is still there, when are you going to defend yourselves, defend the phony contests, grants, and awards, defend them.
The ULA is attacking and defending at the same time. If this was an actual war, it would be The ULA in a well guarded fort and the demi-puppets in a small muddy rat infested trench. Obviously we would take you down in a matter of minutes. and we have.
To the unbashed, I called NBC, they said they will give the 8:30 spot on Monday.
also: "if these writers were alive today they would be at the top of the ULA hit list" That has already been shown to be a MOOT point, the ula only pertains to current day america. And that can be easily turned around and said none of the reviewers would have given Joyce even a revie because Ulysses was self-published as was Proust. You can't win with hypotheticals, it doesn't fucking matter, it didn't happen. And you still haven't defended your own arguement. Why are you defending someone who cheats on contests and gets awards they don't need?

Jeff Potter said...

I doubt we would've hated all those writers back when they were young and fiesty. (And no way are we against success per se, you funny people.)

Those Paris expats had a lively scene going, with bums, losers, crazies, hardworkers, rich kids, the whole mix. Part of it had to be exciting for its day. We're exciting for our day.

Sure, we have our passions. Pound's fans didn't all have to agree on his politics. Noah's into class. Ally Tony is into prog-politics. I'd say Ol' Ez would be welcome just fine. Man, read his stuff---it fits right in. "Old bitch gone in the teeth" is right!

I like the Bashful guy who is "open to everything." Well, sure: but where are YOU comin from, man? I'm open, too, but I sure HAVE A STANCE. We like to know what people are CLAIMING. Ears is not enough. Let's see some CHOICES. Well, the "open to everything" choice done Bashful's way usually means "done nuttin'."

I like Doc Johnson's saying about when you have to ask your opponent for something, there's no more argument. What counts is your stand, what you've done and how it worked for you. We then compare and contrast.

So far we have Alex from CO who's a reader. Good for him.

We're looking for a kind of reader. The two may well not meet.

No problem. Unless he tries to prevent literature like the MFAers do (see Orwell), then he'll have our work, our action, our ideas to contend with. Coz that's what we DO care about.

Ezekiel Brutus said...

Hi Alex-

Thanks for your posts. One thing: Can you give me your exact street address in Colorado? Noah Cicero and I want to come over and eat your dog because you disagree with us.

Thanks,
Zeke


PS You know, sometimes I wonder what it will take for the ULA to disassociate itself from Noah and me. Guess we'll have to keep making vicious, violent threats before we find out. You know, because talking about raping and murdering other people and their loved ones is just the way we in the underclass express our passion for literature.

Jeff Potter said...

Bashful brought up the hoary canard of writers having to be dead to be appreciated.

Sorry. Not.

It's not that hard to get a sense for endurance, and impact surely isn't hard to measure.

I like doing the simple thing of comparing our fan and hate mail to others.

When you're out there swinging in the trenches, this matters. When you're working for The Man, who cares (ignore it man, they're not payin ya nuthin). But I'll still hold ours up anyday.

In the zeen scene all work is hung.

This alone is radical in the closed shop of MFA art.

Zeen readers WILL be in touch. Zeensters are people who answer the telephone. (This too is radical.)

If your work passes snuff, it finds its way into the right hands, in the zeen scene.

Anyway, let's compare the praise and hate-mail that ULAer Jack Saunders has received to MFAer mail. Jack's mail alone lets us know we're onto something.
It's not for everyone but it sure lets us know we're set up for pleasing a certain kind of person who CARES.

I remember when a clever fat slob was harshing on us years ago. He was a big fish in small pond. Published and praised. I threw out Jack's praise and hate blurbs. That dude froze. He would've KILLED for that kind of reaction.

The impact is clear.

We're a buncha broke farflung DIYers and we're saying something that people have been waiting to hear and we're giving them the goods.

Not for everyone.

If you love your MFA set-pieces, have at em. If you love your NASCAR, eat it up. We're pushin something different.

Anonymous said...

Tim,

Thank you for that.

Jeff,

What drive me--and, I think, a lot of other people--nuts about the ULA is captured in the above post. You guys talk a big, big game about taking over literature, attacking other writers on EXTREMELY debatable terms, and promising to be the vanguard of the new lit. But then you get challenged a little bit, made fun of, mocked, and you throw back "lightweights" at your opponents, as though that's not as dismissive and intellectually lazy as the worst demi-puppet behavior. When things get REALLY rough, when a reader comes along and says, "You know, you guys really kind of suck," you start getting all touchy-feely, all "We're not for everyone" or "We're radical--whaddya gonna do?" And you automatically assume anyone who disagrees with you is a part of the system you hate. You see the problem here, I trust: Big talk has to be backed up by did deeds and, dare I say, big talents. You guys certainly do have "personalities" (who on earth, after reading these posts, could deny that?), and there is something likeable about what you're doing. Nonetheless, this emperor has no clothes. He's stark fucking naked. You try to have it every way possible, and claim this is representative of ULA "diversity." You think you "win" arguments by passing the buck on your own flaws of logic and, frankly, alarming lack of intelligence. It really is frustrating for those of us who read this blog, and I think that's what you're seeing here. Your act is old, your promises too familiar, your rants identical. Again (and I know I promised to stop reading this blog--I hate my job and I have nothing better to do), this is not said with any rancor. It's said with genuine impatience and out of respect and fondness for real, sustained intellectual argument and careful thought. You guys call this brainwashing? Can you see how convenient a charge this is? I mean, really: Can you understand for one minute why people choose not to engage with you? I can feel the concrete bashing against my skull right now. In fact, I have a splitting fucking headache.

All right. I'm really done now.

Alex

King said...

The fact remains that the current literary system by and large is corrupt and closed.
Also, literature is irrelevant to the vast mass of the American public.
We're trying to change that. One way IS by provoking argument and making noise. How else is this extremely loud society going to hear any of us?
The mandarins who run literature don't WANT to be heard. Moody said it himself with his "three thousand" comment. That's the difference between that crowd and us.
America is VERY contentious, brutal, dog-eat-dog. Lit folk can't handle our noise? What planet are they on? Maybe they've been too long on Zytron. . . .

Beau Blue said...

"The fact remains that the current literary
system by and large is corrupt and closed."

-KW

And yet when you're asked point blank about plans to change that, you have an unsatisfactory answer for strangers that wander in off the streets. Your streets. The ones you say are your avid supporters.

Before a few months ago I'd never heard of you guys. And all I've 'heard' from you guys, since I decided to find out more, is your declared hatred of the 'establishment'. And when you're asked point blank what are the plans to expand your base? 'It's a secret' is the answer. 'You're a lightweight nobody', too. 'Demi-puppet, Demi-bitch.'

Your ad campaign is spotty, unfocused except for railing, and sends the wrong message to the 'vast masses' who consider literature 'relevant' to their world. Maybe you really do have a secret plan to advance your insiders. But it doesn't look that way to a stranger.

In '92 I published one of the first literary Ezines, 'The Hawk'. In '94, with Michael McNeilley, I published and co-edited 'ZeroCity'. Underground poets, establishment poets, slam poets, any poets we could find, that we then promoted to as much of the internet world as we could reach. We worked our butts off promoting the people we liked and ignoring those we didn't. It worked well for a bunch of years.

In my opinion, the 'literaryrevolution' url leads me to a site that promotes your organization poorly. It could use with more 'positive' examples, more pronouncements of your plans on how to effect change, less railing against the unfairness and stupidity of your 'opponents' positions. That's input from a stranger and isn't worth much, I know, but I wanted to let you know people do 'just wander in' and as one of those wanderers, this is what I've seen so far.

I think your approach is counterproductive but I do wish you, and your organization, much success.

-blue

Jeff Potter said...

Alex, I say "lightweight" when the person hassling us doesn't include their own stand and report on how reading/writing/publishing has gone for them.

For instance, you haven't yet said the kind of reading you DO like.

To just say "you suck" means you're a loser. It'll get thrown back at you. And, yeah, "we're not for everyone" will get tagged right on there for the exact sensible reasons why I gave: because for every baseless "suck" we get, we get a detailed letter of praise. So we sensibly go with the one over the other. Make sense? I mean, if we really were alienating those we cared about, who we knew we wanted to work with, we'd think twice. Get it?

So, yeah, you're stuck with the brick wall.
You think we're a brick wall? You must do real well questioning Harpers, say, and getting thoughtful responses.

I like the guy (Ol' Blue?) who said the art scene wasn't political or machinating. Hoo-boy!

And, Alex, when you say we have to back up what we say and act big and write big, well, we report on all we do. It's at our site. We've helped shape up NEA grants to millionaires. And we sell our work there, too. Some have called it the best ever. I call that big. So in our view, we're going big just fine. As I said, I'm launching ULA PRESS next month and selling related publications, both nationwide. Not small. So we have our props in order.

Ol' Blue complains about our website. He says it's a bad presentation, only slamming others. Well, it's not perfect but it seems good enough. Lessee, it offers what we write, it links to our sites, it shows what we've done so far, it says who we are, it says what we're after, states our case, gives evidence in endless, detailed newsworthy Monday Reports. Seems fine. Uh, bet ya can't show me better, that covers more bases, for literature.

Anonymous said...

How does it feel, Jeff, being the Ari Fleischer of the ULA?

I'm done arguing with you guys. Tell yourself whatever you need to to make yourself feel better.

Alex

nic chiarella said...

king

thanks for using the word "fine." every time i would write a shitfuck poem in the college poetry workshop here at my favorite state college, the professor would comment next to certain lines: "fine." at first i had no clue what he was talking about, but when i realized i was writing lots of pretentious, self-important garbage, i looked more closely at the "fine" lines. they were written with a nearly mechanical predictability.

if we really look at their "training," it's clear that it comes from a system that can be played like any other game, like pong for atari. the problem with profs and the establishment is, somewhere along the way, they forgot all about the game. they started to identify more and more with the ball. they coddled it. they wondered how it felt. they brought their friends over, and their friends brought their paddles. eventually, there was enough of them so that they could sort of all join together around the ball, and they closed the circle up, and now the ball just kind of pads around between them. they got so fond of it that they decided they might name it, which almost broke them up for good, because there were so many greek gods to choose from. luckily, after they democratically decided that everyone must be right, they finally settled on each calling the ball by whichever godname they pleased, and no one even bothers to call it 'ball' anymore. the circle's tightened up so much now that no more paddles will fit, but sometimes, late in the night, when you listen real still and breathe soft from the pillow, you can hear their game across the moonlight: ping, ping, ping...

King said...

Blue, we simply have a different strategy from that of other underground lit groups. Believe me, I tried playing things the traditional way for some years. It doesn't work. One has to recognize the nature of the society in which we live-- the fact that it's EXTREMELY loud and hyperbolic. (Not even the book companies recognize this. It's to Eggers's credit that in some ways he does.)
The only way to have leverage in this monstrous society-- to have a voice-- is by having a profile. To be KNOWN. That's been the ULA's goal-- and yes, we've had to use organs of publicity, like Page Six, in order to get our name out there.
We definitely have a plan, and are following it step by step. The first step, very simple, is to get the ULA name into people's heads. We're trying a variety of ways to do that, and will continue to do so.
Don't like our tactics?
There are hundreds of lit-groups, many many thousands of writers who do things the standard way. Other options are out there!
(It's almost as if all writers are expected to play by the rules, point A to point B, with no deviance.)
We've chosen our own path and it's like no one else's. Time will tell if it's successful. I believe it will be. Regardless, we're going to have some fun shaking things up.
Nothing halfway.