The arguments of our critics have come from a Bizarro universe. Somehow, the main dangers to literature aren't those who sit at the center of the literary universe, holding the levers of power, but instead an obscure group of writers without resources at the edge of a faraway galaxy. Out of the many thousands of lit-sites and weblogs, an army of lit-establishment flunkies focused on mine. Quite a compliment.
I'm portrayed as having the power to censor or destroy those who are born into connections and wealth, receive huge advances, pen glossy magazine articles, sit on awards panels determining the fate of fellow authors, and disburse many thousands of dollars to writers (often their friends and acquaintances). I've been picking on the Poster Boy of Corruption, who never misses an opportunity to prove the designation. (Recently giving the National Book Award for fiction to fellow NYC Insider Lily Tuck.) The poor aristocrat high in his mighty fortified castle hears a dissenting voice far below on the streets! Crush that voice, so the Delicate One can return to his comfortable sleep!
I've been said not to have a heart, because I don't care enough about the sad fate of well-connected writers like Poster Boy, Bissell, Foer, and others of that ilk. Sniffle snif!
Where are these Compassionate Souls when it comes to the dilemma of good novelists (by the present lit-world's own standards) like Lawrence Richette, who's written three excellent novels which he's had to publish himself? Who cries over the fate of Phillip Routh, ignored and destroyed by the gods of lit after presenting his humorous well-written Camellia City, which takes too close a look at the current system for discovering lit talent? Why no outcry about these authors? Have the demi-puppets read their books? Of course not! They're not on the Approved List.
I'm accused of aggrandizing myself through my actions, somehow (I'm the last to know), though I gave up a good-paying job to come to Philly to start the ULA, have no assets but a typewriter, and work two part-time low-paying ultra-shitty jobs. Jonathan Franzen receives million-dollar advances and taxpayer grants which he spends on the overpriced artwork of his friends. Where stand the ULA's critics about this? They don't see it and don't want to see it. Anyone who dares point it out awakens the wrath of the entire flock.
Our critics have stressed out over a smattering of press coverage the ULA and myself received three and four years ago in "Page Six." (Curious that they remember it-- it's been all but impossible to find on our site.) I didn't "deserve" the mentions. (A decade of shocking essays and meticulously detailed examinations of corruption in my 45 issues of New Philistine didn't count.) Well-connected Bubble Boy Jonathan Safran Foer receives major press coverage (and huge advances) merely for stepping gingerly from the Bubble and no one says a word.
The ULA's critics, here, are actually close to the mark, and have a right to be worried. They show a better understanding of how the system of literature works than do most ULAers. What this fight is really about is a battle over scarce resources. The most naive assumption a writer could make is that all he or she need do is "write" and the production will sell itself. Richette and Routh are living proof against this notion. (The Poster Boy of Corruption, despite the many disclaimers, doesn't "just write." He's heavily involved in the machinations of the lit world.)
A relatively small clique of well-bred expensively-schooled writers controls most of the access to available literary resources, which includes large conglomerate advances, major magazine articles, and tax-shelter-spawned grants. Exceptions are masters of politicking like Tom Bissell and outright literary prostitutes like J.T. Leroy. Otherwise, 80-90% of the pie is spoken for. Many thousands of other writers, including hordes of MFAers and the lit-blogger demi-puppets, battle viciously over the crumbs. (One of my first sights when I moved east was a panel discussion of top editors in New York City, after which the audience mob of demi-puppets shoved elbowed trampled one another in their feeding-frenzy stampede to the podium to suck up.)
No, the ULA didn't bother with endless seminars and writing programs. (We'd already honed our craft elsewhere, in the zeen world.) We went after the sole resource available to un"certified" independent writers-- press coverage. Of course Insiders were bothered! We were poaching on their territory, in their reserved preserve of the literary forest.
It's no accident, by the way, that most of our press coverage came at a time when as an organization we were at our lowest point-- when it was just Potter, Jackman, and myself-- then Steve soon jumping back on board. The three or four of us had nothing to lose. We weren't constrained by worries about moderates or sensitive poets or thoughts about what was best for the organization-- there was no organization to worry about! In Ann's infamous words, it'd "disintegrated"-- thanks in part to a couple good kicks from herself. The few of us who remained went all-out balls-to-the-wall, chiefly for our own amusement: with constant over-the-top outrageous mini-zeens and flyers, protests against the Corrupt of the Corrupt, Franzen, Eggers, and Poster Boy himself. It was a stimulating invigorating period and it was tremendous fun.
We didn't have a full panoply of writers then to crow about-- though adding legends Jack Saunders and Wild Bill Blackolive to our ranks was a great start. NOW we do have a full line-up, with more to come. I have not one iota of a smidgen of a sliver of doubt that current ULA writers are good enough to engage the public and kick-start literature and the comatose lit-world. I've read too many great truthful rockin' books and manuscripts not to believe this. The future of literature is here and it's found on the www.literaryrevolution.com site; most fun site in the literary universe (check the profiles), home of the ULA Galaxy of Stars. Beginning this summer we'll be presenting dynamic performers like Frank Walsh and Jack Saunders throughout America. I just hope ULAers realize that no show sells itself. We live in no fair and perfect world. The noise we make is an essential part of the process.