Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Essential Differences

Here are the essential differences between the Underground Literary Alliance and the rest of the lit world.

1.) INDEPENDENCE.
The ULA stands apart from the mono-think monopolistic Machine which currently dominates literature. We're democratic in spirit and organization, operating (ideally) through open argument and with rough consensus.

2.) UNDERSTANDABLE.
Our view of writing is vastly different from that of the literati. Standard lit's examples of "good writing" are little more than coagulations of words designed to impress workshop grads, but which don't connect with readers in immediate visceral ways like the best work of ULAers.

Our writers are our strongest point. Those who dismiss them haven't read them!

In prose and poetry we present a wild variety of talents, a diversity of styles which are readable and striking, populist and democratic, earthy and knowledgeable; nonconformist, edging often into the radical; noteworthy always for the authenticity of the words and the thoughts behind them.

3.) DYNAMIC.
The ULA isn't a static organization. We're not institutionalized within the four walls of an office building. We're an uncontrolled wild fighting snapping and barking dog pack. Our mission is to never stand in one spot-- to always be on the attack.

4.) VISION.
We're the only group of literary artists who envision, want, and work for a new literature, created by a changed process. We wish to overturn the present tired and corrupt System, to stampede its cattle-herd participants and convert those we don't run off. We see literature renewed after our revolution; literature healthy and honest; literature controlled not by bureaucratic academies and conglomerates but by WRITERS; literature fronted by real stars causing genuine excitement; literature as the authentic sound of the culture and everyday life of the populace: literature reborn.

11 comments:

Grant Schreiber said...

FIVE: Solid Motives.
I don't know anyone within the ULA who is writing to become famous. Writing whatever one wants to write, without thought of money, or fame, or pleasing the little crickets in the tower is what any writer should be doing. I know dozens of people who like to label themselves writers but fear they will never become a media darling. The realization that none of the crap they put on paper or on the web is worth reading is secondary to their desire to be not just loved, but well loved. There's a whole school of thought that equates writing with fame and power, Hollywood lunches and dinners in New York City.
Screw that noise. This is the written word as it is meant to be: honest and without thought for reward.
Raw, powerful energy thunders from the ULA. You can't buy off a hurricane.

Tao Lin said...

i'm creating a new literary movement

this movement will be called...

i hate the entire world

this movement won't do anything

we'll just make jokes and try to be funny to each other

anyone who wants to join, create the blog and i'll post whimsical 'dreamlike' comments on it

i am serious about this

i am very serious about this

Jeff Potter said...

6.) DIY Relevance.
ULAers come to books from the zeen world of do-it-yourself publishing action. We believe in sweat equity. No one lasts in the ULA who expects special treatment. We're all ditch-diggers here, down in the trenches, xeroxing, stapling, stamping and shipping out. We get to know towns and markets firsthand, nationwide, worldwide---one letter from a reader at a time, one cold-call to a bookstore at a time. We're out on the street and we listen to it instead of anyone else. No nannies figure into our stories. Where we come from all work is hung and you get feedback whether you like it or not. Zeensters cooperate (and scuffle) hand-to-hand, often camping on each other's couches---those who can hack it and carry their weight and keep their scene organized move up. The rest fall by the wayside. Talk doesn't matter a bit, not to real writers and not to readers. Neal Pollock said his experiment in independence ran aground once the funding dried up---here's a tip, Neal: if you live dirt cheap in the hinterlands and you see that you're making it, even if it's in fits'n'spurts, well, because of your low overhead, you can keep running with the ball, keep building momentum til you're there. You don't need a sugardaddy behind you, doing it the zeenster way. Just keep printing books and selling them, keep adding store accounts, and keep picking strawberries from the backyard and catching bluegills for dinner and you'll make it---IF you add your voice to the other two-fisted DIYers out there and make noise that gets heard for a change.

JDF said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
D said...

I think that is a totally terrific idea, j.d. finch! Think of all the authenticity and awesomeness!

It's just like when Marie Antoinette used to dress up as a milkmaid when she was the Queen of France or whatever. It was really fucking sweet and majorly hardcore. You rock! You rock as hard as Marie Antoinette!

You might start a trend, j.d. Imagine it - real books with companion pieces by zinesters and hardcore zines with companion pieces by people who can actually write. When will this idea catch on with blogs, I wonder?

JDF said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeff Potter said...

The ULA is a big tent. I'm a publisher, and more of a fan, a reader, than a writer.

The ULA has publishers, readers and writers, and rich and poor. And we all have the opportunity to push ourselves, to use what chances we've been given. As long as someone is pushing I don't care what they're pushing with, I can't see that it matters. (Fitz wrote about the rich in a relevant way.) Everything is relevant if it's true. And telling the truth is hard and scary for everyone. No need for any litmus tests. The truth is its own test. So everyone is welcome in the ULA. Of course, some prejudice themselves beforehand---they've already shown their hand, their mettle. It's not that someone is so-called fortunate but that they capitulated, even for awhile, that makes them less useful to literature. That's why even reformed MFAers aren't likely to become as bold as a garden variety zeenster. But zeensters, too, have their own common blindspots that narrow their impact. It's not easy for anyone.

I, for one, don't consider the well-off to be luckier than me. I've had it all, as far as I'm concerned. What's money got to do with it. Nothing seems to come with more baggage than money and I've always traveled light. Well, if you consider a carful of junk to be light...but I did live for a couple years out of a duffle.

I do write---but my writing is short on style and "loading"---I'm not thinking "literature" in my writing---it's reporting and rumination, and there's a place for that. The main good thing about my writing, I think, that I'll put up against anything else out there, is that it's not redundant, in terms of content anyway. I don't mind that it's conversational or windy. I'm covering things that no one else does, not that I've heard of anyway. Good enough for me. I wouldn't do it if someone else was already covering my beat halfway decently. I figure a dashed-off job is better than none at all when it comes to telling things that no one else will. Some people seem to like it. So I press on.

For instance, I live in a rural area that's turning into Freewayexitville---like so much of the rest of America. Our region has a couple histories but there are no books telling our more recent history---what it was like around here after 1970, say. No little chapbook that tells what we lost, how we traded so many of our cultural amenities for minimalls. There's nothing telling what it was like to grow up hanging around our local ditches and the 7-11 parking lot. The golfers around this town DID that to their world and their children and they need to be shown what they've done. I've dashed together a chap about this but really it's TOO dashed, even for me.

(I tell ya, there's nothing like growing up around crap and having what little you have taken from you and turned into parking lots to make escape taste sweet and to make coming back to kick ass have just as sweet of an urgency. Talk about fortunate!)

King said...

The point, as Grant brings up, is that the ULA isn't for everyone. Many people want to join our ranks without fully realizing what we're about.
The point is that we burned our ships behind us when we began this campaign. We plunged into it fully knowing that we were going to become pariahs to the world of the literary mandarins and their followers. We've separated ourselves from the business-as-usual lit scene, which we believe to be made up of phonies.
Some of us, like J.D., may have given up more ties and opportunities to join the ULA than others, and deserve kudos for seeing the future and joining up with us.
We don't ask those who do join to agree 100% with us. Most of us argue vociferously among ourselves. I had quite a tough exchange with Jeff at the outset, until we got to know what the other was about. Steve and I had some unbelievable disputes in our first year or two. Yet all of us hung in there-- which must mean that we believe in the idea of the ULA more than in the very flawed individuals who "run" it in anarchic sputter-along fashion. The three of us know we have one another's backs as a result-- this makes a strong core the ULA has been building upon.
I don't expect everybody to like every one of our writers. We're a very diverse group. Mark Sonnenfeld, for instance, well knows that most folks don't understand what he does with his poetic mailings. Mark is in the ULA because he defines the DIY ethic Jeff speaks about. Mark defines what it means to be an undergrounder-- he'll continue doing his art no matter what. (And has actually built a huge fan base, solely through snail mail.)
We ask that those in our outfit not be embarrassed to be in it! We long ago threw our self-images into the wind. We're a collection of literary misfits. I hope no one loses sight of this. Because of that, we're just a little more real and passionate about what we do than other lit people.
Grant: If you or any other ULAer makes it to Philly for the July 15th-17th ULA Weekend here, we'll give you a few minutes time on the card! (Which is actually becoming quite crowded.)
(Crash space will have to be discussed with others, however, as right now I'm undergoing some severe lodging issues myself!)

Tao Lin said...

jeff, j.d., king (especially king), can you three summarize your comments and add some jokes and use shorter sentences please?

chilly charlie said...

dean haspiel.

Bad idea.

chilly charlie said...

Wow, this is crazy.

Tim Hall is stalking you, and you don't seem to realize it. You have no other enemies but him.

Just to let you know, Tim's buddy, the cartoonist Dean Haspiel, is helping him out.

DeanHaspiel.com.

Beware.