The conclusion I draw is that Dave Eggers no longer micromanages his operation, and is relying on people to run his operation who aren't very bright.
Wouldn't he have found the idea of his editor and myself shaking hands as distasteful as I did?
Those who proposed and approved the notion couldn't see that it was a non-starter from the beginning. One doesn't make a proposal you know is going to be automatically turned down. And for what purpose? It's obvious that Matthias didn't think the McSweeney's reading could stand on its own-- that it needed additional kick, added hype-- and so he turned to, of all people, me! Unbelievable. Then, when your plan to have an exciting reading consists of hoping King Wenclas will accidentally show up anyway, to crash the thing, it shows an obvious lack of faith in the abilities of the McSweeney's gang. (Corresponding to reality.)
To put this admission on the McSweeney's site for all to see has to be nothing but embarrassing for The Dave.
The problem is with the publication itself, and the kind of individuals it attracted as readers-- the Acolytes-- who've now taken leading (Eli) and supporting (Matthias) roles in the McSweeney's team. The publication from the first was a terrible lit journal. That was the idea. I saw one early issue consisting of a couple dozen or so little booklets, each one of which was unreadable; many including the most obscure knowledge that could be found to write about-- directional drilling in western Argentina, say. The objective with such pieces, with footnotes and the like, was to replicate the atmosphere of graduate studies at the university. More than this, it was a deliberate affront to the average reader, by presenting the kind of thing which would send 99% of potential readers immediately fleeing. Those who remained, who could stomach the thing-- or actually like it-- became the basis of a kind of warped elite; a select literary priesthood.
These are the people Eggers now relies on for the continuation of his operation.
Anyway you slice it, having to admit that your own shows are lame, and that the organizers at one of them sat around hoping for an appearance by a representative of the ULA, can be viewed as nothing but a defeat-- and another victory for the ULA.
Doubt this? I hope Matthias will show at our own Philadelphia event July 16th. I hope all the skeptics do also. You'll see a great difference-- that words and literature can be made truly exciting.
(Postscript: One reason ULA shows work is because we know that the first objective is entertaining the audience. I try to impose structure on the events-- and am usually good at keeping things moving. Mere self-indulgence is OUT-- the kind of thing the McSweeney's gang thrives on. Case in point: I offered a spot in the show to a friend of Matthias's; an individual who works in the bookstore we've been discussing. I try to reach out to such writers, though they can't always see where their own interests lie and attempt to tie their wagons to those of the literary aristocrats, instead of with writers like ULAers who represent the voice of the people. He seemed to want to do a very long piece, however, at an event where Jack Saunders should be the focus-- Jack is an excellent reader-- and where great spoken word performers like Michael Grover have agreed to limit their presentations. IF I allow guest readers to go on too long, and put themselves in stark contrast to the likes of Grover, Crazy Carl Robinson, Frank Walsh, and company, they'll not only harm the show, but embarrass themselves. At the mention of time limits, I've received from the writer silence. I hope he changes his mind.)