Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Lynn Freed's Partial Confession

From the July Harper's comes further proof that the Underground Literary Alliance has won the debate over literature, in Lynn Freed's confession, "Doing Time: My years in the creative writing gulag," in which she admits that the philosophy of MFA programs is bankrupt.

Freed: "--I feel like a fraud. Week after week in come their stories . . . some rewritten so many times and under the aegis of so many different workshops that the writer himself has lost all sense of the authenticity of the piece."

Doesn't this sound like ULA ideas?

Freed: "--to my mind, writing cannot be taught. That workshops can be dangerous . . . That unless the student plans to spend his life moving from workshop to workshop, he will need to be able to rely on his own ear. And that if he does move from workshop to workshop, he is doomed to lose his sense of hearing anyway."

Well, Lynn Freed, long-time writing instructor, welcome to the fight-- one which members of the ULA were engaged in before we joined forces; a fight which Jack Saunders has been engaged in long prior to that.

Freed's essay is admirably honest. But something is missing. There should be more. Her name sounds familiar to me. Has she taught at the most cronyistic and corrupt writing program of them all, the one at Bennington College? I think so. Was she there the summer day in 1995 when issue #28 of my New Philistine literary newsletter was publicly destroyed? At the least, I know I "bombarded" Freed at some point afterward with my zeens and promo material. She's been aware for some time that ideas contrary to the workshop ethos were out there. Finally, in 2005, she's converted to them.

May Lynn Freed be one of a flood of converts away from a system and ideology that have fossilized literature and removed it from the public. Such individuals freeing their brains are the sign of the onward rush of ULA ideas.

Kudos to Harper's for at last partially recognizing the future. Maybe there's hope for the magazine after all.

The ULA's winning ideas will take tangible form on July 16th at our Medusa event in Philadelphia. Jack Saunders, among other writers of unquestioned authenticity, will be there. You should be too.

16 comments:

- Leopold said...

Man, I wish I could make the Philly thing so bad...

The Student said...

And, the Masked Professor can say what he wants, but The Student will be there to challenge him. His tired academic ideas will shrivel. Wait till a young upstart shows him what's what. Stick this in your -isms, -clasms, -graphies and -ologies!

the MP said...

And you in turn my dear understudy will realize that you're not in Kansas anymore-- too late to save yourself! Four years of preparatory school Latin doesn't make me more -ism or -ozm
prone but does make me a more dangerous opponent. You sound like you're wet behind the ears, as any student should be, otherwise you'd be husking corn for Ma and Pa Kettle back in Oklahoma or what ever, right? Well don't expect me to throw in the towel so you can dry off those ears-- and the tears you'll be shedding by the second round.
Luckily for you the outcome of the third round of the read off, if you make it that far, will be decided on by the unlicked mob in attendence and they may feel sorry for you. So it may be a closer call as to which one of us is declared the victor. But I am unperturbed by such empty displays of sentimentality and no matter how the chips fall I am confident that my authority and bar tab will remain intact.
In the meantime I'll be busy smearing your reputation and whooping it up for the 16th's Big Lit Event among other things on Lancaster Ave., this Friday July 8th, along with The Unholy Sideshow, POETS'UNION, Bowen's Puppets, and The Hydrogen Jukebox Band at 7pm starting at the CEC (34th and the Ave.) and then at 8PM
over at the Tiberino Museum, 3819 Hamilton Street. So if you want a little taste of what you're in for stop on by. I'm sure I'll recognize you by your fear and loathing!

Marissa Ranello said...

Road trip, Leopold, ROAD TRIP! ha.

- Leopold said...

heh. unfortunately, i fly out of Calgary on the 22nd and I'm not even close to prepared for any of it! Plus I just drove from Toronto to Calgary over a week ago!

Hey, is someone video taping this thing? Could make a good multimedia thing for the site...

Patrick @ LitVision said...

At last report, Pat King planned to carry his video equipment up from the wilds of Alabama, to film the first ever ULA "movie" the weekend of July 16 in Philly.

Marissa Ranello said...

A webcam broadcast in real time would be so awesome.....

Patrick @ LitVision said...

...but i don't think my Vietnam-era Nikon can do webcasts. And i wouldn't bare my literary skin for you vonny perverts at home, anyway!

ULA said...

Pat King sez:

Saw this a bit late, hope you guys read this.

While I'll be concentrating on making a ULA documentary, Tim Hall will also be there with his camera shooting promos which, I'm told, will eventually make it onto the web.

I think his stuff will be available before mine since I'm doing a full-length video. I want to get the movie done pretty quickly so that it'll be timely but I also want it to be good...so I'll probably spend most of my free time in front of my editing suite and go slightly mad. What was I saying? Oh yeah, I don't want to write anything in stone right now, but I'm hoping to have the thing completed by fall.

JDF said...

Fantastic!

Patrick @ LitVision said...

Tim quit the group a few weeks ago...might be slightly odd if he shows up making ULA films, but whatever. I'm not entirely sure what his status is for the event, maybe Karl can let us know? I was looking forward to Tim's reading there, but we'll have plenny other exciting performers, even if he can't make it...

King said...

Everyone's welcome to attend. Tim made a good contribution to the ULA while he was in our ranks (and before then), before he decided to pursue other things.
As far as readers go, though, we're quite booked up-- we've added two more Philly names to the show who I'll be announcing shortly, and that should do it. I'll finalize the order, and mention various suggestions, as soon as possible.
Re: ULA membership. We'll be announcing a new international ULA member at a meeting Friday. Beyond that, I hope to discuss ULA membership after the big weekend-- to make sure people know what we're about before they sign up. There are many many writers we can add, but we have to manage our growth. We're not for everyone-- we're an activist group; we look for commitment to our goals and ideals. There's also a strategy behind our actions, which I may have to write up into zeen format when I get a chance, so that people know that what we do is done for specific reasons.
After the event Steve Kostecke and I will be asking members for more commitment, more dedication to the ULA name and organization-- to make it the priority in their careers that Steve and I have. We're not satisfied with mere names on a list-- it's not how we'll reach our potential. The road is wide open-- if we get the ULA vehicle operating on all cylinders.
Tim Hall, by the way, made some valid criticisms to me personally of the way we do things-- it's true that we're not as efficient as we can be. We'll be addressing those questions-- best addressed by the group, inside the group, which is what a cooperative, volunteer endeavor like the ULA is about.
That said, I think the ULA is in as strong a position as it's ever been in. Next weekend is only the first step in our invigorated campaign, which WILL shake things up, a lot. You all haven't seen nothin' yet.

ULA said...

Pat King sez:

Wow. The Tim Hall thing is news to me. So is the fact that Steve Kostecke will be there. I've had some great conversations with him over the years and have been wanting to meet him for the longest time.

King said...

No, Steve won't be there, unfortunately. When I said "after" the show, I meant in the days and weeks following.
Steve, of course, is our main behind-the-scenes person, who does more than anyone else to keep things going. The Hudson County press thing is a rare opportunity to learn a little about him-- it's not often we coax him into the spotlight.

Jeff Pitcher said...

though i've not read the article yet {i live out in the canadian countryside, quite removed from any bookstores} it has been recommended to me via two friends, who i admire greatly as artists~ to them, in response to the general theme i have sent along a link to a absolutely WONDERFUL interview with Jim Harrison, wherein he discusses some of the same things...really, though i don't commonly add links to comment sections, this is one of the better interviews i've read in some time~ ultimately, i find that Harrison says it as well as anyone could, so rather than expound myself, it leave it to him~

cheers~

http://www.webdelsol.com/Five_Points/issues/v6n2/harrison.html

{tried to put it as a link, but couldn't get it to work}

Jeff Potter said...

Thanks for the Jim Harrison link. I think I've mentioned him here before in this same context. At any rate, I've been wanting to! : ) I'm not sure if I've read this interview. I printed it out. But he's been consistently down on the MFA system and is a pretty darn good outsider winner. And they just gathered all his interviews in a book which I did read---the punchline here about the granola looked familiar.

However, it seems like something in Jim's overall public mode is lacking. But really I shouldn't say that. Whenever asked he mentions MFA weakness front and center. And he did back up that upstart press a few years ago: Clark City River (or whatever). Never mind it was run by his daughter. He did something to push the indy thing. It augered in, though. Maybe there's a problem with the 'small on purpose' small press project, the self-marginalized. That scale can't have impact and basically isn't even viable. Too bad. Small can survive in a bunch of other fields. The input from the smalls is needed.

Another area of lack---that Jim is once again up front about---is that in order to survive after saying no to academia he had to write for Hollywood. No other option!

For those who think that's an endurable trade-off, read a yet-more-famous author-expose'-confession: "Conversations with Nelson Algren." He blew up his own career after being burned by the usual way Hollywood does business with the New York literati. He was one of the best novelists of his day and declared he wouldn't write again after what happened---and he didn't. He did some magazine stuff. But his act simply didn't have enough IMPACT. His self-snuff didn't change a thing. It's hardly even remembered. He needed multipliers and noise. Algren needed the ULA!

Harrison is a stunning fellow. I had the great fortune to bump into him up north at a bar once and had drinks with him. Everything he says is memorable and publishable. Great quick stories, quips and references just flow out.

Yet he said he wanted a helicopter. He said he was jealous of his Hollywood director buddies. Achilles' heel! Mr. $500 Wine. It's hard not to sell out with such a mindset. He likes to admit and joke about selling out. What can he do? He paid his dues. Yeah, yeah. I even think his characters are very conducive to being supported by Hollywood---"they eat that shit up," as Jack Saunders says about Europe putting Buk on the map. --The sighing Buddhist ugly old fart drunk rascals who screw the teenagers and have nothing to do all day. Rich people can relate! ---But America can't.

So we're still waiting for the next big work that can bust out... The next literary spokesman who matters...

But that darn Jim is a great writer and character, all right.