Tuesday, July 12, 2005

ULA Remarks

Sorry if I'm not about to shut up my own voice. I haven't done it yet-- this is hardly the time to start.

There are, I find, unresolved questions about what the ULA organization is to be like. A team of equals, sure-- but what kind of equals? What sort of team?

The question is whether the Underground Literary Alliance is to be yet another flabby laissez-faire lit-group, accepting of everyone and everything, no matter how corrupt; putting peace before all; existing with hardly a mission or direction; content to be just one more irrelevant local player on some one or other local scene.

Or, instead, is it to be what it was at its beginning-- disciplined, committed, and DEMANDING, making noise and putting pressure on all around it.

Yes, ULAers and others no doubt are tired of hearing about the founding group blah blah and so on. That's in the past, and the future is now. Yet it remains the best touchstone we have of what we can and SHOULD accomplish.

Let's see what record we achieved, in a mere eight months: Bombarded the establishment media with a coordinated letter campaign; organized and carried through the largest mail Protest (against the Guggenheim grants) in American literary history; engaged the staffs of the two leading lit-journals in New York, Paris Review (led by George Plimpton) and Open City in debate at CBGB's and mopped the floor with them, so they slunk out with heads bowed and tails between their legs; crashed in extremely exciting fashion a reading at the heart of the beast at which many magazine and lit Insiders were present; staged ten days later a "Legends of the Underground" reading at New York's Amato Opera House featuring many of the best underground writers in America, names like Wild Bill and Jack Saunders appearing for the first time at the center of media empire; these actions receiving large write-ups in places like Village Voice and the New York Post-- sending shock waves to the very foundations of the literary establishment. Whew! Quite a lot, I think. How did we do all that?

It wasn't done by playing patsy with every local wannabe organization or by putting ourselves in secondary positions to other lit or non-lit groups. We let the world know we, as underground writers who'd walked off the reservation-- as the voice of rebellion-- were secondary to no one. That HAS to remain our message. We're unique-- always have been-- and can be nothing else. We have to have this stance and this attitude. A group that accepts less than this, I want no part of.

I AM going to lobby not just for the ULA, but inside the ULA, FOR the principles this group was founded on. Those principles were that we be the most hard-core balls-to-the-wall lit-group that's ever been known.

We all have our own goals and projects. I know that. I may even have some private goals myself. The ULA strategy has always been that these goals take secondary importance to building the ULA name, constructing a platform upon which we ALL can stand on-- so that our personal projects will then have a fair chance-- in this unfair world-- of real success. This means not diffusing the ULA name, swamping it too quickly under dozens of other names, so that the platform collapses and we all sink into quicksand as a result of our own short-sightedness.

Are these unfair remarks? Unfair, undemocratic, or not, they're the truth.

17 comments:

King said...

This Saturday will start some new history for the ULA, re-energizing the movement and all who support it.

Anonymous said...

This ain't a revolution - it's just a new club. "Let''s not defuse the ULA name" is no different from "Let's give Guggenheims to the same group of rich guys" in its snobbish exclusivity. The REAL underground doesn't need a self-serving publicity "king" - we just put out good writing and watch it bubble to the surface on its own merits. Of course, as soon as we get any cred then the losers start labelling us as part of the sell-out Establishment. To which I say, "What-fucking-ever." Getting into Wal-Mart is 10 times more revolutionary than filling some dive bar in Philly...but, of course, y'all wouldn't know, because as you say over and over, you don't read the mainstream...you just think it sucks.
Love,
A Writer Who Sells Millions

the MP said...

On 7/12/05, frank walsh wrote:
Fine. These are mere ideas. Subject to conditions and more importantly to our own views. Awareness and wakefulness to the above bestows life, liberty and the confidence of happiness. Virtue witnessed via the actions of compassion toward oneself,
those that are suffering and in the bigger picture the destruction of cruelty thru the effective cultivation of ones (and hence the creative situational deployment of personality regulated by the ego- convenience) virtuous character and the attendant overflowing of its natural abundance thru artifact but, as you have correctly advocated and expressed, especially literature, with poetry being a special case of it (that's why it's called creative NON-fiction!)
Otherwise I am a master- poet and grandfather. As such my only criterion is to do a good job and share any and all radical joy on Friday, Saturday, and beyond. The POETS UNION is already a concept that is deeply rooted in the minds of people the evidence for which is its inscrutability. More importantly you told me that it and the ULA would be allied. Do you remember that? None of that is important really. What is is that we work together to make literary history and join forces to eliminate cruelty (I'm not alone in this) in all its forms. That is the only way to defeat the real enemy out there and in ourselves.

All For One And One For All!

FW

Anonymous said...

"Sorry if I'm not about to shut up my own voice. I haven't done it yet-- this is hardly the time to start."

Wait...wasn't the issue that you were telling everybody ELSE to shut up? Ah yes. People who tell you to shut up telling them to shut up are...are... telling you to shut up!!!

Bully = victim. Works every time.

King said...

Give me a break.
The ULA in many ways is trying to do the impossible-- to get writers to work together as a team without rules or contracts. It's designed to be a voluntary cooperative. It requires, as any organization, a certain amount of cohesion. How is that cohesion to be obtained? I can only argue for it, which is what I'm doing. The idea of a cooperative is to hash things out, attempting to reach consensus.
We are, in fact, doing here on this blog what NO other writers group, publishing company, foundation, etc, ever does or would ever think of doing-- engaging in public debate. Airing things out. this is totally democratic. I put myself on this blog with all my ideas and all my faults and say, "Let's have at it."
Does any other lit figure do likewise? When's the last time Dave Eggers accepted questions and criticisms from anyone and everyone?
When's the last time you did, Anonymous? You won't even give your name!

King said...

p.s. The Writer Who Sells Millions sure must be embarrassed by his own work, as he's afraid to mention it.
Who's the last popular novelist who was any good?
Evan Hunter (Ed McBain), who died the other day, had real talent-- which he undercut continually in the interest of conformity to generic mediocrity; to the norms of the publishing industry.
The ULA's goal is to make good writing again popular-- as it was in the days when Erskine Caldwell, John O'Hara (or even Mickey Spillane, who's writing was exciting) were selling stupendous numbers of books to ALL classes of people, not just to lawyers or bourgeois matrons like the current John Grisham batch of mediocrities.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, that's right - I'm not giving my name. Maybe because I'd rather not see my inbox and mailbox clogged up with the claptrap you guys spew when anyone questions your motives. I knew Evan Hunter - he would have bitchslapped you guys had he bothered to care you existed. And yeah, Eggers ain't perfect - but he's done more for the Icelandic fiction scene than anyone else. (Or are those Icelanders all sellouts, you know, for getting their work translated into English and into the hands of American readers?)
Moody ain't perfect, either - but he helped nominate some fairly obscure writers to one of the biggest prizes ever. In the new Slushpile, your "King" admits he hasn't read them - but, you know, because they live in a large city they must be crap. ( You should have seen Evan's apartment - and his summer house. And his boat.)
Hey, hold all the readings you want - and support all the writers you want. Some of you guys are quite good. But don't pretend you're anything different than one more literary clique. Just because you have less money and sell fewer copies than the Eggers gang (or the Mailer gang, or the Moody gang, etc. etc. etc.) doesn't make you "revolutionary." You're a club: get over it. And won't it be funny when your stunts finally get enough bigwig attention that the best of you is offered real money by big publishers.

Anonymous said...

PS. I wonder how long before you wimp out on anonymous comments again. Funny how you only want criticism from people you can then contact personally...

Fran said...

I've criticized the ULA about several things and haven't gotten a single nasty email (and I don't want any for fuckssake). Maybe I didn't make personal-style attacks though, as others continue to do here. But, really, as I've said before, that seems to go both ways here. And I think that's unfortunate.

I was disappointed that my posts a few weeks ago seemed to have fallen on deaf ears here for some (not all). I can understand their being annoyed though; this is THEIR place after all. And IMO they work hard at what they do. If you disagree with what they do, can't you at least give them credit for trying hard?

I agree that the ULA can come off like it won't listen to and use criticism; that and another thing in particular both trouble me. But I want to know what the supercritical people posting here expect? To me, most of you sound like you don't support any of their goals, forget about supporting them as an organization in specific. I have most of the same goals as they do, but I don't agree with everything they do. I'm not a ULA member for a number of reasons, some to do with the ULA, some to do with me; frankly, I have an aversion to joining "groups." In a nutshell: I generally support the ULA as a whole, but I'm not totally for it whereas I generally don't support the "traditional" publishing industry as a whole, but I'm not totally against it. I can see merit and demerit in both camps. Why can't many others?

Fran, who often prefers to float between, down the gray middle of waterways to get the best view of both banks

Fran said...

I think Moody, Franzen, and the like are competent writers, and maybe even good ones. But are they great writers? I don't think some people making anti-ULA comments here and elsewhere understand that others may see a difference between saying "this writer's good and that writer's great." IMO, the quality bar's been lowered; today people are accepting stuff as being great that yesterday would have been deemed only good, only mediocre.

I think there are a significant number of competent good writers writing today, but I've yet to come across a great one (I'm still looking, still hoping). That may be inherent in the subjective nature of classifying, especially in classifying something as "great"; that kind of thing also often involves waiting, waiting to see if writing stands the "test of time." Because of that and some other stuff, I don't fully agree with the ULA if it's saying this seeming no-great-writers phenomenon is primarily "publishing's fault." (And I'm not sure it is saying that.) I think modern human society has unfortunately primarily been a quantity over quality one for decades. Society seemingly isn't producing "greats" for a number of reasons and in many industries. Not just in writing, not just in publishing. Great humans in general aren't being produced either--at least not in significant quantity.

Fran

- Leopold said...

Good posts as usual Fran. It's nice to read this blog and read something written by someone other than a ULA member that also has substance to it. I'm not sure about the others, but I appreciate it and enjoy your comments.

Fran said...

Thanks again, Leopold, for the supportive compliments! I haven't forgotten your nice response to me last time. One question: is this the ULA's official blog, or just Karl's primarily as publicity director? I seem to remember another blog link posted somewhere with ULA in the URL--have I imagined that though? I'll check out the main ULA page again....

I wonder if there would be more outside comments in a blog with ULA in the title? Karl seems to focus on very specific things here. (Don't mean that as a criticism, just as a statement on what this blog seems to be--I'm just tossing around ideas that might be useful, for what that's worth, which may not be much!) People can be shy about posting if they don't have anything very specific to say--like if they're not knowledgeable enough about those certain things being discussed.

Take care,

Fran

- Leopold said...

As far as I understand it, this blog was originally intended to be a sort of 'gathering point' for discussion by ULA members, and a blog for Karl.

At one point I believe there was an entire ULA blog, but this is mainly just Karl's blog and, as publicity director, at lot of what he focuses on are his views and generating publicity. Certainly noting wrong with that and Karl does a consistent and good job. But I think because it's the only blog officially tied to the ULA that people come here and think that this is the official voice of the ULA, and because Karl's nick is 'King' that this is where he keeps all his 'followers' in line. From what little I know of Karl, I can think of nothing he would want less than a 'King Wenclas fan club'. I certainly didn't join the ULA to be that and have never felt any pressure to do so. Karl is a very key player in the ULA, though, so a lot of what goes on here covers the ULA, but it is not the official ULA blog, nor does it represent what all members of the ULA think. As we say over and over, we're pretty diverse and disagree a lot. But we're positive because we focus on the things we DO agree on. And those are big things.

I agree that a forum style site for the ULA would be probably less confusing, be better received amongst our detractors and open discussion more. It would be good to have one place where all ULAers could post, and even non-ULAers join in the discussion on a somewhat more level playing field. (A blog will always be top down and there is little to be done about that.) I've thought that a forum would be a nice addition to the ULA for some time now, however, I believe in the past something like this was started for a while, but it fell apart just because it needs more management to keep going and ULAers are pretty busy people. A forum might be more susceptible to the kind of petty anonymous attacks you see here from time to time. I think at some point, it might be possible, and it's definately something the ULA should keep on the list for the future. I'd like to see it, but until somebody has the time to step forward, start one and maintain one, this blog is going to be it.

The big advantage of King's blog is that he has the drive to keep it going. The only other people in the ULA who come even close to devoting as much time and thought into the organization are Pat Simonelli and, perhaps, Steve Kostecke. Karl is good at generating publicity here as well, even if some of his views may be controversial with other members in the ULA. Under anybody else's management, this blog might fall apart.

King said...

Where did this idea of contacting people "personally" come from? Or, what exactly is wrong with it? Are people afraid of mere words?
The people I send e-mails to, outside the ULA, are rare. When I do, it's to hype some one or another event (which is kind of my job in the ULA), or to counter egregious statements.
Some folks seem afraid of free speech. Individuals who tolerate no discussion of literature themselves, but are worried I might shut out the "anonymous" crowd.
When are the corrupt posturers on the current lit scene, yes, the Rick Moodys, going to open themselves up for questions? Ever?
We put ourselves open to all criticism, all kinds of attacks-- and have received them! Invariably they turn out to be complete nonsense-- as the latest batch which I'll address when I get the chance.
(Get A Clue Dept: Someone brings up an array of charges against the ULA, as I'm in the middle this week of promoting a show, then huffily accuses me of avoiding them, because I haven't IMMEDIATELY gotten to them. Just another day in the life of the Underground Literary Alliance.)
p.s. Yes, we had a forum once-- it was exciting but also time-consuming, Jeff Potter and myself taking on everyone and anyone. This blog was originally intended solely as an outlet for myself, to semi-privately vent. It took me awhile to even mention it to others. When I did, Steve had it attached to the ULA site. If it is or not makes no difference. I use it as a forum for my ideas, which tend to revolve around the ULA most of the time.

Fran said...

??? King, I don't know if your comments are directed at me or Anonymous(es) or both or what. But I think there is constructive criticism and then there is destructive criticism (and a whole spectrum in between and outside those two). The former is normally done by people who want the individual's efforts they're commenting on to succeed; the latter is normally done by people who want the individual's efforts they're commenting on to fail. I'm not in the latter group w.r.t. the ULA.

But, you're right: this is a bad time to say anything negative-sounding here. I've not been feeling at all well this week; my head ain't on straight in consequence. Guess I'm losing track of time now: for some reason I thought the Philadelphia event was next weekend. Duh!

I hope things go well for you all this weekend; it sounds like it will be a lot of fun. Wish it were televised somewhere I could see. Practically the only stuff that get's televised anymore is shit. Oh well.

I'll go back to lurking now,

Fran

King said...

I wasn't referring to you, Fran!
Thanks for the kind remarks.

BradyDale said...

With regard to the question of this original post, I have to say... I think there are some tough questions before the ULA. When I performed this weekend I was scared out of my mind - and I'm usually not scared on stage. The reason I was so scared was because, honestly, I found a lot of the work presented to be polemical and/or abstract. I thought my stuff would be hated.
It wasn't hated, but that might have been because I was funny. Funny lets you get away with a lot. I guess what I'm saying is that it isn't clear to me that the ULA has as clear an idea of what it's trying to get out of literature as I originally thought. I don't know any other way to say it... but what's the ULA aesthetic?
King W has written a lot about working class stories about workin class people, but we didn't hear too much of that sort of thing this Saturday. We didn't hear a lot of work that, I think, would have made sense to a Union Man. You know?
I think Wred Fright's would have. I think I would have. I think probably the African American woman who did her poem about the "Same old Bullshit" would have... but other folks would have lost them.
Lots of the work lost me.
Soooooo... I think it is worth throwing the question out there - what should ULA work look and sound like and who should dig it and why? I'm not really a big tent guy on this kind of question, either.