I've been envisioning the course of the ULA if critics have their way and a successful coup ousts me from the organization.
First step will be to change the look of the ULA's writers. They don't fit the proper self-absorbed trendy-hip image needed. I mean, Jack Saunders? Get real!
The new ULA caretakers commission a Madison Avenue digital makeover of Big Jack, sans beard, dressed in latest Yves St. Laurent fashions. The caretakers study the digital photos, frowning.
Crazy Carl Robinson is put onto a crash diet and ordered to remove the "Crazy" from his name. Wred Fright and Frank Walsh are sent to Brooks Brothers. Their wrestling masks and other costumed paraphernalia are taken away. Wild Bill is no longer to be called Wild or Bill, but William, and is required to begin wearing shoes and a shirt-- also told to get rid of the pit bulls and become a vegetarian.
Leah Smith is not allowed to own cameras. After focus group studies, it's decided space exploration isn't fashionable. Spaceships will no longer appear in Yul Tolbert cartoons. His new, approved subject is a band of hip trust-funders who hang around Manhattan bistros. There will be no more finger photos or finger drawings.
All hints of proletarian or rural attitudes and culture are removed from ULA writings and the ULA site, which henceforth will be in strict black-and-white, including no outrageous depictions of writers facing tanks. It will, however, have cute fonts. The site's domain name is changed from "literaryrevolution" to "literaryaccommodation."
Outside consultants eventually determine that all ULA writers need to be fired. They keep one as a token undergrounder. The ranks are restocked with a host of McSweeneyites capable of the much-practiced Eggers/Foster-Wallace narcissistic smirk. All are well-bred and well-schooled. All write exactly the same witty-cute way. A new version of Slush Pile is ordered from Iceland. The writing and presentation are professionally slick. The new editor previously worked for Pindledyboz. The issue costs twenty-five dollars and includes a free cd.
A different manifesto is put onto the ULA site. It announces the ULA's new "get along with everyone/don't make waves" policy. The manifesto is written by Heidi Julavits.
To celebrate the changed ULA, Director Bryan Guski hosts a big reading on New York's upper east side. No dive bar for this shindig! Overground all the way! One of New York's trendiest clubs is booked for the evening. Taxis and limos drop off an audience of the gentry, eager to see and be seen. Pompadours and preppy-dresses everyplace, and scores of Brown grads originally from Switzerland and France. Very chi-chi. Look! There's Tom Beller! And Elissa Schappell! Others of the "Three Thousand." Isn't it wonderful to be at peace?
The sole writer holdover from the previous ULA regime is lost amid a shoving crowd of the beautiful people. A bouncer is about to throw him out for not being properly dressed. "No! Wait!" ULA Director Bryan Guski in three-piece suit intervenes. "He's with me."
Bryan is ready to begin the evening. He's introduced by his new buddy: Rick Moody. "I always loved The Ice Storm!" Bryan gushes.
Bryan reads from his notes about how, from now on, everything in the lit world will go smoothly, without a murmur of disagreement. "After all," he insists. "Isn't everything in literature perfectly okay? Tonight there will be no ungenteel noise, no protests, no heckling," (sneering) "no balloons, no street poets, no poor people, no 'Read-Offs,' no 'Crazy Carl' prizes for the audience; no boxing promoter hats or wrestling masks; no gaucheries. Instead, everything will be exactly the way we want things always to be. Aristocracy Forever! The status quo always!"
Modest applause, what will be the biggest response of the evening. An austere young woman with bobbed hair and bored voice reads a story about puking up green creme de menthe at an Ivy League sorority party. "Green chunks through my nose," she listlessly relates. To show emotion would be un-cool. She affects disdain at her own story. Then Bryan reads a one-hour excerpt from his novelistic masterpiece, How I'm Like Every Other New York Writer and Want to Be Accepted for Being Me. It's been heard a thousand times before, but the audience listens politely. Excellent manners! They could be pod people.
"Wonderful. Wonderful!" a lone frizzy-haired man surrounded by bodyguards claps at the back of the club, knowing his reign at the top of the literary heap is safe.