Monday, August 08, 2005

The ULA Goes 826!

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.

6 comments:

Bryan Guski said...

It's so funny, because I also had a dream: a dream in which King Wenclas remains head of the ULA.

Unfortunately, in this version, I never make the boatloads of money as a fiction writer (what are fiction writer boatloads, 35K a year?), so I never can afford my three-piece suit, my Madision Avenue address, moving to New York, nor can I afford a time machine to go back in time to attend Brown. This all has the sad consequence of not allowing Wenclas to conjure up bizzare rich-guy fantasies, masturbating until he rips his own dick off.

Instead, he continues to run the ULA. He posts. He posts. He says something about one of two authors he's more fixated on than their own fans. He posts. He tells everyone how much progress has been made. He becomes so terrified of any critical comments that he tries to prevent them by changing who can leave them on his blog. Every 4 years, he holds a massive reading in a shitty bar in front of 30 people, and says its a shame "for the newspapers themselves" that they didn't show up.

Every day, he leaves two or three posts, and three or four comments reiterating the same thing: the ULA progresses! Our success is about to begin! Here it is, beginning! Do you all see it beginning? Remember, I talked to George Plimpton! The NYT once mentioned us in passing on a feature about blog lit (in an insulting manner, quoting Les Miserables musical lyrics!)! Can't you see our success beginning! Gawker used to mention us before they got tired! Here comes that success! No, don't worry, success doesn't lead to high readership until at LEAST the 15 year mark!

Of course, none of his writers, his rotating cast of cannon fodder he calls ULA "members" care that nothing is really happening. Some like being in a cute little after school club. It makes them feel important, nice little automaton movementarians (although not being rich or from New York allow them to believe they're not automatons). Most of these members rotate their way on out of the group after 4 months, or a year, or a year and a half when they realize how worthless it is. The only ones who stick around and participate actively are desperate, angry old men, on there knees their clenching Wenclas's Bukowski-Lite fashionista jacket, begging through clenched teeth: "Please King! I NEED TO MATTER! MAKE ME FAMOUS! I MUST BE FAMOUS!" JD & Jeff & Frank offer their little scraps of fiction, not published only because they were rushed to Rupert Murdoch's office and he rejected them because they threatened him. This stuff'll change the world, and King promises them it will. And then nothing happens.

And then nothing happens. And then nothing happens. And then nothing happens.

It gets boring. Frank & King start to get bored. They start imagining their critics sitting in high rises, famous evil authors looking over their shoulders, telling them what to type. "Who do you work for?" asks Frank, in the single most pathetic moment in ULA history. How could Bryan Guski be a real name, asks King. You must have been that man I saw that time doing that thing! Ah ha! Our thesis insists that no person unconnected to rich and famous authors, or at least no person who doesn't wish to be a sellout author themselves could criticize us! So they fashion a world around their fantasies, and all things fit. It really is like watching an old-school Marxist history professor at work. They take Marxism back in time, to the Reformation or Black Death and make everything fit their model, even though most of it doesn't, ignoring all contrary evidence, because they HAVE TO BELIEVE as they do, or they cease to exist. That's the ULA, well, without the degrees.

The ULA will continue to believe because Bukowski made it, they will. They have no other reason to feel that way, ironically railing against New York sycophants while being incredible sycophants themselves. Shitty poetry, boring Florida metafiction, and awful Bukowski-lite written 45 years after the original...and despite the 4 and half decade late start, they still think is "revolutionary."

And through it all, King will stick around, "for you." Not for him. He doesn't want this, after all. He made personal sacrifices. Perhaps he should read the history of petty dictators. In their words, they never want to stick around. They always make personal sacrifices. They always HAVE to stay, until the "state of emergency" is over. And, of course, the "state of emergency" never ends.

Poor King, the great ripped-off one, makes $6.50 an hour ripping off other people. But that literal rip off is different than his metaphorical one, of course, cuz he gotta make a living. And besides, you want to feel sorry for some shut-in shmo who gets ripped off by him, or save your energy to feel sorry for the lack of readership of one old, angry, worn out, and shitty writer?

Karl, and two or three of his most loyal lap dogs (cough, I MEANT "equals") will continue to have a sad, crazy impression of their enemies. Even if tongue and cheek, King will never realize that there's no "peace offer" to be made to "them," because there is no "them." Who did you think could accept it? If a copy editor at Bookforum said "I accept", would it have mattered?

No, because there is no "lit castle," no solid mass of every "sell-out" writer, every mainstream large and medium size press, every reviewer, every literature professor, every writing program. If there were, perhaps you'd have a real target. But no, you take shots at whisps of fog, never understanding the forces of a major conspiracy are not working against you. The New Yorker writer who gets paid like an intern and gets some little ditty published once or twice before not being published again doesn't know Rick Moody and didn't help him get a grant. They don't know Jon Franzen and weren't accomplice-after-the-fact in buying art. But because you'll never get to either of those guys, you'll take it out on that little peon, thinking bullying some nobody is a strike at the heart of some beast that doesn't exist.

But Karl, as you know, your success will never be up to me, or any critic, or any of your enemies. The "masses", the vast numbers of people who should be reading the ULA and would love it beyond description, they're your problem to try and find. And after 5 years, you still don't have them. You don't have any of them. You've just picked up a couple more fucking zinesters.

So here's what I'll tell you, King. I'm done with this site. Feel free to continue to use my name--I know you will--it's on permanent loan to you. The site has successfully bored the shit out of me in only a few days. To think you can move from anger to utter indifference so quickly is a little mind boggling, but it is your greatest accomplishment thusfar in your life.

So I guarantee you this: You're old, Karl. Old and angry. Angry at things no one can help you with. Moody never selling another book isn't going to help. Franzen having a painting dragged out of his house by the NEA isn't going to help. You need to matter, and REALLY matter. You need to a famous writer, and adored. You need your readership to shoot up to such an extent that you really do get Simon & Schuster publishers to shake in their boots. And it is NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN. It won't happen not only because you don't have the right access, even if that is a reason. It'll never happen because your writing is not worth getting out of your chair, walking to the mailbox, and opening the envelope with the manuscript for. Wenclas, if he's remembered by the literature-obsessed at all (and only the most dedicated followers, I'd guess) will ironically be remembered as a Rick Moody footnote.

And guess what, King? It's not up to me. So go prove different. Go ahead. I'll be waiting. But I get the distinct impression I'll never hear your name again, and certainly for nothing connected to your writing (which I've still never heard happen, anyway...you're only mentioned for disliking two famous guys). Give obscurity a call and a dozen roses, Wenclas, she still loves you, if nobody else does.

J Potter's bruised prostate said...

Oh snap!!

Farewell, Guski, we will miss your eloquent eviscerations of the King and all his Men.

And I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought it bizarre that the great, authentic literary rebel KW is using his forked tongue to shill unwanted products to people during their dinner time. Just thank God he's not a part of some corrupt, money-grubbing publishing empire. That would be horrible.

But to catch the irony would require serious self-reflection on behalf of the King, and serious self-reflection is sorely lacking here.

Guski's got your number King. Read over the post a couple of times. You could learn a lot about yourself.

-jp's bp

King said...

Sorry I'm not on a trust-fund, guys, and do what I have to in order to survive. Like many ULAers.
The question is why the mere existence of the ULA bothers you so much. There are, what?, 900 other writer groups in the country? All play by the rules, don't upset anyone, and have made not a ripple in the pond of the literary scene.
What about Wordwrights, for instance? Are they still around? A community of writers in Wash DC, publishing regularly some pretty good fiction and poetry. They seem to have vanished from sight.
That the Underground Literary Alliance IS still operating after five years, with all the opposition and backbiting we've faced, and constant disbelief from people who should be on our side, is a victory in itself.
What most bothers some people is that we're NOT going away.
(I've gone easy on you, "Bryan," by not exposing your identity.)

King said...

Regarding ULA progress-- or lack thereof-- which is what now seems to most bother this person:
No one said it'd be easy!
We're trying to do the nearly impossible, by creating an alternative literature with its roots in the zeen scene. Judging from where we started, our progress has been amazing. It's come, of course, in fits and starts-- which is how things happen. As I've said before, when we were most "on point" is when progress went most swiftly.
We've engaged in some great happenings-- like the debate with Plimpton and his gang. That's nothing to be ashamed of.
As I've reiterated many times, at times in the ULA's history no one had faith in the basic plan. At one point we were down to a few people. The test of any organization, any idea, is how people behave when things aren't going your way. Anybody can join a group which is getting constant publicity (as we've received at times). Bandwagon jumpers eager for their slice of the pie.
I'll be putting up a post about ULA membership when I can. What I DON'T want on this team are individuals who become hysterical at the first signs of difficulty, or from stray noises of opposition from the big guys. People like that are merely divisive.
I put a lot of analogies into one of my early outlines of our strategy in New Philistine #45, which assessed the problems facing writers, and ways to deal with them. I said we'd have to be like a commando team climbing a mountain or assaulting a beach-- that we needed cooperation, coordination, and discipline.
The ULA's purpose is upfront. We're here to promote underground writers and lobby for underground writing. The noise we make is part of this. That it still has the ability to panic people means we haven't totally lost our edge. But yes, we need to be much, much more aggressive, as i've said, to get things truly going again. We will be.
Whatever the case, unilateral surrender is no answer!

King said...

Further. . . .
Do I post too much on this blog?
Probably. It's one aspect of the ULA advocacy campaign, but often keeps me from other important ULA activities.
I waste a lot of time arguing with people who'll never understand me, the ULA, or our strategy; it's all beyond their comprehension. Some have the mind through which no light ever penetrates: the classic blockhead.
Re my calling. If you knew what I'm currently calling for, I think most of you would agree it's for a worthwhile cause.
A couple years ago I was raising funds by phone for an environmental organization. What I did was similar to what I do now. Then I created images in people's heads about what the world would be like if we ceased our dependence on oil. (It would un-fund the terrorists, for one thing!) I talked about hybrid vehicles before most people had heard of them. And yes, at the conclusion of my calls I got affluent folks to take out their credit cards and donate to the organization which employed me. Some good things were accomplished-- such as a bill passed in New Jersey requiring auto manufacturers to make hybrid and other such low-polluting cars available for sale. (This was BEFORE the big spike in gas prices.) Because of the passage of such bills, the creation of momentum, manufacturers like Ford were encouraged to invest in hybrid technology, and absorb the expense of retooling their assembly lines in order to make them.
It's all advocacy. What I'm doing with the ULA isn't much different, except, obviously, we do no fundraising.
But we do lobby for the cause of underground writers. People can dismiss this or not as they like-- I happen to believe in the future of such writing.
Getting a Jack Saunders some attention-- asking or even demanding that press people pull themselves away from "chick-lit" for a moment in order to cover him-- in my book is a good thing.
Can literature stand new ideas, new tactics, new kinds of writers?
Absolutely!

King said...

(To try to be fair, I've re-read "Guski"'s post. All I see is a great deal of cynicism from a person who can't believe in anything, and always gives the most negative take on things-- while offering no actual evidence to bolster his points. Yes, I believe in what I'm doing. Guilty as charged!
We do attack the literary establishment-- which does exist, as I've documented and will continue to document. But the main thrust of the ULA campaign is a very positive one-- which most bothers "Bryan" and which he most denigrates.
As I've said, maybe the ULA campaign won't succeed. But we've already taken a good shot at overturning the apple cart, and if we keep going, can do so again.
One thing we know about "Bryan" is that if he continues hopelessly, haplessly playing by the rules, it's guaranteed he'll never get anyplace. His fate is that of about 400,000 other go-along writers.
At least the ULA DOES exist. We have a fan site that's not where we want it to be, but is far ahead of most other literary websites, all 10,000 or so of them.
Where is Bryan Guski? The individual not capable of believing in anything, railing at those who try to make change, yelling, "No! Don't do it! It's hopeless! You'll never succeed!"
The voice of the skeptic throughout history.
Well, we'll see.