Friday, September 30, 2005

The New Literary Establishment

To the argument that there are no literary Insiders with access to the organs of establishment money and media power-- that the Eggers Gang is no different from a writers group publishing a humble lit journal in Kansas-- one can point to a steady ability to draw awards and funds to themselves. (Often because their friends and associates chair the panels!)

I hope some enterprising ULAer is working on a Monday Report about the recent MacArthur "Genius" grant to Jonathan Lethem.

I can't say I know much about the guy. I've read one essay of his-- which was about the 1956 western movie "The Searchers." It was one of the stupidest, most self-involved essays I've ever read. Lethem made no coherent case for the movie's greatness. He showed no new insights about the film. His essay broke no new ground. ("The Searchers" has been overrated by the sniffle-sniff school of corny film criticism for decades.) The essay consisted of little more than Lethem's relating of everyplace he saw the movie, and his babyish personal reaction. In other words, as per usual for McSweeneyites, the focus was most intensely not on the movie, but himself.

A genius? Not hardly. But the guy must have connections of some kind, or friends who could build for him a Potemkin Village reputation, so I guess we can give him kudos for that.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Final Letter Comments

Daniel Handler has informed me he won't answer any of my e-mails (even though he initiated every e-mail exchange we had).

For his sake, this is just as well, because every time he discussed the matter he contradicted previous statements of his, digging himself deeper. For instance, in his first e-mails he said he hadn't shown the letter to anyone but Sedaris. In his last one he admits he "showed it around."

He mentioned the ULA house zeen Slush Pile. Jeff Potter checked his records-- they show that Handler ordered a copy in early May, well over a month before the magic letter made its appearance at litster parties. Slush Pile of course discusses the ULA's exchanges with the Eggers camp. Contrary to his statement that he "doesn't care" about the ULA, and hardly knew anything about us, we find him interested in the feud six weeks before the letter's appearance.

The main point is the big "X" on the letter. I put myself in Daniel Handler's place, and wondered at my reaction if I received a similar letter, from friend or foe, underground or establishment. WHOEVER the letter would be purportedly from, the big "X" in place of a signature would make me question its authenticity-- as it would to anyone with half a brain. Wouldn't it make you question it also? If I later received an e-mail from the supposed author denying any connection, and requesting information, this would further pull me up short. There's no way, at that point, I'd give to someone to publish.

Only someone who knew it was phony to begin with-- whoever constructed it-- would ignore my e-mail. Only someone to whom it was just a gag-- a big joke. In fact, my immediate opinion upon seeing the letter was that it was an obvious shot at the Underground Literary Alliance-- the big illiterate "X" there for wink-wink purposes, obviously aimed at putting us down.

The problem Handler and Sedaris must've run into, if wanting to laugh the whole thing off after it was published, is that the folks at the Ruminator accepted the letter as legitimate, were not in on the joke. Their publishing it opened them up to responsibility which they didn't deserve.

There is no evidence whatsoever that the fake letter existed before Daniel Handler. That it was sent to him without envelope, address, postmark, is ludicrous. We could easily check with the person who handles author mail at HarperCollins and find out what's up. The suggestions I've received as to how it could've happened not even Handler's children readers would believe. Someone said that "X" must've snuck into HarperCollins (past security; without employee ID), found and entered the mailroom, and deposited the naked letter there, someplace where they'd be sure to notice. Ostensibly it was then sent up with the legitimate mail to the proper office, where the employee forwarded the crank, unaddressed etc letter, without comment. The scenario is indeed out of a children's book! The question unasked is why I, "X," or whomever would go to all that trouble, taking the risk of the letter most likely not getting there, when he could've simply dropped it into the mail. Duh! People are working backward for explanation. As usual, the simplest explanation is the best; that Handler, wanting to be a hit at parties, and engaged in the Eggers gang/ULA feud, created the letter himself.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

More True than Ever

Steve Kostecke in the Introduction to Slush Pile #4:

"--how the buffoons of today's American lit world operate. They anonymously post reviews of praise for themselves and their friends; they anonymously attack the ULA, which represents a lit movement based on above-the-boards straight talk; and the most inexcusable part of all, these established writers themselves end up being the ones guilty of committing the low acts that they accuse the ULA of committing! How's that for sheer bullshit? Then the spin comes, the anonymous postings disappear, and Eggers pleads to the NYTimes: 'I just tried to bring back some balance.'"

(Eggers and his friends have 1,000 times more money, resources, and access in this society than we do. They need to balance US??)

Purveyors of Nonsense

Eggers, Handler, and Sedaris could apologize for concocting the fake letter. (All indications and evidence point to them as the originators.) They won't, because they're not big enough. For all their fame and wealth, their millions of dollars, their cumulative character could be put into a thimble. Their failure to acknowledge their mistake proves this.

Why would they care enough about the squawking of a rough band of unknowns to attack us? Because we're the genuine article. Our very existence shows them up as frauds. While they read at Versailles-like palaces, lecture at academies, or parade through gleaming offices of the corporate world, ULAers are engaged in the elemental struggle for survival. We're not insulated by jaded theory and overschooling, nor by success and millions, from the universal realities of the world-- which a Michael Jackman, say, among many others, in the tradition of a B. Traven or Jack London, captures so well. We have no money, pedigree, or connections. As writers we have something more valuable-- access to simple truth.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Folk Synergy

I WAS THINKING about what would've happened had Buddy Holly not died in 1959 in a plane crash. He was already living in Greenwich Village (then an authentic bohemian neighborhood), would've likely been living there a couple years later when Bob Dylan moved into the neighborhood. What an encounter that would've been!-- the most intelligent and adaptable of the early rock n' roll stars listening at some grungy folk club to the unknown bard of folk music.

Early rock n' roll in its essence, in its various strands, was folk music. Rock at its beginning was the music of the hinterlinds, the ghettoes, and the people. Elvis himself was referred to as a folk singer in his first recording years-- the sound of the Sun Sessions is similar to that of the early Bob Dylan.

Folk synergy of the literary kind is to be found in the Underground Literary Alliance-- with added edge. We're bringing together various strands of folk writers; DIY self-created purveyors of verse and prose living authentic lives in the gritty corners of this land; capturing, representing, embodying the rhythmns and voice of the populace.

Establishment literature, created and nurtured within giant institutions, is many things, but it's not folk writing. A Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, Muddy Waters or Hank Williams is not to be found there.

Which brings us to Rick Moody's new novel. Call it glib, showy, intellectual, or accomplished; for all anyone knows it might be the best the establishment machine can now offer. It's a universe removed from what the ULA does. The Diviners is a product of the machine, created from on high after much deliberation and training. Its emphasis is on facile skill, not the soul.The book represents not truth, not authenticity, not the new, but the culmination of process. If you compared Moody to musicians during Rock's early years, it'd be to slick corporate popular musicians of the era like Mantovani or Les Brown and his Band of Renown. There are no rough edges to polish or complain about, because there were never any rough edges to start with. No one would think of discovering Moody in a bohemian neighborhood, or finding new wisdom there if you did. You may as well seek artistic wisdom from an executive at General Motors. Rick Moody was discovered on estate lawns; in the salons and ivy-covered institutional halls of the status quo. His book doesn't experience America from within. It glimpses the nation from above, portraying the superficial noise and flash of a television show.

If you want to meet today's folk writers you'll come to Philly to listen to Frank Walsh or argue with Michael Grover. You would've been here July 16th when we brought folk-lit pioneer Jack Saunders to town. You'd have seen Jack's encounter with young smart-aleck lit stars like Patrick King, Brady Russell, and others. You would've taken part in the new literary folk synergy which has only begun.

E-Mail Note from Ruminator Magazine

"We have already inserted a note in this next issue (Oct/Nov 2005) indicating that you've disclaimed authorship of the letter published in conjunction with the Handler/Sedaris interview published in the Aug/Sept issue. We will also post that note on the web version of the Handler/Sedaris interview when we next update the site.
Susannah McNeely, Editor
Ruminator magazine."

Thank you.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Comedians and Villains

This was once a respectable group of people. They've allowed themselves to become dominated by cynical lit-establishment types-- have damaged their reputation by refusing to acknowledge a mistake. Their Editor's sole response to me, quoted further down on this blog, is a classic of bureaucratic officiousness. A sad moment for a literary journal.

Daniel Handler's quote to me 9/12 regarding Sedaris: "I showed the first letter to Sedaris because I thought it was a hoot."
How great a role did Sedaris play in the publication of the fake letter? Did he arrange it? The conversation of the two men about the letter in the interview takes on greater meaning now that we know their real attitude.

Not the biggest loser, as "Lemony Snicket" is obviously not very intelligent or scrupulous. One would think Sedaris, Eggers, and folks at The Ruminator would've noticed.

Every time he or his flunkies go after the ULA, they blunder. Serious questions have to be raised about how sharp the guy really is-- or if his success is more the product of connections with the Rick Moodys of the lit-world and publicists at Simon & Schuster.

Will they miss an opportunity to demonstrate impartiality and independence?

Saturday, September 17, 2005

The Literary World Today

The actions of an activist protest movement presuppose a level of conscience in one's opponents and among objective observers. It's thought that exposing the TRUTH should in itself be enough to make change. That was my assumption when the ULA campaign began. Now I wonder if my faith in human nature was misplaced.

Despite the recent claims by A.O. Scott in the New York Times, Dave Eggers and his friends have no commitment to truth. None. They seldom "say what they mean" or mean what they say. Everything is a game.

Big guffaws all around no doubt about the fake letter in The Ruminator. Does anyone doubt that Daniel Handler contrived it? Chuckle, chuckle! A big hit at cocktail parties. (Handler's bio info brags about letters he used to send out under fake names.) It makes sense that Handler is a children's author. After all, he lies like a child. "No, I didn't eat the last slice of chocolate cake," the child insists, chocolate smeared over his face!

The fact is that I don't register in this society, and so can be slandered with falsehoods at will. The fact is that Dave Eggers and his friends are to the point of success where they can get away with anything. (This was proved with the Atlantic "killed story" matter, Eggers both initiator and professed victim of the ensuing tragedy.) This is the nature of American society. The sycophantic literary fans are dazzled by the success itself-- then find the qualities they wish to see in the writing. Eggers's memoir a lie? No matter! it's all a game. The baby-like scene of The Dave driving with "Toph" is cringe-worthy it's so contrived, but has meaning for those who identify with him and his privileged bubble-like upbringing.

The biggest obstacle to making change is the demi-puppet state of mind-- the attitude of the herd of media underlings, most themselves from affluent backgrounds, who support unquestioningly top-level aristocratic stars like Eggers and Rick Moody. The rest of American writers, like the bottom 80 or 90% of American society, have no existence for these people. Privilege itself is the highest value; the only morality.

The fake letter trivializes the ULA campaign. It reveals the simplistic way Eggers people see our arguments. Truths about classism and corruption are beyond them. Who does the ULA petition for redress of the grievance? Lit-bloggers? Journalists? Editors at HarperCollins? Not a one cares in the slightest. They lack any conception of the meaning of the word integrity, let alone the trait itself. To careerist sociopaths, success is the only truth, power the only conscience.

So let's throw away the A.O. Scott nonsense that postmodern lying is over. The fake letter in The Ruminator shows the perfection of the postmodern lie, no one involved in perpetrating the hoax the least bit shame-faced.

Friday, September 16, 2005

American Aristocrats

p.s. to the previous post.

Daniel Handler and Dave Eggers have apparently done many readings together, most notably at a swanky function in California on 4/21/05 at, fittingly, the Carolands, "one of the last great private homes in the United States."

"The Carolands was conceived as an adaptation of the Vaux-le-Vicomte, the chateau that inspired Louis XIV to build the palace of Versailles. This 65,000 square foot American Renaissance home was built by Pullman train car heiress. ."etc.etc.

Michael Chabon and Vendela Vida were also present. Guests sat at $10,000 "Pulitzer Prize" tables. The price tag included cocktail reception with the authors, valet parking, and gift bag.

There were other, various priced tables, all the way down to the slummy $500 "Booker Award" tables at the back.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Case of Daniel Handler Part II: The Other E-Mail

At the bottom of Daniel Handler's first, 9/11, e-mail to me is attached a copy of an e-mail I'd sent him on June 27th. This reminded me that I HAD sent him an e-mail about the fake letter, over two months ago. What prodded my e-mail?

On June 24th I received an e-mail from a mystery person named "g smithe." I regularly receive a lot of e-mails from mysterious persons. Much I ignore. Many I delete. I had to check back to see if I'd saved this one. I had.

The 6/24 g smithe e-mail read, in part,
"You should know that King Wenclas's derisive letter to Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snickett) is getting passed around by the literati-- not the ULA's strongest statement of purpose. Don't know if your "king" has been hitting the bottle or what, . . . ."

I replied that I'd sent no letters to anyone lately, that I wasn't sure who Handler/Lemony Snickett was, that the language described didn't sound like me, but I couldn't be sure unless I saw the letter.

"g smithe" responded with an e-mail 6/26:
"Thought it seemed out of character. Don't have a copy of the letter-- it was passed around at a party, not electronically-- but you can ask the man himself. . . ."
"smithe" included Handler's e-mail address.

On 6/27 "smithe" sent me another e-mail:
"Looks like McSweeney's & Co. are prepping a response . . . if you really didn't write him a letter you'd best nip this in the bud. . . ."

Though I thought the whole thing was a made-up prank, in order to cover myself I immediately sent Handler an e-mail:
"The letter supposedly from me being handed around at parties is a fake.
Anything you can tell me about the matter would be appreciated."

I also posted a comment on my blog on June 29 publicly disclaiming any connection to any such letter, then forgot the matter. Whether or not Handler read the June 29 post (aware as he now was of my blog, as he said), he received and read my 6/27 e-mail, as shown when he attached it to his 9/11 message.

Handler was aware on June 27 of my denial-- yet he gave the fake letter to The Ruminator anyway, which is highly unethical behavior, maybe libelous.

I'll gladly forward a copy of my 6/27 e-mail to any lit-blogger interested in the truth. I doubt, though, that anyone wants to touch this.

Know this about the Eggers gang: Even when they're wrong, they're not wrong. They're not wrong even when caught red-faced and red-handed, as they've been time and again. They're never wrong, and never can be, simply because they're such wonderful people.

Call it the arrogance and insularity of privilege, success, and power.

The Case of Daniel Handler, Part I

It's a good policy to operate in an upfront, open manner. Games, trickery, and anonymous names have a way of backfiring, as we've seen before.

I asked to see the postmark and envelope of the Ruminator letter, because I KNEW I hadn't sent the thing. (Granted that I may have enemies in Philly-- none though who'd stoop to such behavior as sending a fake letter.)

The letter should be recognized as fake by anyone familiar with my writing. I don't need to call anyone an "asshole," when I have logic on my side.

Daniel Handler has sent me two e-mails about this matter. I'll present the facts and let you, the reader of this blog, decide where lies the truth of the matter.

In his first e-mail to me, dated 9/11, Handler makes several assertions. 1.) The letter was forwarded to him by his publisher. 2.) He'd never heard of me before that time. 3.) He believed the letter was real because it matched the language of this blog. (We can presume then that after reading the letter he read this blog.)
The end of Handler's e-mail shows no anxiousness to get to the bottom of the matter: "I don't know what's going on and frankly don't care . . . if you'll excuse me I'm off to my local dive bar to drink bourbon and read Frederick Busch."

Several questions went through my head after reading Handler's statement-- first among them being, "Why did he wait so long to respond to this matter?" Note that his response occurred only after I tried to force his hand, asking, "Where's Daniel Handler?"-- and after I added a note showing that I was open to the possibility that he had indeed received the fake letter from somebody. Suddenly he let me know that he did receive it, indeed!

Why the wait? Once he was aware of my blog, wouldn't he look in periodically AFTER the letter appeared in The Ruminator? Wouldn't his friends at The Believer keep him updated?

On August 27 I put a post up on this blog, "Fake Letter," which addressed the controcersy. Whatever he'd thought beforehand, Handler should've been aware that the letter wasn't from me. Yet he sent no e-mail to me-- not for two weeks. He made no response while I notified The Ruminator, while Jeff Potter did; while further discussion occurred on this blog, along with the big Patrick Simonelli Monday Report on the matter on the ULA site.

On September 8 Maud Newton mentioned the controversy on her widely-read site. The injured party Daniel Handler remained silent-- until September 11. Curious behavior.

(As we'll see in Part Two of this post, Handler knew the letter wasn't from me long before this.)

I'll readily accept Handler's other contention that he'd never heard of me or the ULA before receiving the letter (only his friends know the truth about this), even though The Believer, whose editors he's tight with, and which he presumably reads, did a contentious lead article on the ULA in 2003, which led to some minor "Page Six" controversy. He'd never heard of us though we attended a 2003 McSweeney's-sponsored affair at Housing Works in New York which had led to other "Page Six" publicity. He'd never heard of us even though the New York Times did a front-page article in January 2004 about anonymous Amazon attacks on the Underground Literary Alliance by Dave Eggers. The New York Times Book Review listed our site in their pages in October 2004, but Handler never reads the book journal. Many, many people have never heard of the ULA-- the Eggers gang NOT among them. But we can still accept his statement.

What we DO know is that Daniel Handler was aware of us AFTER receiving the letter, as he admits, BEFORE giving the letter to The Ruminator. This gives his exchange with David Sedaris more meaning, adding to the "wink, wink, nod, nod" tone of the exchange.

In my response to Handler's September 11 e-mail, the one in which he said he didn't care about the matter, I pointed out that he'd cared enough to pass around the letter at parties, and to give it to The Ruminator to publish publicly. I said (sincerely) that I wanted to find out who sent the letter. I asked about the postmark.

Handler replied on September 12. He said:
-"The letters were forwarded from my publisher, without the original envelope, as with much of my mail."
-"I don't bring private correspondence to parties,"
-"I can't imagine why we'd have any reason to communicate further,"

Note Handler's eagerness to drop the matter. Most interesting is the idea that his publisher opens his mail. I've had mail forwarded to me by periodicals and companies, addressed to me c/o the publication or company. Even when The Atlantic printed a simple letter by me, some time ago, they forwarded, unopened, mail addressed to me that was afterward sent to them. In fact, opening mail addressed to someone else, as far as I'm aware, is against the law. (Daniel Handler might want to notify his publisher about this.)

Even when one employs or designates a secretary or agent to handle one's mail, standard business procedure is to staple the opened envelope to the back of the letter. Often a return address is given only on the envelope. Everyone who receives a lot of mail-- as I do-- knows this. Further, the envelope is legal evidence that one received the item on such and such date. This is important ESPECIALLY if one is going to publish the letter. One could hardly credibly publish such letter without such proof of mailing and reception. Without such evidence, one may as well assume the letter was never mailed or received at all.

This is damning evidence to any notion that I sent the letter. It's reason alone for immediate apology and correction from The Ruminator, and from Handler himself. However, there's more, as I'll discuss in Part II, "The Other E-Mail."

Monday, September 12, 2005

The Eggers Juggernaut?

From the ULA's perspective, everything seems to be going "The Dave's" way.

We've been on the defensive since July; betrayed from within, attacked from outside. We're like the Achaeans at their ships in The Iliad, on the verge of being pushed back into the sea with nary an Ajax or Patroclus in sight to save the day, much less an Achilles.

Eggers, meanwhile, allied with rich and powerful lit-Insiders like Rick Moody, expands his empire as he strengthens his connections with the leading conglomerate publishing companies. Can anyone remember, or believe, that Eggers once portrayed his venture as alternative and D-I-Y? He misrepresented himself from the beginning. Now he's the center of energy and power of establishment literature.

Folks at small lit-journals like The Ruminator will naturally be afraid to offend the Eggers gang-- would sooner besmirch their own reputation by letting stand without correction a fake letter in their pages. Who can blame them? If Eggers can force the Atlantic to cave in to his will, as he did a few years ago when they were about to publish a potentially critical article on him, what can one expect from The Ruminator?

Lit-bloggers are likewise cowed. They'll contort their arguments to avoid criticizing Dave and his allies, portraying those who stand up to him as crazy. The most prominent lit-blogger engages in around-the-clock adulation, prepared at any moment to eviscerate his enemies.

In this past Sunday's New York Times we saw an article which is similarly fawning. More than that, it was a free advertisement for one of his publications! Titled "Among the Believers," written by A.O. Scott, the article gymnastically links Dave Eggers in a laudatory if not idolistic way with a new lit project by Keith Gessen called "n +1." Gessen and his friends state "it is time to say what you mean"-- with the unsaid caveat that ideas have meaning in the exclusive realm of established literature only if spoken by the right people.

Eggers has to be chortling over the Scott article. Why? Keith Gessen was the author of the infamous killed Atlantic article which had irritated The Dave. (It was a 95% puff piece.) Gessen was upset at the time-- his friends got me a copy-- yet declined to voice his complaints publicly. Gessen balked when given the opportunity by "Page Six" to express his anger, when asked to "say what you mean." He instead made a careful, inocuous statement. Now Eggers's one-time antagonist is allowed to crawl into the spotlight, in an article whose main thrust is the greatness of Dave!-- "Believers" in big letters in the headline, photo included of Eggers's wife; Gessen's project a secondary consideration. Gessen's radical brainstorm idea, the sudden lightbulb realization that maybe it's time to speak with honesty and clarity (which for the ULA comes naturally) is, 1984-style, claimed for its true originator, the antithesis of the notion; the epitomy of postmodern fakery-- Dave Eggers!

Whatever idea is thought suddenly trendy, there will be found beforehand, like a Big Brother billboard, the smirking mug of The Dave.

But, after all his setbacks and struggles, Keith Gessen is at last taken seriously, adorned with blazer and tie and allowed entrance into The Club. Not through the servants' entrance either! There he strides through the front door, little worse for the wear, albeit noticeably cautious and tame, his eyes rather blank, rather glazed, as if he'd been hypnotized or lobotomized.

Bow to Eggers obsequiously, beg for forgiveness, and maybe you also will be given a portion of acceptability. Or maybe not. After all, it depends on the unpredictable whim and humor of The Dave.

Response from Daniel Handler

Since my last post on this matter, I've received an e-mail from Daniel Handler stating that the fake letter was forwarded to him from his publisher. He also says he's since received another. Handler says he doesn't care about the letters, that he has other things to do, etc. I have to point out that he cared enough to pass it around at parties, and include it in the Sedaris interview, as if it was a big joke.

But who's sending the letters to his publisher? I hope Mr. Handler can get back to me about the postmark. One thing I know is that SOMEONE is going to a lot of trouble to play these pranks. The purpose, as it concerns the ULA, seems to be two-fold.
1.) To mimic and therefore mock ULA agitation.
2.) To discredit the sending of real letters, as we've done under our own names in the past (not for quite some time, to be honest), and thereby chill our right to communicate, petition, and protest.
It's a subtle and warped campaign.

As to who specifically is doing it-- the language strikes me as similar to that of "Bryan Guski," the basketball blogger, and others who've been attacking the ULA on this site.

If the Ruminator prints a correction, this matter will be settled.

The New Paris Review: A Big Mistake

I'm sure I'm not the only person who'll notice that the new look of the Paris Review makes it indistinguishable from generic lit-journals like Grand Street and Kenyon Review.

The Paris Review had an immediately recognizable size and title; distinctive logos and packaging: a true literary brand. 50-plus years of investment in this brand is now destroyed-- without anything distinctive or unique to take its place. A colossal mistake.

Football Notes

A Part-Time Fan. Week One.

-Bret Favre and Steve McNair should've retired.

-Good coaching (Miami; San Francisco) makes a difference.

-Maybe Paul Hackett wasn't the problem with the New York Jets. His conservative system protected Chad Pennington the way a trust-fund baby author is protected by Morgan Entrekin.

Superbowl Prediction: Pittsburgh against Philadelphia.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Where's Daniel Handler?

Why is Daniel Handler silent about the letter in the Ruminator? Why no explanation?

I have to shake my head in disbelief at this matter. It's amazing. I'm libelled with impunity. The lit world looks the other way. Kind of verifies the utter lack of integrity among literary people, doesn't it?

The ULA and Its Enemies

I'll reiterate, for those who don't know, that the Underground Literary Alliance from its beginning has operated in an open, honest, upfront manner. We've documented our accusations. We've presented them under our own names, accepting accountability for what we do and say.

By contrast, Dave Eggers's journal McSweeney's was born in an atmosphere of games and trickery. (Does anyone remember the McSweeney's family?) His publications have contained fake letters and false identities. This has been the essence of his behavior. In 2004 the New York Times itself revealed that Eggers, not the ULA, had engaged in anonymous attacks. Further evidence, in fact, about the two camps is available in the history of this blog. Witness the unrelenting swarm of pseudonymous and anonymous attacks against the ULA, which we confronted under our own names.

The question is out there: Which side is honest and which side lies? The answer, for anyone who looks at the situation honestly, with clear heads and unclouded eyes, is obvious.

What's the ULA? We're the whistle-blowers of literature, and for this we pay a price.

Another Rich Guy Writes a Book

What's the latest literary news,
Media pushed at me and you?
Smarmy feckless familiar review
"Another Rich Guy Writes a Book"
Moody, Wilsey, Beller, Ellis
Fawning questions, gushy coverage
Fops posed to hint at wild danger,
though they look like Wall Street traders
Square-jawed smirky mugs are seen
glossy pages, magazines
Headline message always the same
"Another Rich Guy Writes a Book!"

Friday, September 09, 2005

Class War in the Literary World

Don't kid yourselves-- that's exactly what the battles the ULA is having with the herd of conformist litsters is about. The Underground Literary Alliance has been attacked from outside and from within. Our enemies-- there's no other way to categorize them-- show hardly a shred of integrity. Lies, plagiarism, phony letters, endless anonymous attacks-- the purpose to enforce a Mono-Class Mono-Think Mono-Literature with no place for outsider voices.

What will be the result if our foes have their way and the ULA is destroyed? One of the few remaining voices standing for real outside the mainstream will have been silenced. A steel curtain will have dropped protectively around the status quo. Only the authorized, the certified, the programmed will be consdiered writers. The conjoined bureaucracies of university and conglomerate will reign dominant over literary culture. We see this now-- the ULA and this blog virtually blacklisted, our every revelation no matter how serious scorned or ignored. The herd is mad at US for Daniel Handler's fake letter-- as if, somehow, we forced him to do it.

What the Handler letter reveals is the grimy truth about the privileged darlings at the center of American literature. For bourgeois writers; for the Insider crowd and their apologists and acolytes, there can be no accommodation, no peace with our kind of writer and artist. A big "X" on the bottom of a page-- that's what this crowd of snobs truly thinks of us. Many of us in the ULA have been treated like shit by this society since Day One. The continuation of same shouldn't surprise us-- it always does. At our core we're idealists; thinking there can be a better way; that we can prevail in our fight to rescue literature from the corrupt careerist conformists who have tight hold of it and won't let go.

No, we're not "writers" in the standardized sense. We only WRITE, honestly expressing our experiences and ideas. I heard on a sports radio show the other day a caller say, about an anthology, "I'm not a reader, but I enjoyed that book." Is there a more telling clue about how to rescue the art; a more important statement about what writers should aim toward, who we should include (everyone); what literature should be about?

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Ruminator Response

Today I received this response to my query about the fake letter in the Ruminator:

"We printed a scanned version of the original letter sent to Daniel Handler.
Thank you for your comment,
Susannah McNeely, Editor."

In my reply to this, I said, in part, "Sent to him by who??? Again, I didn't write or send that."

I await further explanation from Ms. McNeely, and from Daniel Handler himself.

(The question: Is this all just a big joke to Handler, Sedaris, McNeely, and others?)

Demi-Puppet Angst

Last weekend I received an e-mail from long-time McSweeney fan Lee Klein. He wondered fretfully why he couldn't post a comment on this blog. This was a surprise to me, as Lee hadn't yet posted here-- at least, not under his own name.

In 2002 when we had the ULA Forum going, Lee was a regular poster, under a variety of names, including "Throop Roebling." If you don't know, Lee Klein is not only a devoted McSweeney's follower, he's friends with Insider writers like Zadie Smith, Amanda Filipacchi, and others. (To Lee, David Foster Wallace is a god.) One might consider Lee something of an overgrown establishment lapdog.

Could Lee Klein be one of a legion of demi-puppets (like "Bryan Guski") eager to score points with influential lit-people by attacking the ULA? No way! I'm sure his intended post was highly complimentary.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

About ULA Membership

I mourn the departure of any ULAer from the team (there have been eight), seeing it as ULA failure-- failure in screening, or in meshing the person into our mad campaign.

We ask ULAers to support one another. The Underground Literary Alliance is supposed to be a team. The idea being, that which benefits the group benefits the individual. That which benefits the individual, by extension benefits the rest of the group, because of the individual's connection to the ULA. Getting the ULA name known is our first priority. One name, all focus on that. ULA. ULA! Everything else will follow. One can't jump to step D by skipping steps A, B, and C.

The amount of influence one has in the ULA depends on the amount of work one does for it, and how strongly one defends it. We ask for agreement with our general goal: The creation of an authentic, alternative literature. We remain open to all kinds of writers, as long as they believe in what we're doing, are willing to identify with our cause, and tie their fate to the ULA name.

We've never demanded loyalty from ULAers, we've only asked for it. Otherwise, why be in the ULA? What would be the point? One of our early members attacked the ULA publicly for over a year, even produced a zeen announcing our demise, yet we never once asked the person to leave. I've given loyalty to each ULAer, even on occasions when doing so burnt bridges to lit people. In return I've HOPED for support from them for the ULA. Commitment is a two-way street. I've never asked anyone to do what I wouldn't do myself; I've been at the forefront of our actions and activities. This to me is the essence of leadership.

Three years ago Michael Jackman was made Director of the ULA in hopes he would take a leading role as organizer and spokesman for the team. He had the personality for the role, was more presentable and articulate than myself. At some point he chose to adopt a low profile. When we find someone else suited for the role, who understands ULA philosophy, who believes in the team and the campaign, that person will be pushed forward.

Too many ULAers have identified the ULA solely with me, judging their positions in the organization according to the status of their relationship with me. If I don't pay them enough attention, or answer every one of their e-mails, or read the entire body of their fiction and poetry-- as if there were ten of me, each one with endless amounts of time-- they're in crisis. The idea is for them to bond with the team; or as important, with the ULA name.

Many of those we've lost were embarrassed to be in the ULA-- and so had no business joining in the first place.

To date, zeensters-- those for whom zeening is not an experiment but a lifestyle; who long ago dropped pretensions of snobbery-- have been the best fit for the ULA. I believe the underground poets we're slowly bringing in will be a good addition as well, along with literary e-zinesters who understand what we're doing. Satirists and comedians mesh easily with us also. (After Neal Pollack fails at everything else, he'll be in the ULA.)

Several profiles of those who weren't completely right for the team:

I brought Michael Grover into the ULA solely because he was a good friend and I liked his poetry-- without thought of preparation, of letting him know exactly what he was joining.

This is the person who hates to takes sides; who, like Rodney King, wants to get along with everyone. "Will Ratblood," for instance, is a nice guy who liked the ULA but also liked our most egregious enemies. He wants to like everybody! Since leaving the ULA and moving to New York City he keeps checking his mailbox for an invitation to join McSweeney's, but the mailbox remains empty.

This is someone who sees, to his mind, our basic incompetence, but also sees the attention we received, which must've dropped by accident from the sky. "What hapless losers!" he thinks. A word registers in his brain: "Opportunity." The cynically impatient hustler appears from nowhere with offers to get us squared away. "I can do this for you, and this, and this. You'll look and sound just like the big guys!" Because his hidden attitude toward us is one of total contempt, the attitude eventually explodes from him and he doesn't last-- particularly when we don't immediately follow his prescriptions for success, don't make peace with conglomerate-run lit media and meld into the System-approved tried-and-failed rulebook mode of operating which for him is a given, but continue speaking out and doing things our crazy ULA way.

We've interested a few conservatives in our campaign over the past several years, but have had difficulty retaining them. Some of our common sense criticisms and ideas are conservative, or at least libertarian, or at least anarchist masquerading as libertarian. Most conservatives, however, believe in hierarchies, while we're egalitarian. We not only represent the underdogs of the lit-world, we ARE those underdogs.

This is a "Writer" with a capital W, the next coming of Henry James, whose accidental fall into our camp is merely a momentary setback. Ugh! Such company! Who is this idiotic Wenclas with his 40's skid row styles, or that unruly Wild Bill guy? Or Wred Fright! The snobby "Writer" is clearly slumming, generously allowing us the honor of promoting him or her while keeping one eye open for better opportunities. We know exit is near when the person stiffly stands and walks with head cocked at a proper nose-in-the-air tilt, and speaks, Madonna-style, with a phony British accent while nasally quoting Martin Amis.

This individual joins up without bothering to learn our history, or read the manifesto on our site, or understand we're a radical, noise-making operation with hosts of enemies; or realize to be a ULAer is to be the most ostracized kind of outcast on today's literary landscape.


Debate rages over whether the folks evicted from New Orleans should be called refugees, evacuees, or survivors. I don't know which term is more accurate-- but I do know that scattered across the streets of Philadelphia and other cities of this great country, long before the hurricane, are people who look to me like refugees; refugees from rat-race American society. I guess as the bar is constantly raised, as more credentials and mentors are required, as the pace of the conformist Machine we all live in becomes faster all the time, many are thrown out of the house of America, or never allowed to enter in the first place.

Maybe there are more refugees in this nation than we think. (Some of them in the ULA.) I've known a lot of underground artists and writers, in both Detroit and this city, and most of them could be described as refugees. No health care, for years, for decades, walking around with accummulating contained ailments. One can spot the undergrounder right away-- usually the person has bad teeth, taped-up eyeglasses, walks with a cane from a broken leg or hip which never healed properly. Sometimes the person is also just a little crazy-- or seems to be to bourgeois outsiders. In truth, these are the sane people. The crazy are the mindless hordes caught up in the gears of the machine, unable to question it, to ask if there might be a better way.

Refugees? What else can millions of Americans consider themselves but refugees from a mad society?

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The Great Shock

This is the screaming we've heard for the past week as the nation's privileged were forced to watch on their TV screens the realities of life in this country-- that there exists an underclass in America which is continually either ignored or treated like shit. This reality takes place every day-- unseen.

Outrage! yell the liberal lit-bloggers. Do something! Don't force us to see!

As these individuals live most of the time in Fantasyland with no sense of context, they look for an easy scapegoat-- which of course is comically and tragically provided by the flailing rich guy who occupies the White House. Remove him and everything will be fine! It's a start, but ignores a class system along with giant institutional forces which dominate this country, including the corporate money which paid for Bush's campaign and election in the first place. The solution is to change the nature of American society itself.

Literature is our chosen arena. The ULA seeks to change the nature of discovering and promoting writers; of ending the elitism and hierarchies in this corner of society.

The same lit-bloggers screaming about the treatment of poor people in New Orleans live in an insular world consisting of only those who look, think, and behave like themselves; writers from similar backgrounds; with familiar education, styles, codes, and ideas. These same individuals mock the ULA constantly, because A.) we're different from them; B.) we demand to be treated as equals. Snobbery and hypocrisy. Daniel Handler, David Sedaris, and the big "X" on the bottom of a fake letter-- there's evidence for what I say.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Establishment Counter-Attack Against the ULA

I'm told that Daniel G. Handler of the fake letter in the Ruminator has close ties to the 826 Valencia crowd. It should also be noted that David Sedaris's sister Amy is a regular contributor to The Believer. The phony letter, then, is in line with steady actions against the ULA over the last few years.

To list several, as a reminder:
-After the ULA's "Firecracker Awards" protest, our house publication Slush Pile being excluded from bookstores with close ties to Dave Eggers. (Such as Atomic Books in Baltimore.)
-The poorly researched 2003 Tom Bissell hatchet job on the ULA, filled with inaccuracies, which appeared in The Believer.
-The January 2004 revelation, discussed on the front page of the New York Times, that Dave Eggers had been personally attacking the ULA anonymously on Amazon.
-The bizarre Rick Moody short story about Philadelphia, "Free Library," in a 2004 issue of Ploughshares. The story includes a character modeled after me, with details about my life which could've been obtained only through investigation, or from a close source.

In 2005 the campaign against myself and the ULA has heated up, as evidenced by the steady variety of attacks on this blog. We've seen phony ULA sites, mad anonymous posts, and imitation Demi-Puppet blogs. SOMEONE has been investing a great deal of time in mocking us. The posts and fake blogs don't appear spontaneously on their own. We can postulate a person or persons behind them. Who?

Though many demi-puppet lit-bloggers hate the Underground Literary Alliance, I doubt the likes of Maud Newton and Company have the time or energy to post very much on this blog, or to create fake blogs. They're busy with their own. (Sucking up to Zadie Smith takes work!) The person behind the attacks on us has to be someone either with leisure time, or willing and able to pay to have the job done.

Dave Eggers is known to engage in vendetta behavior. One can look at his intense and successful campaign to have a 2001 Atlantic article about himself squelched. Or consider the threatening phone calls received by two individuals when a story about the matter was about to appear in "Page Six" of the New York Post. As for Mr. Moody, if he's the utter innocent he portrays himself to be, knowledgeable about little, scarcely touched by the happenings of the world, then he must be excluded from consideration. IF, however, his prominent role in the machinery of the lit-world-- steady appearances on foundation grants panels; founder of the Young Lions series; prominent PEN member and Yaddo overseer; etc.-- is NOT the result of mere accident, then he also has to be counted a suspect. Both men, after all, are very wealthy, and can pay for that which they're unwilling to do themselves.

All this is speculation-- thinking out loud. One sees a pile of shit in the middle of the highway and wonders how it got there.

There have been other recent tactics, such as the McSweeney's peace offer, or the fake Rick Moody cassette tape mailed to me from New York. Games and mischief. Some of it for fun, but some of it with more serious purpose-- to divide the ULA, derail our progress, and shut down this blog.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Jay McInerney the Wonk

McInerney in the 8/28 New York Times Book Review:

"Benjamin Kunkel's 'Indecision,' which manages to make the whole flailing, postadolescent, prelife crisis feel fresh and funny again, even as it sometimes resembles nothing so much as a self-conscious, postmodern homage/parody of the genre. In the end, though, it might just yearn to be something more daring than that, like, maybe, a post-9/11, postironic novel: a tentative response to David Foster Wallace's call for a new generation of sincere anti-rebels 'who have the childish gall actually to endorse and instantiate single-entendre principles.'"

Say what? Single entendre? McInerney isn't being ironic.

Who's Jay McInerney? A well-connected rich guy who made a career out of one Plimpton-mentored Paris Review short story later padded into his only decent novel. Since, he's been mainly a wine taster. That this (yet another) scion of wealth who can't write OR think has the lead essay in our nation's highest circulation literary publication marks the decayed condition of American letters.

The entire tired turgid essay shows two things:
1.) McInerney has forgotten how to write like a human being. Instead, he tries to be a literary intellectual like Foster Wallace-- without accompanying intellect.
2.) Establishment lit-figures like Jay Mac are struggling fitfully, with "tentativeness," toward the solid ground of where the ULA stands now. He calls for clarity in writing without being able to clearly describe it or accomplish it. He applauds "the birth of social conscience"-- "alienated from the status quo and politically awakened"-- which to him has meaning ONLY if members of the status quo like himself or Kunkel embrace the concept!

Contradictions and confusion abound. They want to question and attack the status quo and hang onto it at the same time. They suspect a literary revolution might be taking place. "Wait!" they yell. "Let WE the approved cultural leaders get to the front!"

As in everything, this privileged crowd expects to always be first in line. The Marquis de Lafayette advocating democracy while expecting himself and his friends to remain aristocrats and retain the biggest say.

(Quiz: Spot the blatant typo on the NYTBR's front page.)