In the last couple days I accidentally stepped into the middle of a dispute on another blog between Pindledyboz Editor Whitney Pastorek and blogger/writer Tao Lin. Many interesting questions have been raised.
1.) Foremost is the matter of blackballing a writer, as Whitney may have sought to do by sending out a mass e-mail to others when Tao broke one of her publishing rules.
How often does this kind of thing go on? How often has it been done regarding the Underground Literary Alliance? Anyone with inside knowledge care to comment?
2.) Tao's solution for dishonesty in the literary world is to meet it with more dishonesty, accompanied by self-serving statements about engaging in "civil disobedience." (Couldn't Nasdiij and J.T. Leroy say the same thing? They probably have.)
Tao's actions, however rationalized, will hurt writers, not help them. He breaks any bond between independent writer and independent editor. Whitney's request for first publication of all work may have been unfair, ill-advised, and misguided, but it was her request and she was upfront about it. Tao ignored it in the pursuit of his own self-interest, with fancy gloss put over it.
This, at a time when the small press is being swallowed up by bigger fish, when they're modeling themselves on corporate practices. Whitney, already total captive of the monopolies (intellectually and in fact) will run to CLMP. They'll tell her: "Contracts!"
Conglomerates require a contract for everything, which results in overlegalized, overregulated literature. It leads to heavyweight attorneys like those on CLMP's board calling too many shots.
I've operated without contracts throughout my ULA activities. Frankly, I've been burned because of it. Maybe I'm naive, too much of an anarchist, to believe we can be better than this; to believe that lit-folk can operate on a foundation of cooperation and trust.
When the writer shafts anyone who's trying to help him with a project, he's ultimately shafting himself. (Call it karma: a law of the universe.)
(I wonder if Tao has a contract with Melville House?)
3.) There's the question of basic dishonesty involving Tao Lin. I'm concerned because the ULA was burned in a small way last year by two writers who misrepresented themselves to us; who knew our outlook yet joined regardless, then resigned in a flurry of fury and sound without a hint of warning. (They quickly set about shafting each other.) One of these writers is a good friend of Tao's. Tao and his friend are both very prolific writers, sound and think alike, and for both the main concern beneath their posturing is to be published as often as possible: the out-of-control WILL I've spoken about-- all else subservient to the writer's single-minded progress.
(Tao Lin, incidentally, appeared at the same time the ULA dissension occurred-- one of his earliest appearances on this blog.)
4.) There remains to me the question of his identity. In this day of J.T. Leroys, it's a question which has to be asked. What's his backstory? Has he posted elsewhere before his sudden emergence as if born full-grown from the womb? Is he an Asian-American writer? Where does he get the time for so much blogging and writing-- a tremendous amount which is not found often? (I wish ULAers, who never suffer from writer's block, were that prolific.)
Questions and more questions. Anyone have any answers?