Friday, September 15, 2006

Nature of the Beast

A word not thrown around much anymore is "will." The word was once popular with philosophers. Their point was that every organism in the universe-- every cell and conglomeration-- has a will: a hungry unstoppable need to spread, multiply, grow.

While listening to the radio this morning, I heard a report about a failed merger between energy giant Exelon and a small company in New Jersey. A p.r. flack for the smaller firm spoke about how beneficial the merger would've been for them. He sounded like Jeffrey Lependorf. He was disappointed they couldn't come to terms of agreement.

Mergers and buyouts have been the economic story of this country the past thirty years: consolidation within each industry into a handful of giants. Corporations are now multi-nationals, more powerful and influential than governments; operating on a larger and larger scale.

Why would we think things are different with the production of literature? They haven't been. Random House, with unstoppable will, gobbled-up book company after book company-- then itself was swallowed up. Charles Scribners Sons, once the proudest and best of all book companies, is now simply "Scribners," a small piece of Simon & Schuster, which is in turn a small part of Viacom, or someone.

The merger of the giant pieces of culture, through the interchangeability of their members and the standardization of their thought processes-- regulated foundations; corporations; universities; government agencies-- goes unreported, but it's happening in front of our eyes.

The takeover of the small press is part of this. The once-independent agency has been invaded by ruthlessly strong members of the larger industry. They'll drive the CLMP ship-- will drive it inevitably toward themselves. The two entities will be sharing information and will be sharing a lot of things. They're in the process of merger; what the two energy companies were unable to accomplish.

Has the growth of energy giant Exelon been a good thing? For profits; for the corporate bottom line: yes. Tell that to the people who live around the decrepit old nuclear power plant in Oyster Creek, New Jersey. If the owners and decision-makers of the plant lived in that community, they'd feel some obligation to it. They'd be subject to community pressure, to lobbying. But the plant is owned by Peco Energy, with offices in Philadelphia, which is in turn part of Exelon, with headquarters in Chicago. The real decision makers are far removed from their customers and constituents. They're virtually unreachable, sitting in guarded glass structures, the officers having no public identity or address, beyond a post office box, or a 1-800 number with a recording and numbers to punch.

Tell me who now has more influence on the editors at Graywolf Press: the isolated writer with a manuscript, or wealthy trustee James L. Bildner?

Who are a Jeffrey Lependorf or Richard Nash more concerned about, and answerable to, you writers in the hinterlands: you, or their swanky powerful friends in New York?
The Underground Literary Alliance is a threat to the larger literary organism, and perceived as such. ULA writers (as zinesters and e-zinesters) developed outside the body. What's more, we've challenged the larger body at all points. We're in open competition with it, and have announced this. We're NOT on the same side. Our writers and products, our perspective, our goals, our non-hierarchical non-credentialed set-up, are very different from the status quo. We're in no way alike.

This marks us as very different from a "progressive" lit-journal like n+1, whose editors were educated within the greater organism; who already write for the most esteemed most deeply-embedded sections of it. Whether they realize it or not, their standards and values already conform or WILL conform to the larger body they're part of.

The demi-puppet cells of the larger body are unconsciously loyal to it, and hostile to us. They know that if the ULA can't be absorbed it must be destroyed. This is nature's will.

The only way for the ULA, literature's true alternative, to survive is to find more allies; more individuals of integrity and conscience to join us, and help us grow.


Anonymous said...

I really like your blog and your attitude about things.

- Leopold said...

Wow, the comments on this blog have really been much more positive than previous incarnations. KW's style hasn't changed. Can it be that people are listening?

Yes, though those who don't like what we say try to paint us as bitchers and moaners, as bitter, divisive couch crusaders, we are a movement of openness, change and, yes, hope. We are looking for a few good writers to put their strengths alongside ours. It is better to live in struggle, than to die never knowing if you could have broken the shackles around your wrists because you never tried.

Anonymous said...

um, the first comment is an ad. click on the link.

- Leopold said...

HA ha. Nice. I didn't see that little link on the period. Spammers are rediculous.