Wednesday, January 31, 2007
If this story is silenced, it will be a mark against American literature; against the Paris Review in particular, even if the actions were done only in their name and not by them directly. I hope their editors realize this.
At the ULA we're used to it. Countless attempts have been made to destroy us, from within and without. It's a wonder we're still around as an organization.
That the literary world is monolithically corrupt has been proven many times, this situation the latest example. It was proven to the ULA with our first Protest against corruption in 2001, a petition we sent to 300 literary luminaries. Not one would sign it.
Right now we search like Diogenes for one honest person. Or at least, for one voice to state, "I disagree with what they say, but will fight to the death for their right to say it."
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
None of these entities are in any way representative of American society as a whole.
What's their relevance? We don't see them speaking out about the Paris Review CIA matter, as would be expected.
Maybe the CIA no longer exists, was merely a relic of the Cold War.
Funny though that the CIA is currently running radio ads recruiting for something called the National Clandestine Service. Does this bother anyone? Guess not.
The ULA campaign was formed as a way to get attention to good overlooked writers, who otherwise wouldn't stand a chance of recognition. It's a good cause. We know that history is with us. We know that history will condemn our opponents. (Maybe that's what worries them so.)
Who will history honor in this argument? Who does history always honor?
Stonewalling bureaucrats protective of their turf?
Or, the truth-seekers. the whistle-blowers, and the rebels?
Monday, January 29, 2007
Throw away the notion that Plimpton (and by extension the Paris Review) had no ideology. Plimpton was the personification of classic American liberalism. He believed in an outward-looking foreign policy in politics and culture. He implicitly believed in Owen Wister's phrase that "true aristocracy is true democracy"; that the cream always rises to the top; counting himself of course among that number.
It's an ideology compatible and consonant with U.S. Imperialism. (The preferred word is "globalism.") George was the creation, like so many other Americans of his time, of Franklin Roosevelt, who might be called the first American Imperialist; the first President to envision global American Empire, who worked to set that empire in motion.
George Plimpton didn't need to conspicuously advocate this vision, this ideology, in Paris Review's pages. It's a vision which overwhelmingly predominates in American political and intellectual circles, and was subliminally present in everything PR's editors did and said. One can't be considered an "intellectual" in America today without believing the vision: a dominant ideology far more strongly rooted in our society than Communism ever was in the Soviet Union.
Those who disagree with the vision exist on the margins.
Paris Review's office in Paris, and its very title, were an expression of Empire. They said, "Here's our American outpost."
No policy was explicitly advocated in PR's pages. How do you advocate something which is present all around you; which exists in your own society unchallenged? (Anyway, to do so would've been gauche.) Their need was instead to present art free from politics, from polemics, from social conscience; which stressed as role model to the world soon to be conquered a vision of American success and affluence. Paris Review's most celebrated writers fit that role well.
Saturday, January 27, 2007
The arguments that can be mustered to silence the Paris Review CIA story are weak to the point of comedy.
The essential strength of the Cummings reports remains. The single most controversial, most unbelievable part of his story-- that leftist icon Peter Matthiessen worked for the CIA-- has been confirmed by Matthiessen himself. Everything else is gravy.
That Matthiessen was a CIA agent leads logically and inevitably to other parts of the story.
Matthiessen hasn't been connected with the Paris Review in fifty years, the journal's editors will maintain.
Really? But he's listed in your pages, right on the masthead, as a current board member, alongside all kinds of establishment heavyweights. Peter Matthiessen also has an essay in your current issue! Just how stupid do you think the public is, anyway?
No connection indeed!
Another tactic will be to discredit George Plimpton by painting him as some kind of clownish moron who'd never be trusted by the CIA. Anyone who's met and talked to the guy knows this contention is ludicrous. It does great disservice to Plimpton's memory. (This is a subject I'll address on this blog separately.)
The fact though is that Paris Review editors aren't saying much of anything, publicly. Their essential arrogance got them into this situation in the first place and will be the cause of their undoing.
Like others of their kind in the lit world, they feel they're answerable to nobody-- least of all to a general public they profess to want to read their publication. (Do they hold themselves accountable, as do we of the ULA? I've opened this blog to comments from every conceivable defender of Paris Review or the CIA.)
Before we ran the two-part Cummings Report, I e-mailed Paris Review editors telling them of the story. Had they contested the facts, we might not have run the essays. We never heard a word from them-- and haven't to this day.
Can we presume that such matters and how to handle them are discussed by Paris Review editors and board members? This is an impressive collection of highly intelligent people, including at least one renowned legal mind. Their decision about the CIA stories has been to say and do nothing.
THE CHANGING WORLD
These people behave as if it's still 1955, when such revelations could easily be squelched or forgotten; handled within the realm of approved commentators. Ever-silent dinosaur Robert B. Silvers is their role model. Silvers is of another time. His arrogance, the exclusivity of his attitude, is now impossible to change. He'll be judged by history-- a history which unfortunately for him will be written by writers not of his choosing.
What's the excuse of Paris Review editors for their stonewalling? Do they really think they can do a quick search of the archives and magically proclaim, "No, there's no story here. No story at all! Peter Matthiessen? Who's he? We can't see him anywhere! Plimpton? The CIA? There's no one here but us elitists!"
They've stonewalled for fifty years about Matthiessen and they'll continue to stonewall about the rest of the story. But Cummings or no Cummings, ULA or no ULA, in the age of the Internet this is a story that won't be going away.
The only really unbelievable part of any of this, for those who value the integrity of literature, is the Paris Review attitude that they'll have to be dragged kicking and screaming to acknowledge anything. Only grudgingly, when every i is dotted and t crossed, every exit for them blocked, no way to run away, will they come clean and apologize for a fifty-year misrepresentation.
They're not writers. They're apparatchiks. They behave like apparatchiks in everything they do and say. The conformist literary world of the Soviet Union had nothing on these people. In the righteous cause of their status quo ideology they sully the very idea of American democracy. (A lot of that going around right now, people say.)
The prevalent attitude in Paris Review offices: Arrogance. The Underground Literary Alliance isn't worthy of a response from these insular snobs, because we're not proper Members of the Club.
We're only an authentic voice of the people.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
They may have us believe that Peter Matthiessen worked for the CIA but brought no CIA funds to the Paris Review itself.
But there had to be a reason he was working for the CIA. They didn't employ him to do nothing.
Let's try to picture this. "Go over there to Paris, Peter, and start a magazine in the heart of Europe; a literary magazine, run by Americans but emphasizing the European connection-- but don't ask us for start-up money!"
Is that how it happened?
And what of the Matthiessen perspective. They're in the middle of the Cold War; the CIA has tons of money to throw around-- and indeed is throwing it around on literary journals very much like Paris Review (see Encounter)-- CIA agent Matthiessen knows all this CIA money is sitting there AND HE DOESN'T ASK FOR A PENNY OF IT to help start-up why he was working for the CIA in the first place.
What are we missing here?
The idiocy will continue once we get to old boy Plimpton himself of course, who I'll be discussing further in a future post, unless I accidentally stumble upon some poisoned soup someplace.
(This the writer who pushes the philosophy that everything that happens in the world is mere coincidence.)
We can put Paul Auster in the George Plimpton category. Either he's being disingenuous-- or he's an idiot.
It's curious that the many writers and editors who are usually so outspoken about such matters are saying nothing. Why is this? Where's the outrage?
No one is talking, just as the sheep of the literary world NEVER talk about controversial issues touching their own realm; such as, for instance, the CLMP thing; or the fact that in the early 90's billionaire Jean Stein (good friend of Mr. Plimpton's) was receiving NEA taxpayer money for her lit journal Grand Street, a matter undiscussed to this day.
One can speculate on the path those seeking to quiet this matter will take.
I'd guess they will try to isolate this story to simply Matthiessen; poor misguided Matthiessen; to put walls around him and otherwise prevent any connected threads being followed. They'll put enough pressure on those involved-- even the once-glorious New York Times-- to prevent them from looking further into this story.
Yet many questions remain.
What of Robert B. Silvers, editor and founder of New York Review of Books, who worked for Paris Review in Europe, and before that, for SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe)? If anyone knew if George Plimpton was working for the CIA, wouldn't it have been him? What has Mr. Silvers had to say?
What about the April 1965 conference of literary editors sponsored by the Carnegie Foundation, chaired by Reed Whittemore, good friend of then-CIA big shot James Angleton? Participants included Peter Caws, Victor Navasky, William Phillips, and George Plimpton himself. Was the CIA ever mentioned, I wonder?
What of the William Phillips publication Partisan Review, already long acknowledged as a CIA front, which had so many connections to so many writers, including some of the neo-cons who've recently mangled America's foreign policy? Is anyone asking questions about that? Yes? No? (From the mice of the literary world I hear echoing silence.)
What about The New Republic, cited by Carroll Quigley as an establishment mouthpiece from its beginning? Its publisher from 1968 to 1979, Robert J. Myers, had been a CIA agent for 12 years. (As they say, you could look it up.)
There's still the Jeane Kirkpatrick Heldref matter to pursue. Kirkpatrick and her husband Evron (former OSS agent) controlled the Helen Dwight Reid Foundation for many years, which in turn took over in 1982 the prestigious intellectual literary journal Critique.
Many of these threads lead to old boy George Plimpton, ex-Yalie adventurer, who may not have been CIA himself but certainly fits the profile. (His father, incidentally, was heavily involved in American foreign policy.)
What ABOUT George? What did he know, anyway?
We're asked to believe that Matthiessen's CIA involvement came to George as a total surprise. Maybe we'll be told that Plimpton never knew anything.
What do we believe?
Either George Plimpton was secretive and disingenuous for fifty years about the Paris Review's CIA roots. Or, he was a total idiot. I see no other choice.
No, sorry, the idea isn't to isolate this story, to squelch it to minimize damage to literary VIPs, but instead to follow the leads until we know the full and complete truth.
The signs are around us. Movies and books (latest by Sena Jeter Naslund) celebrate Marie Antoinette, while the "gutter press" free speech heirs of Marat and Brissot are stifled. Glossy magazines on bookshelves madly trumpet "The Wealth Explosion" while the city of Detroit closes another forty schools.
We now find with the CIA Paris Review story that the enemy we fight is of one piece. CIA infiltration; rich writers receiving scarce grant money, or giving it to their buddies; the Big Money takeover of the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses: it's all of one piece; one proliferating stain on the integrity and reputation of American letters.
My strategy with the ULA was contingent on finding ONE strong voice of integrity and conscience within the corrupt literary establishment brave enough to say, "Enough!"
Lacking that, our campaign faces overwhelming (but not impossible) odds.
Know this: They are going to kill us. Economically, spiritually, and psychically they will kill us. They are going to kill every one of us, every undergrounder, inside the ULA and out of it. They have to-- our very existence as independent writers points out the fraudulence of their standing.
With us around, how can Elissa Schappell pose as a bohemian, Dave Eggers as an outsider, Jason Shinder as a poet, or Rick Moody as a small press icon?
When writers stand up and speak the truth, how can established literature maintain its tissue-paper castle of lies?
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Apparently this blog is being read (and plagiarized) around the world. For example, it's been the subject of discussion on quite a few Somali web sites. For one example, see www.allsomali.com, click on "Search" toward the right (in red-- not google) and type in "demi-puppets."
This reminded me that the Underground Literary Alliance is, after all, worldwide, with members, sympathizers, and readers in countries like Canada, France, England, Japan, and now Somaliland. To break the blackballing of our ideas in America, we need only get the word out about what's happening to literature in this country, how it's being controlled and stifled, to writers and readers across the rest of the globe. Why not?
(A positive sign: Somalis haven't heard yet from Jonathan Lethem that there is no longer such a thing as plagiarism!)
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Recall that, after our Feb 8 2001 debate with Plimpton and his staff, George told me that the one point upon which the ULA was most wrong was the notion that literature could in any way be polemical. "Never!" he stated emphatically. (This conversation documented by Michael Jackman and myself.)
Pieces fall into place. I've been told much the same thing over the years by other established lit people; from well-bred award-winning novelist Charles Baxter; to an associate editor at the New York Review of Books. They seem to have been brainwashed into the notion that strong ideas have no place in fiction and poetry, as a matter of taste. For Plimpton it went beyond simple brainwashing.
STILL FIGHTING THE COLD WAR
The conjunction of literary bureaucracies in this nation is a mirror image of the cultural apparatus in the now-defunct Soviet Union (albeit much richer and larger). The mindset is the same. On one side, literary publications were infiltrated by the KGB. Here, they were infiltrated by the CIA. Both sides were fighting an intense ideological battle. Culture was used as a weapon against the other.
For American apparatchiks this meant stripping our literature of anything resembling authentic social action and conscience; anything in any way hinting of the crude socialist realism of the Soviets. Writing that champions the economic underdog was viewed as a threat by literary mandarins like George Plimpton. A great tradition of American literature, as represented by novelists like London, Norris, and Dreiser, was wiped out.
Who did George Plimpton promote instead? For the most part, the richest of the rich; using his influence with large circulation mags like GQ and Esquire to gain hyper-attention for modestly-talented brats like Jay McInerney, Rick Moody, and Susan Minot.
The Paris Review, mouthpiece of the literary status quo, founded entirely with CIA money, was ALWAYS an ideological vehicle. It remains so now. Editor Philip Gourevitch admits in the NY Times 2/13/07 story that the journal's CIA background was common knowledge in their offices. (They didn't think to inform anyone else!)
How do Paris Review editors salvage the reputation of their publication? Is it possible?
Do they even want to?
Sunday, January 21, 2007
As far as I know, Maud Newton mentioned the 2/13 NY Times story, and linked to it. Credit to her for that.
On Friday I asked Richard Cummings if he'd received requests for interviews or statements from establishment media outlets. His response: "No word. Nothing."
(Curious that the 1978 remake of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" was on television last night. I see parallels between the situation depicted, and the contemporary literary world.)
This matter is a huge dirty blot on American literary history-- on the integrity and credibility of American literature. Writers everywhere-- everywhere, including all who've appeared in PR's pages-- should be outraged.
Where is the outrage?
Saturday, January 20, 2007
The battle the ULA is engaged in is ultimately a battle of ideas, of conscience, and truth. Albeit on a smaller scale, it's no different than other battles waged throughout history against corrupt mindsets; whether against segregationists in 60s America, or against a monolithic Soviet Union. The battles are always similar, and can sometimes be won by appealing to truth and conscience.
Another point that has to be made: Where was/is the so-called Left on this story? Why did it take a libertarian writer like Cummings to pursue it? Where are mainstream Leftist editors and writers now?
Friday, January 19, 2007
Now that the story has broken, it's incumbent upon them to address the issue; to state the extent of CIA financing and involvement, including providing a time-line of how long the influence lasted-- and whether it's still going on!
The fullest version of the matter to date appeared in a two-part essay by Cummings, posted on the web site of the Underground Literary Alliance, way back in 5/23 and 5/30 of 2005. Readers can find it by clicking on the Monday Report Box at www.literaryrevolution.com and scrolling down to it.
CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE
Finally, finally, an admission of this appeared somewhere (January 13th 2007 NY Times). Matthiessen has admitted the truth. Yet when Cummings's Monday Report came out I sent out flurries of e-mails. No one in the literary world-- not even renowned lit-bloggers-- were the slightest bit interested.
Is the literary world interested now? This is a huge story. Perhaps the most prestigious and influential American literary journal of the last fifty years was a pawn of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Who knew about this? How far did the tentacles of government and establishment power go? What other top literary figures, many of whom are still alive, were also tainted? Which literary conferences over the years were merely fronts? There are threads everywhere to be followed-- for instance, the involvement of recently deceased Jeanne Kirkpatrick and the Heldref Foundation in the literary world. Will anyone besides the ULA follow them?
Stay tuned to this station.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
The ULA excursion to Manhattan was a kind of scouting mission testing the defenses of the literary mandarins, probing for weak spots, while at the same time seeking possible allies: those we can work with toward common objectives. I'm doing a write-up of the hectic adventure for an upcoming ULA Monday Report.
The Underground Literary Alliance is embarking on its most ambitious campaign in six years. The first stage of the campaign will be centered around our February 25th Philadelphia reading at The Underground. This will be one of our more exciting events-- which means, one of the most exciting literary events ever. Fantastic underground names like Yarrow Regan, Wred Fright, Toussaint St. Negritude, and the dynamic Jessica Disobedience have made tentative commitments to join the ULA Philly chapter at this event. More details to follow. (Local poets and writers who wish to be included can contact me by e-mail; info on this blog.)
In the weeks after the show we'll make more incursions into the territory of the Overdogs in New York.
We have ample product to hype and distribute-- including new publications which are the leading edge of our literary revolution.
ULA MONDAY REPORTS
Even if we can't come up with a new Report every week-- even if we go to a twice-monthly or monthly schedule-- we must continue these essays. No feature of the ULA campaign gives us more credibility; more distinguishes us from the timid and backward literary mass. Since our inception we've been at the forefront of exposing corruption in the literary world.
For example, I'm told that fresh news about possible past CIA involvement in the American literary world is now being discussed in establishment publications. This is a story the ULA covered in 2005, by posting a provocative Monday Report by independent journalist Richard Cummings.
It sounds like a victory for the ULA, with more to follow.
Monday, January 15, 2007
We may have lunch at Langan's, and plan to be at a place on First Avenue called DBA's by 5 pm, or shortly thereafter, where we invite all writers and lit-folk to meet us, if you're not afraid to. We're freaks, but peaceful freaks, albeit sometimes theatrical.
Best poem posted on this thread wins. (I still have some Wendy's coupons left.)
Deadline: One week from now.
I'll start things off.
"POET ON THE BEACH"
Bongo drums go beat beat beat
bongo drums go beat
hipster be bop cool cat go!
poet on the beach
goattee wearing sunglass'd dude
versify to all the world!
poetry is cool.
Sitting cross-legged in the sand
Rebel warrior, rights of man!
protest sounds, peace and love,
watch him play for all he's worth
seagulls watching, rising surf
Recite those words! Yell that verse!
Darkened evening, sun goes flat
He takes the change that's in the hat
and says goodbye.
seagulls watch him go
and little children
Hope he'll return tomorrow.
Sunday, January 14, 2007
Saturday, January 13, 2007
What's the best ULA Monday Report of 2006?
Check the line-up at www.literaryrevolution.com
There were several multiple posters, including
Steve Kostecke with 5 Reports.
I was next with 4.
Leopold McGinnis, Adam Hardin, James Nowlan, Bruce Hodder, Pat King, and I think Pat Simonelli had 2 reports each.
Plus various one-time 2006 writers.
Did I miss anybody?
Quite a selection.
What do you think?
Thursday, January 11, 2007
Next Tuesday, January 16th, members of the Underground Literary Alliance will be in Manhattan, at various locations.
During the day we'll have our zeen table set up outside several major literary establishment power centers. We'll pass out flyers, sell books, and do impromptu poetry readings. We may have lunch at a writer hangout like Langan's, if it's not too pricey; or Sardi's, if that's better. (Suggestions welcomed.)
By early evening we plan to be centered at a saloon on the lower east side-- possibly DBA's, which I'm told is a literary watering hole. Everyone and anyone will be welcome to meet us and speak with us about literature. We may even buy your first beer. If anyone knows an open mic we'd be welcome at, let me know.
Scheduled to accompany me on the visit are three of the ULA's most interesting and hyperbolic personalities:
-New ULA Director Patrick King.
-ULA poet Frank Walsh.
-Eric "Jellyboy the Clown" Broomfield, who caused an uproar last spring at Columbia's Miller Hall.
If you see us, say hi, pelt us with potato salad, buy a zeen, denounce us to the world, or whatever you feel is appropriate.
Is there no one who will defend her?
Even one of the many editors who publish her opinions in magazines like Harper's and The New York Times Book Review? One of her colleagues or students at the New School?
Are her writings and ideas truly that indefensible?
Conditions inside the established lit scene must be worse than we thought.
Wred Fright, author of THE PORNOGRAPHIC FLABBERGASTED EMUS, has agreed to appear on the big lit-card being put together now for Philadelphia. The date: February 25th, 3 p.m. The place: Appropriately enough, THE UNDERGROUND, at 40th and Spruce Streets (underneath Copabanana). Stay tuned for more info!
Will this be the most entertaining literary show ever?
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
1.) Underground books aren't reviewed by mainstream publications like New York Review of Books. In response, the ULA has criticized these publications, and called attention to them. Now we're told that they won't review us BECAUSE we've criticized them. It's a no-win situation. Sorry, but I'll take my chances with speaking up.
2.) I'm told I shouldn't criticize Francine Prose and her ideas, even though she's considered one of the top literary critics in the nation, because she's fragile and delicate, intellectually helpless, of no real ability, etc. etc. Really? Does anyone notice the absurdity of the situation?
3.) The literary world should be a place of civility and politeness. See #1 and #2.
4.) The ULA should simply disband and go away. Then, suddenly, all the lit-folks, editors, reviewers and such, who've ignored and scorned us for years, in some cases decades, will suddenly embrace us. But the world doesn't work that way.
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
your trivialized posing
of the swanky parties
of bohemian millionaires,
Sedaris clown entertainment
snot-filled pastry dishes
trays of sandwiches
at the benefit
for the African
flash photo taken with the guests
to show they're generous
Saturday smiles of glowing teeth
boob jobs and face lifts.
They return home
take off their ties and party dresses
to hand to the maid, head-bowed and silent
Then the Overdogs open
laid out on the mahogany end table
the neatly stacked envelopes
counting the profits
of their global investments
smelling of sanctity,
of the convent of their untouched
Too many flunkies of the contemporary established literary scene have no backbones, no truthfulness, no character, no integrity. Somewhere deep in the bowels of their consciousness they realize this-- which accounts for their screams, always, always, under fake identities.
One is afraid to give his/her name because we might then criticize his/her book. We might criticize the person's book! Outrageous! We might criticize the person's book! (We're apparently not dealing with Zola here.) A writer? This person claims to be a writer?? No; more a pretend writer. Not a writer by my assessment. I've always believed writers were the most fearless and honest persons around, willing to say what's right, and suffer the consequences, if need be-- heedless of consequences-- the one individual the rest of society could always count on to speak the truth.
Real writers. Not these skulking lying corrupt individuals (postmodern writers like John Hodgeman celebrate the lie) with great institutional and financial power and resources yet still unable to come out into the light. Fast-talking con-men without spines. Jellyfish. Invertebrates.
Wasn't one of their number once caught posting against the ULA anonymously? I believe so. Their role model.
Thursday, January 04, 2007
I.) First Impression.
What would we have thought if top literary bureaucrats in a Soviet-style country, seeing that the populace isn't interested in their bland, machine-like works, suddenly announce that the public must be retrained to read in proper fashion: taught to read "like writers"?
Wouldn't we laugh hysterically?
Wouldn't this be a sign of the complete bankruptcy of their cultural system, of their ideas?
Yet this is exactly what's happening in the United States today, as put forth in a new book by Insider's Insider Francine Prose: Reading Like a Writer. The book is a rear-guard action meant to rescue what little remains of the literary system's credibility. Prose's colleagues (most recently, Mona Simpson) admit that the public has scant interest in literary fiction and poetry. They blame not themselves, but the public!
In her book, Prose asks whether writing can be taught in MFA programs. She says that she's taught writing for 20 years, and so has to believe it can be taught. Picture the failed Soviet bureaucrat standing fretfully as the Berlin Wall readies to topple; "We've been doing things our way for decades, Comrades. We have no choice but to defend what is; our own existence; our bureaucratic survival!"
Prose styles herself a literary critic and theorist, yet strangely enough (or not so strangely), never exposes her ideas to criticism from outside the walls of the narrow world of status quo agreement. Being so embedded into the System and its failure, Francine Prose is incapable of stepping outside her box to view the cultural world as it exists in reality. A sad place for a critic to be.
Prose isn't a critic at all. She's a mouthpiece for the Machine, standing in a room of mirrors watching images of sameness bounce off the walls of the room again and again.
A question for Ms. Prose:
The investment in America's literary writers, through the System's programs, involves many thousands of persons and billions of dollars. The energy and expense dwarfs, a thousand-fold, the investment in art in Periclean Athens, or Elizabethan England. Yet where are America's great writers? Who can be pointed to, to justify the hundreds of MFA programs? Who rises above the interesting and competent? Maybe these programs help people to feel good about themselves-- but WHERE, Ms. Prose, are the great, moving, earth-shaking poems, stories, and novels?
When all is said and done, won't Francine Prose herself be viewed as no more than a System writer, well-rewarded with medals and ribbons-- or tokens of same-- pinned onto her chest from the internal bureaucracy, while having no relevance to the authentic culture, to the progress of the true stream of literature; her art never escaping the safe bounds of its craft, competence, and conformity? She talks of the love of language, but in her words I see no raging passionate VOICE; no out-of-control Shakespeare or Dylan Thomas, or Kerouac; no energetic unstoppable talker with an irresistably attractive love of LIFE. Instead, careful steps through the dusty corridors of literary priests.
Any reply to this, Ms. Prose? Hello? Hello?
II. Second Look.
Maybe I'm unfair. In her book, Francine Prose does admit the limits of writing programs. They don't create great writers. She accepts this. Why then the enormous expense, for society and the individual? Aren't the programs nothing more than ways to keep dutiful literary apparatchiks like Francine Prose employed?
Prose describes her efforts to impose her Princess-and-the-Pea sensibilities upon her students. To their credit, many have rebelled. Probably her lectures mimicked the "fictions" she applauds: refined murmurs from the mannequins on the sofa.
Prose's viewpoint is bourgeois and domestic. Petting a cat takes on deep significance. Such trivialities are important-- and so the immersion in details. The apt detail CAN be important for a narrative, but for Prose and writers like her they become an obsession. It's part of their fixation on their materialistic world. They've spent a lot of bucks on their possessions and so they'd better describe them!
It's an escape from thought. Prose loves Chekhov stories, she says, because they're non-judgemental. Writer, she admonishes, have no opinion on anything around you. If the world is corrupt; well, that's just the way it is. Blink at the furnishings. Let the world pass over you.
Francine Prose not only appreciates house cats-- she IS that cat, cataloguing the room's furnishings, quietly and delicately, with great feline sensibility, and stupidity, before pattering off into the sunlight for her afternoon nap.
Prose leaves the living room, of course, for funerals, conferences, trips to Europe and such, but wherever she travels she never leaves the confines of her comfortably ignorant mindset. Like others of her kind, there's no world outside her well-bred lifestyle. Her kind of writing, found in literary story after story, poem after poem, novel after novel, written by MFA-produced factory automatons, is fine up to a point-- but NOT when their stupid insular world is all there is; when such irrelevant generic craftings define our literature. Writers like Prose are blocking the way to the emergence of more authentic and original authors; to the realization of a greater art. Francine Prose has published numerous books-- 10? 12?-- while underground writers like myself have been allowed to publish not one.
Do we have anything to add to the national dialogue, Ms. Prose? I guess not! At least, not sofas, carpets, lamps, or cats; nothing so elevated as that.
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
I heard about the power of landlords, the strength of their organization, their disdain of tenants-- neglect of tenants rights-- failure to do simple maintenance of the most necessary kind yet evicting on quickest notice the holding back of rent payment. I was told about the impact of so many illegal immigrants, whose situation leaves them unable to protest abuse in any way; weakening the influence of renters as a whole, as they also weaken the situation of working people. I listened to tales of the horrendous conditions of people living below the southern border, whose situation, contrary to all promises from the proponents of the global economy now being imposed on us, has, since NAFTA, deteriorated drastically.
In my turn I spoke about the Underground Literary Alliance, the measures we'd taken, the corruption we faced, and our plans for the future. Everyone there, people who live in New York City, and know the situation there better than I do, agreed with me strongly.
Curious that the ULA faces opposition from the top layer of the lit-world-- but our ideas and words find strong resonance among the 99.9% rest of the populace. This has been true everywhere we've gone; in cities like Detroit and Cleveland, as well as Queens. (I'll never forget the shouts of agreement to my opening remarks at our 2002 Detroit event.)
The future belongs to us, as soon as we get the word out.
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
The "Nasdiij" affair exposed the patronizing racism of organizations like PEN.
Unlike Nasdiij, J.T. Leroy continues to be embraced by the literati, even though "his" life story was revealed to be an embarrassing fraud. Leroy's novels glamorized, for the amusement of a conscienceless elite, the notably UNglamorous world of child prostitutes. (This would stand as a nadir of establishment literary behavior were it not so typical.) Literary decision makers readily embrace phoniness while disdaining anything real.
The insular and predictable choices of the New York Times Book Review's best fiction books of the year demonstrate the ever-narrowing viewpoint at the top of today's literary world. The applauded authors are all well-connected well-trained house pets; safe and predictable.
What of the lit-world's behavior concerning the one true voice of literary integrity and independence, the Underground Literary Alliance?
It's more egregious than ever.
In the spring the ULA (along with the reputations of Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac) was publicly denounced by establishment attack dog Phillip Lopate from the stage of Columbia's Miller Hall. The contentious event raised scarcely a murmur from the sheep of the literary world.
Neither did my two-part expose this fall, appearing at the ULA's "Monday Report" (www.literaryrevolution.com) describing the big-money takeover of small press vehicle the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses.
This signal example of the monopolization of literature would be ignored even if the ULA weren't involved in breaking the story. Criticizing the takeover would ruffle too many feathers of too many important literary people. Conclusion: Those who should have made noise about this are invertebrates. It's useless to look to them for change.
WHY SOME WRITERS HATE THE ULA
We're hated because we hold a mirror up to the cowardice and corruption of go-along-to-get-along lit folk. Their "progressive" profiles are shown to be cardboard cutouts with nothing behind them.