Thursday, February 15, 2007

Reality

The Reality of Literature Today.

The ULA is more radical than the Beats dreamed of being. We examine the system of literature from top to bottom. All those moderate commentators who love lauding safe pets like hip East Village icons of the 80s and 90s (Mary G and Tama J); safely embedded themselves in institutional settings of conglomerate or academe; seek the moderately radical to celebrate; the properly safe. As with everything today, the pose is more important than the reality.

Here's the real breakdown of literature today:

1.) REACTIONARIES
This consists of the Eggers Gang and their acolytes. Throw out their progressive noises, which are done for grants and tax breaks. The aesthetic and style they push is thoroughly Thermidorean; in tone exclusive and upper-class; decadent gilded prose matching their gilded posturing-- which is why they've drawn around them the effete of the wealthy elite. (Most lit-bloggers by the way have adopted the Reactionary style. "The Smart Set": the new literary aristocracy.)

2.) MODERATES
Moderates are products of the system and exist thoroughly within it, but from their cozy offices, or typing on laptops while gazing out the windows of jet-set airplanes, they give an occasional nod to dead rebels of the past; or even in their minds today imagine they might someday do something mildly rebellious themselves, though they haven't imagined yet exactly what. (Perhaps writing about 19th century Russian samizdat.) Class in this category n+1 to Meghan O'Rourke to occasional writers for Village Voice or The Nation.

3. RADICALS
The Underground Literary Alliance.

30 comments:

James Joyce Is the Greatest Writer... Ever said...

Way off, in my opinion, on the reactionary point. A reactionary would be the equivalent to the neo-formalists in poetry. Realism can be essentially reactionary, more so than POMO junk can ever hope to be. The Eggers Crowd is progressive, and they are an example of why progress isn't an automatic positive thing. That is niche above niche, I don't see how people can even read that crap. I bought his memoir, but then his fiction really just went past me. And the internet site seems like one big creative writing class for hipsters. Not my thing, but they are hardly dominating literature. I doubt they are even dominating positive opinion amongst classical leaning academics.

I'm not sure there are too many reactionaries making noise. Conservatives (i.e. socialist critic Harold Bloom and the likes of The New Criterion) hold more sway, but they are mostly voided by the bottom line of the publishing industry and progressive domination of the artform/craft.

As for moderates, this includes mosts writers, period. The thing about moderate categories is that they are big tents. When we look at it from the standpoint of writing (artform and craft) to publishing (business) it is still quite large.


As for radicals, I'm reminded of an old saying:

It is well known that the most radical revolutionary will become a conservative on the day after the revolution. -- Hannah Arendt

Radical can also be an expansive tent (i.e. Avant Garde Literature).

Jeff Potter (of OutYourBackdoor.com) said...

1. Reactionaries
2. Moderates
3. The ULA...*and those we dare speak up for*

I'd add that.

The ULA stands up for the significance of zeensters and truly indy presses. We promote artists and writers who aren't ULAers. We stand up for the "just do your art" and "just host your liberation events" types. We see how they uplift their communities and keep the indy spirit alive. We say their vibe needs to spread all the way to the top. We hold up them and our ULA heroes alike as examples that kick the butts of the pretenders. We're a big tent, too. We have our focus as well. Like a laser beam or battering ram. The wall is coming down!

James Joyce Is the Greatest Writer... Ever said...


The ULA stands up for the significance of zeensters and truly indy presses. We promote artists and writers who aren't ULAers. We stand up for the "just do your art" and "just host your liberation events" types.


In other words, you're just like the people you claim are ruining literature?

James Joyce Is the Greatest Writer... Ever said...

Also. I'll say this: although their writing is crap, the prose is clunky, they do have one thing going. McSweeny's 826 Valencia. They are bringing the art form to the underprivileged. That's action.

fdw said...

What is the Valencia project motive?
The use of the "underprivaleged", serves you illy nilly, as in illwill or even as in ill- literate. So their a problem children because their not privaleged like the Valencia (tax write of the Valencia (tax write off) gang: typical reactionary neo- liberals hiding corruption and anti-socialism behind "good deeds", ideas over actual human contact. Like Karl says at the top here: to get grants and endowments and what is more to confuse the symptoms with disease!
Progressive means more often than not and historically "reformist". and reform is not radical(actual change) but in fact just the other side of the coin of the status quo of the class struggle. (Racism, anti-racism is another good example of this apparatus, obscures the real disease of class war!)
JJ you're right people doan read that crap 'cos it's reactionary, lies, and the people intuit that, they would, will read radical stuff if having access to it. That is why, the motive for the Eggers/ Moody cult would, and is, supressing the ULA, pulling the strings one way or another by which mass media and corporate "mullah" is leeched to 'em.
A true revolutionary stays a revolutionary, as with radical individuals so it goes with countries found on revolution (look at France, look at the heaviness in our own of the obscrrantism and suppresion). It has to do with the connection between revolution and PLAY. The Overdogs know this the socially litateurs underground know this-- but the people need to know 'cos they doan it would seem, while this is what we want intentionally, the Literary Establishment (CIAKGB cold war motive/agenda coincidentally) more than anything else does want the people to wake up to this as that would spell the doom of their cake walk-- hell they'd probably be dragged in front of a Culture Wars crimes tribunal?

jimmy grace said...

And going to New York and reading for pigeons accomplishes this how?

James Joyce Is the Greatest Writer... Ever said...

Speaking of which. I must highly recommend two books (non-fiction) by the brilliant, self-educated, DIY philosopher, Eric Hoffer

1. The Ordeal of Change

2. The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements

chilly charlie said...

Let's talk about Dean Haspiel. He's a lousy artist and Billy Dogma has no crotch.

No wonder Tim Hall likes him.

fdw said...

Umm, JJ that's two sets of different pictures. Your sense of self or lack of it is confusing "reality" with the rut in yo head.

But glad use brought it up-- in fact out little pirate landing gaggle drew some attention from the passing New Yorkers,(families, couples, and especially NYU undergrads-- quite a contrast to the reception by the NYT apes and Conde Nast pod robots) in fact. That was cool even tho the weather was frigid in Washington Square (a historic traditional locus of writers and poets doin' the open air rant for over a century or more for all I know.)

fdw said...

Well excuuuse me, the prior post was really to "DG"

King said...

I see reading to pigeons-- and people-- out on the street as a way of communing with the natural world. I don't know, maybe I'm crazy, but I love animals and their personalities! Pigeons are a metaphor for people and the audience we're intent on reaching.
The main idea of doing impromptu street readings (the Crazy Carl Robinson photo is from Philly, incidentally) is keeping in touch with the humility of being a poet. This isn't something a McSweeneyite could ever possibly understand. . . .
"Joyce" has too much schooling and egotistical belief in his own presumed intelligence to understand what I'm talking about. Does he sound like an artist? Not to me. (A functionary, not an artist.) The idea of the artistic soul is something he'd address intellectually.
"Grace" has too much hostility inside his head; at least, hostility toward what we're doing.
By the way, "Grace," been meaning to ask: Why did you lie about being part of Arms Akimbo? IS there any longer an Arms Akimbo? There's certainly no tour of theirs out there.

King said...

The McSweeney's ethos has been hostile toward the idea of a mass reading public from the very beginning. D.E. has sold exclusiveness. This was evident in the archaic and off-putting layout of the very first issue. The cover screamed: "This isn't for everybody! It's for a select breed of consumer; the hyper-educated, preferably with MFA degress." The style of writing is ornate and pretentious; a lot of cute words saying nothing. Study the historical reference I give to understand what I mean by Reactionary-- reactionary in a literary context. It's a step (back) toward literary aristocracy, which the current of American letters was so much moving away from.
To me, it's very much like what happened in France after the Thermidorean Reaction when the upperclass posers returned onto the scene with a vengeance.
The context of this discussion, of this blog, is, after all, literature. Within this context this is an apt analogy.
But wait! That's right. You don't really care about literature, do you, "Joyce." To you it's irrelevent, superceded by talking head politicians and such. (I wonder then why you're even here. Something wrong. A literary discussion stimulating your brain. very anachronistic for such an outdated art form, for art, period, which is outdated, in this age of robots, by your lights.)

jimmy grace said...

For the quadrillionth time, Arms Akimbo is real - I just got done meeting with them tonight. Some of us were part of a queer art tour that is still going on - I had to get back and pay my rent. We got some nice crowds and the tour is still kicking ass (coming to Philly, yer Highness)...of course, we try to make art that appeals to people, rather than animals. I guess that's too elitist for the likes of you.

James Joyce Is the Greatest Writer... Ever said...

The McSweeney's ethos has been hostile toward the idea of a mass reading public from the very beginning. D.E. has sold exclusiveness

This is common amongst writers that coalesce into groups. It makes even more sense when they write niche. Trying to take McSweeney's wide would be foolish. The summum bonum is not always "speak to and for the masses" if the masses like it they will buy it, if not so be it. Dave's clique is not as exclusive as some others I have seen. I just think the crap is so quirky it can't help but appeal to those of a certain predisposition. There is absolutely nothing wrong with him or his friends, other than being liberals and writers that are writing crappy prose. Since I am not an editor, publisher, and don't buy their work (with the exception of a $1.00 used copY of AHWOSG) I don't care what they do. They are free to go about their lives. They are not powerful. I like sitting down with Stephen King (who is amazing) over Eggers. There are a few thousand MFA students would disagree. There is room for both our tastes. The public is smart enough to know what they want.

The style of writing is ornate and pretentious; a lot of cute words saying nothing

Therein lies the problem with them. I can't take much of it, but clearly they know their base.

Study the historical reference I give to understand what I mean by Reactionary-- reactionary in a literary context. It's a step (back) toward literary aristocracy, which the current of American letters was so much moving away from.

There is no literary Aristocracy. Most fiction is written by mid-list writers making average to less than average incomes and like everyone else trying to food on the table. An Aristocracy is actually in control of something. Lit-fic writers appeal to a small number of Americans, and are niche in publishing. There are less than 20 big names, and the funny thing is some of the big names can't move 30,000 copies in a year.

Far be it from me to stop those with quirky and/or different tastes from peacefully enjoying literature. I do not write for them, I do not want to write for them. They are not a factor.

The main idea of doing impromptu street readings (the Crazy Carl Robinson photo is from Philly, incidentally) is keeping in touch with the humility of being a poet. This isn't something a McSweeneyite could ever possibly understand. . . .

Street preachers live by the same philosophy. In the age of blogs, confessional memoirs, myspace, and the "let's talk about me" culture, that is nothing novel. Performance poetry has to be simplified. Granted not every poet seeks to create work that makes people think. Poetry is meant to be savored, read aloud, and pondered. The fact that it has resorted to sheer performance value speaks volumes.

If she were still alive, I would go to an Anne Sexton reading in a heartbeat, because I've studied her first. She was mentally ill and an alcoholic, raving on a streetcorner would have been a sort of nail in her coffin. But her intoxicated renditions of her confessional work was brilliant.



But wait! That's right. You don't really care about literature, do you, "Joyce." To you it's irrelevent, superceded by talking head politicians and such. (I wonder then why you're even here. Something wrong. A literary discussion stimulating your brain. very anachronistic for such an outdated art form, for art, period, which is outdated, in this age of robots, by your lights.)

I care about literature as an art form, and I don't like where the conglomerates are taking it (mainly lack of diversification). I don't have beef with other writers. As long as they are not engaging in plagiarism, or child trafficking, live it and let live is my motto. If the public wants a certain form of writing they will get it. I'm waiting, very early, for the next Harry Potter installment. I'm also awaiting the next Cormac McCarthy novel (will probably be awhile). I'm waiting to see what Dan Brown does. I'm hoping that Canadian writers finally write about urban settings as skillfully as they do rural settings. The list goes on and on. There are even some writer's novels I'm reading from http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/

I got a few bucks the other day and spent a better part of the past 48 hours buying obscure books. Mainly out-of-print texts form the 50s, because that is what I like to do. I know what I like, I pursue it actively. Some people do the same with comics. Some with Vinyl. Some with ceramics. I've seen people in love with ceramics, gardening and all sorts of arts and crafts. No doubt they feel passionate about their work, but don't suffer from the writer's disease.

Literature is my thing. I just know it isn't everybody else's and I respect that. I wish those that felt that religion "was a powerful and transforming force" would respect my interests and, for instance, stop banging on my door at unforsaken hours (7 am - 2 pm).

Jeff Potter (of OutYourBackdoor.com) said...

JP: "The ULA stands up for the significance of zeensters and truly indy presses. We promote artists and writers who aren't ULAers. We stand up for the "just do your art" and "just host your liberation events" types.

JJ: "In other words, you're just like the people you claim are ruining literature?"

?? Huh? Uh, they don't promote indy lit. They ignore it. Also, you're using half of my remark---why stoop to being out of context when it's so easy to expose you about it? We promote inside/local action *AND* outsider action. We're the big tent. They're exclusive and segregationist (nichified). Other obvious ways in which we are totally unlike them, as I/we have said, is that we sign our work and we protest outrageous top-down corruption. Their method is the same as the CIA's: secrecy and support of privileged elite. So I ask you: how are we like the "old boss"? How did that even come up? It's loony. But we've seen that allegation over the years. It pops up as often as "Saunders is boring." It's weird, actually. We've never done anything remotely like how the establishment does things. Wassup?

***

JJ: "...they do have one thing going. McSweeny's 826 Valencia. They are bringing the art form to the underprivileged. That's action."

About this "serving the underprivileged" stuff---make me puke. People rock, people are strong, they're making great art. You can't stop them. They don't need "services." They *DO* need loudspeakers, amplifiers, megaphones: that's us. Their act is TOGETHER. But they are being prevented from reaching the big top, from being on the big fight card. They're contenders. We assert that they're already on a toe-to-toe level of development. Heck, they're better. They'd win. They've got what the scene needs. They're developed. Your "underprivileged" would outshine the Ivy League in a fair contest---that's what we're trying to get for them. Eggers should go to Valencia for his content, not for his charity. That is, why encourage this "poor person" writing WHEN IT'S BEEN THERE ALL ALONG and HAS ALWAYS BEEN BETTER THAN THE REST! And of course the need isn't only in the inner city but in the sticks and even in the burbs---the kept-down indy genius pops up all over and is kept down because it's indy first and foremost. Then, too, the "underprivileged" know that it's not a leveled playing field. Crayons for the whole neighborhood aren't what they need. They need their champions to be given a shot. We in the ULA have studied the underground lit scene for decades and have found some surefire champeens. It won't take many but it will take challenges.

M.D.G. said...

I'm sure someone had the idea of puttin on street readings in Philly before. Probably before I did three years or so ago. I'm not gonna act like I was an innovator or I had some original idea. All that it takes is the balls to do it.

King said...

Maybe you were the first here, who knows. We're all basically street. I sold zeens on the street in the 90's, on streetcorners, if that counts! It's getting with the people and the natural world.

King said...

I do want to quiz JJ on how he thinks Eggers is supporting his empire. Where is the money coming from? (The Believer has to be a big money loser.)
Many non-profits are out and out scams-- beyond being tax-shelters. I don't know if 826 (Church of the Undead)is, but might be worth looking into. Receiving funding for it from someplace?
Progressive?
Your very terminology, JJ, isn't progressive in my book.
When you're helping the underprivileged, it means someone is privileged. It means a relationship of Superior and Inferior, a relationship The Dave is good at exploiting, witness the ventriloquist show over the book he wrote. The Great White Father arrived to help the poor-- when the relevant question is why/how people like Eggers have so much money to start with. The pertinent question is why this society is cleaving into rich and poor, the gap becoming enormous, so that the Aristocrats like Eggers get to step from their carriages to aid the rest of us. Makes a great show, as Mr. Potter argues.
Btw, can you give an example to illustrate the Arendt quote? Who exactly are you talking about?
Mao? Castro? Che?
Most revolutionaries continue the revolution after they achieve power; they continue trying to transform their societies according to their revolutionary vision, for good or ill.
Re Arms Akimbo. No record whatsoever of their tour, at least under that name. Someone is trying to scam us. The game's up, I think, "Grace."

jimmy grace said...

It's not our tour, Kingy - we joined up with a bigger queer tour, along with writers, performers musicians and other visual artists. But your paranoia is so fucking tired - whenever you can't keep up with the debate, you announce that your opponents are just evil insider CIA suckups. Whatever. The tour will still bring indy (mostly) art to more people than wandering around New York reading on the streets.

King said...

I'm just trying to pin you down, "Grace." Oh, now it's not YOUR tour. Funny how you didn't say this before.
No, you're not a CIA-type. I never said you were. It's strange, the paranoia YOU have over our pressing Paris Review on the matter.
The Question regarding you has always been: Why are you here? Is someone so involved, so upset, without cause?
Hmm. A matter worth looking into.

jimmy grace said...

Um, yeah, actually I said I came home and the tour went on without me.

My cause is that I'm bored at my stupid dayjob and so I wander around arguing with bloggers who irritate me. And for the fucking zillionth time, I've never said you shouldn't investigate the Paris Review. You can investigate anything you want. But if you're curious over the "silence" on this issue, and why the revolution hasn't happened because of it, it's because

NOBODY
GIVES
A
fill in the blank...

M.D.G. said...

No I was not the first. I remember about the first outdoor reading I put on. It was in Rittenhouse Square Park around the time the war started. Someone came up to me and told me they saw another group of readers reading in front of city hall. When we were done I went over there to see if I could catch them but they were gone.

King said...

Two points for the jury to consider:
1.) "Grace" has already drawn a connection between himself and the McSweeney's Gang when he mentioned he was at one of their readings hearing Handler attack us. Grace has also continued to side, all evidence to the contrary, with the Handler version of the fake letter controversy. Quite vociferously sided with Mr. Handler, I would say. You can check the posts and see.
2.) This supposed non-writer tells us no one cares about Paris Review, or even knows what it is. How much less visible is Francine Prose, an Insider's Insider the general public doesn't know about. Yet Mr. Grace not only knew who she was, he also carried a strong opinion about her work-- quickly posting when I introduced her as a subject.
Is there any doubt, from anyone who's been following these discussions, that Mr. Grace knows a lot about the lit world and its current players?
Quite a lot to expect from a graphic artist.
I don't know anything about graphic art. I don't know the players, and frankly wouldn't be interested enough in them to post anywhere, continually, day after day, on the subject someplace.
Yet here is Mr. Grace, every day, for months.
What are we looking for, Ladies and Gentleman?
Means, Motive, Opportunity.
Motive. Can we show the suspect as having strong motive for his daily posts?
I believe that we can.

James Joyce Is the Greatest Writer... Ever said...

I do want to quiz JJ on how he thinks Eggers is supporting his empire. Where is the money coming from?

I don't believe it is an empire. IIRC, McSweenys has come close to going under a number of times. The mag costs $20 a pop and I'm sure he is mainly floating off past royalties. I don't think he is living some sort of high-life, especially with the cost of living in San Francisco.

When you're helping the underprivileged, it means someone is privileged. It means a relationship of Superior and Inferior, a relationship The Dave is good at exploiting, witness the ventriloquist show over the book he wrote. The Great White Father arrived to help the poor-- when the relevant question is why/how people like Eggers have so much money to start with

1. I'm not a progressive (or liberal as they are also called).

2. Not all people are equal. Some people are born into generous circumstances financially and some are sort. Poverty, privlege, all those things are relative. Someone pulling in a million a year is in poverty compared to the truly wealthy in the nation.

Eggers gets props for doing a small something. Liberals and leftists are prone to just point out the wealthy as boogeymen. I surely have no problem with the wealthy.

The pertinent question is why this society is cleaving into rich and poor, the gap becoming enormous, so that the Aristocrats like Eggers get to step from their carriages to aid the rest of us. Makes a great show, as Mr. Potter argues.

There are no Aristocrats in America. And surely not some liberal from San Francisco. Eggers has no political influence. It's like saying a professional athlete is an aristocrat because he made it. There are a lot of upper middle class people writing, some get published, and a precious few make it. They suffer from the same problem as everyone else, writing material that isn't in demand (if sales are the goal) or lack of mastery (if they want to be craftsmen).

The gap between rich and poor is growing because we are no longer fully dependent on manufacturing. No different that the move from an agrarian economy to a manufacturing economy in the 20th century. Of course, the government saw fit to fiddle in the economy, made missteps and caused a great depression (which somehow always gets blamed on someone other than the government).

Some interesting facts about the poor in America:

1. Forty-six percent of all poor households actually own their own homes. The average home owned by persons classified as poor by the Census Bureau is a three-bedroom house with one-and-a-half baths, a garage, and a porch or patio.

2. Seventy-six percent of poor households have air conditioning. By contrast, 30 years ago, only 36 percent of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.

3. Only 6 percent of poor households are overcrowded. More than two-thirds have more than two rooms per person.

4. The average poor American has more living space than the average individual living in Paris, London, Vienna, Athens, and other cities throughout Europe. (These comparisons are to the average citizens in foreign countries, not to those classified as poor.)

5. Nearly three-quarters of poor households own a car; 30 percent own two or more cars.

6. Ninety-seven percent of poor households have a color television; over half own two or more color televisions.

7. Seventy-eight percent have a VCR or DVD player; 62 percent have cable or satellite TV reception.

8. Seventy-three percent own microwave ovens, more than half have a stereo, and a third have an automatic dishwasher.

Understanding Poverty in America

fdw said...

Hey guys and gays and gaffs goons geeks, etc.
Constant confusion with u two especially. That seems to be the common denominator, confuse obscure the issues-- DG don't you think you you may be taken advantage by the DAWGZ not because you're a good artist or that your indy or that you represent PC alternation, but because you confusing and confused?
Well some in the safe house do and I for one doan like use guys confusing "poverty" with being "poor". Condescending lap dogs.

King said...

Hmm, now suddenly there are very few poor people in this country? Not my experience.
I suspect your stats don't tell all the story-- such as how hard people are working in the lower classes, many holding two or three jobs; or also the support structure available, or lack thereof-- such as health care, public tranportation (in Detroit virtually nonexistent), schools (in Detroit those which remain in utter shambles; conditions in many Philly sections not much better), and so on.
Why is the gap between rich and poor growing larger? I addressed this question in a post last year here; will have to search for it.
To say there's no aristocracy in America is ridiculous. When the gap between rich and poor in this country is as great as what it was in 1789 France, what else does one call those on the top?
I could dig up statistics about what percentage of wealth the top 5%, or 1%, of people in the U.S. own or control. A staggering amount.
People like Eggers are in the top 1% socio-economic level. A Rick Moody in the top 0.01%.
Political power? Certainly Ivy League grads dominate it, when one looks at how many of them have been Presidential candidates the last ten years.
People on the top of this pyramid society of course wear blinders. A person with income of a million a year probably believes he's "middle-class." Ridiculous.
But you've gotten us a little off course. I'm waiting for you to explain the Arendt quote.
ALSO, do you think Eggers is receiving tax breaks for his much-lauded charity work? Isn't that a 501c3 organization? Could he possibly also be receiving government grants? What do you think? Non-profits can be played in various ways. He's a shrewd guy, and might be looking at avenues/games that others (Ralph Nader) have played before him.
What do you think?
(Have you ever tried surviving on minimum wage jobs, JJ? Most of the writers in the ULA are doing exactly that. Cost of living has doubled in many areas the last ten years while wages have barely budged. And things weren't great ten years ago!
Yes, one can survive-- but having the time and energy to pursue one's art gets more and more impossible every year, for the true bohemian, a vanishing breed.)

King said...

p.s. Check "The Conservative Fallacy" on this blog from October 5, 2005, about the rich/poor problem.

jimmy grace said...

I was at a nonMcSweeneys reading in a bar in the Mission where a friend of mine read along with I think seven other writers. Handler was one of them. I have no connection to McSweeneys other than the fact that they annoy the fuck out of me.

And yep, I've heard of Francine Prose. Therefore I'm a writer? Gosh, I've heard of Operation Ivy too, maybe I'm a guitarist.

Nope, I'm a guy. I make visual art. I have opinions. I know you'd prefer to believe I'm a CIA-sponsored status quo blowjobber, so you go right ahead if it helps you feel you're a revolutionary instead of a crank.

King said...

?? But there you go putting words in my mouth again which I didn't say. Why the deliberate misdirection? I know you don't work for the CIA. I'm sure they wouldn't have you.
Again, means, motive, opportunity. What's your motive? A graphic artist just happens to stumble upon our blog then spends many hundreds of hours trying to discredit us?
Not credible.
The game is up.

jimmy grace said...

Means, motive, opportunity, you sound like Columbo. What crime are you accusing me of, exactly? I post on blogs when I'm bored at work - and now it's 5 o'clock, so see ya.