Friday, March 30, 2007

"Dumbing Down"?

One of the dumber expressions heard in the literary scene is the notion that we or others are "dumbing down" writing by seeking to reach a broader audience. The expression is an oversimplification, the very thing it claims to attack.

Are folk songs a "dumbing down" of music-- or are they not a way of getting to the integral emotion, the basic expression of a people's voice?

Were very plain Beatles songs like "I'll Get You," "No Reply," and "I Don't Want to Spoil the Party" dumbed down? In their later songs, the band layered studio effects over the core of their art. Their early work was more vital, more energetic, more real than most of their later output.

Maybe the punk rebellion of the Ramones and Sex Pistols was a "dumbing down" of rock-- but a dumbing down of what? The overblown pretentiousness of bands like Emerson, Lake, and Palmer or Yes?

The ULA presents a wide variety of underground writing. Much of it-- Wild Bill's zeens or Frank Walsh's poetry-- like good modernist art, has much more to it than seems at first glance. Our two newest books, by Wred Fright and James Nowlan, are very different from each other and both very good.
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The literary world of course is dominated by academy-trained intellectuals. Heedless of context, in whichever venue they write they wish to prove their intellectualism, and so produce even for disposable daily newspapers work better suited for university critical journals gathering dust on university library shelves. That these writers don't understand context and audience is a sign they're not as intelligent as they pretend. Instead they're well-trained followers whose training never left them. They write always inside the same box. Placing such writers within the cheap pop milieu of a newspaper is like dropping a polar bear into the jungles of Africa. An uncomfortable fit-- for the reader anyway.
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Know this: Promoting good accessible writing has always been our goal. We believe the ULA can compete straight up with the big guys. (A quick perusal of mainstream novels I've received proves this.) We'll present fiction and poetry for everyone in this society but it won't be merely bad Bukowski knock-offs; it will be truly innovative, fun, challenging, or enlightening; more smart and truthful about what's happening in this world than refined status quo junk. It'll be good.

1 comment:

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