Monday, March 05, 2007


IT'S INTERESTING that the three contending literary movements on this side of the Atlantic all had their roots in the zine scene of the 1990s.

The vast bulk of zines were hand-made, low tech, xeroxed, and sold for a dollar or two. Their creators were from all walks of life-- often working the shittiest jobs in this society, from dishwasher to waitress to movie ticket-taker to fast food worker to 7-11 clerk. The colleges they attended, for those who went to college, were unknown schools in the West, South, and Midwest. Most successful and representative of this form of zinester were Doug Holland of "Pathetic Life," and Aaron Cometbus. The ULA drew its early membership from zine publishers like them; Wred Fright, Owen Thomas, Chris Estey, Michael Jackman, Tom Hendricks, Urban Hermitt, and so on. The movement was grass roots and populist.

A handful of other zines, which received an inordinate amount of attention, were more expensive more substantial intellectual journals produced by ambitious highly educated social climbers. The most prominent of these zines were The Baffler and Hermenaut. Keith Gessen of n+1 wrote for the latter. Hermenaut's editor, Joshua Glenn, is Gessen's intellectual godfather. n+1 is a continuation of this more upper class zine tradition.

Dave Eggers's Might (precursor to McSweeney's), created in the latter half of the decade, borrowed from zine style and attitude while being only marginally a real zine. (Once you have an office and staff you've pretty much left zine territory.) The people Eggers went after in his later projects weren't zinesters and their audience, but Overdog writers (Susan Minot and MFA grads. In other words, he melded himself as quickly as possible with established literature.

Only the Underground Literary Alliance consists of grass roots DIY writers carrying on the authentic zine tradition. We're a broader, more authentic expression of American culture than our two more pretentious and connected competitors, and are well-positioned for the present, and for the future ahead.

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