BEING AN UNDERGROUND WRITER means having to fight for every inch of progress against those who would keep us down.
I notice reviews of faux-underground books appearing all over the place; of Bolano's Savage Detectives and Pahalniuk's Rant, even of the book by the dishwasher indie guy who took his quick payoff from a conglomerate, but scarcely is there a review of a ULA Press book anywhere yet to be found. We can get articles about us which treat us like clowns or psychos-- but to be taken seriously as writers? No way.
As I'm running out of review copies of our books (particularly of Security) I'm planning to institute a new personal review policy. I'll be enclosing a SASE with all review books sent out. Those who've already received copies from me, I'll ask to mail back. (The corporations they work for should be able to pay for mailing.)
The Underground Literary Alliance is a Do-It-Yourself organization operating on a shoestring, with no help from any foundation, government, university, or corporation. The cost of our review copies comes directly out of our own pockets. The books we send out, we pay for. We work hard on ultra-shitty jobs to pay for them.
The review copies I've sent have been to individuals who I thought would give us a break; supposed progressive open-minded folks who would see the importance of creating an alternative to the stale produce of media monopolies; who would recognize the ULA as the leading edge of literary change. (As acknowledged even by Britain's The Guardian.)
Most (not all) book reviewers are from upper-middle class backgrounds and have never had to face directly the economics of daily survival. The books they normally review come to them in an expensive stream from the Time-Warner etc. conglomerations as if dropped from the sky, an endless flow with no cost; no connection to reality.
What do we ask for? Open access. Equal treatment.
Some reviewers should know better. I question the thinking of a local reviewer who I met at a radio show taping recently. Several years ago this writer interviewed myself and street poet Michael Grover for an article which never appeared. For the non-existent article, I mailed the person a small sampling of rare zeens (one by the great and very DIY Violet Jones) as a way to show what underground literature was about-- how exciting and precious it is. Lo and behold, the person became afterward herself a zeenster-- but still doesn't understand that DIY is more than occasionally making your own publication. DIY is a philosophy: a state of mind and a way of life. DIY is a movement intended to return culture to the people. It means looking out for other DIY people. All of this, all of this, to an undergrounder should go without saying.
Instead this comfortable individual like a paid mercenary produces review after review about books from the monopolistic mainstream. She raved about the Pahalniuk book. A mention of Wred Fright's The Pornographic Flabbergasted Emus or James Nowlan's Security? (Good mention or bad?) Nowhere to be found in the pages of her newspaper.
Maybe I shouldn't say these things. Maybe we should wait like other humble writers silently in line, heads bowed, hats in hand. Obsequious and obedient. But that's not why the ULA was founded, not how it was designed to operate. Enough of our number have tried things the acceptable way and against the barriers and inequities of this starkly inequitable society gotten no place.
Will my new personal review policy, asking for the return of review copies I gave or sent (expect e-mails in the coming days), piss off literary mandarins? Heavens! Golly gee. It'll be tough to disturb their sensibilities, but they'll survive, as will we, as we always survive, eyes opened wide to this society's realities.
I'm of the attitude: For those who don't want to participate in the ULA party, to help us make history, rebellious and necessary history, fine. This is a big country. We'll go out into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt. We'll read our books to the homeless and the blind. We'll stand on streetcorners and in parks as we've done before, reading our words to everybody.
Have a good day.