Saturday, June 02, 2007

Quick Fiction Overview

THE SAVAGE DETECTIVES BY ROBERT BOLANO.
Yes, it's good that this great deceased Latin American author is receiving so much attention from U.S. book reviewers-- but why no attention for authentic American underground writers? Why are defenders of the status quo like Francine Prose given the assignment to blurb or review Bolano's book? Why are their remarks about it so phony? As if any of these conformists cared about underground literary rebellion! They're a universe away from Bolano's mindset. They adopt the pose of being open-minded. In truth, they're open-minded if the subject is thousands of miles away and doesn't touch them.

I look forward to someday reading all of Bolano's novel. So far, my perusal of it shows some interesting personalities and much literary gossip.

For a more compelling depiction of an underground personality, in a fuller context, read James Nowlan's Security, which has tougher, better writing and travels deeper societally and psychologically. (The underground now-- the future-- is available TODAY at www.literaryrevolution.com)

SECRET SOCIETY GIRL BY DIANA PETERFREUND.
This idiotic novel glories in the supposed powers and secrecies of a Yale-like secret society. Just what the American public wanted! (Justification for George W. Bush?) It's yet another example of the insularity of the publishing industry.

The book is sick, warped, in that it makes light of the class privilege of the writer and her friends-- privilege which allowed the publication of the book, which has no popular or literary value. (Beyond pandering to those who want to be bluebloods.)

The novel was written for an elite clique, and since the N.Y. publishing world is dominated by this same clique, they loved it.

JPOD BY DOUGLAS COUPLAND.
Another publication mystery. The cover and subject of this novel, ostensibly about the electronic game industry, by overhyped Canadian author Coupland, is reminiscent of Game Quest by underground Canadian novelist Leopold McGinnis. Except McGinnis's book is ten times better. Coupland's book is scarecely about the game business at all-- he shows little knowledge about it. The book is more a forum for showcasing the emptiness of his mind, filled with boring long ruminations about Ronald McDonald and other pseudo-cultural happenings which go beyond stupidity.

How does such garbage get published and hyped while the relevant writers of our society and time are ignored?

(I'll likely soon be posting a long-overdue review of the McGinnis book at the new ULA review blog, www.ulareview.blogspot.com; the book's narrative has some parallels, as far as I'm concerned, with the struggles of the ULA itself.)

9 comments:

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

Yes, it's good that this great deceased Latin American author is receiving so much attention from U.S. book reviewers-- but why no attention for authentic American underground writers?

To be fair King, this argument has been put forth a lot. Not about the underground, but art period. Save for the common examples (Dickens, Hemingway, Picasso, Frost), many artists tend to not be validated until they are dead. They are safe then, and since they are often ahead of their time, it takes awhile for the culture or academia to take notice. or catch up.

There are theories about why it happens, but it isn't some flaw in the Overground or mainstream literary establishment. It is a flaw with artist becoming popular and accepted period. Henry James was barely read in his day. Moby Dick fell by the wayside. Everyone knows the Van Gogh/Emily Dickinson story of artist rejected and unknown becoming a legend after death.

Two things drive it, commerce and academia. It can be ignored by academia, but if it is a money maker it has a chance. If it is not a money maker, but can build academic careers and discussion (Finnegans Wake) then it has a chance. Sadly, a lot falls by the wayside, and depends on future writer's/defenders to pull it up (Cowley saved Faulkner when Faulkner was forgotten, Vidal imported Italo Calvino, Hollywood stars and famous musicians promoted Bukowski).

In conclusion, they ignore the domestic underground for the same reason they are ignoring other elements of fiction, various reasons. Indian fiction is beloved, especially in the UK, Georgian fiction, not so much.) All that can be done in my opinion is promote, defend, and hope it catches on with the public (Harry Potter was ignored, but is now gaining respect in academia, especially in relation to children) or academia (Cormac McCarthy couldn't sell 5,000 copies in hardcover before 1992, but academics loved him, now the public acts as if he is a new kid on the block after 40 years of publishing).

I don't want to be on the wrong side of history, but I doubt Updike, Bellow, Eggers, Moody, Picoult, Steel, etc, will be read in 100 years. What they have in common is the fact they are respected and accepted in some fashion. Who knows what will be accepted after we are dead (props to whoever said Moby Dick would be a classic after it made $556.37 in Melville's lifetime)

fdw said...

Another fine example above of the difference betwixt rationality (used here by jjitgw as misdirection) and Reason (the cultivation of which consists of the discernment of intention or lack of it behind what people say or do)
and to remind us again:
RATIONALITY IS TO REASON AS FANTASY IS TO THE IMAGINATION.

I also thought King that yr. Blog is not allowing anonymous comments?

Kareem Abdul Shabazz said...

I also thought King that yr. Blog is not allowing anonymous comments?

Synchronicity? Anyway, I'm not an anon, I changed my blogger ID to my name.

King said...

You sound like a standard WASP Overdog, Shabazz. Your past arguments have seemed to come from within the skyscrapers.
But you're right-- the ULA is on the right side of history.
To survive, literature MUST change. The ULA is at the forefront of that stage, which will move to us and beyond us.
Those who get in the way of history will be run over.

Kareem Abdul Shabazz said...

You sound like a standard WASP Overdog, Shabazz. Your past arguments have seemed to come from within the skyscrapers.

I just have a moderate view. Publishing is a business not an art. Art has to adhere to business standards if it wants to be taken on, otherwise l'art pour l'art is a great ideal, but that is actual one favored amongst the upper classes who have time and money to craft non-commercial prose to be published to dismal sales, but perhaps critical esteem.

To survive, literature MUST change. The ULA is at the forefront of that stage, which will move to us and beyond us.

It changes organically. Commercial fiction subsidizes the change and that must answer to the populace. Literary fiction now is doing what it did in the Victorian age, although there is more diversity, far more than then. Revolutionary movements tend to fall by the wayside unless they are commercially viable. Modernism is a good example, however the modernists that survived (namely: Woolf, Joyce, Hemingway, et al) survived as individuals but the modernist movement is no longer acceptable as commercially viable, not that it ever caught on outside of academia. Where people are on the wrong side of history, in literature, rests with individual artists, whereas in visual arts it it can be an individual or movement. Literary fiction didnt change so much as middle-class and upper middle-class lifestyles, and sex and adultery were no longer a taboo (good thing for Updike).

I'm not sure many literary revolutions happened due to access to commercial distribution. It was mostly taking it upon themselves. I know the Beats are a popular example, but they are enshrined in history. There isn't too much commercially viable stuff like that these days, not that literary fiction is commercially viable. It continues to be subsidized by grants, commercial hits and non-fiction books (I can't name a single big time agent other than Binky Urban who works with mostly literary fiction. I do think there are about 5 or 6 out of upwards of 600 agents)

Commercial viability/success is going to be the sign of a legit movement, because that means people are putting their hard earned cash up to support it. I believe the last solid revolution was Women dominating (65% of fiction sales come from Romance, which is produced and consumed mostly by women).

I'm not saying the ULA won't change the industry or literature. I don't want to make pronouncements that have a chance to make me the punchline of literary history.

King said...

"Shabazz," you're giving us the same blather here you were pushing months ago. LITERATURE is an art. To many lit people have forgotten this, and in their eagerness for business are in fact killing the business of literature.
Yes, change is organic. Unlike those representing the Overdogs, the ULA is an organic arts movement. We were founded by Do-It-Yourself zeen people. We represent culture from the people, organic culture, from the ground-up, instead of imposed by bureaucratic castles filled with well-schooled followers. We're from the people and of the people; the real literature of this time. As Frank Walsh puts it, we're not underground culture so much as culture underground.
p.s. I suspect your real identity would show you to have a stake in the literary system, beyond your pose as objective observer. Please halt the cynical game-playing. (Your new name is quite cynical. By adopting the name of an ostensible outsider, do you think this will protect you? It smacks of Mandarins adopting token Third-World types as necessary cover for their ruthless behavior.)

Kareem Abdul Shabazz said...

LITERATURE is an art. To many lit people have forgotten this, and in their eagerness for business are in fact killing the business of literature.

It is not an art to all writers. Literary fiction does not constitute the majority of literature in any fashion. Literature is primarily entertainment, and entertainment is what the masses want, judging by what is bought (even I need a break from Joyce and Proust, and get a lot of commercial stuff). This doesn't mean it can't be enlightening or profound, but art has always been on the margins and always will be. People first and foremost want to be entertained. This is why Hollywood is larger than the stage or literature, and why big budget popcorn flicks are more popular than deep dramas. This doesn't mean Star Wars and The Matrix wern't quite deep, there were steeped in philosophy, politics and mythology. But they were first and foremost entertainment.

I'm not sure where you are getting this notion of it being purely art from. It wasn't even taken seriously until Henry James (that was his whole mission) it was an idle waste of time. Art rested in the epic poem, poetry, and the stage. Dickens wrote serials for magazines and was paid by the word, same as Dostoevsky. It can be seen as an art now, but the commercial still rules the day.

Btw the way I'm using terms:

Art = intended to express the subjective views of the artist. Or offer some sort of social or political critique or message above all.

Entertainment: Primarily concerned with entertaining the audience, be it a limited or general audience. The profit motive is often the leading motive but doesn't have to be. No representation, political, economic or social is directly intended, but the complete satisfaction of the audience is.

Now there can be a lot of overlap, but fiction tends to be directly divided into literary and commercial. The former is not even expected to perform well commercially.

If money isn't being made then art essentially becomes intellectual masturbation. There is a reason so many writers of literary fiction apply for grants or need to be subsidized. It doesn't sell. The public doesn't want it. Television, DVDs, Movies, theater, the internet, art galleries, video games, are all competing for the same limited amount of time (usually some portion of the 8 hours of free time the average person has).

I'm a literary guy, but when it comes to flicks, I want to be kept awake and caught up in a story. The serious dramas are okay in moderation, but I'm not a cinematic artist. There are filmmakers/screenwriters speaking about the same sort of revolution, yet ignoring public demand. But that is Hollywood, and few industries bend to the will of the public like Hollywood.

We're from the people and of the people; the real literature of this time. As Frank Walsh puts it, we're not underground culture so much as culture underground.

I'm not sure what you mean by this. Who are the people? The middle-class, as always, is the backbone of any stable country, and they, as people, are represented well in fiction, in fact, I'd say it's pretty much all about the middle class. They support it, they buy it, literary and commercial. I'm not sure many writers would claim to speak for the middle class, but they write what they no. I'm not sure anyone could speak for any class, race, religion. The world is made of individuals who share traits, but very few people can be perfectly put into groups. MFA programs are filled with people who want to do the same as the ULA. They are all about art. In very few programs will you hear advocacy of commercialism. This is what is entertaining about the blog (it is entertaining). You have so much in common with the people you oppose, yet just come at from different angles. How many of the thousands of writers are saying things like they "hate the working class?" Or something similar? If it can make money it will be gobbled up. If it is purely descriptivist, offering no supreme plot, conflict, character development, then it isn't going to make much headway. The industry is already cutting back on the mainstream descriptivist fiction, and those that get published typically have contacts within the industry, and of course they have dayjobs, because not many people are buying descriptivist literary fiction. Story is supreme.


America is a country of 300 million (I guess 288 if we exclude illegals). No one speaks for the people. The United States Government can't even speak for the people and the people can actually cast a free vote. This is the 21st century and I'm not sure to many people like being spoken for if they haven't consented (the race, the class, the nation, etc). I know Bush is the elected president, but he surely, very surely, does not speak for me.

Kareem Abdul Shabazz said...

write what they no

EDIT write what they "know"

King said...

Your blather is all over the place. I didn't say literature is PURELY art. Please don't put words into my mouth. But neither is literature purely commerce.
If Literature were read by the great bulk of the middle class, book review sections wouldn't be vanishing. It's instead dominated and read by the most privileged. Check out the boasted demographics of NEW YROK REVIEW OF BOOKS and GRANTA to see what I'm talking about.
Beyond this, the bottom half of society has been completely written off. (Keep in mind that 75% of the American population-- excluding twenty million illegal immigrants-- have no college degree at all.)
The ULA isn't against the concept of entertainment. We realize it's an important aspect of literary art. This belief is expressed in our books.
You can find them at
www.literaryrevolution.com