Sunday, July 01, 2007

Streams

RE-INVENTING THE CAR

The Underground Literary Alliance, foremost voice of authentic underground literary artists, has been fed by several cultural streams.

By the print zeen movement; by performing poets of the Frank Walsh variety; by e-zinesters like Pat Simonelli. What we have in common is the concept of DIY: Do-It-Yourself.

This is what distinguishes us from status quo writers who follow outdated rules of artistic conformity. We've bypassed entirely the old system for producing and promoting writers.

We're not necessarily credentialed, not FDA, or MFA or MBA approved. No USDA stamps on our foreheads.

We're not refined.
We're not domesticated.
We're not supplicants.
We're DIY and believe the staus quo can't hold.

System writers are forced to appeal to the gatekeepers of the literary world, to trained professors and editors whose job is to enforce static art; whose minds are encompassed by the system itself.

DIY writers have gone directly to our audience.

Our poets have earned their reps and honed their craft time and again in front of crowds, whether in bars, halls, on streetcorners or in parks.

Our zeensters have found their own readers. The best like Wred Fright connected with an audience; they found fans and subscribers. Those who couldn't connect with a base of support quickly enough dropped out.

DIYers-- real DIYers-- bridge the gap between high and low. We'd like to appeal to the genteel lit crowd, sure, but also to the mad masses who watch the Jerry Springer Show. By our very being and actions we're a return to literature's roots. Shakespeare's audiences at The Globe, after all, were quite wild-- not at all like the polite aficionados who attend Shakespeare plays now-- who do so I suspect more as an observation of taste than from real enjoyment, like the frozen crowd of mannequins we discovered at Miller Hall when we crashed an approved reading of "Howl" a year ago.

LIVING ART
Living art vibrates with truth and insight.

I noticed how dead was Miranda July's recent story in The New Yorker. The lead character finds herself on a plane ride next to a celebrity. Next to a celebrity! The vacuous story takes its cues from too-many TV viewings of "Entertainment Tonight"-- and expects the reader to do likewise. There is not a shred of reality about the situation or narrative. Instead, it smells of crafted phoniness. There isn't a genuine emotion in the piece-- unless the author is an observant but soulless robot. No, this is no DIY person at all, but yet another tops-down well-hyped literary product.

Meanwhile, the genuine writer survives and struggles in obscurity, but out there somewhere, in various manifestations, whether as wandering expat overseas, in France or Asia, or refugee from New Orleans, in west coast Oakland, or even here in Philadelphia. My task is to find and discuss such overlooked persons; in so doing maybe to save the art in the process. This is what the ULA campaign is about.

15 comments:

Fran said...

I think the shunning of certain artists is even broader than being dissed by literary-world insiders: bookstores and libraries do it too, local ones, small ones, big ones, medium ones, you name it.

My local library recently got July's book. I read a few of the stories. They were okay but pretty flat in voice and content. Twice several years ago I asked that library if it would for-free accept two of my novels for the shelves; it wasn't interested either time because my books were POD trade paperbacks (the librarians said to me that they don't shelve trade paperbacks when they DO, they just didn't want mine) and self-published, and I think also because I'm not a native here (but neither is JULY and the numerous other writers represented in the library).

Another library did accept a donated copy of Remember and Forget from me--never saw it on the shelves there. I asked about that a while later, was told it was "unacceptable for the shelves" but the desk person claimed she didn't know why. Because of the content? Because the Library of Congress wouldn't accept POD books? Both those reasons? Other reasons? I have no idea. But that I was shut out is the more important thing because, ultimately, I'm still shut out.

So my local library now carries July's book but wouldn't ever carry mine because her book has an establishment seal-of-approval that mine did not have. Like her work needs help getting attention?

It seems some libraries support the same-old, same-old too. Snobbery's been institutionalized in so many places....

fdw said...

Here's where ULA Press comes in. An independent press, for sure and how! Satisfies the faked, hidden agenda "requirements" of the System,
particularly exampled by your case with the libraries.
Sure we've got no real "resources" but if a good alternative writer like yrself (Larry Richette also comes to mind) is willing to dish out the production money to produce POD trade paperbacks to a corporation why not do it with a small "legit" press like the ULA?

Fran said...

Hi fdw, and thanks for the compliment. I put those novels into print years ago, in 2000 and 2001--didn't even know about the ULA then. I don't think the ULA press published novels then or maybe even existed (?). And I'm not sure it would be interested in my fiction. I write about pretty much anyone in any economic situation; except in R&F and maybe my short story, The Last One, and in the latest novel I've been working on (which I don't know if I'll ever finish), socioeconomics aren't normally a focus of my writing, they're just a part, sometimes a large part, but most of my stuff probably leans toward middle-class people. Not sure where it could fit really. If I and my work could fit well in one or another area in society, I'd be all right. Unfortunately, I'm always floating between or outside somewhere, am probably too much of an individualist. That makes my life very hard socially....

POD technology places have gotten much more expensive since I used them--except for Lulu. I'm not high on those companies anymore; too many complaints about them and I've had bad experiences with a few in the past. For that and other reasons, I've pretty much given up on publishing my stuff. Like I'm barely hanging on to writing now.

The ULA's books do sound really good. It's a shame that this fucking dumb world can barely recognize what's good anymore. At least the press has gotten its books in some indy bookstores. I hope it can expand in that area, for everyone's sake!

King said...

Fran, why don't you send me one of your books c/o the PO Box address listed on the ULA site, and I'll review it. (I'll treat it fairly.)

Fran said...

...It's kind of too late. It's been over five years since they were published. I don't market them anymore, I no longer even check if I've made any sales because I know what the sales history will likely reveal: zero, as it's shown for almost three years now. I've only got one somewhat beat-up copy of R&F left. A Strange Arrangement is no longer in print, and I've since made a few changes to R&F (and ASA), changed a few things I didn't like. I had started blogging both novels but then stopped when I got hardly any to no responses. If anyone really wants to read R&F, it can be scrolled through/read for free in iUniverse's bookstore, though the format's probably a pain in the ass for many people. Maybe I should try again with blogging both books. But I just don't have any desire to....

This comment thread on your blog's becoming about me, which isn't right. I only meant to add to your accurate commentary how ridiculously snobby and exclusionary I think the world has become, even the world in the artist's backyard. It isn't just the bigshot publishing world ignoring some artists. If it were just that, that could probably be handled more easily than the other crap in society. The other crap seems even tougher to change, at least lately, at least to me.

Thanks for the review offer,

Fran

Patrick @ LitVision said...

There shouldn't be a time limit to promote a great book that's been ignored.

fdw said...

Here's an idea hypothetical of course and completely open minded.
Thrown out to ye Fran in particular and actually originating from some of your comments a month or so ago on this blog.
First why not go ahead and send King yr books in question for review on the ULA Review Blog, then you excerpt serialize either them or any work in progress say you got going and want to potentially published or have published. On the ULA's Poetry And Fiction Blog. This builds buzz and drws interest. Why play by the rules or engage in the protocol of a corrupt and lying monopolist/ elitist system?

Fran said...

Later on yesterday I was rummaging through a bag of my manuscripts and I found another copy of R&F. I thought the more beat-up one had been the copy in that bag; I forgot I had an extra one.

If you still want a copy, King, I'll send that extra one. Though I confess I'm a bit embarrassed doing that because you might not like it and I'm at the depressive stage lately where my writing looks so crappy to me. I wrote R&F seven years ago while living in the backwoods, I put the book aside for a year, not intending to do anything with it, then September 11th happened and I realized I should really get the book out there then. What happens in the story turned out to be a bit prophetic!

Patrick, I agree. And I wish the whole world agreed. Today it seems like anything older than two months is ancient to many people, and I sometimes wonder how much the world's missed out on because eyes have been moving too fast for brains to process what's been seen.

Fdw, I rarely play by the rules, I have serious trouble following rules, I've tried lots of different stuff publishingwise. And I don't have anything against offers to excerpt my fiction anywhere--no one's made any though! I've never had any buzz around me and my work--not once. I now doubt that's even possible toward me. That may be the case for some writers. And my writing in particular just may be too sad, too cynical. People seem to hate the very cynical today. But maybe I'm mistaken on all this--I don't know.

If you need more content for your fiction blog, you should advertise that. I think you'd get some submissions. I'd link to your submission-call post too.

fdw said...

Creativity the sign of concsious LIFE (in contradistinction to survival the lynchpin of System control)has at least as I wonder the charactistic of reflection-- of the way things are in "reality" which is change cos its not exactly conscious at least not human cs.
Therefore instead of denying adjudging cynicism per se as a negative (which the System "trains" a writer/artist type person to do in order for them to keep to the side of survival rather than life, contemplate how the cynicism reflects the tenor of the society the way things are run(ning)and then decide if your take is sufficiently and gratifyingly doing this for you as a writer. That's just the sign.
Other than that my query is are you posing this take on your work (not labor, see!) as a writer or as a reader? Otherwise best of all would be reader/writer and that in this case it does help is all positive to get other writer/readers like the ULA to enjoin their perspectives, like in an intentional community. And this is the buzz actually that I think I am refering you to and the interested readers of any work therein up of yours in the public realm.
How "bad" or really "how not good enpugh" can anything be if it turns out to be prophetic?
Hey besides humilitas is a good practical characteristic for a writer and that seems to me from my perspective you are really mulling over, dancing around here?

Fran said...

I'm basing my thoughts on my observations of people in general and on what some have told me toward my work. Not everyone, but more than a few so that I've noticed a pattern of responses to me. I personally don't think there's anything necessarily bad about anyone's being cynical, negative, dark, etc. I think being that way is generally better than being the opposite. Though if it gets too extreme, yeah, cynicism can harm the cynic.

I've been a cynical and skeptical person practically since I popped out of my mother. That this aspect of me would ever change is doubtful. And that aspect also comes out in my writing. A lot sometimes, whether or not I intend this. Most people seem to want happy-happy-happy ideas and talk about life and humanity. I don't often feel or make happy-happy-happy talk, though sometimes I do. It depends.

What you said about the system training artists to focus on survival rather than life--you're right. "The system"--the bulk of mainstream society, or at least the people who seem to make/influence the "rules" in society--doesn't want anyone criticizing life because that would likely include criticizing the system, which is an unfortunate part of life; the system would rather keep artists struggling to survive so they're distracted from being raped by the system, so they have no time to realize all that and reveal that shitty system to the world (that's how dumb the system is because it's plan backfires all over the place with there always being some artists revealing! the system should just STOP BEING SO SHITTY, then there would probably be a lot less complaints).

Of course a big problem there is, many artists are struggling to survive in part BECAUSE they're being raped. It's a vicious, self-sustaining cycle. I don't understand artists who don't scream about the shitty way artists are generally treated by society. That not-screaming is self-harming. For years and years I've been screaming that writers in particular would get much farther as a group if they'd stick together and present a united front, not a divided front because a divided front is a weak front; instead, many backbite each other and excessively compete over the crumbs being thrown their way by the powers-that-be, excessively compete over who's supposedly "better." They're divided. Hence, many of them fall--and have fallen.

At the same time, my own kind has rarely been nice to me, and now I'm disgusted that I've been treated like shit by other writers. I don't want any part in that stupid shit, nor do I want to be nasty to other writers, all of which is why I've stayed by myself for so long. I think the world in general has become a screw-or-be-screwed-over-or-both one. I hate all three options and so avoid taking part in the world as much as I can.

King said...

I've been accused of being too negative, skeptical, et.al., when in fact I'm the most positive and optimistic person around. I believe literature CAN matter, IS important to a culture; crucially important.
I suspect you're at heart an optimistic person also, Fran, but you're also truthful. One can't hide from the inhuman aspects of the mad civilization in which we live.
Yes, the literary world is corrupt, but seems to be reaching a nadir of corruption from which things can only get better. The "carer at all costs crowd" are emperors without clothes. The Cult of the Lie writers interest no one outside their own circle.
The good news is that the present system is collapsing. One reads the news on blogs like the NBCC one every day. Oh, the Kenyon Review may be in trouble! Good old reliable used-to-be-funded-by-the-CIA Kenyon Review. Boo hoo! Aren't things terrible?
(p.s. I'm sure you know, Fran, that KR's previous editor, a woman, incidentally, was forced out so that Mr. Lynn could be put in charge.)
The imperialist frauds have been in charge for too long and it's up to us to rescue literature. Nothing is more important.
I look forward to reading your book, Fran, even if I don't review it.

Fran said...

I'll send you that last decent copy. ...And you're right about my being optimistic at heart. I like to call myself an optimistic pessimist, just not too much in public or else I might confuse people even more. But that accusations-of-negativity thing does annoy me toward me and anyone else; in order to create change in a screwed-up scenario, a person must identify and explore causitive problems first, which explorations require critical thinking. As long as criticism is geared toward some positive end-goal, it probably shouldn't be viewed negatively. That you and the ULA as a whole have positive end-goals in mind is a main reason why I keep reading here and hanging around; also, I think you're really sincere. There isn't much sincerity left in the world. That other people seemingly can't see this about the ULA is ridiculous. Or maybe they do see it; they're just antisincere people.

Actually, I didn't know that about the Kenyon Review editors or about the government funding. I've heard of that journal, but you probably know more about literary journals like that than I do. I can be really out of the literary-world loop. I try to stay psychologically connected with this stuff because I feel like a "bad writer" if I don't (yes, I feel guilted into it), but, to be honest, I find that literary stuff all so damn boring more than anything else, and boring induces a nanosecond-long attention span in me. It's almost like the things-literary people INTENTIONALLY make it boring. Half of me's a serious person, but the other half's a silly one. I wish there were a lot more humor in the literary world and a lot less pomposity.

Brooklyn Frank said...

i agree, fran, about there being a dearth of comedy in the lit world.

that's one reason i like wred fright's "pornographic flabbergasted emus" novel so much - it's funny AND a good story. a rare commodity these days.

Victor Schwartzman said...

Fran, you could also send one of your novels to me, for review. How old it is doesn't matter, and if you believe the writing is good (which you do) then people should have the chance to know about it.

Send me an email & I'll see if I can find a reviewer. A pdf would be fine, if hard copies are in short supply.

Victor

Fran said...

Karl, that R&F copy's on the way to you. I put attention to your name at the envelope's left bottom corner.

Victor, thanks for the offer. I wish I saw a point in anyone's reviewing those two books, but I still don't see any point. No one's been buying R&F for three years now; I think it's too sad, intense, political and bizarre in genre-blending content. And A Strange Arrangement, the other novel I put into print, is no longer in print, so a review of that book would be on something no one could ever read. Though I may blog-post the whole of ASA because it looks like fucking google will never remove that page they put up without my permission, and so much for Xlibris's promise that google would remove it. Now I've got to get on Xlibris's case when I can't stand dealing with that company--that's partly why I pulled ASA from there years ago.

I've done everything I could think of with my stuff, have tried everything: ebook versions of my novels and essays (Mightywords--my writing did regularly sell there), blog versions (I blogged the whole of Honest Love free for reading), even printing ASA and R&F off my computer, binding them and handing them out to people for nothing; I once sent a copy to someone in Australia. And of course I spent years submitting my work for absolutely nothing.

I'm at the end of my tolerance to continuing writing. My species doesn't give a shit. Why should humanity care about any writer really? There are no guarantees with this shit. And, actually, I really don't know the quality of my work anymore, I vacillate back and forth in opinion, I'm plagued by Doubt Disease in general. But I feel very dejected about my writing efforts lately (obviously), which makes me think this just isn't something I'm good enough at doing. If I were, I would have had more and better responses by now. I'm just not arty enough to be a writer, I'm too irreverent--I don't know.

I talk on the web about writing a bit, as I'm doing here, but that's becoming harder to do. My heart and head--my whole Fran self isn't in this anymore.