Thursday, January 31, 2008


Could someone notify us here if the NY Times runs an article on the Harold Humes/Peter Matthiessen issue, or if they have this week already? I suspect it will be of the cover-up variety.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

On James Linville

My communications over the last few years with former Paris Review editor James Linville have strengthened my belief in the Richard Cummings article. Mr. Linville sometimes appears to border on the unstable. He has a penchant for sending out hysterical e-mails (such as those sent to me and to a couple ULAers this weekend). If the New York Times deals with him for any length of time they'll realize this also. (I suspect they already have.)

It's James Linville who seems to lack any semblance of common sense. He has no perspective toward who myself and the ULA are, and what was important and newsworthy in the story we posted, and why we posted it. It's Linville who has behaved, since the Matthiessen story broke, like the proverbial chicken with its head cut off; bombarding people with scattershot e-mails; not even getting the names and roles straight of the ULAers to whom he's been sending them.

The ULA has posted its "Monday Reports" with a belief in Thomas Jefferson's famous motto: put all ideas on the table and the truth will win out.

The ULA is not the New York Times. We don't have an army of paid fact-checkers. What the Underground Literary Alliance has been, through its history, is a mere handful of rabble-rousing truth seekers who work shitty low-pay jobs and pursue lit activities during stray moments of free time.

Unlike James Linville, I don't have the means to fly back and forth across the oceans to pursue this odd detail or that one. In truth, it's not what the ULA has been about.

I notified James Linville before we ran the Richard Cummings article in 2005. J.L. refused to publicly deny Cummings's contentions, would not confirm or deny the central premise (which presumably he already knew to be true), and couldn't give me, and has never given me, a straight answer about anything. From Linville all has been vagueness and obfuscation.

As the piece ran on our site, I offered James Linville the opportunity to give us his response. He could've denied the essay, politely or with outrage. Linville could've attacked a particle of it or all of it, in as many words as he cared to utilize. For almost three years that offer has been open AND CONTINUES TO BE OPEN to James Linville. He has never sought to take advantage of it.

If I've formed a question about the credibility of anyone in this affair, it's James Linville himself. Throughout he's behaved in ways cryptic and mysterious, acting-- bizarrely enough-- AS IF he were a secret agent; after the Matthiessen revelation flying back and forth from England on a moment's whim; arranging sudden consultations with Paris Review editors; behaving toward Richard Cummings-- whose essay, opinionated and foolhardy or not, was an act of bravery-- in a manner akin to stalking. Likely Linville isn't a "secret agent," but he sure enjoys playing one.

Linville forwarded to me copies of many e-mails he sent Cummings, in which Linville was trying to arrange a meeting, alone, with Cummings, during which he wanted to "ask him one question." What the important and mysterious question was, and why he couldn't ask Cummings via e-mail, was not revealed. The request for a meeting was interspersed with bullying insults, attempts at intimidation. I'm sure I still retain copies of those e-mails. Cummings would've been crazy to meet the man.

Throughout, The Paris Review, to my knowledge, has never denied one iota of the substance of the Cummings article. Their current editor, in fact, has acknowledged the key point, saying this was "common knowledge" among the TPR staff. (Matthiessen's connection with the CIA was surely NOT common knowledge among the reading public.)

Several months AFTER the ULA ran the Cummings piece, I met with a representative of The Paris Review, Jonathan Dee, who wanted to interview me for a supposed book on George Plimpton. We met for lunch at McHale's in New York City. During the entirety of our taped conversation, Mr. Dee never once mentioned the Cummings matter. I eventually broached the subject myself, in a light-hearted way. He said nothing, did not seem to want to discuss the issue, so I moved on. Obviously, there was no apparent animus at that time toward me from the magazine, and no eagerness to question me or the ULA about what we were doing or saying regarding the CIA. They had pronounced uninterest in the story. So has it remained.

Many, many questions of course remain.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Note: The Paris Review/CIA matter has resurfaced in the person of James Linville, who supposedly is cooperating with the New York Times on a story on the matter.

I hope the New York Times gives myself (and the ULA, if they wish to be involved), proper TIME to respond to this matter before running anything-- and hope they contact us themselves. I trust they won't rush into print a hatchet job.

As for myself, I eagerly welcome ANY public discussion of this matter, and hope that all parties-- including the Paris Review-- are involved in such discussion. I'll take full responsibility for the ULA running the Cummings piece, if need be, as I arranged it.

The fact is that the piece was run in the interest of BRINGING THIS MATTER TO DAYLIGHT. Again, any public discussion of this is a good thing.

I'll have much more to say on the matter-- and now feel free to bring James Linville's actions to light-- such as the 100+ e-mails he sent me after Peter Matthiessen admitted CIA backing of the journal-- which, after all, was the central revelation of the Cummings piece the ULA ran as a "Monday Report."

Bring it on!

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Real Shakspere

This week I jumped into a discussion on another blog, Daniel Green's "Reading Experience," on the post "Publish or Perish.) (See www.noggs,

On matters of literature, Green is my ideological opposite. He has a selfish view of literature-- if he had his wish the art would belong to him alone. The idea of reaching the masses is anathema to him.

He's advocated the polite kind of
poetry reading
of gentle words
and stripped-down verse
no rhythmn of rumbling building energy
of shouted unpleasantries
that shake the listener's spine--
no rhyme or euphonious line--
Not poetry at all.

And so he's far distant from the long ago literary performer who was the inspiration for THIS blog, Will Shakespeare.

THE QUESTION was about Ray Carver, and whether the art belongs to the artist, or to the conglomerate system of literary bureaucrats and skyscraper offices that bought it.

It's strictly a question of control. Amazing to me is how writers like Daniel Green are so eager to cede control to the hierarchs.

The irony is that people today applaud themselves for their non-conformity, yet are the most conformist generation of the most regulated and conformist society in history.

This subservient attitude is bad for literature and art.

An eye-opener for me was when I researched the original documents regarding "Shakspere," to understand the actual person.

His mentality was 180 degrees opposite that of writers today. With his writing itself he was restricted by no one. (He couldn't go too far with ideas against the Crown, of course.)

This man-- he was only a man; a roustabout actor-- felt free, as writers today are NOT free, to play with words, grammar, spelling. He wasn't a product of the Academy. There were no dictionaries. No editors as we know them. He was as much, or more, an artist of verbal language as of the written kind. His words and grammar were often made up on the spot. (He was much like a couple clown actor street writers I know.) This character Shakspere would never, NEVER, fit into today's hyperregulated system of literature.

Literary people today want stylistic standardization because they're creatures of the precision and standardization of the Machine Age introduced with Industrial Capitalism. The artisan exchanged for the assembly line.

Do we really need the standardization of literature? Which means, of our minds?


Well, to be plugged into proper jobs in this institutional bureaucracy or that one, that's why.

But what has this to do with art?


Sure, Shakespeare was a genius, we say now. Yea, sure.

But in a way he wasn't a genius at all.

He was a scrambling boozing shitting struggling-to-survive-and-have-fun-while-doing-it character. He had fun, and today, hearing his words, seeing his plays, we have fun also.

Were Blake and Van Gogh geniuses?

Or were they not eccentrics of original vision?

What fun is there in foillowing the crowd?

Better to break the rules, snub the regulators, the school marms, the high priests of culture to step eagerly into the unknown.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Nine: "The Guns of Navarone"

An old-fashioned popcorn movie with a sense of wonder about it.

Dismissed as a straightforward action-adventure, there's more going on in it.

The movie's wonderful prologue, which speaks of the "gods and demi-gods" of ancient Greece, reveals this conscious attempt to create a modern-day myth, yet no one noticed.

We're cast quickly into myth, as a team of heroes is formed during WWII and sent on a seemingly impossible mission to destroy monsters: two gigantic German guns which rain fire on all around them. Few movies have so played with the forces of nature, as the band of commandos survive a sea storm; climb unscaleable cliffs; journey through tunnels and across snow-covered mountains on the way to their goal, which once glimpsed at the outset stand close in the back of our minds until presented again with all their terrible power. At the end the surviving heroes are thrown back into the sea from whence they came, come full circle, memories playing in their heads of their comrades and experience.

This is a movie not about ridiculous fantasy, but about myth; the creation of myth. The fiery guns are fantastic but very real at the same time, which adds to their strength as symbols. We know while viewing the action that such adventures, such heroics, DID happen, in the recent past. Which makes the heroics great and believable. No goofy CGI monsters, buff narcissistic gym-rats, or camera-trick hobbits, sorry.

Note: crucially important for the impact of "Guns" is the musical score by Dmitri Tiomkin. Motion pictures are a combination of arts. I rate the value of music as an ingredient in film very highly-- which is why with at least five of these choices, the film music is among the best ever written. Which is the case with the next selection. . . .

p.s. The remaining eight selections will be presented at my newest blog,

Saturday, January 19, 2008

New Blog

I have to briefly interrupt my "Best Movies" series to announce another new blog at
which will eventually serve as a co-blog base for my upcoming projects, along with "Demi-Puppets" of course.

Next up at "Happy": "The Dream."

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Number Ten: "Zorba the Greek"

I haven't seen this in many years, since I was in my twenties and viewed it at some art house revival. I can't say how it would hold up if I saw it again. For me it was life-changing. Its message is that life, like art, is exotic and an adventure and a mystery. One has to plunge into the experience. It's a cliche to say it, but we're all on our own personal Odysseys, as is the Alan Bates character, who arrives in Greece with his stack of books. Dominating the action is quixotic con artist Zorba, played by cinematic madman Anthony Quinn, who also appears, curiously enough, in the next selection; the most questionable choice of the ten.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Ten Best Movies?

STARTING with my next post I'll give my selections for the ten best motion pictures of all time. I'll include some explanation of each one, so that by the time the last selection (#1) is given, the reader will have a sense of the criteria used when I made my choices. It's a subjective list but an objective one at the same time; as all art criticism has to be.

I treated movies as art and experience. I looked for films which exploited the possibilities of the art; understanding as I did what those possibilities are. Too much film criticism over the years has treated film as A.) a literary work; B.) a piece of furniture, whose importance lies in how it's pieced together.

I considered the movies chosen as they appear on the big screen-- how this particular art was meant to be displayed.

You'll see as the list is given that I avoided many (not all) of the obvious choices-- what would be the fun in that? Also because many of the obvious choices are wrong.

Many films almost made the cut. I would've loved to have included "GodfatherII," for instance; surely a masterpiece. The big screen reveals the incredible tapestry of its set pieces. (Who can forget the parade in Little Italy?) It was left off my list because it's too consciously a masterpiece. Its greatness is all on the screen. Despite the tragedy of Michael Corleone, the darkness is on the surface, without enough resonant depths which leave the viewer a different person; which cause him to judge not just Michael Corleone, but himself. Still, it's a masterpiece all the same.

But enough talk. Next up: Number Ten.

Coming Changes

MY BREAK from, if not with, the ULA is for real. At some point I'll evaluate where I stand. In the meantime I'm moving ahead with fresh projects. I'm motivated and advocating for radical literary change but will be applying a new strategy and new tactics. Stay posted on these moves here and on my other blogs--
with a Chicago blog on the drawing board and another exciting new blog yet to follow.