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.
THE PROPOSED MEETING
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.
THE PARIS REVIEW
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.