Saturday, March 15, 2008

Liberating Literature

THE LITERARY REBELLION is a liberation movement. It began on October 8, 2000. Its goal is to liberate literature from the entrapment of bureaucratic boxes.

Any person with clear vision and the ability to view the larger context can see that as an art, based on what it produces, and on its role in the culture, extablishment literature is a failure. Since the 1920's it's been on a steady downward trend, despite occasional successes which come originally from out side the system, like the Beats.

Upticks in a down trend like McSweeney's are unable to halt the decline and rescue literature, because they embrace the system, and in their modest success, reinforce what's wrong with it.

That the conglomerates are able to squeeze meager profits from the art means nothing, because it's accomplished through demeaning the art by ever more standardized examples of "popular" novels, genre fiction (interchangeable commodities like romance novels); and degrading trends like the execrable snob-based "gossip girl" books. Actual literature meanwhile is reserved for a coterie of fossilized authors young and old, from John Updike and Philip Roth to Marisha Pessl and Jonathan Safran Foer.

If change is to come from within the system, it won't be done by co-opting undergrounders like myself. It will happen by writers already within the system joining the rebellion.

Contemporary literature rests on a philosophical and aesthetic foundation put into place fifty-five years ago. Call it postmodernism or call it reaction. Its weakness should be apparent to all. When a working class guy like myself who was not raised or educated to be a writer can hold his own in debate against armies of the system's best and brightest, it's not because of any intrinsic abilities of myself (other than basic common sense), but because I have a winning argument.

The dramatic actions of the Underground Literary Alliance the last seven years, or even my forays onto on-line nests of status quo apologists, are demonstrations that the System is too weak to deal with outside ideas-- that there is no way the literary rebellion, now that it's begun, can be stopped.

The internal conflicts within the resistance are growing pains: signs of strength. They show that, unlike the monolithic literary establishment, our ideas have not hardened into concrete.

Even if all literary rebels were somehow co-opted or destroyed, the rebellion itself would still triumph-- because of our ideas and our history: our founding myths. Our actions have been amazing and unprecedented. Their glow of boldness will serve to appeal to independent-minded writers for generations to come.

The System itself is grudgingly recognizing the necessity of change-- though movement in that direction has come in baby steps. Critics like B.R. Myers and James Wood can't be compared even to a Kerensky or a Lafayette. They are instead reformist cabinet ministers brought in by desperate sovereigns when the specter of revolution stands before them.

History shows that by then it's too late. Once the door to revolution has been opened it can't be closed until the house is rebuilt or overthrown. Ideas introduced from outside have an irresistible momentum. Once a Luther nails his 93 theses on a door, upheaval is certain to follow.

THE QUESTION for undergrounders and system literary folk alike is whether they wish to remain wedded to a backward, rear-guard approach, or instead award themselves the advantages which come with stepping fearlessly into a new world of revived literature.

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