Monday, May 19, 2008

Who's Harland?

A VARIATION OF THE "WHERE'S WALDO?" GAME.

"Harland," to me, appears fairly transparent. He first appeared recently on an old post of this blog which people from Bennington were finding when googling for info about one of their dead colleagues. Several new comments were added to the thread-- all from Bennington folks. We can assume Harland is in some way a Bennington person as well, and since he hid his identity-- unlike the others-- likely of greater stature, or at least someone known to myself. He's not a poet, has not responded to poetic aspects of the discussion, confining his attention to novelists. This narrows the field somewhat.

Why would Bennington be hyper about what I say? It's the home of two main antagonists of my campaign, one of them being the overmuch mentioned Poster Boy of Literary Corruption, known to all.

Who's the other guy? Someone who has writing skill combined with personal ambition and an extremely narrow outlook on literature-- always concerned, like so many of his kind, that writers follow the arbitrary "rules" of the game. When he wrote an essay about the ULA several years ago, he excerpted a piece of mine written in a Kerouac/Hubert Selby style-- and made sure to point out all necessary commas and such which were supposed to be there. This was a sign of his well-trained obedience, his anality, which is one of the first things the Rebellion is designed to overthrow. We wish to change the literary mentality itself, of which he's an exemplar.

Beyond this is a refusal not only to look one step ahead-- to see what literature can and should be in this culture-- but even to see it as it is now; the tool of huge, enormously funded institutions, from conglomerates to universities to foundations, which working together have imposed upon the art and its practitioners an institutional mindset. And so, in the essay, he made absurd remarks, such as no writers in the past criticized the literary system because it's always been so fragile.

Well, if literature today is so fragile-- and I don't dispute this-- then WHY IS THIS? Given the enormous expenditure, the hundreds of writing programs, the billions of dollars being spent to, one would think, make it a vibrant, ongoing concern; as healthy in society as it once was, why hasn't this worked? Isn't this something which we should be looking at? The second point to be made is that the institutions which control literature aren't fragile at all. They include monstrous Time-Warner, Murdoch, etc.: media giants with enormous power. The literature of the past never faced this kind of control.

A gross ugly beast has its slimy, dragon-like paw around a delicate, ever-withering flower. I'm trying to slay the dragon to release the flower; to plant it back in the ground so it can reconnect with its organic roots and become healthy and beautiful once more.

(Please keep up with other aspects of this discussion at www.happyamericaliterature.blogspot.com, or really, all of my blogs.)

22 comments:

K.I.N.G. Wenclas said...

p.s. I have to remark again, because it's so remarkable, about the fear and paranoia which causes those arguing the other side to remain anonymous. This is the case even with those who describe temselves as part of the publishing industry.
Doesn't this illustrate their own weakness?
In the face of one guy, with no resources, the soldiers of gigantic media monopolies are scared?
If it's not fear, its complacency and stagnation which causes them to shrink from words, ideas, and noise to which they're unaccustomed.

Anonymous said...

> I bet you've madly Googled "Harland" and >"MFA" a dozen times hoping to find this guy >just so you can denounce him as a coward.

>5/17/2008 03:18:00 PM

And, a day later....

Harland said...

Ah, the Bennington Mafia. Am I Donna Tartt? Bret Easton Ellis? Jonathan Lethem? Sorry, King. Never even set foot on the campus. I'm not misrepresenting myself here. I'm just not naming myself. Why would I want to join your pantheon of demi-puppets and be subject to harassment and abuse?

If anyone's got paranoid tendencies around here, it's you. Nobody's interested in you or your work or your opinions, ergo it's a conspiracy against the New and the Bold. What I've seen of your fiction, here online, seems mediocre to me. Heavy-handed, rich in cliche, tripping over its own unintentional solecisms. Maybe that's just my opinion. Certainly your ability to argue your case is lacking. You're not convincing. To disagree with you on even the slightest point is evidence of irremediable corruption. For that matter, to agree with you is evidence of irremediable corruption. Somewhere, in some totalitarian future, the position of Minister of Culture will be yours for the asking. You'll always be right, because someone else's dissent will be evidence of counterrevolutionary tendencies. Or, as you essentially put it, there's only one true dissent!

Whose poster boy? I still don't understand what you hate about Moody's work, I just understand that you hate him. It's not "defending" Moody to ask this. For all I know he's a greedy prick who never thinks about anyone but himself. Let me put it another way, as ingenuously as possible: "OK, King! I'm ready to hate Rick Moody's writing! But, the trouble is, I sort of like it! Please, tell me what I'm missing!" Can you answer the question without bringing up Moody's familial, literary, and collegiate connections? Can you answer it in a strictly literary sense? I challenge you to take a passage from the work of *any writer of your choosing* and tell me what's excellent or rotten about it. I'm all ears.

I don't shrink from ideas. I like them. I have them and I listen to them and I think about them. I find myself sitting here trying to formulate lucid queries and responses to your insane philippics because I can't imagine that, underneath it all, you're not a rational being.

What would you know about the "rules" I follow or disregard when I write? What qualifies you to be the arbiter of literary transgressiveness? You have no critical capacity -- you have an infinite capacity to extend your index finger and point at targets who, for one obsessive reason or another, obsess you. Why is Rick Moody's work bad? Because he's a rich, greedy, etc. Why is Dave Eggers' work bad? For the same reason. He earned money. He teaches creative writing. He gets the summer off. He got a Guggenheim. He sat on a judge's panel. He was invited to that Chicago thing. He published in the New Yorker. He lives in New York. He went to an Ivy League school. Anything, any impedimenta you can shove between yourself and the work in question, just so you don't have to face queries about the writing.

I'll grant you this, King. Writers every bit as bad as you have been successful. And I agree: it's a shame.

Re/Corporate Oligarchical control. OK. Like I said, I agree. Now: name me any three books published by, say, Dalkey Archive Press, or Graywolf, or Soft Skull that you like. Three. They're outside the corporate oligarchy, aren't they? Soft Skull's in Brooklyn, so they must suck, but Dalkey and Graywolf are right there in the Heartland. Three books, King -- these guys must be right up your alley, right? How about the old FC2? Your shelves must be bulging with those risky books written by gay people, poor people, people of color, gay poor people of color -- you must LOVE them, right? Name me ONE FC2 book you like. How about Black Sparrow? Did you like them? Bukowski and all that? The consummate outsider. You must have loved Black Sparrow, with those R. Crumb covers. Grove Press, how about Grove? Selby, Burroughs, Jean Genet, Malcolm X, Brecht, Henry Miller -- outsiders all. You a Grove fan?

John said...

I've tried to get King to quote passages from the work he refers to many times, but he won't do it.

He was supposed to have a review of Lawrence Richette's work, but I've yet to see it.

King said...

Quite a long post there, Harland.
Mostly sophistry; avoiding the point.
Re Moody: His writing isn't as bad as some, I'll grant you, nut it's hardly reviving literature.
But recall, you introduced him into the discussion. You also seem not to be bothered by his abusing the grants process. Kind of avoided that, haven't you?
This is a specific instance of corruption. I've given many more and can and will give more. Some are intent on ignoring it.
Soft Skull? I did a Monday Report concerning them last year-- seem to have been taken over by a millionaire; are very status quo/New York oriented, though they're better than the confglomerates.
Re reviews. I can only do so much. I'm one guy (who now seems to have turned into a "Ministry of Culture"-- talk about turning reality on its head!) I have a new review blog in the works. be patient!
(All the screaming demi-puppets, bothered by one contrary voice. It's hilarious.)

King said...

p.s. Probably the most noteworthy feature of "Harland" is his fundamental dishonesty.
Example: on the "Montezuma" thread, in one of his posts, he says about himself, "Never went to college."
Yet when you click on the Harland name and get his google profile, it clearly says, "--a graduate of the University of Scranton and Stanford University."
Have you forgotten so soon?
**************************
Back to small presses. I was a Grove fan before it was taken over and lost its independence.
I'm sure I've read writers like Bukowski and Hubert Selby before you were born. As with so many zeensters, they were a huge influence. I recall the grungy Detroit bookstore I'd by them in.
Some small presses, however, are in their own way extensions of the establishment. This is a huge subject, one I've covered at times, including on this blog.
A good starting point is looking at the lit journals taken over by the reactionary likes of the Lila Wallace Fund, or the Jeanne Kirkpatrick-led Heldref Foundation.
Not a topic I have time for now, but can get to sometime.
(Search Larry McCaffrey on this blog and you may come up with something.)

K.I.N.G. Wenclas said...

p.p.s. Harland seems to be a guy with no memory at all, and this undercuts his arguments.
What point is he trying to make, so ineptly, about the small press?
That I'm not interested in actual underground writers and DIY endeavors?
Has he forgotten so soon my long experience in the print underground? The fact that I started the ULA by seeking out and bring together the best underground writers in the country?
Since 1992 I've been in contact with hundreds and hundreds of writers-- many of whom later joined the ULA. (I remain in contact with many of them now.) I've read and owned hundreds and hundreds of zeens. I've given away many, but still have scores in storage in Philly.
Could there be a lamer point than that I don't care about underground press activity?
A case could be made that no one has done more to get the current, the actual, underground attention, through the many shows and events I've staged, articles obtained, and so on.
That Jeff Potter is now publishing, through ULA Press, writers like Wred Fright, James Nowlan, and Bill Blackolive is because I brought them to Mr. Potter's attention. (I've exchanged well over a hundred letters with Wild Bill over the years-- and he's just one of many many writers I've encouraged.)

Harland said...

King, I didn't introduce Moody into the discussion. The discussion has *always been* about Moody, from the very first ULA press release.

I did address the "grants process." If there's abuse, it's at the level of the grant-making entities. If the Guggenheim Foundation wanted to restrict its Fellowships to those who were in need of money, they'd do so. Same with the NEA, the MacArthur people, and everyone else for that matter. I can't actually think of a major grant or fellowship that stipulates need as an element of eligibility. In the case of the NEA and other publicly funded bodies, I think it's fairly outrageous, and I absolutely agree with you. Under another pseudonym ("Hyman Canella") a published a letter to that effect in the New York Times. but why should I care what the Guggenheim Foundation does with its money?

"Very status quo/New York oriented." What did I say about Soft Skull sucking because they're from Brooklyn? Geezum, King, I'm so steeped in your predictable rhetoric after just a few days of fencing with you (actually, it's more like tossing a ball against a brick wall) -- I could be your understudy if sometime you can't make it to a heckling session somewhere.

Bet you haven't been reading Selby longer than I have. Bet you don't have the slightest idea what's going on in his work or why yours is nothing like it.

I don't really feel like searching for Larry M. on your blog. I'm sure you'd be happy to interrupt the regularly scheduled programming ("Rick Moody: Still Crooked") to tell me what the problem is with *him*.

Interesting that it was you who located all the best underground writers. I take it that you scoured every corner of the forgotten literary landscape to find them. Oddly, I never see any of them publishing or appearing anywhere except in connection with the ULA. Do they have to take a loyalty oath or something? Surely ONE of those guys must try from time to time to publish in another journal. Now, now -- down, boy. I know you're going to tell me that you all bundled your handwritten manuscripts into a homely package wrapped in brown paper and humbly submitted it to CIA stooge George Plimpton, giant girl-abuser Tom Beller, demi-puppet extraordinaire Rob Spillman, and perennial lapdog Jean Stein, and got turned down by all of them. Of course. They're afraid of what it is you have to say, afraid of change, reluctant to extend the privilege of that NON-STOP OPEN BAR COCKTAIL PARTY (indicates blinking neon lights, velvet rope, hulking, truncheon carrying bouncers) to the likes of you. But maybe, I don't know -- Black Warrior Review, or something?

One more note about my identity. How the substance (or, as you see it, lack thereof) of my comments is affected in the least by who I am, whether I'm Rick Moody (you wish) or the Cowering Waterboy of the Overdogs, still is unclear to me. I will say that while I was poring through the meticulous archives kept both by you and your former colleagues at the ULA, I was shamed, a little, to see that your targets have in the past often been willing to engage with you without benefit of disguise. But two things came clear to me: First, while you lavish me with contempt for my failure to place my identity at your disposal, it's not as if you are particularly civil to or respectful of those who do identify themselves (I can hear you now: "Civility and revolution don't mix! We should make NOISE! That is the only way to BRING ABOUT CHANGE! How else will we bring to the attention of the MASS OF AMERICAN READERS that the literature they HUNGER FOR is OUT THERE WAITING!"). It's not as if the Best of Wenclas is reserved for the brave -- you trot out the same baloney for everybody, sometimes using the exactly same language, again and again and again and again. Second, I suddenly realized how embarrassed I would be if any of my friends knew that I was actually devoting any time to talking to you.

Harland said...

"when you click on the Harland name and get his google profile, it clearly says, '--a graduate of the University of Scranton and Stanford University.'"

Funny about pseudonyms -- they come with pseudobios, too. Check out my profile now!

John said...

King must be afraid of you, Harland, otherwise why create a post about you? Why not just keep on the good fight?

With all the time King has spent worrying over your identity, he could have been talking about Lawrence Richette or Bill Blackolive, or one of the other other writers he allegedly promotes.

Harland said...

Hey, King --

I just noticed. You didn't accept my challenges! Let me repeat them in case all that frothing saliva obscured your vision while you were reading.

Challenge #1:
Can you tell me what's wrong with Rick Moody's work without bringing up his familial, literary, and collegiate connections, i.e., dealing exclusively with its merits as literature.

Challenge #2:
Select a passage from the work of any writer you desire (one you like would be most helpful) and tell me what you admire about it -- again, exclusively on a literary basis.

Challenge #3 you maybe sort of answered, though I'd appreciate it if you'd make it a little plainer: are you actually discounting or denigrating the work of writers published by the likes of Dalkey and FC2? I'm assuming you're at least a little familiar with their backlists, considering how much of a big booster of the underground you are -- surely, even if you don't appreciate what they publish, you're paying attention. Right?

"Could there be a lamer point than that I don't care about underground press activity?"

You routinely make lamer points, but that's kind of a cheap shot. I think the better point -- wait, here's the point -- I think the MUCH better point is that since you can't lay claim to the FC2ers and the Dalkeyites, etc., your little commissar's heart rejects them as irrelevant. Remember, today you're only the King -- but one day, you'll be the Minister of Culture, checking out the bloodlines and revolutionary street cred of all those who seek to publish.

Could there be a lamer parry than to tell us all again about your effortful labors to REVOLUTIONIZE AMERICAN LITERATURE BY BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME BABY?

Well, I'm sure you'll come up with it.

King said...

Well, we've established that you're a liar-- which doesn't bother you in the slightest.
Yes, change that bio. Very Orwellian, don't ya think?
Re Moody's writing: For me to review Moody, I'd have to read one of his books in its entirety. (I did one of them, The Ice Storm, for one of my zeens.)
I'll say here he has a cute style-- which when excerpted might sound nice-- but his work also lacks soul.
Much of the Ice Storm is solipsistic. I glanced through his latest book-- on sale at Borders for two dollars. The characters I stumbled upon were caricatures. Like the bike messenger. Kind of like how you're portraying me!
The writing, though, is beside the point, except that each of his books has received enormous publicity backing, and except for one, have died.
The point is his acceptance of grant money he surely didn't need-- the point you continue to avoid.
#2: I just read a great novel by George Simenon. Full of humanity and soul. Enormously moving. Would it do the work justice by excerpting a passage of his prose? Not at all. The work's aesthetic effect comes from the novel as an entirety.
#3: Discussing the small press is a side path. The token small press is tolerated to show diversity, and as with totalitarian societies, the official "opposition" is itself sustained by the established order.
As I've said, I've researched and written about the small press in other places.
(The "Monday Report" I wrote for the ULA a while back focused on big-money takeover of a small press organization-- worth reading.)

King said...

p.s. the discussion with Disinformation Specialist Harland, an admitted liar, has been getting increasingly bizarre, to the extent that this defender of rich kids and plutocracy is lecturing me on Bukowski and Hubert Selby, writers who lived on the margins of society. What could he know about them? If they were around today he'd be kicking them down the stairs. Now that they've been successfully co-opted; now that they're successfully dead, he speaks as an authority on the two men. It's what the ULA was fighting with its Howl Protest in 2006.
(To think I could be in the zeen underground for so long without having read a dominating figure like Bukowski, who so many zeensters modeled themselves after, for good or ill, shows this character's own narrow ideology.)
Which brings us back to the original question of this thread: Who's Harland?
I'd guess he's a writer who sold his soul to get ahead; has acted as hatchet man to his Overdog masters in the past and is doing the same now. Why else is he here? Why so many words from him? It can't be a conflicted conscience or bruised integrity-- he's shown those as non-existent with him.
Why is he so urgent to derail one contrary voice? Am I really so threatening?
That he won't whisper a hint of criticism against the Overdogs; not even an "Okay, he shouldn't have taken the 35 thou," tells me they're watching his performance here.
Are they applauding you, Harland?
You've made a point or two, but have had many missteps. Caught blatantly lying? Bad form! Not good. But you've likely still earned a pat on the head and a piece of candy. Congratulations.

Harland said...

Funny, a writer who's an admitted liar. Imagine that. I make...stuff...up. There could be something to this.

You really are a maniac, King. To prove it, I'll give you what you want and watch you twist it around.

Rick Moody shouldn't have applied for a Guggenheim, the committee at the Foundation that determines awards probably should not have given it to him even though there's nothing in the organization's rules that would prohibit the awarding of a fellowship to Bill Gates if he were deemed qualified, and Moody should probably have had second thoughts about accepting the money. Apologize? Well, that would sure seem empty to me.

"The writing, though, is beside the point."

Well, I'm tempted to say that that says everything we need to know about that weird epic, Wenclas v. Moody, but instead I'll say: OK, I addressed "the point."

I knew Hubert Selby very well. He was a friend.

I actually don't want to derail your contrary voice. I love your contrary voice. You're just so nuts, man. I couldn't make this shit up. If I were trying to derail you, I'd alert one of my overdog masters at Google -- the red phone on my desk has three direct lines: one to the Media Controllers, one to the CIA, and one to Cocktail Party Central (PROPER DRESS REQUIRED! MONOCLES, TOP HATS, KID GLOVES, AND CIGARETTE HOLDERS! NO BUMS/REVOLUTIONARIES ALLOWED!) -- and have them shut this motherfucker down. I might do it, King. You're right. They're watching me very carefully. Any minute now I might fuck up and you'll pull out the doomsday device -- WORDS SO TRUE AND REAL THAT THE GREAT MASS OF AMERICAN PEOPLE WILL SIT UP AS IF A RUSTY HELLISH BOMBSHELL HAD EXPLODED OVER THEIR HEADS AND THEN THE OVERDOGS WILL BE FINISHED! FINITO! KAPUT! ZITZ! BLOKC! WAPPO! UGH! FRSAZ! TGEGRF! I must do my best because, well, my wildly hyped book didn't pan out, and so they sent me on this quest to destroy the messiah of letters. Maybe after you're gone, who knows, my next book will come out as a paperback original, I might get sent to Passaic to talk to a book club, maybe lunch at a Blimpie's somewhere. I can only hope.

King said...

??? Why would an apology be empty, Rick? Well, if you didn't mean it, it sure would be.
You just don't get it, and it's too tough a task for me to enlighten you.
If you had even a clue how some writers live in this country, you'd realize what an obscenity you applying for and receiving that money was.
A novelist especially should be able to take a larger view, to understand the context in which he lives.
Your whole problem in fact is that your view of everything is at a micro level-- as your focus on sentences indicates. I have a post about that coming up.
Anyway, you do what you want. Peaceful coexistence is possible, but not on your terms. I and my friends want a "seat at the table." Will you support us on that?
(p.s. You scorn and dismiss what I'm doing-- but get it through your thick head that I'm thinking five steps ahead of you. I know what will cure literature's ills. Believe it, don't believe it-- as I tell undergrounders all the time, I know exactly what I'm doing.
My biggest advantage over your crowd is that I don't have my brain in a box. I'm still learning and improving-- even with my writing, which at one time was at a remedial level-- yes, some would say it's there now!)
-Because something is legal doesn't make it right.
-That you seem to be lacking in integrity isn't something I'd gloat about. A symptom of your kind of writer, no doubt.

K.I.N.G. Wenclas said...

p.s. You asked me about your writing. My experience with The Ice Storm, as a reader: too much detail disease right from the outset; the narrative overburdened with relating every trivial nuance of a character sitting on a bed. Narrative? There was no narrative-- it didn't move anyplace.
Writing meant to impress other writers. The problem with "literary" stuff is its goal: to impress-- and yes, one can be impressed with your sentences-- rather than simple communication, which is what literature is all about. As a reader, the story matters to me, and the characters revealed through that story.
It's why Simenon for instance was a truly great writer.
His sentences will impress nobody-- yet he conveys with just a few brushstrokes his world; even its taste and smell.
His insight into people is unparalled-- which at its core is what the writer should offer.
Not easy to do, I acknowledge. I'm a long way from being where I want to be as a fiction writer-- my weakest genre, compared to essays or even poetry. But I know where I want to end up.

Harland said...

So you've determined that I'm Rick Moody?

K.I.N.G. Wenclas said...

p.p.s. Your knowledge of rock n roll, punk, et.al., should tell you something. The notes weren't important-- more crucial was the energy and emotion behind the notes.
The zeen crowd has been doing the same kind of thing with writing; not coincidentally, many of them play in punk bands, notably Cometbus and Urban Hermitt.
Aaron Cometbus is as great a writer, and at least as important in a historical sense, to American culture, than Hubert Selby ever was. Cometbus's art is very subtle. He uses no tricks of style at all. Direct experience. The difference between Willie Mays and Dimaggio. Mays was all over the field, hat flying off-- "Look at me!" Dimaggio made the same catches but made them look easy.
We as writers need to connect with the public-- with more of the public than we're doing. That's the first goal. The first rule.
Without that nothing else matters.

Harland said...

Isn't it funny that when I tell you Selby was important to me, and a friend, suddenly he's a minor figure in your cosmology?

You have one and only one conviction: PUSH BACK.

K.I.N.G. Wenclas said...

Are you RM? One of your posts seems to indicate that.
If not, then you're not.
Endless game-playing. You may as well be RM, as your arguments are those he'd make. Likely you're simply a stooge.
Got to go! Keep reading this blog. . . .

Harland said...

If I'm Moody, do I get to be an overdog, or do I have to be a stooge?

You've never made that clear.

My status hunger craves overdog status.

K.I.N.G. Wenclas said...

Push back? That's right. I've learned to always be ready to fight. Any moment. It's the only way I've survived one or two rough moments.
Sure, if someone f**** with me I'll hit them back twice as hard.
Welcome to the world.