Saturday, March 28, 2009


ONE THING I ask readers not to do is confuse the messenger with the message; the spokesman for the cause. A favorite tactic of those who resist literary change is to discredit myself-- easily enough done. I have many failings. This doesn't mean that the CAUSE of literary rebellion is not right and just.

I understand the concern of those who fear the Rebellion will become just one more official "opposition," as institutionalized and irrelevant to its own society as PEN American Center itself. We're a long way from that! The way to avoid that moribund fate is for the rebellion to remain always dynamic, away from any rut. We have to be constantly on the move.

This doesn't mean we not OPPOSE, in every way feasible, corruption and injustice.

I was raised on certain myths. Ideals, if you will-- many of them about America; what that name was supposed to represent.

My models were such things as the speech by a character in Grapes of Wrath who says that, when evil occurs, "I'll be there" to oppose it. Not stop it, necessarily-- failures before victory are inevitable. To make the attempt.

The speeches and actions in the movie "Adventures of Robin Hood" continue to echo through me; from a character who dares to oppose greed and evil.

My dad was a model for me-- a simple factory worker who knew right from wrong. I remember the day he stopped a man beating a dog; gave him ten dollars for it and brought the dog home.

Oppose? Yes, oppose! It's been the glorious task of writers, Dickens to Hugo to Zola to London to Crane to Norris to Steinbeck, and so many more. Our ability with words is a responsibility-- to use.

I'm not a Democrat or Republican; not on the Right or the Left. BUT-- I'm able to recognize the opportunity given us by President Obama. He strikes me as a Gorbachev figure, who's asked for "perestroika"-- restructuring-- and "glasnost"-- openness.

This means, according to my understanding, that he wants us to speak out. Opportunity is before us. The time for change is NOW.

The Petition to PEN is one small part of this.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Past or Future?

AT A TIME when the props of the current literary system are collapsing, PEN American Center stands as a relic of American lit's aristocratic past. If literature is to survive, it needs to democratize everything about itself.

We don't live in a static universe-- yet the system of U.S. literature has remained static for decades-- increasingly irrelevant-- as the universe speeds in many directions around it.
There's a dividing line of history which we're fast approaching, between literary future and literary past. Can you see it? Which side of the line are you on?
IF the literary rebellion is to be the engine of necessary change it must keep advocating and advancing: always aggressive, always on offense, always dynamic-- and itself mutating, improving, changing.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Superheroes of Lit

I'M ALWAYS SURPRISED at what happens when a daring campaign is begun-- at who does or does not step up. The Petition to PEN--

--has already produced some surprising results. A small but mighty group!

Ten years ago when I was planning the first stage of literary rebellion, I was looking for literary superheroes.

What defines a superhero?

Special powers, of course. An eagerness to step to the forefront. Belief in the right and just. Most of all, uncompromising fearlessness.

Will other superheroes add themselves to the roll of honor? Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Who Wants Change?

Many writers voted for change in November. We have the opportunity to change many aspects of our society-- including its literature.

But to make change you have to be willing to ask for it. Underground writers are powerless because they allow themselves to be powerless. They refuse to use their voice, which waits to be exercised.

Our literature is not an aristocracy. It belongs to everybody.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Populism or Privilege?

That's the choice American literature needs to make. It's really not a difficult choice.

It's not as easy as protesting, say, Adolf Hitler. That's pretty safe. Or faraway China. Even coming out against toxic waste dumps is fairly noncontroversial.

But protesting those who wrap themselves in the mantle of goodness?

I have the sense that some writers are on the sidelines regarding this petition, waiting to see who'll jump first. That's not how change is made.

Right now, however glamorous or glorious its mission, PEN American Center is basically a swanky salon for the most connected writers in America. They hold black-tie parties where they pat themselves on the back for how liberal and progressive they are. But the vast bulk of America, and the bulk of American writers, including some very good ones, are ignored. It's the essence of aristocracy, which I thought in recent days had become outmoded.

This was a brutal winter. In New York, poet Yarrow was evicted from her apartment in a snowstorm. In Philly, FDW survived in a beat-down rowhouse without heat or hot water. I myself had a very tough time in Detroit. These stories could be multiplied many times over. In a severe winter, many of our writing brethren exist like Francois Villon-- believe it-- while others celebrate their wonderfulness at glowing affairs surrounded by cocktails in crystal goblets, silver trays of food, the hum of facile conversation, and their own sense of privilege.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Roth as Charity Case?

PEN American Center is legally listed as a "public charity." Yet in 2007 it gave $40,000 of its scarce grant money to hugely successful author Philip Roth.

The Opportunity

The Petition to PEN, in its infancy as a protest, is a good way for underground writers-- and others-- to demonstrate their independence and cred. Will the Petition obtain 3 signatures-- or 3,000? Kind of a test of whether there is independence and dissent in today's literary world.

Cleaning the Cesspool

Money; cronyism; and cliques. New York City: at its heart, a corrupt and rotting corpse. The problem with this country of late has been the overcentralization of money and power in one place. We see now beginnings of cleaning up the financial mess. We, as writers, have the obligation to do the same for the literary world.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

New Protest

NOW that I've freed up the blog,

I'm moving ahead with the protest. The statement I've posted speaks for itself-- but I'll be adding further arguments.

PEN American Center is a key piece of the U.S. literary establishment. We're asking it to live up to ITS OWN IDEALS, nothing more.

For those writers who value career over all else, don't sign the Petition. I don't expect you to sign it. I expect few writers to sign it-- only the bravest of the brave; boldest of the bold.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Problem

FOR A LONG TIME it's been posited by ULAers themselves that the main problem with the organization was myself. Enough people have said it that at some level they have to be right. I've bowed to this reality. At the least, yes, I did play too dominant a role in the group; have been too vociferous, had too strong a personality, which provoked within the group, too many times, fear and insecurity. Also, I never fully sold undergrounders on my unorthodox strategy.

At the same time, I'd like to be able to use my abilities as I see fit! I have my notions about how to get where we're going; ideas bolstered by past achievements. I can't exist wearing handcuffs. Having a new vehicle for my activities will allow me the freedom I need.

The ULA will do fine without me. If the arguments have been correct, it'll do better. There's no reason why we can't work together on occasion, in certain instances, when neither party has to compromise anything.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Writing

My greatest strength-- the best asset I brought to the literary rebellion-- was my writing; the ability to articulate ideas with punch and clarity. It's my secret ring or magic potion; will extricate me from any trap or box.

Latest example: "End of the Pods"-- a great new essay at

Iyer the Imperialist

Pico Iyer in the March 8, 2009 New York Times Book Review--

"All the world's stories are America's stories now . . . as never before in our lifetimes, so many histories are flooding into America, and so many Americans going out to claim the world as an extension of their homes. . . ."

Bullshit! This is a proposition which we should thoroughly oppose. Isn't it time we left the rest of the world alone?

Besides, America itself is huge. There are enough stories HERE to be told without mags like the New Yorker publishing every other issue (in-between Updike tributes) yet another bland story from a boozhie conformist writer from China or India.

What happened to the concept of American literature?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Update II

A.) I'm moving some of my new critical writing off-line into a newsletter, the KING WENCLAS INTELLIGENCE REPORT. (Some will insist the title is an oxymoron.) KWIR will be a sober analysis of the happenings and machinations of the literary world now. Issue #1 will examine America's "New Class" and its effect on literature; as well as include remarks on the literary scene in Philadelphia. Not to be missed! Release date April 2. Email me at on how to reserve a copy (or the next five issues). $2 per issue. Overpriced? Not if it becomes a rare collector's item. Plus, it will give you news and opinion you'll never find anywhere else.

B.) A new protest will be announced shortly. Stay tuned.

C.) I plan to edit a new collection of populist/underground poetry and fiction-- intended to showcase a broader variety of underground voices than perhaps have so far found space in the rebellious literary movement. Whether it will be a zeen, small press book, or print-on-demand one will depend on the size of my stimulus check. This project should keep me out of trouble for most of the year. . . .
WITH THESE PROJECTS I hope to lay the foundation for a Second Wave of literary revolution substantially different from the first. The First Wave continues on, but advance plannning and work is required to jump to another level. Eventually, the two waves will meet up.

In the meantime, King Wenclas Promotions will give me a vehicle responsive to my direction. I have a map and compass. Many roads are offered, but I know the road on which I need to travel.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Update I

The show at the Rotunda was fabulous. See my short review at For me it was great to be an integral part of the ULA again, if only for one week, or one evening. The literary/arts rebellion is alive and well!

Nevertheless, I see my own literary future in focusing on my own writing, as well as in the nascent, yet unlaunched King Wenclas Promotions. I considered reactivating myself within the ULA, but can't say I found much interest in this notion within the current group, nor a lot within myself. I remain a strong Supporter, and will cheer on the ULA from the sidelines as it finds continued success.
(I was heartened to see in the City Paper article-- see post below-- reference made to ULA actions of 8 and 9 years ago; actions for which I've taken a lot of heat from undergrounders and status quo lit people alike. Actions like the Moody Protest remain more vital "hooks" for the ULA and the movement than more predictable endeavors. This confirms me in my vision, expressed a hundred times on this blog as well as in the most recent post-- "Spaces"-- on one of my others, Ya know, nothing happened by happenstance. Believe what you want about intelligent design applied anywhere else: it applied to the ULA. You don't compete with the McSweeneys of the world by winging it without structure, cohesion, and a plan.)

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Is the ULA Back?

Sure looks that way. Even I may have underestimated it. Check out the great story in Philly's City Paper at

Frank "FDW" Walsh and Mark "Baird" Brunetti have done a great job in articulating the underground message. Now, people need to attend the show to see what "literary rebellion" is all about.

(The Rotunda is in University City in Philadelphia, on Walnut Street just west of 40th, next to the movie theater. It's a fifteen minute walk from the 30th Street train station, go west to 40th and turn south. There's no excuse for all the ULA fans in New York not to stop down.)

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Big Reading

I'll be reading at the big literary show at the Rotunda this Saturday, March 7. It goes from 6 pm to 10 pm. On the card will be a host of performers presented by the ULA, the Idiom Poets, Walking English, West Philth Productions-- and a tremendous array of underground talent including FDW Walsh, Rebecca Roe, Mark Baird, the Broomfield Brothers, etc. etc. etc. I hope I have enough voice to blow the doors off the place in my bit. It should be fun.