Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Was I Too Tough?

WAS I TOO TOUGH ON HTML GIANT?

Not if, as seems possible, the HTML Giant site is one piece of a megagimongous media monopoly that extends across the planet and controls millions of minds.

Not if, as seems likely, the HTML Giant site is a cynical operation pushing establishment machine thought under the guise of DIY.

Not if, as seems certain, HTML Giant readers and writers so buy into the puppet monstrosity they’re incapable of seeing the reality.

One can never go too far in revealing the truth about how the current mad monopoly system of media and culture operates.

Hans Christian Anderson left out part of his story of “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” In many respects it was the most important part. This is when, after the boy reveals the truth about the naked idol, the angry mob grabs the boy and stomps him into the ground.

69 comments:

Harland said...

Gee, King, even DIY can be pretty establishment-machiney. Aren't you always talking about getting famous, like, that's the goal?

King said...

That's the establishment stereotype/narrative about me, anyway.
*****************
Can you have it both ways?
Either I was playing with the literati, in order, as you say to "get famous"-- or I was a completely serious revolutionary wanting to blow up literature and put its occupants out of work (if not behead them), which of course is how I've been treated by the establishment crowd.
Which is it?

Harland said...

If that's the either/or you want, King.

But I think, as I've said about fifty-six times, that it's a little more complicated than the Band of Underdog Rogues vs. Sinister Machine scheme that enchants you so. And whenever someone points out that the "megagimongous media monopoly" may have an enormous hold on the popular marketplace but that hundreds of writers, poets, etc. work and publish well outside of its grasp, you simply extend the boundaries. Someone publishes with, say, Sarabande? No problem! Sarabande is now part of the monopoly, its authors duly christened demi-puppets.

King said...

Sarabande! Do you actually believe there's anything remotely outsider about that outfit? They're system writers through and through. They've put themselves through the indoctrination process and fully support the literary status quo. DIY? I guess in some sense-- but like all nonprofits they exist by seeking donations from the affluent class; their argument to do so by necessity has to stress the failure of their art.
Sure, there aren't enough places within literature today for all fifty-thousand-some of these kind of writers to be published-- but their background and ethos matches that of the interests who control literature, who control what's defined as literature, who control the grants process, etc. In other words, dependent upon people like you.
Again, sure, the system needs the James Pattersons and Vince Flynns to pay the bills. Do you really think the entire rotten structure could survive without them?

Harland said...

Thanks for demonstrating the proof.

King said...

Oh really? Of what?
Your point is that there are all kinds of writers between the opposite poles of you and myself-- the Insider and the rebel. No one disputes that.
You go through all kinds of contortions in these discussions to make the tiniest tactical points, which I guess serve to salve your conscience. You have this imagined idea that you and Sarabande-- and maybe myself!-- are all the same. We're all outsiders, ya know. Sure, you've got your conglomerate book contract, your grants and awards, your swanky parties-- but you're an outsider also! After all, your books don't sell. You're not James Patterson. You're published by the same kind of monopoly outfit, but you disdain Patterson, so that makes you different.
Sure it does.
Like your phony name, you're not real and have never been real. You've never wanted reality, only the pose.
You can't piss off the establishment, ya know, when you ARE the establishment.
From my perspective (and this was the marketing stance I took with the ULA), I WANT you and the Sarabandes of literature on the same side. Sarabande's art is dead literary art. It's recycled gentrified literary same-old same-old. It's dead. It's an artistic corpse. That's why nobody wants it. Do you really want to be lumped with them?
The ULA was a group of crazy hellraisers. Our craziness eventually broke us apart (with an assist from a mole or two), but it was great fun while it lasted. Whether we destroyed Plimpton or not (in truth, the Old Boy enjoyed himself but was out of his depth), we had fun fucking with the Insider crowd, most of whom, in their silk scarves and cashmere coats, had never encountered our likes. We did them an enormous favor.
One of my regrets with the ULA is that we didn't separate ourselves from the literary pack ENOUGH. We shouldn't have had "literary" in our title, because to most of the population the word is an instant snoozer. That's thanks to the likes of Sarabandes of lit who promote dull event after dull event, unexciting journal after unexciting journal, have killed the brand of literature through decades of stagnation and your kind still will squelch any attempt to revive it.
And then justify from your narrow outlook what you've done.

Harland said...

Last time I checked, "crazy hell-raising" and literature were two separate things.

Maybe I'd listen to you a little more respectfully if you could articulate one tiny argument (to match my tiny tactical points) against one single book published by Sarabande to demonstrate your "thesis." It may not matter to you that you haven't read any of them, but it matters to people who believe in the rules of argumentation, which I'm afraid apply to "rebels" as well as to "insiders."

King said...

The rules?! Do you really think I care about your "rules"??
They're designed to keep your kind on top of the heap.
Tell me, exactly how many Sarabandes do I need to read before I can assess their content? Over the past twenty years I've read hundreds of such. They're all of a piece. And again, what does it matter to you? You're not Sarabande, but are merely using their name as cover to pretend to be indy yourself.
You also have zero understanding of marketing-- of the need to stand out from what in the instance of literature is an enormous (conformist) pack. I'm not Sarabande and would never want to be Sarabande. Get it?
All I want from you is for you to take your heel off my neck. In my book you're no different from Ed Rants, who is a cowardly blob of jello pretending to be an independent voice but in crunch time quick to join the ranks of blackballers.
I can't say I know why you're concerned about me, "H," or why you're here. You have everything your way. You're living large while the ULA campaign is long over.
It's a puzzle.

Harland said...

'The rules?! Do you really think I care about your "rules"??'

You know, I knew you'd say that. I knew that invoking "rules" would make your hackles fly. Sorry, King, they're not "my" rules or the the "rules" of a particular class.

argumentation |ˌärgyəmənˈtā sh ən|
noun
the action or process of reasoning systematically in support of an idea, action, or theory : lines of argumentation used to support his thesis.

See?


'Tell me, exactly how many Sarabandes do I need to read before I can assess their content?'

Even one would be an improvement.

'They're all of a piece.'

And that is called "petitio principii."


'And again, what does it matter to you? You're not Sarabande, but are merely using their name as cover to pretend to be indy yourself.'

Sarabande was an example, King. I could have named twenty different presses and you would have characterized any and all of them, and any and all of their authors, the same way.

'You also have zero understanding of marketing-- of the need to stand out from what in the instance of literature is an enormous (conformist) pack.'

"Stand out" in what way? By creating better literature or by shouting down imaginary "opponents"? No, no, King. Any fool can disrupt a reading. A crying baby can do it. You want to disrupt literature, you have to bring something to the table. You can't just round up all the malcontents with big ambitions and a taste for confrontation and call it a "movement." And you certainly can't point out every writer who's ever had his picture in the paper and call him a sell-out and a conformist while simultaneously crowing about the coverage you got on Page Six back in the year zero.

My heel's not on your neck. I'm posting comments on your blog. Which I think, frankly, is a lot livelier for it. Don't want comments? Shut the blog down again. But you do want comments.

Patrick said...

Now now, Harland, don't use fancy academic words. The "King" don't like that.

For someone with such a populist bent, he certainly has no problem attaching himself to a feudal title. And before you go on about the origin of that cognomen, I'm well aware of the genesis of your appropriation.

It's supposed to be ironic, I guess. Which is strange, considering that's something he hates.

I would suspect Wenclas, that you haven't read much published in the last 20-30 years that hasn't been written in a "zine" or "zeen" or whatever the hell you want to call them.

"Any fool can disrupt a reading. A crying baby can do it. You want to disrupt literature, you have to bring something to the table."

This is a much better way of saying what I was trying to say in the other entry. When you criticize the ULA for their lack of writing talent, they become "the most exciting performers in the most exciting literary movement."

Wenclas, you are nothing but spin. In fact, I would love to see you replace Bill O'Reilly on Fox.

King said...

When the deck is egregiously stacked, as it is in the literary world, then the person who's promoting good underground writers has an obligation to do everything in his power to level the playing field. Which includes pointing out the corruption and hypocrisy which exists in literature. Even when to do so is not found in someone's rulebook.
Competing against established lit is like playing a board game whose every rule is created to benefit your opponent-- the status quo. My attitude was to play outside the rules. If necessary, to overturn the board, or take a shotgun and blow a hole through it. That's what artistic rebellion is about.
Right now, literature is held prisoner by a narrow class. The aesthetic and social touchstones of the Sarabandes are the same. Virtually all of them have graduate degress, or are working toward graduate degress, and so represent in the neighborhood of 10% or less of the American public. Those not from the uppermiddle class themselves have adopted the same thought patterns and premises in order to get along. This is reflected in the sterile nature of the art.
Yes, it might seem like a very diverse group to you, but in reality it's not diverse at all.
The ULA represented a much wider variety of writer, including a preppy or two, but also a few writers who'd otherwise never be given a chance to be a writer. (How many times have I myself been told, "You're not writer"?)
You're too trapped on the upper floor of the societal skyscraper, "H," to know what I'm talking about.
************************
The Preppy Author stands self-righteously at the podium while the growing mob outside the hall throws rocks through windows. At the entrance stands Patrick the loyal, unthinking, unblinking guard dog, ready to stomp any who disturb his masters. The audience have grabbed their jewels and furcoats and fled the area, but the Preppy Author persists, scanning the rulebook to see if anything on the sectioned pages deals with this scenario. The building's sprinkling system has turned on, leaving the author a watery mess and smearing the words in the rulebook he fervently holds.
"Point of order!" he calls. "Point of order!"
*****************
As ever, thanks for your remarks.

King said...

(p.s. Here's irony: A defender of Harper-Perennial bringing up Fox, which is owned and run by the same media monopoly that owns and runs the Harper-Collins group. Get a clue.)

King said...

(p.p.s. Re bringing something to the table: But you'll never let nonapproved writers get anywhere near that table, "Harland," as we both know.)

Patrick said...

Artistic rebellion has to, at some point involve... art. And that is where your revolution was lacking. Still is, far as I can tell.

If your actual fiction was as interesting and funny as your paranoid delusions, you might be an insider right now. For whatever that's worth.

Harland, can you define irony for Karl, because I don't think he understands. I never defended HarperPerennial. I don't have an opinion of them one way or another. They are a business. That's all I can say. They'd never publish anything by me, and that's fine. I'm not going to cry about it.

So what was I doing? Oh, right, I was pointing out that the only reason you disliked Taylor was not because of his writing, but because of his deal with said publisher.

My mention of Fox and Bill O'Reilly wasn't a statement on Fox, but rather, a dig at you. Everyone knows Fox. Everyone knows O'Reilly. And you are just the "underground lit." version of the latter.

Or is Alex Jones more to your liking? David Icke?

King said...

Say what? Sit up nicely now. When Harland gets back he might give you a doggie biscuit.

Harland said...

Oh King.

You play outside the rules by writing outside the rules. Been going on for a long time. I know, I *know*, that I've pointed out to you the long underground history of modernism, steered you in the direction of the fascinating anthology, "The Little Magazine in America: A Documentary History," and it didn't make a bit of difference. The point is that those REAL artists didn't give a fig what their "opponents" were doing, they just did what *they* were doing. And now, fifty or one hundred years later, we're reading the work of those real artists, and not paying too much attention to what was hailed by the "establishment" at a given time. But it didn't make a difference to you because making art requires patience and solitude and the understanding that nobody really cares what you're doing, and, of course, talent, none of which you seem to have. You're tenacious, but only in the way you keep shrieking for attention to be paid to this suspect "rebellion" of yours. But you blow a hole through something, create "artistic rebellion," by making art, not by kvetching about who went to Harvard and who got a Guggenheim. "Virtually all of them have graduate degrees"? Really? Well, if that's so -- and I don't necessary think that it is -- what of it? It says a lot about your complete ignorance that you seem to think that possessing an advanced degree is (a) suspect and (b) the guarantee of success.

Is there "corruption and hypocrisy" in the world of literature. Sure. So? Why can't you content yourself like the rest of us with the knowledge that in thirty years nobody is going to care about 90% of the "great writers" identified and hailed in the media?

"Never be given a chance to be a writer"? What does that mean? What kind of imprimatur are you waiting for? Writers, uh, write. Then they struggle to publish. Some have a harder struggle than others. You wouldn't know anything about it. You think you're the only person who's ever been told "you're not a writer"? Far from it. The thing is, I don't really see much to you that signifies "writer." Maybe you write a lot, but you don't seem in the least bit curious about literature, are deaf to the nuances of language (amazingly literal, in fact), are completely intolerant of other points of view, have no ability to argue a point convincingly, and apparently divide literature into a system of personally-conceived ghettos, the transgression of whose boundaries strikes you as a kind of class betrayal.

Patrick said...

Oh how clever!

Woof! Woof!

Yep, that's me.

'Cause you know, that's what I'm banking on, Wenclas. Harland is going to notice me, and before long, I will be in the literary lap of luxury, writing articles for Vice and McSweeney's and HTML Giant... !!

By the way, (re: your story) I've been wondering about this: please explain to me what is "socially conscious" and SO Detroit about an "urban jacket"? I don't get it.

King said...

But of course, "Harland," the avant-garde of the past, the surrealists and dadaists, were intentionally provocative. They were consciously against the artistic establishment.
An avant-garde is always against the established art of the day. And against the system which creates that art.
Your dilemma is that you want to have a foot in both camps. You wish to be perceived as indy, outsider, cutting edge-- its part and parcel of your perceived hipness-- yet at the same time won't give up the privileges of your status.
Okay, I've pointed out that most people involved with the approved version of literature come from a similar background. Most, yes, have MFA degress. I'm not making this up. Go onto the Sarabande staff list, (or Believer etc) and see for yourself. This applies to those employed by the conglomerates. Look at the fake-DIY outfit Harper-Studio. Editors all well-educated, from the bourgie class, whose mentality, touchstones, premises are in line with the top 20% but clueless as to what's happening with the rest of us.
The crowd at HTML Giant can't even conceive of a writer not having an MFA. An increasing percentage of writers have one. Among "literary" writers, well over 90%, I'd gather. These same writers more and more are the ones published by the conglomerates-- because the editors have the same education/brainwashing as the writers; the same idea of what should be considered literature.
You prove this with your own statements. By your lights, I know nothing about literature at all.
All it is, though, is that my VIEW of what literature is, is different than your view. I have my own aesthetic ideas-- see my essay on O. Henry-- and because they're not your ideas they're not credible; they're not acceptable.
You prove my point about the conformity of today's literary world.
Yes, the consensus is overwhelmingly on your side. 99% on your side. Which is an argument for the necessity of myself.
*****************
The hostility toward contrary ideas is with you, Harland. I pointed out your corruption. I didn't seek to exclude your point-of-view.
If you didn't fear contrary ideas, you wouldn't be here. (Your presence and your fear is proof of the impact the ULA had.) Who am I? I have no power within literature at all. I'm a pariah in this town. Most writers fear association with me. I have no resources-- in fact I'm tremendously in debt. This past winter my health went out. I have scant ability to bring down the established lit world, of which you're part. Yet still you're worried. Why is that?
Could it be that, despite your denials, my words and ideas have power after all?

King said...

(p.s. Note the arrogance of this privileged character. He's pointed out the sources re modernism, the "small press," et.al. Yet I read about the modernists a couple decades ago, first through McAlmon's memoir on that era. I've been involved with the underground lit scene for as long. I guess I haven't read the "proper" (approved) sources.
Of course, a portion of the small press has been dominated by the most privileged part of this society for many years. Plimpton himself was key in the creation of the Council of Lit Magazines and Presses. His (and Harland's) buddy William Henderson is another trust-fund rich guy involved with posing as outsider (pushcarts indeed!) while coming from the most Insider part of America-- the top 1% socio-economic class, and highlighting successful, establishment-lauded authors like Joyce Carol Oates. (Henderson recently seen screeching against blogs and other upstart phenomena.) Being an Insider and Outsider both is a neat trick.

King said...

The lamest comeback to be made against someone arguing against an establishment is to "just write."
With the ULA campaign halted, those who were the best ULA writers are doing exactly that. Where are they?
The last I heard of that crude but explosive talent in Chicago-- whose writing makes Gaitskill's look like the work of a girl scou-- she was back waitressing. I don't know what James Nowlan is doing-- probably given up writing altogether. I reread his "Security" this weekend, and saw again that it's the genuine article. He does with his writing what I wish I could accomplish-- tough chunks of experience given in prose that burns the page. Way better than anything cranked out by the Jon Lethems, Lily Tucks, or Justin Taylors of the established lit-world. I suggest everyone who reads this buy a copy-- I presume the ULA still has some-- and see for yourself.
That work alone proves my case that much of the best writing of our time is being ignored.
My opinion, sure-- but I have the right to express it, Harland, and will continue to express it.
***********************
(Harland himself, of course, doesn't "just write." He takes all the promotion for himself that he can get. He involves himself with lit organizations of the status quo which promote his viewpoint. It's true that he doesn't care what the established lit scene is doing or gets away with-- but he sure cares what critics of that system are up to!)

Harland said...

"By your lights, I know nothing about literature at all. All it is, though, is that my VIEW of what literature is, is different than your view."

Your view of literature is nonexistent. You don't discuss literature, ever. You discuss whether the writers you don't like have degrees, and from where, and where they live, and who they know, and how much money you think they have, and whether you think they've availed themselves of their connections or caste to pull strings in order to get whatever it is that you happen to think they have. Which is funny, really, given all the MFA grads I happen to know who can't publish, or who publish very small, or who publish almost exclusively online; or who can't get jobs, or who can only get lousy jobs. But you envy them anyway, although I know you would never characterize it that way, because they are "inside" and you are "outside."

Harland said...

"Your dilemma is that you want to have a foot in both camps. You wish to be perceived as indy, outsider, cutting edge-- its part and parcel of your perceived hipness-- yet at the same time won't give up the privileges of your status."

I don't "wish to be perceived" in any particular way. You just project your own beliefs and preconceptions onto my mask. The fact is that even if you did know my "secret identity" you wouldn't have any idea of who I am, and you wouldn't listen if I told you. Keep on imagining your version of my "status" and "privileges." Keep on imagining that the only reason anyone would disagree with you is because you threaten their entrenched social position.

Harland said...

"The hostility toward contrary ideas is with you, Harland. I pointed out your corruption. I didn't seek to exclude your point-of-view. If you didn't fear contrary ideas, you wouldn't be here. (Your presence and your fear is proof of the impact the ULA had.)"

No, you don't seek to exclude my point of view. You just try to pre-empt and impeach it whenever I provide it by insisting that I'm corrupt and privileged. Your proof of that is that I disagree with you. To disagree with you is to be corrupt. Got it. But don't fool yourself that you have ideas -- you have postures, which don't inspire fear at all.

If the collective forces of the ULA had produced even one single piece of fiction that was worth reading, I'd be very happy. But personally, and based on admittedly little experience of the ULA's writing aside from what's appeared online (which is quite a bit, though), I don't enjoy the work. Not because it "threatens the established order" but because it does nothing for me. It's an opinion you can be free to disagree with. Why you have to imagine a sociological and political basis for my opinion is a mystery.

Harland said...

"(p.s. Note the arrogance of this privileged character. He's pointed out the sources re modernism, the "small press," et.al....Of course, a portion of the small press has been dominated by the most privileged part of this society for many years. Plimpton himself was key in the creation of the Council of Lit Magazines and Presses..."

See, you're incorrigible. I bring up "The Little Magazine in America," and you start talking about Plimpton. Clearly it's a resource you've never seen, let alone browsed through. Most of the magazines discussed in the book were created under exactly the conditions you're always admiringly blathering away about. If you insist upon being willfully ignorant, that's your privilege, of course. But your tendency to reroute any discussion so that it leads back into the vortex of your obsessions is tiresome. Fuck Plimpton. We're not talking about Plimpton or Bill Henderson. But you don't know what I'm talking about, because you're ignorant of it.

Harland said...

"The lamest comeback to be made against someone arguing against an establishment is to 'just write.'
With the ULA campaign halted, those who were the best ULA writers are doing exactly that. Where are they?"

Why is it lame? I don't understand your point. They're writing and they're not "successful," so that proves the idiocy of my suggestion? King, you're the one whose idea of literary success is wedded to "establishment" acceptance. As I've said before eight hundred times, there are a lot of writers working outside the establishment. But there are standards, perhaps not "objective" or "scientific" standards, but standards obtaining nonetheless, none of which you, at least, seem to meet. The fact that you can't write anything that's deemed publishable by anybody isn't indicative of systemic corruption extending from the smallest of presses to the largest of corporate behemoths. It's indicative of your being a crummy writer.

"Tough chunks of experience given in prose that burns the page."

Great. Evocative of exactly nothing. I might suggest that "experience" served up in tough and undigested (and evidently fiery) chunks is exactly NOT literature, but you wouldn't accept that. The synthetic process of making prose out of experience infuriates you because it evades you. And need I mention again that Lethem, Tuck, and Taylor, aside from being completely different writers (whatever their respective merits) represent a tiny fragment of "the established lit-world"?

"That work alone proves my case that much of the best writing of our time is being ignored."

Mostly by you. Still waiting for you to mention one single writer (unless you want McInerney and Gaitskill to represent your last word on the subject) NOT of the ULA whose work you admire.


"(Harland himself, of course, doesn't "just write." He takes all the promotion for himself that he can get. He involves himself with lit organizations of the status quo which promote his viewpoint."

Examples?

King said...

Examples? The example is right here, in the vast amount of time you've devoted to this blog. (As have others, notably Daniel Handler, who like you devoted many hundreds of hours to posting comments on this blog. Why doesn't he "just write"? Why don't you?
*********************
Re James Nowlan. You haven't read him. That's obvious. He presents chunks of experience in the same way Dostoevsky, or Henry Miller, Or Jack Kerouac, in different ways, did also. He does it with a distinctive, intelligent point-of-view. He structures the presentation of experience in order to build his narrative. I gave him an example of a good ex-ULA writer and I'll stand by that call.
Ya know, your presence here is counterproductive. I was "just writing" with my Pop blog, until HTML Giant dug up a seven year-old article about the ULA and I was forced to defend it. You're forcing me to do so here. Perhaps that's your strategy, who knows, to remind writers why I should be feared and blackballed.
The entire lit system, which you defend (how could you not be part of it?), operates on fear. I could give several proofs.
First would be when my newsletter was ripped up publicly by Liam Rector at Bennington. Three writers sent me notes diming Liam out; one of them outraged; one quizzical; one amused. No one said anything to Liam there, as far as I know, and of course no one went public.
Same thing happened in 2001 with our petition against a Guggenheim grant to a wealthy writer. The NY Post reported on it-- they got the story from a well-known writer who agreed with us! but wouldn't do so publicly. No established writer would.
What does this tell us about the literary world?
To me your just a Sholokhov. You operate in similar fashion.
You construct a distorted cardboard version of myself in order to make your arguments here-- then try to knock the cutout over. Not too successfully, I might add.
Okay, I'm not a writer, by your lights. How do you then explain the essays of mine published in esteemed or trendy journals in the 90's like North American Review and Open City?? (The best one I did for NAR hasn't been put online. It's somewhat un-pc-- but it is an example of the social conscience Detroit lit Patrick seems to want. He can go to a university library and look it up-- Jan/Feb '94 issue, if I recall.)
I've pointed out corruption in literature not from envy, but from outrage. It still amazes me that the whistleblower is the person blackballed. Does anyone believe that scarce grant money from a philanthropic tax shelter should go to the writers in this society who least need it? Do you still defend that?
What does it tell us about the individuals who'd blithely apply for and accept such funds? What can we call them other than hogs?
***************
Re writing about literature. I've written a ton about literature and specific writers, here and elsewhere; essays on novelists like Fitzgerald, Cozzens, Norris; on O. Henry and other short story writers; on the condition of contemporary poetry-- you name it. In my 90's newsletter I reviewed contemporary writers every other issue.
But keep creating your cardboard cutouts if it makes you feel good.

King said...

(Note how Sholokhov's paranoia puts himself in the position of being unfairly attacked or excluded. Where? In the literary world? No! On this blog, as if this tiny corner of literary noise were the universe. It's the same attitude which vastly exaggerated the ULA threat, and then led to an overreaction against a group of outcast writers who were after a tiny sliver of literary pie. But the Sholokhovs of the system want it all for themselves. He sits gorged on cherry pie, his mouth smeared with it, yet he wants more. More!
I don't know if he's Sholokhov, or who he is, or what his ideas and motivations truly are-- because he hides himself. If he removes the mask it'd tell us much-- which is why he can't do so.
The tactics of he and his buds, meanwhile, are in line with threatened apparatchiks from other places and times. They operate the same way. Endless anonymous attacks to give the impression the literary world as a whole agress with them-- and to warn off others who might also think for themselves. Even getting a mole into the outfit to be broken. Should we discuss that? Throughout, cowardly, loathsome behavior. No, this isn't the Soviet Union. If it was, instead of being lectured about the proper books to read, I'd be sent to a reeducation camp! Don't bet that Sholokhov wouldn't want to do it.)
p.s. Hey Harland, how's your petition to "shut Wenclas up" coming along?

Harland said...

"After transfering to the commuter train he could feel the palpable presence of a certain doom approaching and when crossing the plain towards the institutional looking residential block he felt like a condemned man on a police skiff seeing Alcatraz rising from the green waves of San Francisco bay."

James (I might write in the margin), of what does the "palpable presence" consist? Has it arrived or is it approaching? Why is it a "certain" doom? Is the feeling of being a condemned man related to the "palpable presence of a certain approaching doom"? (NB: this syntax works better)

"After getting off the train in the dank underground station and climbing up a series of sabotaged escalators he found himself in the deserted center of a group of blank hundred foot wall like buildings that showed no sign of life except for black fire stains running up their sides, making them look as if they had been attacked by beseiging hordes and left pillaged; all the inhabitants carried away or massacred. Feeling small and vulnerable he looked around the square for the bank that he was supposed to be guarding."

James, what is a "hundred foot wall like building"? How is a "black fire stain" a sign of life? Is something "left pillaged" or simply "pillaged"? SP: "Besiege."

"The few attempts to cheer up the landscape, a fountain and a childrens playground, had been so savagely vandalised it looked as if a tornado had passed."

James, shouldn't we stick to the "besieging hordes" rather than shift to the image of a vandalizing tornado? Passed as in missed them? SP: "Children's."

"All the businesses were boarded up except for one in the corner farthest from him that was covered with thick metal shutters and looked as if it too had been attacked by the pyromaniac maurauders."

Is the corner covered with thick metal shutters or the business? "Too" like the hundred foot wall like buildings, or like the boarded up businesses it is being differentiated from? And does this mean we've left behind the tornado? Sp: "Marauders."

"He walked past all the storefronts feeling like the last man on earth."

I.e., "small and vulnerable"? Alone? Lonely?

"When he came to the last one he saw the logo of the bank he had been told to go to. 'How could I be working here?' he thought. It looked even more damaged than all the others; he couldn't possibly imagine that it would open."

The last one being the one in the corner? Can he see the damage beneath the heavy metal shutters?

"Surveying the place again he saw no other possibilities,"

What place? The storefront? The corner? The entire scene? "No other possibilities" -- i.e., now he must imagine that it will open.

"then he spotted a man dressed in a black military type uniform coming towards him."

From where? Amid the deserted place? Inside the bank?

"Wanting to runaway but not knowing where to go Tom crossed his arms and leaned back against the wall to see what would happen."

Sp: "run away." From fright? Why not the train? What wall?

Now, King, I know how you'll respond to my marginal notes on James' story. I won't offer any preemptive comments, though.

Harland said...

"They operate the same way. Endless anonymous attacks to give the impression the literary world as a whole agress with them-- and to warn off others who might also think for themselves."

Uh, didn't you just say like five entries ago that you were marginalized and that no one wanted to associate with you or your ideas?

Harland said...

"Examples? The example is right here, in the vast amount of time you've devoted to this blog. (As have others, notably Daniel Handler, who like you devoted many hundreds of hours to posting comments on this blog. Why doesn't he "just write"? Why don't you?"

I meant examples of my activities amid "the establishment."

I do write. This stuff doesn't take me long.

Harland said...

"p.s. Hey Harland, how's your petition to "shut Wenclas up" coming along?"

About as well as your petition to get on the board of PEN.

Harland said...

"Re writing about literature. I've written a ton about literature and specific writers, here and elsewhere...In my 90's newsletter I reviewed contemporary writers every other issue."

Well, since I don't have access to your nineties newsletter, maybe you would do me the great favor of naming some of those contemporary writers.

Harland said...

"Re James Nowlan. You haven't read him. That's obvious. He presents chunks of experience in the same way Dostoevsky, or Henry Miller, Or Jack Kerouac, in different ways, did also. He does it with a distinctive, intelligent point-of-view. He structures the presentation of experience in order to build his narrative."

I think I've read about as much of him as I want. He has a lot of trouble writing.

Harland said...

"Ya know, your presence here is counterproductive. I was "just writing" with my Pop blog, until HTML Giant dug up a seven year-old article about the ULA and I was forced to defend it. You're forcing me to do so here. Perhaps that's your strategy, who knows, to remind writers why I should be feared and blackballed."

That's how it is in the Lit Biz, I guess. You blog and people comment. That's counterproductive. I'm not "forcing" you to do anything, least of all to write a silly blog about how no one will publish "the most exciting and most dangerous group of literary rebels in the history of writing," or whatever you're claiming. I mean, the takeaway from the King Wenclas Show a/o the last couple of years has been as follows:

1) Daniel Handler is following me.
2) Rick Moody: still sucks.
3) I should be on PEN's board.
4) If only the ULA had listened to me, they would have done more.
5) Sarah Palin is pretty great.
6) Global warming is a hoax made up by the literary establishment.
7) I hate Harvard.
8) There are no writers but the ULA.

And so forth.

King said...

Certainly, your constipated appraisal of Nowlan's writing should tell any would-be writer all he or she needs to know about those in charge of literature now.
It tells us why literature today is so dead; why writers are afraid to take any chances at all.
For me, Nowlan's writing-- even your selective excerpts-- convey the reality of the world we live in as well as any writer I've encountered.
As for the rest of your blather: I don't know what propels it, but something about my existence and my words bothers you. As long as you hide your identity, we'll not know. I don't figure you'll gain a backbone.
Your hostility doesn't sway me from my ideas one iota. It confirms to me the irredeemable rot of the current literary world.
My opinion only, of course. Take it for what you will.

Patrick said...

"Certainly, your constipated appraisal of Nowlan's writing should tell any would-be writer all he or she needs to know about those in charge of literature now."

Like what? That you should at least have basic communication skills?

"It tells us why literature today is so dead; why writers are afraid to take any chances at all."

Yeah, Nowlan is a risk-taker. Writing an ex-pat novel that describes France in almost the exact same manner you describe Detroit.

"For me, Nowlan's writing-- even your selective excerpts-- convey the reality of the world we live in as well as any writer I've encountered."

You are one deluded individual. In fact, I think the only reason Nowlan's book was finally published was because of his ULA connection. I don't even think the most down-on-its-luck small press would consider it.

Have you even read the "synopsis" posted on the ULA site, where he pitches a film in the most unreadable of prose? Yeah! Dostoyevsky, eat your heart out! So much for clarity! For meticulously woven sentences!

Harland said...

My constipated appraisal? Please, King. Language doesn't care what you "meant." It's a precision instrument, and Nowlan has only rudimentary control of it. And art doesn't care about your good intentions, or if you have "tough chunks of experience" to offer.

Nowlan's taking chances? What are they, exactly? What's at risk here? What's at stake? What does he stand to lose through this depiction of his tough chunks of experience? I mean, really. When you say "taking chances" I assume you mean that there's something about this that's deliberately trying to provoke misunderstanding, or disbelief, or shock, or the urge to censor, or something of that nature. But I understand perfectly the "intent" of this excerpt, although its language is inadequate to portray the scene with any clarity, much less distinction, and it doesn't surprise, shock, disturb, upset, or arouse a violent desire to suppress it.

Oh, it's a "selective excerpt" only in the sense that it's the one featured on the ULA page, which I would take to mean that it's accurately representative of the book as a whole, if not an actual "highlight."

Ho-hum. Yet another instance in which you accuse me of cowardice for my refusal to "step forward" in my "true identity." Wrong, King. All that matters is what I'm saying. I don't believe I require tough nuggets of experience, as evinced by the revelation of my True Self, in order to refute authoritatively your silly and wholly literal-minded "ideas" about "literary revolution." Tough chunks of experience would, by this reckoning, qualify about 85% of the world as Great Writers. But they're not. Too bad!

"Irredeemable rot of the current literary world."

Irredeemable rot starts with people who don't read, like certain self-styled literary revolutionaries I could mention.

King said...

Mine is a different aesthetic viewpoint, sure. It shouldn't surprise you. My philosophy is stated at the back of Nowlan's book:
"First, our writing IS different-- more natural; not processed through writing programs. The rough edges haven't been sanded off. We present the authentic sound of America now.

"The literary underground is analogous to the early days of rock n roll, emphasizing energy and truth before polish and craft."

It's the difference between Pat Boone and Little Richard, the trained and the untrained voice.
Once, recall, musicians were required to read music. Singers had to know their scales and hit their notes. Your attitude is akin to that of an old-fashioned music school teacher staring in confusion at barbarians who dare enter her area of expertise. "Bottom feeders" with no apparent expertise at all.
Yet, there were Americans everywhere singing and playing music without the approval of the established institutions, just as today there are writers like Nowlan and myself who write and dare to consider ourselves writers-- who have a different viewpoint to offer the world.
Expertise is fine. It's not in trouble. Hundreds of writing schools are cranking out thousands of well-trained writers. If their art is in trouble in the culture, it's because expertise isn't enough.
Could there possibly be a trade-off?
The fact is that I do read some of the well-hyped establishment authors to see what they're up to.
This winter, when off work for a week, I read, more-or-less, at a chain bookstore over coffee both Lethem's Chronic City and Lorrie Moore'sew one; both which had been well-hyped. Both novels failed to connect with me, much less move me. A lot of verbiage saying not much, coming from extremely narrow viewpoints. I began scribbling reviews of both of them, but couldn't find a way to make the reviews energetic. I wasn't angry at the books. I wasn't anything. The emotion I felt was, blah: "so what." What passes with Lethem as "ideas" is a take on a pseudo-event like the Oscars. Bubble people.
Then when I read the impression of a Nowlan I'm struck by its reality.
Life not as a privileged bubble but as a nonstop assault.
I can see how it wouldn't be accepted by a pod, but I believe a lot of readers would, like myself, find the writing powerful.

King said...

(If I had to guess at Harland's identity, I'd peg him as yet another son-of-a-banker. Banker's sons seem to carry into lit the characteristics of their fathers. One sees the same greed, dishonesty, and selfishness. I can easily see Harland kicking widows and orphans with failed mortgages into the street, for not having every i on the form properly dotted. Get these people into literature and they similarly want it all; will leave not a crumb for anyone else.
I think that at the least, Harland has shown where his kind stands toward the underground. Let no undergrounder have any illusions on that score. There's no room for peace with these people. They want to wipe us out.
**********************
I brought up the petition Harland started in order to show what he's about. Anyone can compare the different intents between his and the Petition to PEN I started.
The Petition to PEN is an attempt to democratize the literary art-- to bring more people into literature's house; not just undergrounders, but all kinds of DIY folks, including print-on-demand writers. The Petition also points out that many writers in this society are greatly struggling, and asks for PEN to follow its stated mission to stand up for outcast, dissident, or hurting writers. The response is to deny that we're writers at all. Makes it easy to exclude us.
Harland's petition, on the other hand, is merely to shut me up-- which says much about what he's about.

mather said...

I just saw the petition. It's only got 3 signatures.

It's kind of an honor that someone would start a petition like that. You should showcase it. Or maybe you have.

I love the spirit here, Wenclas, whether your personal works ever live up to your ideas doesn't matter. You're pushing it.

I read that Justin Taylor story Tennessee and didn't like it at all.

Harland said...

No, dear. Your syllogism is faulty. Just because a genius like Little Richard (among countless others) wasn't formally trained yet made groundbreaking art doesn't mean that anyone without formal training is therefore capable of making groundbreaking art. And you have nothing good to say about actual published writers who weren't formally trained. Only ones who can't be published.

"We present the authentic sound of America now...analogous to the early days of rock n roll, emphasizing energy and truth before polish and craft...Americans everywhere singing and playing music without the approval of the established institutions...today there are writers like Nowlan and myself who write and dare to consider ourselves writers-- who have a different viewpoint to offer the world."

What's the "difference" in that viewpoint? That dead-end jobs suck, the poor get fucked over, there are actual lives beyond the glitter of the big city? Wow, big difference. Of course, a viewpoint, distinctive or otherwise, isn't enough. You keep talking about expertise and training but I'm getting at something much less mandarin than that, which is that you don't have talent. Sorry.

I like "powerful" and "unlettered" fiction that denies or avoids traditional virtuosity too. I believe I've mentioned such writers right here in the comments section, ranging from Kathy Acker to Celine to Hubert Selby, Jr., among others. Of course, all of them, while they might have shocked your "old-fashioned music teacher," certainly knew exactly what they were doing and how to marshal the techniques at their disposal. Nowlan has no technique. Nowlan is merely a crappy writer, the "reality" of his "impressions" notwithstanding.

But of course my opinion is impeached by the identity you've invented for me: "If I had to guess at Harland's identity, I'd peg him as yet another son-of-a-banker. Banker's sons seem to carry into lit the characteristics of their fathers."

No, King. I'm not a banker's son. Don't come from money or privilege.

"I think that at the least, Harland has shown where his kind stands toward the underground."

No, you've shown where you stand on the underground: it doesn't exist, except for you and your eight ULA buddies. Anybody else -- particularly anybody who gets published, anywhere, by anyone -- is a demi-puppet.

"The Petition to PEN is an attempt to democratize the literary art-- to bring more people into literature's house; not just undergrounders, but all kinds of DIY folks...The response is to deny that we're writers at all. Makes it easy to exclude us."

Yep, and when it was suggested to you that you might allow someone to sponsor you for membership in PEN, and that if PEN then rejected you you might find sympathy among its members (and concomitantly be able to publicize what you think of as PEN's exclusive practices), you poo-pooed the idea. Because you don't want to be a mere member of PEN, you want to be on the Board of Directors. You wanted to be in charge. You couldn't even stay on top of the ULA without driving people away, King.

"Harland's petition, on the other hand, is merely to shut me up-- which says much about what he's about."

Yes, of course. My very serious petition to shut up the King. Here's the text in its entirety, freedom lovers (oh, and you can sign here: http://www.petitiononline.com/WENCLAS/petition.html):

"To: Karl 'King' Wenclas

We, the undersigned, do hereby and in good faith request of Karl 'King' Wenclas that he SHUT UP.

Sincerely,"

Pretty sinister.

King said...

Yes, I think it is-- particularly if my hunch that you're one of the Billionaire Boys Club is correct.
Why wouldn't it be? So far two other members of the club were outed posted anonymous attacks against the ULA and/or myself; namely Mr. Handler and Mr. Eggers.
Odds favor my guess. Will know sooner or later-- the Liskula Cohen case showed there are no secrets on the Internet. Then we can fairly judge.
Funny that Little Richard and Co are considered geniuses NOW, fifty-some years after the fact, but at the time they broke on the scene they were scorned. Behind them lay decades of activity by artists like Leadbelly and Robert Johnson who enjoyed the permanent obscurity you desire for underground writers.
Hubert Selby, by the way-- I agree he's a great writer-- wasn't embraced by the mainstream during his lifetime. I know that a couple years before his death, when henry Rollins located him, he was working as a dishwasher! While quack mediocrities of the In crowd were lauded by the establishment.
I know how the lit-establishment works, you see. If a writer is safely dead (see Roberto Bolano) he's suddenly acceptable.
This was the point the ULA made with our "Howl" protest in 2006-- which was hilarious in the sense that the tamest lamest most bourgie people around were lamely celebrating, with the atmosphere of a morgue, the out-of-control Beats. Lip service. We got then from Mr. Lopate the true attitude toward noncomformist writers like Kerouac-- someone, by the way, who scarcely followed the rules. He was around at a time when American lit was far less controlled and lccked-down.
I wonder if even a Scott Fitzgerald, whose Romantic Egoist/This Side of Paradise was a mess, would get to square one if he were around in our era. Even then, it was only because of one farsighted editor able to see the spark of life in otherwise crude manuscripts that Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe were given the opportunity to enrich American literature.
Throughout history, in every time, from the days of William Blake to Van Gogh to now, art worlds are run by closed minds such as yours.
Your here to protect your turf. your presence is a sign of panic-- that all is not as well in the established lit world and in your mind as you pretend. I see in your posts insecurity, doubt, and fear.

Harland said...

"Yes, I think it is-- particularly if my hunch that you're one of the Billionaire Boys Club is correct."

It's not a hunch. It's wild speculation. And totally wrong.

"Odds favor my guess. Will know sooner or later-- the Liskula Cohen case showed there are no secrets on the Internet. Then we can fairly judge."

What a laugh. There is no way you would "fairly judge" me because based on pretty much everything you've ever said on this blog I'd fall into any one of several taboo categories you've devised for...oh, pretty much anyone who doesn't agree with you.

"Funny that Little Richard and Co are considered geniuses NOW, fifty-some years after the fact, but at the time they broke on the scene they were scorned."

Now you're blaming me for the way Little Richard was received? I wasn't born yet. Plus he could cry all the way to the bank. Eight number one singles in three years.

"Hubert Selby, by the way-- I agree he's a great writer-- wasn't embraced by the mainstream during his lifetime."

Bullshit. Last Exit was a bestseller. Cubby went through rough times because he was a junkie with an arrest record. Also he had alimony and/or child support to pay to two or three ex-wives. Plus, hate to tell you, "a couple of years before his death" he was working at USC teaching -- you guessed it -- creative writing.

"I know how the lit-establishment works, you see. If a writer is safely dead (see Roberto Bolano) he's suddenly acceptable."

Funny, I've noticed those are the only writers you like, too.

"This was the point the ULA made with our "Howl" protest in 2006-- which was hilarious in the sense that the tamest lamest most bourgie people around were lamely celebrating, with the atmosphere of a morgue, the out-of-control Beats."

You're a crummy historian. Ginsberg: Columbia. Kerouac: Columbia. Burroughs: Harvard.

"[Kerouac] was around at a time when American lit was far less controlled and locked-down."

Yes, and if Kerouac were writing today and publishing with Viking you'd condemn him as a product of the conformity factory.

"I wonder if even a Scott Fitzgerald, whose Romantic Egoist/This Side of Paradise was a mess, would get to square one if he were around in our era. Even then, it was only because of one farsighted editor able to see the spark of life in otherwise crude manuscripts that Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe were given the opportunity to enrich American literature."

You're saying that Max Perkins and Scribner's enriched American literature. Savor the irony.

"Throughout history, in every time, from the days of William Blake to Van Gogh to now, art worlds are run by closed minds such as yours."

William Blake: genius
Vincent Van Gogh: genius
Karl Wenclas: no-talent loudmouth.

"Your here to protect your turf. your presence is a sign of panic-- that all is not as well in the established lit world and in your mind as you pretend. I see in your posts insecurity, doubt, and fear."

No, King. My presence here is a sign of the endless amusement you provide. You see things all right.

Wred Fright said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wred Fright said...

The ULA edition of Security reads like it was never proofread, which is a shame, because it's a good read otherwise. I really enjoy Nowlan's work. His film Countdown runs in a similar vein. With what appears to be almost no budget, he made a film that's better than quite a few big budget movies I've seen from Hollywood. He may be a bit of an acquired taste, like many of the ULA writers, but I like his stuff. His style is unlike any other writer I've ever read. I'd describe him as a surrealist expatriate Bukowski. I'd like to read more by him. Harland, I'm sorry you don't like my writing, as I like your mask or whatever the hell it is you're wearing. The King's blog is a good time, isn't it?

Wred Fright said...

I made a typo in my initial publication of that last comment so I deleted, corrected, and republished it. Proofreading: Don't leave home without it!

Harland said...

The King does know that you're a Ph.D., doesn't he, Fred? That you teach at college?

King said...

Well, I see that your arguments are filled with contradictions. You agree that Little Richard was a great musician, better than Pat Boone. On what objective criteria do you base that? His writing? ("Tutti Frutti" wasn't exactly Cole Porter.) Objectively, Pat Boone had a better, more well-trained voice. Isn't training what it's about in your world?
It seems to me that you carry a double standard regarding music and literature.
****************
You're tied into your own caricature of myself. I've criticized writing programs for their dominance of literature now, but not every writer who teaches writing when that's necessary. (Even Mary Gaitskill, whose work I've long admired, has taught in them.) I've mentioned them as a hazard to a writer's work, but I've not posited an either-or situation.
You always have my arguments upside-down.
Because I've argued that undergrounders should have a tiny sliver of the literary noise (say 1%), established litsters have pretended I want to shut them out. I guess by suddenly taking away their 100%.
Because I've argued that not ALL writers should have MFA's (indisputably the direction lit is going in) doesn't mean I believe that NONE of them should.
Today, virtually every story in every literary story collection is from an MFAer. If those collections are mediocre (as they are), then MFA programs have to be considered as a likely cause.
When closely looked at, your arguments are sophistry.
Hubert Selby, by the way-- a great but uneven writer-- presented the reader with large chunks of tough experience. In the same way James Nowlan does.
******************
Your attack on Nowlan's writing is so obsessive-compulsive it goes beyond constipation nearly into insanity-- and reveals your own flaw as a writer: your narrow outlook. (Your literalism, if you will.)
--"wall like buildings" is an evocative phrase. A building without ornamentation or character, like, er, a wall.
--"as if a tornado had passed."
This could mean "passed by" but it also could mean "passed through." When looked at within context, within the rest of the paragraph, it's obvious what's meant. I can't imagine a single reader, other than yourself, misinterpreting what he says-- and with you the misinterpretation is deliberate.
******************
What you are, "Harland," is a fraud. You pretend to embrace edgy, underground-style writers (like a Hubert Selby) but when it comes to accepting living versions, the true Harland comes out. Harland the Banker.
You can argue that I don't accept writers-- but when I critique writers it's writers who are already successful and hardly require my acceptance. I'm not in a position to hold power over any writer, as I suspect you are.
This is a huge difference.
My argument stands that writers as powerful in their themes and imagery AS Hubert Selby-- namely James Nowlan-- are shut out.

King said...

Regarding Harland's identity:
This is an important issue, given that I was attacked by Daniel Handler, using a phony name, for quite a long time.
Handler, Eggers, Moody, Sedaris, wield enormous power within literature.
One can look at two recent NY Times articles on Handler, one which discusses his stupendous wealth; another about his switch of publishing companies, which gives indications that he has the power to shake these giant institutions.
Yet this same ultra-powerful individual posted hundreds of attacks against myself. One of the richest writers in America going after one of the poorest.
Harland, will you agree that Daniel Handler's attacks on me were unseemly and disproportionate?
(That they were done anonymously was the essence of cowardice.)
Think of the arrogance of the Handler/Sedaris fake letter-- the knowledge that they could get away with it; that NO ONE from the established lit world would call them on it. A symptom of privilege.
Think of the situation of a writer who would dare cross swords with the four "boys club" writers I mentioned. How would that writer be viewed by the literary/print media worlds? Wouldn't these worlds fear offending those named powerful, Borgia-like princes of literature?
Wouldn't that writer likely be blackballed? (Forget being published-- an obvious impossibility given the fear within literature. I'm talking being denied any attention or association at all.)
By the way, Harland, I'm a writer. I have many stories and poems now up on various blogs; from eight short stories on "Pop"; two longer ones at my Detroit blog; I link there to "Bluebird"; the three-part "Zytron" story on this blog from 2005 about teaching in an inner city high school; and so on. I'd think that qualifies me as a writer, except in your willfully-distorted world.
If I'm not a writer, no one is.
(A new story, btw, is now up at Pop.)

King said...

Re knowing about Wred's phd:
Let's see. Some years ago I received in the mail a copy of Wred's gigantic dissertation, which happened to be about zines. (It wouldn't fit in my po box.) I still vividly recall lugging that unwieldy article back to my place. Backbreaking! I should've rented a truck to carry it. Maybe I had a clue then that he had a Phd.
*******************
Actually, Harland has inadvertantly shown that in practice I'm quite democratic in my tastes. We had at least two Ivy Leaguers, for instance, in the ULA. (One of them a founding member-- one of six.) I've never been about exclusion, but inclusion. A literary world which reflects the society; which is more relevant and accessible to the American people.

Patrick said...

Selby was never "shut out," dude. They made a MOVIE out of "Requiem for a Dream" and even gave him a fuckin' cameo.

You live in a world of fantasy where you just say any old thing and it's true by virtue of you having said it. That is what's ridiculous to me. It's not enough that you disagree with the system, no... you disagree with anyone who might question your notions, no matter how loony they are.

You want to know why "wall like buildings" is an awful simile? Because buildings HAVE walls. He's not saying anything but, "there's a building that... looks like a building."

"Urban monolith" might be a tad cliché, but at least it's not redundant.

"--'wall like buildings' is an evocative phrase. A building without ornamentation or character, like, er, a wall."

Yeah, the Great Wall of China... that has no character. It's just a bunch of bricks. There is nothing fantastic or artful about it.

Right.

And why do you keep saying "chunks of experience?" What does that mean?

Yeah, I've been to Europe, too. I've worked shitty jobs. I dropped out of college. How does that make me any more qualified a writer than a trust fund kid with an MFA? I don't think it does. It might make me unpolished, street, hood, punk (whatever), but it doesn't make me BETTER (or worse). Just different.

"You can argue that I don't accept writers-- but when I critique writers it's writers who are already successful and hardly require my acceptance. I'm not in a position to hold power over any writer, as I suspect you are."

Don't play victim. It's kind of sad, and my tiny violin is out of tune.

I would hardly call what you do "critiquing." You look at the publisher, find the author on wikipedia, and if you see lots of awards, or a college degree, they are summarily dumped into the "just another 'typical' Litworld™ writer" bin.

Do you read novels anymore?

"By the way, Harland, I'm a writer. I have many stories and poems now up on various blogs; from eight short stories on "Pop"; two longer ones at my Detroit blog; I link there to "Bluebird"; the three-part "Zytron" story on this blog from 2005 about teaching in an inner city high school; and so on. I'd think that qualifies me as a writer, except in your willfully-distorted world."

By your definition of a writer, almost everyone under 30 is a writer. But you know, I'll give you your claim. If you believe you are a writer, then fine, you're a writer. Just remember that some take the designation a bit more seriously than that.

King said...

??? I've never said experience makes a writer necessarily BETTER-- my argument is that we're getting too much, from contemporary lit, a kind of narrow, upper-middle class experience. (See Lorrie Moore. Uh, I read her novel. It wasn't compelling.)
Yes, I advocate a return to the days of Jack London, Stephen Crane, O. Henry and company, when American literature was more vigorous, more in touch with the American public. I argue against the tame literary product of today.

King said...

p.s. I've in effect argued for DIFFERENCE. Do we have it? Not in the American short story. . . .

Harland said...

Selby and Nowlan are not even remotely similar, and if you think that Selby's artistic method consisted of hurling diaristic chunks of experience at the page then you have severely misread him.

I think Nowlan's writing is barely literate and, you know, it actually points out your lack of discernment that you would see in the loose similarities between his work and the work of someone like Selby a kind of iron-clad affinity. And you're not going to persuade me, or anyone else, that Nowlan's inability to check the spelling of basic English words in the dictionary is evidence of a radical artistic sensibility. I would be willing to bet, without getting up and pulling any of Selby's books off the shelf, that Selby would never write of a "wall like building," or mix similes within a single sentence. In fact, Selby mostly avoided similes and other "artificial" figures of speech that a weak writer (like Nowlan) hangs onto like a crutch.

Training has its purpose but what really matters "in my world" is practice. No practiced writer would write like Nowlan. It is the work of a not-terribly-talented amateur. Your argument, which I don't think I do have upside-down, is that because Nowlan has "ideas" and "experience" he should be embraced by this nebulous entity you've invented called "the lit world," and the fact that his shitty, amateur productions aren't indicates widespread "corruption."

I don't "pretend" to embrace anything because I don't have a political or ideological outlook when it comes to literature. I read lots of things, in fact I read much more broadly than I did once upon a time. Believe it or not, I actually take books on a case-by-case basis, which pretty much precludes drawing broad and prejudicial conclusions about them on the basis of where the author's gone to school, who's published him, and so forth.

Harland said...

"A literary world which reflects the society; which is more relevant and accessible to the American people."

Uh, you can lead a horse to water, King. Even if I agreed with you that the most valuable function literature can perform is to turn experience within the lower echelons of society into accessible and instructive prose, that's not what "the American people" are interested in reading. Just check the bestseller list.

Oh, and when I walk past the tables in Downtown Brooklyn where people are selling books, mostly with African-American themes, to passers-by, very few of those books seem to take the proletarian life as their subject matter. Is it possible that "relevant" literature is not what resonates with The People, even if it does resonate with a nice boy from Grosse Pointe?

Wred Fright said...

Ha! Yes, Crazy Carl and I were the black sheep of the ULA with our Ph.D.s!

Harland said...

Wait, I don't understand. You and Crazy Carl have PhDs, two members of the ULA were Ivy grads. Yet the King speaks out against academia and the Ivy League continually. I don't understand this tortured bifurcation. The man who says 'Do you really think I care about your "rules"??' does understand that, even if he happens to approve of the subject of your dissertation, you had to fill it with citations and footnotes and to defend it before a dissertation committee, right? Could it be that this is all rhetorical hyperbole on the King's part? Could I have misunderstood so badly?

King said...

?? Try to get your facts straight, "Harland," instead of always distorting.
Neither Wred nor Carl went to Ivy League colleges. That was a couple others. (And I don't know where the Mole went to school.)
As I've said, the ULA was fairly representative of America-- unlike the established lit world.
And no, I don't advocate strictly proletarian literature in the 30's sense-- though I don't like the bloodless lit handed us by the contemporary lit world.
If you look at my pop stories (are you avoiding them?) you can see the direction I'm going in.
My argument re class is that not ALL approved writers should come from Columbia or Brown.
The Ivy league is wildly overrepresented in the higher levels of literature.
One can say that the upper-class has always dominated the art form-- except it's not true regarding American lit; with examples like Twain, London, O. Henry, and many more. American literature was known if anything for its vigor, which is now fairly well gone.
***********
By necessity, you seek to wipe out ALL context from the assessment of literature. Which allows you to pose as an edgy outsider.
************
For myself, I would've been better off staying in a world where my family was most comfortable. It was being bused into a different school district, a different world, that shaped much of my thoughts. Myself and my siblings and our immediate neighbors were the grubby outsiders put into a world where we didn't belong.
Ever been in a fight, Harland?
I was in a hundred in high school alone. One of my best friends fought every mock-tough kid in the school. All we did is fight, to hold our respect, so I'm well used to it-- but now I have to try to match the assholes of the world-- which you're purely one-- with words. Am I out of my depth? Surely, but I'm happy to engage regardless. Bring it on. I'm far from done. I have a lot of battling to do.
(Read the ending of my "Drug Dealer" story-- which carries the message that you'd better watch who you kill.)

Harland said...

"?? Try to get your facts straight, "Harland," instead of always distorting.
Neither Wred nor Carl went to Ivy League colleges."

So you can't read either.

"...though I don't like the bloodless lit handed us by the contemporary lit world."

Who has been arguing in favor of "the bloodless lit"? All I've been saying is that to you it's ALL bloodless once it's been published. Publishing is like the process of koshering, to you.

"The Ivy league is wildly overrepresented in the higher levels of literature."

It sure is, but only if you dignify the upper echelons of commercial publishing with the phrase "higher levels of literature." I keep suggesting you look elsewhere. You keep telling me that "elsewhere" is made up of pathetic demi-puppets doing their best to emulate the "congloms."

"One can say that the upper-class has always dominated the art form-- except it's not true regarding American lit; with examples like Twain, London, O. Henry, and many more."

Yeah, but you don't have much good to say about people like Don DeLillo (Bronx-born to immigrants), Philip Roth (Newark-born to first generation Americans), Barry Hannah, etc., etc., etc.

"By necessity, you seek to wipe out ALL context from the assessment of literature. Which allows you to pose as an edgy outsider."

I don't even know what this means. Are you suggesting that since I decline to take the author's class or other aspects of his identity into account when assessing literature, I am affecting a "pose"?

"Ever been in a fight, Harland?"

You're incorrigible, King. Why, no, we didn't fight at Wealthton Country Day School. We dealt each other droll verbal jousts, sometimes dryly chuckling so hard that we spilled our martinis all over our oxford shirts and chinos.

King said...

Elsewhere? The only elsewhere you've given me is sad literary knock-offs like Sarabande.
*****************
I'm waiting for you to answer my question about Handler's anonymous attacks. Justified, in your book? Proportionate?
*******************
What you have well-exhibited here is the sneering tone of the literary establishment.
It's amazing how much in your every contorted argument, distorted premise, and word you retain the voice of an asshole. It's part and parcel of your personality.
In this you're like the bankers who've raped this country-- the same kind of self-justification; the greed and selfishness.
This is where the subject of class is important. The bankers progeny have brought this same attitude to literature.
You're here because you claim ownership of the art, and can tolerate not one dissenting voice.
It's why we have the case of rich writers grabbing tax-shelter grant money for themselves.
The asshole personality at work.
Think of the irony of it. The Guggenheims were immigrants who made a fortune. They faced endless discrimination from WASP overdogs. They created their foundations to bring learning and art to those less fortunate themselves. That was their intent.
Now, any self-important rich guy can walk in and take that largesse for himself.
Think about the personality who would apply and accept such a grant when he doesn't require it.
Class or conscience in literature?
What a radical thought.
Many writers today have the conscience of a sociopath.
*****************
Keep creating cardboard distortions of my thoughts, if it makes you feel good.

King said...

(I have to add, this character can operate ONLY if the deck is stacked in his favor. This is a major reason why he remains anonymous. It's how he's always operated.
Like the, er, similar character I asked a few questions of at Philly's Free Library once, from the audience. This fellow was surrounded by security. I was threatened with banishment from the library, by security, if I even went near him, much less spoke again to him.
That character later wrote a story, "Free Library," expressing his contempt not only for me, but the other characters in the story. The sneering tone never left.
It must be tough to be a writer when you have no conscience and no soul.
Just my two cents of course. Take it for what you will.)
***********************
(p.s. Am I being unfair to him? Would I judge him through a stereotype, as he claims?
What I've judged are his ungenerous actions, which speak fully for themselves, and require no stereotype, no distortion.
The actions and the sense of entitlement that goes with them.)

Harland said...

"Elsewhere? The only elsewhere you've given me is sad literary knock-offs like Sarabande."
Please. I've mentioned a dozen presses here; it doesn't matter. Your response is always the same. Nothing they do is worthwhile. They're the worst of the demi-puppets, creating themselves in the image of the bigs.

"I'm waiting for you to answer my question about Handler's anonymous attacks. Justified, in your book? Proportionate?"

Your "question" is floating in this jumbled mulligatawny of old grievances, arcane references to things you assume "everybody" knows about, and assumptions about some kind of systemic plot underlying the motivations of individuals. I'm sorry he was a prick to you. Maybe he's a prick generally.

"What you have well-exhibited here is the sneering tone of the literary establishment (bla bla)"

King, what is the "literary establishment" other than the agglomeration of writers, critics, books, journals, magazines, blogs, newspapers, academics, and institutions that have in some sense rejected you? A random grab at them -- National Endowment for the Arts! Sarabande! Brown! Rick Moody! The Believer! -- brings up a handful of things that have nothing in common other than the fact that you don't like them.

"Think about the personality who would apply and accept such a grant when he doesn't require it."

Why would I think about it? It's between him and the Guggenheims.

Harland said...

Oh, God, don't tell me I'm supposed to be Rick Moody again.

King said...

I can either call the person I was talking about Not-Harland-- or you Not-Moody-- if that'll make you feel good. Not much difference between the two personalities that I can see.
re Handler. You don't get it. It goes beyond "being a prick." Your attitude is from within the bubble. When someone with his power gives signals, the realm of literature shakes. He's a person not to be alienated. This is reality-- the history of the ULA's campaign is proof of that. As I've mentioned, the fear to sign a protest agreed with. Or silence on everyone's part to example after example of corruption.
A grab-bag? really?
A nice claim-- but with the instance of PEN alone I put up many posts outlining and documenting the intertwined relationships between the system's various parts. The New Yorker editors and writers attending PEN's swanky parties, to give one example. Do you really think they would write anything strongly critical of the outfit?
Post after post outlining how these institutions, and those who inhabit them, work.
Symbiotic relationships between PEN, supposed watchdog, and the conglomerates.
Let's give ONE instance, using the aforementioned Mr. Moody ("Not-Harland") as an example.
Joel Conarroe was running the Guggenheim when Not-Harland Mr. Not-Grab-Bag grabbed or bagged his infamous monetary award. Mr. Conarroe oversaw the award, defended Not-Harland, answered our letters, and took heat from the ULA for doing so.
DESPITE the noise that'd been made (Page Six et.al.), the fact that the issue had been contentious and controversial, Not-Harland was allowed to select Mr. Conarroe to be the director of PEN. Buddy-buddy. Payback time I guess. (My source for this was given in a previous post.)
Again, one example of many of the incestuous and corrupt ways of the literary establishment.
Yeah, they're just friends etc etc, it's all an accidental happening, and besides, as you say, it's nobody's business.
Except that, like PEN, the Guggenheim is a publicly-regulated tax shelter whose activities are answerable to the public.
In other words, how they operate is EVERYBODY's business.

King said...

(Rich people are so used to people falling down when they walk that they believe this is a usual occurence. That Daniel Handler is a huge commodity and can take his game to another book company, say-- as he recently did-- signifies nothing. No influence. No leverage.
That Rick Moody could be caught with his hand in the cookie jar and receive not even a slap on the wrist-- in fact, be given assignments on other panels himself-- is surely not a sign of influence or power or anything like that. Is it? While the whistleblowers became the bad guys in literature's bizarro universe.)

Harland said...

Why this little corner of the world, King? Wow, glad-handing and log-rolling amid the New York artistic landscape. I mean, I know this actually *means* something to you, but what I don't think you realize is how little it means to writers. Published writers, even published writers living in New York City. You glance at the list of Guggenheim recipients and say of maybe two or three, "Oy vey." The same with the prize nominations, the teaching posts, the big advances, all that shit. It's irritating as hell, sure. Why did Rick Moody get a Guggenheim? I don't know, exactly. Did he need it? Probably not. And I like Rick. But you can't drive yourself crazy thinking about what other people are getting that you're not, if for no other reason than because it does drive you crazy. You think I haven't sat there wondering why this bit of good fortune or that piece of luck went to Writer X and not to me? Yeah, for about ten minutes. Then it's back to work, you know? Envy sucks, even if it's justified. I don't know why you let yourself be devoured by it.

And then to turn it into all-inclusive corruption. That's your twist, and I can see the way your thinking leads you there, but I don't think it's especially effective thinking. It puts you in a box in which you (and a tiny handful of others) are the ONLY righteous, true, honest, incorruptible practitioners of an incredibly flexible and, yes, democratic art. And I don't mean 'democratic' as in Everybody Gets Published By Doubleday, I mean that the means to learn and the means to practice are available to anyone with access to a library. OK? I just don't get worked up about the "establishment" because, guess what? I didn't go to an Ivy League school, and I didn't get an MFA, and believe it or not I'm well aware that the "establishment" harbors a million hacks who generate third-rate work. But there's also good work out there, and it's reductive and self-impoverishing to just paint every published author with the same broad brush.

King said...

But it's my right to do so!
Yeah, you're "back to work."
Really?
No you're not. You're posting here.
(If you're NOT a grad of Brown etc, Not-Harland, then you're a pathetic lapdog to that crowd. Maybe that's what's bothering you.
Because you're an intellectual coward, we'll never know.
You know, I could've attacked anonymously. I still could. It'd be a much easier road. I just can't bring myself to do so.
Say what you will, I've held myself accountable for everything I've said-- gone head-on and straight up.)
The only thing I work myself up about are anonymous attacks such as yours, because I see them as cowardly and unfair. Gutless to the max. Against every code I know.
The rest-- the ULA campaign-- was a logical, reasoned-out strategy which accomplished the basics of what I wanted from it-- making pr noise. We obtained free publicity, which was the goal; a necessary marketing strategy for writers with no resources and no connections. It was the only route open and I took it.
In most respects it was a more logical campaign than, say, publishing a literary journal with writers who sound like 50,000 others. This goes against every marketing maxim in the book.
But you're right. I'm wasting too much time HERE, debating with you.
Your time is more of a waste-- I mean, I'm going nowhere regardless. I may as well vent.
What's my alternative? Selling used cars? The economy is dead.
Will I offend some folks?
It's not as if I have anything to lose!
See ya, asshole.

Harland said...

My mistake for trying to sympathize with a dickwad.

I'm a pathetic lapdog? Why? Because I publish, of course. How could I be anything other than a "pathetic lapdog" if I actually publish?

I'd rather be an intellectual coward than an anti-intellectual.

Funny. "We" are cowardly assholes, but "you" are the one always talking in the most commercial terms, about PR, about marketing, about publicity. Super-artistic, fuckface. Your proudest accomplishment is getting mentioned on Page Six. Bravo. Just like that great artist, Paris Hilton. What a fucking jerk you are.

Sure, it was a "more logical campaign," if your only interest in publication is synonymous with "publicity." Great. You got famous for fifteen minutes. Moron.

"See ya, asshole."

Not if I see you first.

Patrick said...

He was famous?

I don't even think what you did, Wenclas, qualifies for infamy. That precious publicity mostly mocked you. I don't think anyone said, "oh hey, check these guys out, they are fantastic performers, and even more, they're the best writers today." I think those are your lines.

I know I know, they were afraid of you guys. Right.

Hey, I think that if you upped the ante and started claiming that the lit "establishment" was run by reptilian individuals (New World Order and all that shit), you might get a book deal. It worked for David Icke.

The press still mocks the guy, though. But at least he's rich, right? And people listen to him. The latter is very important to you, no? Otherwise, why would you write this blog?

I think you should be thanking us for giving your blog hits. "Well, why do you do that, demi-puppet?" Because it's amusing that you clutch so steadfastly to this belief that you've been blackballed from the litworld™ because you're such a veracious rebel.

You stake a claim to an authenticity that I'm not sure anyone can rightfully claim. If anything, I'll take William T. Vollmann's tales of lonely journalists in foreign lands, junkies, and prostitutes &c. to James Nowlan's "chunks of experience" any day.

You've shown that you're more interested in one's background and credentials than any publisher. Because that is ALL you talk about. It makes me laugh. It's like a dick measuring contest to see who's the poorest, the least educated, most punk, most contemptuous of the Bourgeoisie, most underground motherfucker alive... and in all that, you forget about the most important thing: The writing. What's on the page.