This Friday, October 8, marks the 10-year anniversary of the Hoboken weekend meeting of six zinesters which created the now-defunct Underground Literary Alliance.
I mark the brief literary rebellion as analagous to the 1905 rebellion in Czarist Russia. In similar fashion, the ULA campaign faced enormous hostility, and was soon enough put into place. Its leaders were effectively silenced, despite the brief noise they made.
My mistake was in not realizing that revolution-- even cultural revolution-- can't be sparked from below.
A study of history instead shows that revolutions, from 1789 to 1917 to even the toppling of the Soviet Union, are in fact, at least in the initial stages, coups. Both the French king and Russian czar in their respective situations decapitated themselves, abdicating because they lacked the will to fight. They were uncertain Montezumas who didn't believe in themselves or their station. Actual revolution occurred as a result of their actions, could take place only because there was no head; no direction for the herd to follow, and so the animals went into panic.
Why do I still believe something similar can occur in the American literary world?
Because the institutions of the aristocrats are crumbling. When the props of the system, like The New Yorker and the New York Times, go under-- and they will go under-- then all will be up for grabs. The current leaders of the scene will abdicate. The book publishing machine will go on, but the front of artistic justification will be gone.
What of the aristos? I've studied these people. I've watched them up close; their special in-bred caste. They're not very sharp, and are burdened with a kind of complacent inertia, a mental lethargy in the presence of new ideas.
The ULA itself sits unmoving like a car on a white-trash lawn or driveway, hood up, engine gone. I have no idea whether it'd be worth it to try to repair and restore the damaged thing-- or if an entirely new and vastly better vehicle should be created.