Monday, January 17, 2011

The Underground Problem

The underground problem is a refusal of those shut out of the current literary system to see themselves as undergrounders. As a result, they're unable to work together at promoting the underground as a viable alternative to the status quo. It's always each individual working to promote the self-- and so no one goes anywhere.

The trick is finding the proper balance between individualism and cooperation. A neat trick to pull off. Still, if even two individuals begin to cooperate toward a common goal, energy is created. It's a blueprint for changing the (literary) world.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi, do you do reviews? If someone sent you a book published by a small press would you take the time to read it and give your actual opinion of it, in the aim of advancing alternative literary discussion and culture?

That is, if the book already had enough about it to warrant your attention.

King said...

That would depend on the book, who wrote it, the style of writing and the presentation.
When I ran the ULA I received many unsolicited books. Most, frankly, I had no time even to read. Things are worse now, in that there are many more books out there looking for attention. (See my post at this blog, "The Mass Insanity of Writers.")
One of the problems I faced with the ULA was the standard writer's "You do for me" mentality. I exist to serve no one-- but could work together again with other writers toward mutual goals, in a situation where everyone gains.
************
I sometimes think about what writers and writing I would promote, if I were to ever again promote writers. I'd want the work to be in some small way "pop," using the ideas and writing samples at my American Pop Lit as a starting point, and only a starting point. Nothing blandly "literary." Nothing obsessed with the narrow self. A good read.
IF you're here to promote a book or writer, then tell us about that book or writer. Describe the work. Promote it, here. If I don't find it of interest, then perhaps one of my readers will.

Anonymous said...

what do you think about the art critic David Hickey? It seems like you would like him / he would like you.

Anonymous said...

I doubt that the King would like Hickey at all. True, they both seem to appreciate the entrepreneurial aspects of making art, and to disdain the elite networks that form around, say, academic cores. But Hickey is, in fact, an academic, as sorely as he would like us all to forget it, and he has, in fact, actually read a lot of the theoretical and critical work whose authors he now disdains. He also has an extremely felicitous prose style which manages to seduce you even when you find yourself disagreeing with him.

Anonymous said...

RE:

interesting... so how is that kind of felicitous prose style contrary to the style King promotes? How is it not simply "good writing" ?

Does this go back to "dishonesty."

Mingla said...

Wenclas doesn't promote a style or an aesthetic. He promotes an attitude, and, moreover, an attitude that is legitimized by an extremely narrow view of the circumstances under which a writer should find him/herself living. Flip back through the entries in this blog to see what those are.

I don't quite understand the question. I can answer only by saying that Hickey's insights can be both brilliant and ridiculously strained, but he has amazingly catholic taste and seems not to let his preconceptions guide his critiques, at least not those I've read. Plus, as I said, he knows his stuff. I have seen no evidence that Wenclas has even the faintest sense of the literary. Wenclas only and always has a single idea about what art is, and that idea is predicated upon his perception of the "rebellious," "underground," or "outsider" status of the artist. Either that or his status as a dead person, which is a condition that justifiably can be called both underground and outsider.

Mingla said...

I meant Hickey's preconceptions about the art in question.

Definitely Hickey has forceful and often exaggerated ideas about institutions, academia, etc.

King said...

A lot of hostility by "Mingla" toward a dead person.
For some reason it's thought necessary to interpret what I say-- to put my ideas through a proper prism, so, I guess, to defang them.
Anyone attempting to do so should beware of creating a straw man.
The truth is that I pushed the ULA as a distinct aesthetic. Part of its aesthetic had to do with how the artwork was produced. After all, I'm a spawn of the DIY zine movement. How could I not acknowledge this?
Can one study the art of roots music pioneers without discussing their backgrounds? Robert Johnson; Leadbelly; Muddy Waters; the Carter Family; B.B. King; Johnny Cash-- even the Beatles: Can they be discussed in a vacuum which excludes the circumstances that produced the art?
In the same way, the ULA presented writers like Bill Blackolive as representatives of a DIFFERENT America, one not to be found in the halls of Princeton, Brown, or Harvard. Bill's "sound" and style are a product of how he'd been raised and how he lived. Anyone who's read his work realizes this.
Yes, the ULA presented a smorgasboard of outsider experience and styles. Writers who naturally were rejected by mainstream critics, as in the Believer article on us.
**************
I'm no longer working for the ULA. I'm currently promoting, in an offhnnd, part-time way, a somewhat different style of literary art. I understand though the worry that the ULA will be revived.
You should chill out, "Mingla." Have a latte and relax. Devote yourself to questions which matter. I'm a nowhere man.

Anonymous said...

Wenclas, all anybody needs to know about your relationship to literature is contained in the wonderful sentence in which you talk about the risk of inadvertently building a straw man while attempting to defang things by viewing them through a prism.

King said...

Did I break somebody's rules? Have the rulebook with you, do you? We should have literary penalty flags as they do in football. Then you can blow a whistle and call a violation using a remote mic, same way they do it in a game. You'd have great fun, and get to wear a striped uniform.
Look, this is a comments section on a blog. I often have very little time to post. Metaphors, even mixed ones, are convenient shorthand. Did you not know what I was saying? That's the only criterion.

King said...

(There's a difference in attitude toward literature which I should outline here. I see the actual writing as one part of a larger process, which includes an array of other talents-- including design, selling, promotion, and so on. I was successful at promotion with the ULA because I've never seen myself as just a writer. I've not obsessed with/focused on solely that. The only reason I write stories and poems at all, to be honest, is because writers aren't giving me what I want, so I feel forced to present my ideas of nascent examples of the right direction. If all I did is "just write," like so many other writers, I can guarantee I'd never get anywhere. What we call Literature is an entire process.)