Thursday, June 30, 2011
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
I note that lead New Yorker literary critic James Wood has an essay in the new issue about a Hungarian novelist with an unreadable unpronouncable name. I won't try to remember it here. The question is why Wood thinks his readership would be interested in this author. The question is: Who is that readership?
There's no interest in the concept of "American" literature-- and why should there be, from the James Wood perspective? He's a British mercenary-for-hire, raised with an implicit British global view of the world which matches the view of the magazines he writes for. The New Yorker's view is not toward America, but Europe, first, then the rest of the world. The world belongs to them and their highly educated imperialistic readership. More than latter-day Brits, they are current-day Romans.
I've advocated literary rebellion from their rear, behind their backs, to rescue American literature from them. I still advocate that.
Sunday, June 26, 2011
My new ebook, Ten Pop Stories, is available first and exclusively for the moment on Nook at
I'm offering it at an introductory low price. This may be the best value in literature. The collection contains some of my best pop stories along with several new ones. It will soon enough be available at other outlets-- but get it now ahead of the crowd!
Saturday, June 25, 2011
Playwright David Mamet, in his new book, The Secret Knowledge, explains why he's jumped from liberal to conservative in his thinking.
It might be an extreme leap to make. My idea is to take the best from both camps-- or at least eliminate the worst of ideas available from both sides.
The question is why Mamet made the change.
It might be his realization that what passes today as Liberal is not liberal-- not as the word was known fifty years ago, during liberalism's heyday and the idealization which came with the election of JFK. (See the notion of integration, for instance, which has been abandoned by the Left in the interest of the balkanization of American society and culture.)
Or, it might be that Mamet became frustrated with the utter stupidity, on issue after issue, by those mechanically mouthing the stances of today's liberal-Left.
Maybe not stupidity so much as gullibility-- the inability to question what's programmed into them.
This is an interesting phenomenon. When you see the progressive individual wearing a t-shirt that says, "Question Everything," you can be certain that the individual questions nothing. Wearing the slogan eliminates the need to question. It certifies that the individual is already correct in his ideas, no further examination necessary. The work has already been done. Somewhere, offstage, presumably by the person's professors, who hand the hapless soul prepackaged doctrine accompanied by liberal sanctification removing any need for further thought.
I use the example of manmade Global Warming Theory because it's such an obvious case. (I've been introduced to people before with this phrase: "Karl doesn't believe in Global Warming." In other words, I'm something of a nut. All thought closed off.)
The vast mass of people who accept Global Warming haven't looked into it. They accept it as a whole, in large part because it comes from on high, from authority figures. How can anyone question it?
The more successfully educated the person, the more gullible. For this reason: Those who do best in high school and college, at the very top of the pool, all A's and other scholastic honors, are those persons who best accept what's taught them, and ingest it fully so they can hand it back at a moment's notice.
I could sit down in front of you with graph paper and within fifteen minutes show you what Global Warming Theory is based on, and what's wrong and inadequate about its premises.
Not that this would make a difference to you. Humans aren't logical animals, for the most part. They're most comfortable when part of a herd. (p.s. This applies to the Right as well as the Left.)
Global Warming hysteria can be explained through a book which should be part of everyone's education, but isn't: Charles MacKay's Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. Well known among hard core investors and speculators. It's worth a look.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: In correcting a mistake I made regarding the author of said book, and googling the title, I stumbled upon an interesting paper regarding the Global Warming controversy:
Worth a look for those interested in truth instead of ideology.)
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
I noted to myself several ironies. One is that there are very few wild animals left in North America, unless you count squirrels. Another is that, while young boys are attracted to the notion of wild animals, that boy will grow up in the most regulated, watched, and catalogued society-- be it of animals or humans-- ever. We're little better than zoo animals. Except for patches of urban wilderness which soon enough point their occupants toward actual prisons, or a few rural hinterlands where reside historical throwbacks like Wild Bill Blackolive, dreams of the wild are all most people get. That boy might become a young literary writer, properly MFA'd after being properly indoctrinated in college, with proper style and proper self-regulated politically-correct thoughts, nothing untoward or messy or wild to be found in himself and his well-crafted words, anywhere.
Monday, June 20, 2011
The biggest loser at the U.S. Open golf championship this weekend had to be Phil Mickelson. For more than a decade Mickelson has made a career out of being the second-best player in the world, a golfer almost-but-not-quite as good as Tiger Woods. He's even won a few major tournaments himself to justify this image. By Friday this stance was shattered.
On the first two days of the tournament, Thursday and Friday, Mickelson played in the same group with young Rory McIlroy, who went on to win big. They weren't on the same level. Afterward McIlroy remarked to the effect that he admired Mickelson's ability to scramble out of trouble after bad shots. Left unsaid was that Mickelson was so often in trouble to begin with, in the world's most difficult tournament. McIlroy made it look easy, seldom making bad shots. A level closer to golf perfection indeed.
Why would we not think that McIlroy has raised the bar not just on Phil, but on Tiger himself? Change is the fundamental law of nature.
For fifteen years Tiger Woods has dominated the golf world by working harder than other golfers-- by having stronger determination, practicing longer, conditioning himself better, to give himself an edge. On the golf course he could always scramble out of trouble and will himself to a win. McIlroy's dominance is an entirely different animal. Or so it appeared next to the supposed "best of the rest" in smiling Phil, who became instantly obsolete compared to the appearance of the New.
I've argued that this is exactly the kind of phenomenon which should occur in the world of literature. The short story is obviously stagnant, trapped in a competent Phil Mickelson-style outdated version of brilliance which appears to the thoughtfully observant to be stodgy and old. I'll read a story by the best of today's literary scribblers-- Mary Gaitskill for instance-- and shake my head at the work's slowness and predictability, despite the writer's evident trained skill.
I don't pretend that I'll be able to write the radical new story to rescue the art. But, I hope to present nascent examples pointing a road down which future radically-different radically-better new talents could go.
(In other words, watch for my first e-book, "Ten Pop Stories," on sale someplace soon.)
Thursday, June 16, 2011
First, because I continue to have a DIY roots Do-It-Yourself mindset, which sets me apart from the vast majority of writers and literary experts.
Second, the situation American literature is in now, and how it will be rescued, is a matter of economics.
American publishing and literary thought now: The worst aspects of crony Capitalism and tops-down socialism, merged. A handful of media monopolies cranking out a mass of thoughtless commercial pablum junk, with the prestige happy face slapped onto the machine of unreadable overrefined literary product. Both ends of this mess: tops-down, detached, and in their essence, uncompetitive. Uncompetitive now with other aspects of the culture. (See Lady Gaga.) Ultimately, if new free-booting entrepreneurs emerge, the stagnant status quo we have should prove uncompetitive with the dynamic new.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
It's often said by the media elite themselves-- journalists at the New York Times, for instance-- that they're notably more objective and informed than outsider bloggers.
Meanwhile, we see that establishment journalist Eric Alterman is gaining attention for a column in The Nation which refers to half the Republican Party-- the populist half, naturally-- as idiots, liars, and lunatics. The column is little more, in fact, than name-calling. One looks for an actual argument, buttressed by logic-- one seeks for a smidgen of objectivity-- and finds instead ranting and sophistry.
(It should be noted that Alterman was known in the past for his virulent attacks on Ralph Nader, of all people.)
Eric Alterman is an Insider's Insider. B.A. from Cornell, M.A. in International Relations from Yale, Ph.D from Stanford, he worked early in his career as a Senior Fellow at the World Policy Institute in New York City and Washington D.C. His entire career has taken place within the top 1% intellectual aristocracy. As a result, his solutions for anything are tops-down, institutional solutions.
Alterman claims his education has given him "historical context for understanding what is going on."
Yet his arguments are absent an understanding of history. For instance, of the trend in the 1930's toward managed economies and away from liberal democracies, shown in a variety of countries. Even the most idealistic of these movements, the Popular Front under Leon Blum in France, was, from an economic standpoint, an abject failure. Not until France freed up its economy in 1939 did it revive. Too late, it turned out, to save it in a war with two managed economies, who went to war in large part because their own economies, after initial success, were quickly going bankrupt.
In other words, in the long-run, managed economies don't work and have never worked. (See the Soviet Union.)
The great irony right now is that the solutions advocated by Alterman's "idiots" is the solution, with all its many flaws, of liberal democracy. A Sarah Palin is classically liberal in her thinking, a small-d democrat all the way.
The media elite will always be against populists of either party, Nader or Palin, and for those who represent the interests of the centrist establishment, which stands for institutionally-based tops-down power and thought, be it from the "Left" or the "Right." Eric Alterman, like others at The Nation (owned and edited by an heiress to a billion-dollar fortune) would never wish for true change in this country; to disturb or destroy the nation's hierarchies, because he's a product of those hierarchies. He's as fearful of the amorphous uncontrolled "mob" as is Ann Coulter. They're raised, educated in, and dwell in elite bubbles. Usually, as a matter of happenstance, on the east coast, in a well-protected realm extending from Dartmouth to the Washington Beltway. It's understandable that those outside their special Eden appear to them to be demons and, well, idiots.
Monday, June 13, 2011
The reaction to the campaign of the Underground Literary Alliance last decade revolved around a false narrative which completely distorted what we were about. The ULA was called Stalinist in places like The Believer. I was widely referred to across the Internet as a dictator. This, about the most open and democratic of organizations. This experience gave me a first-hand look at how the Intellectual Establishment operates.
The literary wing of that Establishment, despite the posturing, is anti-democratic-- evidenced by the structure and history, for instance, of the main U.S. branch of the PEN writers organization, which I've covered on this blog and elsewhere previously.
The hostility toward intellectual outsiders extends to outsider ideas-- to any ideas that aren't the elite's.
An example of this is what was added to my wikipedia profile in an attempt to discredit me. They mentioned that I'm a skeptic of manmade global warming theory-- as anyone should be a skeptic of any such extreme scenario, especially when there are gaping holes in it. Second, my anonymous opponents stated that I had mildly defended Sarah Palin on a couple points. Wow!
Now, consider the thinking of those who added this to that wiki entry. Their belief seems to be that merely holding such thoughts puts one beyond the pale. All they need do is inform people of what I'd said, and I'd be instantly discredited. In other words, there are ideas and positions-- not at all outlandish-- which are intellectually unacceptable.
Does this show a hostility to the free interchange of ideas and to independent thinking?
I note that last night the Tony Awards took place in tony New York City. A musical which mocks the Mormon religion received a gazillion nominations. Fine. Free expression, approved by the intellectual elite. But the question has to be raised: Could such a stage play ever be made about, say, Islam? For me it seems an example of intellectual inconsistency, hypocrisy, and cowardice.
Again, I have the position of one who's been on the receiving end of that elite's fraudulence and dishonesty.
Meanwhile, I see Sarah Palin, a private citizen, is in the news again. Apparently 24,000 of Ms. Palin's emails have been thrown open for public viewing, including many on a private Yahoo account. This was the result of, and occasioned, a mass media frenzy by those eager to discredit Ms. Palin.
Supporters of President Obama, for obvious reasons, should be among those outraged at this. If only to avoid the appearance of a clear double standard.
What has been found in Ms. Palin's emails? All 24,000 of them? Has there been support of the media's constructed imagined narrative about her? Was she shown to be a partisan extremist, prima donna hyper-ambitious egotist?
Hardly. She's in fact been shown to be notably NON-partisan, an independent thinker who was willing to clash with powerful members of her own party.
Why am I posting this? I'm not a conservative. I'm sure I disagree with Sarah Palin on many things. Much of my history has been on the other side of the divide.
I like to think, however, that I have intellectual honesty and integrity. I call things as I see them. I'm outraged by phoniness and duplicity. I've also had my eyes opened, when I was a leading member of the ULA, to the absence of character of those who control the main avenues of intellectual debate in this society, those who presume to decide what is or isn't proper thinking.
Sorry for the rant.
(p.s. This stream of thought came about after seeing Woody Allen's new film, "Midnight in Paris." A nice little movie. Not a dud, not quite, because it's saved toward the finish and ends up being a pleasant if unexceptional movie experience. But-- starred reviews? A- ratings? Gushes of enthusiasms? Something else is going on with those doing the gushing-- their bias is showing. I plan to discuss this further in a review of the movie, upcoming.)
Friday, June 10, 2011
Wednesday, June 08, 2011
There's a YouTube video of Stewart debating libertarian Senator Rand Paul. What's noteworthy is that both men are talking past each other like religious believers of different sects convinced they're right, unwilling to concede a point from the other side. (Which, after all, is the format.)
Which worldview is right?
No one really knows. Which economic theory works best is guesswork-- though we can see what works now and can study analogies from the past to help decide.
I find this irony about both philosophies. While Stewart's managed economy ideas stem originally from Marx, it's a philosophy whose antecedents are in a Judeo-Christian view of the universe-- meaning, fairly static, predictable, on a predictable course with a predictable outcome, and the overall belief that the economy and society can be wisely managed from on high.
Rand Paul's view of the universe is that of a more chaotic and unpredictable place with multiplicities of changes and variables taking place constantly, with progress dependent on sudden mutations. In other words, fairly Darwinian-- which still allows for a broader order to the whole thing. Marxian theory says that eventually, inevitably, our system's contradictions will bring the machine down. Rand Paul's ideas believe the machine will have ups and downs but will be able to renew itself. It allows for-- it expects-- the occasional free agent Steven Jobs-style innovating entrepreneur to bring new energy and growth to the massive entity, and thereby save it.
Everything in life is a living breathing changing organism, even economies. Even arts. Even literary scenes.
Tuesday, June 07, 2011
I heard a song on the radio this morning, played because it related to a current media scandal: Chuck Berry’s “Anthony Boy.” You should be able to listen to it here:
When I heard it, I marveled at A.) how simple and goofy the song is; B.) the idea that this song was dropped onto the culture by one of the true founders of rock n’ roll.
What’s the lesson for us? That this groundbreaking musician was engaged in—having fun?
When rock n’ roll appeared, played by low-rent characters like Chuck Berry and Bill Haley, the American musical scene was dominated, on the one hand, by a great period of classical music in this country, represented by the likes of Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Mario Lanza, Van Cliburn and company. On the other hand, by extremely skilled pop and big band singers and musicians like Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra, Perry Como and the like.
Into this refined world came—the simplest music possible. Which only captured the market, pushed all else to the sidelines, and grew the market for music many times over.
Is there anything to learn in this tale for those who wish to revive the American short story?
Monday, June 06, 2011
Quite an interesting May 29 Newsweek magazine cover story from Sharon Begley. It's called, "Are You Ready for More?" Its subtitle is, "Freak Storms Are the New Normal." Its thesis is that the recent floods and killer tornadoes represent drastic manmade climate change which will drastically alter how we live within a decade or two. The article is 5% science and 95% hysteria.
Here's a typical quote from the piece:
"--one lesson is sinking in with terrifying certainty. The stable climate of the last 12,000 years is gone. Which means you haven't seen anything yet. And we are not prepared."
Begley then asks us to imagine a drastically changed world, where, for instance, California's Pacific Highway will have to be rerouted inland, through the mountains!
The language and the scenarios presented aren't objective. ("Terrifying.") What they are is exaggerated propaganda. The tipoff is the line about the "stable climate of the last 12,000 years."
Does anyone believe this? Really? 12,000 years of a stable if fragile planet, which we little organisms have irrevocably overturned. Do people buy this? Are Newsweek readers truly that gullible?
Hmm. Killer tornadoes. Haven't seen them before. Yet a quick check on wikipedia reveals that in 1925 the Tri-State Tornado killed 695 people in the same general Missouri part of the country, at a time when the United States was much less populated than it is now. An anomaly, surely.
There were killer tornadoes as far back as in Sicily in 1851. Or in Malta in 1551.
A check of the worst recorded natural disasters in history shows the 1931 China floods which killed 1,000,000 to 2,500,000, and the 1887 Yellow River floods which killed 900,000 to 2,000,000. Also on the list is the 1839 India Cyclone which killed a mere 300,000 people. What would Sharon Begley say if that occurred now?
Well, there is the Missippippi flooding taking place right now. What about that?
We have to ask why the levees were built in the first place. Apparently there'd been flooding before. Like the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, which was the worst American flood during the microinstant of time that is American history.
As there are more people recording disasters now than ever before, and more people living on this planet, putting themselves in the way of such disasters, and since we have short lifespans during which anything that happens to us as individuals is very important, it's easy to see how a Sharon Begley could lose her head.
The underlying problem is that the "best" educated persons in America have been indoctrinated into a series of assumptions and myths, which have been so embedded into their fragile brains they're unable to question them. Global warming! And here comes a tornado. And it kills people! Ohmygod, the nightmare scenario is all coming true! Run to shelter! Before it's too late! Flee to the mountains!
The point for this blog is that the same sort of unquestioned unexamined assumptions underlie the behavior and opinions of the literary world.
Meanwhile, I wonder why Sharon Begley limited her period of climate stability to 12,000 years. Could it be that a few thousand years before that, drastic climate change wiped out the Neanderthals?-- when Europe changed from forests to grasslands within a single generation. Giving Neanderthals apparently no time to reroute their highways.
But after all, that's what they got for cooking over open fires and disturbing the climate!
Saturday, June 04, 2011
1.) Go to the American Pop Lit blog at www.americanpoplit.blogspot.com/2011/06/scott-in-paris.html and give your quick opinion, if you've seen it, of the new Woody Allen flick, "Midnight in Paris." Or state if you plan to see it.
2.) While over there, take a glance at the ongoing "All-Time American Writer Tournament" and think of possible candidates for entrance.
3.) Finally, click on the link at the left of this blog to purchase The Whirligig ebook. Then let us know if the underground writers included within match up to the legendary "Lost Generation" of the 1920's.
Friday, June 03, 2011
This is the impression one receives, anyway, when encountering hipsters in their bubbled habitat, whether in overpriced gentrified bars or in the pages of smug journals like The Believer and n+1.
To read more authentic American literature get The Whirligig ebook, available at the top left of this blog.
Wednesday, June 01, 2011
I've long talked about the need to create a new kind of fiction, beginning with the short story, in order to reinvigorate the art-- in order to get the mass public reading literature again. The task has been for writers to create not stale bland "literary" stories which stir and entertain no one, but instead, to yawp out in a good old American writer way stories which rock.
Undergrounders, especially from the "zine" scene, have been doing exactly that for a number of years.
Many of the best of these writers can be found in a new compilation of writing from one of the best lit-zines of the past ten years, The Whirligig. Editor Frank Marcopolos is now selling this compilation as an e-book at his site. Please click on the link at the left of this blog page to read more about it-- and to order your copy.
Do you want to read the new? Do you wish to discover a fresh alternative to the same-old same-old? Here is where you start.
I hope to have a few of my own ebooks available for sale as soon as possible-- if I ever master the difficulties involved in setting one up!
Remember: The future of literature belongs to those who create it.
This is exactly what the Underground Literary Alliance had going for it ten years ago. The ULA was polarizing. That, indeed, was its strategy. Its weak point was that many of its own members couldn't see this-- even at the beginning. After our Amato Opera House show, the culmination of six weeks of activity and controversy, we were briefly the talk of literary New York. Page Six stories on us lay ahead. The road was wide open for us to become a major player-- yet even then we were cracking apart internally. When we should have been staging more events in both New York and Philly, we instead spent our time bickering. The very prospect of success, for a few of us, was intimidating.
This, with what began as a kickass team of ultimate underground zeen writers. The bravest of the brave; craziest of the crazy. Today there are no writers around with one-tenth our energy and daring. Though a road into the culture could be opened again, it takes personalities willing to accept a blizzard of criticism, to jump boldly into the spotlight. In these timid and enervated times that's no longer a possibility.