The Underground Literary Alliance versus McSweeney’s was a battle of hippies, punks, dropouts and lowlifes versus the most prestigious conformists of the Machine.
This was evident in Tom Bissell’s trashing of underground writers like Urban Hermitt in his Believer essay. The Believer was founded by individuals who played by the rules every step of the way, certified by the highest Ivy League centers of education. Their becoming writers was the end point of a hugely expensive, institutionalized process.
DIY writers rejected institutions and rejected the process. We said that literature belongs to everybody. Our motto was, Live Simply, Write Simply. Did some take DIY philosophy too far? Maybe. We were a reaction against an overregulated extreme. Against the metronome march of literature’s pod people.
When Tom Bissell says, “You have to write well,” he really means, “You have to write processed.”
The ultimate Machine writer was David Foster Wallace. Wallace presented footnotes, spreadsheets, calculations, trajectories. If a mainframe IBM computer could speak, it’d sound like him. His fiction is hyperalert, overintellectualized, overstimulated,; his mind embedded into technology and into the rat race. Our mad hypertechnological hypermediated electronic civilization drove him crazy. Nothing less.