THE BEHAVIOR of established literary persons toward Tom Bissell’s ULA essay itself gives the lie to his thesis that all writers are outsiders.
From literary agent Heather Schroder, to reviewers like Garth Risk Hallberg, Ron Hogan, and Maria Bustillos, the attitude toward reading the reappeared essay had to have been, “These are writers beyond the pale”—and so, able to be smeared to the extent Bissell smeared us: linking the Underground Literary Alliance bizarrely to the worst crimes of the Bolsheviks. To “lots and lots of tombstones.” Not one of the literary personages who read Bissell’s essay called him on his blatant slurs. We were the Other-- “not writers” surely—and so very much outside the groupthink walls of those who identify with the literary status quo.
That not one of these articulate people will now defend the essay, or answer questions about it, or retract their support of it, shows the literary monolith at work—a monolith of behavior and thought. Not one of them is capable of breaking from the conformity of the herd.