Why do I continue to defend the Underground Literary Alliance against overwhelming odds?
Maybe only in memory of key co-founder of the ULA, Steve Kostecke, who died last year. I’ve heard he’d been looking forward to the group’s revival. He always strongly believed in the ULA’s ideals.
Can I allow those ideals to be ruthlessly crushed into the ground?
Those who continue to attack the ULA are attacking a defunct organization. Over a year ago, the citizen journalist site iNewp published a report from me titled “A Tale of Two Literary Worlds.” The brief essay outlined the ULA’s fate. No date is given at the post. It went up some time in the fall of 2011. Note that I pointedly used as reference point not the McSweeney’s crowd, but another group of writers.
2011 was a bad year for the remnants of the ULA organization.
Was 2012 much better? It witnessed the republication of Tom Bissell’s essay on us, an essay filled with untruths and misrepresentations. This reappearance was an excuse for segments of the established literary world to engage in their own slurs against the ULA, beginning with a Kirkus Reviews piece in February which applauded Bissell’s “ferocity and brutal wit” against us. Many shots from other reviewers followed. Even in the New York Times.
Possibly the worst of them is a recent (11/27/12) hit piece by Johannes Lichtman at the esteemed Oxford American. Lichtman’s short review is loaded with smears and inaccuracies, including at least one outright lie.
Without realizing it, Johannes Lichtman has done us a favor. In condensing many (by no means all) of Tom Bissell’s slurs against the ULA into a short piece, Lichtman emphasizes the mendacity of Bissell’s essay, revealing it as the hit piece it was intended to be. I’ll have more to say about this review and the motives behind it.
A year-long assault against a defunct organization for downtrodden writers—the detractors backed by great power and money. What was the ULA’s great crime? Exposing corruption in the literary grants scene, involving those at the highest levels of establishment literature. You don’t disturb those kind of players and easily get away with it. We find the tools of such players acting with malice again and again against the slightest evidence of the memory of literary dissent, using the lit world’s most prestigious mouthpieces.
The McSweeneys Gang is mild satire indeed when confronting this crew.
I have no choice but to fight for dissent’s memory.