Friday, January 04, 2013

The Fall Guy

Johannes Lichtman seems willing to take sole responsibility for the Oxford American smear of the Underground Literary Alliance, as if the review, and the malicious way it was written, was entirely his idea.

It’s possible Lichtman bought the Bissell/Believer false narrative wholly. There’s no accounting for gullibility. Lichtman may have thought ULAers were indeed semi-sentient backwoods “Ranger Rick” Neanderthals scarcely capable of writing their own names. Like the sneering villain in a bad World War II movie, jackbooted and monocled, Lichtman assumed he could casually stomp us without blowback or complaint.

It didn’t occur to Johannes Lichtman that Tom Bissell’s essay on the ULA is essentially one giant lie from start to finish—from the opening premise that all writers are outsiders inhabiting no literary world to speak of.

Such ideas are propaganda for suckers. Have Dave Eggers and the McSweeney’s Gang behaved as if there were no literary world and no Insiders? Not for one minute. Dave Eggers was assiduously networking with every well-connected literary Insider and big publishing conglomerate he could find from Day One of his operations. Any unknown writers thrown into the mix were window dressing. Eggers went after the Moody-Minot blueblood New Yorker crowd. Those were the kind of writers he most wanted to buddy-up with and highlight.

Any quick investigation shows that the networking, the accommodating to Money and Power, has never ceased. Outsiders indeed!

Yet, as part of the game, Eggers continues to pretend that aside from the connections to Google Microsoft Amazon, to assorted and various big investment types, he’s actually an “indie” kind of guy. With the clueless, including Johannes Lichtman apparently, Eggers gets away with it. A variation of the Big Lie. Nobody questions the scamming, nor desires to question it. Take your meds. Don’t worry. Be happy. The state of the American literary world today.

(Be sure to buy the fearless satirical novel, The McSweeneys Gang, available via Nook or Kindle.)


King Wenclas said...

Johannes Lichtman is the third writer, after Garth Hallberg and Maria Bustillos, to embarrass himself by believing in Tom Bissell's Believer essay on the ULA. Cannon fodder for Bissell's ego.
Yet what can the three do? Defend the essay? Bustillos tried. Remember?
You can't defend a collection of lies.
Yet neither can they speak the truth about the essay, because that would be to go up against the literary Monolith that doesn't exist. A tower of power and money. Including going up against the McSweeney's Gang.
Writers, when all is said and done, are very weak people.
In his essay, Bissell was selling a fundamental lie.
"All writers are outsiders."
His essay is well-liked, because all writers desperately want to believe this lie. Hallberg, Bustillos, and Lichtman included.
Consciously those three may still believe it. To the side of them is the monolith they pretend not to see. Which they dare not acknowledge or confront in any way. Instinctively they know they can't confront it, and so Hallberg, Bustillos, and Lichtman remain silent. It's there only choice. They need to dfend at all costs the monolith's fundamental lie.
"All writers are outsiders."
Note that Dave Eggers in Big Brother-fashion exploits that lie, to the extent of still portraying himself as "indie." After all, who dares tell him he's not? Bissell? Lichtman?
What changes did Bissell make to the essay before its republication? Did he remove the most blatent smears, about Bolsheviks and tombstones, allusions which were never true, and which, with the ULA broken, are today utter absurdities? Of course not! That would be to assume Bissell re-examined the essay through the eyes of truth and conscience, when instead he viewed it through the eyes of POWER and his accommodation to power. Which meant the only changes he made were to further portray Dave Eggers as an "indie" icon. He satisfied the McSweeney's Gang, and at the same time bolstered the Lie in which all writers wish to believe.
The contradiction is starkly in front of them but they refuse to see it.

King Wenclas said...

p.s. The only way the corrupt system will ever change is if writers like Hallberg, Bustillos, and Lichtman gain the courage and integrity to go up against the monolith and its corrupt entities like the McSweeney's Gang. For now, these writers instinctively believe the monolith is too powerful, which is why they envelope themselves in silence. It's why Tom Bissell remains silent. If he were to publicly discuss that essay with me, it might be acknowledgment that it's a flawed creation. This might displease his patrons at the McSweeney's Gang, and Tom knows-- he knows-- that these are folks no writer wants to displease.
If open literary rebellion is today impossible, there's always quiet rebellion. Going against the machine in small ways. Withholding support maybe some of the time.
One way, of course, to engage in quiet rebellion is to step over the lines of blackballing.
Which includes purchasing renegade publications like my rebellious new ebook, The McSweeneys Gang.

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