THE ULA VERSUS THE LITERARY ESTABLISHMENT
As I'll further show, in his Believer essay on the Underground Literary Alliance, reprinted in Magic Hours, Tom Bissell ignored every point about the grants controversies embarrassing to Jonathan Franzen, and everything that would throw the ULA's protests in a positive light. Some of those points can be found in an objective article written at the time of our protests:
Instead, Tom Bissell turned one small mention of Josip Novakovich by the ULA into the centerpiece of his discussion on the grants matter. Bissell expressed mock outrage at our "treatment" of the man, while ignoring the main story.
Was Tom Bissell's Believer essay part of a vendetta by Dave Eggers against the Underground Literary Alliance?
A few months after the appearance of Bissell's essay, we have this story by Amy Harmon of the New York Times:
Note that Amy Harmon treads carefully. Notice also the hysteria back then from Dave Eggers and Jonathan Franzen regarding the ULA, seeing us under every bush and around every street corner. Fact is, though, that the ULA had a strict policy of never posting anonymously, or under false identities.
This policy had two motives. One was to show our honesty and transparency. To demonstrate our difference from the corruption of the mainstream literary scene. Second, and at least as important, the ULA was intended as a promotional campaign for good underground writers. Shut out by organs of publicity, we needed to utilize every opportunity to use our real names. At Amazon or elsewhere. That was the whole point! It would've been senseless to waste time posting anywhere anonymously. We'd already been exposing corruption under our real names. We had nothing to lose and nothing to hide. (I've never altered that philosophy, as anyone who reads this blog can testify.)
"--what kind of person has time to write them?" Jonathan Franzen asks rhetorically in the article about anonymous negative Amazon reviews. As ULAers were working regular jobs, it wasn't us. Fact is, no one was able to expose the ULA as author of such reviews. They couldn't now. Franzen, Eggers, Handler, Moody, and the rest of the Big Money lit boys have ample funds to investigate the question. What they haven't realized themselves (Daniel Handler caught posting scores of anonymous comments on this blog) is that there are no secrets on the Internet. All postings are a permanent record.
Note in the Amy Harmon article how Jonathan Franzen defends his new-found friend Tom Bissell against those dastardly ULA whistleblowers. Narcissist that he is, Franzen never thought that in accepting the taxpayer NEA funds he did anything wrong. He doesn't hesitate to falsely smear, in a national publication, the whistleblowers. For Tom Bissell, his defense of the Big Boys in his essay ensured their approval. Entrance into the Club.
Jonathan Franzen and Tom Bissell remain buds to this day. Witness this 2011 Willamette Week article in which Franzen compares Bissell to David Foster Wallace-- a dubious honor-- and calls Bissell "a true talent."
Do the proper thing by the Powers of the Literary World and all is good.