Mr. Thomas Beller of Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood isn’t happy. In fact, he seems to be holding a ten year-old grudge against me and the Underground Literary Alliance. To my surprise I discover that in Tablet Magazine on December 13, 2012, Mr. Beller called me “a maniac.” Scroll down at this post and see:
Mr. Beller, that’s not a nice thing to say! Please go to your closet, put on your blue sweater and return to being literature’s Mr. Nice Guy.
Why the unprovoked slur? Fact is, I’m not a maniac, though I’m often portrayed that way by establishment literary types. What lit people can’t handle is my unflinching honesty, logic, and integrity, which I’ve demonstrated time after time. If you’re logical and have character and integrity it causes panic and hysteria in today’s approved literary scene. If you don’t play the game, if you believe your stated ideals and mean what you say, then you’re plainly crazy.
Why is Mr. Beller resentful? It’s beyond me. The ULA has been inactive for years. In the past several years, remaining members have faced great hardship and tragedy, chiefly for economic reasons. Mr. Beller, do you know that Frank D. Walsh, the poet who in 2003 replaced your friend David Berman in a “Relevance Readoff” in Chicago, when Berman bailed, found himself a year ago homeless, thrown into the street, and on top of that lost most of his writings? Imagine what that’s like for a writer. One of the best spoken word street poets in the country (which means, way better than any of the academic variety), beat up by life and so admittedly just a little crazy, though, I’m certain, not quite a “maniac” like me.
One of our founders, Steve Kostecke, died about the same time. About the same time, another key member, the clown Jelly Boy, who in 2006 accompanied me into the lion’s den of a Miller Hall reading, was put into a coma for many weeks when critically burned in an apartment house fire. I myself have been knocked around a bit the last several years, more than I care to say. But who am I? Simply a “maniac.” It’s easy to label me and dismiss me.
Mr. Thomas Beller signed a petition in support of the Occupy movement, but he’s never yet gotten it into his head that there are two Americas—including in the literary community. We never had wealthy guys like Rob Bingham in the ULA. I’m sure Bingham was a nice, talented person. You know what? So were many of the men and women in the ULA. I helped create the ULA to be on the side of the underdog. Including underdog writers—talented people with no one behind them. We would’ve liked lit figures like Mr. Beller on our side.
I surely don’t know why Mr. Beller isn’t happy; why he felt the need to add his voice to the many taking shots at a defunct writers group. Kicking around, now that we’re down, myself and the ULA. Blackballing us isn’t enough, apparently. The mere existence of an independent voice anyplace is scary to some people.
Two additional points:
1.) To correct the record, I’ll be putting up a post showing that Mr. Beller’s remarks regarding the ULA are a misrepresentation of reality.
2.) I have a fictional characterization of Mr. Beller in my new ebook novel, The McSweeneys Gang. Worth a look. I, er, do not call him a maniac.
Have a wonderful day in the neighborhood, everybody!