One can show the dishonesty of Tom Bissell’s ULA essay in the micro, taking it apart point by point; demonstrating falsehood upon falsehood, distortion after distortion, as I’ve been doing. One can question it in the macro, by understanding the larger message conveyed subliminally to the reader.
We have now, with the Thomas Beller misstep in Tablet Magazine, a way to prove a distortion. To show with a photo that the ULA’s supposed “rampage” at Housing Works, as stated in Bissell’s essay, is a lie. As well, to show the selective editing done, by either Bissell or his source, of David Berman’s email exchange with the Underground Literary Alliance. Ancient history? Not when writers like Thomas Beller are repeating the false version everyplace, today.
What’s Beller’s motivation? I see him as another fall guy, conned by Tom Bissell or by somebody into taking a shot at me. The timing of Beller’s sudden attack is curious, to say the least, coming as it did a couple weeks after Johannes Lichtman’s blatant smear piece against the ULA. Beller’s remarks concerning me sound shoehorned into his essay. A writer, when doing such a piece, asks himself, “What sentence or phrase can be deleted? What’s not necessary?” Referring to me as “a maniac,” then distorting the ULA’s history with Berman (inadvertently, I believe) was hardly necessary.
Beller’s problem is that he believed Tom Bissell’s false narrative of the ULA. Because we’d attacked the nature of today’s lit scene, establishment writers like Thomas Beller, creatures of the system through every step of their writing lives, were predisposed to believe the worst about us. That we did some theater, made some attention-getting noise, added fuel to the fire. Our noise was always heavily exaggerated by our enemies. The true story about what happened at Housing Works, why we were there, is revealing.
This is a long way of saying that I’d rather not post that photo! Or give a fuller view of the David Berman-ULA conversation. The truth can be embarrassing.