Tuesday, March 19, 2013



When the Underground Literary Alliance was in its heyday, an oft-heard criticism, coming from outside the ULA, but also from within it, was that our campaign was “quixotic.”  Several of our members were panicked out at the very thought.

(If our campaign were truly quixotic, the ULA would not have been so feared by the literary elite, as it remains to this day.)

The ULA strategy was no doubt risky. It was also early, anticipating changes. But it was never quixotic. The campaign was based on an objective analysis of where American literature was, and where it needed to be to survive as a relevant cultural happening in American society.

I once worked for an independent commodity trader. I learned how to make a logical assessment of a gamble’s risk-reward ratio.

The risks involved with taking on the nation’s literary establishment were high—but potential rewards were unlimited.

It’s not as if any of us had much to lose. When you’re already at the bottom, and likely to stay at the bottom, downsides are few. All one has to do is look at the writing careers of those who bailed from the ULA—or even those who betrayed it. Where are they?

The situation I observed in literature twelve years ago is more true now. The publishing system is kept afloat by insubstantial “young adult” novels about wizards and vampires. Top-heavy bookstores are closing. “Literary” fiction hasn’t changed one comma in decades. The literary scene is fronted by anti-charismatic stooges like Jonathan Franzen. No excitement anywhere. An art form and scene waiting to be reimagined. To be dismantled and replaced by the radically populist, the radically new.


JeffOYB said...

Speaking of history's judgment, Blaster Al Ackerman died last Sunday. He'll end up on the right side. What a hero! He was like a Kurt Vonnegut who really lived the craziness, or, who lived it in its post-Vietnam incarnation. V got to savor the WW2's brand of bureaucratic insanity. Ackerman was the next champion. The bad guys had perfected their power-hold by then and a real hero like Ackerman had no chance. He embraced the margins, opting not to fight, instead creating a marvelously diverse lifework. He didn't even care to own it all, instead he and his pals endlessly messed with identity and had a great time. And ran a great bookstore (Normal's, Baltimore). History will vindicate and *LIFT UP* Blaster Al! (Has anyone from the academic/workshop cabal shown signs of endurance?) RIP, Blaster Al!

King Wenclas said...

Sorry to hear about Blaster Al.
I was recently called "a maniac" by a paint-by-the-numbers establishment "literary" writer who's never gone outside the narrow lines of conformity.
Yet those who give any art its edge and its life are the crazy ones, like Blaster Al Ackerman. Without their kind, what do we have? A dead art endlessly repeating itself, which is the situation in literature today.
Lines of conformists, obediently marching into the artistic monolith, all of them thinking exactly the same way.