Saturday, December 31, 2005

Sudden Noise at the Speedshop

I'm not referring to just our awesome new ULA trading cards, but to a


ULA Exec Director Mike Jackman has abandoned the role to become Detroit Bureau Chief. Also, I've had less time to devote to the organization.

What does this mean for the Underground Literary Alliance? Is it time to choose a new overall Director for the team? Discussions are underway. I hope we'll be able to soon announce a general Search for candidates. We should look everywhere, through all aspects of the literary world (including hidden levels of the underground) for possibilities to assume the position of ULA Lead Dog, First among equals.

What I'll be looking for in the individual is understanding of our DIY strategy, ability to work with and motivate others, and total commitment to the ULA's name, mission, and ideals; the willingness to work FOR the team.

This should be the first of many changes. Rebuilding our engine, getting the vehicle up to speed, will take much work. ULA mechanics are working overtime. The ULA Car is being readied.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Ideology of the Machine

ANOTHER curious thing about the new "King Kong" movie is the way the character of the promoter has apparently been changed to represent all-encompassing evil. Creatures of the Machine are uncomfortable with crass upstart outsiders, especially those who make a lot of noise.

This is shown by demi-puppet attitudes toward the ballyhoo of the ULA. Desk-bound conformists, mere cogs, peer out fearfully from skyscraper-prison windows at those on the streets who embody independence and freedom.

(Yet there are always lines of sell-outs outside the gleaming glass doors regardless, waiting to embrace the chains of the monopolists.)

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

More Mainstream Magazine Madness

We live in a bizarro society where down is up and up is down, integrity and truth are scorned while scams and corruption are lauded.

One of the more idiotic things I've read on a lit-blog was an argument several weeks back that Dave Eggers is helping poor people and thereby redistributing his wealth-- maybe all of it. The person who said this is clearly unable to distinguish a semblance of reality from the cultural fog. (He's never heard of tax shelters.)

All this wealth redistribution going on! Yet nothing changes. The people Eggers helps remain poor while he continues circulating through palaces. One would think with his money gone, he'd not be able to publish The Believer anymore. Yet there it is on bookstore shelves, ad-free. The funding is coming from somewhere! (His many book deals?)

Everything is a pose or a scam. Most egregious of all is Time magazine's celebration of Bill Gates and his wife (with Bono) as Persons of the Year.

A few years ago Gates was engaged in a tremendous contentious fight with the federal government over his monopolistic practices-- was known for his single-minded ruthlessness, typified by his humiliation of fellow billionaire Steven Jobs. Suddenly all is forgotten. Gates truly has some great p.r. people. (They could give Eggers flunkies like Tao Lin lessons.) Even the great magazine Time is a toy in their hands.

Until a few years ago Bill Gates showed no interest in charity-- until he began receiving bad press. What's the price of his philanthropy-- the cost of a few dollars dealt out from his storehouse of abundance? Not paying taxes on $29 billion he's socked away in a foundation? This is called "cashing in"-- has been done in the past by plutocrats named Rockefeller and Ford as a way to hang on to their wealth, lead a lavish lifestyle-- at foundation expense-- and influence society and culture.

Has anything in the world changed one speck from the efforts of Gates and Bono?

Computer printout numbers representing billions of dollars the Third World wasn't able to pay anyway have been written off. Impoverished countries remain in a dependent relationship to world bankers. Standards of living continue to decline. The present world system stands untouched. Bono and Bill Gates are as wealthy as before. They do look preciously noble on the Time magazine cover.

The Skeptic

The dumbest of all the dumb statements made by our opponents was the complaint that we can't create a literary movement.

We can't? Why not? How else do they occur? Do they combust spontaneously?

Meet THE SKEPTIC, found throughout history.

When old he's the constipated slow-thinking neighbor shaking his head at everything done differently.

When young he's merely stupid.

Henry Ford in his Detroit workshop, building an automobile out of bicycle parts. The Skeptic looks on skeptically. "You can't do it," he proclaims. When Henry tells him he's going to manufacture them, the Skeptic knowingly disagrees. "No one wants them. No one will buy them. There's no demand, and you can't create it. It'll never work."

The Skeptic is a typical contemporary product brainwashed by contemporary media to be an amoeba. Evolution is a fine theory for the universe but it doesn't work for human beings. Wait for society or culture to change of themselves and after a million years something might happen. Quicker to change things yourself.

I heard that Kwanzaa was invented by some guy in 1966. "Can't do that," the Skeptic tells him. "Not allowed!"

Yeah, except some guy founded the Mormons in the 1800's. Some guy founded Islam about 600, some guy founded Christmas before that. Some impatient guys founded rock n roll, punk, movies, personal computers, you name it. Everything we have around us was invented or founded by someone.

The Skeptic stands skeptically to the side, pondering. "Can't do it," he decides. "You just can't!"

Saturday, December 24, 2005

ULA Mail: Musea

I've received a ton of interesting mail into the official ULA PO Box (POB 42077, Philadelphia PA 19101). Included is the latest musical cd from ULAer Tom Hendricks. Didn't know we had our own musician in our ranks, did you? (Better than David Berman.) The cd contains some of Tom's own compositions, but also several classics, best among them John Lennon's "That Means a Lot"-- maybe the best version I've heard of it. Tom has a unique, avant-garde voice framed by the simplicity of his solo guitar. Another high point is Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away." Good to see two of the three genius writers of the rock era represented. (Missing is a Bob Dylan composition.) Do we have a cut on the ULA site yet? If not, let's do it!

(Merry Christmas everyone!)

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

How to Buy The New Republic

Ever see a prominent magazine prostitute itself?

It happens all the time (witness the publicity for "King Kong"), but seldom as blatantly as in the Dec. 12 issue of fake-intellectual establishment journal The New Republic. Included are not one, but TWO fake symposiums paid for by the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia celebrating the entrance of this regressively backward medieval Kingdom into the World Trade Organization.

The New Republic is a very slim magazine, yet finds space in the same issue for a cover story by Spencer Ackerman about moderate Muslims-- a story the Royal Embassy is sure to applaud-- and even contains an editorial which gives a sly nod of approval of the Saudi King's endorsement of Israeli politician Amir Peretz.

Sorry if I think we should have nothing to do with this nation of oppression and hatred, which exports an especially virulent strain of Islam; that we should be rushing to end our dependence on oil so we can disconnect ourselves from them, instead of funding, through our gasoline dollars, the very terrorism we're spending billions of tax dollars ostensibly to stop. It's a policy of madness.

TNR is entitled to their perspective. But how about some Truth-In-Advertising? Like, "This entire issue is paid for by the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia and our editors have bent over backward to please them in response"??

Monday, December 19, 2005

Overhauling the ULA Car

The moribund literary world coasts along like a stodgy used Volvo with a 4-cylinder motor, driven by blinkered academics with pampered overdressed drooling trust-fund babies strapped into the backseat.

But what of our own vehicle? The ULA Car has a powerful engine and a day-glo pop baby-blue custom paint job with "ULA" in bright orange hand-lettered symbols across the side next to painted flames, but is up on blocks in the speedshop, the roaring engine silent.

I'd be the first to admit the ULA needs work. If former members weren't satisfied with the speed of our progress, I can only respond, "Neither am I!" Curious that their withdrawal came when the ULA vehicle WAS moving again. We took it out for a drive during our July Philly show. The car handled well and was loud and exciting.

As current members have mentioned, we need to rearrange the names on the site-- along with roles and responsibilities-- to reflect current reality. We need more unity and more efficiency. We need to do a better job of keeping up on the activities of off-line ULAers and involving them in the team. We need more within-team COMMUNICATION about where we're going.

Our "Monday Reports" need to be consistently kick-ass, uncompromising, and newsworthy. We also need to do a better job announcing these essays far and wide.

We need more emphasis on poetry, an integral element (one of several) of the ULA campaign.

Most important, the ULA needs to BE the ULA again. Do this and we'll achieve anything. Our "car"-- our message, our voice, our attitude, our behavior-- was designed to be striking. It's time to uncap the headers. I want literary windows shattered when we step on the gas when we drive down the street.

Strategical Thoughts Part III

BECAUSE the ULA stands legitimately outside the mainstream, it has to be destroyed. It represents a choice NOT within the predictable bounds of well-regulated corporations, foundations, and universities, but REAL choice which can't be guided or controlled by media and intellectual powers of the society.

Our ideas are often borrowed by others-- the source never acknowledged. To do so would be to break a key unwritten rule of the literary monopolists. We have no standing in this society. Far be it for even the "progressives" among the affluent elite which dominates intellectual discussion in this country to give us any. (Is the situation different in other societies?) A Noam Chomsky or Hilton Kramer or Katrina vanden Heuvel or William F. Buckley-- "Right" and "Left"-- can rub elbows at comfy Christmas parties, spiked egg-nog spilling over their pampered faces. Despite their proclaimed differences, they belong to the same class; comprise part of the cultural aristocracy. By contrast the ULA outside the stone-walled club in the snow and cold is of, from, among the populace.

Like the Jacobins, we've formed our own debating society. We're designed to be an aggressive dog pack, loyal to one another, a team of equals eager to run disruptively through mainstream culture. Let other dogs be beribboned pets resting on Master's lap within the warmth of the mansion. That's no role for us.

The year 2005 for the ULA can be summed up as a series of attacks against us. We've stood up well. By losing weaker elements we've been strengthened.

I found it interesting that, toward the end, the attacks (and peace offers) by puppets and demi-puppets against the ULA took on a coherent strategy. (I have no idea whether this was done consciously or unconsciously.) Isolate one target and concentrate force upon that: Standard doctrine that was tried against us, myself the target, resurrecting my importance within the team to attempt this.

The strategy foundered for two reasons.
1.) The ULA team would continue without me. I'm not the all-important figure I'm made out to be.
2.) At the same time I'm no weak link easily discouraged or discredited. I've never lost a debate. (Been held even once or twice.) Come after me and you might destroy yourself. I believe in what I'm doing, in the ULA, and am incapable of being swayed.

A fanatic for literature; for the Underground Literary Alliance? Yes, I embrace that designation. I'm a literary fan all the way.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Strategical Thoughts Part II

THROUGHOUT the 1990s I saw the zeen movement as "Beneath the American Renaissance" (to borrow a phrase from historian David Reynolds). Underground pamphlets in the 1800s such as "The Davy Crockett Almanack" influenced writers like Herman Melville. I believed that the authentic, gritty, outspoken words of zeensters like Doug Holland, Aaron Cometbus, Michael Jackman, Chris Estey and others would show the way toward a renaissance of literature in our time-- AWAY from convoluted over-intellectualized Foster Wallace-style posturing imposed by conglomerates and academics. The Underground Literary Alliance, which was discussed as a concept by myself and others in the early 90s, was first given public expression in my "How to Create a Literary Movement" broadside, re-published by "A Reader's Guide to the Underground Press" in the spring of 1999. I received a huge response from the zeen community; an outpouring of reactions and ideas. The ULA was on its way.

Meanwhile, the conglomerates had found their knock-off. Dave Eggers had been in San Francisco toward the latter part of Factsheet 5's "Zine Revolution." An unscrupulous rich guy with money to throw around, Eggers's slick hip journal Might might-- in some small way-- be considered tangentially a zine, though it was aimed at well-educated intellectuals from comfortable backgrounds, and spoke in their pretentious jargon-- the opposite of the San Francisco zeen style embodied by punk squatter Aaron Cometbus and street writer Doug Holland.

No matter! Eggers was soon in New York working at establishment icon Esquire, busily making friendships with the most over-hyped writers of the Manhattan Ivy League trust-fund crowd; the kind of Insider writers published in lit-establishment flagship The New Yorker. Eggers cut a book deal with Simon & Schuster, and simultaneously got his McSweeney's fake-zeen off the ground, while receiving a burst of publicity from Conde-Nast magazines like The New Yorker and Vanity Fair. This arm of the literary status quo was put forward, somehow (ignoring the reality), as DIY; as independent and new.

Eggers relationship with the monopolists has been mutually beneficial. Having their own version of the "new" (recycled Gordon Lish and David Foster Wallace)-- no matter how patently false-- was a wise strategic move, co-opting the nascent threat of the genuine underground. Eggers has gained by pushing himself into the heart of the establishment; positioning himself and his newfound friends (like Zadie Smith and Jonathan Lethem) as literature's great hopes. He's never stopped cutting book deals with the conglomerates.

Simultaneous with this has been the creation of the Underground Literary Alliance as vehicle for the genuine article. Nothing in the universe remains static. To retain the zeen impulse; to maintain our independence; we needed to take a further step. Joining in a cooperative project-- adding e-zeensters to our ranks-- has been it. We've survived. The true foundation for a new American literary renaissance yet lives.

(To be continued.)

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Strategical Thoughts Part I

One can't understand the ULA and our battles without understanding OUR history and background in the zeen scene of the 1990s.

The most interesting new aspect of the literary scene of that decade was the rise of "zines"-- self-published tracts and pamphlets. Fanzines had been around since at least the 70s. It wasn't until the publicity generated by the Seth Friedman version of Factsheet 5 that the media mainstream began giving the resurgent print underground notice and attention.

ULAers like Jeff Potter, Tom Hendricks, Yul Tolbert, Owen Thomas, Jack Saunders, and myself-- and ex-ULAer Doug Bassett-- were minor but representative figures in this new literary movement. (I had a short essay in F5 in 1995 which examined 19th century forerunners of zines.) Stars of the movement were phenomenons Doug Holland and Aaron Cometbus, who, along with Friedman himself, were based in the San Fran Bay area.

"Cometbus," who traveled the country selling zeens, spreading the message like Johnny Appleseed, quickly became an almost mythical figure-- as did Doug Holland in San Fran, who would sell hundreds of copies of his "Pathetic Life" zeen at street fairs. Holland was at the very center of underground literary activity-- a new bohemia-- in that city. The striking point about both Holland and Cometbus-- beyond the fact that both were excellent writers-- was that they both embodied in their lives and ideas the "Do-It-Yourself" philosophy. Both writers began to attain mainstream attention as far away as New York City. Doug Holland being profiled in the ultra-hip Interview magazine was a sign that this wave of zeendom had arrived.

It must've dawned at some point though, on the literary establishment and attached media puppets in NYC, that neither writer was a likely candidate to be bought-out (though lesser figures like Pagan Kennedy and Lisa "Suckdog" Carver certainly were). Holland went in the other direction with his creation of Zine World: A Reader's Guide to the Underground Press. (Long-time zeenster Michael Jackman, himself an excellent, grittily-real zeen writer, served as Holland's #2.)

An Analogy: Remember the rise of a small card company named Recycled Paper Products? Using a couple original cartoonists, this company made the giant Hallmark look stale and stodgy. Though the market share taken by the upstart must've been miniscule, the giant reacted by issuing inferior knock-offs-- near carbon copies in some instances-- of what Recycled Paper Products was doing.

How did the literary monopolists react to the rise of print-zeensters? Did they manufacture an inferior copy in order to co-opt us?

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Using the Past

Winston Churchill said that he could see farther into the future because he looked farther back into the past.

He saw that change is everpresent; the context of situations, beliefs, and technology is forever different, yet patterns can be seen, cycles repeat themselves, the tug of natural forces intrinsic to the universe is constant; commonalities of human nature and behavior remain.

(That people themselves over the cultures and ages carry the same strengths and flaws, and make the same mistakes, is what makes great literature universal and timeless.)

When I look at historical examples from the past, I do so to see what can be used in the context of the ULA. I look at movements at their beginnings and in their early stages; noting later corruptions of the original missions as what to avoid.

Books on the rise of rock n roll and punk are everywhere. Check out the first volume of Andrew Loog Oldham's autobio for an extreme promoter's mindset.
The Foundations of Christianity by Karl Kautsky is a good starting point about that hectic movement. The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels discusses early struggles and literary conflicts.
For lit movements, Geniuses T0gether by Humphrey Carpenter and Birthing the Beats by Steven Watson are musts.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Kong Mistakes?

Peter Jackson, director of the new "King Kong" movie, is a fan of the 1933 original. The changes he's made to the story show he doesn't understand it.

Jackson has said he's brought "photorealism" to the tale. Realism? There's not much realistic about the plot of "King Kong"! It's the representation of a dream. Of a nightmare, really.

The black-and-white 1933 original, dreamlike in so many aspects, achieves its objective perfectly-- which is why the movie has appealed to so many people. The subconscious was put onto the screen.

The story is told through a haze, starting with the opening shots in New York City, on to the first relating of the farcically fantastic Kong story on board ship. (A comic book tale if there ever was one.) Kong Island is glimpsed through mists, to haunting music by Max Steiner. The dream is only beginning.

The second mistake Peter Jackson has made is tampering with the personality of Ann Darrow's rescuer and love interest, Jack Driscoll, who in the original is a woman-hating he-man sailor. It should be starkly obvious to every movie buff around that, like the creature in "Forbidden Planet," Kong is a Monster from the Id. Jackson treats King Kong like a separate character, when Kong HAS NO EXISTENCE apart from Jack the sailor. In the original movie he's a metaphor for the dawning sexual attraction between Ann and Jack. Kong is the beast within Jack unleashed. This theme is carried on throughout the movie. Doesn't the monster represent Victorian/feminist hysteria over what's going to happen to Ann Darrow on her wedding night?

Clues about this are everyplace. Back in New York, Jack uncomfortable in the collar of his tuxedo parallels the monster in chains yards away on stage. The hotel room Jack and Ann flee to looks like a bridal suite-- Kong staring through the window on their wedding night. At the end, the shot of Ann clambering into Jack's arms is followed by the monster sprawling dead below, with the promoter's cryptic remark, "Twas Beauty killed the Beast!" The roughneck sailor presumably has been tamed and domesticated.

Peter Jackson changing the monster and the male lead tampers with the delicate balance of the original story. In the original, Kong doesn't look humanized, or like a long-haired Chewbacca there for our sympathy. He was made to look and behave as frightening as possible for the time (down to chewing up people between his teeth); like a mad indistinct monster from out of our dreams.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Into the Literary Future

New technology won't destroy literature-- as the rise of blogs amply demonstrates-- but it WILL transform it. The trick is to anticipate the transformation, which the ULA is doing better than anybody.

Blogs are at the forefront of the democratization of literature, reversing a sixty-year trend toward increasing professionalization of the art, with attendant baggage of bureaucracy and credentialism. The journalistic community is being affected first by the changes. We see the decline of newspapers balanced by the popularity of websites and blogs manned by those without large staffs or prestigious journalism degrees. What had been a gated and controlled entranceway toward being allowed a voice in this society has been destroyed. The monitors and guards are gone. There is no reason why sites like the ULA's can't compete equally for stories and attention with those of giant dinosaurs like The New Yorker and the New York Times. (Our site has often been more relevant and exciting.)

The ULA's foundation in the zeen scene of the 1990's leaves us well adapted for change in the literary realm. In the long run there is no way that bureaucracy-heavy book companies, burdened by hierarchies of staff, located in expensive suites of offices in high-rent skyscrapers, can compete with an insurgent organization like ours. We may or may not be the new model-- the innovative competitor which will drive them into bankruptcy. At the least we're a primitive version of the model.

Our strength is our DIY philosophy. Unlike MFA grads-- helpless specialists who know only how to write-- our self-sufficiency leaves us better able to exist without layers of bureaucracy. To survive as a print zeenster, to find any kind of readership (as many of us did), we had to edit, format, design, package, print, market, and distribute our writing strictly OURSELVES. It was a liberating experience-- the freedom of not being dependent on any entity (particularly out-of-touch mandarins in New York City) in order to be writers. Our announced task at the ULA's founding was to transfer this independence and these discovered abilities into a cooperative organization. To date we've done this imperfectly-- we've had few models to follow, as we're the trailblazers. WE'RE the model. That we've survived despite our many fumblings is itself an achievement.

A few "literary" folks from more traditional literary backgrounds have embraced change admirably. Still, their mentality lies in the past. Even the most advanced of them is inescapably the product of bureaucratic indoctrination. They accept literary change piecemeal. They might grasp control of the means of production of literature, but exempt from change the nature of literature's creation. Having invested in expensive writing degrees, they can't see that such degrees in this field are unnecessary. They cling to MFA styles of writing, which are a product of monopoly specialization. (This a subject for a long post in itself-- how professionalization, certifications, and bureaucracy led to a writing style which celebrates jargon, bureaucratese, and unneeded complexity, best found in recent years in the pages of McSweeney's.)

In other words, you can't democratize only the means of production of the art-- you have to democratize the art itself, in order to broaden its appeal, as print-zeensters by necessity have already been doing, as the modest success of no-budget literature like Cometbus and Urban Hermitt demonstrates.

In literature today only the Underground Literary Alliance advocates literary change in ALL aspects. In that sense we're the most futuristic lit-group around, and are truly revolutionary.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Keys to the Car

A COMMON talking point which appears again and again among those who contend with the ULA is the idea that Dave Eggers and his crew are little-known personalities with no influence beyond 25,000 people. This may be true-- but what does it then say about their abilities?

Eggers has been given the keys to the car by the publishing giants. Clueless themselves about the world outside their hermetic skyscrapers, they've bought into the Eggers p.r. machine, believing he can be their salvation. Company after company, from Random House to Houghton-Mifflin, have signed onto joint projects with McSweeney's Books (many of them anthologies). One sees the books continually at the front of book chains. The congloms have invested huge sums in Eggers's judgement and his writers.

Book editors don't have a rumor of a hint what kind of literary writing will sell. On their own, they fall into the nepotistic easy-out of hyping books by the sons or brothers of well-connected magazine editors. (See Nick McDonell and Jonathan Safran Foer.) Their hope in Eggers is misplaced. In their blindness they can't see the smugness, insularity, and exclusiveness of the McSweeney's style of writing, which limits its appeal to snob-wannabes who hold MFA degrees. The said 25,000.

Eggers is analogous to Matt Millen. General Manager of the Detroit Lions, Millen was given the keys to the football operation by the Ford automotive family which owns the team. Watching games from the comfort of their stadium skybox, the Fords have little idea about what happens on the field. (As shown by decades of failure.) Signing on Millen was a laudable gamble, but the gamble has turned into a multi-vehicle pile-up. The problem isn't so much Matt Millen, but the desperation revealed by his hiring.

The book conglomerates are in a similar state of desperation. Uninteresting novels by rich guys like Rick Moody are hyped as great. The public doesn't care. Credibility dwindles. As solution, the companies run to Eggers-- who himself publishes Moody and his ilk at every opportunity, which demonstrates that Eggers has no new game plan, no innovative strategy, no revolutionary plays or exciting players, only more of the same.

Puppet World

THE POWER of establishment literature has been shown by its ability to transform even hard-core ULAers into puppets.

I was walking through a small urban park on a cool fall day and noticed at the end of it-- a side surrounded by a wall of luxury condo skyscrapers-- a puppet theater. A yellow box sat on a table, a miniature green curtain at the front of it. I'd wondered what'd become of two departed ULAers. The curtain raised in the box, and there danced in puppet form facsimiles of the very same writers!

One was growly and mean, with a painted-on red sneer at the bottom of his puppet face. The other was placid and bland, inked-in eyebrows raised in amusement as a voice came from the other (from somewhere behind the box) filled with vulgarities and hate directed at me! Their puppet arms moved wildly. A Maud puppet and Depressed Reader puppet (holding a pretend book) stood clapping to the side. As with all puppet shows, it was ludicrous, cheap, and insane; the sing-song incoherent nonsense of a bad dream.

I knew they were puppets because they followed scripts and voiced talking points. The Maud puppet took the lead, calling the ULA "the King Wenclas Show." The other puppets fell into line. The problem with me, they said, wasn't my blog itself, but that it was attached to the ULA! "Better for you to attack, not promote," the placid puppet advised, leaning forward with feigned objectivity, having moved close to the edge of the stage. The voice somewhere behind the box dropped to a confidential whisper. I bought the argument for a second-- before realizing it came from a comical puppet!

The show turned into mad hilarity. "I'm not Guski!" the other puppet claimed-- then turned around to show the very name written on the back of his clothing! Children in the audience laughed at his transparency. The puppets began clubbing one another as the curtain came down, along with sudden cold rain, people fled from the park, I put up my collar and hurried away.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Missed Poetry Event

It looks like I missed attending the American Poetry Review's gala 33rd anniversary event at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. Meryl Streep was present, along with establishment hack-poets/stooges John Ashberry, Rita Dove, Robert Pinsky, Jorie Graham, and Robert Haas. The celebration was headlined, "Of the People, For the People." Tickets were only 250 bucks! A lot of the "people" there, no doubt. The ULA should've been also.

We'll mark that on our calendar for next year.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Letter to Two Former Colleagues

The entire team was blindsided by your resignations, myself included. We had not an inkling of your dissatisfaction with me and the ULA. Up until the times you resigned, my correspondence with both of you was nothing but friendly. Now you're trying to gain attention, or curry favor with others, through attacks on the ULA. You behaved in no way-- in no way-- like teammates; like members of an organization. To you, notions of solidarity are without meaning. I was loyal to you both (while at the same time being loyal to the principles of the ULA) throughout your time in the ULA.

My favorable posts about Noah are still on this blog for all to see. A mere couple weeks before Tim bailed I was taking his part in an internal discussion about a name for a publication. The only frustration I might've sensed from them was that I wasn't giving them enough attention. Not enough attention! The micromanager Tim portrays is the micromanager they wanted me to be-- not what I've been in reality. Even had I wanted to "dictate," I don't have the time! Noah and Tim were both free to pursue their projects as they wished, within the framework of the ULA. (Their grievances remain mysterious.)

There was never a question of putting handcuffs on them. In hindsight-- though they raised nary a peep at the time-- it was more they wanting to stifle other ULAers, whether Crazy Carl, or Jeff Potter, or me. Did they approach Steve with their grievances? Did they raise their complaints with the team? Not to my knowledge.

I don't understand what they're now saying. They seem to want the ULA to stop being the ULA; to lessen our vision, our belief that we can change things; to stop our comic-book populism and our in-your-face agitation. They seem bothered that I have a role and voice in the ULA. The question then: Why did they ever join? Obviously they saw us as a stepping stone for their ambition, one stone among many stones along their path, with no sense of loyalty or commitment to anything except their own egos. Noah is a bigger disappointment than Tim, because he professes to wish to change this society. (Tim is about promoting his own writing.) Noah, you don't change anything by abandoning and turning on colleagues at the first expeditious moment or momentary sense of frustration. Like a J.T. Leroy you've become an embarrassment to the idea of a working class as it once existed in this country. Before I was born my old man, an autoworker, was part of post-WWII strikes which built the union movement in this society. I was raised on his history. Through my life I saw the working class gradually knocked down and destroyed. I saw more recent strikers, in 1995, beaten and bloodied by jackbooted union-busters in the same city of Detroit during an infamous newspaper strike. (A story ignored by corporate media.) Their broken faces were right in front of me. Dig far enough into my past and you'll find I was a (very young) union steward and shit-disturber myself someplace-- far more volatile than I am today. I've tried to bring the merest hint of this kind of solidarity and attitude to the community of writers, in order to change the culture, in order to renew this society. The one person I thought would "get" what I was doing was you. My efforts in this regard were a failure, as you wish to be a head-in-the-sand pessimist blind to the realities of literature and the world, abandoning real hope of changing things-- even buying the lie that lower class people don't like to read. (Surely, TV or no TV, the masses are no less deprived or depraved than in Jack London's day. The vast mass of Americans of any class are no less hungry for truth, relevance, soul, and reality, which only literature can fully bring. To think otherwise is to short-sell humanity.)

The founding and growth of the Underground Literary Alliance has been an important accomplishment-- the creation in literature of a truly independent voice. Nothing changes without conflict and setbacks. Ours have been temporary. The ULA's most exciting history will be in the days ahead.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The Real Truth About Memogate

The CBS "Memogate" controversy about Bush's National Guard service has been reopened with the publication of the Mary Mapes book Truth and Duty, excerpted in Vanity Fair. In her book, Mapes makes the case that the documents CBS News put forward as authentic may indeed BE authentic; that the case against them hasn't been proved. Were right-wing bloggers wrong? Where lies the truth?

No one has consulted the ultimate authority on proportionally-spaced typewriters, small-press publisher Fred Woodworth, to receive the definitive answer.

That answer is given by Fred on pages 32 through 36 of his Mystery & Adventure Series Review, issue #38. Fred is, in his own words, "the one person anywhere who still operates all of these devices every day"-- referring to Selectric Composers, IBM Executive Typewriters, Varitypers, Justowriters, and similar machines which "could have produced proportionally-spaced typing in a style like that of the documents. . . ."

Like Mary Mapes, Fred shreds many of the arguments of the bloggers and their experts.

One can't know by the appearance of the characters if the documents were faked. Repeated photocopying "altered the letter shapes enough to cast doubt even on what formal name might be assigned to the typeface."

"Nor is the 'th' in one of the lines a sure indicator of computer production," Woodworth continues. He explains how a small lifted "th" could've been produced on a period machine.

Fred mocks those "experts" who claimed absurdities such as that the documents were fake because Times New Roman typeface was invented for computer systems ("it looks much more like Garamond to me," Fred says). Times New Roman made its public debut in 1932!

"In the case of the disputed documents, only mathematics could prove the point one way or the other."

Woodworth explains the numbers, or values, for each character on the keyboards of the various proportionally-spacing machines which could potentially have typed the questionable memos. (With standard typewriters, the spacing is a single unit per character. Not so with these devices.) By adding up the "unit or increment values of all the characters in the memos he or she can easily determine their legitimacy. If unit values in a system don't result in characters staying in the same relationship to each other as in the memo shown, then that particular system can be excluded."

Woodworth has typed out, for our perusal, on various machines, lines from the previously shown memo. "Note how in each example, differing systems of character units result in differing relative line lengths-- and all are different from the CBS one."

The question WASN'T, as many bloggers thought, whether the documents could have been faked or reproduced by computer. It was whether they were created in 1972. The answer is an unqualified unequivocal NO, as Woodworth shows.

Think about this for a minute. At great expense, St. Martin's Press has just issued a book, Vanity Fair has excerpted it, the key argument at the heart of which is WRONG. Flatly wrong. Definitively wrong, as Woodworth easily demonstrates in his short but expert essay on the subject. If ever Mary Mapes, St. Martin's Press, and Vanity Fair should have gotten a story right, THIS WAS THAT MOMENT. Instead, they blew it.

Fred Woodworth's conclusion:
"The recent Bush-memo scandal convinces me that the apparatus for conveying truth to a wide public is broken if it ever worked at all. People get up and say whatever serves their agenda whether they actually know anything about their topic or are just making it up on the spot. Persons with no axe to grind and with real expert knowledge to impart are contemptuously ignored. . . ."

For #38 of the M & A Series Review send five dollars cash or stamps to Fred Woodworth, PO Box 3012, Tucson AZ 85702. The article inside is a must-read for anyone interested in the Memogate story.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The ULA Reality

CURIOUS are remarks tarring the ULA as a one-man operation. What's the motivation behind these statements? At the moment my role in the organization is marginal-- nothing more than posting on this blog once or twice a week. Meanwhile, Jeff, Steve, and Pat Simonelli are involved in publishing and selling books and zeens by ULA writers. Others like Leopold, Brady Russell, and Patrick King are moving forward on other activities. Our Monday Reports come from undergrounders of every kind. Jeff Potter and Pat S. in particular are devoting a great deal of time and energy into building the groundwork of our new-style machine. We're a team of cooperative equals. If I vanished tomorrow, the ULA would continue on with little change.

Get used to it! The Underground Literary Alliance is here to stay.


There's an amazing lack of sense of proportion among those who equate attacks on me and the ULA with those on the actions of someone like Rick Moody. Take away my blog and I'm absolutely powerless within this society. I work and live among the lower class. Rick Moody moves among the the wealthiest and most influential cultural cirlces in exclusive private clubs in New York City. His father is a powerful world banker, at the very peak of the world's socioeconomic pyramid, above the world's billions of people. Why do Rick Moody's mediocre novels receive massive publicity? How does he come to make grants decisions involving so many foundations?

We can do little about politics but we can clean up our own backyard of literature. This is what the ULA has been doing. The constant squawkings and insults we face are withdrawal symptoms of those addicted to status quo ideology. Embracing change is never easy. We welcome others to the fight-- even someone like Maud who's ostensibly progressive yet disturbed by what we're doing. They first need to see the literary world as it exists in reality; a mirror image of the rest of society.

This isn't a complaint. I'm merely stating the obvious. When making change, betrayals come with the territory.

All the personal attacks and slanders against me by ex-ULAers don't change the fact that the two individuals making the noise flinched from the fight I described. I'm a much easier target than those who dominate awards, media mags, and money! Attacking me takes no career risk and little bravery. Their panicked screams are rationalizations; cover for the fact that in the face of strong odds they ran away.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Memo to Benedict Arnold

I finally got a chance to read the Noah Cicero thing. Wasn't going to say anything, but can't resist. What a chameleon! Who would've believed he'd turn into such a self-important jerk? In the ULA he was a Leninist radical; a fire-breather. Suddenly now he's a tweedy dilettante, authority on all things obscurely literary. Bring on the slippers and pipe. Let's all just get along, he proclaims; all 24,000 of us bunkered down in the last outpost, the Corregidor of literature. He takes umbrage that lowly King Wenclas, who lives in a transient hotel right now, is somehow picking on lorldly rich guy Bret Easton Ellis. Such a tragedy! Unbelievable! At this dire treatment of the aristocrat, Noah stalked out of the ULA. (Forgetting to tell any of us at the time why.) The horror. How many sleepless nights did Noah endure, sniffles in his pillow, at the mistreatment of his idol? (I don't even recall knocking Ellis's writing-- only the fawning publicity he receives.)

Yes, interesting the way Noah has changed. The previous incarnation/act is gone, along with the rants and misspellings. (Read: phony.) He's been properly lobotomized.

80% of the interview is verbal diarrhea. The only parts of interest are those involving the ULA. Anyone not entranced with his own genius can see that the ULA is the reason for the interview's being, from the first question out of the gate. "Reader" many times steers the discussion back to Noah's departure from the ULA. The interview is an excuse to take shots at the ULA, while parading, like a talking dog or a geek in a circus carnival, the "autodidact"; the man who turned on the ULA. "Look! He writes. He drops pretentious names!" The genteel crowd gasps. Over the curtained booth hangs a large sign. "THE AUTODIDACT." "Step this way. Step this way!" announces Reader-of-Depressing Books the carnival barker. "See the literary freak."

Noah doesn't have the common sense to realize his departure from the ULA is the reason for his sudden acceptance by these people. When he was with us, he was object of their scorn. Now that he's given up the fight and become, like them, an eager-beaver suck-ass game player, everything is fine.

Has he covered every base? Said something nice about Eggers? Check. Put the blame, bizarrely, for the Daniel Handler fake letter controversy on me? (I wasn't supposed to say anything, only stay in my corner and take it, happy that they falsely used my name.) Check. Stereotyped what for the most part are reasoned arguments from me, buttressed by facts, into calling people "dickheads" and "fascists"? (Words I don't use.) Check. Taken a shot at the ULA's populist fan site, which (unlike ambitious writers) doesn't take itself too seriously? Check and double-check.

(I know you won't mind these remarks, Noah. After all, they come from a person who "can't write.")

Reading the interview-- slogging through it dutifully-- I found myself drowning in falsehoods, absurdities, and phoniness.

Noah expresses his concern about the organization of the ULA. He enjoys Hermitt's writing-- apparently the main reason he joined the ULA (does anyone buy this?); having no knowledge the organization was about anything else-- no understanding of its protests and campaigns. (Memos sent him unread.) Once in, he discovers that Hermitt isn't very active in the organization! Someone do something, Noah screams. Not to any of us, but inside his head. Does he ask Hermitt what he thinks of the ULA, encouraging him to become more involved in our activities? Of course not! Noah didn't join to roll up his sleeves, get busy and make the ULA a stronger and better organization. He joined merely because he likes Hermitt's writing.

(Noah, part of what we do in the ULA is provide a place for undergrounders to communicate with one another. It's why we sent you the list of contact information!)

Who Noah most wanted to communicate with aside from Tim Hall wasn't all the working class or poor writers and zeensters who fill our ranks; people like Joe Verrilli or Bill Blackolive or Chris Robin or Yul Tolbert or Frank Walsh or Patrick King-- but me, then the busiest ULAer but also the one with the highest visibility. Though according to Noah I can't write, he kept mailing and e-mailing books, essays, and poems for me to read. Curious, you say? He even asked me to write an intro to his recent book. Though my life was in crisis (still is frankly), working two jobs and busy with other activities, I took the time to read his novel and mail the requested introduction. Did he use it? Was it dropped? Despite my trouble, I received no explanation.

Do you know how many times prolific writer Noah expressed his dissatisfaction with our organization to Steve Kostecke or myself? None. Zero. Not once. The Leftist didn't grasp that communication is part of any collective project. Many of us, like Wred, Jeff, Leopold, Pat Simonelli, Steve, and myself did everything we could to make Noah an important part of the group. Noah gave no space to the normal vagaries of an organization, especially one with as diverse a mix of personalities as ours. There was scant commitment-- COMMITMENT-- to our ideals, our goals, our cause, the level of which has to be high, has to be strong, to endure all the fights setbacks and attacks one receives if one TRULY wishes to make change rather than making wishes postures and dreams. He knew when he joined we like our attitude balls-to-the-wall. His fervor lasted six months. At his first piqued moment or found opportunity elsewhere he bailed. Now he hangs with enervated apologists for the establishment like Depressed Reader of Books, symbol of literary inertia, representative of everything wrong with the art-- the reason it's ignored-- young men discussing existentialist philosophy like retired professors at a rest sanitarium.

(Depressing Writer, whose attitude toward how the world operates is that of a 5 year-old, comes up with an absurdity of his own when he says that Dave Eggers gives "all" his money to charity, and is therefore redistributing wealth!)

Absurdities everyplace. Noah states that one can't intentionally create a movement. This is unhistorical nonsense. Every movement which has had influence was intentionally created, from Christianity to the Bolsheviks to rock n' roll. The evangelists didn't stay home drawing circles in the sand. They strode to every corner of the known world very INTENTIONALLY building their movement. The Jacobins intentionally wrote their gutter-press tracts and intentionally opened their clubs. Lenin traveled to the Finland Station. It didn't travel to him. The rock music phenomenon was intentionally created by hustlers like Alan Freed and Sam Phillips. Colonel Parker himself said he promoted Elvis Presley not as a lone talent, but as the cutting edge of a movement. The British Invasion nine years later was the intentional creation of Brian Epstein and Andrew Loog Oldham.

More absurdities. Diarrhea compounding itself. The smell becomes oppressive. Noah rightly tells us about the importance of publicity in the lit world-- but is unable to see the importance of publicity in constructing the ULA platform, which is being built to give writers like him a voice. That we've positioned ourselves as the anti-McSweeney's; as Avis to McSweeney's Hertz; is a concept beyond this authority's imagination. Like most lit people he knows nothing about business but opens the floodgates of diarrhea anyway. He speaks from no track record of experience on these matters. Instead he expounds any expedient idea which enters his head. It's closing time at the sideshow, lights are being dimmed, and in his brightly-colored booth the Autodidact jabbers on. Please listen! This fellow knows. He supports progressive ideas but adopts the status quo company/party line that I'd be okay if I voiced my ideas alone. My mistake was becoming part of a group, adding my voice to those of like-minded others to have more influence and leverage in this extremely noisy and contentious society. People are okay with what I do as long as I don't try to actually CHANGE anything. Being a lone voice in the wilderness is okay.

Of course, according to Noah, the reason I formed the ULA was because I couldn't get published. On what does he base this assertion? Inside knowledge about the ULA's founding? No: Noah Cicero has taken a new job at the literary carnival, that of Mind Reader. He knows my motivations better than I know them myself, while presenting no evidence to support his case. The real story of the ULA's beginning is a tad different. It includes a chapter on my having left zeening and literature altogether in 1998, when I was managing a trade office along the Detroit-Canada border. Encouraging letters from Doug Bassett and Steve Kostecke prodded me back into the game, along with a visit to Detroit by Michael Jackman. Ideas of book publication couldn't have pushed me out of my office, only something more enticing-- the prospect of changing the culture by creating something independent and new. It's funny and sad that a self-proclaimed Leftist/Leninist like Noah could so lack vision that his entire view of society and the culture is encompassed by the narrow bourgeois objective of book publication (which by itself is meaningless). For me, writing has never been an end in itself, but a means toward a goal; an avenue toward changing a world I find to be increasingly soulless.

I discussed with others the idea of a lit movement. I pondered the idea for countless hours in my head. I steeped myself in DIY philosophy as propounded by folks like Fred Woodworth (the genuine article). The process is dismissed in a phrase by Noah. ULA history is turned into parody. It doesn't matter to him whether his words contain truth-- only that they conform to the prejudices of his lit-blogger readers. Caricaturing me and my ideas allows bourgeois demi-puppets to nod complacently and assume all is well. King Wenclas is just like them! He's only out for himself.

Noah has decided the status quo literary world with its hierarchies, corruptions, and inequities is okay and in no need of change. He argues for this in his statements. They're not arguments-- they're rationalizations. The lit world is powerless, he tells us-- even the millionaires-- consisting of only 24,000 people, yet at the same time we should be careful not to piss any of them off! Maybe they're not so powerless after all. At least Noah's not stressed out anymore. Like Winston Smith at the end of 1984 he's found peace. ("Reader" playing O'Brien in this theatrical version of the play.)

The acceptance is mind-boggling. Lorrie Moore? If delicate Ms. Moore with her wry subtlety and lifelessness is the literary role model then literature WILL be restricted to 24,000 people. I've seen Lorrie Moore read. She's as animated as a puppet caught between work assignments, as is her writing.

Noah would never argue that the political system doesn't need to be changed. He's vociferous against it. He forgets he's not IN politics-- he's in literature. Politics and literature are reflections of the same stratified society. It's easy to be against something over which you have no influence and doesn't affect your career one iota.

I'll give my former colleague an alternate checklist for consideration. The mainstream print media dominated by Ivy Leaguers? Check. Writers without credentials or connections not given a fair shake? Check. The poor and working class not fairly represented in the noise of this society, through their own voices? Check. Our ideas ignored until they're borrowed by those with the right pedigree? Check. Writers from the bottom half of society indeed effectively blackballed? Check and double-check.

We don't submit manuscripts to conglomerate slush piles (some of us have in the past) because we're working to create an independent alternative to the cultural monopolies. I thought this part of our campaign was well-known and obvious. It should be to anyone who was once part of the ULA.

More rationalization appears in Noah's confused statements about why people do or don't read. This part of the interview is truly diarrhea; during it Noah is speaking out of his ass. His remarks are pure speculation. Noah, in fact, is living disproof of his own statements-- he's one of the many millions of souls in this country who aren't supposed to enjoy literature or reading. People don't read! They only watch TV. Noah has it on good authority, and anyway, most important, to adopt this notion fits comfortably with the smug prejudices of those with whom he's now currying favor. Only problem is the notion is wrong.

Is Noah saying that the mass public can't soak up good, clear, relevant literature? That literature can't become once again important? That it's doomed to be marginalized? Throughout my life I've encountered working class and poor people who love to read, in auto factories and warehouses and railyards and saloons and halfway houses and inner city schools and calling rooms. (There are more autodidacts out there than people think.) They read literature, if it's good, including Dickens, Dumas, and Dostoevsky-- or Jack London (whose Iron Heel is a striking book). In short, the best writers who lived. My experiences and my own life, and the lives and experiences of other undergrounders like Jackman, Grover, Mullins, Nowlan, Ranello, Pachinko, Blackolive, Logan Mason, and many many others support my belief on this subject. Literature can and should be huge. The ULA strategy is sound.

Ours is an optimistic vision of literature and that's what scares some people.

The most egregious and hypocritical part of the Cicero interview is his attack on the ULA's Crazy Carl, whom he falsely brands as misogynist. (This from a defender of Bret Ellis.) In Crazy Carl's good-natured comical yarns, his main target isn't women, but men! I should know, as I've been the butt of a few of his tales, and enjoyed it, because it's done humorously and well. Carl's main target in everything he writes is himself-- the recipient of most of his barbs. In truth Crazy Carl loves women. He's an extremely lively and engaging writer as entertaining in person as in print; that literary rarity, an unconstipated author lacking a trace of snobbery and pretense. I'd take him over a boatload of precious meandering analytical and eternally bland Readers of Depressed Books. Crazy Carl's take on the world is mocking and joyful, rigid ideological theoretical intellectual categories removed. What you get instead is simple honesty. Noah's a talented writer, but there's not a shred of joy for life in his words. It's no wonder Crazy Carl is beyond his comprehension.

Noah says he admires Steve Kostecke's work. Some of Steve's tales about prostitutes could be construed by some as sexist. Where do we draw the line? Guidelines, please. What if someone decides that YOU and your outspoken novels, Noah, are politically incorrect, because they offend someone? What do you do then?

Contradiction upon contradiction. Noah even defends establishment cronyism! Would he apply his remarks to Mr. Bush and friends?

Were some ULAers angry at Noah's departure, as Noah asserts? Not to my knowledge. Our collective emotion was one of puzzlement. My last e-mail to him was very friendly, complimenting him on a favorable review of his work. Sorry if this doesn't fit with the portrait he's painted, but it's the truth.

I could go on. After awhile it becomes pointless. I've opened every window and still can't remove the stench.

If Noah were serious about peace and harmony in the literary world, he wouldn't have taken shots at us. He couldn't leave without throwing people under the bus. He doesn't believe in taking sides but he's taken a side-- the wrong one. I hope it helps him sell a few books.

We've seen the writer-gentry rush to the "Reader"'s blog to express agreement with Noah's remarks, with his departure from the ULA, and their scorn for the organization and its members. Way to go, Noah! You've accomplished a great deal-- revealing the mendacity of the lit-world and the self-centered nature of many writers.

Sunday, October 30, 2005


The aristocrats at the National Book Award Foundation aren't going out of their way to advertise this year's black-tie ceremony, held as before at the Marriott-Marquis fortress in newly Disneyfied Times Square. Are they afraid I might show up again with my camera, my protest signs, and my flying bird hat? (As of now it looks like I'll be unable to make it-- look for my shadow in the cold regardless.)

This year, the rich people who control the thing have allowed to be nominated for the fiction prize two token populists. Safely predictable Leftist novelist E.L. Doctorow will be carted out, with wheelchair or walker, IV tube or embalming jar. He's very "radical" as long as being so doesn't conflict with his cushy New York University professor job! (Mr. E.L.-- ever read the ending of "Animal Farm"? Snort, snort. Enjoy the swanky dinner!)

Along for the ride as well is one-time street writer Mary Gaitskill, who used to pen great stories when she was living among real people, before trading in authenticity for the posing trust-fund crowd. (I optimistically look forward to reading her novel.)

Look folks-- all the cover, the glitter and glitz, the black ties and $10,000 tables doesn't change the fact the "National" Book Awards ceremony representing a sliver of American society and literature is a sham-- just another con game perpetrated by the puppet-masters of American culture. Outside last year's event I hung out with a small group of low-rent working class rebels there to protest the nomination of the 9-11 Commission's Official Report for a book award. The passage of one year has shown the protestors to have been right-- the Commission's Report was a whitewash. This has been demonstrated by the recent Able-Danger revelations in which at least seven credible government employees have testified or attempted to testify that segments of the federal government knew about the Al-Queda cells in this country before 9-11 occurred. The Commission panelists didn't want and DON'T want to know anything about Able-Danger-- neither does the bulk of the establishment media both "Right" and "Left" (two sides of the same coin)-- though the revelations about advance government knowledge are likely only part of the story; the tip of the iceberg.

Conclusion About Ben Marcus

The title of the Marcus Harper's essay was the hyperbolic "Why Experimental Fiction Threatens to Destroy Publishing, Jonathan Franzen, and Life as We Know It."

I wonder: when will this take place? The experimental movement Marcus advocates has been around for over 40 years and had little influence-- it consists of nothing more than stuffy professors in thick-stoned mothballed universities passing hermetic texts back and forth among themselves; the world outside their shuttered windows an unknown realm.

What we see with the publication of the enervated Marcus essay incapable of stirring anyone to action beyond the slightest nod of head, irritated cough, or pinched brow is a failed attempt to co-opt the radical message of the only truly different dangerous new literary movement on the scene now-- scorned and blackballed by status quo apologists one and all-- the

Friday, October 28, 2005

Ben Marcus and Test Tube Literature

The kind of experimental writing Marcus advocates isn't the same as the ground-up DIY writing experiments a Mark Sonnenfeld or Jack Saunders practices.

Instead, it's a tops-down institutional approach, created in the literary laboratories of academe. It's funded through the same kind of government-academy synthesis that over the years has funded experiments in genetics, space technology, and weapons systems. (This is a subject I investigated in the 90's for my New Philistine newsletter. I asked questions about these literary experiments-- for instance, about Larry McCaffery's involvement in the takeover of Critique magazine by a Washington D.C. entity named Heldref which was controlled by noted neo-conservative figure Jeane Kirkpatrick and her husband.)

Crucial questions about WHO OWNS LITERATURE?, as applied to Jonathan Franzen, the Fiction Collective, or even Harper's magazine-- questions which are the only way to determine which writers in fact represent the status quo-- are questions which will never be addressed by establishment hacks like Franzen or Marcus, let alone answered.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Ben Marcus and Establishment Cronyism

I found amusing and revealing Marcus's mention in his Harper's essay of the band The Silver Jews as an example of artists marginalized in this society.

The Silver Jews are led by establishment poet-darling David Berman, yet one more American child of extreme privilege. (His father appears to be the owner of Bermanco, one of the more notorious corporate lobbyist firms in Washington D.C.) David Berman has been house poet at the trendy trust fund lit-journal Open City as well as The Believer, the journal Marcus's wife Heidi Julavits edits. David Berman hasn't been marginalized at all. Instead, despite having little musical or poetic talent, he's been pushed, funded, hyped, and lauded (including by the likes of Billy Collins) over and over.

Ben Marcus, in his post at Columbia U, and through his friendships, is immersed in establishment cronyism. This is why he couldn't see anything wrong in last year's National Book Awards fiction and poetry awards, which were dominated by the privileged; the winners and many of the nominees coming from the upper levels of society and centered in the city of New York.

(To be continued.)

Friday, October 21, 2005

ULA Dress Code?

Now that the NBA (National Basketball Association) has instituted a dress code in order to improve its image, speculation is rampant that the most infamous writers group on the planet, the ULA (Underground Literary Alliance), will follow suit.

On the one hand are ULAers like George Balgobin and Yul Tolbert who would likely think dressing members in distinctive, eye-catching uniforms would be an astute move, further distinguishing us from the literary pack and drawing increased attention to ourselves.

On the other hand are members like Wild Bill Blackolive, who might be concerned that they'd have to cut their hair and shave, or put on shoes and a shirt.

All I can say at the moment is that I've been given no word by ULA leaders about any proposed dress code.

Disingenuous Marcus

More About the Ben Marcus Essay in the October Harper's.

A few sentences from his essay reveal Ben Marcus as less than completely honest.

"I have never said that anyone who does not want to read difficult writing is a moron. I think there are pleasures and challenges to be had in both approaches. . . ."

Yet Marcus's friends have said essentially this, including in an essay which appeared in The Believer, a wordy journal his wife edits.

"Although those writers may be, in Franzen's view, failing with language, and although the whole venture may be doomed, it is their right to try and fail, as this failure might help readers discover new ways of thinking and feeling."

"--Franzen is not just criticizing a writer when he dismisses Gaddis; he's criticizing an audience, telling them that there's no way they could possibly like what they like. . . ."

Would Ben Marcus apply these statements to the writers and audience of the Underground Literary Alliance?

(To be continued.)

Monday, October 17, 2005

Winning the Argument

Here's only the latest example of agreement with the ULA's argument, in an interview the October 16 New York Post did with establishment author and reviewer Walter Kirn.
Kirn's response when asked about the state of American fiction:

"It's become dominated by a certain kind of academic, consciously sophisticated, artsy writing. There used to be a much healthier spread, writers from all regions, all economic classes. I think the whole thing's beginning to lean too much toward the graduate writing school, very smart, very privileged writer . . . of which I'm probably one."

The Underground Literary Alliance, of course, is the antidote to the trend Kirn describes. Is the ULA campaign making headway? (We applaud Walter Kirn for his honesty.)

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Spotlight on Ben Marcus

First in a Series.

WITH HIS October Harper's essay, McSweeneyite Ben Marcus behaves like the David Horowitz of the literary world.

David Horowitz is the chameleon of establishment politics. In the 60's, as an editor of radical Ramparts magazine, Horowitz associated with leftist groups like the Black Panthers. Currently he's employed on the neo-conservative end of the spectrum. His attacks on billionairess Katrina vanden Heuvel (a bonded member of the establishment) as a dangerous Leftist gives the centrist aristocrat radical cred she doesn't warrant.

Similarly, in his essay Ben Marcus tags author Jonathan Franzen as a populist, though Franzen's writing style, focus, and point-of-view are narrow, not populist at all.

The Ben Marcus argument exists without context. He manufactures a gulf of difference between himself and Franzen, when both are certified members of the approved literary club. Marcus fails to reveal himself as a Columbia prof, or mention that his wife Heidi Julavits is editor of insider mouthpiece The Believer. Marcus doesn't explain that professors he champions like Larry McCaffery and John O'Brien receive funding from the same sources as Franzen. (The National Endowment for the Arts, for instance.) (Marcus hero Rick Moody was on the NEA panel which gave Franzen his money.)

What of Franzen's novel The Corrections, which Marcus points to as polar opposite to his own "avant-garde" views? For even the comfortable folks its million-dollar marketing campaign was aimed at, Franzen's "populist" novel was a decorative coffee table book more bought than read. It's filled with pretentious description of coagulated prose-- is hardly a page-turner in the 1950's Herman Wouk mode.

The Marcus essay, in short, is a fraud, designed to narrow the spectrum of literature by positing as opposites writers who have few differences between them. This is an old trick (used in 2004 in politics with two rich Yale graduates). It doesn't always work. Only writers dwelling in the same establishment literary skyscraper with Marcus and Franzen will buy the Marcus argument; will sympathize with him for having a smaller office than Franzen's, though on the same floor and right down the hall.

(To be continued.)

Scum of the Earth Dept.

Here is part of what The Ruminator has put on their site in lieu of a disclaimer:

"Ruminator has received several e-mails from a person identifying himself as Karl "King" Wenclas, disclaiming authorship of a letter. . . ."

Am I supposed now not to exist? (Many lit-folk wish I didn't exist.) This blog must write itself. There is no human being at the keyboard.

The Ruminator's editors are compounding their prank. Ha ha! Very funny. Should earn them brownie points with esteemed literati.

I don't know anymore what to say about such people. They haven't a shred of integrity, and care not to gain any. The letter the Ruminator published with my name attached was faked-- most likely by Daniel Handler himself. When I questioned him about his lies, he ran away. Anyone seen him anyplace lately?

Par for the course: The lit world is filled with the corrupt and the conscienceless.

ULA Writer

Check out the very strong story by James Nowlan now up on the ULA Adventures blog at (Note also the Monday Report by Bill Blackolive about an imprisoned writer.)

Friday, October 07, 2005

New Stars of the Literary Underground: Natalie Felix

Natalie Felix
Originally uploaded by King Wenclas.
Natalie is one of the most dynamic lit-readers in the country. She polished her performing talents by appearing at hundreds of open mics the last several years, reading against and observing the very best. She's hosted regular reading series of her own, including two with noted street poet Michael Grover. Since I've known her I've seen her steadily improve until few can match her voice and style; almost no one can equal her charisma. When she appeared with the ULA in Philadelphia this summer she was as good as I've ever seen her. Like many undergrounders, she doesn't just stand up there and read, but constructs a performance, a narrative of movement and voice, that blows audiences away.

Natalie Felix has also created zeens. Her zeen work combines her poetry with artistic graphics, complementing her words with style in the same way her flowing movements complements her words when she reads them in person. Encountering the work of Natalie is always an exhilharating experience!-- she's one of the best undergrounders on the scene today. (Check out her website,

UL:A Five Year Anniversary

Tomorrow, October 8, marks five years since the founding meeting of the Underground Literary Alliance in Hoboken, New Jersey. Since that time, many skeptics and opponents have fallen by the wayside.

One year after our founding, a zine proclaimed our "disintegration." Yet we kept going, are still here today.

This year alone we've seen attack after attack after attack upon ourselves as individuals, upon our cause, upon our ideas. The scorn and mocking piled higher and higher-- including at least two parody blogs aimed at us, and one fake letter published in a once-respectable literary journal. Attack after attack. Yet here we are! We haven't gone anyplace.

During the past five years leading ULA personalities like myself, Michael Jackman, and probably the majority of our members have endured crushing personal setbacks, the pain, the hectic struggle merely to survive in this society, and still found smidgens of time to write. The setbacks haven't weakened or discouraged us in the slightest.

FIVE YEARS AGO we kicked off our organization with the kind of public campaign no American writers had dared before begin-- few if any would take on the fight now-- when we signed our names to a Protest against the awarding of philanthropic, tax-sheltered money to one of the wealthiest, most connected writers in America. Forty zine writers and publishers signed the Protest. It was signed by not one of the 300 upstanding establishment literary folk to whom it was circulated. Not one! This alone proved our argument about the system's lethargy and corruption. (Also that many of those same writers agreed with our campaign privately.)

Since that time we've made more noise in our attempts to wake up literary society, to awaken all writers everyplace. In return we've been mischaracterized, slandered, and dismissed by the bulk of the literary establishment and by establishment-wannabes-- not given credit for the rightness of our cause, for our unflinching integrity and our bravery. We won't be given credit, until we stop fighting with one hand tied behind our back by the inequities of this society and grab control of more space in the media carnival of noise, to further reach and speak for the bulk of the population so long ignored by the insular world of literary elitists.

Watch out! Our campaign is only beginning.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The Conservative Fallacy

A Lesson in Economics.

The great flawed premise of conservative ideology (secretly believed by many liberals), is that the United States has a free market economy which equitably distributes income and wealth to those who work hardest. Conservative commentators make the argument that high progressive taxes penalize those who are most deserving (our tax system in fact penalizes most the working poor); they claim the rich are entitled to their every penny.

Yet, economic history's chief advocates of the free market, Von Mises and his school, as well as the founding fathers of this country, presupposed a stable currency as fixed touchstone of the economic engine; a rational yardstick unsusceptible to change. Today we have anything BUT this-- the "yardstick" changes its length continually as the value of our currency fluctuates. And so, the ideas of THEIR OWN ideological forebears invalidate conservative arguments. Their ideology rests on quicksand.

In reality we live amid a Distorted Market. Money created at whim is pumped into the economy, which distributes it in an exaggerated, irrational fashion. In the Fifties, when there was a more stable currency, a factory worker could earn ten grand a year, the chief exec of the company 100 grand. Today the factory worker is up to 40 grand in some cases (where there hasn't been union busting). The CEO meanwhile earns twenty million!

Think of a flattened-out map of the planet; distorted reality where the size of the land mass increases the farther away one moves from the equator, so that Greenland appears gigantic. This is economic reality today. The only fixed point on the economic map is near the economic equator, where the minimum wage remains at the $5.15 an hour it was ten years ago. The poor are held down while wealth flows greatest to those atop the economic pyramid, whether the beneficiaries be basketball players or bankers.

THE RESULT is that the working poor work harder and harder just to survive. It's all but impossible to be a true bohemian today. (This society allows only for the trust-fund fake kind.) Low-pay writer-workers like myself, Frank Walsh, and other ULAers are being increasingly squeezed as cost-of-living increases; one paycheck away from the street.

THE ANALOGY in literature to conservative ideologues are those who believe that writers at the top of the literary pyramid are truly deserving; that lower-class writers are shut out because we're "untalented" and have nothing to say. The only way literary liberals are able to justify this distorted thinking to themselves is by embracing the god of style. ULA writers are untalented because we don't follow the accepted bourgeois writing styles endorsed by writing programs. It's akin to saying we're not dressed properly. Our own many-varied writing styles look unfamiliar to the bourgeoisie. We're unacceptable to the cultural doormen, who rigidly enforce a status quo literary dress code as a way of excluding lower class writers from consideration.

LIBERAL establishment writers are considered deserving because they're credentialed by the most elite educational institutions in the country-- places like Brown and Columbia. The Believer's editors and writers, for instance, are from these places, and so they have to be great!-- even if their ideas are unimaginative, their writings unreadable, their essays without content, their stories and poems boring.

THESE WRITERS, despite their liberal posturing, enforce a cultural caste system. Caste is the foundation of their existence as writers, the argument for their privileged standing. Without realizing it, they've bought the substance of conservative ideology.

Stranded on Zytron

Note: I'll be reading and answering very few e-mails or letters in the next few weeks. I plan to continue posting on this blog. Later in the year, I'll be posting a little about my adventures on this insane planet.


A sports fan on the radio, talking about a football coach: "He reminds me of a 7th grade literature teacher. He's got no edge."

The ULA's task is to be loud and in-your-face; to provide literature's edge.

The Literary Castle

Part of the ULA's role in literature is to be scorned and attacked and part of it is to be ignored. People know we're out there-- they read our site and this blog. Our ideas are mocked or mimicked, our arguments followed. This can't be acknowledged. To acknowledge us would be to broaden their conception of the literary world. It'd be too shocking to establishment minds. Their systems would rebel; they'd have heart attacks and nervous breakdowns.

It's funny to witness their stodgy internal debates: Gessen versus Wood versus Marcus versus Franzen-- all taking place within the thick stone walls of the castle; refined and lifeless words; echoes bouncing back and forth amid the cold and dusty halls. The drawbridge is raised, the gates secure. The pontification continues. "No, YOU are the proper Elitist," one of the nobles insists. "No, YOU are," the other returns. "No, I am." "I am." They trade bon mots. Both quote Henry James for support while sipping wine and nibbling fancy hors d'oeuvres. Allow the people outside into the conversation? It couldn't be done-- or even thought of.

Outside the castle, unrest grows. Other discussions-- with more energy; with stronger rhetoric-- take place around campfires. Those on the battlements of the castle avert their eyes and pretend not to notice.

Reactionary Rhetoric

REACTIONARY is anyone who'll argue that the ULA not go after writers who stand for corruption, elitism, greed, snobbery, and other sins which afflict this society, under the phony mantra that all writers should get along. Class war has been waged relentlessly in this nation since 1981 at least, yet ULA writers are asked to stand aside under the scam idea that all writers are the same-- even the sons and daughters of the billionaires who run this planet and construct its inequities. The Overdogs' privileged progeny clutch tightly to literary culture as if it were their personal domain and we're not supposed to say anything.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Bill Bennett Is Illogical

The Great Learned Professor Dr. William Bennett can't see why his statement is illogical and racist.

His statement (that aborting every black baby in America would lower the crime rate) would be logical only if the babies' blackness itself were the cause of crime. It's not. The social, economic, and cultural settings and relationships one is born into and raised in-- the choices one is given, the models displayed-- cause crime; effects which happen after birth.

It'd be like thinking that ice hockey is caused by white babies. A white baby born in New Mexico is likely not going to cause hockey! Put a baby of any color or ethnicity, however, into a northern setting of ice ponds and skating rinks, where hockey is the norm, and the child could well grow up to be a hockey player. Ice hockey was not played in Italy-- yet there have been great Italian hockey players in North America like the Esposito brothers. Race or ethnicity by itself doesn't cause anything.

We see that as a thinker the much esteemed Dr. Bennett is just one more highly touted fake.

Friday, September 30, 2005

The New Literary Establishment

To the argument that there are no literary Insiders with access to the organs of establishment money and media power-- that the Eggers Gang is no different from a writers group publishing a humble lit journal in Kansas-- one can point to a steady ability to draw awards and funds to themselves. (Often because their friends and associates chair the panels!)

I hope some enterprising ULAer is working on a Monday Report about the recent MacArthur "Genius" grant to Jonathan Lethem.

I can't say I know much about the guy. I've read one essay of his-- which was about the 1956 western movie "The Searchers." It was one of the stupidest, most self-involved essays I've ever read. Lethem made no coherent case for the movie's greatness. He showed no new insights about the film. His essay broke no new ground. ("The Searchers" has been overrated by the sniffle-sniff school of corny film criticism for decades.) The essay consisted of little more than Lethem's relating of everyplace he saw the movie, and his babyish personal reaction. In other words, as per usual for McSweeneyites, the focus was most intensely not on the movie, but himself.

A genius? Not hardly. But the guy must have connections of some kind, or friends who could build for him a Potemkin Village reputation, so I guess we can give him kudos for that.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Final Letter Comments

Daniel Handler has informed me he won't answer any of my e-mails (even though he initiated every e-mail exchange we had).

For his sake, this is just as well, because every time he discussed the matter he contradicted previous statements of his, digging himself deeper. For instance, in his first e-mails he said he hadn't shown the letter to anyone but Sedaris. In his last one he admits he "showed it around."

He mentioned the ULA house zeen Slush Pile. Jeff Potter checked his records-- they show that Handler ordered a copy in early May, well over a month before the magic letter made its appearance at litster parties. Slush Pile of course discusses the ULA's exchanges with the Eggers camp. Contrary to his statement that he "doesn't care" about the ULA, and hardly knew anything about us, we find him interested in the feud six weeks before the letter's appearance.

The main point is the big "X" on the letter. I put myself in Daniel Handler's place, and wondered at my reaction if I received a similar letter, from friend or foe, underground or establishment. WHOEVER the letter would be purportedly from, the big "X" in place of a signature would make me question its authenticity-- as it would to anyone with half a brain. Wouldn't it make you question it also? If I later received an e-mail from the supposed author denying any connection, and requesting information, this would further pull me up short. There's no way, at that point, I'd give to someone to publish.

Only someone who knew it was phony to begin with-- whoever constructed it-- would ignore my e-mail. Only someone to whom it was just a gag-- a big joke. In fact, my immediate opinion upon seeing the letter was that it was an obvious shot at the Underground Literary Alliance-- the big illiterate "X" there for wink-wink purposes, obviously aimed at putting us down.

The problem Handler and Sedaris must've run into, if wanting to laugh the whole thing off after it was published, is that the folks at the Ruminator accepted the letter as legitimate, were not in on the joke. Their publishing it opened them up to responsibility which they didn't deserve.

There is no evidence whatsoever that the fake letter existed before Daniel Handler. That it was sent to him without envelope, address, postmark, is ludicrous. We could easily check with the person who handles author mail at HarperCollins and find out what's up. The suggestions I've received as to how it could've happened not even Handler's children readers would believe. Someone said that "X" must've snuck into HarperCollins (past security; without employee ID), found and entered the mailroom, and deposited the naked letter there, someplace where they'd be sure to notice. Ostensibly it was then sent up with the legitimate mail to the proper office, where the employee forwarded the crank, unaddressed etc letter, without comment. The scenario is indeed out of a children's book! The question unasked is why I, "X," or whomever would go to all that trouble, taking the risk of the letter most likely not getting there, when he could've simply dropped it into the mail. Duh! People are working backward for explanation. As usual, the simplest explanation is the best; that Handler, wanting to be a hit at parties, and engaged in the Eggers gang/ULA feud, created the letter himself.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

More True than Ever

Steve Kostecke in the Introduction to Slush Pile #4:

"--how the buffoons of today's American lit world operate. They anonymously post reviews of praise for themselves and their friends; they anonymously attack the ULA, which represents a lit movement based on above-the-boards straight talk; and the most inexcusable part of all, these established writers themselves end up being the ones guilty of committing the low acts that they accuse the ULA of committing! How's that for sheer bullshit? Then the spin comes, the anonymous postings disappear, and Eggers pleads to the NYTimes: 'I just tried to bring back some balance.'"

(Eggers and his friends have 1,000 times more money, resources, and access in this society than we do. They need to balance US??)

Purveyors of Nonsense

Eggers, Handler, and Sedaris could apologize for concocting the fake letter. (All indications and evidence point to them as the originators.) They won't, because they're not big enough. For all their fame and wealth, their millions of dollars, their cumulative character could be put into a thimble. Their failure to acknowledge their mistake proves this.

Why would they care enough about the squawking of a rough band of unknowns to attack us? Because we're the genuine article. Our very existence shows them up as frauds. While they read at Versailles-like palaces, lecture at academies, or parade through gleaming offices of the corporate world, ULAers are engaged in the elemental struggle for survival. We're not insulated by jaded theory and overschooling, nor by success and millions, from the universal realities of the world-- which a Michael Jackman, say, among many others, in the tradition of a B. Traven or Jack London, captures so well. We have no money, pedigree, or connections. As writers we have something more valuable-- access to simple truth.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Folk Synergy

I WAS THINKING about what would've happened had Buddy Holly not died in 1959 in a plane crash. He was already living in Greenwich Village (then an authentic bohemian neighborhood), would've likely been living there a couple years later when Bob Dylan moved into the neighborhood. What an encounter that would've been!-- the most intelligent and adaptable of the early rock n' roll stars listening at some grungy folk club to the unknown bard of folk music.

Early rock n' roll in its essence, in its various strands, was folk music. Rock at its beginning was the music of the hinterlinds, the ghettoes, and the people. Elvis himself was referred to as a folk singer in his first recording years-- the sound of the Sun Sessions is similar to that of the early Bob Dylan.

Folk synergy of the literary kind is to be found in the Underground Literary Alliance-- with added edge. We're bringing together various strands of folk writers; DIY self-created purveyors of verse and prose living authentic lives in the gritty corners of this land; capturing, representing, embodying the rhythmns and voice of the populace.

Establishment literature, created and nurtured within giant institutions, is many things, but it's not folk writing. A Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, Muddy Waters or Hank Williams is not to be found there.

Which brings us to Rick Moody's new novel. Call it glib, showy, intellectual, or accomplished; for all anyone knows it might be the best the establishment machine can now offer. It's a universe removed from what the ULA does. The Diviners is a product of the machine, created from on high after much deliberation and training. Its emphasis is on facile skill, not the soul.The book represents not truth, not authenticity, not the new, but the culmination of process. If you compared Moody to musicians during Rock's early years, it'd be to slick corporate popular musicians of the era like Mantovani or Les Brown and his Band of Renown. There are no rough edges to polish or complain about, because there were never any rough edges to start with. No one would think of discovering Moody in a bohemian neighborhood, or finding new wisdom there if you did. You may as well seek artistic wisdom from an executive at General Motors. Rick Moody was discovered on estate lawns; in the salons and ivy-covered institutional halls of the status quo. His book doesn't experience America from within. It glimpses the nation from above, portraying the superficial noise and flash of a television show.

If you want to meet today's folk writers you'll come to Philly to listen to Frank Walsh or argue with Michael Grover. You would've been here July 16th when we brought folk-lit pioneer Jack Saunders to town. You'd have seen Jack's encounter with young smart-aleck lit stars like Patrick King, Brady Russell, and others. You would've taken part in the new literary folk synergy which has only begun.

E-Mail Note from Ruminator Magazine

"We have already inserted a note in this next issue (Oct/Nov 2005) indicating that you've disclaimed authorship of the letter published in conjunction with the Handler/Sedaris interview published in the Aug/Sept issue. We will also post that note on the web version of the Handler/Sedaris interview when we next update the site.
Susannah McNeely, Editor
Ruminator magazine."

Thank you.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Comedians and Villains

This was once a respectable group of people. They've allowed themselves to become dominated by cynical lit-establishment types-- have damaged their reputation by refusing to acknowledge a mistake. Their Editor's sole response to me, quoted further down on this blog, is a classic of bureaucratic officiousness. A sad moment for a literary journal.

Daniel Handler's quote to me 9/12 regarding Sedaris: "I showed the first letter to Sedaris because I thought it was a hoot."
How great a role did Sedaris play in the publication of the fake letter? Did he arrange it? The conversation of the two men about the letter in the interview takes on greater meaning now that we know their real attitude.

Not the biggest loser, as "Lemony Snicket" is obviously not very intelligent or scrupulous. One would think Sedaris, Eggers, and folks at The Ruminator would've noticed.

Every time he or his flunkies go after the ULA, they blunder. Serious questions have to be raised about how sharp the guy really is-- or if his success is more the product of connections with the Rick Moodys of the lit-world and publicists at Simon & Schuster.

Will they miss an opportunity to demonstrate impartiality and independence?

Saturday, September 17, 2005

The Literary World Today

The actions of an activist protest movement presuppose a level of conscience in one's opponents and among objective observers. It's thought that exposing the TRUTH should in itself be enough to make change. That was my assumption when the ULA campaign began. Now I wonder if my faith in human nature was misplaced.

Despite the recent claims by A.O. Scott in the New York Times, Dave Eggers and his friends have no commitment to truth. None. They seldom "say what they mean" or mean what they say. Everything is a game.

Big guffaws all around no doubt about the fake letter in The Ruminator. Does anyone doubt that Daniel Handler contrived it? Chuckle, chuckle! A big hit at cocktail parties. (Handler's bio info brags about letters he used to send out under fake names.) It makes sense that Handler is a children's author. After all, he lies like a child. "No, I didn't eat the last slice of chocolate cake," the child insists, chocolate smeared over his face!

The fact is that I don't register in this society, and so can be slandered with falsehoods at will. The fact is that Dave Eggers and his friends are to the point of success where they can get away with anything. (This was proved with the Atlantic "killed story" matter, Eggers both initiator and professed victim of the ensuing tragedy.) This is the nature of American society. The sycophantic literary fans are dazzled by the success itself-- then find the qualities they wish to see in the writing. Eggers's memoir a lie? No matter! it's all a game. The baby-like scene of The Dave driving with "Toph" is cringe-worthy it's so contrived, but has meaning for those who identify with him and his privileged bubble-like upbringing.

The biggest obstacle to making change is the demi-puppet state of mind-- the attitude of the herd of media underlings, most themselves from affluent backgrounds, who support unquestioningly top-level aristocratic stars like Eggers and Rick Moody. The rest of American writers, like the bottom 80 or 90% of American society, have no existence for these people. Privilege itself is the highest value; the only morality.

The fake letter trivializes the ULA campaign. It reveals the simplistic way Eggers people see our arguments. Truths about classism and corruption are beyond them. Who does the ULA petition for redress of the grievance? Lit-bloggers? Journalists? Editors at HarperCollins? Not a one cares in the slightest. They lack any conception of the meaning of the word integrity, let alone the trait itself. To careerist sociopaths, success is the only truth, power the only conscience.

So let's throw away the A.O. Scott nonsense that postmodern lying is over. The fake letter in The Ruminator shows the perfection of the postmodern lie, no one involved in perpetrating the hoax the least bit shame-faced.

Friday, September 16, 2005

American Aristocrats

p.s. to the previous post.

Daniel Handler and Dave Eggers have apparently done many readings together, most notably at a swanky function in California on 4/21/05 at, fittingly, the Carolands, "one of the last great private homes in the United States."

"The Carolands was conceived as an adaptation of the Vaux-le-Vicomte, the chateau that inspired Louis XIV to build the palace of Versailles. This 65,000 square foot American Renaissance home was built by Pullman train car heiress. ."etc.etc.

Michael Chabon and Vendela Vida were also present. Guests sat at $10,000 "Pulitzer Prize" tables. The price tag included cocktail reception with the authors, valet parking, and gift bag.

There were other, various priced tables, all the way down to the slummy $500 "Booker Award" tables at the back.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Case of Daniel Handler Part II: The Other E-Mail

At the bottom of Daniel Handler's first, 9/11, e-mail to me is attached a copy of an e-mail I'd sent him on June 27th. This reminded me that I HAD sent him an e-mail about the fake letter, over two months ago. What prodded my e-mail?

On June 24th I received an e-mail from a mystery person named "g smithe." I regularly receive a lot of e-mails from mysterious persons. Much I ignore. Many I delete. I had to check back to see if I'd saved this one. I had.

The 6/24 g smithe e-mail read, in part,
"You should know that King Wenclas's derisive letter to Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snickett) is getting passed around by the literati-- not the ULA's strongest statement of purpose. Don't know if your "king" has been hitting the bottle or what, . . . ."

I replied that I'd sent no letters to anyone lately, that I wasn't sure who Handler/Lemony Snickett was, that the language described didn't sound like me, but I couldn't be sure unless I saw the letter.

"g smithe" responded with an e-mail 6/26:
"Thought it seemed out of character. Don't have a copy of the letter-- it was passed around at a party, not electronically-- but you can ask the man himself. . . ."
"smithe" included Handler's e-mail address.

On 6/27 "smithe" sent me another e-mail:
"Looks like McSweeney's & Co. are prepping a response . . . if you really didn't write him a letter you'd best nip this in the bud. . . ."

Though I thought the whole thing was a made-up prank, in order to cover myself I immediately sent Handler an e-mail:
"The letter supposedly from me being handed around at parties is a fake.
Anything you can tell me about the matter would be appreciated."

I also posted a comment on my blog on June 29 publicly disclaiming any connection to any such letter, then forgot the matter. Whether or not Handler read the June 29 post (aware as he now was of my blog, as he said), he received and read my 6/27 e-mail, as shown when he attached it to his 9/11 message.

Handler was aware on June 27 of my denial-- yet he gave the fake letter to The Ruminator anyway, which is highly unethical behavior, maybe libelous.

I'll gladly forward a copy of my 6/27 e-mail to any lit-blogger interested in the truth. I doubt, though, that anyone wants to touch this.

Know this about the Eggers gang: Even when they're wrong, they're not wrong. They're not wrong even when caught red-faced and red-handed, as they've been time and again. They're never wrong, and never can be, simply because they're such wonderful people.

Call it the arrogance and insularity of privilege, success, and power.

The Case of Daniel Handler, Part I

It's a good policy to operate in an upfront, open manner. Games, trickery, and anonymous names have a way of backfiring, as we've seen before.

I asked to see the postmark and envelope of the Ruminator letter, because I KNEW I hadn't sent the thing. (Granted that I may have enemies in Philly-- none though who'd stoop to such behavior as sending a fake letter.)

The letter should be recognized as fake by anyone familiar with my writing. I don't need to call anyone an "asshole," when I have logic on my side.

Daniel Handler has sent me two e-mails about this matter. I'll present the facts and let you, the reader of this blog, decide where lies the truth of the matter.

In his first e-mail to me, dated 9/11, Handler makes several assertions. 1.) The letter was forwarded to him by his publisher. 2.) He'd never heard of me before that time. 3.) He believed the letter was real because it matched the language of this blog. (We can presume then that after reading the letter he read this blog.)
The end of Handler's e-mail shows no anxiousness to get to the bottom of the matter: "I don't know what's going on and frankly don't care . . . if you'll excuse me I'm off to my local dive bar to drink bourbon and read Frederick Busch."

Several questions went through my head after reading Handler's statement-- first among them being, "Why did he wait so long to respond to this matter?" Note that his response occurred only after I tried to force his hand, asking, "Where's Daniel Handler?"-- and after I added a note showing that I was open to the possibility that he had indeed received the fake letter from somebody. Suddenly he let me know that he did receive it, indeed!

Why the wait? Once he was aware of my blog, wouldn't he look in periodically AFTER the letter appeared in The Ruminator? Wouldn't his friends at The Believer keep him updated?

On August 27 I put a post up on this blog, "Fake Letter," which addressed the controcersy. Whatever he'd thought beforehand, Handler should've been aware that the letter wasn't from me. Yet he sent no e-mail to me-- not for two weeks. He made no response while I notified The Ruminator, while Jeff Potter did; while further discussion occurred on this blog, along with the big Patrick Simonelli Monday Report on the matter on the ULA site.

On September 8 Maud Newton mentioned the controversy on her widely-read site. The injured party Daniel Handler remained silent-- until September 11. Curious behavior.

(As we'll see in Part Two of this post, Handler knew the letter wasn't from me long before this.)

I'll readily accept Handler's other contention that he'd never heard of me or the ULA before receiving the letter (only his friends know the truth about this), even though The Believer, whose editors he's tight with, and which he presumably reads, did a contentious lead article on the ULA in 2003, which led to some minor "Page Six" controversy. He'd never heard of us though we attended a 2003 McSweeney's-sponsored affair at Housing Works in New York which had led to other "Page Six" publicity. He'd never heard of us even though the New York Times did a front-page article in January 2004 about anonymous Amazon attacks on the Underground Literary Alliance by Dave Eggers. The New York Times Book Review listed our site in their pages in October 2004, but Handler never reads the book journal. Many, many people have never heard of the ULA-- the Eggers gang NOT among them. But we can still accept his statement.

What we DO know is that Daniel Handler was aware of us AFTER receiving the letter, as he admits, BEFORE giving the letter to The Ruminator. This gives his exchange with David Sedaris more meaning, adding to the "wink, wink, nod, nod" tone of the exchange.

In my response to Handler's September 11 e-mail, the one in which he said he didn't care about the matter, I pointed out that he'd cared enough to pass around the letter at parties, and to give it to The Ruminator to publish publicly. I said (sincerely) that I wanted to find out who sent the letter. I asked about the postmark.

Handler replied on September 12. He said:
-"The letters were forwarded from my publisher, without the original envelope, as with much of my mail."
-"I don't bring private correspondence to parties,"
-"I can't imagine why we'd have any reason to communicate further,"

Note Handler's eagerness to drop the matter. Most interesting is the idea that his publisher opens his mail. I've had mail forwarded to me by periodicals and companies, addressed to me c/o the publication or company. Even when The Atlantic printed a simple letter by me, some time ago, they forwarded, unopened, mail addressed to me that was afterward sent to them. In fact, opening mail addressed to someone else, as far as I'm aware, is against the law. (Daniel Handler might want to notify his publisher about this.)

Even when one employs or designates a secretary or agent to handle one's mail, standard business procedure is to staple the opened envelope to the back of the letter. Often a return address is given only on the envelope. Everyone who receives a lot of mail-- as I do-- knows this. Further, the envelope is legal evidence that one received the item on such and such date. This is important ESPECIALLY if one is going to publish the letter. One could hardly credibly publish such letter without such proof of mailing and reception. Without such evidence, one may as well assume the letter was never mailed or received at all.

This is damning evidence to any notion that I sent the letter. It's reason alone for immediate apology and correction from The Ruminator, and from Handler himself. However, there's more, as I'll discuss in Part II, "The Other E-Mail."