Saturday, April 30, 2005

Breakdown of the Establishment Mind

The reaction to posts on this blog, and to the ULA campaign as a whole, shows the inability of our opponents to deal with irrefutable criticisms of their world.

They've become like Robby the Robot in the classic sci-fi movie "Forbidden Planet." The shredding of their assumptions turns their minds into chaos. Internal bells go off. Fuses burn; circuits are destroyed. "This Does Not Compute. This Does Not Compute!" They lash out in anonymous desperation. Addressing our arguments is impossible for them. Instead they try to connect us with stereotypes existing in their heads.

STEREOTYPES. Some leading ULAers have been working class white males. In trying to understand their own inability to deal with our ARGUMENTS and facts, our Overdog and Demi-Puppet opponents grasp at stereotypes. It's their last remaining point of attack. Their dislike of Marissa Ranello is because she's not a "typical" ULAer; she doesn't fit the stereotype.

Yet the ULA vision has always been variegated multi-ethnic all types sexes sizes ages kinds of undergrounders everybody united by simple love of art and literature. This will surely be our outcome. We seek an explosion of authentic writing in the same way rock n' roll at its beginning-- before it became "classic" white rock a segregated niche market-- was originally the uniting of ALL streams of genuine roots music country blues gospel into one joyous explosive sound-- ghetto dwellers and hillbillies influencing and applauding one another, playing on the same cards for the same audiences.

The general populace uniting in all its variety scares the Overdogs, because it will shatter their power games and leave them stranded. The true racists in this society, after all, are those like Rick Moody and Katrina vanden Heuvel who are the beneficiaries and perpetuators of the institutional racism and classism of the System which granted them-- pain free, as an entitlement-- their sterling reputations.

THE POWER OF MONEY. Becoming the plaything of a plutocrat was the best thing that could've happened to The Nation. The "Leftist" rag gained instant access to conglomerate media. Katrina vanden Heuvel appears on television everyplace. Like the divine right of kings, she has the divine right of access to major media denied 99.99% of the population. She has REAL free speech.

The question has to be asked: How can she credibly argue against the staggering inequities of society when she is the living embodiment of them? In this phony democracy called America the people themselves have no voice. Presented on television instead are cynical sham substitutes like Katrina.

UNABLE TO ARGUE. I e-mailed The Nation about my Navasky blog post, and welcomed reaction. I expected denials, explanations, lawsuits, outrage-- and received nothing.

I've waited for response to my other posts from the likes of James Wood and Rick Moody, receiving silence. They can scarcely, by now, be unaware of the ULA-- unless they have absolutely no curiosity about happenings in their own field.

The lit-establishment's inability to reply to myself, to Noah, to Tim, Marissa, Bernice, Leopold, and other ULAers, and to our constant great Monday Reports, can indicate many things.
1.) Lack of confidence in their own status quo beliefs.
2.) Lack of belief in open debate.
3.) Lack of understanding of free speech.
4.) Timidness.
5.) Fright.
6.) Knowledge that they have no case.
7.) Confusion in the face of new ideas.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Is Victor Navasky Lying?

A journalist discussing a person crucial to his narrative leaves out important facts that define the person and explain the narrative. How do we look at this?

This is the case with Nation Publisher Victor Navasky's new book, A Matter of Opinion, about his fight to save the journal. He says little more about Nation Editor Katrina vanden Heuvel's background other than that she "started as a Nation intern (from Princeton)." He scarcely vaguely alludes to the fact she's heiress to a billion-dollar fortune and is a member of Insider establishment clubs like the Council on Foreign Relations. Unmentioned is that, simultaneous with her sudden promotion to Nation's Editor from the ranks of the grunts, Katrina put up a sum of money to keep the struggling rag (losing staggering sums of money-- $500,000 a year at one point) from folding.

Navasky is very specific about amounts people like Paul Newman gave for the Nation. He glosses over Katrina's investment with the words, "strong expressions of interest from Katrina--." Say what??? How strong? Keep in mind that Editor vanden Heuvel is "designated" to take over from Navasky as Publisher also as soon as he's kicked out the door; I suppose just because she's so wonderful.

In assessing the size and motive of Katrina's financial contribution, we have the example of her billionaire mother, Jean Stein (George Plimpton's good friend), who bought lit-journal Grand Street from Ben Sonnenberg fifteen-or-so years ago and installed herself as Editor (then turned it into a tax shelter and received taxpayer NEA grants for it!)

To ignore the salient parts of Katrina's history is like portraying Ted Bundy as a personable young man, failing to mention he was also a serial killer. Is this lying? It's not telling the truth.

The bulk of Navasky's book contains his descriptions of sucking-up to rich people at places like Harvard. This is what constitutes being an "independent" publication in America. Navasky comes across as a well-meaning upper-middle class fool who's generally out-of-it (saw Gorbachev as a "radical"), clunking around through the world of his office and expensive lunches at Harvard and Columbia but not knowing what's really going on. Maybe he's being disingenuous. Or maybe he's just stupid.

NOTE TO ELITISTS: You're not going to get people like me on your side when you don't tell the truth!

Cars, Hockey, and Lit-Critics

Sorry to disagree with the poster who called my comments on James Wood "ignorant." I'd suggest that he himself is ignorant, for not looking at literature with a broader view.

James Wood, to my mind, is nothing but a shill. I'll not apologize or back off from that. He reminds me of the car reviewers who write for car enthusiast magazines, rating the newest models, making distinctions within their narrow world. "The new Dodge truck, though it's larger than a house and gets one mile to the gallon, doesn't kick ass when I gun it! I prefer the Ford model-- and you sit higher; like, your head is right there the roof inches away when you drive under a bridge." The writer isn't expected to step back and take a larger view-- he's just there to comment on the latest garbage. No analysis of why Ford and GM are on the verge of going out of business-- no examination of the magazine's own codes and message.

James Wood is like a beat sportswriter, on deadline to comment on the hockey game the night before. Yzerman had an off night and should retire. The Wings were tired. The Blues played better defense. He's not about to say in his report that the sport itself is dying, far less exciting than it was twenty years ago; that it's failed to develop new stars; that TV ratings have vanished and arenas are half-filled. Then all the arenas in the entire league become empty and the beat reporter is put on another assignment-- high school girls lacrosse leagues and such.

The good thing about cars and hockey is that there are journalists somewhere doing in-depth analysis, and shows on radio where the sport's or industry's decline is dissected.

James Wood doesn't even realize literature is IN crisis. Cronyism? Corruption? What's that? Far be it from this stooge to ever write about it. He's mentally incapable, for starters, of realizing that Bellow was from a different era-- that to continue to hype him many decades after he was relevant is a detriment to lit's condition as it stands now. I'd guess there is scarcely a non-English major young person who would possibly have interest in Bellow whatsoever. Putting him on the cover of your hockey season program guide is a distinct mistake-- it sends the message, "This sport is dead!"

The last true literary critic produced by the establishment, who looked at literature's corruption and looked at the art in context, was Richard Kostelanetz in the 1960s. Because he spoke the uncomfortable truth, they quickly kicked him out of their ranks.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Fawning Over Bellow

April 25 The New Republic.

How does one become an establishment lit-critic? Maybe by groveling to the established literary gods. James Wood proves he can grovel with the best of them.

Listen to the man gush:
"--he made even the fleet-footed-- the Updikes, the DeLillos, the Roths-- seem like monopodes." (This makes sense only if you have a high opinion of these three authors as stylists. I don't. One is overblown flatulence; one is lifeless cardboard; one is ordinary.)

Wood applauds the alleged "high lyricism" of Bellow's prose.
"How, exactly, does one thank a writer for this?"

Wood gives a personal note. (Here comes the groveling.)
"Over the years, I wrote about him again and again and visited him whenever I could. . . ."
"My daughter played with his . . . I accompanied him on the piano while he played the recorder . . . and to laugh with him when he was making a joke." "--'ha,ha,ha,ha,' each laugh separately articulated." (Exactly how many ways can one suck-up? James Wood gives them all. I highly recommend his article for ambitious demi-puppets.)

At the end of the piece we can only conclude that Saul Bellow was the greatest novelist ever. Unmentioned is the fact that he was the leading icon of American fiction at a time of American literature's steep decline. No connection is considered or allowed. All that matters is the critic's sterling relationship with the author: "--he was grateful for this, and perhaps grateful for my gratitude."

Now we know. Who's responsible for Bellow's overblown reputation? THERE'S the guy: James Wood, sycophantic lit-critic at New Republic.

Let's view what a videocam recorded of one of the historic meetings between critic Wood and cherished author Saul Bellow. Bellow is the old guy slowly entering the room, Wood the person crawling swiftly on all fours to meet him.

The Groveler of Grovelers. No one can top him. Sven Birkerts, look out! Here comes James Wood scampering across the rug.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Opponents of the ULA: #2

The Overdog.

The Overdog has been nurtured in the plushy pet-shop of privilege his entire life. Everything he does is wonderful, because, after all, it's him doing it! Center of the universe, it's fitting that he believes he should be the central focal point of the lit-world. His life has been a series of trying to find a place of reality in a world which birthed him as a success, no further struggle necessary. What does he want to do with his life? Maybe be an Episcopal priest-- that would only further emphasize his sense of unreality. A drug addict? He tries it, but finds endless slobbering detox self-examinations to be boring. Become, like his father or uncle or granddad, a banker? In his stunted babied mentality (he's not much different from our other opponent, you see) he doesn't qualify. "Dad" can only glance at the fop-haired bundle of entitlement with disappointment and consternation, and shake his head, and blame the mother and butlers and maids and nannies, as he turns the investment pages of his newspaper.

"I know! I know!" the fop at last decides. He wants to be a writer. He practices putting strings of goo-goo baby words together about the important things in his life, like Dad's shaving kit and toothbrush, or the chilling presence of winter storms outside their cozy Connecticut mansion. Dad continues turning the pages of his newspaper while our young goo-goo baby writer tentatively approaches this god of sternness. He knows that Dad, like a god, will grant him everything. Ask and you shall receive! Always has it been this way. Ever thus will it always be. (Now we see why the goo-goo baby young Overdog couldn't be an Episcopal priest. How to worship another when his true god is every evening before him reading the newspaper?)

The wheels are greased. Lit people of privilege are enlisted to enable the young man to rise; upper-class WASPy old dudes running fake-gritty publications provide mentoring, access, and hype. Early ridiculous stories appear in renowned glossy Manhattan magazines. Splashes of publicity everyplace. Grants of philanthropic money aid the illusion the rich kid is "struggling" his way to the place in society he's occupied from the beginning-- the game designed to fool not the public, but him. He sits on awards panels (this eternal child who knows NOTHING of the realities of being a writer) determining which writers receive aid-- invariably his Ivy League buddies. Black-tie receptions every week. The project is going along smoothly. Our Overdog has ARRIVED. Even Dad turning pages in his armchair is momentarily happy.

Then, in the world, an irritating buzz. The blowing of whistles. A series of exposes' and complaints-- aimed at him. Him! Strange raggedy people holding signs which say, "ULA." This is not supposed to be part of his comfy picture of privileged reality! He's supposed to receive everything, as he always has. No one is supposed to say anything.

His attempts at self-justification are disastrous-- there is no justification for someone who knows nothing about his own world and time to be considered a leading writer. So he pouts in his armchair, on his exclusive island, wearing Dad's expression of disappointment and consternation.

Opponents of the ULA

A Series of Profiles

#1: The Anonymous Internet Geek.

Cowardly person posting hate nonsense reflections of the geeky insanity of his decayed brain. Chained to the computer screen mentally dead consumer slave of military-industrial technology. He doesn't use the computer-- it uses him; a conduit for incoherent machine babble-ology.

The grammar-school style postings of this idiot are admissions of defeat, signs of ULA victory. The person can't contend with us publicly in a free exchange of rhetoric and ideas. He'd get blown away, would vanish in an instant as if carried away by a tornado. So he hides, abjectly.

The posts are of such a childish level-- a few simple-minded sentences expressing the primitive neo-Nazi racism of a twelve year-old, that it's difficult to do much other than feel sorry for the person. Or laugh at him. Maybe it IS a twelve year-old-- the hysteria over ULA women writers an indication.

Hiding in a room of nursery rhymes, wearing kid-pajamas with stockinged-feet-- with pink and blue bunny illustrations-- holding Teddy and sucking thumb between pecks on the keyboard, this person, despite the hate, is undoubtedly attracted to the ULA. The person's dirty little secret is that he wants to be one of us; to join our team of larger-than-life personalities. Inside himself he knows he doesn't qualify. His resentment at this realization pours across the screen. Never having progressed beyond the maturity of an adolescent; a complete manifestation of narcissistic ego combined with the self-defeating grab-bag tricks of Machiavelli; he would be misplaced on a team of assertive equals. So he stays secure and isolated in his pink-painted room among his envious imaginings and nursery rhymes while forever stupidly tapping away on his keyboard.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Where Are the Literary Critics?

I had a dream the other night that I was at a library reading a book of essays by long-ago lit critic Philip Rahv.

It caused me to ask, "Where are today's literary critics?"-- influential cultural figures as once had been Ted Solotaroff, Edmund Wilson, Mary McCarthy, Norman Podhoretz, and company.

Conglomeratization has homogenized the writer and eliminated the literary critic. Instead of impartial critics we have Sven Birkerts-Tom Bissell-James Wood extensions of the literary machine.

We face a situation akin to the condition of literature in the old Soviet Union-- literature controlled by an embedded bureaucracy of apparatchiks. There is hardly a whiff of real dissent. "Critic" Sven Birkerts isn't going to criticize establishment pets Tom Bissell and Rick Moody when he teaches alongside them! The corrupt monied foundation of lit remains unnoticed and untouched.

Established literature is conformist, stale, and lifeless. Those assigned to criticize it are complicit in its conformity, their only desire to shut out the world, survive safely in their offices and university monasteries, and not make noise.

The ULA has arrived to make noise.

The Individual and Community

Due to current brainwashing not everyone is able to understand ULA theory.

Many in this society are trained to believe there is only the individual-- the individual or nothing-- existing without context; floating alone I guess untethered in outer space.

But everything has a context. The individual exists within the context of society. The ULA recognizes this. Instead of individuals promoting themselves alone in futility; separate and divided-- the worst of all possible strategies for writers-- we advocate that individuals promote themselves as part of a community of writers. "Individual" and "community" is not an either-or choice.

"You're all commies!" the unknowing demi-puppet might say at the notion of writers organizing, so far have the destructive seeds of narcissistic ego been planted in this country.

True solidarity means the individual having the freedom to act within and for the community-- to play an active role in determining its direction. To HAVE a voice. We don't wish to subsume the individual within the ULA so much as raise the individual up, by raising the ULA platform and having all of us standing upon it. We WANT strong personalities promoting themselves and one another within the ULA context; promoting themselves by promoting the Underground Literary Alliance. What benefits each ULAer benefits the ULA. What benefits the ULA and raises its profile benefits each individual member.

The last thing we seek is conformity-- a type of inward-drawing apathy which leaves decision-making to others. The ULA needs not demi-puppet conformity, but ACTIVE voluntary participation by free-thinking persons.

Friday, April 22, 2005

The Conglomeratization of Literature

MAJOR changes in the process of literature over the past fifty years have been designed to fit literature comfortably into the idea of the gigantic monopolistic machine.

The idea of the book store has changed drastically. Twenty-five years ago or so the typical bookstore was Merit Books on Harper Avenue in Detroit-- a modest tile-floored storefront biz with a few rows of titles; small magazine rack at the front; porn at the back. At the forefront of the rows of books was LITERATURE. There I encountered a back issue of a lit-journal edited by Ted Solotaroff, and bought it. Most of the essays, fiction, and poetry seemed bizarre to me-- typified by Ralph Ellison's "Cadillac Flambe'"-- yet mysteriously exciting. The bookstore operated on the premise that the foundation of the book business was literature. All other types of books were secondary. Their thinking was a legacy of the days when enormous bestsellers-- Eskine Caldwell's and Mickey Spillane's many titles (selling million upon millions in paperback)-- were, roughly but accurately, considered literature. Reading mattered to people. Most impressive about the book store was how manageable it was for the customer-- there weren't many rows, shelves, and titles under which to bury the reader; no overdone displays. What you had instead was a simple layout in a stark tiled room, with a distinct sense of clarity. For our lit movement first put on the map by a full-page Village Voice article titled "Start Making Sense," clarity remains key.

Today with the dominating monster chain bookstores the customer encounters not clarity but cacaphony. Literature is no longer the flagship of the enterprise. It's pushed to the back, where the porn used to be, or isolated on the third floor near endless shelves of books about rock music and movies. The chain bookstore no longer makes its own related art form the focal point of its promotional strategy, but instead, one of many. It'd be like Roman Catholic churches with gift shops inside the doorway selling the Koran, and statues of Buddha and Mohammed, and plastic figures of "The Lion King." In the back row on sale 50% off are still a couple dusty Bibles and a few remaining depictions of Jesus and the Virgin Mary. Sales might temporarily go up, but in the long run it'd be a defeatist strategy.

The mainstay of chain bookstores isn't literature, but mountains of narcissistic autobiographies, cascades of pop self-help books about dieting and psychology, Rachel Ray Two-Minute Meals for hyperactive stressed-out yuppies, and worst of all, at the front, neverending stacks of volumes of partisan propaganda from conglomerate media pundits on the "Left" and the "Right" whose overall effect is to legitimize a phony Punch-and-Judy political system which turns off 80% of the population.

Merit Books in Detroit, back in the day, was working-class in content and presentation. Today's chains go after the Affluenti, be they center city condo dwellers or far-flung exurbanites. For this class of people, incestuous establishment two-party squabbles still have meaning, so they purchase armloads of political titles. American society would be healthier if the focus were literature-- problems discussed through the art of the expression of language.

The chains contain literature, of course, but they have too much of it, like everything in these stores; an ever-circulating Niagara Falls of titles, most of them without intellectual distinction (which is found abundantly in books by underground authors); almost all of them, in style, tone, and pose, pretty much the same.

This is made possible by an attached wing of the enormous Conglomerate-Literature factory, the writer production lines; hundreds of MFA writing programs graduating thousands of certified "writers," the vast 99% majority of whom aren't real writers at all-- not the natural Jack Saunders/Wild Bill kind. They are, instead, wannabes. If they weren't, they wouldn't have believed they needed certificates in order to write in the first place! Like Stephen Crane, Jack London, Hemingway, Kerouac, and other greats, they would've simply begun writing.

The chain bookstores are killing literature because there is no way among the mass of subjects and titles for literature to stand out. Within literature there is no way for individual authors to stand out. They're interchangeable mass-produced products, generic in their sameness. Who are we talking about? Has anyone figured out the difference yet between Jonathan Franzen Jonathan Foer Jonathan Lethem? Which one is Ben and Jerry's Flavor of the Week? Is that Michael Chabon in that photo, or Steve Almond, or Dave Eggers? In upbringing pose cachet coolness attitude solipsistic sensitivity it's hard to see much difference between any of them-- fake-intellectual bourgeois products of the current age.

The ULA was created to offer competition to the Conglomerate Literature Monstrosity. To do this our task will be to maintain separation from it-- not be swallowed up by its enormity to take our place on shelf 535b row 37 aisle z in Wal-Mart-sized cultural marketplaces. Our move in and through bookstores and chains has to be tactical; temporary. They don't sell all automobiles Toyota Datsun Volkswagen Ford Chevrolet etc in one showroom. Not yet anyway. Real competition means opening a dealership with your own models across the street-- fronted by a showroom offering true difference; focus, distinction, and clarity.

For now, that new showroom is the ULA's fan site.

New ULAer

I'm pleased to announce that Bay-area street poet Joe Pachinko has passed the extensive ULA screening process and has been approved to enter the special ranks of ULA superheroes. Joe is a dynamic performer who's also written two small-press books: The Urinals of Hell, a collection of poetry, and an amazingly visceral and truthful novel, Swamps!, showing America behind the glittering mask in all its reality.

From the poem "The Stone Lion Dogs at the Chinatown Gate Crying" by Joe Pachinko:

"Yah, you are nuttier than ten thousand shithouse rats,
ya turd poet,"
she said, but her eyes are cat eyes shining
in the darkness of her own soul
she leaves no footprints and I AM blind,
a crap magician with my cheap dimestore jokes.
I am a ventriloquist dummy without a ventriloquist so
I drink in Chinatown bars in the rain. . . .

(I'll have a post about membership and how the ULA is developing upcoming.)

Monday, April 18, 2005

The Great Collapsing Literary Establishment

The nature of bureaucracy is to become complacent and fossilized, satisfied with the organization's accomplishments and modes of operation; out of touch with newer ideas and changes on the outside.

Classic examples are the monster American automobile companies. Forty years ago they reigned supreme, without competition. Since then they've faced change after change, assault upon assault, have struggled to compete as they've lost market share, yet remain, as organizations, as slow-moving and unimaginative as ever. GM and Ford's sales plummet, the companies on the verge of going bankrupt.

When Japanese competition appeared in the 70's, GM and Ford responded in laughable fashion with the shoddy Vega and exploding Pinto. American competitors were dealt with more ruthlessly-- John DeLorean set up on cocaine charges, federal agents involved in determining the state of North American business.

LIKEWISE, in response to the ULA dynamic the literary establishment searches for a quick-fix solution. Programmed mouthpiece David Gates, a long-time Insider stooge (has taught alongside Rick Moody at NYC's New School) is enlisted to find a current "Outlaw" writer. Who's available? Who does Gates know? In the corner stands bubble-boy Jonathan Safran Foer, raised in a protective hothouse, career nurtured by his brother (bigshot at New Republic); and at Princeton (home of outlaws, surely) by Joyce Carol Oates. Foer has gone on book tour with Insider novelist Francine Prose, his guardian away from home. A less likely candidate for outlaw-- domesticated pet milquetoast conformist-- could hardly be found. Gates hangs the "Outlaw" sign on him regardless. Foer remains quietly and politely in the corner wearing the sign. A hand timidly raises. "Uh, Mr. Gates?" he asks. "Can I come out of the corner now?"

Poster boy for today's literary establishment-- their version of the Pinto, without the gas tank explosions. Will the con work? David Gates thinks so. As long as genteel New York Times readers are steered away from genuine outlaw authors (hope they don't notice Jack Saunders and Bill Blackolive!) anything is possible. But I doubt even Times readers are that stupid.

As the ULA grows in size and scope, the response of the established lit-world and its David Gates car salesmen puppets will remain as feeble and ill-thought-out. They don't know how to find or create exciting American authors. They slap the label on what they've got. Foer, Chabon, Foster Wallace; newer versions of last century's designs trucked from university production-lines that haven't retooled in fifty years! Car salesmen hawk the stodgy overpriced products in gleaming empty showrooms. "This car is an outlaw!" Gates, wearing bow-tie and checkered sportcoat, bluffly announces to stray customers who wander through the door. The mad salesman with hair askew waves the people forward. The customers see colorless products lacking in horsepower. To the side stands Jonathan Safran Foer obediently wearing his sign, embarrassed at the hype but awaiting permission from Mr. Gates, Ms. Oates, or Ms. Prose to move out of his corner.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

The ULA Sets the Tone

Can there be any doubt of this, given the many attempts to imitate and co-opt us? (And destroy us!)

One is a ridiculous David Gates article about the "Outlaws of Literature" which mentions, of all people, establishment-approved flunkies Jonathan Safran Foer and Dave Eggers. Could Gates conceivably ever notice a few real literary outlaws? He looks and looks, from his pristine Newsweek office-- glances out the skyscraper window once or twice-- but can't see genuine outlaw writers anyplace.

Another example are lit-bloggers' blatant rip-offs of ULA motifs, such as the Justice League of America (JLA)-- an inspiration for the ULA from the beginning. Funny that these folks disdain us mightily but don't hesitate to steal our themes. My, my-- we must be doing something right after all.

From the outset the ULA portrayed itself as a team of literary superheroes, even when there were only six of us (as Lee Klein and others can testify). The demi-puppets-- who've never had an original idea in their lives-- can copy us all they want, but in the placidly predictable MFA conformity of their writings and their bland go-along suckass personalities they're weak imitations-- more the Pat Boones of the lit-scene than like the troubled neurotic psychotic explosive outrageous don't-play-the-game superhero writers who are in the ULA.

Further Report from Zytron

On this planet are chain coffeeshops so ubiquitous they're a kind of religion to the Zytronians. The coffeeshops/chapels are everyplace, on every streetcorner, inhabitants stampeding into them in zombie-like fashion to get the nourishment required to keep these machine-like creatures operating. I stumble into one of the generic white-and-blond-wood places to refresh my thirst, with a handful of Zytronian coinage I've scrounged together which I hope will allow me to buy something. (I've become a ventriloquist street entertainer of sorts with "Dana" the literary puppet.)

The Zytronian girl behind the counter stares at me with perplexity, as if I'm scroungy when I have trouble figuring out how many coins to give her for a small cup of green tea. (I'm not too scroungy though, as I wear a unique leather jacket brought with me on my journey-- that's another story.) The countergirl's wide eyes stare from beneath dark Zytronian bangs overhanging her pale greenish face. (I see everything in green.) "Sorry," I tell her about my confusion. "I'm not from this planet," I add as explanation. Her quirky contemptuous expression is a puzzle to me. I'm eager to find out more about these humanoid people.

At least she's not one of the upper-class of the species. I've realized there are as many castes here as in my own land. The trendoid Affluenti are distinguished by their extreme artificiality.

An example: I was walking down a block of expensive shops in the downtown section of the city. In a large lighted window a robot model who had been standing motionless like a mannequin began waving and smiling. Then she became frozen again, then began waving. I didn't know if I should wave back. I gaped, then smiled. She winked and smiled back, before resuming her routine. She wasn't a robot-- only acting like one.

The people on the streets in this district behave the same way, alternating fake friendly smiles with fixed robotness. Very disconcerting.

In my confusion I walk and walk, to gauge the full extent of the city. I encounter poorer sections; vast stretches untouched by Antiseptification. Here live a different breed of Zytronian; darker, often shorter, much shabbier dressed. The gray shack dwellings are old beyond determination. They could be many thousands of years old, or a million, so different are they from the gleaming clean streets of the central city. (The green and blue skyscrapers rise like Oz far behind me, glowing against the purple sky.)

On one of the narrow streets along this way is a tiny, dilapidated bookshop. I step inside to pause my tired walking feet.

"Looking for anything? Any author in particular?" a bearded clerk behind the counter asks me.

Not knowing any of Zytron's writers except the mechanical posers at the recent reading, I'm unsure what to say.

"Literature!" I tell him.

In response he shows me a huge novel of twenty thousand pages titled Eternal Clown, by an author named Davydd Frosty Walassd. (My imperfect translation.) "He has a Z.I.Q. of 253!" the shopclerk exclaims. (Zytronian Intelligence Quotient.)

I look at the pages. The complexity of the sentences is way beyond my understanding. Footnotes and asides are inserted throughout the hieroglyphic text. I wonder how anyone could get into a narrative flow trying to read this massive object. It's a thing to be analyzed and studied by hermetically sealed priests.

"No, I'm looking for underground lit," I explain.

"Walassd is avant-garde!" the clerk insists.

"Where I'm from this kind of thing IS establishment writing," I say.

The eager Walassd reader-- a writer himself, he adds-- explains to me DFW's philosophy that literature isn't aimed at everybody, and shouldn't try to be.

"Outrageous!" I thunder, an opinion he's never heard in his life. "This guy's ideas sound like Rick Moody's. Real literature is for everybody."

Except maybe not on this planet. That this essentially working-class dude could have been brainwashed into such ideas is troubling. The influence of the Affluenti reaches far from the center of the city, I realize.

Outside a heavy purple rain begins. I need to return to my small room many miles away. Before I depart the clerk rummages far beneath the counter and comes up with a dusty red-lettered publication. Its cover shows crudely scrawled writing. It's like an Earth-style zeen.

"Here's something for you," he says apologetically. "Real underground."

I take it he means Zytron's version of Jack Saunders or somebody-- the True Gen. The clerk urges the book on me. Without deciphering the author's name I shove the artifact inside my protective leather coat and rush into the crushing pouring rain.

(Note: This installment is at least two weeks old, delayed in communication. I'll be posting more recent adventures on the mysterious planet shortly-- you won't want to miss it, as things for me have somewhat changed.)

Friday, April 15, 2005

The ULA Is Alive!

I have well over 100 e-mails in my In-Box and won't be reading all of them. It looks, though, as if ULAers, working together, have fairly well solved the mystery-- the solution a result of fantastic teamwork. Hopefully the matter will be covered in an upcoming Monday Report. I'm looking forward to reading it.

The Underground Literary Alliance: It just keeps on going, to the consternation of our many enemies.

Lit-Blogger Suck-Up Report

I haven't had time to check to see if the general run of establishment-flunkie lit-bloggers-- Maud Newton, Mark Sarvas, Galleycat, Bondgirl, and Company-- had anything other than lavishly positive things to say about Rick Moody's Believer article, but I can guess. The see-no-evil-hear-no-evil-speak-no-evil crowd. Sgt. Schultz: "I know nothing. Nothing!"

One can hear the demi-puppets murmuring among themselves, puppet strings vibrating frantically. "Book awards? Lily Tuck? Moody receiving grants? We've never heard about any of this!"

There used to be a slogan, "Question Everything." The demi-puppets have one of their own: "Question Nothing!" All they've been trained to know about is a writer's pedigree. Article in The Believer? Then it has to be great! Sucksucksucksuck. . . .

I've been out of touch for awhile, but I hear a mediocrity named Scott McLemee has been badmouthing me. He was supposed to write a piece on the ULA once about four years ago-- asked questions, but didn't care for the answers. Very open minded. Someone on the planet was questioning the state of writing and the literary establishment; he couldn't handle it. He bailed. Ms. Frey took up the assignment instead.

McLemee is one of those "objective" lit-bloggers, you see. Engages in ad hominen attacks, generalizing with no evidence or supporting information. I guess our writing isn't quite refined. Too much of the genuine; honesty and authenticity, unlike anything he's seen. In four years he hasn't changed. (Factory-produced robots designed on a blueprint never vary.)

(Supposedly the bugs have been eliminated from this blog. We'll see.)

Monday, April 11, 2005

Establishment War Against the ULA?

Someone is going to a lot of trouble to destroy the ULA, not only filling this blog with racist comments, but creating a fake-ULA site also filled with racism.

I don't believe it's some ordinary crank-- but someone with a reason to do this. It's curious that it happened when I attacked the Rick Moody essay in The Believer. Has the ULA's ridicule and criticism penetrated to a vulnerable spot?

The ULA is a collection of mainly broke writers, who do our writing and activities in our spare time. Obviously, if folks with millions of dollars wish to put the ULA out of business, they can do so. They have the time and resources to draw on-- can set up any number of phony ULA sites if they wish to discredit us.

The Underground Literary Alliance was set up to give a voice to writers and other zeensters shut out by the mainstream-- a way to get our voices heard, and to expose the cronyism and corruption WHICH DOES EXIST in the literary realm. If our opponents succeed in closing us down, it will be a blot against the lit world, against literature itself.

(I've shut down comments temporarily on this blog, until I find a way to allow them without the blog being bombarded by sick racist garbage.)

(Of course, the person/persons using this ploy could be anyone-- someone with an imagined grievance against the ULA. Whoever it is, we expect to trace and expose the miscreant.)

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Moody: Caught Red-Handed?

Legitimate Questions.

It's legitimate to ask how it was that out of 100 books considered by the National Book Awards panel Rick Moody chaired, the fiction award went to an upper-class author, Lily Tuck, from Moody's own social circle.

It's legitimate to question his essay in The Believer in which he claims not to have known anything about Ms. Tuck; that she was born in France and lives in New York City. Is this credible?

Where was Rick Moody when Lily Tuck won her PEN award in 2000? Moody is a key PEN member; attends most of their events; has sat on PEN grants panels. He seems never to have run into Ms. Tuck over the years, or even heard of her; not once.

Where was Rick Moody when the Paris Review published Lily Tuck? Past Paris Review editor George Plimpton is credited with having discovered Rick Moody. Moody has written for them often, been heavily involved with the journal, engaged in discussions with its editor over how it's run. He must've missed that issue.

It's legitimate to question a literary world that distributes its funds time and again "in-house"; a wealthy decision-maker handing the money to another wealthy Insider, at tax write-off events with $12,000 tables. Moody doesn't know why he's called on to chair such panels-- when it seems obvious that rich arts foundations are comfortable with one of their own.

For Rick Moody there's no context to his viewpoint. He can talk of thinking "outside the box," but in truth he lives inside a box. America with its various stratified hierarchies, its chasms of rich and poor, has no meaning to him. His box resides on a shelf in a closet, within the large house of America-- in the most comfortable room on the uppermost floor-- and within that box inside that closet everything is wonderful.

And so he's able to construct essays of absurdities which to him are completely logical. The essays make perfect sense within the box.

The vertically integrated monopolistic publishing industry, to his mind, though staffed with Ivy Leaguers, has suddenly become filled with populists. The elitist New York Times Book Review has suddenly also become radically populist, interested only in best-selling page turners. (Ignore last week's front-page article by Insider Walter Kirn about Insider darling Jonathan Safran Foer.)

Moody's complaints have no connection to reality. His attitude is reactionary; Thermidorean. If he wants the book conglomerates changed, it's to have revolution from above-- an aristocratic coup. He's retreating into his privileged "Three Thousand" of the Moody Doctrine; those who can appreciate the inscrutable narcissistic meanderings of Lily Tuck or himself. Even his friend Laura Miller isn't privileged or snobby enough. Condescendingly he dismisses her knowledge. She's not up to snuff! Not fit for Literature as he wants it, a postmodern priesthood equipped with special private knowledge. Moody seeks an elite above the elite. His prescription for what ails lit is to go in the wrong direction! The castle is burning yet he escapes inside it, raises the drawbridge and runs to the parapets as the structure of irrelevance begins crumbling. "Leave me my irrelevance!" his voice is heard to cry as the castle is obscured by dust and smoke.

The lit world has backed this clueless charlatan for five years while ignoring legitimate questions about what kind of literature and process Rick Moody represents. It had better start asking these questions, and more of them, if it hopes to save itself.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Underground Writing

While most ULA writing goes far beyond the narrow lines of demi-puppet acceptability, like Noah Cicero's strong anti-war novel (which also contains a couple dynamite short stories), or Urban Hermitt's zeen classic issue #18, or Joe Pachinko's scarifying beyond-the-beyond novel Swamps, not to mention James Nowlan's novella masterpiece about which I still have more to say (Nowlan the most purely talented fiction writer living)-- there are works by other great underground writers, accessible even to the most conformist of demi-puppets, which our opponents should be reading and reviewing.

I've already cited Philly novelist Lawrence Richette, who has three titles available through Amazon.

As is ULAer Tim Hall's Undie Press release Half Empty, an accurate, smartly-written representation of life in todays' New York City, well capturing, through a variety of characters, today's young Manhattan-Brooklynite mindset.

I've mentioned the Fred Woodworth produced Dream World-- the best novel about the 60's ever written; too dissident for the mainstream. (Available for $10 cash to Fred at PO Box 3012, Tucson AZ 85702.)

The ULA has books by Jack Saunders, Wild Bill, Wred Fright, Crazy Carl (great recent "Adventures" by him),, upcoming.

The underground rocks! What a variety-- enough for anyone to dissect, criticize, or even like!

Friday, April 08, 2005

Rick Moody the Fake

Moody has a snarky and whiny essay in the current issue of lit-rag The Believer, which has emerged as chief mouthpiece for the literary upper class. Present throughout as an unmentioned subtext-- from the essay's first page-- is the world's premiere literary watchdog group, the Underground Literary Alliance. Posturing "intellectual" Moody is too gutless to name us. The essay is interesting nevertheless as a portrait of a floundering literary Overdog beset by internal doubts about what he does yet remaining clueless.

Rick Moody is upset that his actions have received criticism. He has it so tough! Attends all these swanky hoggish feed-at-the-trough parties out of the goodness of his heart; distributes taxpayer or tax-sheltered money to his Ivy League buds, and nobody appreciates it! It almost gives him heartburn in the middle of another overpriced Manhattan lunch. ("Another bottle of wine, Monsieur.")

Moody feigns not to have anything to do with his well-off friends Franzen and Antrim receiving NEA awards when he sat on the Fiction panel. "Awards? Not me! I was nowhere around. It must have been a Rick Moody imposter." The classic case of the kid with chocolate-covered face insisting he went nowhere near the cookie jar.

Wealthy aristocrat Moody sits on awards panel after awards panel, as he admits, but to him the process remains a mystery. The eternal innocent, indulged mansion-baby in silk diapers. He carelessly answers the phone. A rich foundation wants him to chair yet another grants panel! (Curious that ULAers never get such phone calls.) Money, money, everywhere. In the middle of it all sits Rick Moody playing with his rattle, an accidental bystander.

In the essay he forgets to mention the egregious grants he's received. No explanation of why he never gave the funds back. Could he be more greedy than he pretends? Is this possible? Dare we think so? (Let's pause to applaud him for starting the New York Public Library's Young Lions soirees, a wealthy club which awards yet more monies-- public?-- to literary Insiders. Prince Moody in his stone-walled palace counts this as an accomplishment.)

In the hilarious body of the piece Moody attacks the New York Times and Laura Miller at Salon. They've suddenly lost all credibility. Does this extend to the many features, articles, interviews they've done over the years on him? If Laura Miller doesn't know what she's talking about, maybe she was wrong as well about Franzen, Eggers, and others she's lauded.

At one point, to justify the horrendous fiction choices of the recent National Book Awards (which are unengaging to readers now and will be moreso in the future), Moody actually brings up the "vertically integrated monopolistic entertainment" industry, and says those who criticize him "can't think outside the box." Hmm. I wonder where he got these notions. From this blog?

He's like a corporate board member up in the executive suite who at lunchtime ducks out the back door of the skyscraper, throws off his tie and joins demonstrators out front. "Power to the people!" he shouts, raising his fist. Then he ducks back in, riding the express elevator to the top floor in time for the next corporate vote.

This privileged character's entire CAREER has been built on the vertical integration of literature-- from the conglomerates publishing his books and the glossy Conde Nast conglomerate mags publicizing him while publishing his stories and articles. He's a product of America's vertically organized educational system. He graduated from Columbia and Brown, after all-- not a school in Cleveland or North Dakota! He has known throughout his writing life exactly how to ride the elevator to the top floor-- because he started there.

When he describes this vertically integrated society, he could include the economic and financial system-- cataloging the globally powerful banks his ultra-rich father has worked for. Dad has chaired his own share of foundations (maybe owns a couple). He is, in fact, one of the several hundred-or-so individuals who run this planet.

But Rick, maybe we've misjudged you. Despite appearances, while your "not for everyone" literary taste presupposes a hierarchical literature, maybe you're a dissident after all. If so, let us know!

Writers in this corrupt land who think for real outside the box and live their thoughts are those in the Underground Literary Alliance.

About Racism

One way that a small sliver of the population is able to control 90% of the power and wealth is by keeping the masses divided; such tricks as keeping poor whites and blacks, who should be on the same side, at each others throats. The tragedy is that again and again people fall for it. The ULA's enemies are now trying this tactic, through racist anonymous posts on this blog.

No one needs to teach me about racism. I know 5,000 times more about the subject than any secluded Overdog on the Right or the Left. I lived much of my life within the cauldron of violent racial polarization and hate of Detroit. I've seen racial conflict up close. Years of it. Race has been the main theme and ongoing topic of conversation for that city since long before I was born. (I knew Joyce Carol Oates's them was a fake the first time I read it because she scarcely touches the subject-- somehow missing the elephant in the room.) I've given some of my views and experiences on race in a long essay I wrote for a lit-mag in 1994; others in an unpublished novella I wrote fourteen years ago. Suffice to say I learned some time ago-- a long and hard learning experience-- that people are people, black, white, green, or other. We're all capable of great things and capable as well of being the worst kind of assholes. Anyone who doesn't know that doesn't know anything.

To our anonymous poster, if he's who he pretends to be, I'll just say,
1.) Give up your hateful ideology. You're misguided and being used.
2.) We (or at least I) don't deal with those who hide their identity like cockroaches. I have no use for ghosts.
3.) We like to dialogue with all segments of the disenfranchised populace, but we're a lit group and people had better leave ideology and other baggage at the door.

But of course the anonymous poster is someone else-- society's TRUE racist, hidden and subtle, with real power behind him or her. The person isn't interested in reaching out to us-- only in discrediting us. Note the sick cynicism, the attitude toward the working class, given on the posts. Picture an affluent snobbish and privileged Ivy League writer, one of society's Precious Ones, sitting at a computer typing in that racist garbage. More than the person likely knows, it's an expression of an unseen but cherished part of that individual's brain, its real views.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Bored Out of Their Minds!

Well, Roman Catholics have proved they can get people inside the door of the carnival tent with the "Pope Elvis"-- now what are they going to do with the crowds?

They should be charging admission to see the guy, for one thing. That might dissuade a few folks. (Then again, waiting 24 hours for a minute's view hasn't done it.) It'd at least pay some of the church's lawsuit bills. They could be selling Pope souvenirs to the people, and Pope t-shirts. Colonel Parker would. We should probably be there handing out ULA material and selling our house zeen "Slush Pile." These people are obviously bored out of their minds and desperate for things to do. We'd tell them: "Literature is exciting also!"

Meanwhile, the McSweeney's Cult is taking note, wondering when their Leader/God passes on how they'll be able to top the Pope's funeral. Eggers will be laid out on a bier in San Francisco, covered with flowers from his weeping acolytes, most of whom resemble Squeaky Fromme. Heidi, Maud, Lee, Whitney, Claire, Neal-- the whole gang will be there. (By this time The Dave will have established his own College of Cardinals, so his leading followers will be garbed in long robes, with miters on their heads.) The line of blank-eyed demi-puppets will wind through the streets for miles. They'll be chanting, and singing the McSweeney's theme song. (Please see an earlier post.) Trolley cars will run some of the mourners over. No one will notice. The body will be carried into the Cathedral of the Dave on Valencia Street. Requests will have gone out to all former Presidents to attend the ceremonies. Only Jimmy Carter shows up. John Kerry is there also, arriving late, attending as thanks for having graced The Believer's cover (though miffed because it caused his election loss). "I'm a loyal McSweeneyite!" the Senator proclaims, though he follows none of the McSweeney's rules. (No MFA degree; no relatives on staff at Columbia.) He insists on being given communion anyway. As Head Carlengo Vendela Vida begins to hand him the wafer (the image of The Dave imprinted upon it), the Senator trips and falls, breaking his leg. Mysterious black-robed McSweeney's monks carry the inept politician out of the church.

Near the end of the service, an aid lights unsold copies of The Believer placed in high stacks under the bier. They want to imitate one of those showy funerals in India. The many thousands of copies begin to burn. Flames are seen; smoke rises. Fire detectors installed to meet San Francisco fire codes go off. Ceiling sprinklers douse the crowd. Yuppies begin running everyplace. The body atop the stacks doesn't light, but instead becomes soggy. It begins to melt! Journalists in attendance suddenly realize it's only a wax dummy. The Dave's death was, typically, a hoax!

ANOTHER FUNERAL: This week, New York City. Saul Bellow is laid out in a tiny funeral parlor on the upper west side. The silent mourners pass the coffin reverently. They notice a man to the side holding a large white handkerchief who is sobbing with loud gasps. "Sob!" Huge tears run down his face. His grief is uncontrollable. "Who is this man?" people whisper among themselves. "Why is he here?" "He must have been a great friend of Saul's, a very great friend."

It turns out the sobbing man is a literary critic at The New Yorker. Someone finally recognizes him. An aged mourner pats the critic on the arm and says, "There, there. Saul is at last happy. Nothing more to complain about. Why be glum?"

"Because," the lit critic tells him. "The Pope got four million people for his funeral. Look around the room. Saul Bellow only got twelve!"

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Saul Bellow

A well-promoted novelist in this instance picked the wrong week to move on!

I've given my opinion of Bellow's work before on this thread. I respect him as a novelist, a good one. He certainly, though, didn't live up to the hype that was laid on him. (His best work was a novella-- most of his novels tended to get bogged down in cut-rate solipsistic philosophizing.)

It's a sign of the decaying position of American letters that a merely competent author has ruled for so long as our chief novelist, according to critics-- though his creative growth and imagination became stagnant over forty years ago.

The literary establishment has begun dying off. Sontag; Bellow. Who's next? (Is Updike still alive? Has anyone recently checked?)

Who will replace these cardboard titans? Jonathan Franzen? Graph the lit-establishment and it seems to be on a steep course downward.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Moody Doctrine

Rick Moody's recent statement to the New York Times (covered previously here) that literature should appeal only to 3,000 refined people was not said by accident. It represents a philosophical outlook, the basis of the strategy he and his friends follow: "The Moody Doctrine."

The ULA is on the front lines of a fight for control of literature-- a war to determine lit's future; what it will look like and to what audience it will appeal.

Literature, to Moody and other well-connected Overdogs, is not meant to attract and stir the human world. It's reserved for a select elite with the breeding, training, and wisdom to understand its postmodern gobbledygook importance-- a contemporary version of the Elusinian Mysteries, which I'm sure one-time doctrinal student Hiram Moody III has read. For this crowd, the rest of us may as well be illiterate. (As we've seen, they pretend we are!) This is the Moody Doctrine.

THE QUESTION is whether literature will be understandable and relevant to all, or if it will instead be reserved-- specially-priced seat-license tickets only-- for those who dwell in expensive museums, safe palaces, or secluded Fisher Island caves.

Monday Report

I want to remind readers that the ULA has been getting some dynamite Monday Reports up lately at our fan site. The current one by Patrick Simonelli is about curious connections at Simon & Schuster. Last week's, by Adam Hardin, was a look at the continued denigration of Charles Bukowski. Both articles were well-documented-- hard to refute. But we welcome comments by all about them-- even by demi-puppets and other anony-mice! (The "Evil Journalista" mystery, covered by Noah Cicero, is also open for questioning, sleuthing, and debate.)

Monday, April 04, 2005

Arrival in Zytron

I've been spending a few days getting acclimated to my new surroundings. The city I'm in is something like Philly, but completely different at the same time. I'm seeing their world in kaleidoscope blue-green-red designs. This must be attributable to their different sunlight.

It's a more authoritarian society. Ours can't possibly be this bad. In trying to get one of the few marginalized jobs on this affluent planet for which I qualify, I've been prodded, poked, and examined; given drug tests; requests sent back to earth for my criminal record, or lack of same. These Zytronians are quite superior in their regimentation-- not at all like laid-back human beings, on the Earth I remember fondly.

I'm dwelling in a tiny room in the midst of the Zytronian city, unsure how long I'll be able to stay. There remain pockets of a relaxed, grungier, more real environment-- these are swiftly being eliminated. The Zytronians have an urban renewal project in force called Antiseptification. Whole blocks-- no, entire neighborhoods-- are suddenly "cleansed" of disagreeable social elements; prostitutes and vagrants removed; independent ethnic businesses taken over by government decree; "criminal" (not properly socialized) individuals locked away. Then, suddenly, within weeks, sweeps in bland corporate chain businesses and hordes of yuppie members of Zytron's version of the gentry's "Clean and the Saved." They affect a type of bohemia-- a cynical pose which even they know is fake. (I guess why the Cult of McSweeney's fits in here so ably.) I've gone to a couple Zytronian literary affairs out of curiosity. I'm immediately marked as an alien. Zytronian writing isn't very good but the writers believe they're great, reflecting glows of pretension off one another; literature a matter of wearing the right jeans and proper labelled expensive leather jacket to pose in while reading their meaningless writing. (In quiet Zytronian voices.) The narcissism is palpable; mirrors everywhere in their minds.

"Graduates of the Zytronian Academy," a person next to me informs the obvious visitor. "It produces all the cool people. Aren't they great?"

I'm told the graduates are kept in antiseptic capsules their entire childhoods, schooling pumped into them electronically. They can't be blamed for the narrow corridors in which their brains dwell. They've not been allowed alternatives-- have never seen the genuine article. The apparent stupidity of Zytronian literary creations may simply be due to my unfamiliarity with the language. (The footnotes they append to everything don't help.) The preciousness of it seeps through all the same. No passion-- as if their words themselves were put through Antiseptification refining. No force to any of it. No thunder! Though maybe the potent Zytronian beer is affecting me, distorting my view of things.

I stumble back to my room through confusing Zytronian streets. Tomorrow I'll make another try at understanding this planet. Out here.


"How many army divisions does the Pope have?" --Stalin.

In hearing long distance about the gigantic crowds gathering in enormous St. Peter's Square, I'm reminded of the big-to-do made about Ronald Reagan's funeral. He had, what, 5,000 people show up to view his corpse? (Mainly defense contractors thanking him for kickbacks, I'd guess.) The Pope's funeral is expected to draw two million.

I have the sense that we in America strongly overrate our own power and importance. I also wonder if our President is not just a media construction. Non-stop 24-hour media hyping these guys-- and the so-called "most popular President" drew less for his funeral than a standard NASCAR race. I suspect Americans don't much care for any of our rulers-- they realize we have no control over events-- and our politicians' importance is largely among the establishment media and within their own minds.

(The Pope drawing millions of people in Communist Poland in 1979 I think had more to do with the collapse of the Soviet empire than Reagan in 1987 making remarks in front of a few American TV cameras to a wall.)

The contrast between reactions shows also that cultural figures and events have more relevance to people than politics. Let's not kid ourselves-- religion is culture. The major religions, in fact, have their foundations in literature, their growth and strength attributable to the power of their writings; whether the Koran, the Torah, or the Gospels. They're literature with a lot of added trappings-- robes and buildings and such-- but literature all the same. When one digs into the essence of things one finds that literature remains the greatest force of them all.