Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Demi-Puppet Dirty Tricks Dept.

I've been told that a letter purportedly by me, containing vulgarities, has been circulating through the Internet and at cocktail parties. I have yet to see it, so I can't comment on its authenticity. Those who scrutinize this blog will see that I seldom if ever resort to obscenities. (I don't need to in order to make my points.) Usually I express ideas-- often in a lively way.

p.s. Frank Walsh informs me that he has crash space for stray ULA noteworthies in town the weekend of the big reading.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Greatest Lit Show Ever?

It's starting to look that way as great performers continue to sign on for the July 16th Medusa event in Philadelphia. Local lit celebrities like novelist Lawrence Richette have told me they'll be there to observe. The only past lit show I can think of with comparable energy and talent is the Six Gallery reading in 1955 in San Francisco. This may surpass that one several times over.

Information now up at gives a hint about the amazing array of performers, inside the ULA and out (like Natalie Felix, Ish Klein, Devin D'Andrea, and Jackie Corley) who'll be there.

Re: the Read-Off. There are actually now two challengers to "The Masked Professor" (not including the fake Beowulf Poet one). "The Student" got his challenge in first, and from what I hear is undergoing intensive preparation, scribbling furiously in blue books. Another has also come in from someone calling him or herself "The McSweeney's Mouse"-- I don't know how far to judge its seriousness.

More information will be forthcoming about this feature as I know it.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Wred Fright Marries!

Mr. and Mrs. Wred Fright
Originally uploaded by King Wenclas.

Lit groupies throughout North America and elsewhere are jumping off bridges and slitting their wrists-- or maybe just binge-ing on donuts-- at the news that the ULA's Wred Fright has "settled down." Wred, of course, will be appearing at the big Jack Saunders lit-event in Philadelphia on Saturday, July 16th.

Latest additions to the line-up that evening include local Philly poets Shawn Terreri and Devin D'Andrea.


Wred Fright's site is He mentions therein the Big Reading.

ALSO, Philly poet Michael Grover has a brand new site, He mentions the Big Event as well.

How great is it to see the print underground, fantastic lit-artists of all kinds, coming together in the cause of literature?!

Why the ULA's Fight Is Important

Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the virtually unlimited application of Eminent Domain. The seizure of individuals' property-- private homes and small businesses-- by government, to be turned over to Wal-Marts and huge monied developers building luxury condos for rich people, which has been happening throughout the country, has been legalized. We see the continued imposition of monopoly and extreme wealth on the American economy.

LITERATURE years ago was captured by conglomerate monopolies and by the nation's wealthiest class of people, who operate hand-in-hand, side-by-side. Which group of writers stands forcefully, vociferously, without pause, without compromise, against this artistic dictatorship? Only the Underground Literary Alliance.

When most lit people see Rick Moody (Hiram F. Moody III) they see the pose he's constructed of sensitive liberal pseudo-hip artiste apparently divorced from the sins and happenings of the world. When I see Moody's involvement with arts foundations, colonies, and government agencies, I see the representative of big monied interests.

The question is how long lit people like Nathalie Chica and Maud Newton will continue to live in their self-created Disneylands, blind to the way society and arts creation and promotion ACTUALLY works?

Fool or knaves? Knaves guiding fools; an island of cynical magicians and demi-puppet illusion.

The only way the monopolistic art situation can be overturned is through the force of ideas. Our campaign from the first has been a war of ideas. When we "crashed" readings we were attempting to argue our ideas-- to introduce dissent into a closed lit-society, of go-along writers, which had shut off debate about the realities of who owns literature and how it operates.

We aren't going to make change by whispering. The ULA mocks and attacks because we need to awaken brains; to cause writers in the System to THINK-- a proposition which for them is truly scary.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Depressed Literary Support Group

Word has it that the Depressed Reader who posts on this blog has joined forces with perpetually depressed (in-between expense-paid trips to Disneyland) lit-blogger "Galley Cat" Nathalie Chica and others to form a new organization called the Depressed Literary Support Group. They'll be holding their own July reading, at which they'll stare at one another for three hours with occasional moans about the awfulness of the Underground Literary Alliance and what the crass upstarts are doing to literature instead of leaving it alone as the possession solely of enervated literary depressives like themselves!

Other depressed writers like Rick Moody, Elissa Schappell, Amy Hempel, Jay McInerney, and Neal Pollack have quickly submitted applications to join the new group. (In Moody's case, his butler and nanny submitting it for him.)

REMINDER: The ULA's own event is July 16th at Medusa Lounge, part of ULA Weekend in this town.

Quotes for Thought

Bernard DeVoto: "Finnegan's Wake may indeed return to the reader who has mastered it rewards that justify his effort. But there is a basic paradox in requiring any reader of fiction to 'master' a novel as he would master geometry, a foreign language, or the law of torts. There will always be readers who refuse."

D.W. Griffith: "Art is always revolutionary, always explosive and sensational."

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

ULA Show Diary

The Show: 25 days and counting.

Writer/performer Crazy Carl Robinson was in a car accident last week. He was rear-ended on his way to go fishing; smashed into two trees, the car totaled. Carl has a concussion, cracked rib, stitches in head and tongue, and both his legs are purple. Yet he says he still intends to make the reading. (We may have to send the ULA limo down south to pick him up.)

We've had much trouble finding someone to square off against "The Masked Professor" for the scheduled three-round Read-Off at the event. Many writers declined to be bombarded by the Mad One's unspeakable arrogance and sneering pontifications. (I first encountered the Professor at the 2003 Chicago benefit event for Cullen Carter at which the ULA participated.)

Strangely enough, though, I now may have found a candidate from the Midwest someplace eager to take the Prof on-- a young writer known only as "The Student." When I asked for his qualifications, he told me that at college he has an A+ average! (I fear we may be dealing in mere cannon fodder. In the background I can hear the Masked Professor laughing.)

Essential Differences

Here are the essential differences between the Underground Literary Alliance and the rest of the lit world.

The ULA stands apart from the mono-think monopolistic Machine which currently dominates literature. We're democratic in spirit and organization, operating (ideally) through open argument and with rough consensus.

Our view of writing is vastly different from that of the literati. Standard lit's examples of "good writing" are little more than coagulations of words designed to impress workshop grads, but which don't connect with readers in immediate visceral ways like the best work of ULAers.

Our writers are our strongest point. Those who dismiss them haven't read them!

In prose and poetry we present a wild variety of talents, a diversity of styles which are readable and striking, populist and democratic, earthy and knowledgeable; nonconformist, edging often into the radical; noteworthy always for the authenticity of the words and the thoughts behind them.

The ULA isn't a static organization. We're not institutionalized within the four walls of an office building. We're an uncontrolled wild fighting snapping and barking dog pack. Our mission is to never stand in one spot-- to always be on the attack.

We're the only group of literary artists who envision, want, and work for a new literature, created by a changed process. We wish to overturn the present tired and corrupt System, to stampede its cattle-herd participants and convert those we don't run off. We see literature renewed after our revolution; literature healthy and honest; literature controlled not by bureaucratic academies and conglomerates but by WRITERS; literature fronted by real stars causing genuine excitement; literature as the authentic sound of the culture and everyday life of the populace: literature reborn.

Neal Pollack: Exploding Fake

Neal Pollack hasn't imploded. He's exploded into nothingness like a firecracker, leaving only small paper shreds of debris.

Neal spends an entire essay in the 6/19 NY Times Book Review putting himself down, explaining how there was never anything to himself but a desire for money. The much-hyped success of his first McSweeney's-produced book turns out to have been a myth (the book where Eggers was going to give over a third of the book's cover price to the author). Pollack now says that all his books sold 25,000 copies COMBINED. (Including the conglomerate one.) Pollack now writes off the last five years of his lit-career (which if nothing else provided some necessary entertainment, a few laughs, to a moribund industry) as a mere scam.

Now Neal wants to go "legit." His goal is to be like Zadie Smith, a writer of serious purpose-- which Pollack defines as getting a fellowship at Harvard. Neal Pollack may have been a total fake-- but his newest incarnation, a desperate bid to become a sinecured never-heard-from-again Harvard don, is worse.

The key sentence to Pollack's article is this: "Ultimately, the train of manufactured rebellion lost its funding. . . ." The point of the article and that line is that a literary movement can't be built on fakery.

Some wonder why I continue to attack the McSweeney's gang on occasion. The answer is not only that they still have influence, at least on the east coast (maybe especially in Philly), but that they have been portrayed by the media and by a horde of demi-puppet suck-ups like Maud Newton & Company as the next big thing in literature. Dave Eggers, from the first, borrowing motifs from the zine scene, presented himself and his writers as true independents-- when all along he was just buying into the conglomerate monopolies; in fact, had been their bought-and-paid-for boy from the very beginning of McSweeney's. People have been hungry for a renewal of literature. By putting ourselves, and the deep authenticity of our writers, in relief against the manufactured fakes, the Underground Literary Alliance can best meet the needs of hungry readers everyplace.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Phoniness Dept.

My main request is always that the puppets of the lit-world start behaving like real people. (That Galley Cat tell us, for instance, that she's not going to issue a correction to her false statements-- instead of continually promising Jeff Potter-- falsely-- that she will.)

These are people who have never discovered how NOT to be fake.

Case in point: Not so long ago, in her various "Gawker" and "Kicker" incarnations, Elizabeth Spiers was applauding the Will Ratblood-designed ULA t-shirt I sent her, or posting, "Wenclas?"-- inviting me to publicly comment about something she said. When she went to work for MediaBistro (she sure hops around climbing that ladder, doesn't she?) the political winds changed. Suddenly she was denouncing me from the MediaBistro pulpit for "barraging" her with mail (two zeens-- one of which she reviewed!-- and a t-shirt). One could say about her, "The completely mutable lit-world flunkie, as pliable as Gumby."

(They should put ads for such people on MediaBistro with just such statement, along with the additional note: "Order Yours Today!" What's that you say? They display those ads on their site-- every day? I'm sorry. My apologies.)

Judging by her photo on the MediaBistro site, I'd say Ms. Spiers is troubled. Note the worried expression, sign of someone who has to always be on the correct side. She's unsure what stand now to take. She's thinking, "Are we at war with Eurasia, or Eastasia, this week?"
* * * * * * * * *
Look carefully at all the MediaBistro photos. Look very closely, and you'll see, scarcely visible but there, the marionette strings attached to every one of them, from Head Puppet Laurel Touby on down. Do you see them?

On Criticism

The defining aspect of a demi-puppet is panic at the idea of contention and criticism. They want the ship of literature to float along smoothly-- even thogh it's dead in the water and appears to be sinking. No S.O.S. signals wanted by this gang! Lit's overseers are as clueless as the captain of the Titanic. Like him, their chief concern is to not alarm the rich people.

And so, demi-puppets lock arms and construct human barricades around isolated literary darlings like Jonathan Franzen and Rick Moody. May no stray word of dissent arise to touch them in any way! Like Rick Moody at the Philadelphia library, the lit-aristocrats surround themselves with security to insulate themselves from nothing more than questions and debate!

Writers fleeing from questions and debate? They miss the point of literature's existence-- to cause people to question and think. (Thinking allowed only through strict regulation in the lit-world.)

This blog welcomes questions (especially when they come from real people). Most feedback received, yes, from anonymous lunatics like "Bam Bam" or Scott McLemee's alter-ego, is hysterical and without much sense. I enjoy the comments regardless-- and continue hoping the ULA's skeptics will someday obtain brains.

(After the July 16th Philly show I intend to be more aggressive in seeking out public debate about the condition of literature-- even if I have to enter snobby realms like "Jules Bistro" to provoke it.)

ULA Public Advocate

Instead of peace offerings coming to me-- creating a role for myself for which I'm unsuited (my focus is literary revolution)-- they should go instead to the ULA's Public Advocate, J.D. Finch. (Contact info should be on the ULA site at He can decide which are serious and pass on to Steve Kostecke, Jeff Potter, and myself for consideration-- or to the ULA as a whole if necessary. From now on I'll forward all such requests to him.

Non-ULAers and ULAers alike can address any complaints about me or the ULA to Doug Finch as well. (I hope this doesn't swamp him with e-mails.) He can make occasional summaries of their content.

The ULA needs a diplomat or two to gauge the intent of the larger lit-world. We'll see how this works.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Why Literature Needs the ULA

1.) Because without the Underground Literary Alliance there's staleness and sameness. One can look at the MediaBistro site and see literature as it's become (banner ads for MBA programs blaring from the home page): institutionalized literature; bureaucratized art. Look at that site and you see the death of art; art not as a living, breathing, alive and creative organism, but art kept behind walls, enclosed within cubicles inside sterile office buildings; art which has been tamed and quantified. Art as merely a job, a task, means to an end-- instead of as glorious end itself!

To the ULA, art is all-- the power of the word is the highest priority. We writers (poets, playwrights, actors, cartoonists) are in charge of our organization. Where are the hierarchies, the pencil pushers and cost-analysts, the kind of artistically-dead suits who control from the top down the established lit organizations? We don't have any!

2.) The ULA is injecting charisma into the lit scene. As in pop/rock music, charisma doesn't come out of a boardroom. The great charismatic musical artists have all been from the lower levels of society-- especially the most popular and influential like Elvis and the Beatles. Charisma can't be manufactured in a university. It's a free-flowing, organic thing.

We're artistic charismatics, fueled by our own enthusiasm. The ULA is filled with dynamic personalities. This is what we bring to literature's table-- what it most needs.

Many of these new literary personalities will be on display in Philadelphia on July 15th, 16th, and 17th.

Bad Vibes!

An anonymous poster (the reincarnation of Marie Antoinette?) was complaining about the "bad vibes" injected into the lit scene by the ULA. Yes, for those in charge of our society's failing lit-system, the injection of truth, energy, and new ideas can seem that way.

Our goal from the outset was to make our campaign a revolutionary experience-- to send shock waves through a complacent and lazily corrupt literary scene. To wake up people! In this, especially in 2001, we succeeded. But I promise you right now you've seen only the beginning. For every complaint issued, for every manipulative reaction against us, to every setback we endure, I become only more determined to push the ULA's ideas to the limit.

There IS no opposition, only a fossilized monolith of inertia, apt target for the ULA's energies. (If anyone thinks they've seen all of my energy, they're in for a surprise.)

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Failing McSweeney's

The conclusion I draw is that Dave Eggers no longer micromanages his operation, and is relying on people to run his operation who aren't very bright.

Wouldn't he have found the idea of his editor and myself shaking hands as distasteful as I did?

Those who proposed and approved the notion couldn't see that it was a non-starter from the beginning. One doesn't make a proposal you know is going to be automatically turned down. And for what purpose? It's obvious that Matthias didn't think the McSweeney's reading could stand on its own-- that it needed additional kick, added hype-- and so he turned to, of all people, me! Unbelievable. Then, when your plan to have an exciting reading consists of hoping King Wenclas will accidentally show up anyway, to crash the thing, it shows an obvious lack of faith in the abilities of the McSweeney's gang. (Corresponding to reality.)

To put this admission on the McSweeney's site for all to see has to be nothing but embarrassing for The Dave.

The problem is with the publication itself, and the kind of individuals it attracted as readers-- the Acolytes-- who've now taken leading (Eli) and supporting (Matthias) roles in the McSweeney's team. The publication from the first was a terrible lit journal. That was the idea. I saw one early issue consisting of a couple dozen or so little booklets, each one of which was unreadable; many including the most obscure knowledge that could be found to write about-- directional drilling in western Argentina, say. The objective with such pieces, with footnotes and the like, was to replicate the atmosphere of graduate studies at the university. More than this, it was a deliberate affront to the average reader, by presenting the kind of thing which would send 99% of potential readers immediately fleeing. Those who remained, who could stomach the thing-- or actually like it-- became the basis of a kind of warped elite; a select literary priesthood.

These are the people Eggers now relies on for the continuation of his operation.

Anyway you slice it, having to admit that your own shows are lame, and that the organizers at one of them sat around hoping for an appearance by a representative of the ULA, can be viewed as nothing but a defeat-- and another victory for the ULA.

Doubt this? I hope Matthias will show at our own Philadelphia event July 16th. I hope all the skeptics do also. You'll see a great difference-- that words and literature can be made truly exciting.

(Postscript: One reason ULA shows work is because we know that the first objective is entertaining the audience. I try to impose structure on the events-- and am usually good at keeping things moving. Mere self-indulgence is OUT-- the kind of thing the McSweeney's gang thrives on. Case in point: I offered a spot in the show to a friend of Matthias's; an individual who works in the bookstore we've been discussing. I try to reach out to such writers, though they can't always see where their own interests lie and attempt to tie their wagons to those of the literary aristocrats, instead of with writers like ULAers who represent the voice of the people. He seemed to want to do a very long piece, however, at an event where Jack Saunders should be the focus-- Jack is an excellent reader-- and where great spoken word performers like Michael Grover have agreed to limit their presentations. IF I allow guest readers to go on too long, and put themselves in stark contrast to the likes of Grover, Crazy Carl Robinson, Frank Walsh, and company, they'll not only harm the show, but embarrass themselves. At the mention of time limits, I've received from the writer silence. I hope he changes his mind.)

Correction Dept.

Yes, I did misattribute the McSweeney's tour Update from Philadelphia to Editor Eli Somebody, instead of to Matthias Schwartz. No excuse to be made.

The point I made stands, however. I doubt very much that Matthias would have made his offer without first clearing things with Eli. After all, it was Eli's reading. The idea presented to me was to have a photo opportunity, with myself and Eli shaking hands. Would Eli not have approved this beforehand?

As we can see by his writing the piece, Matthias seems to be in tight with the McSweeney's people-- kind of surprising.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Another Quickly Fading Literary Touchstone

ALSO THROUGH as a touchstone for the lit-world is McSweeney's. Its present editor Eli Somebody, a fourth-rate Dave Eggers impersonator, relates on their site how he wanted me to sign an "agreement to disagree"-- whatever that means. (It was presented to me as a peace treaty.) Eli sounds severely disappointed I didn't crash his Philadelphia reading. I didn't realize my appearances were in such demand. I should have business cards made: "Lit-Readings Crashed-- by Appointment Only."

Those who want to see me and the ULA in action will have to attend the July 16th Jack Saunders event in Philly.

Paris Review: Touchstone of the Past

Who's paranoid? Certainly not the ULA. We operate in the open. We aren't afraid of anything.

Everyone else in the lit-biz skulks around timidly afraid to say anything contrary to the powers-that-be, as if they lived in Communist China waiting for tanks to crush Tianamen Square expressions of liberty. What is everyone afraid of? Why the secretiveness and anonymity?

Face it-- literary culture is a closed society. Why has no one said a word about the shocking and argumentative Richard Cummings expose that ran as a two-part Monday Report on the ULA site? From demi-puppet lit-bloggers we've heard not a peep. Normally they engage in intense discussions of every litter box movement of the Paris Review's cat Fluffy. About important matters they say nothing. Surely there's enough in the Cummings piece to debate, investigate, agree or disagree with. As it stands, it's devastating. Yet about its many revelations the lit-world has no curiosity.

Whatever else, let's have no more references in the New Yorker and N.Y. Times to Paris Review as some kind of touchstone of current literary culture.

(Typically, the new Believer is five steps behind the ULA and misses the basket, with a puff piece on Paris Review written by a Paris Review editor. We outmaneuver the Believer so easily, one might think we have a spy in their camp. They're so slow and predictable, we don't need one.)

The Self-Destruction of a Lit-Blogger

Posting anonymously is a dangerous game. Eventually, as with Dave Eggers on Amazon in 2004, the person will be found out.

There's little doubt many in the lit-world would love to put the Underground Literary Alliance in its place. The problem: there isn't one person in their entire realm able to do this. (The only tough battle we had, early in our history, was with fellow ULAers.) The lit-establishment and its sycophants haven't a chance with us. We own better arguments and newer ideas. We represent the future. Our opponents defend a corrupt and failing literary past.

I don't know much about this Scott McLemee character, other than that he was supposed to write an article on the ULA once and backed out, and that he's a typical lit-world apparatchik. That he gets plum writing assignments from status quo journals doesn't mean he's very intelligent. In his hermetically-sealed world he postures as a dispenser of wisdom. Outside the safety of the lit castle he's lost.

If he's "Frantic" on this blog, then he's embarrassed himself in striking fashion. Frantic's posts without exception are childish, if not idiotic. Every time he's posted he's been quickly slapped down. Is this the best demi-puppets can offer?

Kudos to Marissa Ranello, who is quickly establishing herself as one of the toughest and savviest ULAers.

The Believer: Forty Years Out-of-Date

In the new issue of The Believer, Harvard prof John McMillian looks at the underground press of the 1960's.

Monday, June 13, 2005

ULA Show Diary

Fwd: Picture 2
Originally uploaded by King Wenclas.
Philly Show: 33 days and counting.

First, a reminder that the July 16th event at the Medusa is to celebrate-- a day before the PhillyZinefest-- the publication by LitVision Press of the Jack Saunders book, BUKOWSKI NEVER DID THIS: ONE YEAR IN THE LIFE OF AN UNDERGROUND WRITER AND HIS FAMILY.

The event, scheduled to start at 5 pm that Saturday, will be a combination reading and book release party. Your guess as to how much emphasis will be placed on "party"! Jack Saunders will headline, but will be preceded at the microphone by some of the best lit-performers in the country, including poet Michael Grover, pictured here at the 2004 ULA Conclave with renowned zine star of the 90's Lisa "Suckdog" Carver of ROLLERDERBY fame.

LATEST NEWS: Talented Philadelphia writers Ish Klein and Natalie Felix, and Jackie Corley of New Jersey's WordRiot, have all confirmed they'll be reading as well at the historic event-- which just keeps getting bigger and bigger. Hopefully I'll have photos of one of them to post on this blog as well!

Update: Billionaire Lit

Today Amy Benfer of the Metro newspapers is at it again: profiling another author from a super-wealthy background-- in this instance with a spread about Amanda Filipacchi's latest novel, Love Creeps. (Amanda's father is billionaire founder of the Hachette-Filipacchi publishing empire; Elle magazine Can you believe that Amanda's writing career has received lavish publicity from the day it began? No!)

As Amy Benfer regularly profiles authors who represent 0.000001% of the population, I think she's now due to give some attention to writers who represent and speak for the mass of the rest of us-- those at the Underground Literary Alliance. (We have a number of books coming out, and will be staging exciting shows.) One can e-mail her at to let her know.

Friday, June 10, 2005

The ULA Victorious (Again)

The proof of the truth of what we say is in the silence of our opponents.

We've engaged in many debates (starting with the one with the Paris Review staff, in person, at CBGB's) and have won every one, big-time. I sometimes think I should let the other side score a few points now and then to keep them in the game.

In truth, those who represent the Voice of the Machine have nothing to say, can only stand frozen in place in the face of unstoppable change.

(To nonaligned observers: It's easy to see who's won the argument. The status quo continues on with the same stale ways of thoughts and modes of operation while history passes them by. The Underground Literary Alliance carries the power of ideas. History will judge our shows and books THIS year as the most noteworthy literary happenings of the day, because they mark literature's new beginning.The ULA is creating a record, presenting our case. Our opposition is presenting theirs-- the weakness of theirs-- now through their silence.)

It's comical, really. All these well-trained well-credentialed MediaBistro staffers, the System's best and brightest, and not one can summon the mental energy and intellectual courage to offer a reply. Believers in free speech! In reality open debate, full and honest expression, is the furthest thing from their minds. Their chief objective is to keep the Machine which controls and feeds them operating.

But I'll admit that even I'm surprised at the feebleness of these people. No doubt this is the first challenge they've seen-- EVER-- to their way of thinking. "What do we do? What do we say?" the jellyfish murmur fearfully among themselves as they huddle behind desks in their Manhattan office building.

All the greatness propounded on their site! Every detail of their wonderfulness! Mighty foes, one would think. It's a cardboard facade with nothing behind it-- stage scenery. The remaining actors prance ineptly about the stage. "Someone is watching!" a voice whispers from the wings. The stage immediately empties.

Blaring trumpets had announced the presentation! "MediaBistro!" the marquee proclaimed. "Tonight! A House of Players!" The cast listed in order, beginning with main star Laurel Touby. The program which circulated through the streets of the city stated Touby's many accomplishments and years of training. To this fulsome hype, an unwary spectator (me) purchases a ticket and steps inside. The theater is dark and empty. "Hello?" I call out, my voice echoing among shadowy seats. "Anyone here?"

A janitor steps out from a back corner of the vacant stage, visible in the pale red light of an "Exit" sign.

"They're gone!" he says with a puzzled shake of his head. "Someone said the word, 'ULA,' and they fled out the back door!"

The man steps closer from the back, holding a sheet of paper in his hand.

"But, the great actress Laurel Touby? What of her?" I demand as I make it onto the stage and face the man directly. "I read the program. They were supposed to be here. Tonight!"

It's all a mystery. The man hands me the sheet of paper. On it are twelve hastily scribbled words: "Ms. Touby is out of town and won't be appearing this evening."

The cleaning man has to smile himself at the actors' cowardly behavior. Maybe he's already seen enough of the self-important darlings. Maybe he's witnessed the play, and found it empty, as shallow as its players. He nods his head, with a hand on his broom, before turning away with a final commentary: "You'll find the rest of them at the nearest bistro!"

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Why Media Bistro Opposes the ULA

The reason is that we're polar opposites. The ULA is free, independent, Do-It-Yourself; representing unstoppable forces of literary change.

MediaBistro symbolizes a bureaucratic past. It consists of careerist conformists eager to find their places in obsolete monopoly hierarchies.

The MediaBistro people aren't artists-- there's scant mention of, or regard for, art or literature on their site. Instead they're technicians. Or really, mechanisms, mere interchangeable parts, like robot welders in an automotive assembly plant. Note how Bistro'ers have the aspect of robots. Their last trace of independent humanity was at age four, before being entered into FastTrack day care, and FastTrack nursery school, and FastTrack kindergarten, directed by ambitious parents onto machine paths toward the prestigious schools which fill their ever-present resumes. Career. Career! Forever in their lives this has been their goal. They're still consumed with career, which has led for all of them, in order to get ahead, to an unquestioning mindlessness. In long lines, carrying briefcases, they vanish like drones into the giant monopoly castle. The very idea of the existence of rebels to the System is outside their experience.

These kind of folks make decisions about status quo literature. They enforce the standards of the castle, applauding writing (like McSweeney's) which fits the codes and nuances of their particular well-screened castle-ensconsed group. Resemblance to the world outside happens by accident. It's not their concern-- only what aids their rise within the rotten structure. They value not clarity, authenticity, and truth, but style and hipness; a yuppie brand of fake sophistication; the superficial sounds of conversation at a Manhattan bistro. For them, seeing America means journeying to Brooklyn.

In-crowd winks and nods: THIS is what we get from the mandarins and flunkies of contemporary literature. Conversation within the cattle pen; among the herd. For each step of the process which processes them, they line up bovinely to have their foreheads stamped, "Establishment Approved."

Not that they don't carry certain illusions as gloss on their world. This is shown in MediaBistro head Laurel Touby's desperate attempt to add glamor to her glorified want-ad section. She talks of creating a Guild of publishing workers. It's an MFA-- or MBA-- mentality, the goal to create an exclusive class of lit-folk from which those without proper certification are left out. Snobbery in place of independence. "Aren't we special?" is the attitude.

A restrictive Guild might be fine for some crafts; for glass-blowers or stone masons; but literature, its inspiration and creation, isn't a craft, but an art. It's more than that-- it's the basis of freedom and democracy; of expression and thought. And they seek to professionalize it!-- to narrow its scope-- when writing and publishing by right belongs to everyone.

Laurel Touby's statement of purpose on the MediaBistro site is more ridiculous when you realize she misinterprets the notion of guild workers of the Middle Ages and beyond. After all, those craftsmen-- William Blake a notable example-- turned out finished products they could put their name on, and look glowingly upon as every bit THEIRS, the true, full expression of their talents. The publishing Dilberts Ms. Touby speaks for are nothing like this. Their job, in the gigantic monopoly-capitalism organism, is to do one repetitive task; one tiny step of the overall production; creativity stifled; identity subsumed. One might be a proofreader. It's a necessary job. It pays the bills. It puts one close to the essence of literature as it's known in this inhuman era. All else about its importance is illusion.

Zeensters, by the way, are closer to the ideal Ms. Touby in her clueless way is groping toward. Zeensters do every step of the creative work themselves. I write my zeens; proof them; design the layout of words on the pages; type them; add photos or drawings (often my own) if necessary; add graphics; design the covers and color them myself; make copies and put the issues together; then I mail them and promote them. My promotional abilities alone are the equal of anyone in the established lit-biz (consdiering what few resources I work with), but this is only one of the skills I've developed through doing everything myself. No wonder that from my viewpoint those inside the machine-System appear stunted.

The trade-off is that, like William Blake, I make little money from what I do. Making money isn't my goal. To me, that's not what life is about.

Look at the MediaBistro leader and it's clear her perspective is the opposite. Her version of being an entrepreneur is to find new ways of fitting comfortable INTO the System. Standing apart from the pack has never entered her head. Not once! She has her career and affluence to think of; her credentials; her resume. She reminds me of when I lived in Detroit, where there were two kinds of saloon one could step into. One, in the heart of the Cass Corridor, was filled with starving artists, with ex-seamen, with fugitives from the law, with Vietnam vets; with rat-race dropouts, rock-star wannabes, anarchist punks, and street-wise prostitutes. The conversation was always varied and often amazing-- talk of whorehouses in Rotterdam; about Hemingway or even Dostoevsky; about art, religion, civilization, society, and when the clock grew late and everyone was melancholy and drunk, outpourings of the heartache of the soul.

The other kind of saloon was a mile away but it could have been a thousand; filled with phony-faced professionals in power suits talking obsessively about possessions, investments, or the minutiae of the office job; drinking not simple shots and beers, as in the other bar, but fancy Spanish-coffee-whipped-cream-topped expensive liquered drinks representing in showiness the meaningless showingness of everything about this crowd, by which they judged all others. I'm not making this up! Their opinion of you was determined by how you dressed, not what what was inside your head. The standard question wasn't "Who are you?" or "What do you think?" or "What do you know?" but, "What do you DO?" What's your "position," in other words; your profession. Give us your finely-detailed resume showing ever corporation worked for, every official certification, every elite school.

MediaBistro represents the shackles of well-paid (often not even that!) wage-slaves; servants to the giant monopoly our entire civilization has become.

The Underground Literary Alliance stands for true art, rebellion, and freedom.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

ULA Show Diary

First Event:
Show minus 41 days and counting.

Yesterday I met Philly underground poet Michael Grover (ex-ULA) and made peace with him so he can appear in the big July 16th Jack Saunders reading, which is getting every day bigger and bigger.

Whatever one might want to say about Grover, he IS one of the absolute spoken word masters in this country-- having first proved himself in L.A.-- and promises to blow the doors off when he reads. It will be exciting.

Both Wred Fright and Crazy Carl Robinson, ULA Superstars, say they should be able to make the reading as well. Fun and excitement in store like you would not believe. The only problem I have now is deciding who can follow these people. Not many!

ALSO: Bernice Mullins and Noah Cicero promise to be there as well. Their worries are that they're too anti-social working-class and won't be able to fit in with literary folk. Obviously they've never met the ULA!

OTHERS: Frank Walsh, Tim Hall, George Balgobin, Sarah Scheckter, Patrick King, Brady Russell, and a host of locals I'll be soon announcing.

WHERE: The Medusa Lounge, 21st Street near Chestnut.

WHEN: 5 p.m. to whenever, Saturday, July 16th.

Many more details about the headliner and the rest of an awesome card will follow in forthcoming days on this blog!!

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Paris Review Follies

I've received e-mails filled with off-the-record complaints about the Richard Cummings article on our site. Noteworthy is the complainers refusal to go public. As with the anonymous posters we sometimes endure, secrecy with these people is all.

If they have complaints, take the essay on publicly. Engage in free discussion and debate. Let's look further into things and settle the matter. There remain many, many unanswered questions about this story-- for instance, the role of Robert Silvers, who apparently made the decision to change Paris Review editors. Instead, the people I hear from skulk around like rats. Why the mystery if there's nothing to hide?

Meanwhile, from Paris Review itself we've heard not even a murmur.

Curious how the questions raised in the Cummings essay are a taboo subject.

Where are the demi-puppets? These brave souls haven't noticed anything. "Paris Review?" they ask. "What's that? CIA? Never heard of it!"

The image of Sergeant Schultz quickly hurrying away from anything resembling controversy: "I know nothing. Nothing!"

For those not happy with the Cummings essay, I offer this remedy. I'll grant Robert B. Silvers of the Paris Review the opportunity to be interviewed, via e-mail or in person in New York. He'll have free opportunity to present his defense of the journal-- as long as I'm free to ask relevant questions concerning the matter.

Will Robert Silvers take advantage of this offer, to clear the air once and for all? I'll be waiting for his e-mail.

In the meantime the hosts of corporate-media flunkies (MediaBistro comes to mind) had best continue hiding, in case the story is not over.

Clueless Critics

East coast yupsters criticizing ULA writing probably at the same time listen to Bruce Springsteen on their stereos. (He was always popular with prep-types searching for a sense of reality.) Yet the ULA offers with writing what "The Boss" did with music. Listen to his "Rosalita" and see how Springsteen has substituted for slickness, polish, and musical rules and training-- musical "taste"-- his brand of immediacy, authenticity, and passion.

For Springsteen, rough grittiness, the expression of his background and life, IS the music-- not lilting harmonies and carefully placed exactly-hit notes.

No one argues that Springsteen isn't an important pop culture phenomenon. Well-schooled intellectualized rock critics have gushed over his relevance for decades. Yet these same kind of intellectuals close their minds to the true diverse roots-lit stylings and happenings of the Underground Literary Alliance.

What's striking about the ULA, in its appearances, publications, and its fan site, is how DIFFERENT it looks and sounds from mainstream literature. We're strikingly simple, strikingly "pop," strikingly real, strikingly new.

Lit critics who fail to awaken to the new zeitgeist will ultimately marginalize themselves. They appear to us already as obsolete dinosaurs, slow-thinking and heavy of foot, placidly munching weeds and cabbage while the world dynamically changes around them.

Friday, June 03, 2005

A Relevant Quote for Today

A quote from Peter Monro Jack-- discussing certain writers of the 1920's in an essay entitled, "The James Branch Cabell Period."

"Their esthetic sophistication has narrowed to the value of a nonce-word recorded in the dictionary, and with it has gone a baggage of irresponsible individualism, private follies and foibles, eccentricities and excesses, pretentious characters and imitation styles. They were all too easily and lavishly praised as wonder boys and girls, and the critical and social background gave them no incentive to match their peculiar state of mind against the general state of the world, which may be categorically stated as the only possibility for the development of character. They did not really develop at all, and a great deal of genuine talent was blanketed in a cozy bed of adolescent complacency, with the critics crooning it to sleep."

Does this sound like any people we know?

Thursday, June 02, 2005

The First Show

The first ULA public event which will kick off our summer campaign will be a Philadelphia reading headlined by legendary underground author Jack Saunders, on Saturday, July 16. We will have a large cast of performers, including some of the best in the lit-biz. We intend to "blow the doors off" at a very cool venue. I'll be posting more about this historic event soon, here and elsewhere.

All ULAers are invited to participate and all writers and lit-folk will be invited to attend. (We'll have some great non-ULA "special guests.")

Every ULA show is an event, is special, because it doesn't stand alone as an isolated occurrence, but is part of a continuum-- the ongoing history of literary rebellion the ULA is writing.

The Purpose of this Blog

The reason I write this blog isn't just to hype ULA writers and events. Nor is it solely to provoke and debate defenders of the literary status quo. That's secondary. This blog exists to explain ULA philosophy, AND to try to keep the underground literary movement, which is embodied in the ULA, on track. Not always an easy task!

While I'm not the spokesperson for the ULA, only one of many, I'm certainly a spokesman for the movement. In March 1999 I articulated the ideas which sparked this campaign in a broadside titled, "How to Create a Literary Movement" (reprinted in Zine World: A Reader's Guide to the Underground Press a few months later). I personally chose the original team members from those lit-zeen personalities I already knew and those many who responded to my essay. The actions the new team engaged in were part of an intentional plan, the foundations of which were formed in our founding October 2000 meeting in Hoboken. I've thought about this campaign intensely for six years-- if truth be told, for at least a full year before that while working in the import-export biz along Detroit's riverfront.

I know what we've done right, and I also know those many mistakes I and the group have made which cost us momentum. I know the actions we need to take, the image we need to have, the ideas we need to articulate, in order to make the plan a success.

Some of what I post on this blog is venting, but most of it is written to accomplish objectives-- in the same way the responses of our opponents are written to achieve objectives: to defuse, derail, and divide what has been for the most part an UNCOMPROMISING aggressive movement of a kind never before seen in North American literature.

The ULA can survive and prevail only as an expression of new ideas. Without that we'd be like any other lit-group and would fade quickly into bourgeois irrelevance. If we're to be merely a vehicle for opportunism, then we've lost our reason-for-being and should be disbanded. If we're to operate like every other middle-of-the road safely unimaginative lit group, then we've lost our reason-for-being and should be disbanded. If we're to seek peace before confrontation, security before victory; to meld with the pet-shop mob which has led lit to a tidy quiet corner of culture's house-- a tired sleeping dog on a too-soft rug-- then the ULA has lost its reason-for-being and should be disbanded.

REMEMBER this organization took as its founding act a publicly signed Protest which divorced us from ALL other writers and lit folk; from the very idea of "things as they are"; pushing us instead into the unknown adventure of authentic cultural rebellion.

I'm confident this movement IS on track, that it HAS confronted writers across the spectrum and forced them to face their assumptions and poses; that we WILL continue putting pressure on the literary establishment, and more pressure, and more of it, testing the System like sudden forced water rushing through rusted pipes, looking for leaks, searching for weaknesses, exploding the entire failed network if need be as prelude to creating a completely new literature.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The Zeen Aesthetic

(To celebrate the upcoming July Philly Zinefest.)

Those who want to clean up zeen looks and zeen writing miss the point. The phenomenon is counter-intuitive to those with a bourgeois mindset; why they can't understand it.

The zeen aesthetic is a reaction to the processed and slick, of which we've had enough! The conformists and monopolists represent production that's homogenized and safe. Zeens reintroduce the accidental, the personal, and the human to design as well as writing. The craft is less mediated, the distance between artist and consumer shorter.

Established lit is rigor mortis stiff in all its aspects-- a typical example being the academic poetry reading. The much-lauded university poet, who as an artist can't die because he was never alive, stands like a robot at the podium pompously clutching his overpriced chapbook, monotone mumbling his meandering meaningless words about flowers and doves. His beard droops; his eyebrow twitches; cues to his sleeping audience of intended significance. The performance is ritual, replay of memories of an art that once was.

The performing undergrounder will more likely overturn the podium.

Tired Poetry

More AGNI #61.

An excerpt from a poem by Bennington prof Liam Rector (known affectionately by his students, I'm told, as "Liam Rectum").

"Of my boredom, its boredom
We made it back
To America, hitting

Shore at Boca Raton,
Pulling in midst the boats
Of the very, very rich.

I lived to write this
And never jumped ship
It was your kinship

Kept me going those years,
Times of ridiculous
Sailing, riotous fears.

Wives sailed by,
So many boats, and you soon
Left for Bangkok and its

Very distant coast.
Being young: being rich
Among inherited ruins."

(In this case it sounds like the inherited ruins are in the status quo world of literature.)