Sunday, July 31, 2005

The ULA Experiment

The ULA campaign is a test to see whether or not a new and different stream of writers can be accepted by the mainstream. Of any of the arts, LITERATURE most of all should be open to new aesthetics, new modes of operation, new ideas.

Instead we face artistic intolerance, as exhibited in recent postings on this blog. We've faced it from the beginning. Skeptics sought to stifle this baby of rebellion in its very crib. And for what? For us lowly people daring to BE writers? For demanding respect? For exposing corruption? For making noise? For promoting ourselves and our activities?

Some want the ship of literature to float placidly along without change, dead in the water, creating no waves. They defend a status quo which has failed the culture and failed this society. The mere existence of a genuine alternative bothers them greatly. But as long as we can keep this alternative alive, literature is filled with possibilities.

We face peaks of criticism at periods when we're most alive-- as we were at the Medusa July 16th. Contrary to the wishes of the skeptics, the event was filled with energy. The house wasn't packed (though in the darkness, with the shouts of the audience, it seemed to be), but it was full, every seat taken. Several people stood toward the back. That many members of Philly's lit/art community were there was evidenced by the fact I recruited two members of the audience to read, when poet Daniel Bolger became sick and left and two other scheduled performers didn't make it. (Miz Olivia, one of the late additions, is prominent on the local spoken word scene. Her presence was token of the friendly respect given us by local writers.)

Was the audience all-friendly? Not at all! There were many attempts at heckling, which came to naught because we enjoy that kind of thing. Some insults were from a self-important character at the bar wearing sunglasses (! symbol of his blindness?), some from local activist Professor Malarkey (with whom I had a cooperative conversation after the reading); others, stray remarks from people I couldn't see. And of course, Crazy Carl heckled everybody.

All-in-all, the evening was a great experience; centered around the humility and wisdom of Jack Saunders; filled with positive energy, so much so that many of the non-ULA readers stopped by the ULA's tables at Zinefest the next day just to hang out and say "hi."

The weekend was the essence of underground cooperation and camaraderie. It kick-started ULA momentum-- was not an end, but a new beginning. As we begin to welcome more new members into our organization, our task is to keep our momentum going; to build upon it, so that we become an unstoppable force of cultural change.

I don't know why the skeptics are critical, when I've seldom been so optimistic about what we're doing and where we're going. Recent events have proved that my criticisms of the Harper's editor were right. Our fan site has never looked brighter. Undergrounders are lined up to join our ranks.

SOLIDARITY-- this is the key point about what the ULA is doing, what we most showcased; participation and immersion in a positive literary vibe. All-for-one one-for-all fellowship and support of our mutual underground campaign. It's a feeling far removed from the isolated attitude of ill-will given us on this blog by demi-puppet writers who take it out on us because they exist on imaginary islands of self-centered self-importance, intolerance, and artistic snobbery. WE PROVED we're open to all writers. Even our constant targets could've attended and read, or heckled us, or mocked us (as a fake Rick Moody did by cassette tape). They would've been embraced-- if only for the evening!-- by our community of writers. The ULA, after all, wants to open doors and tear down barriers-- which is why we ask establishment writers not to hide in barricaded hotels at ultra-expensive black-tie dinners, or surround themselves with security guards while reading from a highly-placed stage, but to mix and mingle with the rest of the literary clan. To not put themselves always ABOVE the rest of us, a pose hierarchical and untrue, the essence of fakery.

Could the skeptics be worried BECAUSE things are going well for us? I suspect this is truly the case.

Withdrawal Symptoms

The louder our opponents scream against us, the closer they are to freeing their minds from lit-establishment brainwashing.

I've said that to change things, we have to turn the lit-world on its head. Right is left, and up is down-- this is how we appear to our opponents. They need to reorient themselves.

What's happened is that the present System of literature in all its forms-- MFA programs, agencies, conglomerates; pervasive snobbery-- has taken writers on an expensive journey down a long and narrow corridor within an old decaying house. The writer has been left in a darkened room, the door shut behind him: a closet. We've opened the closet door, and are saying, "Come out!"

(Can art be quantified and put into a box? I plan to discuss the differences between natural writers and the institutionally overtrained kind-- so stay tuned!)

Saturday, July 30, 2005


It's always refreshing to see the ULA's campaign referred to as quixotic. This was a standard criticism from an early ULAer-- a writer unfortunately who had no imagination and no vision. (For a writer, one would think these qualities mandatory.)

I imagined a literary movement, a way to renew literature and change the culture, and have been trying to turn that image into reality. I surely have to be crazy!

The Early ULAer was a person like many we've encountered who are tiny of vision; who see only the chess board in front of them, the current arrangement of the pieces, and not what they can turn that arrangement into. Their attitude shows a strictly limited mentality.

As I've said countless times, many like the Early ULAer didn't think we'd achieve anything-- that all my ideas were a dream. When I said we could get attention and press coverage, they looked at me as if I were insane. Yet in quick time we got it-- more than my associates dreamed. (We were all lowly zine writers.) Despite our quick progress, skepticism remained. The Early ULAer panicked at the first sign of difficulty and ceased cooperating, undercutting the entire plan in so doing.

I'm reminded of the period in my life when I worked for a commodity trader (writing his newsletter). For a few years I observed that kind of mentality. For those who don't know, anyone with enough time and brains can construct a foolproof investment plan-- ON PAPER. The trick is carrying it out for real, with real money at stake-- your real ass on the line. The plan can be engaged, the money put forward, then the price starts moving and one is suddenly embedded emotionally into the game. It's very easy to lose one's head within the gaping drama of the moment. All one's psychological weaknesses, one's human failings, are quickly exposed-- fear, greed, timidity. It's been not all that different with the ULA. The disciplined plan goes out the window; participants begin reacting emotionally. "Ohmygod!" the person screams inside his head. "Wenclas is pissing off important people!"

The ULA campaign isn't just a dream, it's a plan, one which has yet to be given a full chance to succeed. (We've been missing some important pieces.) The amazing thing is how much, while operating on a couple cylinders, we've achieved. With great new members like Pat Simonelli, and others upcoming like Brady, we're pulling in more talent, will soon be making a lot more noise.

My plan was never quixotic-- it was based on a true assessment of possibilities. Anyone with a sliver of sense can sit down and figure the odds of finding an audience by playing the game the approved way-- becoming one of hundreds of thousands of wannabes in writing programs, or adding one's manuscripts to the massive editorial slush pile stream. Dostoevsky himself would have a hard time getting noticed in such conditions. (A writer, by the way, who in the original Russian notably "can't write"-- he's only a genius.)

The ULA campaign is designed to make noise and shortcut the entire process, which we're doing.

The Early ULAer I refer to is a charter member of the Max Sitting Society, is one of our ex-members who since leaving our organization has dropped completely out of sight; who has not made hardly a sliver of noise as a writer (despite being ridiculously talented) by playing things the "right" way.

Max Sitting was the co-editor of a lit-journal I helped produce in 1998 called Pop Literary Gazette-- a forum for trying out ideas which I later used in creating the ULA. "Max" was a low-level prof of some kind at a local university, and, as such, was terrified of pissing off people. He lived in fear of the tenured guys he was forced to suck-up to at cocktail parties. We had quick success with Pop-- were part of a full-page lit review in the local weekly free paper, a photo of our zeen included, and were even invited onto a radio show. It was all too much for Max Sitting! We were too controversial. The reviewer-- another local Detroit-area prof-- was critical of our noise. Max was afraid of the bad reception we'd receive from even greater figures in the tiny world of his university. We quickly came to a parting of the ways. A little over a year later, I left for Philly. The negative reviewer, meanwhile, and the "well-written" lit journals he approved of, and the other constipated prof, have all vanished from sight (as has Max Sitting). They're footnotes to footnotes. If the prof reviewer is ever remembered for anything, it will be for writing about a forerunner to the ULA. Why am I laughing?

Friday, July 29, 2005

A Point to Be Stressed

The ULA's demise has been predicted from the beginning. Yet we persist, slowly but steadily growing stronger. The Medusa reading was a big success for us-- not solely because we strengthened the ULA's solidarity; not just because we all had a great time. We proved that we could reach out to ALL kinds of writers.

Many important figures on the local lit/arts scene were there. (Look again at who we had on our card.) We made other new friends the day after at Philly Zinefest. The positive benefits of that weekend will long be felt.

Thursday, July 28, 2005


It's funny that NEWspapers and NEWsmagazines will deliberately not cover that which is truly new in the lit-world, instead set on reporting forever on the same-old same-old of literature's status quo.

The power of the conglomerates?

To all the anonymous fakes who lurk on this blog: Know this, that we put on in Philly as exciting a reading as ever's been seen. (Ask objective observers like Jackie Corley who were there about it.) Know also that you yourself show us nothing, have nothing-- why you're anonymous, of course. I get tired of your nonsense, if you want to know the truth, because I know you're all bluff. There isn't a writer among your entire privileged world who can stand against good undergrounders. Doubt it? Again, pick up the thrown gauntlet. Answer our challenge to debate us and read against us in any kind of venue. Drag out your fossilized icons-- Joyce Carol Oates and Charles Baxter, or Rick Moody, all covered in the Atlantic's big special Fiction issue (they give their own poets like Billy Collins little notice)-- and put those icons against us as a start. Back up your words. Or are you afraid the dust-covered icons represent a failed and tired past? (I've seen Oates, Baxter, and Moody of course all read, at different times, before, and they're all purely awful. They give literature NOTHING, present to the public not one iota of energy and excitement, only complacent smugness, and in Moody's case, the worst kind of self-deluded smarminess. We're talking about REAL self-delusion, backed by huge sums of unearned money and tons of ill-deserved promotion. The underground's performers, like those who appeared at the Medusa, aren't at all deluded-- they know how good they truly are; Walsh, Brady Russell, Mike Grover, Natalie Felix, and company, because they've proved it time and again, as they proved for us when they rocked the house.)

We ask only for the fakes to step out of the way and let the representatives of our nation's true literature take the stage. That's all.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

ULA Excitement, Part II

The radical edge we adopted-- our uncompromising in-your-face attitude-- is one of a piece with the sense of excitement we've carried as an organization from the beginning. Without that uncontrolled edge, that attitude, that excitement, we're not the ULA, but instead just one more group of lukewarm literary moderates who kind of want to change things but not really. Bourgeois moderates who sit comfortably at a distance with their approved Henry James t-shirts and Hemingway coffee mugs and Melville tote bags and gently "tut tut" at the failures of literary culture and the inequities of literary society, debating the omnipresent dominance of MFA academies while hardly tossing a pebble in the direction of the impregnable monoliths.

"Look," they observe with surprise, spilling lukewarm monopoly coffee over their faces. "A pebble touched a window! Someone stirred from their sleep inside. Such violence!"

In truth, in other words, they don't wish to change anything; they wish only to wear enough of a facade of change to hold themselves in esteem, and absolve themselves-- about the bogged-down condition of literature and its accompanying corruption-- of any blame. Real change means work and noise.

The ULA, in contrast to the mild reformist armchair murmurings of the literary moderates, has put itself at the front of the battle to release literature from the moldy grasp of decayed aristocrats. We say, "Change now! Tomorrow is too late." The Underground Literary Alliance was designed to be a hungry and snapping dog pack containing the most downtrodden of writers, the most aggrieved and demanding, the most untamed. We seek animals who can run hard and are eager for a fight-- we'll take them from all walks of life as long as they're willing to settle their ears back, harden their eyes, ready their hides to accept the slings and arrows of our enemies and prepare to run with us through a literary landscape that's become complacent and tired. As right now I exist close to the bottom of society, I carry the proper state of mind of a starved beat-up one-eyed dog eager for struggle, adventure, and drastic change. We should want to turn the present outdated structure of literature on its head.

The ULA adventure is expressed in the growing size of our pack and the increasing volume of our growling howling noise. The sound we made July 16th at the Medusa in Philadelphia was a promise, a preview, a prelude.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Excitement of the ULA

A poster to this blog promised that the ULA will never be mentioned in Vanity Fair magazine. Oh really? It's comforting to know this, as such coverage might destroy our credibility, or signal that our currency is over. I'm afraid, however, that as the ULA grows in noise and strength, such establishment glossy magazines will have to cover us or lose all relevance. One can't stop the flow of history. They'll be soon enough running to catch up with us. (I'm sure more agile mags will get there first.)

Last week we proved that we're the most exciting thing on the lit scene today. We're going nowhere but up.

(Show coverage continues at

Mystery Tape

No one has yet come forward to take credit for the cassette tape which showed up in the ULA's mailbox the day of the Medusa event, and which I played at the show. (It was mildly amusing.) The person who made it has to be a reader of the ULA site.

The return address was given as 122nd and Riverside Drive-- the envelope was postmarked Astoria NY. The tape was a fairly professional effort-- nothing I could've come up with, especially given my current circumstances.

Friday, July 22, 2005


Legions of Read-Off fanatics are still upset over the controversial outcome of Saturday's event, when poet "The Masked Professor" squeaked out a narrow victory over story writer "The Student"-- despite becoming unraveled in the closing minutes. (The Prof must've spied a coed in the crowd, and became distracted.)

Truthfully, both men were showing the pressure in the final round, as I'm confident upcoming video will bear out. (Pat King is editing it now!) What gave the edge to the Professor was that he ran through the crowd after he read, encouraging much noise, which I took to be applause. I was later informed that much of the reaction was in the form of jeers and boos! Unbelievable. Is there no respect left for academia??

(I've yet to hear from the Student about a rematch.)

The Line-Up!

To the best of my knowledge, this is the order of performers who actually appeared at the Medusa on July 16th.

Shawn Terreri
Devin D'Andrea
Maria Pace
Miz Olivia the Godmother of Poetry
Natalie Felix
Wred Fright
Ish Klein
"Rick Moody" via cassette tape
Michael D. Grover
Crazy Carl Robinson
(Smoking Break)
Wred Fright interviews "The Student" (Brady Russell) and "The Masked Perfessor" (Frank Walsh)
Jackie Corley
Erik Bader
Read-Off between Masked Professor and Student
Patrick Simonelli Intro to Jack
Jack Saunders

Thanks to all who were there; special thanks to last-minute replacements Maria Pace and Miz Olivia, who were both good.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Zinefest Report

A lot to get to . . . will start with the Zinefest.

Yes, it was not nearly as crowded as last year, but as always it was great to meet fellow underground print folks, like Joe Smith of Red Roach Press and many others. I sold out of both issues of Literary Fan Magazine-- a stack of each (they go for a buck apiece, so it wasn't difficult), but sold other zines as well. (Selling always picks up right at the very end, when those who've been browsing all afternooon, circulating and circling, make their decisions.) The one thing I feel bad about was letting Pat King get my last issue of Zeen Beat #3, remembering later I'd promised it to Doug Finch. (I'll make up some more when I get around to it-- the master copy is in storage.)

Jack Saunders sold several copies of his book, and more important, had a lot of great conversations with people. Jack is valued not just for the humble great guy that he is, but also because he's a living symbol of the untiring dedication of the literary underground.

By the way, I found out at this year's Zinefest that I'm featured briefly in a documentary made of last year's event. Go to, click on one of the icons on the left (third one down, I think), then watch for the guy with the moustache.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Weekend Report!

So many happenings are still running through my mind that I couldn't begin to encapsulate all of them. Even at Zinefest yesterday I found myself becoming absent-minded from trying to recall and correlate everything.

The Saturday reading at the Medusa was awesome. Not perfect-- there were a few glitches-- but awesome all the same. A few of the readers were so striking (especially Michael Grover and Natalie Felix) that the merely good suffered in comparison. Sean Terreri; Ish Klein-- one could give out a host of accolades. Crazy Carl Robinson and Wred Fright were extremely funny. Natalie Felix stunned the audience with her strong voice, her flowing movements, her beauty. Poet Michael Grover then stunned the audience, in a different way, with the power of his voice and commitment and the clarity of his poetry. I've never seen either poet better.

The Read-Off between the Masked Professor (Frank Walsh) and the Student (Brady Russell) was filled with drama, bombast, noise, fireworks. Frank Walsh is an outstanding poet but also the greatest pure entertainer in the lit world. Brady Russell was the big surprise. He'd been quiet the entire evening-- was almost silent during the interview portion when questioned by Wred Fright. Brady's burst of verbal energy once the match began thus took everyone by surprise-- giving the Prof back as good as he got; the two combatants exchanging rhetorical blows like two literary heavyweights. I'd wager the lit world has never seen anything like it!

There were so many outstandings performances, so much noise and excitement, throughout the evening, that once headliner Jack Saunders stepped to the mic, we were all as exhausted as I seem to be today.

Thanks and kudos to all who performed or were in the audience. (I'll give the full line-up of readers and other doings in a couple days. There were a couple last-minute changes.) I'll also discuss the Zinefest-- and say more about the Read-Off-- when I can!

Friday, July 15, 2005

ULA Show Diary

I was just at a great meeting at the restaurant Ludwig's Garten, including many who will be at the show. Philadelphia novelist Lawrence Richette was there. We'll be working on promoting him as early as the fall.
Poet Michael Grover read a poem. Pat Simonelli passed around the new Jack Saunders book. Jack was wryly amusing. Devin D'Andrea; Daniel Bolger; the inimitable Frank Walsh; witty Doug Finch, guest Miz Olivia, and through it all, Pat King with his ubiquitous camera. All I know is that, based on the energy seen today, tomorrow's event should be fantastic.

Shawn Terreri
Sarah Scheckter
Devin D'Andrea
Daniel Bolger
George Balgobin
Erik Bader
Natalie Felix
Wred Fright
Ish Klein
Michael D. Grover
Crazy Carl Robinson
Interview of the Two Read-Off Combatants.
Jackie Corley
Read-Off: The Masked Prof versus The Student.
(Short Intermission)
Jack Saunders

Wow! And we hope to get Pat Simonelli to introduce Jack. I'll be there introducing the rest. (We'll decide tomorrow who does the interviews.)

(Anyone who wants to be placed elsewhere than where they're scheduled, let me know.)

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Our Philadelphia Goal

Big show Saturday!

I've been reluctant until now to stage an event in this city, because it's so locked-down tops-down controlled, in the lit sphere, from New York City.

The opinion makers in this town, by and large, are from upper-middle class Ivy League backgrounds. The shrewdest move McSweeney's made was to target from the outset exactly this audience-- knowing the students reading their rag at Princeton or Penn, relating to its narrow and precious viewpoint, would soon be in jobs throughout the East Coast print media. In the long run, this is a losing strategy-- if one's goal is to bring literature back to the masses, as the Underground Literary Alliance is doing. In the short run it has its benefits-- though eventually those opinion makers will have to see that precious McSweeney's and its imitators has topped out and can go no further.

For the opinion makers, real undergrounders like Jack Saunders and Michael Grover, from the hinterlands and streets of this country, are outside their experience. It's not the opinion-makers fault, of course, for not seeing things clearly-- which is why we HAVE reached out to them, time and again. We invite them to see our show Saturday, to see that the lit underground is for real, the future of literature in this country. Seeing is believing.

I still get many people telling me they were at KGB in 2001 the historic Sunday night we crashed a reading. Far more people have claimed to be there than could ever fit into the place.

Regarding this Saturday: Who will be there? We should keep track not of who's there, but who isn't! Missing the event will be their mistake.

Our goal in Philadelphia is to present the real literature of this city, this country-- not the fake kind imposed from on high by Manhattan-based media monopolies. This is why we've invited Philadelphia novelist Lawrence Richette to our Friday afternoon meeting. Richette is a serious, adult novelist addressing large themes-- creating LASTING literature, as opposed to the trivial ice-cream-flavor-of-the-moment represented by Jennifer Weiner and company, safe trendy monopoly-approved novelists who are given oceans of undeserved hype.

The ULA is not and has never been about playing it safe-- despite what some may think.

Who is Erik Bader? Depicted here, he's one of several talented Philadelphia writers who've generously agreed to participate in our historic reading. There will be a smorgasboard of great literary talent on display. (I'll try to post the full order of readers tomorrow.) LITERATURE-- nothing else-- is our concern and our priority.

p.s. Let's remember that the focus of our meeting tomorrow will be Jack Saunders, Lawrence Richette, and the rebirth of authentic literature in this city.

Erik Bader
Originally uploaded by King Wenclas.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Summer of the ULA


They're coming from California, from Vermont, from Alabama, from Ohio, from Florida-- great underground lit performers to read at Philly's Medusa, to be joined by some of the best spoken word artists in Philadelphia.

It's happening July 16th, 5 p.m. until whenever in celebration of Philly Zinefest the next day and in honor of folk-lit legend Jack Saunders and his new publication, Bukowski Never Did This.


Jack will present with great humor unprocessed words imbued with jazz, blues, satire, reflections on art and culture and on his life-long struggle to maintain his integrity as a writer. He'll be joined by the best performers of the UNDERGROUND LITERARY ALLIANCE, who have ALWAYS been shocking, whether crashing elite readings in Manhattan or staging their own shows in cities like Detroit-- their protests and appearances covered by hosts of publications. Now they're appearing in Philly with Jack Saunders and their greatest line-up ever, the vanguard of an authentic underground lit movement.


THIS WILL BE A HISTORIC EVENT ranking with San Fran's 1955 Six Gallery reading-- except the focal point of underground literary culture has moved to Philadelphia. Get ready for an invasion not of overpackaged manufactured conglomerate posturing, but of original cultural excitement.

ULA Remarks

Sorry if I'm not about to shut up my own voice. I haven't done it yet-- this is hardly the time to start.

There are, I find, unresolved questions about what the ULA organization is to be like. A team of equals, sure-- but what kind of equals? What sort of team?

The question is whether the Underground Literary Alliance is to be yet another flabby laissez-faire lit-group, accepting of everyone and everything, no matter how corrupt; putting peace before all; existing with hardly a mission or direction; content to be just one more irrelevant local player on some one or other local scene.

Or, instead, is it to be what it was at its beginning-- disciplined, committed, and DEMANDING, making noise and putting pressure on all around it.

Yes, ULAers and others no doubt are tired of hearing about the founding group blah blah and so on. That's in the past, and the future is now. Yet it remains the best touchstone we have of what we can and SHOULD accomplish.

Let's see what record we achieved, in a mere eight months: Bombarded the establishment media with a coordinated letter campaign; organized and carried through the largest mail Protest (against the Guggenheim grants) in American literary history; engaged the staffs of the two leading lit-journals in New York, Paris Review (led by George Plimpton) and Open City in debate at CBGB's and mopped the floor with them, so they slunk out with heads bowed and tails between their legs; crashed in extremely exciting fashion a reading at the heart of the beast at which many magazine and lit Insiders were present; staged ten days later a "Legends of the Underground" reading at New York's Amato Opera House featuring many of the best underground writers in America, names like Wild Bill and Jack Saunders appearing for the first time at the center of media empire; these actions receiving large write-ups in places like Village Voice and the New York Post-- sending shock waves to the very foundations of the literary establishment. Whew! Quite a lot, I think. How did we do all that?

It wasn't done by playing patsy with every local wannabe organization or by putting ourselves in secondary positions to other lit or non-lit groups. We let the world know we, as underground writers who'd walked off the reservation-- as the voice of rebellion-- were secondary to no one. That HAS to remain our message. We're unique-- always have been-- and can be nothing else. We have to have this stance and this attitude. A group that accepts less than this, I want no part of.

I AM going to lobby not just for the ULA, but inside the ULA, FOR the principles this group was founded on. Those principles were that we be the most hard-core balls-to-the-wall lit-group that's ever been known.

We all have our own goals and projects. I know that. I may even have some private goals myself. The ULA strategy has always been that these goals take secondary importance to building the ULA name, constructing a platform upon which we ALL can stand on-- so that our personal projects will then have a fair chance-- in this unfair world-- of real success. This means not diffusing the ULA name, swamping it too quickly under dozens of other names, so that the platform collapses and we all sink into quicksand as a result of our own short-sightedness.

Are these unfair remarks? Unfair, undemocratic, or not, they're the truth.

Monday, July 11, 2005

King Wenclas Versus ULAers

I say, "ULAers," instead of "ULA," because my commitment to the Underground Literary Alliance and the ULA name is and has always been total. My fault is in asking for similar dedication from others.

There's always been, and likely always will be, a tension between myself and my ideas, and others in the organization (and some out of it), who don't trust my counter-intuitive methods. Even in the ULA's first six months, I was constantly told that my plans and ideas were wrong. They in fact turned out to be very successful.

The ULA made great headway our first six months-- and occasionally since-- when I've been able to impose my ideas on the team. When I've stepped back, the organization has floundered. Many continue to doubt that I know what I'm doing.

I'm here to promote underground writers, publishers, and others. I receive no compensation for my efforts. I ask only that those I work with follow my suggestions and ideas. Otherwise, there's no point in my doing anything. There are 35 ULAers and many times that in number of sympathizers, each and every one who seem to bombard me with their own failed ways of doing things. Such barking from so many individuals detracts from my focus, which needs to be total for the ULA campaign to work.

Someone recently asked about ULA titles-- whether they're for real or not. Some have turned out to be just for show. I actually think, however, that I'm directing ULA Publicity, basing my actions on what's worked in the past. If the group wants someone else in that role, they can let me know. I can always find other things to do with my time and energy!

(All I know is that the Medusa event will be awesome-- even if I have to step down from my role as emcee and read something myself. Then-- look out. I can be very good when I want to be, though I'd just as soon others do it.)

Sunday, July 10, 2005

The Literary Future

The FUTURE of literature in all its bright free energy will be on display this coming Saturday at the Medusa lounge in Philadelphia, 21st at Chestnut, at 5 pm. The difference between ourselves and the mandarins is stark.

There will be a semi-private meeting at a Center City restaurant on Friday, July 15th, from 2:30 to 5 pm. Jack Saunders will be there, to be officially welcomed to Philadelphia by Lawrence Richette, Philly's best novelist. Other participants in The Show will be there as well.

We'll also be meeting someplace early Saturday, a hamburger or pizza place, at about 11 am. The rest of the day until five will be free for flyering (or sightseeing). People will be kept informed of the exact happenings by myself, Pat Simonelli, and J.D. Finch.

Sunday is of course the Philly Zinefest.

Two more Philadelphia performers, Erik Bader and Daniel Bolger, have been added to the show line-up. Both are experienced readers of high repute. We'll see how good they are at the event!

I'm asking performers to dress at least a little like entertainers, keeping in mind that the event might be taped, and at the least there will be many cameras present. Glamor or showmanship won't be out of line.

I also expect the event to be fast-moving. Given the number of readers to get up there and off, it'll have to be. And so, NO INTROS or prefatory remarks about yourselves and your works, how or why it was written the tree outside Muffy the cat sitting on your lap while you composed the thing blah blah blah all that nonsense which drags readings out. The performances/works will have to stand on their own. I'll be doing the introductions-- that will be my only job. Performers can let me know beforehand what they want me to say and I'll consider it.

Get on and off. Just be good when you're at the microphone. That's your moment. This is all we ask.

(There will be NO CharlesBaxtersJoyceCarolOatesBillyCollinsCMichaelCurtisHiramMoodys at this show, thank god. This will not be your ordinary sleepy literary reading. We're from a whole other literary planet.)

The Literary Past

The lit-establishment is on display in all its cronyistic moldiness in the new issue of the Atlantic monthly magazine. The issue should have a label with big letters slapped on it: "THE PAST." The Usual Suspects are present, with an opening essay about halycon days at Columbia and Brown by the Poster Boy for Literary Corruption, and contributions from tired failed fraudulent lit-fossils like Joyce Carol Oates, Billy Collins, Charles Baxter, and others. The ideas expressed represent the lit-world circa 1990 (or older).

The issue was apparently put together by C. Michael Curtis, an Insider's Insider, who I profiled in a zeen in 2000 after seeing him on a NYC panel. I described him then as a lifeless sack of potatoes plopped into a chair. I doubt, judging by the new issue's contents, that the sack has become anymore animated in the years since.

Friday, July 08, 2005

ULA Show Diary

Eight days and counting.

Folks in Hoboken, where the ULA held its founding meeting in October 2000, have taken note of the big July 16th Medusa event. Check out the Diana Schwaeble article at

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Lynn Freed's Partial Confession

From the July Harper's comes further proof that the Underground Literary Alliance has won the debate over literature, in Lynn Freed's confession, "Doing Time: My years in the creative writing gulag," in which she admits that the philosophy of MFA programs is bankrupt.

Freed: "--I feel like a fraud. Week after week in come their stories . . . some rewritten so many times and under the aegis of so many different workshops that the writer himself has lost all sense of the authenticity of the piece."

Doesn't this sound like ULA ideas?

Freed: "--to my mind, writing cannot be taught. That workshops can be dangerous . . . That unless the student plans to spend his life moving from workshop to workshop, he will need to be able to rely on his own ear. And that if he does move from workshop to workshop, he is doomed to lose his sense of hearing anyway."

Well, Lynn Freed, long-time writing instructor, welcome to the fight-- one which members of the ULA were engaged in before we joined forces; a fight which Jack Saunders has been engaged in long prior to that.

Freed's essay is admirably honest. But something is missing. There should be more. Her name sounds familiar to me. Has she taught at the most cronyistic and corrupt writing program of them all, the one at Bennington College? I think so. Was she there the summer day in 1995 when issue #28 of my New Philistine literary newsletter was publicly destroyed? At the least, I know I "bombarded" Freed at some point afterward with my zeens and promo material. She's been aware for some time that ideas contrary to the workshop ethos were out there. Finally, in 2005, she's converted to them.

May Lynn Freed be one of a flood of converts away from a system and ideology that have fossilized literature and removed it from the public. Such individuals freeing their brains are the sign of the onward rush of ULA ideas.

Kudos to Harper's for at last partially recognizing the future. Maybe there's hope for the magazine after all.

The ULA's winning ideas will take tangible form on July 16th at our Medusa event in Philadelphia. Jack Saunders, among other writers of unquestioned authenticity, will be there. You should be too.

Monday, July 04, 2005

ULA Show Diary

Twelve Days and Counting.

Yesterday evening I met several of the July 16th card, including Philly poets Michael Grover and Devin D'Andrea. Also present were both "The Student" and his nemesis "The Masked Professor," both sitting uncomfortably in their chairs trading scowls and insults, regarding each other like hostile prize fighters. I believe "The Student" received a taste of what he'll be in for. One hopes he's not hopping the first train back to Omaha! On the contrary, he left the saloon we were in with an expression of set determination. The Masked One may be underestimating him.

A FURTHER NOTE: All who care about the literary art will want to be at the July 16th show. On display will be the present of the underground-- the future of literature.

Up til now lit commentators have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Will they do so again? Or will they instead see what undergrounders have to offer-- and be part of an exciting event which will long be talked about?

Polemical Art

I saw the movie classic "The Adventures of Robin Hood" again on TV the other day. It's a perfect movie. Everything about it-- casting, acting, color, costumes, score, photography-- is wonderful. What gives the film its strength is its powerfully polemical voice. The spine of the movie is in the scenes of redress against cruelty and in the impassioned speeches Robin (Errol Flynn) makes against injustice. Robin gives up everything-- his lands and name-- to live like an "animal in the forest," in order to fight against oppression and corruption, and for the underdog. Robin Hood's attitude is rigid-- there's not a hint of a moment of compromise in him and his friends. In this case polemics works, beautifully, maybe because they're embedded in a production and storyline of such unparalled joy-- the excitement of having a cause.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Thoughts About Aid Concerts and Imperialist Art

I don't know much about the Live 8 spectacle in Philadelphia and around the world tomorrow. Its claimed intent is to raise awareness about African debt-- I suspect the actual purpose is to raise awareness about a host of corporate music artists!

Let's see: World monopoly Capitalism impoverishes entire continents, then the economic victors feign to care about the results.

At the moment I'm staying at a cheap hotel. One of its virtues is televisions in the rooms. I watched a show on public television that showed clips of Live Aid (in-between begging endlessly for money) from twenty years ago. Quite interesting for what it showed.

Most of the footage was from the London concert, which consisted of many posturing Brits, several of whom-- Sting and Bob Geldof in particular-- were purely awful. The show was awash in irony. After all, Great Britain had been the prime mover behind the imperialism and exploitation which put the African continent in the condition it's in. There on the stage were some of the biggest beneficiaries of the world's sick distorted economic system (near-billionaires like McCartney and Jagger) showing their "concern" for Africa. Hypocrisy; condescension: one can't think of enough words to describe the charade. Silhouettes of Africa at Wembley Stadium while a vast crowd of whites and a tired cast of mediocre performers engaged in "Let's pretend."

It was fitting that Geldof was the worst of a bad lot; "I Don't Like Mondays" or other whiny Brit-pop crap; preening and narcissistic, with hardly a smattering of "rock" to it and no visible talent.

Most revealing to me was that rock n roll was a spent force even then, in 1985. The performances were more pop than rock. The British legends like Mick Jagger and the Who were exposed, as performers, as not very good. David Bowie was merely going through the motions of what a rock n roll star should act like-- moving a little bit; attempting beyond his limitations to appear charismatic. This isn't my opinion-- it's all there on the videotape. Compare the line-up to the founders of rock, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, James Brown,, and you'll see the difference. Or to late-Sixties greats like Joplin and Hendrix.

Rock's permanent problem (the top artists today, Eminem and the rest, aren't rockers) is that its defining icon and greatest talent in voice and movement was part of the genre's birth-- a touchstone which can never be surpassed. Watch old films of early Elvis Presley naturally gliding cat-like all across a stage and you'll see what the Live Aiders of 1985 were aspiring to.

For me, watching TV has confirmed to me the decline of other art forms, like pop music and movies. I saw, on CNN an air-headed "journalist" from People magazine named Leah Rozen gushing over minimally interesting film personality Tom Cruise. Literature has, at least in the Underground Literary Alliance, REAL personalities like Wild Bill Blackolive to throw at people; who emanate authenticity, meaning, and substance; who aren't just slick manufactured products. Or like Jack Saunders, who'll be on display at our own Philly concert on July 16th.

WRITERS are the artists who can best address the globe's severe problems-- not phony playing pseudo-musicians with little inside their heads.

This is why the ULA's upcoming event is significant.

Monday Report

We have an excellent "Monday Report" feature up on the ULA's fan site this week. Joe Sheltraw examines Fraud of Frauds Mitch Albom.

Two comments:
1.) Mitch Albom has always been a fake. He's best known in Detroit for having been one of the first to cross the picket line during that city's infamous 1995 newspaper strike. He didn't think twice about selling out his co-workers.

2.) His plagiarism problems came about not simply because of his total lack of scruples, but because he's so busy working his various newspaper, radio, and TV assignments that he needs to take shortcuts. (It's not as if he needs the money-- he's richer than Midas because of all the suckers who bought the Tuesdays with Morrie book.) Mitch in fact does the OPPOSITE of what Morrie advised. It's as if Mitch didn't hear a word the man said. Which further illustrates what a phony Albom is and always has been. For the opportunist, dying Morrie was just there to be used, Mitch thinking, "Hey, this would make a great book!"