Monday, January 30, 2006

The Other Memoir

There's another memoir more famous than the James Frey one, a memoir whose authenticity was questioned four years ago-- the questions quickly and ruthlessly squelched. NO ONE among the brave souls of Literia has dared raise questions about this heartbreaking and staggering memoir again-- not even now, when everything else is under examination.

Why not?

Friday, January 27, 2006


TO UNDERSTAND my aversion to anonymous posters-- even well-intentioned sympathizers of the ULA cause-- one has to know my history as a zeen editor, back to 1998 when I co-edited Pop Literary Gazette with a Detroit writer who called himself Max Sitting.

Not content to use a pen name, "Max" tried to pack our journal with a collection of fake names who upon examination turned out to be representations of himself. At one time I thought Max the most completely lacking-in-character person I'd ever met. (Others I've encountered since greatly outdo Max in this department.)

A low-level prof at a local Detroit university, Max lived in terror of the posturing nonentities who ruled the tiny lit-world in that town. Never would he want to upset them. His secret wish was to join them. (He'd tell me how he had to grovel to them at faculty parties. I recall one prof couple parading around the area who styled themselves great writers for penning unreadable L*A*N*G*U*A*G*E poetry and such, George and Christine. I encountered Christine, an aging fox, one morning at a local copyshop. She was picking up a course pack. "What are you teaching?" I asked. "Post-Colonial Literature," she intoned in clipped and distant voice, glancing reluctantly and distastefully at me with eyes like narrowed slits. "Oh: Rip Van Winkle," I responded. The slitted eyes further narrowed.)

Husband George gave Pop an ample write-up in a local paper, with photo of its cover, contrasting it with a "legitimate" lit journal (bourgeois; overpriced; few dull poems and stories well-padded with many blank pages to express "significance.") In other words, he trashed us! mocking our colorful rah-rah football-fan in-your-face style. Rather than be glad at the coverage and wrath, which was great, "Max" went into panic. How many fawning reviews of local approved tamed litsters could he cram into Pop under various fake names? Our partnership soon dissolved. I gave Pop to Max and his imaginary cast of writers. Some months later I left Detroit. The next issue of the journal never appeared.

Who do I rank beneath Max in the character department? The list is a long one. (I have many knives in my back and a few wounds in front.) A few of the worst:
DAVE EGGERS: A truly nasty person. The story of his true nastiness was quickly squelched when he portrayed himself, bizarrely, as victim in the matter.
MAUD NEWTON: Her father is apparently a con-man of no integrity-- maybe why she readily embraces lit people of the same kind. Revealed as a plagiarist or fraud? You'll soon have Maud in your camp. Meanwhile she's hated the ULA from the moment she heard of us, for no apparent cause. Maybe because we're honest and authentic. We don't just talk about commitment; we LIVE it. It would take a psychiatrist to understand her behavior-- she has a lot of baggage to work out.
THE MOLE: His name itself lacks a shred of interest or character. Mercenary-on-sale to the highest bidder, his literary career consists of pathetically exhibiting himself in empty rooms as someone who can't get along with other writers, including those who once welcomed him in friendship. It'd be hard to rate him on a scale of character above a cockroach.
RICK MOODY: Lowest of all, with the non-existent conscience of a born-rich person for whom actions have no consequences. Why confront criticism head-on when you can hire or coax someone to do your dirty work? Security people escorting critics away from his vicinity is an analogy for how he's run his entire life: exist in a protective bubble secured by the nannies guards hirelings flunkies sycophants John Leonards of the world-- there's always someone available in awe of privilege or eager to be bought off.

Poetry: "The Mole"

The mole has no soul
The mole in its hole with no soul
is stealing the hopes of us all
But it's only a mole.
You tell me it's only a mole,
though it's stealing our hopes
and putting us down
punching us sideways, to and fro
kicking us around
calling us names, telling us
we're losers and old,
we should run to the ground
and give up our show
He, the mole,
who's allowed himself to be bought and sold,
and turn on his friends and allies
for the sake of a few pieces of gold.
He'll see us buried and DEAD
Curious what's become of his conscience,
the tales he once told, vows of solidarity
his integrity
vanished with the flickering lights
of ambition
in the gigantic city of wealth and dreams,
opportunists and cynics, power and control.
The mole, the mole, the mole!
Sing a funeral dirge for the mole!
A wake and a burial
When we catch him we'll adorn his invisible character
alongside those who paid him
on the nearest light pole
and sing several prayers
mingled with anger and blood
for the flamed-out dead soul of the mole.


LET IT BE KNOWN to one and all that the Underground Literary Alliance will ALWAYS be on the side of the underdog, because that's what we are. We've accepted many writers and zeensters at face value, with open arms. (Including some who now attack us.) If we get occasionally burned, so be it. We're not going to change. Our ethics and values stand rigidly fixed, permanent, unshakeable as before.

If I myself am someday somehow discredited, I'd be out of the movement, but the movement would continue on as before.

I mentioned recently the great heart writer Mary Gaitskill has, when she and her friend Tom Beller were in effect collecting underground writers-- Tom for his own amusement. I and my zeen were among them. Both were subscribers at a time I was alcoholic and broke. I remember sending a renewal note to Mary, telling her if she didn't renew, I wouldn't be able to feed my cat (who I wrote about often to her in my letters-- the cat and I went through a lot together, huddled up in a building without heat during a Detroit winter). Gaitskill didn't renew-- I'd pissed her off too much with my rants I guess-- but I did receive through the mail a giant bag of cat food!

The point: Does the ULA have a smaller heart than an establishment writer like her? No way! We'll continue adopting the poorest of poor writers. We'll take up the cause of writers like prisoner Cassidy Wheeler, whom Wild Bill is trying to help. If we have to make him a ULA member to protect him, we'll do so.

We will NEVER back off from what the ULA from its beginning has been about.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Whose Future?

This is the key question up for debate.

Does the future lie with the High Priests of the Word who've disconnected themselves from the populace; who write and discourse mainly among themselves?

LITERATURE to them is a closely-held lifeless thing secured behind steel doors and thick temple walls, kept in a box on an altar, the sacred texts becoming ever more convoluted and difficult, precious and narcissistic, sentences multiplying upon one another to fill huge verbose volumes of pages, 800 pages, then 1600, then 10,000, endless idiotic tropes in a foreign language saying nothing at all. The complexity will increase so that future generations will be able only to stare at the holy texts in the gilded box; will mumble and worship, in hushed tones, as mandarin critics bless the volumes, the ever-dwindling congregation behind them taking the wonderfulness of the documents on faith alone. This is the situation at the highest levels of American literature now.

IS not the future of literature rather with writers who push themselves and their works OUT into the world-- who come FROM the masses-- whose words and persons are available to all?

It's a choice but not a contest. The mandarins in priestly robes close the slow-moving doors of the temple behind themselves, shut off from the world among dust and the decayed artifacts of nonsense they consider novels and poems.

At the same time the Underground Literary Alliance holds a festival of word and song in the open square-- no priestly temple required. (We need not even a tent! ULAers like Frank Walsh and myself have given readings in the rain; will do so again, anytime and anywhere.)

The Literary Establishment Is Losing the Argument!

PRESUMABLY John Leonard spent more than one hour on his essay. Yet ULAers as diverse as Steve Kostecke, Leopold McGinnis, and myself can tear his argument to shreds instantaneously.

In truth, Leonard makes no argument. He concedes virtually every point of the ULA case, then says, in effect, "At least the McSweeney's gang aren't serial killers." It's not an argument so much as a plea: "Please like these guys!"

(The way Leonard haplessly flails away at himself in his own essay, one could imagine how he'd stumble and hesitate in a debate onstage.)

The tepid salvo from a reluctant soldier of the literary establishment tells me the ULA is unstoppable. Our ideas are irresistible. We win every debate. Our biggest battles are among ourselves. When a mandarin dares contend with us he quickly has to scamper back behind the stage scenery, from whence he came.

Characters like John Leonard, or Rick Moody with his word-clotted tomes, are already obsolete. The ULA is the future, has the energy, will be huge, is the answer, because we're relevant and necessary and literary history is with us.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Reactionary John Leonard

1.) I WONDER who else John Leonard wants to tag with the remark "a sodality of soreheads" he applies to the Underground Literary Alliance?

To the forces who overthrew the aristocracy in 1789 France? To later residents of Paris who stood on barricades in defense of their ideals?

Maybe he'd like to apply the words to those who built the union movement in this country through their blood, to those who've banded together to battle forces of reaction since time began?

John Leonard is a fake-Leftist who writes for The Nation (edited and largely owned by a billionairess) as well as for the bible of the Manhattan face-lift crowd, New York. He's now openly aligned himself with the forces of literary privilege. The latter part of his New York Review of Books essay on Rick Moody is an apology for upper-class "white bread" writers; an attack on the ULA's campaign and ideas. To John Leonard, it's fine that a small circle-jerk of hyper-affluent friends dominate philanthropic funding originally intended to benefit writers who might actually need it!

Moody and his friends are latter-day aristocrats. The gap between them and the writers in the ULA is at least as great as the gap between aristocrats and populace which once existed in France. OF COURSE Eggers and Moody pose as benefactors of the underprivileged; showing the sense of "noblesse oblige" necessary to maintain their system of corruption, class, and entitlement as is. (Efforts tax-deductible of course.)

Should we be grateful they don't trample us with their metaphorical carriages? (They've tried!) John Leonard has decided to take sides in our argument over the direction of the lit-world. Only problem is he's taken the wrong one! Leonard is huddled in a fancy salon with the nobles, clinking champagne glasses with them; wearing culottes and ruffled collars, disdainfully waving a perfumed handkerchief while grubby gutter-press writers of the ULA protest outside in the cold.

2.) Leisure-class writers like Rick Moody and his ilk write largely out of boredom. Knowing little about the brutal everyday realities of the authentic world, they give us instead a conglomerate perspective heavily mediated by television. This is their world. This is the essence of Moody's new novel.

Is he a rebel against the system? He'd have to begin by destroying his influential money-center banker father, Hiram F. Moody Jr. ("Rick" is Hiram F. the III.)

The problem the ULA has with Rick Moody is that he's a fraud. If his pose of commitment had a shred of meaning, he would've returned his ill-gotten Guggenheim money. (He still can.) If he were for real, he wouldn't have sat on grants panel after grants panel awarding taxpayer and tax-sheltered money to his aristocratic buds. If he were for real he'd not preside at $10,000 tables at events inside fortress-like Manhattan hotels represented as the true face of American literature instead of as the sick isolated insular artificial carnival mirrors of cultural distortion they are.

If Moody were for real he'd embrace the ULA (as would John Leonard). But Rick Moody and his crowd don't want to give up anything when it comes down to it; not their manufactured station, nor one penny of the public monies they ruthlessly grab and hoard.

3.) The ULA CHALLENGES John Leonard, and whoever he wishes to bring with him, to publicly Debate with us these questions of current literature. If Leonard is truly a democrat, in spirit and substance, he'll accept the challenge and put his ideas and words to the test.

(For more go to

Sunday, January 22, 2006

A Culture of Possibilities

Why the ULA?

I was walking along Pine Street, toward Broad, coming from the direction of the Last Drop and Dirty Frank's. The sidewalk was filled with college students. (Philadelphia is a "young" city in this regard.) On a porch sat a young man strumming an acoustic guitar in a folk style. I was reminded of the Johnny Cash movie I'd seen-- how fifty years ago a populist folk revolution in music was beginning.

In music, those days are over. That revolution took place-- maybe one or two others besides. With the wholesale absorption of every musical form and genre by the conglomerates, possibilities for the independent musician have narrowed.

For the independent writer, however, they're beginning. While legions of factory-trained conformist-sounding MFAers are jammed within the narrow entrance of the temple of the status quo, next door open and welcoming is the new house of the Underground Literary Alliance. We offer a new way to be a writer. Our history is in its infancy, as we create populist folk literature which will rescue literature.

Drop that guitar!-- all those who seek to make cultural history; to be part of cultural revolution. An art form is being re-thought and re-born in front of your eyes; not music, but literature. Put aside your pianos. Pick up pens instead; express yourselves in self-made zeens and join our cause.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

New Criterion versus n+1?

WHAT interests me about Stefan Beck's essay, "The Artifical Gravity of n+1," ( in the January New Criterion isn't the ease with which he eviscerates the anti-establishment pose of the lit-journal's editors. Yes, for upper-middle class grads of Harvard and Yale to speak of "the wild" and how they "have known exile" is ludicrous.

More fascinating is what's left unsaid both in beck's essay and in n+1's pages: a gaping space within the logic of their words, an unacknowledged presence which would have to be invented if it didn't already exist: the Underground Literary Alliance.

n+1 is right when it publishes essays outlining the stratified class nature of the American educational system. Stefan Beck is correct to suggest that n+1's editors themselves are part of the intellectual aristocracy. Neither takes their thinking to the next step.

After all, there's a group of writers in this land who are authentically "from the wild"; many who've known exile and live in it every moment. I'm the ULA's most visible personality, yet who is more in exile than myself?! I have no home to speak of; seldom have had one. I've had several ups and many downs-- worked hard in the bowels of industrial America for good pay and been on the margins, as I am now, half-a-step away from the cold-- would be there this instant if not for some timely help. As I step over this city's increasing numbers of homeless, I think of myself as one of literature's homeless; a gutter pressman independent and loud, zeenster from the streets with no aristocratic station to certify me as a proper "writer" within the eyes of the snobs of established culture. I've gathered other such rootless literary souls around me. We're on a campaign to open the doors of literature to outsiders. New Criterion and n+1 both should fear us, because we're the genuine article. They should welcome us, because our expression of authentic culture can revive literature.

The Imperial Newspaper

"Like a proper English country house," writes Terrence Rafferty with the opening words of the opening essay of the January 15 New York Times Book Review. The essay, properly, is a review of proper British author Julian Barnes's latest proper novel. The proper English country house described could be the New York Times itself.

The Times is against imperialism, I guess (or maybe just the way it's fought), but it sure conducts itself with a proper imperialistic view of the world, in a proper British imperialistic mode. The Book Review reviews the world (select segments of it) as if it owns it.

And so we get, for starters, not one but two reviews of snooty snobby Brit novelists (Anita Brookner the other); a review of the debut novel of the privileged daughter of a famous white South African playwright (good bloodlines, what?); a review of a book by an Australian novelist; and (to change things up) a review of a novel by a Palestinian. Palestine IS a focus of empire, a problem it seeks to solve.

Anything missing in this line-up? Any American novels reviewed-- in the entire issue? Not one!

There can be no future for the literature of this continent in a publication whose gaze is so fixed in the opposite direction, and is so out of touch with the vast bulk of its populace.

Back on the ULA Beat

Check out the great ULA "Monday Report" now up at by Michael Jackman, which looks at the Frey and Leroy cons. (Though I should add that Mary Gaitskill's larger problem is the size of her heart-- her ability to empathize with people; one reason of course why at stray times she's been a very good writer. As ambitious and hard-nosed as any of them when she's needed to be, of course.)

Good to see Mr. Jackman back in action.

I just read in New York that J.T. Leroy was supposed to dj a party at Sundance in his own honor, but now won't make it. Right in with all the beautiful and trendy people. Will they notice his/her absence? Will it matter?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

About New Criterion

BACK in the literary dark ages of the late 1980's and early 90's, before the Internet, before the explosion of print-zeens, few voices could be found which attacked prevailing literary orthodoxy: a complacent status-quo acceptance standing unquestioned and all-powerful within academia and its literary publications. One of the few contrary opinions to be found anywhere was that of the New Criterion. I read the journal (as did fellow ULA founder Doug Bassett), DESPITE its baggage of neo-conservative political ideology, despite the journal's enormous contradictions, because it was one place to find an alternative viewpoint; to encounter stimulating and provocative thought.

In the years since New Criterion has stayed in one spot, not expanding a bit (beyond belatedly adding a web site). It looks comfortably the same as always. Meanwhile the cultural world has grown, changed, expanded in all directions around it. At one time the pot of petunias stood colorfully vibrant among the other plants-- now it's overwhelmed by new foliage.

This is the hazard the ULA must avoid. If we become a debating society insular to ourselves; thinking we're widely read when we're not-- if we lose as an organization a constant activist fervor-- we'll lose our cogency and relevance. By standing still as the world moves ahead we'll fall behind and vanish.

In their January issue the New Criterion has re-entered the literary wars with a well-written full-gun assault by Stefan Beck on the trendy new lit-journal n+1.

What up with that? What, not another essay on Marcel Proust? We are surely entering contentious literary times when the buttoned-down prepsters at New Criterion awake from their snooze. (I'll comment on Beck's essay itself in a later post.)

Friday, January 13, 2006

Roots Culture

Genuine culture comes from the earth itself, the artist in harmony with the land, people, voices, streets, every whisper and vibration around him. (Have there been more authentic artists than the Carter Family?) What do I care about stuffy theorists from the Academy in France? Who are they to me? What can they say about life as I see it; what do they know about the world around me?

Singer Johnny Cash has had a connection to the history of the ULA, if only because his songs were on the jukebox at the seedy International Bar (now closed) in New York City's East Village. During our many meetings there in our first days we'd play Iggy's "Raw Power," as a reminder of our home city of Detroit, but we'd also play Cash's great versions of June Carter's "Ring of Fire" and Bob Dylan's "It Ain't Me Babe."

On New Year's Day I went with a friend of mine named Mary Kay to see the Johnny Cash film bio "Walk the Line." We met on Market Street (disorganized Mary Kay-- a local vagabond like myself-- was late but I was on a one hour-plus cell phone conversation with Frank Walsh anyway, Frank pouring forth oceans of words poems tales history worries reflections ideas), then M.K. and I walked a couple miles down Second Street toward the theater. At Washington Avenue at the Mummers Museum stood a hundred cops. What was this about, we wondered? The Mummers parade wasn't here, but in Center City, on Broad Street.

I thought the Cash movie as well acted as hyped. I especially enjoyed the early scenes. At one point Johnny's wife scorns Johnny's singing with two buddies on their porch. "That's my band," he tells her. "That's not a band," she sneers. "They're two mechanics!" (And ULAers aren't writers.)

In other words, a great movie. I'm sure most audience members didn't get all the references-- such as those to the Carter Family, or a playing of one of the family's historic recordings near the beginning. I'm not sure many understood the tremendous power of the scene showing Johnny Cash and June Carter singing Dylan's "It Ain't Me Babe" on stage, uniting several strains of American roots music-- drawing the unshakeable connection, THROUGH Johnny Cash, between the Carter Family and the greatest folk troubador/rock songwriter of them all.

Roots Culture: the Underground Literary Alliance embraced it when we brought two living, legendary embodiments of roots literature, Jack Saunders and Bill Blackolive, into our ranks. I doubt if more than a handful of people appreciate the significance of putting both men on stage as headliners when we held our 2001 Amato Opera House "Underground Invasion" show in New York City. If the ULA achieves nothing else, it had at least one great moment in underground literary history. (But we've had OTHER moments, including this past summer when Jack appeared at our big Philly reading. We'll have more of them.)

After the movie, sundown early evening, Mary Kay and I encountered a huge street party on Second Street, stretching for many blocks, consisting of Mummers and fans, neighbors joining in from open doorways. Mummer String Bands performed again their routines from the parade, this time uninhibitedly. "Wow!" I exclaimed.

"This is Philly!" Irish Mary told me. "This is the real parade."

It was like being at Mardis Gras. The Mummers are authentic ground-up working-class American culture, a product of city neighborhoods (and of neighboring towns); bands year long creating wonderful colorful costumes and rehearsing after hard jobs their intricate routines. The parade is their payoff. As far as I know they receive no corporate or government funding. No "Budweiser" banners anyplace. Much of the music as well as the famous Mummers "strut" are pre-jazz; early American culture magically replicated like a dinosaur spawned from DNA.

Beers everywhere. We walked through the happy partying. At Washington Avenue a Mummers band had taken over the intersection, performing routine after routine as traffic backed-up for miles in either direction, a vast mob of neighborhood folks applauded and danced, and the police looked on helplessly, enjoying the scene. At times Philadelphia is a wonderful city.

Fighting Inertia

The ULA is like a wagon train heading west through hostile wilderness toward the Promised Land. We've stopped at a watering hole that's mildly comfortable, and many of the pioneers are saying, "Let's settle here." But I'm saying, "Let's board the wagons! We have a long way to go."

Thursday, January 12, 2006

ULA Campaign 2006: Opening Up Literature

The Underground Literary Alliance has set the standard for truth and openness in the literary world. At the beginning of our campaign we held a press conference to which we invited the entire New York literary and media worlds to question our ideas and protests. Led by George Plimpton, they did their best to challenge us. We hit their every pitched hardball question out of the park.

We've pointed the way the literary world should operate. If football coaches can face scrutiny every week, why not us?

In response to our honesty we've faced dirty trick after dirty trick-- as shown last year on this blog. The games have all fallen apart. It's why we've insisted on no anonymous games from ourselves. They never work. Is this still our policy? Yes! Anonymous posters like "Ranger West" who've sought to join us have been rebuffed. Former ULAers who've played such games would never have been allowed in if we'd known what they were about.

Look at the list of defeated adversaries: Dave Eggers posting anonymously on Amazon; Daniel Handler constructing a fake letter; the onslaught of "Bryan Guski" and other fake posters. None withstood scrutiny or questions.

The ULA has been questioned, examined, and scrutinized for five years, and has always held up.

But who is allowed to ask tough questions of the established lit world? Can we question departing Harper's editor Lewis Lapham, or his successor Roger Hodge? What about Joel Connaroe of Guggenheim or other foundation heads? Will new Paris Review editor Philip Gourevitch consent to be interviewed by ULA reps? Or Morgan Entrekin of Grove/Atlantic Books?

If not, why not? Are they more hostile to the scrutiny of a truly free press than football coaches?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Re-Radicalizing the ULA

The status quo will not give underground writers anything voluntarily. This fact existed before the ULA arrived on the scene-- it would certainly be the case were we not around.

Underground writers are being disrespected in San Francisco. They're being disrespected here in Philly. (I'll be writing about three separate incidents involving Frank Walsh, novelist Lawrence Richette, and local character and activist Eric/"Professor Malerkus.") They're being disrespected everyplace.

The only way to be accorded fair treatment in this society is to DEMAND it. People have no idea how aggressive my newsletter was in the 90's, or the detailed exposures of corruption I sent to editors and press in 2000-- which got many of them to our Feb 2001 press conference at CBGB's. In comparison, over the past two years the ULA has been playing defense. If we remain static we'll be picked apart, piece by piece.

We should be shaking up the media world far more than we do now. WE should be the ones going onto lit sites engaging in argument, as we once did-- calling insulated media types on their inaction and their ignorance. The only leverage we have in this society is our ability to make noise. It's time we began again doing so.

Ask the ULA

"Are you guys Marxists?" (One of many such queries.)

The ULA was founded by three Fred Woodworth-style ethical anarchists, one libertarian-leaning conservative, one pseudo-anarchist fashion-punk, and Steve Kostecke, who's claimed to be liberal-left but is really unclassifiable.

In truth most of us dislike all political labels, boxes, and categories. We've gone beyond Right and Left. We hate everybody!

(What party do I belong to? The ULA.)

Director Search Update

It's back on. Good. I need a vacation.

NOTE: establishment moles; egomaniacs; people with WWE-ballyhoo personalities; ULA-wannabes-- please send us your resumes!

(I haven't even heard yet from Lee Klein.)

Apropos of Nothing

Sitting in an ING coffeeshop this morning I saw on a large television screen a video of a band called Nickleback. I thought I'd flashed back suddenly to 1990. Completely derivative in sound, structure, look, everything. Or maybe someone is messing with universal time.

Monday, January 09, 2006

New ULA Director?

I see little enthusiasm for the Director idea within the team itself, so I'm putting the idea on hold. I have better things to do with my time. Let no one complain about "The King Wenclas Show" when I make noise on my own, or with my immediate allies.

To the lit-world: I'm still putting on my war paint and renewing an Activist campaign. Those ULAers who care to join me are welcome. Those who don't can do their own thing.

The Crumpling Literary Establishment

There's an interesting quote by William Vollmann in today's Metro newspapers. (Vollmann's 800-page novel just won the National Book Award.)

"I'm sort of a writer's writer. Most people are pretty bored by what I write about."

Sounds like he's kind of lost the faith. Even he has no confidence in his kind of literary writing-- certainly no belief that it can reach many people. Vollmann is one of the lit-establishment's leading pets. A ton of backing, reviews, criticism, and awards have been invested in the guy.

This is as if one of the Vatican's leading Cardinals came out and admitted he didn't believe in God and didn't see much point in what his church was doing!

Return to your monastery, Vollmann! Let literature return to the hands and voices of those who believe in its power and who have something coherent and necessary to say.

J.T. Leroy

This is the big news in the lit world today after an article in the NY Times claiming JT Leroy is a fake.

We should reserve judgement a trifle-- because the hoax itself could be a hoax.

What I know: I was recruited by a fairly well-known novelist to write a review of Leroy's first novel for Bookforum. The story I got is that she had met the very young individual in San Francisco. He'd begun writing as therapy, on a suggestion from a social worker or psychiatrist. The writer recommended him for an advance, apparently, based on the life story he related to her, and on mere scraps of paper.

Was it a scam?

If so, it took a long time to play out. Many many hours were invested in it, through personal meetings with famous authors and countless long phone conversations. The "payoff" was by no means immediate-- it took Leroy a couple years to come up with a finished product, which required help from the famous writers.

Still, something about the book struck me as not quite authentic or right-- the way the teenage prostitute was portrayed seemed aimed at the literary gentry. As I put in my review (some of my remarks edited before publication), there was nothing remotely glamorous about truck compound "lot lizards"-- they were in fact very pathetic creatures. (I'd encountered such in Detroit when I worked for a time in the freight forwarding business.)

Real or not, Leroy gave the literati what they wanted to hear.

Was J.T. Leroy a fake? If so, it was done as a joke. The money gained-- $20 thou?-- wouldn't justify the time invested if the jokesters were ordinary con artists out for money.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Why the ULA Needs a Director

IT'S INEVITABLE that there will be disagreements between radicals and moderates in an organization like ours. As I'll always be a spokesman for a radical point-of-view (the Underground Literary Alliance was founded to be a radical movement), I'm not the best person to balance opposing forces in order to keep the entire team moving forward. This will be one of the tasks of the new Director.

I've been asked, "What will be the person's authority and role?"

I expect the individual to DEFINE the role, by the quality of his-or-her work and the strength or weakness of his-or-her personality; by the person's leadership abilities, or lack thereof.

We should think of the person as the quarterback of a football team. BECAUSE we're players on the same team, standing together on the field as equals, doesn't mean we should exist in chaos, without direction. Responsibility has to be taken for moving the team, and corresponding authority given to the person. How much authority? Who knows? We remain a work-in-progress.

Until the person is chosen, by default I'm quarterbacking the team; have taken on the responsibility of moving us along-- but can have success only if members of the team find positions on the line and prepare to carry out the plays; only if they themselves take on the responsibility and authority of particular roles.

Why People Follow a Movement

A revolutionary movement tells people not what they want to hear; not what they agree with or already know-- but what they've never heard before.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The ULA Insurgency

The ULA needs to always remember that it's a cultural insurgency. We can't stop and plant a flag when we haven't arrived anyplace! No fixed points for us, but constant mobility; unpredictable in our appearances on-line and off. We need to always be on the move.

Cultural guerrillas operating beneath the radar screens: we've reclaimed this attitude.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Change Isn't Easy

As a revolutionary lit group, the ULA should never get into a comfort zone where we're satisfied with any aspect of this operation. We have to always be shaking things up, internally as well as externally. Otherwise we'll become accustomed to stasis-- to things as they are. For us, change must be the status quo. We shouldn't be satisfied unless we're amid constant turmoil, conflict, and change.

Last year's Underground Literary Alliance is last year's model. The 2006 ULA has to be an updated, revamped, more efficient, better looking, louder and faster version. Let's get to work!