Monday, April 30, 2007

Misguided Aristocrats

While searching for something else, I stumbled upon an interesting post at the National Book Critics Circle blog ( from 3/31/07.

In the post, written by John Freeman, lit-establishment darlings Jonathan Lethem and George Saunders wrap themselves, bizarrely enough, in the designation of "communists." Freeman portrays them as opposed to the "all-encompassing dictums of the free market."

I scarcely know where to begin to address the layers of misconceptions these "genius" writers carry about themselves and this society.

The most basic one is the idea that the U.S. economy is a "free market." In reality it's become a hybrid monopoly/aristocracy (never more evident than in the lit-biz). Start listing the benefits to wealth and size which obliterate competition: legal protection for corporations; tax moratoriums; zoning laws; government contracts; tax shelters; lobbyists-- and you'll quickly see that everything is set up to guarantee there IS no level playing field; no free and unencumbered market. Most arenas in the U.S. economy are a rigged game.

This is certainly true with the creation of literature, certifications and barriers like MFA programs ensuring a well-regulated and controlled art, with writers from the most privileged schools in America having the most access to publication and media backing. Tops-down control (which I guess is what "communism" in practice has always resulted in).

Jonathan Lethem and George Saunders are Insiders' Insiders gobbling up all possible tax-sheltered and taxpayer largesse. When has the "free market" applied to them??

The publishing industry is a segment of the "Big Five" or Big Seven of conglomerate media, discussed by Tom Hendricks on the site and elsewhere again and again. Would that we ever had a "free market" for writers and publishers.

Well, yes, there is the small press-- which itself is being taken over by monied interests, as outlined in a two-part "Monday Report" on the subject which ran on the litrev site late last year.

In his post, John Freeman says, "part of me hungers for a furious book . . . something that comes from the bottom upward."

This is bullshit. It's pose. He's never shown a smidgen of interest in writers authentically from and living in the bottom levels of society, such as the writers in the Underground Literary Alliance. He hasn't tried to find the "furious" fiction and poetry for which he claims to be looking. If he were, for starters he'd review James Nowlan's Security, a far more "furious" and authentic examination of class than anything published by the likes of Jonathan Lethem and George Saunders. What he seeks is right in front of him, has been for years, but he stares away from it.

This might be because, like the literary world as a whole, the NBCC is encompassed by a bourgeois class attitude. Just read their blog. 99% of their reviewers circulate amid the atmosphere of complacency and comfort, so that the merest restriction of their ongoing privilege (the size of book review sections, whose style and content are geared toward the literate privileged) causes outcries and the miffed waving of perfumed handkerchiefs in outrage. What a distraction from what they'd rather be writing about-- "Believer" wine-drinking soirees at the New School in Manhattan! We're not talking exactly about the sans-culottes when we discuss this crowd.

When considering their misconceptions, I think of hamsters inside a cage, posturing and posing about their independence and rebelliousness while not for a moment acknowledging the cage which encompasses them, nor even the little treadmill they ride every day which has given them their healthy success within their enclosed little world.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

ULA Graphics

For those who wish to compare ULA graphics with those used on the cover of the Roberto Bolano novel The Savage Detectives (which, curiously, is about an underground literary movement).

The similarity is more pronounced when one views ULA flyers over the years done with black marker. . . .

Friday, April 27, 2007

They Don't Get It

Those stray commentators allowed to write about the ULA make much of the fact that we're an alternative to the mainstream yet seek media attention.

There's no contradiction in this-- it's fully part of a DIY "Do-It-Yourself" philosophy. Unlike the conglomerates, we have no advertising budget. "Free" advertising through publicity is the only way we can compete. (Marketing 101.) With new books out from us, receiving attention for them has gained more urgency-- which is why it's disconcerting when we're completely shut out by narrow-minded decisionmakers working for powerful media (who then have the gall to complain about "book burning" because their book review sections are shrinking).

(Some of these people even cry loudly about the "free market" while never having operated freely, as independent agents, in the lit business in their entire lives. All they know really is monopoly-- the intellectual monopoly, the single-minded groupthink-- which dominates their realm.)

More misconceptions exist about the ULA's animus toward Mr. Hiram F. Moody III-- when it's easily explained by our DIY status as undergrounders without financial resources.

Financial resources are very scarce in the literary business-- which is why we protested Moody's applying for, and receiving, a $35,000 Guggenheim grant at the same time he was living on Fisher's Island with the Firestones and Duponts, America's most exclusive enclave for the superwealthy. He was, and is, an author having no difficulty in getting his books published and promoted by huge book companies. Yet $35,000, for writers LIKE us (we didn't apply ourselves) is a gigantic amount. We and other undergrounders are competing on a literal shoestring. Why, give us 35 thou and then see what we can achieve! But that's not how this society operates.

Moody, as I've explained too many times, not only received tax-sheltered money, he has sat on grants panels and given away taxpayer money to his well-off buddies. It's why we've called Rick Moody "The Poster Boy of Literary Corruption."

Now the National Book Critics Circle has made this same corrupt and greedy individual their poster boy for the fight to save newspaper book review pages. What does this say about themselves?

Moody has suffered not one iota from his misdeeds. He remains at the center of the literary machine; his mediocre books published to lavish attention and acclaim, backed by large amounts of money. Meanwhile the whistleblowers of the Underground Literary Alliance are literary pariahs. Much of the literary world treats us as nonpersons. We're blacklisted far and wide.

Such is the bizarro universe of American literature today.

Show Wrap-Up

(April 22 at The Underground in Philadelphia.)

I know a show's good when I'm exhausted afterward.

Eric "Jellyboy the Clown" Broomfield filled in for usual ULA opener Wred Fright. Eric read from his journal. Despite (or because of ) some sword-swallowing beforehand, Eric took a few minutes to get going-- but his narrative kept getting better and better until he had the entire audience laughing as his story (which included a dramatic and controversial Frank Walsh poetry reading) reached a climax. Eric is a natural writer who doesn't realize how good he is. He has the eye and the ear of a true writer, making us SEE the incidents he describes; doing it with exciting wordplay.

The Idiom Poets, young writers from New Jersey, followed. (More about them later.) Then we experienced authentic West Philly street rap from Steve and Kingsley, words of realities of being young amid the harsh inequities of a distorted society. Next, special guests Rebecca and Supercam of "The Mighty Paradocs" (one of the best bands in the city). For us they read their poetry. Both were outstanding.

Toussaint St. Negritude with the pleasing mellow sounds of his saxophone and his voice closed the first part of our show, before the requisite ULA smoking-and-drinking break. Outside the club it was a beautiful day.

We returned with Philly novelist Lawrence Richette doing a particularly fiery reading of a particularly fiery subject: a fictionalized account of the infamous Philadelphia MOVE bombing, from Larry's excellent novel The Fault Line.

The Finale: A Speed Open Mic, Frank Walsh taking on all comers. Poet after poet stood up to challenge the man, themes appearing from every direction. Walsh had small papers with his sonnets on them hidden strategically throughout the room-- they appeared from behind walls and beneath tables in answer to each assault. Our variant on the open mic format was as exciting as we'd hoped, especially when Idiom writers Mark Baird and Steve McNamara good-naturedly attacked Frank Walsh loudly by name. Walsh responded with powerful recitations of his final two works. The pressure, he admitted later, brought out the best from him.

Awards given:
-Steve McNamara edged out Baird and local Philly icon "Cement Factory" Victor Thompson for the Big Mouth award.
-In a tight race with Colette Fay, Rebecca from the Mighty Paradocs took home the coveted Golden Bear award for the most beautiful poem.
-A young poet named Brett took the Dream Catcher prize as best overall challenger (though Walsh needled him for singing part of his piece).

As always, good fun.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Confused Demographics


As the gap between rich and poor in America increases, the literary world retreats further into its safe cocoon of comfort and affluence.

Approved literature draws away from the populace, seeking an upscale setting as final refuge. Its caretakers subconsciously relate literature's condition to art forms of days past, like opera or ballet. This is noticeable with the change in the styles of bookstores over the last decades.

When I was a kid, bookstores were seedy low-rent places with tile floors and glass window fronts; paperbacks by Kurt Vonnegut, Norman Mailer, or William Burroughs put at the front for the perusal of the mass public. (I think of Detroit's Merit Books on Harper Avenue, or Marwil's in St. Clair Shores.) By their very look and nature they were approachable for all classes. There was nothing refined or exclusive about the stores or their products; nothing high-brow-- which made them welcoming for a young guy like myself.

Today, new independent bookstores have an art gallery aspect to them, with glowing gold carpeting and untouched expensive volumes on blonde-wood display stands. Everything is cleanliness and purified air.

The big box bookstores of Borders and Barnes & Noble with their sheer size give the impression of popularity-- but look where they're located, in upscale neighborhoods (like Bryn Mawr or Rittenhouse Square) where millionaires hang out. The stores scream "gentrified." The customers inside them sipping latte at tables detract from this image not one iota. (Neither do the security guards prominently on display at the doors.) The lower classes are for the most part absent.

Bookstores are the face of an industry's increasingly upscale and insular mindset.


(Also upcoming: a Show Report, and another "Movie Serial" chapter.)


Establishment lit folk search desperately for rebellious figures of the past to embrace, from Allen Ginsberg to Roberto Bolanos, yet they run away from the most controversial and dangerous writers group of them all, the Underground Literary Alliance.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Skeptical Public


I'll soon be addressing in upcoming posts the outcry among literary people about shrinking book review newspaper pages.

Why take my opinion into consideration? Who am I? I've been called "not a writer" and I'm really not. "Writer" isn't how I define myself. I'd worked many jobs, went through several lives before after the age of thirty I began in any way seriously writing. I still consider myself a member of the skeptical general public regarding what passes for literature in this country. If you well-titled authorities want me to believe you have the goods, you'll have to do a better job of persuading me.

Right now I'm not convinced. Most of the authorities are fakes. If they were truly the best at what they do they wouldn't be hiding in their office buildings, afraid of the ULA. When you're the best, you're not afraid of anything.

Last Friday night after work I walked into an urban poetry open mic in order to test my voice. I held my own amid an array of energetic wordplay. One time I was at a poetry reading with Frank Walsh in the 'hood and MOVE people came in to read-- one of them with her great voice and passion destroying the place. True writers show off their words in any venue. Literature becomes an organic creation as it was in Shakespeare's time. (Literature is more than what the gentry is doing at polite swanky affairs at the main public library.)

Why not the best? Why not indeed.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Great Show!

A great ULA event yesterday with tons of highlights, concluding with a tremendous speed open mic which had three participants winning prizes. I hope to give a fuller report in the next couple days. Thanks to all who attended and participated.

Friday, April 20, 2007

What Is a Speed Open Mic?

An experiment in excitement. ULA poet Frank Walsh will be taking on "all comers" for ten fun rounds of a minute or so per person. (The minute is merely a guide-- no problem if go over.)

The idea:
1.) To create something new, faster moving than standard open mic.
2.) To encourage participation from the audience. Anyone will be able to get up and recite a poem.

The best "challenger" as chosen by Mr. Walsh will win a special prize.

In other words, show up and jump in!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Philly Media Puzzles

A Contradiction:

The ULA appears to be circumscribed by the notoriety it received in its early days, criticized for it, yet that notoriety, including of myself, remains the focal point for commentators who write about us. Do we therefore jettison the notoriety or embrace it?

1.) An article in Philadelphia's City Paper today says some good things about the ULA-- "new and improved"-- yet the article is framed by obligatory knocks on myself. "The Madness of King Wenclas," a blurb on the cover says. Inside, a caption beneath a photo of me mentions the ULA's "puzzling" feuds with Rick Moody and Dave Eggers.
(What's so puzzling? The ULA went after Moody for specific causes, the misuse of arts grant money, and other misdeeds. Eggers has on more than one occasion gone after us.)

The photo, the emphasis on myself in the presentation of the article, is puzzling because we wanted a photo of other ULA performers to run, we requested this and made every effort to carry this out. I'm not in any way the focus of our 4/22 show and shouldn't really have been the focus of the article. (Though I well know unpredictable happenings come with the territory of going after press coverage.)

2.) A nice mention appeared from Steven Wells in the Philadelphia Weekly yesterday about our event, in a column devoted to U.K. punk writer Jon Savage. Sterling company. Still, it was only a mention, though the Philly-based Underground Literary Alliance is the most exciting writers group in America.

3.) The city's leading newspaper, the Inquirer, resolutely refuses to cover us at all. They have presented feature articles on the city's blandest literary happenings. What's their problem? Are we too much of a threat? Perceived competition to their talent? I don't get it. Top dogs should have more belief in themselves than that. You'd think their gray newspaper would be excited about our kind of literary fire. They risk being left behind as we take off-- and we will take off, to fill the vacuum in literary culture.

4.) Sister newspaper to the Inky, the Philly Daily News is simply unfathomable. Their leading journalist, Royko-wannabe Stu Bykofsky, produces puzzlingly irrelevant columns like the one which begins and ends with the words, "I am an elephant." Clearly Stu is in his own world. The mad hectic stress of the planet has become too much maybe for any commentator to handle. "Byko" sits in the Daily News offices drawing circles on paper. Then he wanders to the zoo in an effort to find a minute of sanity. What does he discover? Can he put the pieces of his shattered mind back in place? "I am an elephant."

It's all very puzzling.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Greatest Show in Literature

--will be on display in Philadelphia on April 22.

For this event we'll feature as special guests some of the best underground talent in the city, including Supercam and Durtee Focus from the band "Mighty Paradocs"; West Philly street rap artists Steve and Kingsley, as well as cameos from three legendary underground poets.

All this, plus Lawrence Richette, Toussaint St. Negritude, the Idiom Poets from New Jersey, Yarrow Regan from Queens, the Literary Theater of Eric Broomfield, and headliner poet Frank Walsh taking on all comers in a speed open mic. (Ideal for any spectator to get his feet wet at open mic fun.)

THIS SUNDAY 3 p.m. The Underground 40th and Spruce below Copabanana.

Only the Best

What you'll see at the April 22 show at The Underground are the best writers in the city of Philadelphia.
Dispute this? Show up to do so!
More Info at

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Letting in the World

When dealing with "literary" people I sometimes get a vision in my head of them frantically boarding up the windows of their pristine house lest any contrarian ideas enter to mingle with the stale air. Most literati are actively hostile toward anything like the ULA which smacks too much of the noisy contention of the outside world.

That noise of the world WILL mingle with literature when we present another session of spoken word theater this Sunday, April 22, 3 pm, at the downstairs club The Underground at 40th and Spruce in Philadelphia. For more information go to

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Movie Serial: "The Mountain"


Meanwhile, gang moll Vendela Vida is in Manhattan meeting with her Columbia University buddies. The MFA program consists of a severe indoctrination regimen based on a martial arts academy. Their grads are trained to think of themselves as superior Masters of the Art-- though the version of the art they train on is, unknown to them, badly out-of-date.

Evil Vendela, who aspires to be best of all, returns to the secret writers gymnasium on campus to train.

At the moment she's practicing her literary "kicks" on cardboard silhouettes of her rival, Captain Rebecca Skloot-- a leading member of the Literature Police dedicated to wiping out any hint of literary noise on the streets, even the mild form Vendela and the rest of the Eggers mob engage in.

"Hiyaaahhh!" Vendela shouts as she kicks a hole through another Rebecca Skloot silhouette.

The cardboard hangs in tatters as Vendela graces it with a malicious sneer.

"If you really want to be the best," Training Master Ben Marcus advises, "You should visit the old wise man: the Master of Masters."

"Where's he?" Vendela snarls. "Where do I find the person?"

"On top of the Mountain," Marcus cryptically whispers.

She follows him to a dusty office at the back of the gymnasium. Wiping away cobwebs, he unlocks a faded green file cabinet. From the top drawer he produces, like a magician from a hat, a faded map.

"Follow this," Marcus tells her.

The light in the office is too dim for her to read the map, as is the artificial light in the gymnasium itself. Staring at the map, mesmerized by its existence, she walks hypnotically up a stairway with iron handrails until she's outside.

The malignant stuffiness of the room she left behind drops away. In sunlight Vendela sees a blue line thickly marked on the ancient paper. The words on the map are in an unreadable language, but the blue line is clear.

It's a long and arduous journey to the Mountain. Driving and driving through the reaches of New England; through snowstorms; past stuffy suburban communities of extreme wealth; past the environs of Providence and Boston, beyond, into the woods of Vermont, past Bennington, onto a road unmarked on any roadmap but this one. The car rises. She has driven onto the Mountain itself! Round curve after curve, ever higher, and higher, the air becoming colder and thinner.

The road ends. She unpacks hiking gear from the car's trunk and leaves the vehicle behind, making her way up a rocky path toward the summit; a path few have walked upon. The path is filled with obstacles; boulders; noxious growths of distorted plants. Then snow and ice.

The light is vanishing. The thin air this high influences her head. Vendela feels a sense of exhilaration. Why, she is one of the best! Her own husband mob boss Eggers himself seems very far away. Very far below. Up here, there is just her-- and the Master of Masters, whoever that might be.

She feels no fear about meeting this personage. She's been raised to think she's the best and has little regard for other people. Her entire life, her every action, every class taken, has been geared toward arriving at this special place: the Mountaintop! Many thousands of writers have gone through indoctrination programs but up here there is only her. She. Vendela Vida.

A few yards more. Then, at the front of a small cave beneath the very top squats a shadow. A man; a very small and very ancient man from ancient times, other eras, another generation. The 1940's! An impossible distance away, to her mind. So far back in time. Incomprehensible. Yet he's still here, alive, this wrinkled troll. How? Why?

She stands before him, towering, and scowls, hands on her hips.

"Tell me, O Master," she says with a trace of irony, of sardonic sarcasm intrinsic to her gang, "Tell me, Master, your Secrets. Tell me the mysteries of writing and literary achievement, of how to breathe your rarified air. Tell me how to be a Legend, adored and worshipped by millions, receiving millions in payment, fawned over by mighty corporations and placed on TV. Tell me how you accomplished this, Wizened One. What wizardry did you rely upon? Was it simply a marker of your more glorious times? Or can we capture the Power and Glamor the Word once held for people? Can we sweep away this nonsense of Mass Media we're bombarded with every day to arrive at the truth we as a lost people seek? Tell me, oh Noble Author. Tell ME!"

"You are all a lost generation," the troll, who looks suspiciously like Norman Mailer, murmurs in a polite and barely audible voice. "I know I'm quoting from another writer essentially revolutionary writer when I say that but it's essentially true, if we can know the essential truth about anything which I suppose is a kind of mystifying illusion perpetrated upon us by higher forces like the Old Boys who I once knew and played with, WASPy icons like Plimpton you know not all of them but many of them of course from the CIA and its many Martha Vineyards kind of playgrounds I hope I'm not being too verbose in capturing or trying to capture I've never been completely successful you know the riddle of existence as a writer in this technologically mad society of spaceships and stereo systems which doesn't much value the author, the writer, which I take to mean or are taking to mean for you in this conversation you and I. . . ."

(Vendela would think such an old troll would have to pause for a breath but he doesn't. . . .)

"Not to blather too much there are too many of us old white guys chauvinistic white guys as we see in today's news headlines none more chauvinistic than myself of course I Mailer trying to grab the 'Macho' ethos of Hemingway failing that then of the Beats the essential be-bop bluesiness whatever was trendy at the time I tried to grab onto it; always tried to be relevant, you know, the one true media writer if there ever was one so you see the irony of me of all people being atop this somewhat chilly and dreary mountain! These are shitty times. All is shit. That's the message, you know. Shit! SHIT is the one essential truth in life. We all shit! Can't you see it? The monumental profundity of that statement?"

(He gestures with his hands as if kneading dough.)

"I, Mailer, this literary god, this truly great Author if you really must know, have said many profound things in my spectacular Baudrillard life but none more spectacular or existentially true than that. The one thing I really know. In the final analysis I've become no more than this old and sleepy castrated CAT this benign animal preoccupied with naps and my trips to the litter box; the knowledge of how good it really feels exercising the sphincter muscles producing in the process not unlike my last few books you know this one warm and essential thing. . . ."

Vendela has had enough.

"THIS IS TOTAL BULLSHIT!" she screams to the empty cold mountainous air and with one great thrust of her muscular leg she's kicked through the head of the Master of Masters. His voice is gone. He's become silent.

All silent-- only the beating of her heart and happy ringing in her ears. She steps forward on the dirt floor to analyze the damage.

The Master's head is on the dirt floor in pieces. She looks closer. It's not a head at all, she realizes. It's squishy and orange.

Vendela Vida has destroyed a pumpkin.
NEXT CHAPTER: "The Fortress."

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Name Questions

PEOPLE have been asking me if I have any connection to some character called "King" Wenclas known for his drinking and noisemaking.

I can only say: None whatsoever! My moniker, you'll note, is K.I.N.G. Wenclas. I represent the new ULA focused around outstanding writing and-- if not outright civility-- at least no lawbreaking.

My drink/drug of choice is green tea.

Richette the Novelist

The ULA caught a reading last week by Philadelphia novelist Lawrence Richette. The best Philadelphia novelist alive today. It's a sign of the insularity of the U.S. literary scene that Richette labors in obscurity. His The Fault Line especially-- a fictional look at the MOVE tragedy-- should be read by everybody who cares about this city.

We're pleased to have Larry among the scheduled readers for our big "Underground" show April 22.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The ULA Journey

The most interesting article in the new n+1 (#5) is the essay "The Argonaut Folly" by Joshua Glenn. Glenn examines the adventures of Jason and the Argonauts and similar missions of a "ship of heroes" or "ship of fools," from the Dadaists to the X-Men.

Much of what Glenn says inadvertantly echoes the strange adventure of the Underground Literary Alliance; "they seem more like exiled criminals than heroes: to be an Argonaut is to be simultaneously a superior type and a misfit, a loser, an outlaw." Elsewhere: "outsiders, crooked sticks." Or, "a noncoercive band of flawed but heroic individuals. . . ." Or, "a team of violently quarrelsome heroes."

Glenn quotes Nathaniel Hawthorne's Coverdale: "We had broken through many hindrances that are powerful enough to keep most people on the weary tread-mill of the established system, even while they feel its irksomeness almost as intolerable as we did." Glenn quotes Hugo Ball: "How can one get rid of everything that smacks of journalism, worms, everything nice and right, blinkered, moralistic, Europeanized, enervated?"

Maybe Glenn would be embarrassed by the comparisons I'm making. The community he envisions isn't like the ULA at all, but a grouping of well-educated intellectuals who would presumably sit around thinking and talking. We're about nothing so much as action.

But then, the Argonauts weren't intellectuals. Despite their flaws and hesitations, they were persons of action.

The Underground Literary Alliance was created in 2000 to be a gang of zeen superheroes. (My influences were more the J.L.A., Fantastic Four, and the Iliad, than those Glenn cites.) I originally recruited into ULA ranks the five most interesting and talented personalities I could find from the zine explosion of the 90's. For charisma I had beautifully disturbed Ann S.; brawny punk street fighter Michael Jackman; and swaggering ladies man Steve Kostecke. (Strong writers all.) Added to the mix were intellectuals Doug Bassett and Joe Smith. (Only Steve remains as an active member.) It's an old story: after six months of hectic activity which obtained for us a flurry of press coverage, we turned our psychotic personalities upon ourselves, engaging in a knock-down drag-out year-and-a-half internal battle which almost-- almost-- destroyed the ULA.

Since then we've kept growing and have replaced our original heroes with some equally energetic and talented people, like James Nowlan, Wred Fright, Jessica "Disobedience" Wilber, and poet Frank Walsh. We even have a real-life Hercules in the person of novelist Wild Bill Blackolive, from the Texas wilds, and another legendary underground icon Gargantuan in both size and word output, Jack Saunders, author of 250 novels. Some of our youngest writers are unclassifiable, like journal-writer sideshow clown musician Eric "Jellyboy" Broomfield, who fearlessly accompanied me into Miller Theater a year ago when we crashed its stodgy Howl Anniversary reading.

Heroic action! Few writers groups in history have engaged in them as eagerly as the Underground Literary Alliance. We're foremost a group which believes in action-- acting within literary history, then writing about it. We've set ourselves improbable odds, and proclaimed a gargantuan goal: taking on the entire established literary world and toppling it. What could be more adventurous, more heroic?

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Key Question #2

The crucial question regarding the ULA campaign: Is this nation's literature in need of drastic change?

The ULA argues that the entire industry needs overhaul. Lit's condition is more decrepit than that of the U.S. auto industry.

Market share? What percentage of media noise is literature now generating? What percentage of public interest is it attracting?

Sports coverage has grown over the decades while book review sections are shrinking. The caretakers of literature aren't worried. Because of their positions within institutions they're insulated from failure. They don't see the need for change.

Fifty years ago Hemingway was as famous and recognizable as a movie star. T.S. Eliot sold out stadiums. Dylan Thomas was dying a legend, while the Beats were becoming a nationwide phenomenon, the leading edge of cultural change. Literature didn't dominate, but it competed.

Now it's in a safe overlooked corner speaking mainly to itself. Missing is real excitement-- cause for the general public to notice what's happening.

The ULA argues for change, swift and total change, sweeping aside the caretakers, dynamiting the icons, leaving room for dynamic, truly charismatic writers to take the stage.


Consider the hundreds of establishment writers, add to them thousands of lit-bloggers and hordes of MFA grads. NONE of them is more exciting than the poets and writers of the Underground Literary Alliance.

We'll be on display April 22 in Philadelphia along with other great underground talent. Don't miss it.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Jesus the Revolutionary

With Easter upon us it's time to remember one of the great revolutionaries of history. It amuses me how many Christians have little understanding of what Jesus was like in reality.

Supporter of the status quo? Not that dude. He had no connection to institutions and little truck with them. His followers for the most part were laborers and homeless guys. (The Gospels contain instructions for begging.)

Jesus knew how to be in-your-face. His entrance into Jerusalem on an ass was a provocation. As was his chasing money lenders out of the Temple. Jesus so little fit into his own time and place he was crucified.

Jesus detested rules and legalisms. He fought the narrow-minded thinking of the scribes and Pharisees of his day who believed life or God could be catalogued and quantified.

Many commentators have noted the cosmic significance of his encounter with Pontius Pilate. The man of truth, of anarchy, of future change met the bureaucratic legalistic servant of Empire. "What is truth?" Pilate asked like a postmodernist, having no understanding of the person he was sentencing. They lived at the same time but were separated by a gulf of ideas and upbringing.

"The son of man came eating and drinking." "--a winebibber and a sinner" he was called, who hung around disreputable sinners. I suspect if Jesus were alive today he'd not be living in posh towers of luxury but hanging with the anarchists in West Philly.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

"The Literature Police"


The next morning, while Boss Eggers and Pretty Boy are headed to the airport, the Kid at gang headquarters is disturbed by a knock on his office door.

"Wha- - -?" he begins to ask.

Before him stands a tall and somewhat gawky woman in a severe black uniform and black jackboots. He recognizes her immediately. Captain Rebecca Skloot.

The Literature Police!

"How'd you get in?" he growls.

"I could have obtained a warrant." Her diction is crisp, cold, efficient, perfect, like that of a well-programmed robot. "Instead I called your boss. His cell. He cooperated."

"Cooperated? WHY?" The Kid hates coppers.

She stares through him. To her-- a super-intelligent yuppy writer slumming in this movie as police captain-- the Kid's a lowlife, and no association with the Eggers gang will add luster to that fact.

"We're taking him out."

"Him?" Kid asks.



"Out. Rants. He comes with me."

Beyond tight-lipped tight-assed Captain Skloot of the Literature Police, the Kid notices now a figure standing nakedly exposed, no doubt embarrassed in the presence of Skloot but happy to be alive. He survived Eggers's bizarro Valencia headquarters, Rants can now claim.

"One of yours?" the Kid asks.

"NOW he is," Skloot replies. She turns to her charge, looks him up and down, then stalks toward the exit. The man dutifully follows.

(Cut to Literature Police Headquarters.)

Police Sergeant John Freeman gives the day's briefing.

"Men and women," he continues. "Our job is to patrol the streets of this city to make sure nothing exciting happens, no disturbances, no dissension, no debate, and that the public realizes that in this town which we control nothing exciting ever WILL happen."

(The camera pulls back to show the various officers in the briefing room. Most are sleeping.)

"Number One Priority," he continues blandly. "The ULA is still in the city; in alleyways, corners, shadows: everywhere. Let's be careful out there."

A hand raises. It's rookie patrolwoman Lindsay Robertson, the only person still awake in the room. "Gosh! But we have to know," (fresh from the Academy, Lindsay waits to jot down the facts with pen and paper). "What laws have they broken?"

Sergeant Freeman becomes alert for the first time that morning.

"Laws? LAWS?" Coffee spills threateningly from his mouth. He splutters, unable to continue. He begins coughing, choking, donut chunks emerging from his mouth, face glowing red an avalanche of sudden coughing so that the entire room is now awake wondering with no great concern if Sergeant Freeman is about to croak.

"ARUMPHAARGHGURGGAGARRRRHHHHHAUGGHCARUMPH!" the sergeant says, clutching his throat. Then he notices Chief Lopate standing unpleasantly behind him. The coughing immediately ceases.

"Yes, sir," Freeman squeaks.

Chief Phillip Lopate leans over the podium and glares at the clean-and-scrubbed preppy officers, before he barks, in a loud and angry voice, "DISMISSED!"

NEXT CHAPTER: "The Mountain."

Media Mail

For how long has domestic Media Mail been "Subject to Inspection"?

What up with that? Is this not an abrogation of Freedom of the Press?

When did this occur? Was anyone notified? Did anyone notice? Where was the outrage?

Writers and publishers have an obligation to oppose and reverse this change.

Key Question #1

Literature should be a free-for-all of opinion, ideas, and debate.

A key question is whether the literary world can tolerate criticism of itself. Current indications say it can't.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Radio Appearance

I would have preferred another ULAer like Frank Walsh-- or Wred Fright, Yarrow Regan, Crazy Carl Robinson, etc.-- have done this gig. Some people don't realize I'm just the promoter of the outfit! Our star writers are even better.

Naturally I gave it all that I had-- maybe too much for an NPR audience. I spoke strong satire and tried with my words and voice to burn down the house. (Kelly Writers House, that is!) The four other readers were fine, for the most part.

Those in the vicinity of Philly can hear the result this evening, 8 p.m., on 88.5 WXPN-FM.

(The Underground Literary Alliance IS the most exciting writers group on the planet. We prove it again and again. On April 22 we'll appear at The Underground, 3 pm, 40th and Spruce, not just myself, but with an entire card. The literary world has never seen anything like it.)