Monday, July 30, 2007

I'm Okay, You're Okay

Status quo types and their acolytes in the literary world want to play the game of "I'm Okay, You're Okay." (This is a variation of "Can't we all just get along," coming from the biggest rich guy grant-grabber in recent history.)

Literary people want total agreement. Their attitudes when you meet them is, "I'm okay and you're okay, we're all okay because we're all good liberal people and this country and its literature just needs a little tinkering, a slight amount, around the edges, and then everything will be even more okay among all of us and our literature as they are today."

But things are NOT okay in this society, nor in its literature. There are widening gaping cracks in the civilization. A little plaster around the edges won't save things. This is the case the Underground Literary Alliance has been making.

Agreement is possible with the clique of insular elitists who comprise the so-called mainstream. It's always been possible, as long as we accept the terms of agreement.

These are their terms:
That they have everything and everyone else has nothing.

Is it a waste of time to debate with anonymous demi-puppets on blog sites?

Very likely it is. I'll still do it on occasion, because the intent of the ULA at its beginning was to engage the culture, to take on the status quo in debate and win the battle of ideas. The thinking was that by our ideas and the strength of our voices we could overturn the literature and save the culture. This showed tremendous faith in the fairness of this society.

It's thought by many undergrounders that we shouldn't criticize the literary establishment, but go our own way.

This presupposes that those writers at the top of the literary pyramid, recipients of attention, backing, and money, are there because they deserve to be. This assumes that the system isn't corrupt. This ignores the reality that many very good writers are struggling, while the system promotes privileged mediocrities.

The ULA argues by contrast that we the underground are the true American literature of this time. We also recognize the context of this society.

As rebels promoting new words and a new literary philosophy, do we attempt to sit at the table of literary culture without any weapons-- without our greatest strength which is the passion of our voices?

Study the example Brando as Zapata gives in the film "Viva Zapata" (screenplay by John Steinbeck). Holding a rifle on a moderate politician, he takes the moderate's watch away from him. Then he hands the rifle to the man and gives his watch back, at the same time saying, "There! Your watch back. But without that"-- pointing to the rifle-- "Never!"

Our arguments are the ULA's rifles. They allow us not to be subservient.

The literary world NEEDS debate-- true debate, of the kind which only the ULA as a contrary voice can provide. When we have engaged in such debate with establishment apologists, the events have been extremely exciting. Such debates are a way to grab the attention of the general public.

Besides-- how can undergrounders not compete? Sure, we're like a small local bottler of soda pop with few resources going up against the Coke and Pepsi giants. We have to present a better product and we have to announce that it's better. If we run away from this distinction we'll be quickly out of business. Our writers, our language, our more exciting words and energy is what we're selling. We need to get the word out that we're here and people should try us. If we ruffle a few feathers among the monopolists so be it. In a way, that's the idea.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Underground

The Underground
Originally uploaded by King Wenclas
Venue for our April event.

Toussaint and Brooklyn Frank

After the ULA's April 22 Show.

Lots more photos from this event and last week's Germ Books reading will be posted here and at the main ULA site. Stay tuned!

Mighty Paradocs

Mighty Paradocs
Originally uploaded by King Wenclas
The super-talented Mighty Paradocs reading at our April 22 "Underground" show in Philadelphia.

Monday, July 23, 2007

It's About the Writing

The ULA movement, vanguard of literary rebellion, will ultimately succeed not because of our unbeatable ideas, or our unmatched public performances. We'll prevail because of the excitement generated by our writing.

Considering that we're not part of a billion-dollar system which thinks it can create, with the most conformist individuals in this society, "great" writing (see the Atlantic Monthly's 2007 Fiction Issue), the extent to which our writers can already outdo the established brand is amazing.

Speaking only for myself, I know, because my underground ethos allows me to be creative, that I can outwrite any of the standard literati in this town of Philadelphia-- including the exclusionists at the local daily. (My latest post on should demonstrate this.) I also know that writers in my own group are better and more creative than I am.

Underground writers are analagous to this nation's roots musicians, who first gained notice in the 1950's. Back then, the appeal of the recordings of Hank Williams or Leadbelly or the Carter Family wasn't their artistry so much as the soul embodied in their work; mainly, in the artist's authenticity; the expression of the voice of this country.

This is the appeal of most underground writing today. Many self-taught undergrounders adopt a kind of primitive Bukowski style, because it's easy to imitate, if impossible to duplicate. This is true for many prosists but especially for many many underground poets. Their work resonates through its very simplicity and rawness. Basic, primal screams.

I was always drawn more to Kerouac than Bukowski as an influence on my creative work, who plays with language in a different way.

Underground writers each have their own combination of influences, from reading, and express these influences in varying ways. I brought icons Jacjk Saunders and Wild Bill Blackolive into the ULA because they embody classic literary roots writing.

It's interesting to see how young undergrounders develop their art.

Our first "Zeen Elvis," for instance, began writing heavily influenced by Bukowski. Quickly enough, even while still a zeenster, she left this influence behind and began creating work equaivalent to early psychedelia-- very early garage band psychedelia, her prose taking on surreal and colorful aspects that I as a reader had never before seen. Unfortunately, this artist got it into her head that she needed training-- ambitious to be a "studio musician" I guess, putting craft above originality and art. If she's still writing, if her work is to have appeal, it will be because of its craziness, not its attention to rules, which is commonplace and stifling. (See Carla Spataro and Company.)

The major influence on zeensters in the movement's heyday of the 1990's was Aaron Cometbus. He probably remains the chief influence on young zeensters today. His work is clear, simple, basic, while not as crude as the Bukowski-wannabes. It's great folk writing-- like folk rock of the 1960's, Grateful Dead-style, interesting of itself but which never changes, as Cometbus's immutability as a writer is part of his appeal.

Even in the 90's though his biggest fans (see Jennifer Gogglebox and Urban Hermitt) were going beyond Cometbus by instinctively jazzing up their writing.

The strength of the Underground Literary Alliance is that we have the most interesting, and most advanced, underground writers in the country in our ranks. They've left the literary "rockabilly" of the Bukowski-ites behind and are presenting underground writing in its prime. I refer not just to the ULA's Wred Fright and Crazy Carl Robinson, whose work goes beyond (way beyond) status quo work but also standard underground sounds, but more, I'm speaking about poet Frank Walsh and novelist James Nowlan, whose work is the expression of underground potential, encompassing reality, authenticity, soul, but also full understanding of language, the uses of language to grab the reader and embody meaning.

This is a sketchy overview of the advancement of the underground literary scene. To mandarin outsiders we and our work appear to be a blur-- but there's a lot happening; the only true artistic excitement in the literary scene today.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Tour De Corruption

If the ULA has proved nothing else in the six-plus years of its existence, it's that the literary world is thoroughly corrupt. We have exciting arguments and talented writers-- yet because of our ideas, contrary to those of the entrenched literary scene, we're by-and-large blackballed. Noteworthy that my recent radio appearance was the first time our ideas have been aired publicly since February 2001, when we debated George Plimpton and his staff in one of the most exciting events American literature has ever seen. It's not that we don't have the goods. We've always had the goods-- ideas, and the writers to back up those ideas. We've been shut out because of our whistle-blowing.

The problem is this society's Cult of the Lie. There is no ethos of integrity in America today. Everything-- EVERYTHING-- is subordinated to career and to personal gain.

An example of this is what has happened to the sport of bicycling. David Walsh's new book From Lance to Landis builds an overwhelming case that superstar Lance Armstrong all these years has been cheating. If this is so, what does this say about Armstrong's public persona, presenting himself as an example of virtue? This psychotic has no problem living a total lie. It's how things are done, you see. As bad are the armies of enablers in the cycling scene, who know he's a fraud yet turn the other way for the sake of their jobs and the business world of cycling. Meanwhile, those who have spoken out, like Greg LeMond, are hurt because of their honesty. This is reprehensible and has a lot to say about the rottenness of the American character. The only remaining question is whether that character has always been that rotten.

The same thing goes for the lit scene. The ULA's exposes of corruption are dismissed as something quirky, of little meaning. We the whistle blowers are ostracized, while corrupt frauds without conscience have done nothing but gain.

The pursuit of truth-- entwined with the pursuit of art-- gives life meaning. I wouldn't have altered my behavior with the ULA one iota, because I know our campaign has been right. As William Holden says in "The Wild Bunch": "I wouldn't have it any other way."

What's Next?

(Aside from getting my life in order, which I've found impossible my entire life. . . .)

I'm gradually updating my new Literary Mystery blog ( Once it's up to speed, that will become my main on-line hangout.

There are fresh revelations however coming on this place-- as well as in a "Monday Report" in the preliminary stages about the art world today, for the ULA.

I have several reviews to write for the ULA's review blog, as well as a general essay or two for the same place. THEN-- I hope to work on my own fiction and poetry.

So much writing to do and no time!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

About the Public

A successful show is energizing!

We at the Underground Literary Alliance know we're on the right path with our writing. Wred Fright's Emus is as readable and fun a book as to be found anyplace-- and well-written at the same time. (The subtle quality of the writing creates the sense of exuberance.) The multiple viewpoints-- not done! according to writing programs-- gives the book a three-dimensional quality which further brings the characters and actions to life.

Even the ULA's more experimental writers, such as Jack Saunders, or Mark Sonnenfeld reading poetry in parks, use experiment as ways to further engage an audience-- not to alienate one.

Withdrawing from the public into cocoons of self or intellectualism is the tactic of establishment writers and establishment WANNABE writers like Tao Lin, the well-known single-minded careerist whose single-minded pursuit of literary career is matched by the single-minded, McSweeney's-taken-three-steps-further nature of his prose: robbed of persons, plot, characters and character; literature without the literature.

Worse is Mark Z. Danielewski's glossy-covered Only Revolutions, one of those goofy ideas zeensters have tried for years with half the page, each page, printed upside down, so the reader has to keep turning the book up and down for any glimmer of sense from the nonsensical cutesy-posturing narrative. Which is fine for a one-dollar zeen but not so cool for a hard-cover book selling for twenty-fine bucks. I figure about five people total, insane intellectuals all, have the leisure time to endlessly experiment with this game, and they all live on Fisher's Island.

Yet, the conglomerate behind this slick but useless product is spending a huge sum of money producing and marketing it.

How can one not prevail over these monopolistic clowns? They have overpriced experimental trickeries fit only for doorstops or to weigh down papers on coffee tables and we have Wred Fright and the Emus. A win for us all the way.

(Catch Wred Fright, Crazy Carl Robinson, and a stuffed Emus TONITE at Freebird Books in Brooklyn. Info at

Great Reading

The reading yesterday at Germ Books was fantastic-- just about every chair filled, thirty people or more to see our little-known writers group. Many were neighborhood folk. Most I'd guess came because of the amazing article we received in the Fishtown Star, by Brian Rademaekers (a real old-fashioned walk-the-streets reporter) which is attached to the ULA's main site at The best spread about us in several years. (The article looks better and seems longer in the actual paper, with a huge photo of Germ's owner.)

Noteworthy about the audience was that it was NOT your usual genteel literary crowd. Just average folks, young and old. Who needs the gatekeepers? We can go directly to the public.

Crazy Carl, Eric Broomfield, Frank Walsh, Wred Fright-- all performers read well. A good time had by one and all. Great vibe. Musician David Talento accompanied the readers on guitar and toy saxophone, highlighting dramatic narrative moments, in Wred's and Eric's pieces especially, at just the right time.

Mucho thanks to bookstore owner David Williams for having us. The ULA train is on the move!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Germ Books Today!

Yes, TODAY is the ULA reading at Germ Books in Philadelphia, 7 pm, 2005 Frankford Avenue in Fishtown. Wred Fright and Crazy Carl Robinson are headlining. Much discussion before and after. Thanks to the METRO newspaper for their coverage yesterday, even though they got the date wrong!

Directions to Germ? FIND THEM on the Germ Book web site linked to this blog. It's a site worth checking out.

All are welcome, friend and foe.

Twenty years from now, will you be able to say, about an early appearance of the most exciting writers group on the globe, "I was there"?

See ya at seven!

On Right and Left

Writers on the Right and Left suffer from a similar ailment which manifests itself in different ways.

That is to focus on the many problems which afflict today's world as a way to not cover the problems here at home, in our own country; a way to turn away from their own collapsing civilization (hundreds of murders in Philadelphia neighborhoods so far this year) by trying to rescue places halfway around the globe. Dave Eggers rescuing an African; radio interviewers hyping books about Afghanistan; journalists coverage of Al Queda-- they don't see that our interference in these places made things worse to begin with, and anyway, it's not our business to run their nations and their lives. BOTH sides of the supposed debate embrace the philosophy of Imperialism which is the root cause of the problem.

These ideologies of Conservative and Liberal survive by their opposition to each other. They are still playing the old Capitalist/Socialist game. They actually believe that to criticize today's monolithic monopolistic media structure one must be a crazed Leftist advocating for government control.

Yet the real ideological battle in America is and has always been between Big and Small; Federalists and Anti-Federalist; Monopoly or Do-It-Yourself.

The Cold War which occupied the minds of the globe for several decades was a power struggle between Big Capitalism and Big Socialism-- gigantic inhuman bureaucracies which were mirror images of themselves. Whichever side "won," the individual was screwed.

The real fight in literature and media today, the choice, is between tops-down institutional control, or organic art spontaneously created by free-thinking people. It's a struggle worth delineating.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Institutional Snobbery

The prime motivating emotion of the bureaucratic personality is fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of difference, fear of change.

The individual sits complacently in his office. As long as the machine he works for keeps operating, and paychecks for him regularly appear, all is well. The world outside the building is a vague blur, a hum of noise, not understandable to him, frightening in itself.

Changes to the bureaucrat's world then come as a surprise. More, as a shock. The individual's training and mindset has left him or her unprepared for all but the predictable.

I had an interesting exchange yesterday, on a blog, one attached to this site, with a person who works for this city's daily newspaper. The person, John Brumfield, representative of the newspaper, could do no more than engage in name-calling. A disappointing performance-- but from this Soviet-style apparatchik one can't expect more. One can't hope for a spark of an idea, a germ of an intellectual defense of himself and his employer, when he's a mere processor of words and information, not a creator. He's likely never had an original thought in his head. That's not why he's there.

I have to give kudos to Carla Spataro, who appeared with me on the WHYY radio show last week, for appearing with a representative of the Underground Literary Alliance; for debating our words and ideas.

I could challenge representatives of the Philadelphia Inquirer to do likewise-- Carlin Romano or Frank Wilson or Katie Haegele or John Brumfield-- but I know they would never consent. They are too caught up in the importance of their institutional roles; too full of their perceived station above that of mere writers, especially of the underground variety.

Never mind that the exchange between Ms. Spataro and myself was the first REAL exchange between different literary viewpoints which has occurred in this city in many years. It was genuinely exciting, worthy of notice. This doesn't matter. According to the bureaucrats at the INKY, the ULA isn't worthy of notice, mainly because we don't play by the rules and we don't have proper manners. Which means, we don't put ourselves in the position of supplicants. We don't appear with hats in hand and humble expression. We refuse to do this. We instead expect to be treated as equals. As the best writers in this city right now, we expect to be treated as no less than equals of anyone.

The fact is that the crimes of the INKY against Philadelphia's underground writers go back far beyond the seven years I mentioned to Mr. Brumfield. Frank Walsh has been in this city for thirty years, hosting readings, winning open mic contests, penning the strongest poetry to be found anywhere in the entirety of America itself-- yet through that lengthy period has escaped the notice of the supposed newshounds at the local daily. Bureaucrats more interested in press releases from other institutions, like the main library, or U of Penn.

This behavior is artistically criminal. Walsh is so good as a performer-- writes such provocative words, and knows how to present them-- that twice in recent years he's been physically attacked, and caused near riots-- at an arts festival in Baltimore and at an open-air show on South Street in this town-- simply by reading his poem, "Reagan's Brain." Not newsworthy enough! In fact, the opposite of what the INKY expects from writers, which is to remain in the closet literature resides in within society's house and not make any noise at all.

Does the ULA make a mistake by seeking to engage the office dwellers at the local daily? We do so from a generous impulse. We don't want them to outdate themselves. We want them to be part of our excitement, to justify themselves and their positions by covering truly exciting writers. We don't wish these folks to make themselves eternally irrelevant.

Possibly we make a mistake by NOT kowtowing to such. We might alienate these important mandarins (never mind that we've been alienated from official kulture by its sterility and its corruption). I'm not worried. I see the trend lines, and they're on OUR side, not theirs. Dwindling newspaper readership; vanishing book review sections; marginalized literature no longer competing with movies, sports, or radio. It will take much noise and excitement to turn these trend lines around-- the kind of excitement which in literature today only the ULA offers.

Peace is on the table, to be grabbed by the INKY at any moment, as long as they stop blackballing us. A public debate between us and them would be a good starting point. It would take, on their part, intellectual courage, of a kind I don't believe they have.

What Mr. Brumfield doesn't realize, in his narrow viewpoint, is that literature and the world which produces it in this society MUST change-- or literature will go the way of fine arts, to be as relevant to the culture and the mass public as opera.

(Don't miss ULA excitement tomorrow at Germ Books in Fishtown. Info about this and other readings at

Monday, July 16, 2007

Renaissance Clown

One thing I missed in the local INKY Sunday paper yesterday was a big spread in the fashion section about ULAer Eric "Jelly Boy the Clown" Broomfield. Eric-- most known in ULA circles for his actions at our Howl protest last year-- is one of the most prominent personalities in Philadelphia right now. We're glad to have him as a member. As an undergrounder and a balls-to-the-wall activist, there is no one better.

This young guy is quickly going to be huge. He's multi-talented, can be a success at any art he chooses.

The Question: What field will that be? Can we save him for literature? Will he focus more on music, or sideshow?

Eric embodies everything I've talked about regarding underground writers-- he's a natural. Simply from writing a zeeny hand-written journal of his life and adventures, he's made amazing progress. He has an easy, Kerouac-like facility with words-- as he proved at our last two readings in this town this year, and should again at Germ Books this Wednesday (2005 Frankford Ave in Fishtown).

My argument to Eric will be that literature needs him most.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

ULA Ascendent

OVERDOGS try to wish us away but we're not going away. Not to realize this is the fundamental mistake of status quo literary apologists.

They don't realize we don't live in a static universe. Change is essential. No art form survives by remaining static.

ULA represents the necessary future of literature. We'll only grow stronger, more necessary. Our voices will grow louder. Yet the Overdogs of Literature still try to wish us away. They close their eyes and ears, hoping. When they re-open them they realize to their dismay we're still here.

Their behavior is comical-- such as that of the local NEWSpaper i n town, whose appeal remains only to the civilization's green zones-- genteel folks who believe everything is okay in this world as long as everything is okay for THEM. They give their dwindling number of readers their narrow viewpoint. The phenomenal garage band Detroit Cobras are in Philly this week (Tuesday at the Khyber), but the NEWSpaper which never gives its vanishing readers anything new has missed this somehow. Their circulation is up, their owner proclaims! All through West Philly, where I'm currently staying, one sees copies of today's NEWSpaper sitting on doorsteps of houses whose occupants never asked for them; including many houses which have no occupants at all. Well, that's one way to do it, I guess. Laughingly we briefly peruse the contents of the badly outdated and insular rag. What do you know? An Associate Editor says the future is now, and for him things are good, because he has his I-Phone. Music? A big article among other "Harry Potter" hype pieces about "Wizard Bands" put together by Omen-looking prep school kids. Watch out! The privileged are cool and on the move! (No one wants to see the phenomenal Detroit Cobras anyhow, I guess, at least not in their Green Zone world.)

"Where's the trash can?" we all finally decide. "A suitable place for such rubbish."

The real news is that the Underground Literary Alliance is the only exciting thing happening in the literary world now. We have the energy and ideas other stale and stodgy lit-folk lack, and we're coming to your town.

Friday, July 13, 2007


Frank Walsh has already mentioned this, in a comment on the previous post, but I have to weigh in also.

WHILE LISTENING last night to the rebroadcast of my radio appearance (can be found at, I was struck by how crisp and clear Carla Spataro's voice is throughout, while mine seems to come through a cloud, or from a far echoed distance. When I raised the volume of my voice-- as I did several times to a significant extent-- the result, on tape, is no different than when I'd been speaking normally. What is that about?

It's obvious that the engineer or producer was turning down the volume of my voice, while Carla's was turned up throughout. I guess the thinking behind this is some kind of equalization or levelling the playing field-- the real outcome however is to UNlevel the playing field with a bizarre flattening of my voice, variations in degree and tone wiped out. (Matching, ironically, the nonstop homogenization seen in writing programs.) The producers did not present the truth of the encounter-- what the discussion in the studio was really like. They altered the effect and the meaning of what took place. The result to be found by those who listen to the show is a false presentation of what actually occurred.

This is not made up. I have a very loud voice, especially when I get animated. Listen to the tape, where Carla, when talking normally, now appears every bit as loud as me-- and much clearer.

Further stacking of the deck is found not just with those callers to the show put on the air, but with the host herself, who near the end jumped into the discussion on the other side with some unreal comments. The ULA, which has no power whatsoever-- is frankly in a constant struggle for survival-- is somehow EXCLUDING well-hyped wealthy author Jeffrey Eugenides, whose every book is published and financed by a huge conglomerate. Reality is turned on its head.

Shouldn't Eugenides voice be heard-- the exclusive view of the top 1% of our culture? It IS being heard, and many more like it, everywhere, in every mass media forum, while underground voices, the ULA's and others, are shut out. This is the reality. Yet, suddenly, amazingly, we become the excluders in the minds of the overdogs.

As bizarre were the comments of one of the callers, "Monte." He insisted that we can make no judgements about the state of literature now. Ultimately, through his perspective, we can really make no judgements about anything. (Golly, maybe Bush is a good President after all? Far be it for us to say.) Maybe today's approved authors today really are great, though their novels appear mediocre and stir nobody, shaking nobody's soul. They have the proper number of pages, and fully enough words to them. They're impressively presented between thick and glowing covers. Who's to say they're not great? In fact, by Monte's thinking, we can't say. Someone 200 years from now will decide.

By this sophistry, Dostoevsky is no better than A.S. Byatt.

Being a ULAer means being tied down like Gulliver by the mediocrities of today's literary world. When on stray occasions we're allowed to have a voice in a forum, the event is strictly controlled, making sure we don't come across too well. The shaky literary establishment must be protected, or it'll fall apart.

There are too many barriers for the underground writer to begin with and the system erects more of them.

Here's a Newsflash for the literary establishment: Stack the deck against us, rig the game, alter our voices, and we'll still win the argument. Blacklist after blacklist can unofficially occur. Barrier after barrier after barrier can go up and will go up to try to halt our progress but we'll plow through them propelled by truth and talent, by the fact that we're today's real literature.

Being an underground writer means being psychologically beat up by the system again and again and again and again and again. It means your head and your heart stabbed by long knives, run through, not once, but continually, for years. A Prometheus would understand the treatment.

Being underground means facing an establishment with no scruples and no conscience fighting ruthlessly to keep every ill-gotten inch of its turf. It means facing army after army of CGI-style demi-puppets-- yet, despite all, continuing on. Not giving up. Staying committed to one's principles.

You the reader of this blog, or the listener of the radio show who's just discovered us, has the opportunity to see and hear the Underground Literary Alliance LIVE unhindered by studio trickery, free from all muzzles and handcuffs, next week, at Red Emmas in Baltimore on July 17th; Germ Books at 2005 Frankford here in Philly the 18th, and July 19th at Freebird Books in Brooklyn New York. For details about these and other Wred Fright/Crazy Carl readings go to:

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Radio Appearance

Look for my appearance on Marty Moss-Coane's "Radio Times" show tomorrow, Thursday, July 12, 11 a.m., at WHYY-FM 90.9. ( as part of a one-hour discussion of the local literary scene.

ALSO, there's a write-up about the ULA's Germ Books show 7/18 at (Mysterious to me is the absence of mention of ULA poet Frank Walsh, who WILL be there also and is only one of the best spoken word poets-- one of the best poets period-- in this large and crazy country.)

Stay updated about these and other ULA happenings at

Friday, July 06, 2007

ULA Summer Offensive

The Wred Fright and Crazy Carl Robinson July "Underground Literary America" book tour is only one aspect of a combined ULA multi-media assault on literary culture.

We bring with us the Shock of the New.

New literature across the board.
New books!
New shows!
New ideas which can't be controlled.

Others talk about literary rebellion. The Underground Literary Alliance is doing it.

We're the vanguard of revived literary culture. Nobody else comes close.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

An Orwell Quote

George Orwell about the situation now, speaking in 1944, as reprinted on page 186 of the excellent book, Orwell in Tribune compiled by Paul Anderson:

"Laissez-faire capitalism is passing away, and the independent status of the artist must necessarily disappear with it. He must become either a spare-time amateur or an official. You see what has happened to the arts in totalitarian countries, and when you see the same thing happening here in a more veiled way through the MOI, the BBC and the film companies-- organizations not only buy up promising young writers and geld them and set them to work like cab horses, but manage to rob literary creation of its individual character and turn it into a sort of conveyor-belt process-- the prospects are not encouraging."

Sunday, July 01, 2007



The Underground Literary Alliance, foremost voice of authentic underground literary artists, has been fed by several cultural streams.

By the print zeen movement; by performing poets of the Frank Walsh variety; by e-zinesters like Pat Simonelli. What we have in common is the concept of DIY: Do-It-Yourself.

This is what distinguishes us from status quo writers who follow outdated rules of artistic conformity. We've bypassed entirely the old system for producing and promoting writers.

We're not necessarily credentialed, not FDA, or MFA or MBA approved. No USDA stamps on our foreheads.

We're not refined.
We're not domesticated.
We're not supplicants.
We're DIY and believe the staus quo can't hold.

System writers are forced to appeal to the gatekeepers of the literary world, to trained professors and editors whose job is to enforce static art; whose minds are encompassed by the system itself.

DIY writers have gone directly to our audience.

Our poets have earned their reps and honed their craft time and again in front of crowds, whether in bars, halls, on streetcorners or in parks.

Our zeensters have found their own readers. The best like Wred Fright connected with an audience; they found fans and subscribers. Those who couldn't connect with a base of support quickly enough dropped out.

DIYers-- real DIYers-- bridge the gap between high and low. We'd like to appeal to the genteel lit crowd, sure, but also to the mad masses who watch the Jerry Springer Show. By our very being and actions we're a return to literature's roots. Shakespeare's audiences at The Globe, after all, were quite wild-- not at all like the polite aficionados who attend Shakespeare plays now-- who do so I suspect more as an observation of taste than from real enjoyment, like the frozen crowd of mannequins we discovered at Miller Hall when we crashed an approved reading of "Howl" a year ago.

Living art vibrates with truth and insight.

I noticed how dead was Miranda July's recent story in The New Yorker. The lead character finds herself on a plane ride next to a celebrity. Next to a celebrity! The vacuous story takes its cues from too-many TV viewings of "Entertainment Tonight"-- and expects the reader to do likewise. There is not a shred of reality about the situation or narrative. Instead, it smells of crafted phoniness. There isn't a genuine emotion in the piece-- unless the author is an observant but soulless robot. No, this is no DIY person at all, but yet another tops-down well-hyped literary product.

Meanwhile, the genuine writer survives and struggles in obscurity, but out there somewhere, in various manifestations, whether as wandering expat overseas, in France or Asia, or refugee from New Orleans, in west coast Oakland, or even here in Philadelphia. My task is to find and discuss such overlooked persons; in so doing maybe to save the art in the process. This is what the ULA campaign is about.

Authentic Art

I WAS THINKING about crazed characters like John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth wandering the wilderness of their time and place, of how they were more in touch with the intellectual currents of the people and the land than all the many well-trained political philosophers far above them whose role was to support the Empire which created and sustained them.

I WAS THINKING about Gaugin and Van Gogh, how their art, created in an atmosphere of hostility and neglect, lives now for our time and for all times, while the approved salon painters produced by artistic academies then are now justly forgotten.

IS IT the mission of the authentic artist to appeal to the politicians and gatekeepers that surround him-- or not to his or her conscience and voice? Shouldn't the artist be true first to truth, the expression of truth-- to art itself?