Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Prisoner of Planet XYZ

AN ANONYMOUS poster on this blog questioned whether the literary establishment fears the literary rebellion.

The truth is that every action of theirs shows they're terrified of it. The panic we've faced has been palpable-- as on the radio show I did last year in Philadelphia. The host and the callers ascribed to the rebels untold powers we didn't have. We were going to shut out the Ivy Leaguers! US! We rag-tag rebels living in poverty. Heavens! Dangerous!

We received the same reaction in 2006, at Columbia's Miller Hall, from the Overdogs on stage. It was hilarious, really. These prestigious, much lauded writers, going into sudden unhinged hysterics as soon as I said one word under my breath: "Hypocrisy." Phillip Lopate stood, flummoxed and flustered, hand shaking, pointing, putting aside his prepared remarks to denounce us from the stage.

Fearful? The lit establishment? They're terrified! Petrified that their cozy world of corruption and insularity might be shaken by mere words, ideas, voices-- which is all the rebellion has for weapons. THEY control the institutions of literature-- the big money corporations, universities, foundations. Yet we're confident while they're frightened.

Frightened? Yes! Why else have I been so isolated?

I have a bit of a name-- received ample press attention when the ULA was at the peak of their activity. Yet has there been any effort to utilize that name? Have I received one offer to write one scrap of opinion for anybody? Not one! It might be too dangerous an opportunity to let a literary revolutionary speak.

Legions of line-ups of fearful little puppets, whispering beneath their strings. . . .

(Plimpton the only Overdog who wasn't fearful.)

Where have been the Overdogs willing to debate myself, or my recent allies in the ULA? (The radio debate last year, I faced a biased host, a stacked-deck of hostile callers, and a turned-down microphone, yet won anyway.)

The main portion of the literary blogosphere has blacklisted me. Scan all the bigger names and try to find any links to me. Gawker recently pointed to a post of mine-- but made certain not to mention my name.

Terrified? Terrified!

Using the planetary analogy from Literary Mystery's "Plutocracy USA," I'm a prisoner on a tiny planet in a faraway corner of the literary galaxy. That's what you're visiting right now, you know. An isolated little corner of the lit scene. Haven't you noticed? I'm under quarantine. The situation has been arranged so that I'll be no further trouble to the powers that be. I dwell on a far, desolate planet, depopulated-- which is what central Detroit feels like. Allowing the noisemaking, the articles, the attention the rebels received a few years ago is acknowledged far and wide by the mandarins as having been a mistake.

Ah, but what if by chance I should someday escape from exile on Planet XYZ? What then?


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Society Page

While scanning literary sites, I stumbled upon the site for trendy Insider writer Meghan Daum. Anyone who argues that the approved literary world is NOT dominated by bluebloods from backgrounds of extreme privilege had best take a look at her photo at

Very attractive, sure, but very much in a very stuffy snooty Social Register way. Doesn't she look ready for the full dress ball at the mansion? Will Mumsy and Daddy be there? "Brent" or "Chip" or "Darcy" or "Binnie" or "Boo"? Aristocracy lives! Call out the footmen and carriages, with giant mastiffs on guard on the lawns.

But what do you think?


Latest statistics show the high school graduation rate in Detroit is 32%. An enormous underclass is being created in America. We're now a very hierarchical society of many classes, many levels; like a too-tall many layered cake. Right near the top of the cake, a mere sliver of it, exists the established literary world. The perspective of these insulated people is cut off from the rest of society-- yet in their narrow arrogance they imagine that their view is the only view. They can't feel the churning beneath their feet.

The result: an American literature which is increasingly irrelevant.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Who Wants Change?

THE QUESTION becomes: Who wants to change literature? Who believes that American literature today is corrupt and decrepit? Who understands that the public face of the novel, dinosaurs like Philip Roth and John Updike, would be Grade B level in a better time, or that mainstream poetry is in such sad shape it has no public face-- unless one counts John Ashbery and his inert New Yorker scribblings?

Who wants change?

The Halfwayers

THOSE who are attracted to change need to realize there is no halfway point between literary rebellion and being in the camp of the Overdogs. Some lit personalities like Meghan O'Rourke and Ed Champion believe they can do both.

Meghan is a fan of undergrounds past. She pays lip service to the idea of undergrounds. Feckless Ed pays lip service to the idea of change. He wishes to believe that lit-bloggers can represent change and not change anything at all about the current system.

When push does not come to shove-- when there is only the most mild push engaged in by someone; the gentlest tap of dissent to the status quo-- such as they turn into reactionaries. Indeed, they become the firmest of reactionaries; the most closed-minded toward new ideas. Probably because real change shows up the phoniness of a pose.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


THE IRONIES involves with recent ULA happenings which helped lead to my departure are many. Two misconceptions:

1.) The widespread notion among ULAers past and present that the ULA's activist campaign was the problem-- when it's the one aspect of the ULA which worked best.

2.) The idea that I called all the shots in the organization. The reality was different. What I did manage to do in the Underground Literary Alliance the last several years:
a.) Hang on to my corner of the ULA-- said activism-- against continual panic and hand-wringing.
b.) Take responsibility for everything, taking all the hits, all the blame, from insiders and outsiders alike, thereby providing cover for the rest of the team.

Today's Question

Who is Hollywood's best babe?
-Jessica Alba
-Halle Berry
-Scarlett Johansen
-Angelina Jolie
-Eva Longoria
-Jennifer Lopez

Thursday, February 21, 2008

New Postings

Here's what we've got for you:

-Nationally-known anthologized writer Lee Klein, now a Philadelphian, at

-#7 of my "Ten Best" movie series at

A new Chapter at "Literary Mystery" should be up this weekend, featuring another appearance by fictional character "George Plimpton." Brand new chapters are in the works.

(You may not be having fun, but I am.)

Check them out!

Ideas or Tactics?

A mistake I made when leading the Underground Literary Alliance was allowing our enemies to define us solely on our tactics, when the important part of the literary rebellion has always been the ideas behind the tactics.

Not that the tactics weren't necessary-- they were absolutely necessary to give the authentic literary underground any kind of standing. In this society, cultural totalitarianism is maintained by its noise level.

In future essays I'll point out the anachronistic thought patterns of System-backed pseudo-rebels; how they're immoveably stuck in the assumptions of the Sixties, which no longer hold in a nation which since then in so many ways, starting with economically, has been radically transformed. The entire culture remains trapped in the Sixties. It's time to cut loose.

The literary Resistance will triumph with new, unstoppable ideas.

More Carver II

I really believe that with segments of the literary industry we're dealing with malevolence. Gordon Lish had to hate Ray Carver to do what he did-- or be totally consumed with his own ego and selfishness. Read the original versions of the stories and you'll see they were fine-- nothing untoward or amateurish about them. Lish DIDN'T HAVE THE RIGHT to rewrite them to make them Gordon Lish stories. It was about power and control, not art. Read Lish's own work and you'll see that he hates literature-- unless you consider lobotomized exhibitionism to be literature.

The Editor's job is NOT to replace the writer's vision and style with his own, but, at most, to help the writer more ably and fully express the intent and vision of the artwork.

Carver wasn't a baby at writing. He'd been at it for years and knew what he was doing. Lish used him like a ventriloquist's dummy-- used him flagrantly and maliciously.

There's pathos in this matter-- most of all when Carver decided before the Lish-edited book came out that he wanted it stopped. Think what a dilemma this represented for a guy who'd been struggling to achieve major publication for so long. According to reports, Carver frantically wrote Gordon Lish asking that the book be halted. Lish ignored him.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Today's Question

Who would win a steel cage match last person standing between:
-Hillary Clinton;
-Barack Obama;
-John McCain;
-"Dick" Cheney;
-Iranian President Ahmadinejad.
??(I was going to include Putin, but that would make the question too easy.)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Lish Is Responsible

Gordon Lish is responsible for being a major influence on some of the worst writing in American literary history.

For instance, the anthologized story by the famous trendy author which begins something like this:

"I'm a dog, yes a dog, dog dog dog, a fast dog, like to go fast, fast fast fast dog, like to run run run fast fast fast, a dog, I am, yes a dog. . . ."

This kind of gibberish is one step beneath Dr. Seuss.

Gordon Lish, along with David Foster Wallace, were chief influences on an entire lit movement, the dreaded McSweeneyites.

The 1980's was one of the worst decades for American literature EVER. You had the George Plimpton-created brat pack of Jay McInerney and Tama Janowitz; assorted minimally-talented "minimalists" like Peter Cameron and Ann Beattie, and worst of all, the cutesy kindergarten level posing of Gordon Lish's journal, Quarterly. That he helped discover Amy Hempel is reason alone to put him in American Lit's "Hall of Infamy," alongside Phillip Lopate and Jason Shinder.

As bad as the Eighties decade was for established literature, however, things have only gotten worse. The retreat into thumb-sucking narcissism, as represented in journals like the afore referred-to McSweeney's, would now shock even a five year-old.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Today's Question

Who's the most overrated rock singer?

(Note: All comments are allowed, for the time being.)

More Raymond Carver


We in the underground least of all should be blaming the victim when a fellow writer is abused by literary Overdogs. Ray Carver is a tragic figure and deserves our sympathy. He was an ambitious working class writer who was played for a fool; used as the class clown at writing programs then later turned into a Frankenstein monster or freak show attraction.

"Look at him! The Minimalist! Get yer tickets here, folks. Step right up! Behind this curtain, we have for you. . . ."

They tamed and mutilated him, then gave him to the public as if to say, "Here! This is what we can do to a writer."

Carver knew what'd been done to his work, and to him. He'd been psychologically lobotomized, as helpless as Winston Smith at the end of Orwell's masterpiece. Isn't this how so much of Ray Carver's work sounds to the reader? The stories were lobotomized. And so, trendy Overdog writers like Ann Beattie, Susan Minot, and Jay McInerney gloried in them.

It was subtle, what'd been done to Carver, as cruel in its way as any censorship devised by totalitarians. (Maybe because it came from literary totalitarians.) Ray Carver was censored and celebrated; celebrated BECAUSE he'd been censored in some kind of sick inside joke.

WRITERS CAN BE DANGEROUS. They're not wanted by the establishment if they've shown signs of too much independence. We see in the pages of lit journals and New Yorker magazines the domesticated pets of literature. Literature has lost its anarchy, its rebelliousness, and its excitement.

Safe pets all: editors, critics, poets and writers alike. Line them up in a row and that's what you'll find.

It'd always been a mystery to me why Raymond Carver was lauded as a great writer. He was a good one-- his longer stories like "Boxes" were pretty good-- but critically there was a wild overreaction to them. Something else was going on.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Blog Report

Check out "The John Wayne Factor" at
"Fantastic Detroit" is still ongoing at -- for those who want the flavor of Detroit.
Another writer checks in at the "Philly Lit Today" series at
And-- there are some key posts below this one on this blog, including "Gordon Lish Meets Tolstoy," and an Inside Tip for the publishing world.

Check it all out!

My Strategy

Let me state that I have nothing but regard for the ULA. How could I not? It was my creation. I wish it nothing but success. We remain on the same side, as far as I'm concerned. Our objectives, I'd hope, are the same.

My leaving should've surprised nobody. I stated it and discussed it on this blog and on the ULA's private forum. I generally say what I mean and mean what I say.

And really, it was past time for me to leave. Once I realized I'd lost the support of the ULA's #2 and #3, my departure was a done deal. After what transpired the last couple months within the team, there was no way I could remain. I'd certainly put in enough years on the project. No one should begrudge my wanting a change. Besides, no one was listening to me anyway! I needed a break from the ULA, and it needed a break from me.

As I stated in my 12/31 note on this blog, the Underground Literary Alliance is not the rebellion itself, only one vehicle for it. I intend to continue literary rebellion, in my own way, but it will be a rebellion of one.

The ULA wasn't working for me personally as that rebellion-- which isn't to say that it can't work well for others. I hope it does. I'll take some reflected glow in its success. Too much of my time over the past several years was taken up by the demands and debates of the team. Further, the ULA was becoming too easy a target. I found myself with no mobility, was too easily pinned down within the ULA. The point I was making with my 12/31 post, for those who cared to see it, is that the literary rebellion can exist outside any house or group or name. There are advantages to a group-- which is why eight years ago I formed one. The disadvantage is anchoring that rebellion to an organization which can be isolated and attacked, as it's been attacked very strenuously from the outside and the inside.

As I was almost always the target of those attacks, I can best help the ULA by stepping away from it.

Moving to Detroit gave me a different perspective on the literary game board-- an opportunity to devise a different strategy. The ULA strategy which had been in place was sounder than most believed-- as I'll explain in coming days-- but had been reduced to, in football terms, running the ball straight up the middle; directly into the opposing line. (For this I take full responsibility.) It would've worked with full execution, but committed execution of the plan we didn't have and never had.

For me, the break from the team has been liberating. I no longer feel tied down worrying about who I please or displease with my words or actions. The only person I need to satisfy is me. I'm free to draw on the entire range of my talents, which are substantial. I'm the best publicist (or propagandist) the underground has seen in a generation. No one in the lit world can generate strong arguments and sustain them like I can.

I'm putting together my own propaganda machine, my own personal "army," if you will, of up to a dozen blogs. With no distractions I'll be able to maintain them and create a synergy of noise. The Idea: using Detroit and Philly as bases from which to move about the country. (I'll be pursuing in those towns only peace.) Endless options open up to me. Do I target Chicago, for instance: a major prize? I can appear at open mics throughout the country, eventually head west and hook-up with undergrounders from Portland to the Bay area.

Meanwhile, there IS a "Project X" on my drawing board, and a pre-Project X to set it up. Whether I get to them will depend on my situation.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Gordon Lish Meets Tolstoy

(Note: Gordon Lish is the editor who mangled Ray Carver's writing. Lish is himself a prominently published writer; a major influence on the "hippest" writers of today. I imagined what would happen if Lish were assigned the task of editing classic novelists like Melville or Tolstoy.)

"First, Lev, baby, boychik, we have to take out this messy historical business. It has to go. Nobody wants to read it! It's history! Does anyone like history? A clue: a short little brief whispered I won't say it loudly little tiny clue: 'Dry as dust.' Okay? Are we getting the picture, the image here, Mr. Count? Yes, yes, I know, you have all that time on your hands on your nice little estate when you're not chasing peasant girls, but we're talking serious business here, Count. We're talking literature! We're talking readers! Is a teenage girl Hannah Montana teenage fan girl in Ocean Barf California going to care one gazoodle about all this historical junk you've crammed into this too-long book? Napoleon? Please. He's got to go, and your characters are talking about Napoleon almost on the very first page! NOBODY cares about Napoleon! Are we understanding what we're talking about here Mr. Bigshot Russian Novelist? Is the light glimmering? GET RID OF IT! Yes, yes, Moscow is very important, yes, crucial, you say. But don't you know one soft-pedalled whispered hint about writing strategies? What did they teach you in writing class? Were you sleeping? Snoozing snoring through your moustaches? Here's what we do: 'And then Napoleon captured Moscow.' There. Okay? That's it. Presto magic solution. SOLVED. Lightbulb? It gets us directly to the important stuff, which is how Natasha feels about it. We'll get inside her perky little head and stay inside there and eliminate the cluttered furniture; the houses, armies, generals, battles, landscapes, families, bad relations, rowdy peasants-- ugh!-- drunken lieutenants: the entire sorry soggy mess.

"And all this philosophical garbage?!! You have me tearing my hair out here in frustration at what you've presented me here with this manuscript, Count, really."

"A whale? A white whale???!"

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Inside Tip

WE'LL see coming up whether the New York publishing world any longer contains even an ounce of brains; whether those N.Y. insiders-- Gawker or whoever-- who still read this blog know how to spot and jump on opportunity. After all, the Choire Sichas, Maud Newtons, and Elizabeth Spiers of the Magic Island are nothing if not opportunists, and I'm giving here, if not the scoop of a lifetime, the opportunity of 2008.

I've just received and read Philly writer Lawrence Richette's latest novel, Private Screenings, published through Xlibris. Richette has always been that rarest of beings today, a competent novelist, but now he's outdone himself and written a great one. Perhaps the stress of his recent life (Philly people know what I mean) has opened the floodgates on his talent and bumped it to another level. I don't know the why, wherefores, or whatevers. I just know his new book is a terrific read. It's the best novel of this decade. Yes, believe it. That it was published through Xlibris, that it had to be published through Xlibris, makes it a bigger story.

I'll be reviewing the book on more than one blog simultaneously in a few weeks-- which leaves others (agents, reviewers, publishers) time to get quickly in step with what's happening: the full emergence of a major American writer.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Today's Question

Who's the Tiger Woods of literature, past or present?

Done with It

For those who were wondering, or if there was doubt--

Put this in your pipe and smoke it: I'm officially through (have been) with the ULA as an Active Member. I've asked to be taken down from my positions of prominence on the ULA site.

The ULA was a quixotic project. When I created it I carried many ideals. Few remain.

I'm still a supporter-- for now-- which means, passively observing from the sidelines, like Achilles at his ships. For further statement see Achilles's speech near the beginning of The Iliad when he was withdrawing from that team.

For me, the ULA is in the past. I'm moving forward.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

On Raymond Carver

Writers who are fans of Ray Carver should be most outraged at the way he was treated. No better argument can be given for the original ULA campaign, which was supposed to change the dynamic of writers as powerless supplicants subservient to the whims of all-powerful editors and publishers.

The Ray Carver story shows that editorial decisions change the nature of artworks-- decisions based on ideology masquerading as aesthetics; completing the job begun in writing programs of gutting the writer's mind and his work of content and context, leaving mere vague feelings, which is what happened with Carver's writing.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

More CIA Fun Stuff

THE DROOLING braindead mavens of what passes today for literary culture need to view American literature within context. From 1950 to 1990 that context was the Cold War. The leading literary figures during that period, including George Plimpton but also Robert Silvers of New York Review of Books, Norman Podhoretz at Commentary, the "New York Intellectuals" at Partisan Review and New Criterion, were COLD WARRIORS. Study their friggin' history! Is everyone in literature today an ignorant zombie? Are you going to tell me their political ideology had NO influence on editorial policy?

The guy we should've interviewed was Mailer, before he passed on. Curious that a few months before his death he'd been giving his usual flatulent interviews to adoring boozhie audiences, then suddenly was gone. (Smothered by a pillow?) (Maybe his son cryogenically froze him a la Ted Williams. We can hope.)

Mailer was a good buddy of Plimpton's and likely knew the truth. He'd written a novel about the CIA-- I plan to read it-- and had a sequel planned before being talked out of it to do instead a crapsterpiece about Hitler.

I suspect the troll on the mountain will make a reappearance at my "Plutocracy USA" tale ( That is, if I'm not "accidentally" run over by a Detroit snowplow in the interim.
(Note: This Friday, February 8, is the seven-year anniversary of the great debate at CBGB's-- specifically, CB's Gallery-- preppy editors of the Paris Review including Mr. Plimpton against the ULA. It was a real exchange of conflicting ideas-- one of the great moments of literary history.)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Today's Question


Who will be the next President? (BONUS QUESTION: Who were you supporting?)

Friday, February 01, 2008

The King Wenclas Lit-Blog Network

Much happening worth checking out:

-A Lawrence Richette essay now up at

-A new essay of my own at

-Chapter Eight now up at
(with a special fictional appearance by none other than "George Plimpton.")

-A great new essay about the Cass Corridor upcoming at

HERE at this location I'll be doing a series of posts on the topic, "Compromise and Ray Carver." This story is at the heart of what's wrong with American literature today. The question of when to compromise, and in what areas, should be of concern for every writer.