Monday, March 31, 2008

Why Rebellion?

For starters, having a literary revolution is more exciting than not having one.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Lit Mystery Update!

At last-- a new string of chapters begun at

A fictional novel about gang wars in the literary scene. It resumes slowly, setting the stage for what will culminate in cinematic fireworks.

Speaking of which, my "Ten Best Movies" series will resume soon at
-- along with other happy literary stuff including an essay on "The Great Reaction, 1953-2008" in American letters, as well as reviews of Amy Hempel and John Updike.

On this blog: "Who Are the Demi-Puppets?" in which I will offer the notion they're on the wrong side; and the beginning of profiles of various generic categories of underground writers. Not to mention an essay on the Rebellion, "Victory Denied?"

(I will also be addressing the smorgasboard of points made by the anonymice at this address-- the most exciting blog in the literary universe.)

What's Talent?

THOSE well-schooled and heavily indoctrinated mistake training for talent. The object of training is, first, to break the person, the way you train a horse or a dog. Obedience is the desired end. The goal of training is to have the person trained: to behave like other employees. Training is the essence of the system mentality.

To me, talent is a different thing. It's the spark of life in a person's writing.

A good example is Scott Fitzgerald's This Side of Paradise. Maxwell Perkins had seen an even rougher version of this roughly written novel. Any editor today would reject it immediately. Maxwell Perkins saw in the crude manuscript the spark of talent. Whatever else the book was, it was alive-- alive with exuberance, energy, ideas, and noise. With talent.

Talent was what I recognized in the zeens of the original "Zeen Elvis" candidate. Unchecked emotion. "Raw Power," to quote Iggy. Power and emotion that smoked the page. The ace in the hole for my intended campaign. That this necessary piece of the strategy was lost early was a big reason for the ultimate failure of the lit rebellion's first wave. (Other waves are coming. After 1905 came 1917.)

The underground is a vast place. I suspect "Who" has read those undergrounders he'd be least likely to appreciate. (With my differently-taught mind I see in their works amazing things.) The ranks include, however, also those who write in a traditional way.

I therefore CHALLENGE "Who" to read Lawrence Richette's Private Screenings. (My guess is he can afford to buy a copy via Xlibris.) I challenge him to read it with his acute intelligence and review it. I'll post his review on one of my blogs, be it negative or positive, under his nom-de-plume or real name, according to his choice.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Healthy Underground

All the contention on Brady's blog (see below) shows me that the literary underground is alive and well-- a ferment of activity, with the emergence of many strong personalities, including Walsh, Pat Simonelli, Pat King, Brady, Potter, and even "Whocanitbenow?" whose identity is no mystery to me. As I disagree with him, as I disagree with Mr. King and Mr. Potter, I'm still glad they checked in.

Brady seems to have gotten more than he bargained for. . . .

NOTHING changes without a leader. The American Revolution was fortunate to have Washington, who if not smart enough was at least big enough to keep everyone in line.

Did the literary rebellion emerge in my head? Not really. I was merely swept up in the zine scene of the 90's, which was called again and again the "Zine Revolution." I guess I took it all seriously.

But-- ideas have to emerge from somewhere. Did the Russian Revolution emerge from Lenin's head? The Mexican Revolution from Zapata's? It didn't make the rebellions any less real or relevant. SOMEONE needs to start the ball rolling. "WHO" in his cynical way is grasping toward some truths which he's unable to see clearly-- mainly, that the literary establishment is manifestly weak. It screams weakness. This may be what I was reacting to when I kicked off the ULA. Opportunity!

Or maybe it's that I love reading-- literature, by extension-- and know it can be much better, but for that to happen we need some housecleaning.

An example of establishment stagnation compared to the noise of the underground lit scene: in N+1 a couple issues ago there was an exchange of letters between two supposed literary heavyweights, James Wood and Jonathan Franzen. Their contention was hardly contentious at all. They were hitting each other with wet handkerchiefs. This is what results when you isolate literature into a bubble. We undergrounders, with our different tactics, are trying to break the bubble and free the art.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

David Gates: Average Guy

On the "Value" thread below, someone posted a quote from the Washington Post as a way to knock the idea of "unflinching truth"-- as well as scorning, apparently, the viewpoint of "life at the bottom."

I surmised that its author is a yuppie. Is he?

Our authority on life at the bottom, David Gates, is an Insider's Insider. From an upper-middle class background in Connecticut, Gates briefly attended exclusive Bard College before "dropping out." He managed to quickly enough return to college and graduate-- in fact earning a Phd from U-Conn, where he met and married writer Ann Beattie, noted "minimalist" (read: pod). They both taught at Harvard shortly thereafter, no easy feat for new graduates.

Gates, no longer married to Beattie, has a residence in Manhattan and one in upstate New York. He's had a long-time staff position at Newsweek, where he reviews books-- some lit power there-- and also teaches at two Insider writing programs, Bennington and the New School. He's known for speaking slowly and quietly. If he raises his voice he becomes worried. His most widely-hyped book is named Jernigan.

There are few persons on this planet guaranteed to be more unsympathetic to current underground writers than him.


Here are the principles of leadership I tried to follow when I was running the Underground Literary Alliance.

I never asked anyone to do what I wasn't willing to do myself. At most of our actions I was at the head of the pack. No one worked harder.

From 10/8/2000 to 12/31/2007 I defended the ULA and its writers in every possible forum, against all comers. But loyalty has to work in both directions.

The leader of a project must take responsibility for that project-- whether any "fault" was truly his or not. In that regard, the ULA's failings were my failings, and in some respects still are.
With responsibility should come authority, however, and that I didn't have.

I made myself consistently accountable, to friends and foes alike, on this blog and elsewhere. It was probably the single biggest use of my time! The extreme example of this was late 2006, receiving on the ULA forum an endless barrage of questions and criticisms from one V. Schwartzman, page after page, day after day after day, which I attempted to patiently and forthrightly answer until someone else finally cut him off. Such events were enormous time-wasters. I'd not go through that again. There has to be some element of trust.

The most important principle, and the rarest.

Not losing sight of the objective. Keeping your head while everyone else is panicking-- which happened often.

This means holding in your head the overall picture, recognizing the real enemies, deciding which fights are worthwhile and which aren't. It's the factor with the most flexibility for a decision-maker and one of the hardest to carry out.

Keeping morale up; your people content, motivated, and active; egos stroked; internal fights resolved for the good of all. With undergrounders: Impossible.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

New Underground Leader?

Underground writer Brady Russell is pushing the idea of finding a new leader for the rebellion, as outlined here:

Though I think "uniting the tribes," as I attempted to do, is close to impossible, I support Brady's project in theory.

His characterization of my problems as one of "ego" is a simplification, as I'm sure he knows. (I'm used to the criticism.) Many factors were involved, including having no mechanism for resolving disputes, and no way of using members' talents rationally, leaving things to be done on an ad-hoc basis. Differences between radicals and moderates in the team were never resolved. These are problems which come with a volunteer, non-hierarchical organization. People have to buy into the program completely.

Part of the problem is that any rebellion faces intense reaction, from all sides, even on occasion from within. Rebellion creates real enemies. How people deal with this determines success or failure.

My first priority was keeping the campaign on course, following the strategy, adhering to its principles. Under my watch, the movement was not co-opted or compromised.

I believe that in a project of this nature, anyone without a strong ego will quickly be destroyed.

I should mention that the campaign had many successes which will be hard for anyone to duplicate. Currently I'm following a strategy of ideas. I believe the rebellion will triumph based first on its ideas.
Two key questions about Brady's project:
1.) Does the rebellion need a leader?
2.) What qualities and abilities are required for that person to succeed?

I've been reading about the great rebels and revolutionaries of history-- Vercingtorix, Brutus, Jesus, Washington, Robespierre, Lenin, Trotsky-- and have my thoughts, but I want to know: what do you think?
(Serious replies only. Others will be deleted.)

Thursday, March 20, 2008


The value of this blog is that I give the reader unflinching truth about literature, and about the literary world and how it operates.

Monday, March 17, 2008

A Movement of Ideas

One thing I haven't stressed enough is that the literary rebellion stands on a foundation of ideas. The underground arose as an expression of ideas, DIY ideas, given voice by Wred Fright, Tom Hendricks, Doug Holland, Doug Bassett, Fred Woodworth, Violet Jones, and so many others.

The rebellion, as a whole, is the only literary movement around today which represents new thought; an entirely new way of viewing literature and the literary world.

At the core, these ideas are aimed at breaking down two monopolies:
1.) The physical monopoly represented by the conglomerates.
2.) The intellectual monopoly, which I call Literary Solipsism, that has dominated poetry and prose for fifty years.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Liberating Literature

THE LITERARY REBELLION is a liberation movement. It began on October 8, 2000. Its goal is to liberate literature from the entrapment of bureaucratic boxes.

Any person with clear vision and the ability to view the larger context can see that as an art, based on what it produces, and on its role in the culture, extablishment literature is a failure. Since the 1920's it's been on a steady downward trend, despite occasional successes which come originally from out side the system, like the Beats.

Upticks in a down trend like McSweeney's are unable to halt the decline and rescue literature, because they embrace the system, and in their modest success, reinforce what's wrong with it.

That the conglomerates are able to squeeze meager profits from the art means nothing, because it's accomplished through demeaning the art by ever more standardized examples of "popular" novels, genre fiction (interchangeable commodities like romance novels); and degrading trends like the execrable snob-based "gossip girl" books. Actual literature meanwhile is reserved for a coterie of fossilized authors young and old, from John Updike and Philip Roth to Marisha Pessl and Jonathan Safran Foer.

If change is to come from within the system, it won't be done by co-opting undergrounders like myself. It will happen by writers already within the system joining the rebellion.

Contemporary literature rests on a philosophical and aesthetic foundation put into place fifty-five years ago. Call it postmodernism or call it reaction. Its weakness should be apparent to all. When a working class guy like myself who was not raised or educated to be a writer can hold his own in debate against armies of the system's best and brightest, it's not because of any intrinsic abilities of myself (other than basic common sense), but because I have a winning argument.

The dramatic actions of the Underground Literary Alliance the last seven years, or even my forays onto on-line nests of status quo apologists, are demonstrations that the System is too weak to deal with outside ideas-- that there is no way the literary rebellion, now that it's begun, can be stopped.

The internal conflicts within the resistance are growing pains: signs of strength. They show that, unlike the monolithic literary establishment, our ideas have not hardened into concrete.

Even if all literary rebels were somehow co-opted or destroyed, the rebellion itself would still triumph-- because of our ideas and our history: our founding myths. Our actions have been amazing and unprecedented. Their glow of boldness will serve to appeal to independent-minded writers for generations to come.

The System itself is grudgingly recognizing the necessity of change-- though movement in that direction has come in baby steps. Critics like B.R. Myers and James Wood can't be compared even to a Kerensky or a Lafayette. They are instead reformist cabinet ministers brought in by desperate sovereigns when the specter of revolution stands before them.

History shows that by then it's too late. Once the door to revolution has been opened it can't be closed until the house is rebuilt or overthrown. Ideas introduced from outside have an irresistible momentum. Once a Luther nails his 93 theses on a door, upheaval is certain to follow.

THE QUESTION for undergrounders and system literary folk alike is whether they wish to remain wedded to a backward, rear-guard approach, or instead award themselves the advantages which come with stepping fearlessly into a new world of revived literature.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Boycott: The Game

It'll be interesting to see if the boycott against the Underground Literary Alliance continues now that I'm no longer active in the organization.

How do I know there's a boycott?

A.) When NO lit-bloggers address major stories like the ULA uncovering the Paris Review/CIA link; or the Howl protest at Columbia-- only one of the most exciting literary events EVER, which I'm told created great word-of-mouth buzz in New York-- then there might be a boycott ongoing.

B.) When no major lit-bloggers will link to this blog; few lit-bloggers, period, beyond the unknowing or the extremely brave.

C.) A lit-blogger actually said, "We're not supposed to pay anymore attention to King Wenclas, but. . . ." !!


This is how the game is played:

1.) I try to come up with something interesting or provocative that lit-people want to talk about but know they can't.

2.) They-- the literary gossips especially-- sit anally at their desks in front of their computers testing how much they can take while holding in their eagerness to type.
(I'm told several New York media people have expired at their desks-- exploded into tiny pieces actually-- while playing this game during the ULA's Howl Protest.)
Possible Reactions to this Post:

"Boycott? That's like so-o-o-o silly, that's just like so-o-o paranoid, you asshole."

"Let me point out to you, Wenclas, that when you flit around alienating everybody, as you've done rather exhaustively these lo so many last several years, then I'd rather think you rather precipated this rather predictable, if-you-will, treatment."

"There is no boycott! Do you hear me? NOT A BOYCOTT. No boycott."

"Quit whining! You're always whining! Everything you've ever done you're forever whining!"

"Go back to your basement and your job at Burger King. Nobody wants you, you no-talent hack. I wish you'd just die!"

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Not Good Enough?

IT IRKS ME just a tad when some ignorant brainwashed stooge who knows nothing about literature and writing other than what was pumped into him in school will glance at a criticism I make of the lit world-- an informed criticism-- and dismiss it, out of hand, with a remark highlighting his ignorance-- usually that I'm "bitter" or "not good enough" for said literary establishment.

Not good enough! For a System which by-and-large produces garbage, from Philip Roth down.

This is akin to the "not a writer" charge which I endured patiently for seven years from a series of ULAers I was trying to promote, from Miss Sneerzinger to Mr. Hall to the five who bailed from the ULA a year ago. (Four whose own writing has scarcely progressed from kindergarten level.) The kind of thing which finally caused me to say, "Enough!" and depart from the organization myself.

Sorry, guys, but I KNOW I can write-- have put occasional evidence of this even up on this blog, if you care to look for it. In the last few months: my 12/31 post, or the Lish/Tolstoy satire, or more recently the "Planet XYZ" and "300" posts, in-your-face though they are.

Back in the early 90's when most of my current critics were soiling their diapers I wrote two long essays for what was then the best literary magazine in the country, regular winner of national magazine awards and such. Serious essays-- unlike what I do here. (One has to wonder if the journal was penalized for publishing me. Seriously. The lit-world is every bit as corrupt as I've claimed.)

I didn't begin writing to be just one more "literary" writer, however. Instead I sought to change a system I'd found to be staggeringly backward-- to change it through noise-making tactics like the ULA. The result was being branded by the real Know-Nothings of literature, the snob boys in bow ties, as "not a writer" or "not good enough."

I sigh like Charlie Brown at the price to be paid for attempting to wake up the literary world.

Monday, March 10, 2008


The System of literature is beyond internal reform, and in its current state is doomed to mediocrity, because it's filled at every level, from universities to editors to agents to lit-bloggers, with conformist boozhies who are thrown by those less regulated than them.

There isn't a striking personality among the lot. Blandness is their calling card. They're hostile to anyone who stands out.

"The Invasion of the Body Snatchers," in either 50's or 70's version, is a perfect metaphor for how the lit-world is now. In my every encounter with literary boozhies, this is how they've acted, like pods, whether their unconcern to revelations of corruption; or the stiff audiences and readers at KGB and Miller Hall; to e-mails from those like Ed "Rants" urging me to get with the program and be like everyone else.

It's scary if one thinks about it.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Magazine Report


In this week's New Yorker, Editor David Remnick defines Russian strong man Putin by his KGB past. The thinking: "Once KGB, always KGB."

I wonder if Remnick would apply this to the CIA: "Once CIA, always CIA."

This week's Newsweek has a cover story on the death of William F. Buckley. They pass over in light-hearted fashion the year he spent after Yale as a CIA agent. A meaningless fling? Maybe-- but years later Buckley wrote a series of novels devoted to the agency.

By "CIA" we mean not simply the government, but what for many years was a government within the government. We mean a mindset existing within the agency and outside it, which might best be described as "aggressive eastern establishment."

Buckley is regarded as the father of modern American conservatism. His journal, National Review, was founded in 1955 (two years after Paris Review). Buckley is being praised far and wide for having chased the "wackos" out of the conservative movement-- which means, in part, those who followed the original anti-Imperialist vision of this nation.

In Newsweek, praise for Buckley is given even by Nation Editor and Publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel, renowned Lefty, though Buckley and her had little in common. But they had a great deal in common in that both came from backgrounds of extreme-- extreme-- wealth and privilege, and no doubt circulated at many of the same Manhattan and D.C. functions and parties.

Which indicates to me that class is more important than ideology in this country-- or maybe that the core, fundamental ideology of establishment "Right" and "Left" is the same.

You see, many questions are raised. . . .

In a sense, the ultra-wealthy deserve the power they wield over intellectual debate, because they're willing to fight for that power, by starting or buying intellectual journals, as the careers of Buckley and vanden Heuvel indicate.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Life Among the Overdogs

The New Yorker Conference has been announced for May 8 and 9 in Manhattan. Malcolm Gladwell is featured speaker. They promise "two days of forward thinking." Cost: $2,000 per person.

You'll get more new ideas from this blog, for free.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


My four-part series on the major publishing industry has begun at

(I also have some remarks from Philly poet Victor Thompson at

Monday, March 03, 2008

"The 300"

No, not the 300 Spartans. Anything but. I'm referring to the ULA's original Protest back in 2001. Remember it? We advocated against a large grant of money from a tax-shelter foundation to a very rich writer. The Protest had been signed by 40 zeensters. We mailed it to 300 prominent literary people, including the biggest names in the bizness-- Mailer, Updike, Sontag, and the like. 300 names. Not one signed it-- though many of them talked about it afterward at parties, as "Page Six" verified.

300 sterling names! Not a single example of conscience or backbone among them.

Is it any wonder I have no respect for these people?

I was actually surprised. I hadn't realized things were so bad. I was reminded of the first time I saw "The Hustler" on TV as a kid. At the end, the Paul Newman character is blackballed, and Minnesota Fats-- the great pool shark Minnesota Fats-- sits there submissively and does not intervene. Surprising. It was the first indication to me that something is more powerful than fame or talent; something lurking behind the scenes. Such is it with the literary industry.

The John Updikes of literature are mere show; the play of marionettes, pretending to speak with authority. With "authority"! The Great John Updike! Yet he has no authority at all. After all, he and others like him are merely puppets dancing across a stage; wooden-headed concoctions with no independence or integrity, and mean nothing.

Saturday, March 01, 2008