Thursday, May 29, 2008



I began to set up a blog, "Petition to PEN," at
Apparently it's been frozen. Perhaps by the time you read this their review will be over and you'll be able to read what the Petition says.

It's curious-- blogger has thousands and thousands of blogs to manage. Why would they take action like this-- unless someone complained?

A PEN Quote

From PEN's Larry Siems:

"Excluding those with challenging or critical viewpoints is just as wrong now. In the post-9/11 world, where the future depends more than ever on bridging intellectual chasms and cultural divides, we believe that exclusion is also self-defeating."

Does he and PEN apply this to America's literary scene?

PEN is doing many things right. I believe they can do better.

The Dishonesty Brigade

I've been getting hit of late with a variety of anonymous posters, from all directions, in various guises. They're what Shakespeare described inThe Tempest, "that by moonshine do the green sour ringlets make": demi-puppets. Shadows without substance.

The shadows have complained about my hostility, yet their dissembling is hostile. They won't give my readers and myself the respect of appearing under their own identities. Their actions are of duplicity. Let them come into the light if they have genuineness and meaning. I can hardly be blamed for calling them demi-puppets when they remain demi-puppets!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

New Links

In addition to my new review blog at,
I've added two other contacts to my Links feature-- (this link long overdue);
an interesting new lit site.

Check them out!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Peace Gesture

As a gesture of good will, I'm removing the reference to pods in this blog's Profile. I've also made another change for politically correct reasons, meeting critics halfway.

I'm also willing to overlook differences of opinion with Moody-spokesman "Harland," to pursue instead those points we can agree upon; chiefly the belief in democracy in literature. In coming days I'll propose an area in which we might be able to work together toward that goal.

The PEN Board

I'M TOLD that one has to have a book published to be on PEN's board of trustees, or to become a member of PEN. This means that excluded writers can't belong to an organization meant to protect excluded writers! A neat trick.

Who are PEN board members?

They're the most privileged and connected writers in America, with the least interest in changing anything about the American writing scene. The very writers who least should be on the board of such an organization are running the thing.

The solution: There are underground writers who've been published who'd make excellent PEN trustees; Tim W. Brown, Carl Robinson, and Wred Fright among them.


The biggest miscalculation I made when plotting the original ULA strategy was assuming that established literati, as writers, had consciences. I assumed the justness of our grievance would be universally recognized; that those who pay lip service to democracy and foul play would help us institute democracy in literature in reality. I assumed that our first target would return the ill-gotten grant we protested against, and apologize. Surely no one of his station could be that obstinate, that greedy, that selfish. We sought to remind him and his friends that they're part of a community of citizens, a community of writers which includes others beyond their own privileged clique-- that they had an obligation as members of that community to not always take all resources for themselves; they who least needed those resources.

He was that obstinate. His crowd was that selfish, and closed ranks in support of the wrongdoer. They dismissed the idea of community. They've been the alienators, not anyone on our side.

I've sought redress of grievances-- to force our literature, our America, to live up to its ideals. To open up the decision-making to all levels of society, and to ensure that resources set aside to remedy inequalities, not be stolen first by those who already receive more than equal treatment.

Literary rebels in this society have nothing to lose. Who cares who we alienate when they're alienated to us anyway!-- when in their circles of snobbery they've been alienated to our kind of writer from the very beginning?

Ever read Robert Louis Stevenson's "A Lodging for the Night''-- his take on medieval poet Francois Villon? The encounter at the end between the cold and hungry poet, and the old "noble," is the dynamic we face today.

The Rebellion has nothing; no status and no resources, existing penniless in the cold, yet at the same time it has everything on its side; the hunger and energy of the new-- while the other side, the old order of literature, exists in a holding pattern, marching nowhere, clinging to its exclusiveness inside boundaries of its own making.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Two Undergrounds

PICTURE the heyday of the Soviet Union, when kitchen-produced samizdat was the only outlet for independent literary activity disconnected from the state-approved literature of the bureaucracies. What if the state had countered samizdat with its own fake version of underground writing, controlled from on high?

This is the situation in America today, where two undergrounds exist side-by-side. One is the authentic version, grass roots "zine" publishing, a spontaneous activity sparked in reaction to the oppressive dominating noise of the media monopolies. Genuine roots art; an organic cultural happening.

The Fake Underground is a Frankenstein monster produced in university and government laboratories; part of a reactionary move begun in the 1950's to misdirect the American literary mainstream. Its funding has come from various sources; from NEA grants to big-money foundations to, yes, in some instances, the CIA. (See post below this one.) Study where the support comes from for what's handed us by anonymous posters on this blog as "avant-garde" and you'll see it comes from the highest levels of society.

Locating the financial sources isn't easy, as they often operate through many layers. One of the players today is the "progressive" Creative Capital Foundation. Further digging shows CCF is funded by giant tax shelters like the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the J.P. Morgan Chase Foundation.

In the 1990's, for my zeen I looked into the takeover of the U.S. version of Critique by the Jeane Kirkpatrick-run Heldref Foundation. (Kirkpatrick was a notorious neo-con ideologue.) Connected with this, curiously enough-- perhaps innocently-- was noted "avante-garde" lit figure and FC2 editor Larry McCaffery.

I covered a more recent takeover, of a small press organization, for the ULA. Check the Monday Report archives at

Throughout the Substitute Underground (straight out of Orwell's 1984, by the way) are the fingerprints of the wealthiest, most powerful individuals in this country.

I consider it a reactionary phenomenon. For a similar occurrence one can look at the art world of the 1950's when the Rockefeller family, stung by an encounter with populist Mexican artist Diego Rivera-- who created works of striking social relevance-- went in the opposite direction with their enormous financial backing and promotion of abstract art. American art connecting with the people was shoved aside for art representing a heavily Europeanized elite, art which by its very nature viscerally touched nobody.

What's called literary "avant-garde" today is merely window dressing. Despite the sums of money behind it, it's moved no place. It exists to displace the real thing. It's one more part of a stagnating literary present whose other manifestations-- Cecily von Ziegasar's "Gossip Girl" and its offshoots; literary flagship The New Yorker's still publishing John Updike and Updike wannabes, or John Ashbery and Ashbery wannabes-- show status quo literature to be reactionary, regressive, and dead.

A Crazy Tale

This is right out of my "Plutocracy USA" story at Literary Mystery.

Yale poet WWII vet Cord Meyer won an O. Henry Prize in 1946 for best first-published story. He became President of the United World Federalists, "which envisioned a globe under the calm and rational dominion of one government." In 1951 he joined the CIA. "He would rise to become the number two man in the agency's clandestine operations. . . ." "Along the way, he secretly financed labor unions, youth groups, writers' organizations, and literary journals."

This info is from a 2007 bio of the Kennedys, Brothers by David Talbot, former editor of Salon. Elsewhere in the book, Talbot mentions that by 1977 there were over 400 U.S. journalists considered "assets" by the CIA. Do any remain? (We know that CNN's Anderson Cooper worked for the CIA after Yale.)

"Burning Mansions"

SPARE ME your lectures,
your trivialized posing
snooty condescension
chi-chi descritpions
of the swanky parties
of bohemian millionaires
Sedaris clown entertainment
snot-filled pastry dishes
white powder trays of sandwiches
clinking wineglasses
at the Benefit for the African tourist
flash photo taken with the guests
to show they're generous progressives;
Saturday smiles of glowing teeth,
boob jobs and face lifts.
They return home
comforting digs--
million dollar--
take off their ties and party dresses
to hand to the maid
head-bowed and silent immigrant.
Then the Overdogs open
laid out on the mahogany end table
neatly-stacked envelopes
counting the profits
of their global investments,
smelling of sanctity
of the convent of their untouched

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Letter to PEN

Text of an e-mail I sent to the PEN organization in New York two days ago:

To PEN staff, officers, and board members:

It's heartening to see your progressive stance in support of dissenting writers in distant countries.
What's your public stance regarding dissenting writers in the United States-- including those who criticize the cultural establishment?
Also, given that American literature is dominated by the upper classes; and that those scattered or token lower class writers who are allowed into the party have to aggressively conform to tightly regulated standards, with little to no control over their own work (see the career of Raymond Carver), what steps are being taken to democratize your organization; to bring in as officers or board members writers from outside the literary establishment-- including voices of American literary dissent?
I look forward to your reply.
Thank you.
-Karl "King" Wenclas

(I await a response.)

The Island

The sad fact is that the literary establishment lives on an isolated island. Nowhere is this more striking than in the poetry realm, where the stripped-down Bennington-style of verse is completely disconnected with the Beat-or-hip hop-influenced stylings coming from the lower classes, heard in dive clubs or on streetcorners. (The best underground poets do a synthesis of types, mixing in the knowledge of an Eliot or a Pound.)

The remarks here of Moody-mouthpiece "Harland" shows how out-of-touch the status quo's prose masters are as well; desperately clinging to a stale "avant-garde" left over from the days of Robert Coover and others of his ilk, with Gordon Lish/Thomas Pynchon wordplay thrown in. All very tiring. Overintellectualized; meant only for the pseudo-intellectual crowd. The Conformity factories known as universities continue preaching old dogma, while hundreds of DIYers outside the Ivy-covered walls are breaking the rules and the boundaries.

No, Harland; zeensters aren't submitting to literary journals whose focus is on the well-polished sentence while ignoring the deeper impetus of a work. These journals, like you, are micro-focused. It's not working. The answer for the art is to take a larger view, in so doing deciding upon a work's-- and literature's-- real goals, then adjusting the style accordingly, creating new styles which live. The answer for literature is right in front of us, has always been right in front of us, but no one can see it. Peace. Out.


Those looking in on my "McCartney at Starbucks" poem at,
please be aware that I wrote it last year. I stepped into a Starbucks the other day and there was no McCartney, but instead a horrendous cd by Carly Simon was playing; a lethargic parody of her best work. I fled.

NEXT WEEK: I debut an all-new review blog with a movie review, "Iron Man and the Imperialist Mindset." Stay tuned here for more info.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Points of Agreement?

Here are ten points that possibly we all can agree on.

1.) The position of literature in American society has declined.
2.) There are no larger-than-life personalities in the writing game.
3.) The U.S. literary world is centered in, and largely controlled from, New York City.
4.) The literary system is hierarchical.
5.) The system is dominated by those from the upper levels of American society.
6.) The trend in book publishing, distribution, and sales is in the direction of monopoly.
7.) Writers without connections are excluded, except for those who go to the great expense of obtaining MFA degrees, whose main purpose is to create connections for the writer.
8.) Conformity and manners, in the writing and the writer, are valued over excitement.
9.) The style and premises of writers and their writing have scarcely changed in fifty years.
10.) Dissent to things-as-they-are isn't tolerated.

Defenders of Corruption

Every established order will have its defenders, its reactionaries, those so heavily invested in the present they'll frantically fight to stave off the smallest moves toward future change. It's what we've been witnessing-- the favorite tactic being to focus on myself; to caricaturize the critic, so that at the end of the day I'm such a bad writer I can hardly string three words together; I'm merely "bitter" because I'm not one of the special elite, etc. etc., while my points, arguments, and evidence are avoided.

With Bennington, I located a sensitive spot on the Beast. If nothing else the place is a good example of the Buddy system.

Do you recall the questions of plagiarism raised about Harper's magazine? One of the writers involved was one of our Bennington friends. To defend the person, albeit indirectly, MacArthur grant "genius" winner Jonathan Lethem later wrote a long essay, full of sophistry, for Harper's, explaining how everything is plagiarism. After all, we all use words, and SOMEONE somewhere has used these same words before at some time. Had to have! (This is a variation of the chimps at typewriters writing "Hamlet" idea.) Lethem defined the word plagiarism out of existence, which for Harper's was quite convenient!

THIS is what qualifies as literary genius in this age-- demonstrations of originality in defense of the corruption of the mainstream. The game-show bell rings. "Come on down! Let's give this man some money!"

And now another of the Bennington Buds in the person of "Harland" is here defending the System's reputation. Examples of corruption? Can't be worried! Let's discredit the critic instead. Make sure to hide your identity, literary assassin. Oops! The mask is slipping out of place.

Know this, readers. These are extremely mendacious people with not a speck of character or integrity. It's how they achieve and maintain their station. Their facile, tactical brains are employed to defend the apparatus which sustains them. They have no vision of what literature can and should be. Their focus is at ground level, defending the perks, the sinecures, the positions; the incoming awards, advances, and grant money. The "art" itself-- skillfully empty posturing-- is merely an excuse for the process; a necessary inconvenience. Plagiarism, lies, financial venality-- all part and parcel of the established System of literature today.

Which is why that System must be unflinchingly attacked-- intellectually attacked-- and destroyed.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

New York Oz: The Reality

THINK for a minute of the cities of this country as entirely different lands. As Gore Vidal has pointed out, in the global economy our cities are city-states competing as much with one another as against other countries-- competing for investment, jobs, tourists, government funds and political influence. Also culturally.

I live right now in an industrial city-state, surrounded by fresh water lakes, whose industries are near collapse.

Imagine, at the very eastern end of the continent, situated on and around a narrow island, a Babylon-like city of more wealth than any city on the planet. More wealth than any city ever seen on the planet. It's moreover a city of caste, a towering pyramid of hierarchy. At the bottom of the pyramid are the brown-and-black skinned illegals, working in sidestreet sweatshops or serving the rich in some capacity. Substantially up the pyramid are the white ethnic bulldogs who dominate the police and fire departments. Slightly higher, the multi-ethnic political machine bureaucrats. Above them, the much-whiter layer of corporate lawyers, then the rich and ultra-rich investment people.

At the top, culturally and socially, are the trust-fund aristocrats who dominate publishing and the arts. They maintain their own hierarchical pyramids within the pyramid, are sustained by the brightest eager-beaver ladder climbers from the upper levels of other city-states, many educated at nearby "Ivy League" universities, come to the pyramid city to rise higher.

Attend a book party in the pyramid and you'll brush against the elite of the elite, overwhelmingly white, with a surprising number of upper-class Europeans. One stands at such a party with the awareness of being at the uppermost floor of the skyscraper; the highest level of caste. You will witness in the conversation around you utter superficialty, an almost total ignorance of the stark realities of life not only in America, but even in their own city.

Yet, bizarrely enough, these insulated mandarins determine, to a large extent, the culture of the entire nation.

Think of this glittering city-state, with its enormous wealth. Realize that every day many truckloads of books, magazines, and newspapers leave this place to be delivered to other city-states across the continent. (Or, the information to publish an enormous mass of print-media leaves the island.) We who live in other cities are inundated-- inundated-- with the values of this unreal Oz land.

The values expressed in the books and publications, unsurprisingly, are those of privilege and hierarchy; celebrations of wealth; opinions of intellectual mandarin masters; all mirroring the make-up of the pyramid city-state island.


The sure mark of a demi-puppet is to view all literary situations ass-backwards; so that, for instance, the most powerful and connected writers in America need their protection, and stray dissenters to the monolithic mindset of the status quo become a threat. An example of this is the self-described publishing person who has posted comments on this blog. The individual's words bolster my case: the disdain for writers, like myself, who are too outspoken, who aren't submissive. The kind of undomesticated writer they so badly need, who can attract attention to the art. "You've received enough attention already," this bureaucratic snob said in dismissal.

Oh, really? How did this happen? Was the attention granted me through the generosity of overdogs; the standard operating procedure? Or did I not earn the attention through my own p.r. efforts?

What the apparatchiks overlook, enclosed as they are in their insular world, is that I'm not JUST a writer of the kind they so easily and regularly control or dismiss. I'm first a unique noisemaker. With no funds, I've outdone entire conglomerate publicity departments.

Can it happen again? Don't bet against it.

The question isn't who I'm pissing off, but who's pissing off myself. I know my own value. I do the lit world a favor by posting my ideas. They can listen to them or ignore them as they like.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Who's Harland?


"Harland," to me, appears fairly transparent. He first appeared recently on an old post of this blog which people from Bennington were finding when googling for info about one of their dead colleagues. Several new comments were added to the thread-- all from Bennington folks. We can assume Harland is in some way a Bennington person as well, and since he hid his identity-- unlike the others-- likely of greater stature, or at least someone known to myself. He's not a poet, has not responded to poetic aspects of the discussion, confining his attention to novelists. This narrows the field somewhat.

Why would Bennington be hyper about what I say? It's the home of two main antagonists of my campaign, one of them being the overmuch mentioned Poster Boy of Literary Corruption, known to all.

Who's the other guy? Someone who has writing skill combined with personal ambition and an extremely narrow outlook on literature-- always concerned, like so many of his kind, that writers follow the arbitrary "rules" of the game. When he wrote an essay about the ULA several years ago, he excerpted a piece of mine written in a Kerouac/Hubert Selby style-- and made sure to point out all necessary commas and such which were supposed to be there. This was a sign of his well-trained obedience, his anality, which is one of the first things the Rebellion is designed to overthrow. We wish to change the literary mentality itself, of which he's an exemplar.

Beyond this is a refusal not only to look one step ahead-- to see what literature can and should be in this culture-- but even to see it as it is now; the tool of huge, enormously funded institutions, from conglomerates to universities to foundations, which working together have imposed upon the art and its practitioners an institutional mindset. And so, in the essay, he made absurd remarks, such as no writers in the past criticized the literary system because it's always been so fragile.

Well, if literature today is so fragile-- and I don't dispute this-- then WHY IS THIS? Given the enormous expenditure, the hundreds of writing programs, the billions of dollars being spent to, one would think, make it a vibrant, ongoing concern; as healthy in society as it once was, why hasn't this worked? Isn't this something which we should be looking at? The second point to be made is that the institutions which control literature aren't fragile at all. They include monstrous Time-Warner, Murdoch, etc.: media giants with enormous power. The literature of the past never faced this kind of control.

A gross ugly beast has its slimy, dragon-like paw around a delicate, ever-withering flower. I'm trying to slay the dragon to release the flower; to plant it back in the ground so it can reconnect with its organic roots and become healthy and beautiful once more.

(Please keep up with other aspects of this discussion at, or really, all of my blogs.)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Victory Denied?

I've had some time to think about ULA strategy, its successes and failures. I realize how close we came to collapsing the whole shitty mess of the literary elite on more than one occasion.

My question: Why did people on the other side exaggerate our threat, giving us power we didn't have-- the ability to shut out privileged writers? Because that's how they saw us, a sign of their own weakness.

Isolating just the activist campaign-- one of four legs of the original strategy-- one can see how in its early stages it worked beautifully. Targeted was not the entire literary establishment-- always unnecessary-- but a few isolated pressure points. We struck inside the very heart of the beast. The main part of our total campaign-- in-person protests and shows combined-- in 2001 lasted a grand total of six weeks before the ULA itself split in half, yet the momentum we generated carried through 2003.

Until 2004 a few core remaining members did enough to keep the momentum rolling, despite our limitations. Establishment response was inept, best exemplified by Dave Eggers caught posting anonymously against us on Amazon, as spotlighted in the New York Times. Still, we had a short window of opportunity before the establishment solidified its opposition and sealed its walls at all points against us. Speed versus time.

Later demonstrations of the campaign, notably the Howl Protest, were probings of status quo strength-- necessary reminders that the ULA campaign was ongoing. Through vehicles like this blog, ULA pressure never ceased.

One mistake we made was to underestimate status quo weakness. Panicked mad reaction, as we faced; hostility and blackballing; is no sign of strength.

The essence of a guerrilla insurgency campaign is to wait for openings, then exploit them. Opportunity was granted early in 2007 with the Paris Review/CIA revelations. Yes, it's a low circulation publication, but has always had tremendous influence within inner circles of New York decision making. (Look at the names on its masthead sometime.)

We didn't notice ENOUGH Paris Review's failure to address the CIA question. (We also didn't recall the quick failure of another lit journal, when it was caught printing a fake letter purporting to be from me.) We didn't recognize the huge ongoing embarrassment of the CIA matter being openly discussed, including on Paris Review's Wikipedia entry, or the panicked flurry of e-mails from ex-PR co-editor James Linville, and his panicked flight from London to New York to consult with the current Paris Review team.

We felt the pressure ourselves as we generated it. Within the circles of the Paris Review and their allies it had to be greater. As the ULA ship vibrated from its own assault, the ULA member with closest contacts to the New York scene bailed, taking four other ULAers out the door with him. Our direction was turned. Attack engines shut down.

If the Paris Review-- a key foundation stone of the literary elite-- had been forced to address the legitimate questions raised, this would've been a huge victory for the ULA.

The departure of five ULA members at once was damaging, no doubt about it. The timing was killing. I put on a brave front on this blog, and took full responsibility for the situation. This weakened me irrevocably within the ULA team.

We'd found a vulnerable spot on the establishment dragon-- but you need to push the sword home all the way in order to slay it. The vulnerabilities in the serpent remain.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

More Writing!

For those who claim I'm not a writer, I have more samples up on my blogs to be praised, ripped-apart, or ignored, depending what mood takes you.

An All-New chapter of "Plutocracy USA" is just up at

A poem/polemic is up at my new writing blog,

And don't forget to read my "Zytron" excerpts about my experience in the teaching game at the August 2005 archive on this very blog.

All-in-all, great variety-- enough there to keep everyone busy.

About Teaching

BECAUSE I've been critical of writing programs doesn't mean I'm against teachers, or don't understand the tremendously difficult job teaching is. As I mentioned in a response to a comment, I've done some teaching myself, as an uncertified substitute in Philadelphia. A slightly fictionalized version of one of my more positive experiences is on this blog, under August 2005, as part of my "Zytron" series. (Note: by the nature of blogs, the posts are in reverse order.)

Writing classes are not a bad thing, but there are sound reasons to question graduate writing programs and MFA writing degrees, which I'll list some time.

The zine (zeen) underground represents an alternate way of producing writers. Note my new post at

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Monolith

CONTRARY to what's been said by "Harland," it could easily be shown using statistics alone that the literary world is a monolith with the main power center in New York. It'd be a job for someone's doctoral dissertation, no doubt. One could calculate:
-percentage of magazine ad dollars spent, spent in New York;
-percentage of total books sold which were created in New York;
-percentage of total advance money paid, paid from New York;
-percentage of books reviewed, sent from New York;
and so on.

More important than quantity of influence on literature is quality of influence. America's intellectual class is large, but tiny compared to America as a whole. I'd guess that the main source of cultural information for that class, overwhelmingly, is the New York Times, including its Book Review. In second place would be The New Yorker.

If one did a survey of the very serious writing students at the University of Iowa, you'd find their most studied publication, for models, to be not at all the esteemed North American Review, based in the state, but The New Yorker. (I recall reading about this.)

This dominating influence is why work in the most obscure "literary" journal in the most ignored corner of America will sound like the lame poetry and fiction in The New Yorker.


ONE of the favorite tactics of the literary establishment and its advocates is to intentionally turn reality on its head. Or maybe they really believe I'm this powerful onrushing force liable to put all of them out of their jobs. And so the radio commentator last year assumes "eternal outsider" myself will somehow exclude literary darling Jeffrey Eugenides, who by the way continues scoring huge advances while I score sandwiches meant for the homeless. Or editor Aaron Hicklin takes an unnecessary shot at me in the Foreword to the Black Book anthology. I may be a lone nut on the sidewalk but they're eager to knock down my stand and throw me into the street! (Exactly what happened to me, incidentally, when I was with a few other writers outside the New York Times last year.)

The latest demi-puppet to wade into battle on this blog talks about tiny deviations from my 'program." Program? My program is more an anti-program. Even if I had a "program," I have no power to implement it. I have no power whatsoever. Remember, I'm the guy on the sidewalk who was futilely standing with my underground brothers outside huge entities like the Conde-Nast building.

The workers inside must get panicked by a mouse. "There they are! Look out the window. Those dots far below. It's them! Those grubby undergrounders. They don't tolerate the dissent that we in this billion-dollar skyscraper represent. They're trying to impose their Program, on us! Do something! Security! Police! Help us!"

(Would that the underground had a program.)

Monday, May 12, 2008


It's possible that my message will never connect with those in established literature. The residents of that land are insulated by their own smugness. There's no need for contrary opinions when they already know everything.

Are they a mono-class? For the most part, yes. The power in print-media and publishing is concentrated in New York. The decision-makers are predominately Ivy Leaguers, which means, from the upper echelons of this society.

America's social stratifications aren't something I've made up. They're clearly visible for those who care to see them-- the bottom level most strikingly obvious in a city like Detroit, where only 25% of students even finish high school. What percentage go on to college? Graduate school?

Our well-educated Overdogs on the other hand, several who post here, overwhelmingly from comfortable backgrounds, will have none of it. They dismiss notions about the "real world," because to them their catered life is just as real. Any criticism of themselves that seeps through to them is just so much carping from an "eternal outsider"; from a caricature. Smugly, they insist I don't know how the machine works. "You just don't know!" they say, from the safety of the latest cocktail party. "Those people in the photos, the socialites, have nothing in common with the publishing grunts, much less a creative writing instructor in Iowa"-- and this has a sliver of truth. The Machine encompasses many levels-- I've never said otherwise. It itself is very hierarchical. It's sustained because those toward the bottom (not at all at the bottom of America by the way; only of the Machine) never question it, and allow through their subservience the obvious power of the monied at the top.

Those who refuse to see caste in America and in the creation of its literature aren't fooling me, whatever happens to me. The realities I live among are all too true, incapable of being ignored. The smug literati in their castle of illusion are fooling themselves.

Is It True?

Is it true that there are vast differences throughout the literary establishment; that some who inhabit it are more in touch with what's happening in this country that others? That a writing instructor in Virginia will have little in common with a Vanity Fair editor in New York?

Well, yes and no. This weekend I sent off some e-mail spam to creative writing instructors in Virginia, to the renowned writing program at the university there. Many of the e-mails were returned instantly with polite messages saying the person was on vacation for the summer, and would check messages "infrequently," or when he or she got back in the fall. One, from an Elizabeth Denton, spoke humorously of a "Semester at Sea," "sailing around the world."

Can we surmise that these folks are not part of this nation's bottom half, those now under economic siege? Is that an unfair leap? Might they have much in common with their literary brethren in New York after all?


OCCASIONALLY an establishment mouthpiece will show up on this blog with superficially plausible arguments and for a time score a few points. My wonder is why they still insist on remaining anonymous. Wouldn't a "Harland" want the credit due him for putting me in my place?

Yet he hesitates. He thinks he can destroy my arguments, but he's not sure. There remains a level of doubt-- and that doubt, that hesitation, reveals his own weakness and the weakness of the status quo behind him.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Pod Way

The biggest crime a writer can commit today is to criticize contemporary literature. Its defenders all sound the same. (In a monotone): "Our literature is wonderful William Vollmann Philip Roth Nicholson Baker John Ashbery there is nothing wrong everything is fine people love what we make the conglomerates are hip everything is okay. Go home and don't make waves."

A person murmurs in your ear: "Shhh! Don't make waves," while your file is being stamped, "BLACKBALLED."

Not just criticism of the status quo is banned, but if you're too provocative, too loud, too exciting, too different. When mediocrity is the standard, anyone who stands out is suspect.

The small press and the lower-level writing programs follow the pattern, the unspoken goal of "Same as the big guys." It's the same compliant complicit boozhie people. They truly believe for instance that Alice Munro's coagulated New Yorker writing has "reinvigorated the story." Why do they believe this? Because everyone says it. It's an affirmation of blandess. (Anyone who believes that Alice Munro has reinvigorated anything lives in a world of delirium.)

The General Motors Syndrome:
"These are our best cars yet!"
"Are as they as good as Japanese cars?"
"Well, no. But we're trying!"

Complacency leads to mediocrity, which the literary world is drowning in.

The Obligation of Students

The obligation of university students is to know when they're being force-fed garbage. The purpose of the new generation is to overthrow those who are in charge, not to meekly obediently accept what they're presented, the art of a static present which in a swiftly moving universe is already outdated. Failure to embrace change, to destroy, to burn down and rebuild an art is to fail the reason for which you're born, the reason you've become an artist.

Can one become an artist of any kind without pushing boundaries; without criticizing what is, NOW? You're too complacent. You're too programmed. You're too subservient to the erected temple gods-- Roth, Beattie, Ashbery, Gluck, name as many as you like. If you don't believe you can do way better you have no business calling yourselves writers.

Which is not blindly to accept my ideas either or the ideas and writers of the underground, but to seek and create a synthesis of the new and the past and the now.

You're not amoebas at desks. Challenge your professors.

Why Change?

Some reasons are given at:

Friday, May 09, 2008

Pathetically Bad

I've found out, anyway, why critics of this blog who post here generally don't give their real names. When they do, it exposes their own work to scrutiny, which destroys anything they have to say.

When I present my case, the attitude which infects even myself, not to mention the other side, is that opponents are so feeble and defenseless that if I argue against their ideas and their art I'm picking on them.

Case in point: poet Christopher Salerno, Bennington MFA grad.

By naming him I'm singling him out, so I'll add that I use him only as a typical case. Others of his kind are worse. I hope I don't bruise him. He has a cozy teaching position, and is young enough anyway to find another career. I urge him to do so. Removing himself from the bubble of academe could only improve his work.

Much of his poetry is on-line. While examining it I thought, "He received an expensive MFA degree, studying for many years with the supposed best, to create this?"

He's learned little of the various forms and tricks of harmonious sound which bring joy to the art. Unlearned and unexpressed is the idea of poetry as language; musical magical language that when recited takes the poet and the audience to another plane.

With today's poets-- I use Christopher Salerno only as example-- after fifteen minutes of reading their work one is able to match it, if anyone'd want to. One could sit down and in an hour create ten times the amount, as pretentious and meaningless. The years of study at Bennington; the teaching of renowned instructors-- WHERE IS IT? What's being taught?
Democracy XX

One part and the farthest
I awake next to the
On one hand and the other
you prefer that I not sit
grappling with muddy boots.

Democracy XXVI

When you wake, when you
sit, when you cry,
Not sleeping,
The painting is in the attic.

Democracy XXXII

Here, here is the
mud that you came for,
the tracks across
the kitchen floor
Here are the
tracks of your conscience
given form
weighed against the
scales of my labor
Your dark-eyed hangover
the literal interior mess
coming home from the bar.


Here is the poetry
worse than worst,
execrable poetry
I call it bad,
a nightmare of evasion
the twisted experience of too many
writing programs
dollars paid, receipt stamped
detestable fraud
the dead garbage can remains
with the unplucked festering
coffee grounds mixed with decaying fish
foul smell, putrid mess
back alley behind the barn
fills with it
the smell of broken
lavoratories human stench classrooms
vomitories repositories of pretention
at Bennington
barge heaps towed down the Hudson
unwanted refuse
from all the bad poets
from all the preppy New England
green campus students
I call it charade, circus, scam,
You call it poetry.

(Disclaimer: these poems are inspired by, but are not actually written by, Mr. Salerno.)

"Star Spangled Poet II"

(For Bennington)

I wanna
wanna wanna
wanna wanna wanna
wanna wanna
wanna wanna be
a poet.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

To the Demi-Puppets

My problem with demi-puppets isn't that they work low-level jobs in the lit-biz. Not at all. It's instead that they relentlessly support the status quo-- things as they are-- cannot see that our literature A.) is on the wrong course; B.) can be much better. It may have something to do with their being INSIDE the system; that they've been trained to conform.

To say, for instance, that academic poetry was good sixty years ago is hardly an argument for the stale and lethargic academy poetry of now.

It's like "The School of Rock"-- new generations taught to do it the way it's been done; the same postures, the same sound, with a few differences in notes. Worship the dead. You're perpetuating a dead art form.

Monday, May 05, 2008

This Blog

IT'S UNFORTUNATE that writers who heard about Jason Shinder's death last Friday, and googled his name for information, came up first with a 2006 post from this blog. Hardly what they wanted. (See Unfortunate for Mr. Shinder: the cost of being on the wrong side of literary history.
With the passing of both Liam Rector and Jason Shinder in recent months-- members of the most infamous Insider writers nest, at Bennington-- I'd guess the literary gods are temporarily appeased. It'd make a good time for the literary establishment to make peace. Their position won't improve. I'm in "exile" in Detroit. The literary Resistance is momentarily disunified, but this will change. Movements, like the patterns of life, proceed in up and down waves. Blackballing me hasn't worked. My message is getting out there, as the google searches done by folks this weekend indicate.

I should add that I have a line-up of strong posts ready to go up on this blog, as well as my other blogs, and a couple new blogs yet to follow. The literary establishment hasn't seen anything. Peace or war?-- it's your choice.

(More on Jason Shinder at

Saturday, May 03, 2008

The Gessen Problem

AT A BOOKSTORE I glanced at Keith Gessen's novel, All the Sad Young Literary Men, which seems to be based on the ideas of himself and his n+1 colleagues. In the novel they allude to themselves as Marxists, identify with Menshevists, posture as political radicals-- most notably at the end-- but present is the sense that they're playing; that Gessen himself knows they're playing and can't be taken seriously in any way as revolutionaries.

And how could they be? They're the established system's captive pets, existing at the center of New York hierarchy and privilege.

Noteworthy is the group's real-world treatment of the literary underground-- an underground that was spawned from authentic grass roots samizdat. Embarrassed by the genuine article, they've done their best to ignore us. They refused at first even to print a letter from me a couple issues ago-- though they readily print all nonsense from the boozhies-- then relented and printed half of it only after intensive lobbying. In their latest issue they celebrate a Russian underground poet who's not half as lively as the literary activists of the ULA. Any mention of the American literary underground? No place! Amazing.

We don't exist to them. I've yet to find an explanation for this other than pure phoniness. I believe Gessen is smart enough to realize he's a phony-- that in the face of the uncompromising buzzsaw voices across the spectrum of our side of things (I think of George, Frank W., MDG, Nowlan, and other attack dogs) Gessen and his friends would wilt away.

At least, that's the impression I received browsing for several minutes through his book.

(For a fictional look at the n+1 gang, see

Breaking the Stranglehold

I'm convinced that American literature can be saved only by breaking the New York City monopoly on publishing, print media, and our intellectual life.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

New York Media S.O.S.


American culture is in distress.

It's been captured by the aristocrats, the Spirit of 1776 reversed.

S.O.S.! S.O.S.!

The latest manifestation of this is the cover story by privileged brat ex-Philadelphian Jessica Pressler about the hyper-privileged brats of the TV show, "Gossip Girl" (based on the book series) in the April 28 issue of the magazine which celebrates New York hyper-wealth, New York. (Note all the plastic surgery ads throughout the mag-- a good clue to its audience.)

The loathsome article itself is at

What does it mean?

It means the overpriced island of exclusivity has further disconnected itself from the nation. They chatter through their bistros, their million-dollar lofts, their chi-chi parties, as their island slips farther into the Atlantic. They're in love with all things European anyway. We best see them off at the dock.

A horn sounds. Streamers and confetti everyplace. The gangplank rises, the rich and the insulated all aboard. The snobby island of fools and fops begins sailing into the deep blue.

"Yummy hors d'ouevres!" is the last distant sound heard from them.

(See more May Day posts at