Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I've had an interesting email from writer Jacqueline Sarah Homan, latest to join the protest at
She pointed out the importance of "presentation" (image) to the bourgeois personality. We've also discussed the strange case of super-liberal Barbara Ehrenreich, who's made millions out of speaking FOR working and lower class people, yet to date has refused to sign the Petition to PEN herself. (She knows about it.) In many ways she's more detrimental to the plight of underground writers than a straight-up opposed reactionary, because she displaces our authentic voice, leaving our kind of writer more shut out than ever.

A similar case to Ehrenreich is PBS TV liberal Thomas Frank, a former zeenster of sorts who's ignored three packets of information mailed to him about the PEN matter. It seems that, given a choice between career fortune and supposed principles, they easily throw the latter overboard. Which tels me they weren't very genuine to start with.

The chief example of the pseudo-liberal mindset is PEN American Center, which postures as the defender of the underdog-- raising funds and throwing lavish parties in so doing-- at the same time it shuns said underdog in this country. They're able to compartmentalize their ruthless blackballing behind a Potemkin-style facade of goodness.

My readership has followed this protest for five months. I've posted a ton of argument and evidence. What do you think? I'm opening the blog to unrestricted comments.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Das Komisar

There's a fundamental contradiction to PEN American Center. They're supposed to speak for the powerless. But, in this country, if you have no power PEN will not even acknowledge that you exist.

If I were Cormac McCarthy or Philip Roth they'd be rushing to help me and my compadres. But Roth and McCarthy don't need help. Not at all.

PEN's own genteel protests are in fact about advancing megaconglomerate power into every corner of the globe. PEN's every action can be gauged according to how it relates to power.

Witness Director Isenberg. Read his bio. Is he about anything but the attainment of position; of power?

Was Isenberg given his latest position to reform PEN-- or to squelch dissent and reform?

If this were the Soviet Union, Director Isenberg would be standing loyally behind Brezhnev on the Kremlin wall.

Tom Hendricks and myself each sent emails to new Director Isenberg notifying him of the Petition to PEN. The door is open for dialogue. We've received no response.

Why haven't YOU joined the Protest? History celebrates the rebels; the trailblazers: the dissidents. Memory of the timid and the corrupt vanishes into dust.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

For All Writers

THE VARIETY of signers of the Petition to PEN shows that it's for all writers-- ALL writers-- from the lowest to the highest. What it's really saying is this: "We writers are taking back control of our art."

PEN members THEMSELVES most of all need to join the cause, as they've lost control of their own organization.

Remember, we're the good guys.

Media Circus

GRANTED, it's difficult to interest people in the corrupt and grubby little world of literature against the Two-Minute Hate Orwellian Noise Campaign of the ongoing health care media show. In one corner, smooth-sounding Benevolent Big Brother Barack Obama. In the other, clinically insane drama queen Glenn Beck.

What's really happening is a war between media giants; GE/NBC/MSNBC and the Democratic Party their handpuppet versus Murdoch/News Corp/Fox and the Republican Party their handpuppet. It's a power struggle over spoils; a war over WHO is going to control the Machinery of Monopoly. On the fundamental questions there's little difference between the two camps. Okay, Republicans are Hard Imperialists and Democrats are Soft Imperialists, but NAFTA, WTO, and the Afghanistan bombing continue.

This is similar to the last days of the Roman Republic, when the political competition was between competing plutocrats, Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus, over WHO would control Rome's power and wealth. Real reform could never happen, because the Reformers would have to reform themselves.

I find it amusing to hear talk of a "government option," as if the government were independent, when it's owned and controlled by one gang or another of corporate plutocrats. This was proven over the past year when the corporate banking world turned the Treasury piggy bank upside down and emptied it into their own pockets.
Actually, the Establishment power structure DOES still care, for whatever bizarre reason, about literature. This is proven by the appointment of one of their best, most loyal soldiers, one Steven L. Isenberg, as Exec Director of the PEN organization, which Once Upon a Time was run by writers themselves.

Can PEN allow real writer dissent against our nation's Power Structure when it IS (part of) the U.S. Power Structure?
(That Mr. Isenberg resembles an old Roman plutocrat adds to the amusement.)

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Prisoner

Noted imprisoned writer Cassidy Wheeler is the latest to join the Petition to PEN at
It was not easy getting him information on the protest. The facility he's at opens and screens all mail. They have a bureaucratic checklist of more than fifty reasons for rejecting correspondence. Nevertheless, a small information packet was eventually allowed through to him.

Cassidy signed immediately and mailed back the Petition. His name has been added to the list of literary heroes. At the same time, many hundreds of writers who aren't in prison have easy access to the Petition, and the reasons behind it. They can read it at will, at the click of a computer mouse, and have not signed. How many more rights do they have than Cassidy; how many more opportunities to speak out?-- for their own rights and for all writers' rights, yet they fail to do so.

We either use our democratic freedoms or lose them-- use our voices or see those voices marginalized, so that the only voices which remain are those for the rich and powerful-- as we've seen with the transformation of PEN the past twenty years. Plutocrats will have all the media, all the space, while our own room to maneuver in this society will be squeezed as tight as a prison cell.

The Petition to PEN is an affirmation of purpose; a statement of existence as citizens and writers. Please join our cause.

Posted at PEN

(Posted on a thread at PEN America Center's main blog, http://www.penamerica.blogspot.com/):

Here are facts for PEN's new Director to consider:
In 2001 the Underground Literary Alliance began bravely and openly documenting and exposing corruption in the literary world. Included in our reports were questionable grants to trendy writers like Rick Moody and Jonathan Franzen. We also looked into questions, originally raised by others, of plagiarism, and squelched articles.
In response the Eggers Gang (to competitors they behave like a gang) engaged in a several-year dirty tricks campaign against myself and the ULA. This has also been documented-- beginning with a 2004 New York Times article which revealed that Dave Eggers himself had been posting anonymous attacks against the ULA on Amazon.
As a lawyer, Mr. Isenberg knows the importance of evidence. The overwhelming mass of evidence is on our side of the issue.
PEN's stonewalling raises questions about its integrity as an organization. I hope Mr. Isenberg cleans up the place. Until then, I'll continue documenting, and documenting, and documenting.
August 7, 2009 10:56 AM

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Gorbachev or Chernenko?

Here's bio info on PEN American Center's new Executive Director, Steven L. Isenberg:

The choice seems to indicate that the takeover of PEN by the establishment is complete. Steve Isenberg is as establishment as you can get. Is it fair to assume that he'll be a representative of money and power? I had hoped for a new face; forward-looking in attitude.

One interesting point in his resume: that he was President of the newspaper Newsday before it went under. He has to know that the world is changing-- and that literature needs to change also.

Will he reach out to the DIY movement? The door is open for him to do so. Continued stonewalling works for no one.
I find it humorous to see PEN's talk supporting "free expression" in this country. There is no "free" expression in America. You have the expression you can pay for-- and so plutocratic aristocrats have more of it. Others are required to buy their way into the system in some manner; usually by accumulating credentials to prove your conformity to things-as-they-are. It's the road toward stagnation. Classic democracy presupposes equal access to speech: a level playing field. This is what an organization like PEN should be working toward. Lately they've been going in the other direction.

See other thoughts on this topic, "Ignorance," at

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The Ultimate Suit?

I just got word that PEN American Center has named a new Executive Director, Steven Isenberg. Contrary to my hopes, he doesn't seem to have a background conducive to dissenting instincts. I hope I'm mistaken. His bio, laudable to some, to me is scary. I'll post it on this blog when I have more time.

That said, let's hope he reaches out to the Petition,
and establishes a dialogue-- or at least answers legitimate questions about the organization he's now running.

Monday, August 03, 2009

The Movement

Two points that have to be made.
1.) The underground literary movement is a legitimate literary movement.
2.) The movement is being stonewalled and suppressed because it's a movement; i.e., for ideological reasons.

The movement needs to decide whether it's going to remain inert, as it's been since 2006, or if it can recapture its dynamism. One of my reasons for starting the Petition to PEN at
is to help restart the literary rebellion's momentum. Many outstanding undergrounders have joined the protest-- the two most recent names among the more notable.

The Petition is becoming a Who's Who of underground literary figures. The list shows the diversity of talent within the movement. Several more names remain to be added. There's no reason not to join. The Petition is an affirmation that there is, and needs to be, an underground literary movement.

It'd also be cool if writers who'd been tangentially part of the underground literary scene early in their careers, notably Thomas Frank, and who remain allegedly activist now, would join the protest.

Meanwhile, the privileged members of the narrow world of the literary establishment, from David Haglund to Patricia Cohen, have closed all doors to the Petition. There has not been one budged inch from them toward dialogue. THEY have defined us as beyond the pale, pariahs apart, unworthy of respect or notice; in so doing, creating an insurgency: a movement. We're insurgents in that we promote literary democracy, renewal, and change.