Thursday, December 29, 2011
Newsletters and Subcultures
That was quite a panicky and petulant New York Times editorial Wednesday about Dr. Ron Paul, wasn't it? Of all the things they could editorialize about-- his building of a political movement outside the Harvard-Yale Duality, for instance (see below), or his ideas-- they chose a 20 year-old newsletter. They must be panicky indeed. Pants-wetting panicky. Someone's upsetting the carefully arranged game.
Now, I know nothing about the specifics of the Ron Paul newsletter; who wrote it, any of it. But I do know newsletters. Cranking out newsletters was how I began writing.
I wrote a local union newsletter on a job when I was in my 20's. Did it piss off people?
After I left that job, I found myself working with a commodity trader and doing a couple issues of an investment newsletter. This was also my introduction to libertarian thought, which gave an added dimension to my intellectual "game." Ideas they don't teach at the university. In 1992 or thereabouts I began a literary newsletter, New Philistine. Any still-extant copies are rare collector's items.
The 80's and 90's were the heyday of newsletters, which included the zine scene. An amazing subculture, or collection of subcultures, of outsider ideas. The kind of things you'll never encounter in the New York Times-- and which Times staffers in their narrowly regulated button-down world haven't been exposed to in variety and totality, if at all. Call it real America, outside the cardboard Officially Approved robotic facsimile of America projected by monopoly media. All ideas; extremes of Right and Left, everything in-between and ideas outside those extremes. (But to me, you see, the New York Times is the extreme. Extremely predictable conformity.) Libertarian to anarchist, every kind of anarchist. Racists, sure, and also vociferous anti-racists as exemplified by the many ARA (Anti-Racist Action) publications. The original factsheet 5 was a great compendium of the broad scene.
In a word: democracy.
As literature, it was the organic American reality, comprehensively the American voice, as elite literary journals can never be.
Know this: it was nearly impossible to plunge into that mass of activity without making contact with what button-down society considers to be loons, weirdos, and crackpots. "Extremists." (Human beings.) To create a newsletter, and market and sell it through the mail, took work. It took real commitment. It took fanaticism. We were all extremists, by trying to achieve the impossible.
We drew the membership of the Underground Literary Alliance from the underground zine scene. This included explosively unorthodox talents, with a wide diversity of characters and ideas. a small group, but we had in our ranks many punks and anarchists, at least two trannies, a couple libertarians, and most extreme of all, even and one out-and-out conservative. Crazy indeed.
You have to watch out for those subcultures, you really do. You know. They can be dangerous. Like that Jesus guy from 2,000 years ago. He and his tiny band of lowlife nobodies stirring things up, disturbing Empire. Friends with whacked-out uber-hippie John the Baptist. Outsiders with absolutely no standing daring to question the tops-down Authority of the day. Plainly crazy. The power people quickly disposed of the ringleaders, beheading John and crucifying Jesus. After all, you know. Outsiders are dangerous!
I don't know if the accusations against Dr. Paul have validity. I do know that if they hadn't found that, they'd have found something. Though Ron Paul is building his movement, he's always had 0% chance of getting the nomination. Outsiders, and outsider ideas, in literature OR politics, are unacceptable to what's presented to us as the mainstream.
The Harvard-Yale Duality
Here are the recent winners of the U.S. Presidency:
1988: Yale (beating Harvard).
Note that George W. Bush covered his bases by being a grad of both places.
It appears from the list that Yale has the upper hand-- but 2012 will likely be a battle of Harvard vs. Harvard. After all, it's still Harvard's turn.
About the Media
Monday, December 26, 2011
The Peasant Audience
SOMETIMES you can observe two things at once, and draw a connection between them.
So it is with my reading Anna Karenina simultaneous with the release of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" starring Rooney Mara.
Don't get me wrong, Karenina's a great novel, for all its flabbiness. But. The peasantry serves as a captive audience for the self-obsessed doings of the aristocrats. They're there to applaud the various comings and goings of the carriages filled with nobles. "Aw! Isn't that nice?" Makes you wonder why there was ever a Russian revolution.
I'm reminded of the appearance of Jonathan Lethem and Jennifer Egan at the Occupy Wall Street encampment, gracing the downtrodden with their gleaming presence, media in tow.
Do you think Margaret Mitchell read Tolstoy?
Frankly, it's hard after awhile to sympathize with the plight of Anna and Vronsky as they sit around their massive estate complaining about how bored they are. If ever a couple needed a revolution to wake them up, they did.
Is America today all that different?
Now we have precious newcomer Rooney Mara. The name, you know, is the combination of two plutocratic dynasties. Tolstoy would love it! Kind of like being named "Crassus Pompey," or "Borgia DeMedici."
If everything in this country is going to be for the aristocrats-- I could name a couple score of dynastic Hollywood celebrities-- then why should the rest of us bother trying to do anything? Let's at least have honesty! There should be a large sign put up saying, "CLOSED"-- to all but the right people, the proper crowd. The nobles should wear uniforms, with short jackets and epaulets, as they do in Tolstoy novels.
The rest of us are here to be the peasant audience; to serve; to loyally gush and applaud the delicate Rooney Maras when they make their society debuts.
Friday, December 23, 2011
Blitz Review of a Japanese Detective Novel
of Keigo Higashino's The Devotion of Suspect X.
I can tell you that the book receives the highest Blitz Rating I've yet given out-- but how high is that? Is it justified? Take a look!
Have a Merry Christmas. I'll be back with some provocative posts. Please return.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Where's Our Democracy?
If Mitt Romney gains the GOP nomination, it will guarantee that the winner of every U.S. presidential election since 1988, through 2012, will have been a graduate of Harvard or Yale. Or a graduate of both.
2004 pit members of the same Yale fraternity against each other! This time out, if Romney's nominated, as expected, it will be Harvard against Harvard. (This is as bad as the literary world!)
Does anyone notice or care how outrageous this is? Where are Occupiers on this question? This narrow domination gives the media show/political game away for the fraud that it is. It demonstrates that right now America is a very elitist, hierarchically-ordered society.
The NCAA's college football BCS system is anything but democratic. It's heavily weighted toward a select number of power conferences. There's much outcry this year over two schools from the same conference playing in the title game. Can you imagine the outcry if the same two schools appeared in the championship game every year? If there were 24 years of two-school monopoly in college football? Or worse, if one school played against itself!
I ask: Will all the concerned writers who signed the Occupy Writers petition sign one against this outrage? Would you bet that ANY of them would? Will the alleged democrats at a journal like n+1 run by Harvard and Yale grads rush to the forefront of this matter?
What about David Remnick? Will he push as hard for democracy in America as he does for democracy in a nation halfway across the globe?
Where are you, Mr. Remnick?
Where's OUR democracy, Mr. Remnick?
WHERE'S our democracy, David Remnick?
Where's our DEMOCRACY?!
WHERE'S OUR DEMOCRACY!!!
For fiction with commitment read the ebook Mood Detroit.
Monday, December 19, 2011
Life Imitating Art
Isn't the triangle of Natalie Wood, husband Robert Wagner, and then-young Christopher Walken much like Anna, her husband Karenin, and Vronsky in the book? It's interesting that Natalie Wood was of Russian descent-- and looked it, very beautiful-- and I believe that Walken played an ethnic Russian in "The Deer Hunter," his first great movie role. Walken anyway could've easily played Vronsky back then, and Natalie Wood would've been a fabulous Anna Karenina. As an actor Walken was never the same after the strange night of her death-- he went from handsome leading man to weird character actor almost overnight.
I'm halfway through the novel. No, it's not as great as War and Peace, but it's still one of the biggies, timeless, with rich characterization and clear writing. No novelist today is comparable, sadly-- least of all the well-hyped frauds pushed at us from New York. Just my opinion, of course, but I doubt anyone can dispute it.
Having It All
(For an in-depth take on this, see my novelette "Bluebird," part of the ebook Mood Detroit. It's not polemical, just truthful.)
Thought on Christopher Hitchens
Thursday, December 15, 2011
What's Wrong with This?
Here's a part of the wikipedia entry for the Underground Literary Alliance, pertaining to one event:
Late 2001, the ULA protested against McSweeney's Quarterly Concern being awarded Best Zine of the Year by the Firecracker Alternative Books Award because McSweeney’s does not fit their definition of zine. The jury of the Firecracker Alternative Books Award remarked that they didn't ask the ULA what was their definition of a zine, because the ULA wasn't the organization presenting the award."
Here are a few definitions of the word "zine" found at various places:
"An inexpensively produced, self-published, underground publication."
"a cheaply-made, cheaply-priced publication."
"an independently or self published booklet often created by a single person."
"a cheaply printed magazine published irregularly by amateurs."
You get the idea. McSweeney's of course was a professionally-produced publication, with a paid office staff, the thick issues printed in Iceland at considerable expense and shipped to America by cargo container. Copies of each issue sold in the neighborhood of $25. The project may have been started with seed money from Simon & Schuster, a large book company owned by a gigantic conglomerate. Yes, the ULA protested this award, absolutely-- and was right to do so.
FYI: Much of the ULA's original wiki entry was written by Steve Kostecke, now deceased. What he put there, the basic facts, has been greatly distorted by a series of anonymous persons over the past few years. The result is a distorted view of the organization, its motives and history. I'd suggest that anyone considering restarting the outfit, in whatever way, begin by correcting the malicious damage done to this record. (If I get the opportunity, between my blogs and writing, I'll make a partial attempt myself.)
The truth is important-- to some of us.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Writer Versus Writer
I start with the literary variety. I've posted that review first, so I can follow it with a review more positive.
Monday, December 12, 2011
Of late I’ve been tough on the pseudo-intellectual literary journal n+1. At least, since Keith Gessen’s revealing essay about the cronyism of the established lit world which appeared in the October issue of Vanity Fair. n+1 deserves the criticism. This post is to explain why.
The problem with outfits like n+1 is they pretend to be radical, against the status quo. With such elitist pseudo-rebels about, what need is there for the genuine article? Co-optation might be the term.
The last time I encountered n+1’ers in person was May of 2009 when I stopped at Philadelphia’s Festival of the Book with another ULAer. Though I was no longer an active ULA member, I wore a ULA t-shirt for old time’s sake—and as an in-your-face gesture. The effect of the words “Underground Literary Alliance” on literary people is akin to that of showing a crucifix to a vampire.
We met in a park near the venue. The ULAer was a notoriously wild character. On the walk up we stumble into free food. A gift from God! We must’ve both been very hungry, because we destroyed the food quickly. The sun shone overhead, a cool but sunny spring day.
Among the many tables of literary people at the Festival was one staffed by n+1 people. Gessen wasn’t there. Marco Roth was the head guy, I believe. We verbally harassed Roth and his colleagues for several minutes. Such stuffy lit types are ridiculously slow thinkers and talkers. In the middle of our one-sided discussion, Marco put out that n+1’ers were “social democrats.”
We laughed and laughed—laughter the only possible response, because Roth’s statement was absurd.
The Voice of the People! Gessen told me once that n+1 was “written for everybody.” Just ignore all the pseudo-intellectual bullshit references then to Agamben and Agamboon. No doubt Gessen and Company consider themselves populist and anti-capitalist, while accepting large checks from media monopolies.
The duplicity in fact is staggering. n+1 took the lead in the “Occupy Writers” idea to support or co-opt the Occupy Wall Street movement. They did this at the same time a large banner at the top of their site advertised a joint promotion between n+1 and News Corp, whose megabucks, I suspect, are now indirectly funding their journal.
There are two kinds of capitalism. One is the free market, competitive kind—when there is a free and fair market—typified by ambitious small businessmen.
The other kind is Crony Capitalism with a capital C, whose every effort is geared toward squelching competition. It feeds on connections, conglomerates, elitism, hierarchies, Insider knowledge, monopoly, networking. Which was what Keith Gessen’s article for Vanity Fair was about.
A response to this post is welcomed.
Do you support independent literature? Purchase affordable American Pop Lit ebooks by King Wenclas. Latest offering: Crime City USA. There’s no substitute for the authentic article.
The Bluff of the Establishment Literary World
A similar situation holds sway today in the established U.S. literary world. That world is built on, and sustained by, bluff.
Jonathan Lethem can write virtually anything, no matter how ridiculous, and unquestioning legions of readers and writers accept it, because it comes from a designated star.
The truth is that the clubby members of lit's power clique, even at intellectual journals like The Believer and n+1-- especially at journals like The Believer and n+1-- aren't very bright. Possible exception made for Eggers. Some are methodical plodders. Others are less than that, get by on pedigree or the certification of degrees. They all exist behind a flimsy facade of bluff which no ambitious writer dares question.
Why is this?
What today's name Insider writers are truly good at is gaming the system. They've been doing it their entire lives. It's how they slid into elite hierarchical slots at spots like Harvard, and prevailed at such places.
Occupy Writers, a latch-on to the Occupy movement by Insiders, was a good example of how this crowd of careerist opportunists were able to quickly spot a no-risk way to make themselves look good, and jump at it. Their win-lose risk radar is first class. In this instance, they ensured that if revolution ever takes place, the same people-- at least in the literary game-- will be in charge.
Character? Principles? Integrity? Honesty? For them, irrelevant concepts. As of course is the concept of democracy, which is not AT ALL what they're about. The pose is what counts-- being on the right side of the crowd.
But what about their writing?
At their best, their writing is competent. See Jonathan Franzen. Many of these people learned well through their many training programs how to be unspectacularly competent.
At its worst, with writers whose self-importance gets ahead of their meager talents, as with Jonathan Lethem and Miranda July, the writing is execrable, the childish thought behind it an embarrassment.
The shakiness of their world is compounded by the fact that most of them subscribe to a philosophy, postmodernism, which is intellectually bankrupt.
I wish more outside-the-clique writers would awake from their stupors, lose their timidity and begin to expose the In crowd for the emperors-without-clothes that they are.
Just my two cents worth. Take it for what you will.
Saturday, December 10, 2011
Occupy Philly Photos Finally Up!
Several of the photographs I took at the Occupy Philadelpia encampment at the deadline, 11/27/11, are posted right here:
Friday, December 09, 2011
Worst Christmas Singer?
There are many candidates. For instance, Willie Nelson should be allowed nowhere near a Christmas song. But for my money no one destroys so many Christmas songs as does Zooey Deschanel with her terribly weak, limited, straining, amplified voice. I could stand at a shopping mall and choose six people at random, and at minimum four of them would be able to sing better than Zooey Deschanel can. It's a shame, because there are many excellent singers out there, with actual voices, but who gets played at coffeeshops and shopping malls? Zooey! Talent means nothing. What a society.
It proves that Melissa Bluebird is real.
Thursday, December 08, 2011
Shakespeare and Other Matters
Occupy Photos Update
I'm also using much of what I saw and thought for two fiction ebooks I'm currently writing. One will use the encounter between Occupy Philly homeless people and members of the local Tea Party. I was among those caught between the two camps.
For a real novel I've been working on, The Tower, I'll be using much more. The subject of this book is revolution. It contains a variety of characters, including a plutocrat-- who I'm striving to make understandable and believable-- but also several anarchist revolutionaries. As I'll describe in an upcoming American Pop Lit blog post, I'm using many of my ideas about how to write fiction on this particular ebook. Now, if the congloms had any brains, they'd offer me Harbach-style money for the book, because when it's finished it'll blow away anything their tepid pampered writers are doing or are capable of doing.
Tuesday, December 06, 2011
The Meaning of Steve Kostecke
By contrast, the ULA finally split because its two core guys believed too strongly in the ULA idea. Steve Kostecke and I agreed on the overall strategy but argued over tactics. Both of us, it turned out, were too wedded too intensely to the project to compromise.
Most writers like to consider themselves "outsiders," but few are in reality. Steve Kostecke was alienated from the madness of his home country, the good old USA, so he spent most of his adult life overseas. Did he have a commitment to his writing? Yes! All the way. At some stage he made literature that crazy quest of words the #1 priority in his life. He was no hobbyist.
When you ask for commitment to literary change, those are the kind of writers you need.
Reasons People Write
Monday, December 05, 2011
Sara Gran Reviewed!
as are novelists Jim Nisbet and Rikki Ducornet.
How do their recent books rate? Check it out!
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
It's Going Down Now
According to the radio, hundreds of police are surrounding the remaining fifty Occupiers at Dilworth Plaza. Buses are parked nearby to take them to jail. Should I go down there to try to view? I don't know. . . .
Are the Occupiers troublemakers, or are they heroes?
To me, any sign of dissent in this locked-down hyperregulated society is heroic.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Pioneers or Parasites?
The 11/27/11 issue of the New York Times Book Review contains a review by Jeffrey Rosen of a new book by Robert Levine, How Digital Parasites Are Destroying the Culture Business, and How the Culture Business Can Fight Back.
By "culture business," does Robert Levine mean the monopolies which have dominated the publishing business for so long?
Accompanying the article are blown-up photos of actual parasites, one of them labelled "e-books." Wow.
My response is that the New York Times with its stale and elitist view of literature had better be scared!
Levine's argument, presented by Jeffrey Rosen in his review, is that entertainment distributors (like Amazon) "become 'parasites' on the media companies that invest substantially" in artists, musicians, and writers. This "sucks the economic lifeblood out of those who create and finance the best achievements of our culture."
It's debatable how good those "best achievements" really are. Sucking the lifeblood out of giant media conglomerates seems a great thing to me. It's called levelling the playing field.
Writers will arrive who'll be able to produce ebooks with writing more original and striking than anything from the Bigs, at a fraction of the price. They've already arrived. I'm one of them. I have no overhead, other than a cheap netbook and occasional coffeeshop purchases. I challenge Rosen, Levine, or anyone at New York Times Book Review to read my 99-cent Mood Detroit and tell me it's not expertly edited and proofed-- by myself-- with strong themes, subjects, and voice. Tougher writing, lower price, better value. (My best ebooks are yet to come!)
How will the artery-hardened Manhattan skyscraper bureaucracies compete?
Can they afford 99 cents?
Possibly they're afraid to read what's coming just around the curve.
It's also curious that the Book Review publishes Rosen's review, with its concerns about copyright and "parasites," three pages away from a review which praises Jonathan Lethem, a writer who a few years ago wrote an essay for Harpers magazine defining the word "plagiarism" out of existence. Curious indeed.
We're seeing the inevitable democratization of literature-- moves that naturally threaten the cronyistic little world of the establishment variety, which has dominated the art for too long.
Will the sleepwalking New York Times ever wake up?
Monday, November 28, 2011
Occupy Philly Deadline
At the deadline, a massed crowd in the center of the plaza, 80 or so of them sitting down and linking arms, waiting to be arrested. Much top police brass was there, including Deputy Commissioner Ross; including several tough-looking characters, one a captain who I observed stoically enduring a few insults. He looked like someone not to mess with; a dangerous animal barely restraining itself.
The police never moved against the protestors.
I hope to have a series of photos about these events up here soon, or at least this week.
Saturday, November 26, 2011
Amazing New Book Review Blog
What's amazing about it?
You'll receive honest literary criticism, Raves and Hates, as nowhere else. I have no hostages to literary fortune. As always from me, you'll receive the unrestrained truth. PLUS, you'll receive it with a unique feature: The Blitz Rating. I'm setting myself to do a ton of reading.
Do YOU have a book you're hawking? Send it on. Smallish paperbacks preferred-- modest-sized novels or short story collections. No large-sized envelopes please! Mail to:
PO Box 22681
Philadelphia PA 19110
Note: I'm not set-up for ebooks yet, but that's coming.
Get in line now for the Blitz Review treatment.
My experience with activism is that "reasonable solutions" for the activist side always boils down to one thing: We lose and they win.
Friday, November 25, 2011
I figure it has to be out-of-control joy at the launch of my great new book review blog, Blitz Book Review! What else?
Join the excitement at http://www.blitzreview.blogspot.com/
Don DeLillo, Joyce Oates, and David F. Wallace are already at the party. What about YOU?
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Coming Attractions Part I
Joyce Carol Oates
David Foster Wallace
Three biggies. Can you guess which one receives a positive review?
Because I'll be writing it, it will be the best book review spot around. I'm the fastest and sharpest literary critic on the planet. Will I demonstrate this? Stay tuned.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
What Really Happened?
The event happened at the height of the Cold War, and so was a time of much panic and hysteria, not unlike today. The idea of assassination was in the air, was the zeitgeist of the time-- at least if you look at two movies with the theme of assassination which came out the year before JFK's death: "The Manchurian Candidate," and "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance." Viewed today, both films contain scenes which appear prophetic.
"The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" of course was the subject, sort of, of a recent essay by Jonathan Lethem the Postmodernist that appeared in The Believer. Lethem's essay makes clear that, while he may have enjoyed the movie, he didn't understand it.
The film is about the quest for historical truth. Truth is a subject that Lethem, on more than one occasion-- including his recent essay-- has shown he has no interest in. Because of his warped philosophy, he buys the perspective of the newspaper editor who near the end of the film states, "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend." He implicitly believes that truth is what he says it is. The "newspaper"-- media; authority; power-- determines truth. For the postmodernist, truth is a construct; is strictly conditional.
Yet while this is the point of view of a character in the movie, it's not the belief of the movie itself. Of the mind who created it. The entire narrative is about digging back, reaching back through the dust of the years and the haze of memories to find the kernel of truth, forever asking the question of historians,
"What really happened?"
Saturday, November 19, 2011
At Occupy Philly
Don't kid yourself. Many of the holdouts are feeling the brunt of the recession. Homeless; chronically unemployed; working class students with enormous loan debt they'll never be able to pay back, They have a reason to be scared and angry. As, in a different way, so do many in the Tea Party, those small business persons who've put their lives into fledgling endeavors and are barely hanging on, close to losing everything. They may scorn the homeless in the Occupy encampments, but their biggest fear is joining them.
Right now when I speak about Occupiers I'm not talking about Harvard grads or n+1 staffers. I mean the real 99%-- not the Haves but the Have Nots. Not the paid professional activists on the Left, but neither am I speaking about the paid professional pundits on the Right. Nor the "Reasonable Solutions" people. Nor the Senators in Washington on both sides of the aisle deciding the nation's fate. They're not hurting. None of their kind are hurting. They're only good with their mass media lapdogs at manipulating the anger on all sides out there and keeping the hurting people divided, so they can maintain their station. It's why I strongly suspect partisanship and ideology. I see scoundrels on both sides.
Will the house-of-cards balloon society kept going with hot air collapse? The Overdogs don't yet know what that feels like. When I was something of an activist, with the ULA (Underground Literary Alliance) my Overdog opponents couldn't comprehend my anger. But, you see, I lived through the economic devastation of Detroit. I know what it's like when your world ideals included collapses on top of you.
Just blowing off steam. . . .
Friday, November 18, 2011
Is change coming to American literature?
I believe so. It's long overdue. It needs to be a complete swing in direction, change which rolls by and over the debris of literary corruption and rot of the present.
What's the answer? Clear, relevant, exciting writing that can bring excitement into the art.
Sound doable? Sound like fun? My "Pop Lit" books and ideas point a direction. They're merely a start. Change is coming. Get on board.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
The Meaning of Occupy Wall Street
A.) decentralizing power;
B.) fighting corruption;
C.) democratizing the society and culture.
Isn't It Ironic?
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Waiting for Mayor Nutter
The television trucks are parked and waiting, cameras pointed on tripods at the Occupy Philadelphia encampment. A helicopter buzzes continuously in the sky overhead. Strangely, there are less police visible than last night. Why? Are they gathering? This is the sense in the air, anyway, which could mean nothing.
Fighting the Power
Populist actions on both the Left and the Right show that the populace wants more of a voice. They want a return to democracy in America.
Last decade, the Underground Literary Alliance fought corruption and cronyism in the halls of literature. We were attacked and ostracized as a result. If the full truth ever comes out, we'll find that powerful forces worked very hard to discredit the ULA in every way possible, including creating a false narrative about our campaign and message, which was used to blackball us.
(See a companion post, "Was the ULA Betrayed?" up shortly at http://www.crimecityusa.blogspot.com/.)
Monday, November 14, 2011
Democracy in Literature?
Frances Fox Piven in Philly
Occupy Philly Update
Saturday, November 12, 2011
On Other Blogs of Mine
At my restricted access blog, I've been discussing the ULA. Recent posts include "Why Do It?"; "Targets"; "Outlaws"; with other posts to come like "Going Radical?" and "Going Moderate?" See
http://www.happyamericaliterature.blogspot.com/ or email me to gain access.
I've also reopened the Petition to PEN blog at
to show that outreach to the literary establishment has been attempted. The Petition was one small tentative step toward democratizing the art.
Has the environment changed in two years? Is democracy in literature suddenly now possible?
Friday, November 11, 2011
Literary Rebellion, Near and Far
Not here, it turns out. In China. Novelist Murong Xuecun, "a laureate of corruption" and "word criminal," is approvingly profiled.
The New York Times is the place, incidentally, that had their security thugs throw members of the Underground Literary Alliance and a zine table off the sidewalk in front of their then-headquarters in January of 2007.
For The New York Times, literary rebels are fine as long as they're not American. As long as they don't expose corruption in the very corrupt U.S. literary regime.
My Take on Penn State
1.) The mass of people refuse to believe the worst unless it's staring them in the face. Until then, there's a propensity to protect the glorified names. From all concerned, an inclination to cover up. Power preferred to the Good.
2.) It's often those publicly portrayed as most virtuous who are the most corrupt, or in a few cases, evil. This is the heavy-handed theme, in fact, of my ebook Crime City USA. Have you read it? The novella was intended to be over-the-top. Suddenly it doesn't read like much of an exaggeration.
Is there an analogy to American literature?
I can strongly testify to at least this: In the United States it's the whistleblower, not the miscreant, who's ostracized by the literary community.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Phoniness of the Literati
Back in 1994 a long essay of mine about class and America was published in a literary journal by a brave editor named Robley Wilson. "Detroit: Among the Lower Classes," was the essay's title. You won't find it archived anywhere on-line, though a lesser essay I wrote for the same journal-- about baseball!-- is available. Figure that out.
Read independent literature. Buy Mood Detroit, an ebook.
Why You Should Read this Blog
A climate of corruption permeates establishment literature. This is the ONLY place where you'll receive the truth.
AMERICAN POP LIT EBOOKS
a genuine alternative
The See-No-Evil Mob
READ CRIME CITY USA, an ebook
Wednesday, November 09, 2011
Resurrect the ULA?
This makes sense only if the organization aggressively lobbies outfits like Occupy Writers to live up to their new-found principles.
Occupy Writers: "All pigs are equal, but some are more equal than others."
What Options Are Open?
Playing the politely submissive hat-in-hand game like a million others doesn't cut it.
The two elephants in the room are
1.) The Big Six book companies-- themselves owned by megaconglomerates like News Corp-- who have unlimited resources to promote their Approved pets like Egan or Lethem.
2.) The Ivy League/New York buddy system, from where most of the Approved come.
A combination of monopoly and elitism, cronyism and privilege.
The only problem with my noise is that I'm not making enough of it.
Did their agents send them out there? Their publicists? Do Jennifer Egan and Jonathan Lethem-- both who I've been covering here-- have books to promote? We know that Jennifer Egan has been on a reading tour, at the same time she was made the publicity photo poster child for "Occupy Writers." Cynical, cynical. From Pellot's article, it doesn't sound like Egan has much experience at activism.
As for Jonathan Lethem, his appearance is more like the arrival of a postmodern literary god, "At the appointed time," Emerald Pellot tells us, accompanied by a "small entourage of camera people."
"This is a lucky day for me to stand before you," the aristocrat tells the peasants, er, Occupiers.
Lethem assumes "no particular privileges." Unmentioned is that he's been accepting "particular privileges" of a lavish variety for many years.
Pellot informs us that Lethem "condemned the cynical press and unruly corporate regimes." But, Jonathan, you're a creation and creature of that very same cynical press (his appearance being quite cynical), and those same corporate regimes.
I ask: Will these two much lauded and applauded privileged literary persons now change their ways and embrace democracy in literature? Will they herein show that they're not there for cynical reasons of publicity, that their appearance isn't merely for show? Will they now reach out to those writers who've been fighting against corruption, cronyism, and monopoly for many years?
We'll see, I guess, won't we?
Tuesday, November 08, 2011
Misunderstanding the Literary Establishment
The mistake that even some ULAers have made is believing these privileged individuals can be dealt with. Writers from middle class backgrounds especially believe in the innate goodness of human beings. The fault can't be with the Wise Boys at places like n+1 or The Believer. Their displayed innocence! Their forthright ideals!
The hapless hopeful writer not a member of the Club doesn't realize that the Wise Boys will never, never, never, never willingly accept her or him as an equal. Never, never, never. Understanding this reality needs to be the starting point of any relationship with the status quo scene.
Monday, November 07, 2011
Where's Jonathan Lethem?
I'm still waiting for a response to my takedown of Jonathan Lethem's October Believer essay. I sent The Believer people part of it, along with a link.
Will they-- or Jonathan Lethem himself-- explain and defend their ideas and writing? Anyone?
Friday, November 04, 2011
Miranda July and Morality
On 10/10/11 The New Yorker magazine published a strange piece by Miranda July about shoplifting. "Free Everything." It's an opening into the vacant mind of an amoral person-- the perfect Nietzschean.
Ms. July describes how, as a young adult, she spent much of her time shoplifting. "--the whole world was one giant heist," she affirms.
There's no sense of shame in her reflections. "--no, I did not have any qualms," she says about stealing even from Goodwill Industries, a charitable organization where Miranda was briefly employed. "Because what is money, anyway?" she asks. "It's just a concept some asshole made up."
Keep in mind that Miranda July comes from a privileged background. Her parents were affluent hippies.
The essay is revealing, in that it unintentionally explains her later career gaming the system, obtaining arts grant after arts grant to an amazing extent. (I documented this in a "Monday Report," "The Miranda July Story," for the still-defunct Underground Literary Alliance site.) Miranda's mother held important positions at nonprofits, and no doubt advised Miranda on how to play the cronyistic system game for maximum benefit.
Isn't this how the established literary world operates? Duplicity is the norm. Grab everything possible, without moderation, to feed the special individual's desires. Play any role. Wear any face. The Self is the center of the universe. Getting ahead is the only morality.
Miranda July's short essay makes plain that Miranda is the center of her universe. She carries a sense of complete entitlement, of uninhibited privilege without restraint. The world belongs to her. What's money, anyway? She's never lacked for it, so for her it's a concept without meaning.
Wednesday, November 02, 2011
Tuesday, November 01, 2011
Moderates vs. Radicals
Fortunately there were a few hard core impassioned radical types, like a very compelling black dude named Blue, and a very large blonde woman named Ivanka. Of course, they're right. You don't willingly give up a winning location. You stand together. In pushing for change, leverage is everything. (Which I never got through all the way to the ULA.)
But what do I know?
To me, moderates are the death of any organization or group pushing for change. I speak from experience.
Incident at a Starbucks
Why had he come up to me, out of all the people in the room at least a dozen? Had he passed the others by? Had he zeroed in on the only sap in the clean place who might give him a smidgen of sympathy? (Or better, money?) Granted, I was the only occupant who appeared not to be a stone-cold-heartless-absorbed-in-talk-or-a-laptop-well-dressed-and-professional-balls-to-the-wall yuppie. But still: Why me?
"They're giving away free food at City Hall," I told the man, looking at him between the two frantically upset baristas. "Right now. The Occupy people."
The three contestants moved away from me. I returned to reading my newspaper.
Monday, October 31, 2011
The Motivation of a Toothache
Right now I have a toothache which causes constant stress and aggravation. I'm not sleeping. If you have no insurance, and no money, seeing a dentist is an unreal dream.
I had a tooth like it a year ago. Eventually the tooth broke up and fell out, not without a certain amount of pain.
Poor writers in this country are in a race of time to see what happens first: you die, or all your teeth fall out.
Here's hoping that the tooth at least makes for some strong writing!
(To read strong writing, purchase Crime City USA, available as an ebook. Or, for more subtlety, try Mood Detroit.)
Reality America. You'll find no stronger and relevant writing anyplace. Writing the literary elite fears to read.
Saturday, October 29, 2011
The Literary Group as Non-Person
Questions for Overdogs
2.) Why is the response to such dissent always in the most underhanded way possible-- constructing false
narratives and spreading them privately; or, when responding directly, always, ALWAYS, under fake identities?
3.) Why no response to facts and ideas-- such as in my critique of the Jonathan Lethem essay?
4.) Why go after a lone powerless voice-- and not the hugely powerful voices of media monopoly? Would that be "biting the hand" that sustains you?
Friday, October 28, 2011
Metaphor of the Mask
Lit's leading lights wear bright beaming masks of social justice and concern. Beneath the masks they're ruthless bastards who were raised with the knowledge that this is a dog-eat-dog world. It's why they fight to get into bastions of Elitism and Privilege like Columbia, Yale, or Harvard. Or crony-up quickly enough with that crowd. Cronyistas. They understand that playing the game on an UNlevel playing field favoring them is what it's about. Everything else from them is lip service. Token gestures for suckers like myself.
Visualize a smiling fake face on the lot of them, then realize it's only a mask. Beneath it, like the character in my melodrama, they're monsters.
Where Was Jennifer?
On Thursday evening so-called 99 percenter writer Jennifer Egan was in Philadelphia giving a talk to a decidedly upscale audience at the main Philadelphia Free Library. Did she visit the Occupy Philadelphia site later?
When I got off my job after 9 pm, I took a walk through the Occupy Philly site, where people were snuggling into cold tents against the chilly night. I looked around. I didn’t see famed novelist Jennifer Egan anyplace.
I suppose that after her event Jennifer took the Amtrack straight back to her yuppified Brooklyn enclave. Back to the illusory comfort of the polished pots and pans carefully arrayed in her pristine kitchen.
FICTION FOR REAL AMERICANS
I’m pleased to announce that American Pop Lit books will not be publishing any of the corrupt culture’s leading elitist writers. Sorry, your cronyism, snobbery, and phoniness won’t work here.
LATEST RELEASE: Crime City USA, available in ebook.
What I like about football player Tim Tebow more than his strength of character—a rare thing nowadays—is his unorthodox way of playing the game. The critics are all over him, of course. He doesn’t throw the ball in an orthodox manner! He hasn’t learned the proper way he’s supposed to play the game.
Is there an analogy to American literature?
Only that everyone in the established literary world is orthodox in the way they think and write. They’re formed from the same cookie-cutter model. All of them. Every one. This makes them beatable.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
About Jonathan Lethem and Postmodernism
Lethem's objective isn't to write a clear and compelling essay. It's to present a facade of intellectualism, combined with trademark McSweeney's-style cutesiness added to show that, hey, he's one of us.
Behind his clog of words, Lethem has two points. He doesn't try to prove the points. They're assumed. The herd he writes for accepts the points on face value. The essay is affirmation. "Hallelujahs" in a praise-pomo church service. The purpose of the essay is showing off.
Lethem's two points:
1.) Literary postmodernism is under continual assault.
2.) Postmodernism is like the film character Liberty Valance.
POINT ONE: Because literary postmodernism isn't under real attack, Lethem doesn't need to construct a real argument. His essay is a victory dance over pretend opponents. The idea is to make the unquestioning readership feel good: Rome replaying its wars with Carthage decades after the fact. A ritualistic dance.
"My version allegorizes the holding at bay, for the special province of literary fiction, of contemporary experience in all its dismaying or exhilarating particulars, as well as a weird, persistent denial of a terrific number of artistic strategies for illuminating that experience. The avoidance, that's to say, of any forthright address of what's called postmodernity, and what's lost in avoiding it (a sacrifice I see as at best pointless, an empty rehearsal of anxieties, and at worst hugely detrimental to fiction)."
What is he talking about?
Jonathan Lethem says of postmodernism:
"--the word is often used as finger-pointing to a really vast number of things that might be seen as threatening to canonical culture."
Really? By who?
Today, postmodernism IS canonical culture. The French critics Lethem defends in his essay are celebrated by the academy. They're part of the canon.
Lethem talks of the "collapsing of high and low cultural preserves--."
This sure isn't happening in Lethem's world! He's safely in the "high" end, along with metafiction, antinarrative, intertextuality, unreliable narration, "surrealism or magical realism or hysterical realism," irony, and the rest of the postmodern jumble. The academy does have values, of a sort. The intellectual jumble Lethem describes is its highest value.
The items Lethem lists and defends are now part of "high" culture. They've been around for fifty years. There's nothing threatening to "the literary community" about them. Go onto trendy lit-sites like HTML Giant and you see that these ideas and strategies ARE the literary community.
(To read this post in its entirety, click on http://kingwenclas.blogspot.com/p/jonathan-lethem-and-postmodernism.html )
Monday, October 24, 2011
"Oppressed Writers Incorporated"
RUMOR HAS IT that organizers of Occupy Writers, that radical place of upscale protest, are ready to take their activism to the next level. Which means, of course, non-profit status to rake in contributions from rich people.
In order to appeal to those rich donors, they'll need to put their most successful and genteel writers out front-- exactly the way they did from the start. Do it, as well, with a sympathetic twist. Ergo, the name change to Oppressed Writers Incorporated.
Here's a quick look at their stellar line-up, with credentials for Oppressed Writer status listed:
Insider recipient of just about every possible establishment position and prize.
Daniel Handler aka Lemony Snicket
Possibly the richest writer in America.
Received $665,000 advance from Rupert Murdoch.
Katrina Vanden Heuvel
Rich heiress bought The Nation and made herself Editor.
Lit-establishment Cronyista writer for New Yorker, Vanity Fair, New York Times, et.al.
Prize-manipulating scion of wealth.
Once wrestled a camera away from a female ULA member one-third his size.
Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist embracing the 99% from her gentrified Brooklyn kitchen.
MacArthur Genius designee wants Oppressed status for the postmodern establishment.
Oppressed Writers Incorporated hold their opening meeting at the swanky Russian Tea Room in Manhattan.
Ms. Prose steps to the microphone to make the opening speech, but has trouble talking with the flow of tears in her eyes. Swanky waiters bustle between swanky tables taking orders.
"This is all so wonderful . . . all you wonderful Oppressed Writers . . . I, I feel so wonderful at this wonderful community of the common people . . . I, I. . . ."
Prose begins bawling uncontrollably, her elegantly manicured hands clutching a silk handkerchief. Daniel Handler in dapper tux and top hat leads her away while Oppressed Writers in the room munch on canapes and sip quite loudly-- "Snort! Snort!"-- from expensive glasses of wine.
Saturday, October 22, 2011
Crimes Against Writers
TWO LITERARY WORLDS REPRISE
Now that established literati have magically transformed from aristocrats to democrats (see Occupy Writers), at least in their own minds, will they stop blackballing dissident American writers?
I'm reposting the link to my iNewp article, "The Tale of Two Literary Worlds," because it's a much-needed take on media realities and literary truths. See
I wrote the essay as a signal that, "Hey! I'm still here. The literary underground is still here."
We're still out there. Still writing. Fighting for survival. Ever fighting. Not all of us are dead yet.
Jennifer Egan, Oppressed Writer
A 99 per center. One of the people! What a perfect bullshit life. Jennifer Egan is rich, comfortable, and successful-- and one of the revolutionary masses at the same time. Who knew?
Thursday, October 20, 2011
SHOW ME What Democracy Looks Like
Occupy Writers as Metaphor
Allowed next were credentialed folks, those with Approved credits that, if not exactly badges of full success, are adequate tokens of conformity to things-as-they-are.
Unwanted apparently are bottom level writers-- including actual literary radicals, those who've challenged the system, or written polemics outside the bounds of the domesticated "literary" art.
What we see in Occupy Writers is Feldman and Sharlet catering to Power. They've done the very thing the Occupy movements are protesting against.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
What Kind of Revolution Is It?
What does democracy look like?
If you want to see what co-optation looks like, see the list of big names at
Many of these people are the most privileged writers in America.
The 99%? Where?
The last time I saw many of these same aristocrats, they were running over downtrodden writers with their carriages.
These folks have been literature's snobby aristo class, holding swanky soirees in modern-day palaces. To the protests, petitions, and revelations of corruption of the Underground Literary Alliance they erected a wall of hostility. Many of them verbally and even physically attacked us-- or had their security people deal with us. Now the same people are suddenly outside the palace, manning the barricades. The very same crowd! They shift stances as easily as changing cloaks. For them, it's really that simple. Being in control is all.
Their most hilarious moment is a tweet from Thomas Beller suggesting an Occupy Hamptons, with rich writers and publishers like Jason Epstein involved. Uh, Tom, the Hamptons are solidly in the top 1% of America. maybe the top 0.01%. Who will they protest against? Themselves? What's next? Occupy Fisher's Island?
I write this as one who's fought against plutocrats and media monopolies for years, and paid a price for it.
The originators of Occupy Writers-- Jeff Sharlet, a professor at Dartmouth College, and Kiera Feldman, a recent Brown University grad-- seem well-intentioned. Their associations with top 1% colleges, however, indicate they live in a closed world. They may not understand the realities of how the cultural system operates. They're certainly not among the great unwashed.
If they support democracy, will they support democracy in literature?
How many of the big talents on their list ever-- EVER-- write about the themes of the Occupy protests, namely greed, corruption, and class?
Francine Prose? Rick Moody? "Lemony Snicket" aka Daniel Handler? Handler is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and was also one of the ULA's most persistent foes, working to discredit us at every turn. Keith Gessen? Gessen was lately observed celebrating the very UNeven playing field of American literature in the pages of a conglomerate magazine, Vanity Fair, which is devoted to the celebration of wealth. These persons and many others on the list are the literary 1%. Literary aristocrats.
What kind of revolution is this?
Can anyone answer?
To read tales of class in America now, pick up my Mood Detroit. To read a manic noir take on corruption, read Crime City USA. The e-books are available for 99 cents each at Nook or Kindle. Can you afford it?
Question for Occupy Writers
Are you for democracy in literature; against corruption, hierarchy, and monopoly?
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Crime City USA is not as over-the-top as I thought!
Saturday, October 15, 2011
Good vs. Evil
Crime City USA, my newest e-book, doesn't follow postmodernist theory. It believes in retro concepts of good and evil, right and wrong-- and depicts those concepts through character and plot. The chief villain, Fake Face, could be a metaphor for the duplicitous thinking and corrupt behavior which rules the established literary world today.
Art is truth.
Have you read Crime City USA?
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
"Protesting Plutocracy": a short story
A SHORT STORY BY KING WENCLAS
In the sterling office of the pseudo-intellectual literary journal n+1, staffers read on their phones and iPads about the "Occupy Wall Street" protests taking place. The staffers carry studied faces of hip concern. Being a literary intellectual is serious business. It takes work.
"Why can't we do something like that?" a staffer asks. "To show our affinity with the protests would increase our credibility. After all, we're supposed to be Social Democrats, aren't we?"
"Yes! Social Democrats!" a colleague affirms.
"Indubitably! Social Democrats!" a third voice agrees.
Heads among the others nod affirmatively.
"But, but what can we protest?" they ask themselves.
A large sign on a wall in the office says, "THINK URBAN," reminding them they're no longer behind the exclusive gates of yale, Columbia, or Harvard. This is Brooklyn. Their Ivy League preppiness, the ascots, bow ties, and cocktail dresses that might be found in a similar office, like the office of New Criterion, for instance, have been left behind.
"Well," one of them decides, "we might protest plutocracy in the literary realm. After all, that's our field, isn't it? We could make that our focus."
"Yes. It's only natural," a second staffer affirms.
It's only indubitably correct and right," a third staffer agrees.
Heads of others nod affirmatively.
"But, but, how do we possibly go about it?"
They sit stoically but glumly for several minutes, waiting for other ideas to arise. Being intellectual is serious work.
"I know! I know!" an inspired young woman says. "Let's ask Chad!"
They knock on the door of the office belonging to the journal's brainiac, Chad. The most serious thinker on a staff of serious thinkers. Inside, the man meditates, Franzen-like, in a tiny room filled with pigeons and other winged creatures. But no cellphones! It's a cellphone-free office. The birds look hopefully at the new visitors to the small space. In serious tones the visitors explain their dilemma to the serious man.
(To read the entire tale, including its shocking conclusion, click on the link below.)
Occupy Philly Update
-Today I noticed a more noticeable smell around the occupation site.
-I didn't see the hunger strike guy around this morning. I hope not to see him at McDonald's!
-I'm impressed by the apparent key people at the sight. Their enthusiasm and sincerity is contagious.
-The authorities' mistake was letting the protest grab such a key site-- right at City Hall. From their perspective, they should've given them a location more on the margins of town. One never knows how things will develop.
-For the other perspective, the protestors need a plan for increasing the momentum. A rebellion can't be static. It can't stand still. It has to keep moving forward. Its next steps should be plotted out. Playing things by ear doesn't work. Instead: stage-by-stage. Step-by-step. Increase the footprint and the noise. Otherwise inertia takes hold. A movement needs to keep moving or it's dead.
Ahead of the Zeitgeist
Monday, October 10, 2011
LITERARY NO-MONEY BALL
MUCH has been made of the book and movie “Moneyball,” about the Oakland Athletics baseball team ten years ago trying to compete with the mighty New York Yankees.
Ho hum. No biggie.
Examine instead the history of the Underground Literary Alliance.
The Oakland A’s were members of an exclusive club. They already had a seat at the table. Their budget was one-fourth or one-fifth that of the Yankees.
The ULA’s budget was 1/1000th or less than that of our competitors. We clashed with ultra-powerful ultra-rich hyper-millionaires like Dave Eggers and Daniel Handler, and with the monopolies that backed them. We had no credentials, no connections, no money, and no standing.
Yet we achieved great publicity, presented larger-than-life personalities, and sent vibrations of change through the Monolith. We panicked many at Official Lit’s highest levels. We were the most exciting phenomenon that’d happened in the literary world in decades, as evidenced by our shows and protests—historic events like our debate with The Paris Review at CBGB’s in 2001, or our crash of a “Howl” celebration at Columbia University five years later. History the literary establishment doesn’t want you to know. Our every appearance created buzz. We weren’t just underdogs. We were under-under-under-underdogs. Explosively radical to the max.
Where’s the movie?
Sunday, October 09, 2011
Dispatch from the Philadelphia Protests
Many questions are raised by the rise of the “Occupy” protests across the country—the same kinds of questions that were raised about the Tea Parties. Legitimate questions.
Such as: Where are the protests headed? What are the objectives? Do they have leaders? Will the protests be co-opted? Infiltrated?
Due to my past experiences at the center of a protest movement—the notorious Underground Literary Alliance—I’m uniquely positioned to assess and speak about these matters. Stay tuned.
Saturday, October 08, 2011
Occupy Philly Protest Saturday
Who better to cover the Occupy Philadelphia actions than America's most radical-- at least most contentious-- writer?
Here's a shot of the protestors right before the start of the march to Independence Mall. I have other photos of the day's events. I have a few of them up on a separate page linked to the left. See "Photo Gallery." Stay posted for more reports. We may be living in interesting times.
Friday, October 07, 2011
Crime City USA!
WHERE? A violent American city.
WHO? Mysterious disguised figure Fake Face.
WHY? Hyper-pulp fiction, next wave pop literature.
HOW MUCH? 99 cents at Nook or Kindle.
"--noir offers a map of subversion."
"Noir is a critique of power. . . . Power and money are ugly and they rule."
Really? You don't say?
Pick up my new noir e-book Crime City USA at Kindle or Nook.
Thursday, October 06, 2011
I suppose because my experience running the Underground Literary Alliance increased my cynicism and hardened my vision. No way out. In noir fiction there's no way out.
Enablers of the Monolith
The herd of bourgeois wannabes see before them many illusory doors, leading nowhere. The real door is closed-- though I suppose they could knock very loudly upon it, if they find it among the others.
For those few writers like myself who've challenged the corrupt system, there's no door at all. Only a blank concrete monolithic wall.
Wednesday, October 05, 2011
Buy it now for 99 cents at Kindle or Nook.
The question: Who's going to innovate in the art of literature? Who'll create a more fun, accessible, user-friendly artistic product?
My new e-book is a step in the right direction.
Tuesday, October 04, 2011
See for yourself.
Friday, September 30, 2011
The Most Dangerous Creative Writer in America
Read the novelette "Bluebird," part of the e-book Mood Detroit.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Thanks for the post, Elizabeth. But, er, you were supposed to read my book!
(Though Ms. Spiers refuses to read Mood Detroit, YOU have the opportunity to purchase the new e-book of striking fiction for a mere 99 cents at Nook or Kindle. See what Elizabeth Spiers is missing. Pop fiction is new art.)
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
The Squirrels at Rittenhouse
You used to see a lot of squirrels in the park. Bold squirrels. Assertive squirrels. They'd jump right onto your park bench to beg for one of those peanuts you hand in your hand! Heavens.
The squirrels weren't asking for a whole lot. Squirrels have to live also. Besides, I'd bet that squirrels inhabited that landscape before refined mankind came around.
Lately, I've seen no squirrels in Rittenhouse Square. Not a one of them.
Can we surmise that squirrels became irritating to the rich gentry who live around the square, and that the exterminators were called?
The irony is that you can bet that these very same gentry are animal lovers. No doubt they donate tax-deductible money to a variety of animal causes, from wolves in Colorado to elephants in Africa. They love animals, these good liberal people. As long as those animals aren't in their own backyard.
You can choose the analogy you want. A hundred are out there. Prosperous liberal people move in somewhere and take ownership, bringing with them their rules of cleanliness and order.
I prefer to use the analogy of what's happened to American literature. We see not populists, but pseudo-populists. Elitists with a populist pose. The authentic voice has been displaced. After a time, the very existence of the authentic voice becomes intolerable.
The Underground Literary Alliance was treated like bothersome squirrels by the literary establishment. Yes, the fine Members of the Club are all "progressives," "social democrats," and the like-- they'll tell you so themselves-- but our grubby hungry presence just became, well, intolerable! Call the exterminators.
Friday, September 23, 2011
Publishing Is Like. . . .
Is Michael Pokocky spot on? God help us!
At least his conclusion is promising. Yes, we need a new model.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Who's Afraid of "Bluebird"?
I've long been scorned by those who run Literature. The dominant narrative created about the ULA and myself in our heyday was that we're not writers. Not writers! This justified shutting us out. It was the accepted reason we were blackballed.
This same crowd, then, won't read my actual work. They can't read it. They're terrified of it, lest they find their narrative to be false. Lest they discover to their chargrin and horror I'm a very good writer after all.
Who's Covering the Recession?
Read hipster lit-journals like The Believer and n+1 and you'll see not a hint of America's problems. The literary caste in its insularity doesn't know economic problems exist. Tragic stories take place throughout the land. They see none of it.
You can bet if they did cover the recession, it would be in the most constipated pseudo-intellectual way possible, no pain or anger visible. The lits' pristine innocence would remain untouched.
ON THE OTHER HAND, the subtext of the new e-book Mood Detroit is America here and now.
Monday, September 19, 2011
Writers Rich and Poor
I wrote the article after looking at the current issue of Vanity Fair at a magazine stand. Though I opened the issue because Angelina Jolie was on the cover, I found inside an essay by Keith Gessen of n+1 instead!
Keith Gessen's subject is Chad Harbach's novel, The Art of Fielding, but he also examines today's publishing world. I was struck by the narrowness of Gessen's viewpoint. I had to respond.
Is Melissa Bluebird Zooey Deschanel?
You would think so if you heard "Rave On," the Starbucks compilation of Buddy Holly covers. Listen to "Oh Boy!" by She and Him, which features Zooey Deschanel on vocals. That's Melissa Bluebird, that voice, right there. Then, for contrast, listen to "Heartbeat" by the Detroit Cobras on the same cd, vocals by Rachel Nagy. The two songs encapsulate my theme. While Zooey may not have been my original model, she shows the relevance of the character.
"Bluebird" is part of Mood Detroit, available on e-book.
About Detroit Rock
With some exceptions (see Nick Lowe), the other covers on the album range from the forgettable to the lamentable to the execrable. In the latter category put the disappointing Paul McCartney and Modest Mouse contributions.
Maybe Detroit musicians are better able to capture Holly's roots-rock authenticity.
This includes "Crying, Waiting, Hoping," by Karen Elson, produced by Jack White. It includes "Well All Right" by Kid Rock. It includes "Words of Love" by Patti Smith, who lived for many years in the Detroit area. Best of all is "Heartbeat" by the Detroit Cobras, the best rock n' roll band-- and best kept secret-- on the planet.
(Originally posted at the Detroit Literary blog.)
Friday, September 16, 2011
What this crowd carries is the biggest megaphone.
(Read Mood Detroit.)
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Bluebird Mystery Continues
About the Underground
The Truth About the Truth
The truth about the American literary world is that writers aren't allowed to speak the truth about it. Few dare criticize the system itself. The system is stratified, hierarchical, incestuous, but to point this out risks offending the power brokers of that system, without whose beneficent glance the writer doesn't stand a chance.
Monday, September 12, 2011
Cozzens and Hobsbawm
Most of all what makes both men important writers is their honesty. Honesty which makes them upfront about their biases, which enables the reader to allow for that slant, that bias, and adjust assessment of what they say accordingly. It's an honesty which allows Hobsbawm in The Age of Extremes to explain how the Soviet Union's "really existing socialism" was unfit for a late-Twentieth century world. An honesty which compels Cozzens in Guard of Honor to show the corruption and incompetence within a U.S. military bureaucracy which he's attempting to laud.
Understanding reality is like looking at a mountain. To truly know the mountain you can't see just one face of it. You need to see it from a number of different perspectives. This means reading and understanding a variety of viewpoints. The viewpoints are worth knowing if they're expressed with honesty, clarity, and intelligence-- a rare thing nowadays.
Friday, September 09, 2011
Does Background Matter?
We're products of background and will more than heredity. We're amorphous ectoplasms until molded by learning and experience.
In other words, there's no possible way Melissa could be Alex, or Alex, Melissa, though superficially the two women could seem the same.
Thursday, September 08, 2011
The three tales in my e-book Mood Detroit challenge the reader to think about this country, and maybe also about the nature of artists and art. They have emotion in them. I hope none of them is "heart warming."
Wednesday, September 07, 2011
Faux-radical Dwight MacDonald invented the categorization in the 1950's as a way to attack novelist James Gould Cozzens. MacDonald never explained with precision what the term meant.
Was Cozzens's Guard of Honor middlebrow? The novel is complex, knowledgeable, intelligent, subtle, challenging, and difficult. Ultimately, it has more to say about the creation of American empire than any novel written. High-brow? Not really. The work is grounded in real situations and people. It presents intelligence rather than intellectualism. But in no way could it be called middlebrow.
Is Jonathan Franzen's Freedom middlebrow? The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach?
We're in vague territory. Categorizations according to "brow"-- perception and pose-- are more about standings within the society of letters than about works of literature themselves.
Tuesday, September 06, 2011
More About Mood Detroit
Detroit makes an apt setting for this statement.
Friday, September 02, 2011
Who Is Melissa Bluebird?
Do you have the answer?
"An Alternate Model"
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Recession? What Recession?
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Friday, July 22, 2011
Descent Into Mindlessness
When last seen on the topic, I was engaged in a short debate at a post at the literary hipster site HTML Giant when my hapless opponents quickly scampered for cover. Though the post received 233 comments-- most in a day or two before I jumped in-- said post was quickly taken down from the site's list of "Popular Posts." HTML Giant is as committed to free and open debate as is the rest of the literary establishment-- which means, not very committed to it at all.
The subject of the debate was the embrace by today's so-called literary intellectuals of nonsense.
Later, at HTML Giant came another post which proved my points. Here:
Andrew James Weatherhead gives his self-referential take on a post at another hipster site, Montevidayo. The post he celebrates, "Influence=Deformation Zone," by aptly named Joyelle McSweeney, is loaded with Academy Speak. "Gender," "patrilineage," "heterosexist," "reproductive futurism," "linear notions of temporality," and so on. Joyelle McSweeney is clearly a person unable to think other than in the code words she ingested in the university.
Would anyone who'd not been through university indoctrination think and speak in this manner?
What passes for ideas from her, is a rejection of reality. Joyelle scorns "reproductive futurism," apparently not understanding that every living organism on this planet reproduces itself-- all life is reproduction; nature is reproduction-- without reproduction there is no future. As "sexist," oppressive, etc., as reproduction is, there's no way to do away with it and have any existence.
For those who live in a world of nonsense it doesn't matter.
The next step is to reject the law of causation: "that what comes before causes what comes after." Causation is not only an inescapable part of our world, and likely of the entire universe, but it's also the essential foundation of the tale; the story. The fundamental basis and justification for what's become known as literature.
What happens next? McSweeney, Weatherhead, and their ilk don't want to know.
It's part of a philosophy of intentional ignorance. Which explains a lot. Our programmed intellectuals have been trained not to notice much of anything, even when it concerns themselves. So, college students compile enormous personal debts, the cost of education continually rises, all the while campuses expand around them, gleaming new buildings on all sides, purchases of more real estate by the institutions, pushing out, in many cases, such as at U of Penn and Columbia, long-time ethnic neighborhoods. Our intellectuals who are paying so much for the privilege of becoming intellectuals can make no connection. No links acceptable. After all, that would be to accept causation, patrilineage, etc., and that won't do.
This is called, in layman's terms, being a sucker.
Much the same can be said about the current debt crisis, about which their generation will become, necessarily, the Bag Holders. (Boomers are only beginning to retire. Americans are living longer than ever. The demographics are inescapable. But-- do our young intellectuals really want to live in the real world? No signs of it.)
Andrew James Weatherhead applauds Joyelle McSweeney's rejection of "traditional ideas lineage." How far do they wish to take that? Will they reject sentences? The alphabet? Language?
"Influence should be open to be whatever you want it to be--"
Yet when you examine their stated influences, they're always influences approved by the literary establishment at that particular point of time, from Agamben to Sebald to Robbe-Grillet to Roberto Bolano. (Bolano was ignored by U.S. intellectuals until he died and one of the major book conglomerates began publishing and hyping his work. Our herd of pseudo-intellectuals quickly got in line.)
An American writers group, the Underground Literary Alliance-- whose literary influences came from an entirely different source-- found throughout its existence that U.S. literature's pseudo-intellectuals weren't at all as open as they pretend. The ULA instead was the target of their attacks, including from leading lit-hipster figures and leading lit-hipster pseudo-intellectual publications like The Believer. The ULA's activist campaign began in 2001 with a full-page article in the Village Voice titled "Start Making Sense." Pseudo-Intellectuals may be open to many things. Making sense is scarcely one of them.
What literary hipsters, especially of the pseudo-intellectual variety, are about is pose. The pose is all.
Joyelle McSweeny calls for thinking outside structures and strictures. Yet, McSweeney made sure to acquire her proper hierarchical degrees from the proper linear educational system, from giant institutions which, um, are structures which set down a great many strictures, including about literature. So did Andrew James Weatherhead, no doubt. As did likely most if not all of the entire lit-hipster crowd.
Are they intellectual frauds?
They appear to be pets of the current literary system, following, in linear fashion, all the rules, step-by-step. They exist within a cage yet assure themselves that they're free. The actual structure and production of literature, from overpriced writing programs to government/non-profit funding to the giant book conglomerates isn't a concern. This multi-layered system isn't addressed. It's hardly looked at. When you have the sense of an ant, such a notion is incomprehensible.
Joyelle's much-applauded essay, which starts from a point of nonsense, can go in only one direction, linear or not. It devolves into incomprehensible jargon:
"I use a term for this mutagenic zone; stealing a phrase from the Swedish poet Aase Berg, I call it the deformation zone. Translation is the ultimate manifestation of Art’s deformation zone, for entering yourself in Art’s mutagenic properties, for being entered and altered and destroyed, if necessary, by Art’s rogatives. Translation is anachronistic, it happens in real time and across time; it happensbackwards; it changes he who takes and he who gives; no boundaries can stand up to this innundation; everything is rendered a membrane by translation. Translation is bio-identical to Art’s influence, spreads and eats and leaks more tets, more Art. It makes too many versions, breeds new hybrid languages, and obscures priority. . . ."
And so on. It reads like the scrawl of a severely brain-damaged person.
(NOTE: Joyelle McSweeney has a B.A. magna cum laude from Harvard, a graduate degree from Oxford University, and an MFA from Iowa. She teaches English at Notre Dame University. Andrew Weatherhead is an MFA student at the New School.)