Friday, September 30, 2011

The Most Dangerous Creative Writer in America

It's so. I'm the one writer the literary establishment most fears. The truth of my ideas, along with my independence and my fearlessness, are too much for them to handle.
Read the novelette "Bluebird," part of the e-book Mood Detroit.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


I note that one of my recent promo mailings caught the attention of Elizabeth Spiers, Editor of the prestigious Manhattan newspaper, New York Observer:

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

Rittenhouse Square is a pleasant little park of grass, trees, sidewalks and park benches set in Center City Philadelphia. The square is surrounded on all sides by towers of condos inhabited by the wealthy. Yet all kinds of people hang out at the square.

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. . . .

In a celebration of Keith Gessen's paean to conglomerate publishing, "How a Book Is Born," blogger Michael Pokocky states that "publishing is like Investment Banking." Apparently Pokocky is an investment banker himself.

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 mailed a modest amount of promo material to select locations within the media establishment. The mailings announce my e-books, particularly the story, "Bluebird," part of Mood Detroit. The high-placed literary crowd refuses to read "Bluebird." Why is that?

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?

Who in today's literary world is covering America's severe recession? Anyone?

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

A short essay of mine, "A Tale of Two Literary Worlds," has been posted at the citizen journalist website Inewp, at

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

Is it a coincidence that the best songs on "Rave On," the Starbucks tribute album to Buddy Holly, have Detroit connections?

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

The Illusion

Publications like Vanity Fair and The New Yorker create the illusion of American literature. American literature is what they say it is, because they say it. They say it often enough that people believe it. Even though they represent a tiny fraction of American writers. Not the best of them either. Definitely not the most independent and original of them.

What this crowd carries is the biggest megaphone.

(Read Mood Detroit.)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Bluebird Mystery Continues

Although they're not reading "Bluebird," part of the e-book Mood Detroit, I suspect that literary mandarins have met Melissa Bluebird. I believe they know the person quite well.

About the Underground

It's hard to believe that four years ago, the underground was still a player in the literary game. Now its writers are dead or dropped-out, buried in the ground or living in ratholes, protesting in whispers against a hurricane of neglect.

The Truth About the Truth

"Gimme some truth."  -John Lennon

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

Two of my favorite authors are American conservative novelist James Gould Cozzens and Leftist historian Eric Hobsbawm. They come from opposite ends of the political spectrum, yet have much in common which makes them both a worthwhile reading experience. They both think with intense clarity-- they're from an era where intellectual clarity was a given. Both have a high level of intelligence which enables them to see and understand the world in its particular but also as a whole. The systems which comprise civilization are to them not a blur. They see the "Machine" from different viewpoints-- but at least they see it.

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?

In Mood Detroit I detail the backgrounds of several of the characters-- particularly the two leads of "Bluebird." Rock musicians Melissa Bluebird and Alexandra Skarzki bring with them very different attitudes toward the band and their art, attitudes formed by their respective histories. By presenting a look at those histories, I seek to create a more rounded artwork. We can't know, we can't see this society unless we look at it from different angles.

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

"Heart Warming"

As far as I'm concerned, the kiss of death for any art is to be labeled "heart warming." It conjures images of Norman Rockwell, Sominex, and warm milk. Status quo bland. The last thing I want to create are writings which are "heart warming."

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."

Monsoon Season

The nonstop rains we've been hit with are killing me. Nothing is worse in this society than being sick and broke.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

What's Middlebrow?

Why would Louis Menand in The New Yorker (9/5/11) dredge up a term, "middlebrow," which made limited sense fifty years ago and makes none now?

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

The writing style of the three tales in Mood Detroit may look different to the standard literary reader from the norm. Pop fiction is a different way of looking at literature and the world. I've added several paint daubs to the narratives. My intention was to create paintings using words. The three "paintings" in the e-book present an overall argument-- a justification for DIY. They say, there is more than one way to be an artist, a writer, a musician. Art is for everybody.

Detroit makes an apt setting for this statement.