Saturday, May 19, 2012
Rome versus Carthage
I admit I’m taken aback by the reappearance of Tom Bissell’s hatchet job essay on the Underground Literary Alliance, “Protesting All Fiction Writers!” The essay, whose very title is a distortion, originally appeared in The Believer literary journal and has been included in Bissell’s new collection of essays, Magic Hours. The flawed essay is bad enough. Worse are the reviews of it, many of which mention the ULA with gleeful hostility. What’s the point? It’s a sudden rush of extreme animus toward a defunct organization whose writers were knocked out by the recession, their movement broken. It’s as if McSweeney’s (which published Bissell’s new book) and their many acolytes are ancient Rome, wishing to see every Carthaginian shred of our past literary threat knocked down and buried into the ground.