Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Gone Underground

Hints about where I'm going ("parts unknown") and what I'm up to will appear here, or more likely, eventually, on the Literary Mystery blog.

Note: The ULA PO Box is temporarily suspended.

Have a happy Labor Day everyone.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

More Joseph Conrad


This novel of Conrad's could be a depiction of the United States now with its castes and exploitive monopolists. Of New York City, multi-colored and segregated with vast differences between rich and poor, most of all.

The book is from the point-of-view of the educated blancos, aka the oligarchs. The narrative is with them as they shoot rifles from windows at revolutionaries in the streets below. To them, the rest of the population of their country is an unthinking mass; an indecipherable mob.

The young blancos may be cynically ironic dilettantes like Martin Decoud, or narcissistically ambitious careerists like the newly arrived British engineers. What unites them is their inability to see anyone outside their privileged circles.

What protects them is the layer of white workers insulating the oligarchy from the underclass; most particularly, the Italian boss of the stevedores Nostromo. By the end of the novel this admirable hero realizes he's been used; that in saving the wealthy but weak aristocrats, squelching the uprising against them, he's destroyed himself.

The ULA has encountered modern-day Nostromos who in fighting against us have really fought against themselves. They obtained from the oligarchs of the literary establishment as a result only crumbs. (Should I name them?) We've also seen divisive stratagems used against us, by duplicitous slumming oligarchs, as they're used against the rebels in the book. Their goal: to push all thought of literary revolution out of the heads of underground writers-- to have them absurdly renounce rebellion!-- keeping them compliant and powerless members of a little-seen herd. Literary peasants with no seat at the tableof literature; unacknowledged and unheard.

I wonder: how do today's literary oligarchs, grouped around elite "silver mine" power centers like PEN or the conglomerates-- making pronouncements of cluelessness at their clubby parties and salons-- view themselves? Does a Francine Prose have a trace of self-knowledge? What do they see when they read Conrad's book?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

On Success

It's been a tough month for writers. . . .

I was thinking of the possible reasons a person would write.
--To influence the society and culture;
--To plant a flag of difference to influence future generations;
--To create work which moves or stirs readers-- which is the same thing as my first reason;
--To create lasting art.

Nowhere on my list is money, career, or positions of importance: current barometers of success.

I've long ago learned to live without money. On the few occasions I've had some I got rid of it as quickly as possible, as if it were a disease I had to flush out of my system. Material possessions for the most part aren't my thing.

It'd be nice to have a measure of security. I wish for it often, and complain to myself that most of the time I exist on a week to week basis. Yet if I had security, I might likely chuck it over on a whim for new risk, new adventure, as I did when I left a respectable job in Detroit to come east to foment literary rebellion.

I've oversold the ULA to some extent, through necessity, giving many downtrodden writers hope. Hope!-- that without which no artist can live; hope which has yet to be fulfilled. I'm well aware of my failures. Yet I know the current system is rotten through and through, in slow, irresistible collapse. When I study the possibilities, up, down, and sideways, I see no other option for American literature than the ideas, energy, and writing of the Underground Literary Alliance.

For myself, the one possession in this world I retain is my artistic integrity. This I won't give up. I kept it through tougher times than these; it'd be silly to get rid of it now.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Can Literature Be Taught?

This morning I read "The Secret Sharer" by Joseph Conrad.

I'd read it once before, in my early 20's when taking a college English course, but I hadn't gotten anything out of the tale then but the hammered obvious point about the "double" or "doppleganger."

Reading it then was for me a waste. I was too young, too inexperienced in reading and life, to understand it. The story is very subtle. I didn't appreciate or see its subtleties, its depths, its hard-won experiences.

It's the worst kind of story to teach and discuss. Far better to discuss Jack London, who paints his tales with broader sweeps of noisy color. Better to discuss other of Conrad's tales. "Typhoon," which acts on a more concrete level, with a simpler, yet admirable, lead character, would be more apt a story for young readers, who need that captain's model, to talk about.

"The Secret Sharer" is taught because it allows windbag profs to pontificate about the mysterious "doppleganger," turning young students away from literature in the process; many, forever.

Reading has to be a joy, not a duty. The reader can't be told the meaning of the story-- he has to find the meaning himself.
* * * * * * * * *
The present educational system for higher education works fine for fields requiring intense and rigid discipline where answers are wrong or right-- mathematics for instance. Set up the classroom boot camp and have your charges jump over hurdles of quadratic equations, weeding out those not able to stay in line and keep up with the pack.

For a field like literature this style of learning is a disaster.

When you make the student dependent upon the professor for a grade in order to progress, a superior overlooking inferiors, you've brought into play all the intangibles of a dependency relationship, whose key action quickly becomes manipulation of the superior. Like workers manipulating a boss or slaves manipulating a master, the career-ambitious students learn not about the meaning of literature-- how to connect the words of Joseph Conrad with the currents of their own souls. Instead, the students read the professor!, studying his unconscious expressions and tics, his giveaway poker tells, to know what he believes and what he wants. They then give him what he wants.

The Achievers progress by recycling the expected concepts. In this case, "the double" or "the doppleganger." Aha! The student "gets" it. He's learned the story-- but what has he learned about it? He's learned what his professor learned, what his professor's professor learned. The liquid depths of the story remain untouched.

The imaginative student who comes up with a novel, off-the-wall view of what he's read will be treated like a moron. "You didn't get it," the pony-tailed preppy student next to him will say with disgust, while the phlegmatic professor pouring coffee into his system to recuperate from last night's drunken binge tavern meeting with a coed will grunt phlegmatically in the affirmative. The student didn't "get" it. He must be a dunce. No wonder he enjoys Jack London and comic books.

The truly independent student will silently observe these proceedings with scorn from the back row.
* * * * * * * * *
One thing I'm happy about with the ULA is that we "elders" of the group have connected with some of the best new writers out there. Here in Philly, I would take Eric Broomfield as a bet for future artistic greatness a thousand times over the local young Achievers obtaining conformist jobs in the local machine. Not only is "Jelly Boy the Clown" open to experience and the world-- has plunged himself into it in no less a fashion than did a young Joseph Conrad-- he comes to writing with no rules or inputted concepts. No barriers operate around his head. The Achievers in town, by contrast, are intellectually stunted. They've never discovered their own meaning of poems and stories. They've been taught what to think instead.
* * * * * * * * *
On this reading of "The Secret Sharer" I quickly saw that the key relationship the new captain has isn't with the fugitive hiding in his cabin, but with his first and second mates, who are watching his every move. His takeover of the ship is the story. The device of the "double" merely helps offset this. More, there are aspects to the story, of language and form, which connect with the reader in ways which can't be expressed. Conrad touches notes which approach the true meaning of art.

Literature can't be taught. All the instructor can do, at most, is leave the student an open path. Then, through reading, the student finds the meaning, his own meaning, for himself.

Rather than classrooms I would have silent reading rooms with widely spaced armchairs, so the student can read-- whatever he wants, but read. Reading is the only way to learn what literature is about.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Death of an Apparatchik

This is the truth: the established literary world is so corrupt, so immersed in the sewage of cronyism, cheating, lying, and hypocrisy, that I could post here every day on the subject and not come close to relating all of it.

An Insider's Insider killed himself this week, director, at a small college in New England, of a nest of literary corruption; a mentality of System success at all costs.

This man was at the center of one of the most disgraceful literary happenings of recent years. In 1995, at a summer writing conference at his college, he pulled stamped, sealed, posted mail out of faculty mailboxes and publicly destroyed it. The envelopes contained a zeen which outlined the then-incestuous relationship between the Advanced Writing Programs (AWP) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The issue described the musical chair process between the two organizations, in which the givers of grant money would the next year become the receivers, accepting funds from those who the previous year had been recipients. A nauseating story, but well documented. Made clear was the how and why workshop poetry and fiction had achieved such overwhelming dominance in the tiny literary world.

The zeen publisher had contacted the now-dead writer about the matter, asking for an explanation or a response, not receiving one, before the issue was created and mailed. He heard about what happened later, from three separate individuals; one a student, the other two well-known writers teaching at the conference (one of whom was outraged, the other amused). Many of the most prominent names in the business, renowned writers and editors, were present when the destruction of the copies occurred

What recourse did the zeen writer have? He was an insignificant nobody who likely would never be heard from again. That he could be so ruthlessly censored was thought unimportant.

For more details about this you could obtain two issues of my New Philistine zeen which covered the affair-- #28 and #36 (if my memory serves me). Remaining copies must still be out there. With the subject of the issues now ingloriously dead, perhaps they have some value, and could be found on E-bay.

The dead writer, beyond his actions, is a perfect example of everything wrong with status quo literature. A celebrated poet, he wrote what could hardly be called poetry at all, as there's no poetry-- no music-- to any of it. It's bland, usually self-involved, prose.

The dead writer achieved his positions and celebrated status in the literary system because he was adept at gaming it-- and knew this. Among his poems were several which expressed the contradictions he felt; which addressed the subject of how to attain awards and success. I'm sure he was conflicted by what he did at the 1995 summer writing conference.

I think he's an object lesson for his friends of how not to conduct oneself. For a writer, a real writer, nothing is more important than honesty and integrity. It's the writer's job in this society to speak the truth. One can't pretend to do so and at the same time live a lie, buried in misdeeds like a stained Dorian Gray portrait-- and not have the contradictions run through every part of your being, your reputation, and your art.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Ko-Opting Kerouac

A funny quote is found in the fantastically ridiculous new book, Why Kerouac Matters by John Leland.

"The writer and critic David Gates, describing his ambivalent love affair with the Beats, noted recently that their influence can be found almost everywhere today except in contemporary literature. 'Among novelists,' Gates wrote, 'Kerouac and Burroughs may be honored as role models of American cussedness, as familiar spirits, as Promethean innovators, as visionaries who lived on enviably intimate terms with their imaginations. But relatively few people actually want to write like either of them, and few of those few will have their words taken seriously by whatever's left of the literary establishment. A 21-year-old applying to a writing program is as ill-advised to cite Jack Kerouac as an influence as O. Henry or H.P. Lovecraft.'"

Wow. No wonder I've never fit in with today's approved lit scene. O. Henry and Kerouac were among my strongest influences. I also read much Lovecraft.

David Gates is a bonded member of today's literary establishment, so when he expresses its closed-shop ideology, he knows what he's talking about.
John Leland is a self-designated authority on "hip." His thesis is that because of Kerouac, the Organization Man can imagine himself as outsider rebel (read: John Leland), while remaining an Organization Man. Leland equates Kerouac's work ethic as a writer with working as a dehumanized cog in a gigantic conglomerate, not seeing the crucial difference. The debate isn't work versus no-work, but the different paths of a DIY self-starter working creatively for himself, or a tied-down obedient robot. Leland argues for the literary stamping plant sustained by conformity with society through family. What the attractions of this "family," this conformity with the rat-race machine, IS Leland never says.

It's presented as joyless safety. He's prodding the reader to join the herd; like the steady prodding of pod people in the better versions of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." With the plodding of his shallowly reasoned and unexceptionally written book, John Leland resembles one of those pod persons.

Leland's book reaches a culmination of duplicity when he discusses Allen Ginsberg's victory in the famous obscenity trial. Leland sees this as the victory of the individualistic Beat ethos; a victory against conformity.

Yet the Gates quote illustrates that it was no victory at all. The world is more conformist than it ever was. The literary establishment declares the battle won-- and since it's won, there's no need to fight it; no need for underground writers now. Kerouac and his friends were enough, thank you. By declaring the fight over, the John Lelands of today's media scene can impose total conformity on today's literary culture-- albeit conformity with a hip goattee on its chin and trendy boozhie tattoo on its arm.
Ignored by the expropriators of culture is the key truth that the American Machine didn't change as a result of the Beats. In fact, if anything, in following years the Machine changed for the worse, becoming larger, more intrusive, more monolithic. The black underclass today is in much worse condition than it was fifty years ago. The white working class is in much worse shape. The top levels of society, on the other hand, are vastly more affluent, more protected, more out-of-touch with American realities than ever before. They've truly become aristocrats.

John Leland and other mandarin commentators like Ann Douglas-- certified as authorities on underground culture by establishment institutions but not by the underground itself-- HAVE to ignore American reality lest they discredit the storyline of their books: that the various segments of American society have merged; there are no differences, no divisions; no chasms; we're all one big happy lobotomized family. How untrue! One need only walk through North Philly, and step into its schools, then tour the U of Penn "Green Zone" two miles away, to see how little the classes today have in common.

Ann Douglas, incidentally, who was on stage with the Overdogs at Columbia's Miller Hall during our 2006 Howl Protest, has written with "Terrible Honesty" about the "truth instinct" in writers. She's spoken about writers driven to expose corrupting forces.

Yet Ann Douglas shows no Terrible Honesty about literature today; does not apply the truth instinct to writers now-- nor applaud those who use it. She shows no concern about sharing a stage with corrupt writers, and has no curiosity about the current literary underground, of how it's different from, or similar to, the Beat movement. She and her privileged colleagues would rather see cultural genocide-- all trace of literary dissent and difference in THIS era wiped out. After all, they have the Beats. They wear the historical icons like the skins of slaughtered animals: once glorious to look at but now safely dead.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Friedman on PBS


I caught Thomas Friedman on the Charlie Rose Show last night. He was dressed in a bright yellow suit, and his head bobbed up and down like that of a bobble-head doll, while his hands gesticulated wildly. He reminded me of a "Music Man" style con man.

This is the man who has won three Pulitzer Prizes, is one of the media establishment's top boys. Friedman was originally a forceful cheerleader for the Iraq War, one of the most vociferous-- but now he says that maybe we'll have to lose the war, and leave Iraq divided-- keeping American bases in the north of course.

This kind of charlatan is used to having things turn out his way, however they turn out. Well, maybe he should apologize for being wrong, he now says, but he really wasn't wrong, and he won't apologize, as he buries the question and the fossilized questioner in layers of con-man blather.

Iran is the problem now, the Expert says. A big problem. "They're obstructing us," in the Mideast, he says. Obstructing US. (Us? We?) As he says this I wonder exactly who Friedman is talking about. This Imperialist kind of forgets that this isn't our part of our globe-- that our behavior there runs counter to the ideas of the Founding Fathers, which have conveniently been scrapped. (Our behavior there has bankrupted our country. Many thanks to the three-time Pulitzer Prize winner.) Friedman doesn't seem to remember that our Revolutionary War was fought against Empire-- it was fought so that we not be an Empire. In this context, the un-American context of Friedman and his like, their behavior, might be said to be traitorous.

If the Man in the Yellow Suit is the best the media establishment can come up with, then they are truly doomed. Every con-man statement which comes out of his con-man mouth discredits him. What about the environment, Mr. Friedman? What have you, the Authority, have to say about that?

The "flat earth" expert tells us he consulted men who run utilities on the matter. Men who run utilities! Those who maintain and profit, greatly, from our flawed energy set-up. Does Friedman consult with upstart entrepreneurs putting new ideas to work? Of course not! He goes straight to the men at the top. The Monopolists. As sure a way to get a snapshot of the past hasn't been invented. Friedman does indeed believe in a flat earth.

If this were 100 years ago, Friedman wouldn't be looking for Henry Ford in Detroit working with bicyle parts in a tiny workshop at the back of his house. He'd be consulting horse and buggy manufacturers. I think the Man in the Yellow Suit deserves another Pulitzer for his performance.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

CIA and Wiki

An article by John Borland on www.wired.com on 8/14/07 states that the Central Intelligence Agency, among others, has been editing wikipedia entries. What does this mean? At the least, that this organization is still cognizant of what's happening in the society and the culture.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Grammar Nerd Gatekeepers

AN EXAMPLE of the kind of young journalist being recruited as gatekeeper of the status quo literary world is self-described "grammar nerd" Elizabeth Fox, a book reviewer for the Philadelphia Inquirer. In a 8/11 article in the newspaper, Fox snippily complains about "abuse of the English language" caused by writers who dare show linguistic creativity on the Internet.

Bizarrely enough, she then uses William Shakespeare, of all people, as an example of proper English.

Elizabeth Fox is an example of the bourgeois prism I've discussed. She views the past through her own situation and her own anal standards, which are the System's standards.

In reality, Shakespeare was the antithesis of a grammar nerd. He lived during the changeover in England from oral to written culture. Today he'd be called semi-literate. An actor, Will's words were created to be spoken aloud. Written texts were devised solely as a tool for the players; their saving an afterthought.

Extant documents, those which did survive the years, show an individual unconcerned with proper spelling or proper grammar. He made up scores of words found in no dictionary because there were no dictionaries. His audience grasped their meaning because of their relation to other words, and their context and placement in sentences. The man is notorious today among befuddled historians for the creative ways "Shakspere" spelled even his own name.

What does this mean?

It means that maybe-- just possibly-- the path toward greatness in literature lies in NOT being ruthlessly tied down, restricted amd constricted, bound with chains, gagged and put into a language prison cell box, as advocated in this overly-regulated age by utterly brainwashed System advocates like Ms. Fox.

Maybe it's better instead to have the freedom to be creative in all things literary. To use wordplay at readings, or use creative spelling to give new meaning to old words, as do ULAers Frank Walsh and Bill Blackolive. Maybe it's better to focus first on truth and emotion, passion and explosiveness, while letting the constipated rules fall to the background, as does James Nowlan, a ULA novelist.

We're at our own historical dividing line: Whether literature is going to be stuck, unmoving, in the drying cement of status quo thought-- or instead, burst forth with new freedom and energy, with the kind of excitement that Marlowe and Shakespeare once generated, and if done right, today, can attract to the poetry of language hordes of new fans.

Brooke Astor


Much is being made in media obituaries about Brroke Astor's "philanthropy" in spreading around $200 million to fellow New Yorkers over the years.

The question is not just whether that money went mainly to the projects of other wealthy Manhattanites-- but what Brooke, a person who likely never worked a day in her life, was doing with such immense wealth to start with.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Bourgeois Prisms

The biggest mistake many observers and opponents of the ULA make is to view it, and view me, through prisms which give them a distorted sense of reality. They view us in terms of their own situation-- as Michael Signorelli does from the perspective of the huge monopoly which employs him. Because things are equaled on the playing field of the Internet, he believes they're equal in the playing field of life. This breeds the idea, as exhibited on the radio show I was recently on, that the ULA, an organization without resources, could somehow restrict the opportunity of a Jeffrey Eugenides, who's had every opportunity.

Another prism is used by bourgeois writers who like what we're doing, then see the group according to what they think a writers group SHOULD be like, or according to what they want us to be, based on their own needs.

The ULA is a radical lit group originally meant to consist of literary activists with a DIY mentality. This meant from the start those writers who'd already burnt their bridges to the mainstream; who'd already abandoned all hope of status quo literary success; who were for the most part totally alienated by this society and its culture; who for the most part had already lost everything and had nothing left to lose. The lowest of the low. Among writers, the hardest core of the hard core.

When we've swayed from these principles we've been burned.

The ULA isn't for everybody. Those who've joined and fit in have earned their colors. They've fit in with the pack of rabid dogs which is this team. There are no writers in America like us, which is our strength.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

40th Street Fair

I had fun yesterday at the 40th Street Summer Series. Read as part of our set, along with Mark Baird of Idiom Poets, Mark Sonnenfeld, Jellyboy the Clown, and Mr. Walsh, who M/C'd our part of it. Also a mysterious street poet named Ed Slook, who I'll be profiling in an upcoming post, because he's quite a genuine character. Matt Broomfield ably backed the lot of us with imaginative mixing and music.

Manning the ULA's zeen and book table, I had the chance to speak to many interesting folks, including a mysterious publisher with a briefcase; a woman with a zeen called "The Humble Housewife"; and others including several young artists, most striking among them Kim of Bakas Artysta. Plus several unnamed writers who stopped by. I hope to hear from one and all.

Yes, much of the audience for the affair was kind of boozhie, but the real undergrounders made our appearance entirely worthwhile.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Ego in Writers

I've often gotten the feeling, since the ULA was started almost seven years ago, that I'm supposed to apologize for having a healthy ego-- a good opinion of myself as a thinker and a writer.

Yet if I didn't have a strong ego-- even a trace of arrogance-- I would've been crushed by this society, and by the circumstances of life, long ago.

Unlike those in other endeavors-- sports, or business-- writers aren't supposed to have strong egos. At best they should be self-loving but haplessly confused stumblebum successes on the order of Jonathan Franzen. But too much ego is out. Throw yourself on a cross as a martyr for the world like Dave Eggers, but stifle that ego, at least in public.

No, in the literary realm, ego and arrogance are reserved for the gatekeepers; minimally-talented editors and reviewers who erect barriers of snobbery and dismiss all who don't approach them with humble mien and appropriate groveling. It's the way the entire system has been set up. Somehow, because of their positions as literary apparatchiks, cogs in an enormous machine, they somehow believe THEY are the more valuable commodity.

One more reason why the present apparatus of literature must be changed.

Thursday, August 09, 2007


I've had an interesting exchange on the "Cruelest Month" Harper-Collins lit-blog (www.cruelestmonth.com) about poet John Ashbery. Interesting is how the moderator of the blog, Michael Signorelli, worries that I might make a fool of myself with what I say about literature today.

His concern shows his lack of knowledge about the roots of language, ideas, and culture.

"The Fool" of course is the first card in the Tarot deck. It represents the seeker, the artist: the individual open to the world and experience, yet uncorrupted by human machinations. (Dostoevsky's "The Idiot," Prince Myshkin, is a variant of this type.) Throughout history there has been the "Holy Fool." In medieval times intelligent poets played fools for barbarian kings. "Fool" is an honorable name, from the perspective of the artist.

The larger point about John Ashbery is that he's a symbol of the established literary world's inability to change over the course of half-a-century. No art form survives by remaining static-- yet this is exactly what the Michael Signorellis of the world advocate. They're closed-- hostile even-- to criticism of their dusty plaster gods.

To further announce Ashbery's mediocre body of work, especially in the face of a dawning underground revival, would be as if newspapers were proclaiming the greatness of Al Jolson in the face of the rock revolution beginning in 1955. Hopelessly, pathetically out-of-date.

(It's like McCartney on sale at Starbucks-- a sign of stagnation in more than literary culture today.)

Our media mandarins are trapped in a time warp, and seem unable to move away. Our world of culture today is like a bad science fiction movie. It's actually the moment of calm before the deluge-- before a Katrina cultural hurricane.

Signorelli attacks me for being an egotist, because I try to find available avenues to get word out about my writing. Unlike Ashbery, I don't have access to a profusion of mouthpieces proclaiming to the world what I'm doing. I'm well aware of my limitations as a poet (my colleague Frank Walsh for instance is way better, as are a few other undergrounders I could name)-- yet I also think, if a quack like Ashbery is being proclaimed far and wide, for five decades, there should be room for me also.

The repetition I use in my poem, cited on the Cruelest Month blog, seems to have thrown posters Michael and "John"-- yet is easily defended.

Repetition has been a mainstay of art over the centuries-- the key is to find the right mix, which I'm imperfectly groping toward.

Done right, you get the perfection of a Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, which repeats a simple musical motif again and again, with amazing results.

In another art, take a look at the way the lighting of a cigarette is done in the movie "Double Indemnity." The final time, because of the context, the simple action takes on power and meaning.

Song, a strong relative to poetry, uses the refrain to hammer home an artistic point.

But, for the brainwashed, like those who manage the media monopolies, anything done outside their narrow parameters is dangerous.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

ULA in West Philly

The ULA will have a table at the 40th Street Summer Series at 40th and Walnut, outside, this Saturday August 11th, 2 to 7 pm. There will be performances from Frank Walsh and others. Members of the Idiom Poets are scheduled to join us. I'll be there from 3 pm on, so stop by to see us.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Writer's Motivation?

The chief motivation for System writers ostensibly remains greed: career and money.

The irony is that all follow the standard literary path, which takes them in the opposite direction of their goal. They'll pay $50,000 or more to accept extremely low odds of making it as a writer; to become one of 40,000+ similarly labelled with said degree. I suspect the badge itself-- "MFA"-- for most of this number is the real motivation. This certifies the person as a "writer" and allows him or her a kind of respectable, if useless, attainment.

For others, undergrounders particularly, the writing itself is the goal: the expression and construction of authentic art.

The ULA campaign offers an added bonus to the independently-minded writer-- the opportunity to make literary history, as we've done with our protests, our actions, our never before seen in-your-face excitement. (The status quo is reduced to presenting weak substitutes like the Dishwasher guy.)

Most non-underground writers are embedded in the literary past. Embedded-- incapable of breaking out of their artistic assumptions and prejudices. Even when they write about literary rebels of the past, it's in a thoroughly dry, academic way, their ANALysis coming through the prism of their politically-correct institutional brainwashing.

The Underground Literary Alliance offers literature as an adventure and a challenge. With us, the writer isn't one of 40,000+ trained and certified automatons, but a rebel engaged in the battle of ideas. We're guerrillas and prophets, a band of upstarts, vanguard of literary change.

Our fearlessness is our greatest strength. There is nothing appealing about an endless parade of artistic apparatchiks. Someday this nation's literature may devolve into an Age of Sheep. We're here to say: That time has not yet arrived! Exciting days remain.

Where's Bohemia?

The question is whether a real bohemia is even possible today.

The first requirement is a tight neighborhood, as existed in Greenwich Village once upon a time, or in Paris in the 1920s.

I'd guess that classic bohemias were mixes of lower class and idle rich, or radical rich. Without the low rent aspect there's no authenticity, no edge.

How many American urban neighborhoods are full of vibrant life yet affordable at the same time? (Detroit's Cass Corridor in the 1990s.)

The Hydrogen Jukebox has created a scene in West Philly-- but West Philly is too sprawling, the writers here scattered all over the place. South Philly might be tighter; Fishtown more working class, with more real bohemian freedom.

Most interesting urban neighborhoods have been taken over by the gentry-- hyper-conformist rat-race yuppies who are if anything anti-bohemians. Rents and prices exclude all but the Clean and Saved.

Bourgeois conformity has spread into most segments of the upper class (even ultra-rich guys like Tom Beller and Rick Moody obtained writing degrees) and swept through the lower middle class from whose ranks come many MFA writer-wannabes. True artistic and social rebels are a minority of a minority.

Also, few writers today except those of means will travel to be part of a scene-- as many writers like Hemingway, Robert McAlmon, Kay Boyle, and so many others moved to Paris to create the Lost Generation.

Sorry, but one can't have a community of writers through the Internet, which is a collection of disembodied voices without the exciting interaction of physical reality. At best it's a bloodless, enervated, unsatisfactory substitute.

Those who pose today as literary bohemians are in fact anti-bohemians. Take MediaBistro, a walking contradiction; an impossibility-- a mock-bohemian scene constructed around career and conformity. Their reality is anti-bohemia (as they're so thoroughly anti-ULA). Only the pose of difference remains-- and as everyone inside the System adopts the pose, any trace of difference from acceptable life and culture has thoroughly vanished. All that's left is consumerist advertising.

Friday, August 03, 2007

New Posts

A couple new posts by me are up on two ULA blogs; unfinished posts and likely not to be finished for awhile, because, as Lee Marvin says to Angie Dickinson in "The Killers": "Lady, I just don't have the time."

Check them out anyway at www.ulareview.blogspot.com and www.ulapoetryandfiction.blogspot.com. (More reviews from me upcoming, when I can write them.)