Tuesday, January 27, 2009

More Plimpton

There's an interesting article by Scott Sherman in the current (Feb 2) issue of The Nation magazine, which at least addresses the Paris Review/CIA controversy which the ULA and myself have been covering for some time. (On this blog, on January 7 most recently.) Our prodding since 2005 HAS had some effect in bringing to light this important story.

Sanders still accepts too much at face value. Plimpton's magazine living "on a shoestring" in the 60's? Come on! George himself came from a very wealthy family, and found support for the project from beginning to end from billionaires like Aga Khan to Jean Stein to Drue Heinz. Surely it wasn't THAT expensive to put out a literary journal. (The ULA has cranked out publications with its members all living in poverty or near-poverty.)

Also, the notion that George Plimpton didn't know from the start of his involvement with Paris Review about the CIA connection remains-- given his background-- a ridiculous idea. But if we keep pushing the literary establishment on this and other questions, maybe eventually they'll get it completely right.

No Place to Stand

It was Archimedes who said, give him a place to stand and he'd move the world. I believe that. But what if you have no place to stand?

A Cultural Artifact

"Why don't you behave like the others?"
"Because I'm not like the others."
There's an interesting acknowledgement of class, for a moment, in a pretty bad movie from 1963, "Palm Springs Weekend." The movie's about frolicking college kids of the day. A jarring moment occurs when a gang of lower-class types crash a house party-- an incongruous, shocking scene, in a way. An incident of class war dropped into a piece of fluff. The disgust at wealth by the unnamed interlopers is palpable: Revolution lurking even then under the surface of dreamworld America.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Inauguration Note

The "poem" read as part of the ceremonies was an embarassment for someone like myself who takes joy in listening to poetry-- to the music of poetry. The trend of simple-minded prose masquerading as poetry has to end! "Poets" themselves seem to forget that the art at one time was strictly memorized and spoken-- and so it depended on "Music"-- rhyme, alliteration, meter, euphony-- in order for it to be remembered. To be memorable, which the execrable poem read at the national celebration was not. Such a missed opportunity.

I was reading a bio of FDR by Conrad Black. The most memorable part of the book is when FDR quotes from an American poem-- as a message to be delivered by Wendell Wilkie to Churchill affirming solidarity to his cause. Churchill responded with some stanzas from a famous British work. What a literate age that was!-- when poetry could truly represent the best of a people and a culture.

The postmodern academy has given us nothing but quackery in poetry and prose alike. I envision this halting when a flood of new poets who understand the unbeatable power of the art form at its best take the stage.

Monday, January 19, 2009

"Ode to Global Warming"

Penguins and polar bears in the streets of Detroit;
Mountains of white, snowmen on skis;
The skaters on Woodward look like the Red Wings!
You tell me there's global warming.

Ice-covered windshields that won't defrost;
River is frozen, sun has got lost;
Thermal underwear rising in cost!
Now you tell me there's global warming.

Oh bring back the sweat and the melt and the heat,
Rising temperature, 100 degrees;
So we can take off our coats and our shoes,
and snuggle our feet
in the burning hot sands of the closest beach!
Bring back to us global warming;
Oh, yeah, global warming,
Yes we must have again global warming!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Who's Right?

MANY "literary" writers dismiss this blog and myself as being too extreme-- "off the deep end"-- for their genteel tastes. This is chiefly because they don't like to be caused to think about discomforting things. They prefer the lit-world as it once was-- placid; immobile; unstimulating: "Where seldom is heard, a discouraging word, and the skies are not cloudy all day."

That I'm a fanatic for literature who strongly believes in what he's doing compounds the situation.

Yet who's been wrong, and who right?

Who's been right from the beginning about the Paris Review/CIA revelations?

Who was right about an established Insider author (Daniel Handler, it turned out) being the long-time demi-puppet attacker "Jimmy Grace"?

One could go point-by-point over the issues which have involved the underground rebellion and this blog the last eight years and see that I've usually turned out to be on the right path.

-Right about the grants corruption involving author Rick Moody and others.

-Right to want to discuss the oncoming Iraq war at Housing Works in 2003.

-Right about the Daniel Handler fake letter affair.

-Right about the Harpers plagiarism controversies.

-Right about the Big Money takeover of a small press organization.

-Right about the literary divide between rich and poor.

And so on, and so on.

With each tactical victory the establishment has become more hostile and abusive, lit-bloggers more closed-minded, and underground types more panicky.

The last anonymous demi-puppet to "amend" and distort my wiki bio portrays me as currently being "in the wilderness." I suppose I am.

Which leaves me to continue posting my ideas on my blogs and elsewhere, and hope that other writers catch up to me.

(See www.happyamericaliterature.blogspot.com for more.)

"Climate Wars"

Last night I listened to a program on a national Canadian station (CBC) about global warming, "Climate Wars." The narrator spoke about, among other things, "climate change denial." He spoke about how hot the planet was becoming. After the show the Canadian news came on. "Canada is still locked in a deep-freeze." The entire country has been blanketed in ice for months.

I was reminded about the classic Twilight Zone episode about a woman trying to survive as the sun moves closer and closer to our planet. It's an unprecedented heat wave. Just as conditions reach a terrible climax she wakes up. It turns out the sun is in fact moving away from us, and she's in an unprecedented deep-freeze.

Regarding experts: either they're misreading the data, or they're receiving flawed or gimmicked data.

Curious that scientists make "unarguable" predictions about thirty years out, but couldn't predict what's happening right now.

Scientists are not immune from gullibility. I recall the case of psychic Uri Geller, who could bend spoons and such with his brain waves. He passed with glowing reviews endless panels of scientists. "Experts." Then one day a magician caught his act and exposed him as a quack.
What does this have to do with literature?

The "experts" are clearly wrong in that case also.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Playing the Price

In many ways the literary underground is stronger than it's ever been, with two organizations now carrying, in different ways, the message of change. (I have tangential relations with the more historic organization; no relations with the other.)

The dilemma remains what it's always been, for the two main groups and for the many stray actors like myself who operate largely outside them. That is: Marketing. How do you let people know on a large scale what we're doing? How does our kind of writer stand out against monster publishing companies with huge resources, or scores of small presses with SOME resources, or many hundreds of other writers groups with their own lit-journals or books or web sites?

Few people in either underground group will acknowledge that I solved the problem. The solution involves paying the price in getting the word out. This means, STANDING OUT from the literary mainstream in every way possible-- in ideas, products, actions, attitude, and energy. (Ideas first.) This was accomplished when I was active in the ULA. As contention was the cutting edge of the campaign, the strategy was not for the squeamish! At the outset in 2000 I quoted a pioneer slogan I'd seen once on the historic Oregon Trail: "The weak didn't make it. The timid never set out."

ONLY if we represented the most kickass balls-to-the-wall writers ever seen did the campaign have a chance to accomplish its goals. We were that! For a time we were.

Our most exciting action-- the KGB Crash-- was also the most notorious. It also created the greatest buzz, sending shock waves through New York which put our movement on the map. Should we have not done it?

I know what WON'T work. That's to refuse to stand out. To refuse to criticize the Overdog competition. To neglect to differentiate ourselves from other writers. (Indeed, we have to be not writers but zeensters, taking writing to another level.)

If, for instance, we refuse to write "negative" reviews about competitors as a way to say, "We're better!" then we may as well take every Marketing 101 book and every text written on the subject and toss it into a dumpster, and admit we're idiots.

The question comes down to whether you're a serious player, or just playing around.
See www.happyamericaliterature. blogspot.com for more underground thoughts-- and watch for my latest poem going up soon on my "Happy Writing" blog.

The Anti-Dissent Campaign

You know the worst part of Daniel Handler's "Jimmy Grace" behavior? As Grace he castigated me on this blog every time I shut off comments or deleted a post to get a break from his relentless sophistry. I was "censoring" him. Me! A pretty-much blackballoed writer who gets his voice out on the margins, through blogs and zeens. Handler is backed by a giant publishing company and has no difficulty getting his words into society, whether through his children's books or novels or writing essays for the New York Times. He may be the most widely circulated writer of today. (The current condition of literature: A well-rewarded cretin.) His own success didn't stop this mega-millionaire from carrying out a harassment campaign against an outcast writer who frankly lives in near-poverty.

Handler has droppped out, but I'm still being barraged by another character who lives on the other end of the country, and likewise screams when I don't allow every one of his onerous one-note comments against my existence as a writer. Is he another oft-published success story?

Monday, January 12, 2009


NOTEWORTHY is how those who inhabit establishment literature will take no responsibility for it. Yes, some will admit the System is corrupt. But don't blame the individuals who make up the System! They have no choice; can change nothing. It's all too-powerful, you see-- which was the attitude of the go-along-to-get-along crowd in the Soviet Union.

It's a hallmark of the apparatchik mentality.

The WASPy Overclass

As America wakes up to hard times-- its nostalgic global-warming glow a thing of the past-- is there anything more anachronistic and irrelevant than the literary establishment? "Rick" and "Dave," "Miranda" and "Jon" and "Jay" continue to circulate moodily through their successions of wine-tastings and cocktail parties, as isolated and bovinely stupid as a forgotten powder-wig aristocracy. Events of our times are passing them by. The preppy writers resemble the plastically-preserved residents of a defunct museum. They represent a corrupt and dwindling Age of Money. How long will they be able to get by on their quaint charm and childish posturing?

On Authenticity

"Authentic" in the age of the virtual is not a bad word-- there's nothing wrong with promoting this aspect of a writer. Underground writers HAVE to emphasize their differences from the standard prep school/trust fund/Ivy Leaguers who dominate the literary mainstream.

Undergrounders live more authentic lives, in that
A.) they've been knocked around by life a little, or a lot;
B.) they're more in touch with the lives of ordinary Americans.

To me they're the AUTHENTIC voice of America now. Nothing to be ashamed of about that!

Truth versus Lies

THE POINT about the Paris Review/CIA story is that American literature degrades itself when it distorts its own history. If it can't be believed about this, then how can it be believed about anything?

There are writers out there whose brains are so diseased by postmodern philosophy that truth has no meaning to them. They disqualify themselves to speak as America's voice.

Daniel Handler, one of America's most successful writers-- bonded member of literature's Inside game-- posted hundreds of comments on this blog the last few years under his "Jimmy Grace" identity trying to squelch the PR/CIA story, and this campaign against corruption which led to its revelation. If the story is unimportant, why the bother? Why did James Linville send me over 100 crazy emails on the topic, and travel from London to NYC in 2007 to consult Paris Review editors on how to play it?

If it was unimportant, why did they not from the beginning admit the claim?

To them it's very important. The George, Being George book worries over CIA "contamination" of the journal's reputation.

The matter is important for what it says about what American literature became.

(Watch for some quotes at www.happyamericaliterature.blogspot.com which give an indication of the sea change in perspective and focus undergone by American literature over the past six decades.)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Eggers' Puppet Empire

SOMEDAY I want to do a report for this blog on the vast marionette empire ruled by The Dave. Anyone who examines American literature today runs into his delusionary flunkies everyplace-- brainwashed acolytes goose-stepping in their metaphorical uniforms across the literary landscape.

At the top of it all stands the Dictator, whose every gesture from his San Francisco fortress sends followers into paroxyms of emotion and screams. "Seig Heil! Seig Heil!" They give him unquestioning obedience. He's surrounded himself with the biggest collection of crackpots seen since the Third Reich. Creepy children's author Daniel Handler certainly is one of the most fanatical, a loyally subservient dog eager to destroy his scant integrity in service to his master. The women of the Eggers Reich, Vendela Vida and Heidi Julavits, severe creatures with pulled-back hair and purple lipstick, are no less fanatical. Beneath this layer is a conglomeration of stooges, sycophants, and marginally coherent psychopaths, from cryptopuppet plagiarist Tom Bissell to plagiarism apologists Roger Hodge and Jon Lethem, mad scientist George Saunders, insane idiot John Hodgman, groveling uberfan Matthias Schwartz, and the rest of the jumbled postmodern menagerie. Someone like Rick Moody is more-or-less a propped-up equal, Duce to Dave's Fuehrer, wearing a brighter uniform with more phony medals and shiny buttons on the front but less substance inside it.

"Walking Man"

BECAUSE of the hectic nature of my life trying to survive in the current economic climate, I've been tardy with many of my planned undertakings, including getting my review blog under full steam.

Among the books I have yet to review is Walking Man by Tim W. Brown-- so I'll review it here and now on my main blog which anyway has a bigger audience.

Walking Man is a satirical novel about the "zine" print underground of the last decade; the story of a prototypical zinester named Brian Walker whose DIY publication, appropriately enough, is about walking. Appropriate, as a nod to the quirky essence of DIY with its emphasis on authenticity. The publication is an amalgamous nod to legendary zeens, most reminiscent to me of "Pathetic Life." The character himself is from Midwest "underdog origins":

"--Brian Walker came of age in a time and place where declining expectations comprised the norm."

The novel documents Brian's brief celebrity and subsequent decline. Tim W. Brown pokes fun at the zine scene of the day but at the same time celebrates it, focusing on a variety of crazy personalities and the intramural disputes intrinsic to the scene.

It is, in fact, a history of the zine phenomenon, and explanation of same. THIS IS THE ORIGIN of the Underground Literary Alliance, and the literary Rebellion, to the extent that the six founding members of the ULA were all zeensters who'd discovered one another's work through the networks and review publications Brown ably satirizes.

If I have any quibble with the book-- a minor quibble-- it's that he focuses on the 1989-91 time period, when to me the peak of the phenomenon came four or five years later.

Walking Man is a fun read and great background to underground literature of today.

Click on
for more information.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Plimpton Being Plimpton


The new book George Being George is biography mixed with propaganda.

Pages 97-99 have Peter Matthiessen shitting all over himself.

Picture a large bag of money on a table in an office which could be in Paris or could be in New York. On the bag are large black letters: "CIA." Nobody in the office sees the bag of money.

"Money? What money? Do you see any money? I don't see any money!"

(Sgt. Schultz: "I see nothing. Nothing!")

Peter Matthiessen meanwhile mumbles semi-coherently. ("I don't understand this Fleischmann fellow, but it must be all attributable to Fleischmann. That's right. Yeah! Fleischmann! HE was the guy.")

Let's take a moment to get the scenario straight. Peter Matthiessen was a CIA operative. The Paris Review was founded as an International journal with CIA money, but Matthiessen, Paris Review founder and CIA guy, never made the connection. Fleischmann! It was all Fleischmann! (This goes under the heading of Implausible Denial.)

Do smart people at Paris Review today like Meghan O'Rourke actually believe any of this? Or is the goal simply to save George Plimpton's reputation, truth be denied? George Plimpton either knew about the CIA connection and was okay with it or he was an imbecile. There's no other choice.

We're supposed to believe that Matthiessen, George Plimpton's good friend and fellow adventurous WASP-- who recruited George for the magazine-- didn't tell George about the CIA, even though such cloak-and-dagger games would've been right up G.P.'s alley; George being the consummate bold amateur game player. It's preposterous.
Keep in mind two additional points.

1.) George Plimpton lived his life within a relatively tiny clique of influential people at the highest levels of American society. This circle was permeated by the CIA. To look at it another way, it's been well documented in books and film that the CIA in its early days was permeated by literary people.

2.) George was no naif about Insider politics at the highest levels. His father, Francis T.P. Plimpton, was deputy U.N. Ambassador in the Kennedy administration; was at the heart of the most tumultuous events of the Cold War, which very much involved the CIA. George himself was friends with Robert Kennedy. (Like a real-life Zelig, George was present at RFK's assassination.)

The idea that people would be afraid to talk to George, of all people, about the CIA is ludicrous. Absurd, absurd, absurd.

Yet that's what Matthiessen and this well-edited book would have us believe. Which is why I say that the recent award-winner is shitting all over himself. Does the truth bother you?
THEY DO HIM A DISSERVICE, those who portray George Plimpton as a semi-retarded simpleton blowing off fireworks, instead of as a tough, shrewd member of his social class and of his times-- a patriot, even-- who felt the obligations which came with his opportunities and status.
(DISCLAIMER. Let me emphasize that the original decision by the ULA to post the Cummings piece and cover this story was solely my doing. I take full responsibility. The attempt by James Linville to connect other ULAers to the matter is an act of malice whose purpose is to intimidate the ULA.)

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The CIA and Literature

THAT people today look at the 1950's CIA anachronistically hinders their understanding of the Paris Review/CIA story.

The CIA was a liberal organization. Its goal in funding mags like Partisan Review and Encounter was to establish a liberal "Democratic Left" face for American culture in Europe., to compete with Marxism, then on the march among intellectuals.

The parameters of literature in 1953 were very different from what they are now. Radical proletarian writing had been ascendent for fifty years. To be as apolitical as possible was in line with CIA goals (as the art they backed was apolitical). During those times, this was as much as could be hoped for.

When William Styron decried "axe grinding" in Paris Review's inaugeral issue, this fit perfectly with the CIA's attitude.

It's been grudgingly admitted that Paris Review was founded with CIA money.
Two assertions remain.
1.) That Paris Review was founded merely as a cover for Peter Matthiessen.
2.) That George Plimpton was ignorant of the CIA's role.

#1 is unlikely. #2 is ridiculous.

Given that the CIA was backing other literary magazines as ends in themselves, why would their financing of Paris Review be different? Indeed, PR had to be exactly what they wanted in Europe; a bright, cosmopolitan journal with appealing young editors: a fresh, attractive alternative to radical lit.

I'll address question #2 in another post. STAY TUNED.

The Real Point

The real point I'm making about the global warming issue (see "Global Clowns" below) is that it illustrates the inability of literary writers to think for themselves. It's like they sit helplessly in a room waiting for word from the "experts" before they know where to stand on an issue. Oops! Here comes the bulletin now, read to the group. "Global warming is a fact." Happy to have any conflict resolved, the uniformed writers march out in a line like robots.

One has to admire the thoroughness of their training. It's like a dog told to sit and wait. You leave the house and return eight hours later and there the dog still sits, at the same spot, tongue out, waiting obediently.

There is no questioning by these well-trained writers. It's how N+1 can publish a truly awful Euro-chic "story" like "Your Name Here" (in issue #6) which is deliberately hostile to the reader; solipsistic to an extreme degree. Not one of their editors had the sense to say, "Hey, come on guys. This is garbage."

The higher education system is geared toward producing conformists who can't think, who are most comfortable when they don't!
Understanding this was Dave Eggers's great insight. McSweeney's presented the atmosphere of higher education-- footnotes, jargon, disclaimers, charts-- mimicking the academy. Eggers constructed the illusion of intelligence and thought without requiring his readers to actually think. He recreated the herd of academia around his journal; returning to each herd member the comfort of the acolyte. Proof of this can be found in the books of John Hodgman-- wildly popular among McSweeneyites-- which are set-up to look like reference books or textbooks, but are filled with nonsense.
It's easy to expose the foundations of the two trendiest U.S. literary movements of today as being aggressively ANTI-intellectual.

What's left?


I WAS THINKING about the cronyism involved in NBC bringing Matt Millen on TV as a football analyst the same year he destroyed the Detroit Lions organization-- rewarding him for incompetence. Then I realized this is how the literary world operates as well.

So we have cronymeister Melanie Thernstrom writing a gushy article in the once-credible New York Times about non-poet apparatchik Jason Shinder, who she once dated. I'm sure he was quite a nice guy, as everyone says (though he could only glower at the underground at Miller Hall, during a would-be "Howl" celebration), but to say he finally wrote some semi-competent poetry near the end of his life reveals the established lit-show as the scam it is. To Melanie Thernstrom that's just the way things operate-- being a privileged child of the intellectual establishment herself. (Shinder to her was a striking anomaly because he wasn't born into it.)

It's the same mentality which allowed these people to close ranks in support of Rick Moody-- after he was caught with his hand in the cookie jar giving taxpayer money to his rich buddies, then, like Matt Millen, rewarded for his blunders.

Yes, it's how the game is played. But it's not good for literature and we don't have to respect it or accept it.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Was Eggers Behind It?

The question remains whether all-powerful literary cult figure Dave Eggers was behind the attacks on the ULA and myself. Given his track record, indications say yes.

Here's an interesting quote about Eggers from John Homans in the 10/14 2002 issue of New York:

"When fortress Eggers is attacked . . . the Eggers faithful are mobilized, ambushes are laid, fierce countermeasures planned."

Keep in mind that this is from a pro-Eggers article. It well shows how the lit-world backs his ruthlessness. Actions during the years since show that Homans was prophetic. (Where, for instance, is Ian Spiegelman, formerly of "Page Six"?)

We have with literature today a monolith of silence and control. Those who dissent are crushed. Journalists write about a lot of junk, but thanks to the Dave, Caesar of literature, they no longer write about this. (Or did someone do a story about Daniel Handler's actions, and I missed it?)

The record isn't a good one. Corruption was exposed by the ULA throughout this decade; about questionable grants; about plagiarism and lies; and those involved in the corruption were rewarded. (There are many who actually think of Rick Moody as a victim, not a culprit.)

In a world where reality is turned on its head, will the truth ever come out? Don't bet on it. History is written first by the Imperialists. They write literary history also. I find then my bio written by my enemies! Literary Imperialists through and through unwilling to give underground writers their own voice. Oh, I know how Hannibal and Vercingtorix and Crazy Horse would've felt!

The Literary Sham

It's easy to expose the lie that the literary System rewards talent. Two words throw that thesis into the trash dumpster: John Hodgman. In reality, what's being rewarded today is anti-thought; anti-talent.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Global Clowns

Sorry to keep picking on Keith Gessen of N+1 and global warming, but I'm struck by the absurdity of someone who clings to a disproven belief.

It's like believing in the existence of real clowns. You know: clowns who are that way permanently. Born clowns.

Now, I'm as gullible as the next person, and without much thinking about it I could've accepted the existence of real clowns, red noses, floppy feet and all, in the same way I accepted global warming without much thinking about it. But one day I saw Jellyboy the Clown putting on clown paint and realized there probably weren't real clowns. The truth was in front of me. "Okay. There aren't real clowns."

Gessen by contrast would not see this. He wouldn't acknowledge what he'd witnessed himself. Much rather would he believe what he'd read in clown textbooks, or seen in clown movies. He and his journal have made a huge psychological investment in the existence of real clowns. Unsmiling, he would insist, "Yes, there are real clowns even if there don't seem to be, even if they're not here now, and when they return there will be real clowns forever!"

(Did Gessen have a traumatic childhood? Issues about Santa Claus? From where this need to believe?)

It's the same way he treats global warming. I picture him stuck in Moscow, his Lada car buried under eight feet of snow, Gessen himself frozen worse than Omar Sharif in "Dr. Zhivago," and Gessen waves his arms and shouts through chattering teeth, "Flee north! The heat is unbearable!"

Given that half the planet is frozen in as severe a winter as there's ever been, it's difficult to argue the warming issue; as difficult as it is, once you've seen greasepaint, to argue for permanent clowns.

Then again, Gessen would say-- despite the evidence-- that the issue has NOT been disproven.

"After all, how do we know?" he tells you in a rational moment. "I've read very sophisticated arguments. How do we really KNOW there aren't real clowns?"

As he says this, he holds in his hand a copy of his journal, which makes the logic of his argument irrefutable.

Blog Victories

I had a string of tactical victories here to close out 2008.
-Millionaire author Daniel Handler was revealed to be harassing this campaign through anonymous posts and dummied e-mails.
-The blackballing of this blog was inadvertantly broken when a New York Times story on a dead poet-- and the use of google-- sent hundreds of readers to Attacking the Demi-Puppets.
-The stonewalling of the Paris Review/CIA story is looking ever more ridiculous.

Can the corruption of literature stand much longer?

Stay tuned.