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

The truth about the U.S. political system over the past 25 years is that presidential choices have narrowed down to an ongoing contest between two elite schools, Harvard and Yale. If Vladimir Putin wishes to stop being an amateur at rigging a political system, he should study how system-rigging is done in the United States.

Here are the recent winners of the U.S. Presidency:

1988: Yale (beating Harvard).
1992: Yale.
1996: Yale.
2000: Yale/Harvard.
2004: Yale/Harvard.
2008: 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

ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW about the U.S. monopoly media is that it gave more coverage to the death and funeral of Kim Jong Il, than to the death and funeral of one of the great men of the Twentieth Century, Vaclav Havel.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Peasant Audience

"Everybody hates a tourist." -Pulp, from their song "Common People"

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

Yes, the latest Blitz Review has been posted at

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?

The New Yorker magazine has a long article by David Remnick in the current issue which argues the need for democracy in Russia. I'd like to ask David Remnick the question: 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?!

For fiction with commitment read the ebook Mood Detroit.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Life Imitating Art

Speaking of Newsweek, they have an interesting article by Nancy Collins on the Natalie Wood case being reopened. Simultaneously, I happen to be reading for the first time Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, one of the great novels that I'd somehow never gotten to.

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

Speaking of which-- how all the celebrities anymore come from the top 1%-- Newsweek approvingly calls them "Celebrity Spawn"-- quite a curiosity that of all the many young actresses who could've been chosen for the in-demand movie role of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," the progeny of billionaires, Rooney Mara (combining two multibucks families) got the role? That's the world we live in now.

(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

Just another rich guy.

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:

"Firecracker Awards
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."

Urban Dictionary:
"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

At Blitz Book Review I'm pitting the literary story against the pop story, reviewing collections of both by, respectively, David Means and Alysse Aallyn.

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

Crony Literastas


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

IN A MEETING with a foreign ambassador just before the start of World War II, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin analyzed the British Empire, marvelling at how a small island had established a world empire on bluff. He gave as example the few hundred Englishmen dominating the vast subcontinent of India.

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?

Yes, it's that time of year again. Deluged everywhere we turn by awful Christmas music, especially awful singing, we ask, who's the absolute worst?

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

An important blog post of mine, outlining my ideas, is now right here:

Occupy Photos Update

Yes, I will be posting photos from that particular Occupy Philly Deadline Sunday when a lot was happening.

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

The writers group that wanted to replace the Underground Literary Alliance, that was founded in early 2007 by five former ULAers, asked for no commitment and received no commitment. When it finally asked for something from its 900(!) signed-up clicked-on members, the entire thing, the would-be organization, simply melted away, like the witch at the end of "Wizard of Oz."

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

"Eight Reasons People Write" is one of the things I wrote at another blog, during the period when I was unable to get onto this one. Check it out at

Monday, December 05, 2011

Sara Gran Reviewed!

Detective novelist Sara Gran is reviewed at Blitz Book Review,  

as are novelists Jim Nisbet and Rikki Ducornet.

How do their recent books rate? Check it out!

Programming Note

I've been having trouble posting on this blog at most of the places I post at. (My other blogs are fine.) It has something to do with browser issues between Google and Explorer, and how they affect older blogs. Fighting conglomerates? I hope to discover ways around this.