Sunday, August 26, 2007

A no-brainer ...

... Some questions do indeed Answer Themselves. I haven't read it in decades, but it seems to me that in The Soul of Man Under Socialism Oscar Wilde makes some similar points. (Just glancing over it again, it is interesting to see how sharp a thinker Wilde could be. Of course, his "socialism" is really anarchism.)


  1. But what is the soul of the writer under your system of credentials and institutions which have turned education into a factory and literature into an unthinking machine? As I've said on my blog, the young anarchist in this town known as Jelly Boy the Clown is a freer thinker and better writer than your hoop-jumping credential-accummulating proteges at your dying newspaper.
    The only writers today who come at all close to approaching Wilde's cooperative vision are in the Underground Literary Alliance.
    That's the plain truth.

  2. Hey, it ain't my system of credentials and institutions. I didn't go to J-school and I got to where I am the hard way: I started as a clerk.
    This insider-outsider dichotomy is largely bull. Anybody can sit on the sidelines and bitch all day. Just as anyone can sit on the inside and pontificate all day. In the meantime, real people, whether inside or outside, do their work as best they can.

  3. Sitting on the sidelines?
    But we're creating our own books and marketing them, with all the risk, financial and otherwise, this entails. What could be more IN the maelstrom of literature?
    Ideas, like those of Wilde, should be lived, not just talked about. We the writers in my group are living our ideas. In that context, who's on the sidelines, and who is not?
    The Insider/Outsider dichotomy wasn't created by me, but one can hardly say it doesn't exist.
    If it doesn't exist in the literary world, why then are so many thousands of writers investing very large sums of money to obtain degress whose value is illusory; which have not been shown to aid in artistic greatness, and if anything likely hinder it?
    These people must know or believe something you and I don't.
    In fact the entire system of literature is based on an Insider/Outsider distinction. One can look at the career history of writers like Liam Rector to see exactly how thisworks-- who gets the grant money, access to publication, publicity backing for that publication. Indeed, also the question of which books are reviewed and which aren't. (The questions for instance of why the "Dishwasher" book, by a former zeen writer, published by a huge conglomerate, received such lavish attention-- or why Savage Detectives received not one but two feature articles in your paper-- while books published in your own city by a cooperative Wilde-style writers group received none. I guess we just haven't been polite enough.)
    In the closed-minded lit world of today, these are questions that are seldom brought up, and frowned upon when they are.
    It's the task of anyone investing time and money into a field-- any field, including literature-- to study that field assiduously to understand how it works, and who the players are; and what are its strengths and what are its weaknesses. To fail to do this, to "just write," would be nonsensical. The ULA made the conscious effort to approach the literary world as Outsiders based on the realization that more than most writers we are Outsiders; outside the bureaucracies, certifications, and moldy premises of what's accepted as mainstream literature. By embracing that Outsider status-- alienation not just from literature but from aspects of the larger society itself-- we turn weakness into a strength.
    One thing I know-- and you should know as a student of history: Those who prevail in circumstances are those with the strongest ideology, the most unshakeable belief in themselves. It's how Cortez and a handful of men toppled Montezuma's great empire. From the moment the ULA was founded I've encountered uncertainty and weakness from those who would defend the staus quo. It's a tottering system-- those inside it best know this. It's why the ULA has never lost a debate and never will lose one. Our trend is up. The trend-line for established literature is down.
    Mere talk? We'll compare notes again in two years. We have some exciting projects on the drawing board. . . .

  4. Well, King, I certainly agree about spending all that money to learn to write - which usually ends up meaning you write the same stuff a bunch of other people have already written.