ULA writers are lauded globally by those who can relate to the 99% and by those who favor an open, inclusive Lit Scene. They are frequently published. They are also still blackballed by the US Lit mafia.
The ULA has been in hibernation for a few years now, but a new puffed-up book of essays was just released reprinting one of the classic (2003) hatchet jobs against us. Without proper investigation, writer Tom Bissell wrote, in "The Believer," that we were, of all things, Stalinists. ...Because we were a group, with a view, trying to help those without access or voice. We stood up for the 99% -- well before the Occupy Movement. (Why not instead give us props for that?) It was bizarre. This Ivy League reflex was astounding. The reaction against our call for openness went predictably and like this: Openness > Threat to Establishment > Fear > Hate > Unfounded Labeling > Dismissal > Silencing > Backstabbing > Erasure. The essay is brought out again in "Magic Hours" (2012) for further laffs. Unbelievably, despite the pages dedicated to hatcheting us, our work is simply *called* bad. Sorry, but that's not real criticism. Thankfully, Bissell included a few brief quotes -- those looking for fresh, original, believable writing can see from even such small snippets that we're the real deal even if a hipster doesn't recognize it. But reviewers of the book have been reviving the blackballing, describing it in yet more Newspeak, and further propagating the lie. We appreciate the NYT giving us this brief moment to defend ourselves.
Interestingly, the reprinted essay has been revised. It elevates Bissell's boss Dave Eggers more than before. Strange. Why worry about us or about the past? Ah, tidying up the record, eh? By changing it? A bit East European, no?
Why kick a group when it's down? Our main member, Steve Kostecke, editor and publisher of our journal "Slush Pile" died of Lou Gehrig's (RIP, Steve, and thanks for your zest and help). Another member, Eric "Jellyboy" Broomfield, was badly burned in a slum fire. The Recession has hit even harder against indie artists than on the general public.
The NYT previously mentioned us in a 2004 front page story, when Dave Eggers was exposed for anonymously lying about us on Amazon.com, calling us stalkers when he was, ouch!, stalking us and when we are polite and sign our work.
Years ago Eggers called for an end to rivalry in the Lit Scene. He's on top and wanted the contest frozen where it was. He clearly understands that relevance comes from the free play of ideas and art. He doesn't want this. He wants the status quo -- with him holding the bag. Rivalry can be good, it can be fun. So can inclusiveness.
The game is still in play! And ULA fans still say that US lit would be helped by including folk writing and populism. US lit is in big trouble! It's losing marketshare and relevance. It's in panic mode, in fact. eBooks are seen as a major threat. The gatekeepers are losing. Where will it end? Drama!
People forget that abstract modernism and postmodernism have political aspects. Of course, this is taught, but its application to teaching, the arts and literature -- to academia and arts marketing -- is glossed over. (Its connection to CIA funding was also glossed over until we broke the news. A couple years later the Establishment verified our noisemaking on this.) There's a reason why detail, style, tone, structure are studied to the exclusion of all else. There's a reason why content is passe' and gauche. But we're grown-ups now. Just because Commies used Social Realism doesn't mean that the real world should be shut out of art, or that everyday people should be disallowed to write in a way that the general public can appreciate and be challenged by. Just because challenging writing risks change, and those in power want to control transitions so they stay in power, doesn't mean that this arrangement will be allowed to stand.
The US Lit Scene will only benefit and improve if voices from The People are included. The classroom and marketing office are not the only pathways to success behind the easel. The writers are out there. Readers like it. It would help if more reviewers were allowed to come out in defense of folk writing.
=============================================== Jeff Potter is the ULA Director.
More info on where the ULA has been these past two years and our possible future plans will be published on this site...