Monday, December 31, 2012

The Reality Beneath

smiley face

The main problem with the McSweeney’s outfit, and with the officially approved U.S. literary scene in general, is that we the public never see the reality beneath the happy face. Are all McSweeneyites truly so happy and blank-minded?

All we see is the happy face.

There’s no human reality presented. We’re asked to believe that McSweeneysville consists of all these happy and wonderful and empty-headed people doing so many wonderful things all the time with never a trace or whispered hint or possibility, ever, of disappointment or disagreement between them, any of them, or at anything with their world which is always wonderful even the poor because they’re grateful because they’re being helped and aided to become fellow blank-minded happy people just like the wonderful folks at McSweeney’s!

But are all McSweeneyites truly happy?

Is sidekick the Ogre despite his mammoth amounts of money ever the sidekick truly happy?

Is Stephen Elliott having compromised his principles to become an earthy but still basically satisfied uncomplaining McSweeneyite truly happy?

Are second fiddles Ben and Heidi destined forever to be secondary never primary truly happy?

Are there never divides? Ever? No disagreements?

Has every one of the McSweeney’s nation been lobotomized?

Say this about the Underground Literary Alliance: We represented human disagreement. Among ourselves as well as against the entire world we were always fighting. Bitter or explosive defections from first day to last because after all we were bitter and bitterly flawed fucked-up bitterly human human beings and we represented and presented and lived bitter tough sometimes angry human reality.

With McSweeney’s all we get is the happy face.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Truth About McSweeney’s

The truth about the McSweeney’s Gang is that none of them is is very bright. Their ideas about literature are backward. Their intellectual capabilities are missing. Their best advocates, allies like Tom Bissell and Jonathan Lethem, are terrified at the prospect of engaging a smart opponent in debate. Their leaders, Dave Eggers, Heidi Julavits and Company, exist behind a smokescreen of pose and affirmation. The entire structure is bluff.

Friday, December 14, 2012

This Is Your Brain

smiley face

This is your brain on McSweeneys.

The McSweeneys Gang by King Wenclas is a satirical history and a new e-book. Look for it at Kindle or Nook.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Why Did Eggers Relocate?

This is a question touched on only briefly in my new e-novel, The McSweeneys Gang. Why did Dave Eggers move his base of operations to San Francisco from New York City?

One can speculate that there were too many uncontrollable, independent-minded journalists in NYC. Eggers couldn’t control the city’s literary scene. His history indicates that he dislikes contention, disagreement, and debate. His entire philosophy stands against the notion of literary contention and debate. His solution is either to remove himself from such possibilities, or take out such opponents as he’s able to, as he more or less did with the ULA.

But as Mohamed Morsi may be finding out, one can’t remove oneself forever from democracy and debate, except by becoming a dictator. Disagreement will eventually reawaken. It will follow Eggers even to his protected city. Ideas and freedom have ways of seeping their way in through tiny cracks of the strongest fortress. Possibly even into a monothink operation like McSweeney’s.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

What’s the Truth?

Which side tells the truth? Which side lies?

Who was telling the truth all along: the Underground Literary Alliance or McSweeney’s?

The Believer Books reprinted the Tom Bissell essay about the ULA was an affirmation of their support of the original story. They in effect said, “This is the truth.”

I have the obligation to challenge that affirmation, and I have challenged it, pointing out in numerous blog posts the essay’s deceit and fundamental dishonesty. Will the Believer people now defend the essay? Anybody? Hello?

They published the essay. I didn’t. It’s incumbent upon the McSweeney’s Gang to show their belief in intellectual debate. To prove they’re not simply a pose; a pseudo-intellectual facade, stage scenery with nothing behind it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Literary Villain #1

If Tom Bissell is a literary villain, through his public attack on downtrodden writers, it’s only as an extension of a more powerful person, someone with the will, backbone, and standing that Bissell lacks. Bissell after all is a glib and characterless opportunist; a cheap gun for hire. It’s how he behaved in constructing his attack essay on the ULA.

But who stands behind Tom Bissell? Is it the figure in the picture? Using the facade of goodness, like my fictional character Fake Face in the e-book Crime City USA, does this person use others like Tom Bissell to express the darker and more vindictive side of his own personality? No one can be all good all the time. It’s psychologically impossible. I tend to believe that the more one pushes the image of pristine goodness, as this individual does, the more, to regain balance, is the actual person pushed toward the other side. If so, this bleaker meaner side finds expression through trampling outspoken underdog voices like that of the ULA. Not unlike the good Dr. Jekyll’s alter ego Mr. Hyde.
But who is this person? This ultimate villain? This font of evil in today’s literary scene? Beware! Let the photo above serve as warning that all in today’s literary world is not as it seems.

(Stay tuned for a host of fictional literary villains in the new satirical e-novel, The McSweeneys Gang, soon to be released.)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Not Satire

Vendela #1

This is from a particularly gushy write-up about Believer editor Vendela Vida by Joshunda Sanders in the 8/27/03 San Francisco Chronicle:

“Some of the skill may come from her voracious reading habits. This summer, she started ‘War and Peace’ and made it to page 50 before she got distracted by ‘Platform’ by Michel Houellebecq—“

It’s easy to be arrogant when everyone tells you you’re great.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Latest Dave Eggers Puff Piece

See the latest "good guy" Dave Eggers presentation at the Daily Beast:

Happy Face literary media. (Will the Dave now disavow the malicious smears in Tom Bissell's Believer Books essay on the ULA?)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Keith Gessen on Dave Eggers

Here's a short interview from four years ago worth exploring.

Keith Gessen talks about the McSweeney's Gang, and mentions they believe in being nice. But the problem is they're not nice people, not really. Like so many of their kind, the McSweeney's niceness is a mask hiding their ruthlessness. Cross them and you'll find out what I'm talking about. These "nice" people suddenly become capable of many underhanded and devious things. This includes renewing a fight with the shattered remains of the Underground Literary Alliance, via the smears in the republished Tom Bissell essay on the organization.

Yes, I know I don't fit the prescriptions of the Dave Eggers manifesto of being a nice writer and not criticizing anything. Two points which need to be made.

1.) Not speaking up means enabling the ongoing corruption of literary Insiders, who game the system again and again. When Eggers has spoken on the issue of "niceness," it's been disingenuous. It's excuse making for overlooking unsavory aspects of the game. For instance, the ULA didn't criticize Rick Moody because we were "envious" of his success; nor because we thought he was "selling out" by having his novel made into a movie. We criticized him because this successful writer, spawn of the top 0.1% of American society, heir no doubt to a humongous amount of money, was applying for and receiving tax sheltered financial assistance which might better have gone to writers who actually needed it. Mr. Moody was also caught sitting on a grants panel-- he's sat on very many grants panels-- awarding taxpayer funds to his friends. Fellow "New White Guys" writers. Were we wrong for speaking up about this, Mr. Eggers? Yes? No?

2.) We made our criticisms under our own identities, in as upfront a way possible-- which is seldom seen nowadays. We paid the price for upsetting very many powerful literary people.

"No criticism" aka "Be nice to everybody" aka "Be nice to us" is an excuse for corruption and conformity.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Unintentional Comedy

Then we have this revealing interview done by website Days of Yore this past summer with Believer editor Heidi Julavits about her profound struggles becoming a writer after Dartmouth.

I like the part where Heidi talks about an American economic recession being a liberating experience. "Totally liberating." I write this on the edge of downtown Detroit, on the 19th floor of a somewhat rundown old hotel. From the window I see all kinds of "liberated" individuals, including a guy in rags and a wheelchair who sleeps-- and lives-- in the doorway of an abandoned building right down the street. All I can see right now is the bundle of rags and coverings. The man is about as liberated as you can possibly be liberated.

But it's an amusing interview. Like, her boyfriend, an aspiring businessman, was studying the Japanese sword. Okay? Like, wow.

Or the part where Heidi can't remember an incident which appears in her own, recently completed novel. Okay? No doubt she's simply absent-minded, in all connotations of the phrase. (Like, absent of mind.) I do suspect, based on the level of thought in the self-absorbed interview, that Heidi had a lot of editorial help with the book. Isn't that why the skyscraper bureaucracies of the monopolistic book giants, with their staffs of well-paid help, are so great?

Friday, November 9, 2012

About This Blog

This blog, and the ebook novel it's based on-- Crime City USA-- (available at Nook or Kindle) can be used as analogies for today's literary game, which I consider hopelessly corrupt. For at least some background on why I think that way, see this post at my chief blog:

Yes, as in "Killtown" aka Crime City, the literary world does contain a few ruthless gangs.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Dave Eggers: Not So Great

IF Dave Eggers of the McSweeney's Gang were as great a writer and person as his p.r. makes him out to be, he'd rebuke Tom Bissell for Bissell's Believer Books smear-attack essay on the Underground Literary Alliance, which is filled with inaccuracies and dishonesty. ("--lots and lots of tombstones.") He'd apologize for the essay's republication, which Eggers had to have authorized. Could Eggers truly be as nice a guy as he's portrayed?

If Eggers were so great, he'd come on here to explain or defend that essay, which came straight out of McSweeney's Headquarters on Valencia Street.

Notice one curious thing. In his entire career as a writer and publisher, Dave Eggers has endured not one tough interview. (He is, in fact, notorious for his intolerance of criticism.) If there's been one such encounter, please let me know. I can't find it. Only the usual puffy gushy puff pieces from sycophantic mock-journalists about how great he is.

In his career, from what I can find, Dave Eggers has never engaged in an open freewheeling debate, not offline or on. The great mind, the genius behind McSweeney's, has never exposed that mind to the buffets of dissent and free speech.

Why not?

Here's his chance to remedy that. To assure us of his greatness. Come onto this humble blog, Mr. Eggers, or one of my other blogs. Let readers know about the thinking behind your renewed attack on the ULA. Defend the Bissell essay. Expose yourself to free speech and free thinking.

Don't let your fans suspect the p.r. greatness is simply stage scenery.

Monday, November 5, 2012

New-Style Worker Bee

One has to hand it to the McSweeney's organization. They do things differently. For them, of course, style is everything. Pose is all. Have their office workers look hip and they'll no doubt feel hip. They're part of it! They belong. To all of it. Even customer service rep Sunra Thompson, visible in this photo from McSweeney's World HQ:

Here you have the happy worker. Appropriately McSweeney's-style cool. Glad to be there. The proper image for the proper McSweeney's-style world. No Bartleby he! Not in this day and age. Let the worker bees look relaxed and they'll be relaxed. Being relaxed means questioning nothing. (Can I ask Customer Service Rep Sunra about the Believer hatchet job on the ULA in Tom Bissell's Believer Books Magic Hours? Or would that go outside the parameters of customer service?)

Does the word Believer imply religion?

What a hip office.

This photo, this image is called McSweeney's Style. It's McSweeney's Image. Like the graphics, and the trademark McSweeney's writing style. Remember, in McSweeney's World, where everyone is happy, like the boss is happy, everything is style.

There's no cynicism in McSweeney's World, unlike this post, only be forever happy positive vibes because everyone is happy because McSweeney's says everyone is happy, because everyone who writes for or works for McSweeney's is perpetually happy. They've drunk the Kool Aid. Question nothing. Smile and be happy.

End of today's lesson.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Writing Well

"In the final analysis one still has to, um, write well." -Tom Bissell

But what's meant by writing well?

Here's an example of McSweeneyite writing from nine years ago, by Heidi Julavits, one of their main players.

Is it well written? From the viewpoint of the creative writing seminar, yes. But 95% of the public encountering it would consider it pretentious shit. Insufferable overwritten overlong pap. This is what the established literary world holds up to us as example to follow. No thanks.

The Julavits essay answers itself, when it discusses the terminal illnesses of novels and book reviewing. The explanation for literature's decline is in front of us. It's because of writing like this.
It's horrible writing, backed by shallow thought, maybe fit for an academic paper written for a professor but a criminal act to inflict on the reading public.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sneak Preview

(An excerpt from an upcoming novel.)


"Our big advantage," Rick Romeo told McGunn, "is that we know what they're up to, but they don't know that we know."

Rick walked through the huge stadium complex late evening with Ed McGunn, his top assistant, checking entrances. Also checking on various security personnel positioned about the cavernous place. Any found not alert at their station would be immediately fired. Rick tolerated no slackness. Tychon wanted it no other way.

Some of the guards, the lieutenants, had desks. Others patrolled designated areas. If one of his people wanted to slack off, they'd best be smart enough not to get caught! Stupidity was no excuse for anything.

There were three lieutenants. One of them sat in a control room watching monitors. cameras covered every corner of space outside the stadium. Within six months, they'd cover all interior areas as well, including the guard stations. The control room also. A few inside cameras were already near the main entrance.

Romeo utilized four levels of personnel to ensure security at the stadium.

First was the stadium's private force, individuals like Ed McGunn, most of them ex-military, who made a permanent presence protecting the area around-the-clock, including the off-season. Rick trained and briefed them himself. They were the core of his team. Because he'd selected them, he had great faith in these people. In his mind, they were an elite military unit. All were expected to adapt to any situation.

During games and special events, three other layers were added to the core.

1.) Off-duty cops picking up extra money by working for Rick part-time. They had experience here as part of Rick's team. They knew his expectations.

2.) On-duty police provided by the city. The reality of any municipal police force was that it worked for property. Protecting the largest investments in the city, and the most powerful, most necessary individuals, were its highest priority. It was the very reason for its existence. All else was window dressing. If the squeaky wheel gets the grease; if a mayor is maintained in power by such wheels, then police were assigned accordingly. This was the way of the world.

3.) These layers of professionals were supplemented by an army of rent-a-cops.

During games, Rick used his own force as a floating reserve, keeping them back from entrances and refreshment points, sending them in force to any quick trouble areas. Most often, to subdue and remove drunk fans or group of fans. A lock-up in the bowels of the stadium could hold scores of miscreants. The stadium company pressed charges against those who destroyed stadium property or in any way disrupted the game. Or detracted, through violence-- like fistfights-- from a harmonious fan experience.

The on-duty police at games were a reserve behind the reserve. If there was real trouble, truly strong force required, then those with the greatest authority to use force-- the most leeway at head-busting-- were brought into play.

Rick Romeo feared that one of those occasions might shortly arrive.

The police department's Gang Squad continually surfed the Net looking for word of upcoming activities. Twitter, Facebook, and the like: the Gang Squad knew most of the local players. Lately they'd picked up rumors of an upcoming demonstration at the stadium. They passed this information on to Rick Romeo and his boys.

They'd given Rick no date. He made his own guess about when the protest would take place: Fan Appreciation Day, two days after the big game against the Laser and his champions, when a great deal of media would be present at the stadium, for the usual meaningless kind of filler story loved by TV, radio, and newspapers alike. Hell, put Bobo anywhere publicly and the media would be there, like sharks reacting to a thrown piece of meat.

Protesting on game day would be insanity, unless you wished to provoke 60,000 drunked-up fanatic football fans. Then even Rick's layers of security couldn't save the dissidents. If they wanted to save them.

No, on Fan Appreciation Day, held on a weekday when many people were working, there'd be a more modest number of fans stopping by. Most of those would be families. Kids, retirees-- and media.

Rick had an idea about the instigator of the demonstration, indirectly or directly: Lara Vox. She was trouble. Her voice stirred up people. She liked to say provocative things, to get the tired and distracted masses thinking. She'd gotten Rick thinking! He'd listened to her show a few times, in part because he was able to match a face with that spectacular voice. Her performance at the press conference had provoked his curiosity.

Trouble, trouble, trouble. She could stir up anybody. The body of troublemakers who were already out there in this city, looking for excuses and opportunity, were putty for that voice. Silly putty. If he were still on the force he'd call her in for questioning.

"If this protest is for real," McGunn said, "I say we bust heads if they try anything."

"If it comes to that," Rick said. "We're a step ahead of them, and we'll stay a step ahead."

"Chaos versus order," McGunn said, putting a couple sticks of chewing gum into his mouth. "That's the tension throughout the society. Now more than ever. The stadium is an island, a bulwark in an ocean of disorder, one of a couple that keep the city operating. Patches of Bondo and new paint on a rusted-out car body. We're surrounded by hordes of poor and homeless people. We see them every day, some of them anyway, Sheila and company. Beggars. Pigeons we chase away. Add to the mix the armies of anarchists on the west side. We're here to keep the barbarians away from the gates."

McGunn saw the world strictly in black and white. His version of good guys and bad guys.

Rick considered the homeless. If not exactly homeless, many living in rundown dwellings without heat, though enough of them on the street. The Sheilas of the city they encountered here were only the more ambitious of them. One thought a severe winter or two wiped out their number, but every year there were always more of them, ever more.

"The capabilities of anarchists increase swiftly, no doubt," Rick responded. "But capabilities increase on both sides. Social media allows rebels to organize and act at fast speed. But when they do, they stick their necks out. Social media enables us to monitor their locations and their behavior. Intelligence agencies monitor key targets thoroughly. In totality. Every corner, every fact of this planet is covered by satellite surveillance. Yes, the other side has their hacking activities. The larger agencies like the FBI, DIA, NSA, are flush with money. They're buying up right now all the hacker talent around, to bring the best computer people to our side.

"Insurgents plot holes in the curtain of security. Those goofs on the west side are doing that to us, Mac, right now. Photographing this area. While our cameras are photographing their photographers. It's crazy."

They walked along, Rick caught up in his vision of nets and networks. McGunn continued gum chewing. They paused near the main entrance. A video screen above showed the two men talking.

"The universe is multi-dimensional, sure. Very complex. It's not as material as scientists used to think. There are holes in it."

Rick smiled before continuing.

"Jesus jumped through one of the holes," he said.

Mac grinned and shook his head. "Here we go. The altar boy!" McGunn exclaimed.

He sometimes referred to Rick that way because of Rick's clean looks more than for any other reason. McGunn by contrast was a more rough-hewn sort, "a ploughhorse, not a thoroughbred," Mac always said. Rick saw his friend more as a big, friendly-but-tough dog, like a Golden Lab.

What would McGunn think if he knew that Rick Romeo had once studied to be a priest?

"Your contacts and cameras have information on them, sure," Mac said. "But not enough of it. What good are close-ups and face-scanning if they never come to the games? We couldn't even catch that radio chick before she showed up. The anarchists aren't dummies. Bums, but not dummies. They're insurgents. Like insurgents anyplace, they won't play our game. They've gone to ground. Ever see any of them? Squatters in squalor. Most of them live completely disconnected from the system to start with. They're as likely to go on-line as pick up a bar of soap!"

"Completely disconnected," Rick said sarcastically.

Unwillingly, the image of a hippie-looking meek and mild Jesus from his Roman Catholic upbringing popped into Rick's head.

"You're a cocky guy," McGunn said, pointing his finger at his youthful boss. "It's how you climbed so quickly to become Tychon's chief boy. He loves cockiness. You're so confident that you believe you can do anything. I know you. Give you enough software, computers and cameras, and you'll herd the revolutionaries into one playpen and it'll all be easy. But it won't be easy, Rick,"

If Rick was an altar boy, McGunn was full-blown apocalyptic.

"Flash mobs, London riots, Occupiers, Tea Parties-- the masses are rumbling. Any great civilization is one step removed from barbarism, which is where we stand right now. The breakdown of order. Civilization on the verge of collapse. Power is an illusion."

McGunn snapped his fingers.

"When it happens, it happens quickly. Nobody expected the Soviet Union to collapse. You were still a kid. I remember it clearly. The Evil Empire. Bang. Gone. Down the drain. Yin-yang. Strength is weakness. Just like sports-- extend yourself too far in one direction and you create vulnerabilities. Interception. Touchdown. Boom. Bang. There are more holes in your universe, Rick, than you realize."

McGunn took a shooter's stance and sighted an imaginary pistol on imaginary bad guys outside the doors.

"Still," Rick said. "We have more brains, and way more resources. I'd bet on our side."

The city had a fast-moving police force, well-trained. This wasn't Cairo Egypt. If dissent wasn't backed by a segment of the political establishment it'd never get to that point.

But Rick admitted there was thought on the other side. McGunn was a necessary pessimist, a test of Rick's thinking. Rick thought of Lara Vox. She'd beaten him once. McGunn wasn't 100% wrong.

"Bet on us, Rick, only if we put them down quickly. You've been overseas. You know. Order or chaos. That's the choice. There's no halfway."