Friday, December 27, 2013

What the ULA Lacked

The defunct Underground Literary Alliance lacked the cohesion and discipline necessary to take down the tottering tower of mediocrity that represents today the literary world. Only if we’d been a tight, unstoppable unit—as we were in our early days—would we have had a chance of success.

The literary system has discipline. That’s what it’s about, from the winnowing process of MFA programs on up. The objective is to fulfill the system’s bureaucratic requirements. This it does ably.

Those who rise through the process, like Jonathan Franzen and Dave Eggers, are utterly ruthless bastards. That’s the reality. Anyone who works within a bureaucracy, or has worked within them, well knows this.

The creation of art is a secondary consideration. It’s the public justification for the machinations and maneuverings of those within the process. The true goal is producing apparatchiks loyal to the system, and to the system’s art. Conformity, from step one in a writing class, to the endpoint of bureaucratic position or lauded author, is the rule. No dissension and certainly no rebellion allowed.

The U.S. literary system today IS the Soviet Union, IS the Evil Empire. Understand this and you understand it all.

I see it as middle stage Soviet Union. Most apparatchiks still believe in their edifice of power. They’re blind enough, brainwashed enough, to continue to praise the shallow and mediocre works produced. More cracks will need to appear, more corruption pointed out—mirrors held up—and yes, also a valid alternate put in place—before anyone of them would dare flee, mentally and physically, the security of what’s already there. The cold safety of enveloping stone walls.

Do the major players really believe in their art? Do any of them have enough real intelligence not to? Does any one of them have the cynicism of a Stalin, to recognize that the stated ideals are fluff and nonsense; that ruthlessness is all?

I’ve previously identified Franzen as a Sholokhov type. Is there a Molotov? (Likely hundreds of them.) A Khrushchev?

Speculating about the tower of literary power can be amusing, if not fun.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Why Is Literary Rebellion Needed?

The established literary scene is moribund but doesn’t realize it’s moribund. Its biggest flaw is its own insularity, cause of its complacency. The healthiest event which could happen to it is to be shaken up—challenged.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Intelligentsia

Here are a few revealing tweets from one of New York’s leading (pseudo) intellectuals, Keith Gessen, editor of n+1 magazine:

Keith Gessen@keithgessen 15 Jul
Truly sad thing is that Zimmerman is not uniquely villainous, as prosecution claimed (and we have too). Just a standard-issue suburban male.

Harvardite Gessen would have to explain what he means here by “standard-issue suburban man.” Zimmerman’s “suburb” was working class, a diverse, multi-racial community. Zimmerman himself of course is bi-racial. 

Keith Gessen@keithgessen 15 Jul
 @tetzelny Right. It does seem that the prosecution based its case on Zimmerman being on top. He wasn't but it doesn't matter.

Doesn’t matter? In some sense it doesn’t matter to Keith Gessen whether or not George Zimmerman is guilty, or what really happened. The script has been written, the accepted narrative set down. Keith Gessen is nothing if not a loyal follower of the accepted script. Think for himself? Try to find the truth of the matter? It’s clearly not what being an “intellectual” today is about.

 Keith Gessen@keithgessen 15 Jul
Is following someone at night in a threatening manner illegal? I don't know. But it should be!

Standard knee-jerk reaction. Something happen you don’t like? Pass a law! That’ll solve it. What does “in a threatening manner” mean? Could the proposed law be abused? Needless to say, the consequences and unintended consequences are never considered.

This is what today’s NY intelligentsia looks like. They view the world in a distorted manner. What they’re most adept at is creating distorted narratives. Their main imperative is to stay in step with the politically-correct crowd. Once a matter has been decided, no one questions it. The herd mindset at work.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Detectors Clanging Wildly

Ernest Hemingway sought to be part of a bullshit-free generation. With postmodern writers like Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace we get nothing but. I’ve shown that with some writers today, every line they write is bullshit. They’re not representative of their generation, of course, only of a corrupt and decadent establishment literary scene.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Is The New Yorker Undemocratic?


Every time I glance at the background of a New Yorker staffer or writer, I find a graduate of the Ivy League. Harvard, Yale, and Columbia mainly, with a smattering of grads from other elite schools like Oxford and Stanford.

What percentage of The New Yorker’s staff consists of those from unrepresentative, ultra-privileged universities?

These persons and institutions claim to be democratic, they aggressively portray themselves as liberal and progressive, but their structures, their entire careers and lives, are undemocratic, even anti-democratic.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

At The New Yorker


I notice that on February 14, The New Yorker magazine held a discussion, moderated by Amy Davidson, and including a panel of “experts,” on the subject of “Ethics and Drone Warfare.”

Think about that for a minute, because the very title of the subject is revealing. It allows the possibility that drone warfare could somehow, in their moral universe, be “ethical.”

Sell drones to us as a necessity for our survival. BUT, there is nothing remotely ethical about them. It’s an aspect of American Empire. There’s also something about them uniquely cowardly. They’re immoral. Neither do they achieve for the United States any moral benefit in the military sense of the word moral, which is akin to morale. Or: what kind of p.r. do they give us? Curiously, it was Obama who was going to change our image in the world.

(Were the atomic bombs dropped on Japan necessary? Possibly. Ethical? Were they not in fact a barbarous act, an instance of utter inhumanity?)

Which brings us to another question. All these staff people at The New Yorker suddenly showing questions about the Obama administration three months ago were giving him their slavish support. There’s likely not a person in the entire New Yorker building who didn’t vote for the man. It likely never occurred to any of them that there was any other choice.

After all, the argument goes: Mitt Romney would’ve been worse. We thus get a sense how the political game is played. Forget any talk about the Republican Party vanishing. They’re a necessity. They exist with the Democrats in a symbiotic relationship, because the existence of one justifies the behavior of the other. Any behavior. “Romney would’ve been worse,” the Amy Davidsons of mainstream media can argue—which justifies on the part of the Democrats in particular, and good liberals generally, anything. ANYTHING.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

What David Berman Said

When the ULA (Underground Literary Alliance) was fighting the literary establishment ten years ago, they didn’t know how to handle us. They couldn’t handle our credibility, our honesty, and the strength of our arguments. They were so badly losing on every point in the intellectual debate, they’d grasp at any occasion when it seemed one of their number scored a point.

Such was it with my e-mail exchange with David Berman, which Thomas Beller spotlighted in his 12/13/12 “River of Berman” essay for Tablet magazine. Like every other status quo writer discussing the ULA, Thomas Beller gives a false presentation.

In his essay, Beller quotes from part of this email from David Berman to me:

 “Look King, if you're going to be so civil about this then
disregard my first letter. I thought you were hot-headed
assholes looking for a fight. I got more projects than I can
handle now but I was willing to drop them all
for a good old fashion ass-kicking contest, not some fancy
symposium with wine and cheese. Obviously I'm talking to the
wrong guy. Who's the head asshole over there?

Tell him to call me,

David Berman”

Thomas Beller considers this dealing with the ULA “gracefully and usefully.”

There’s not a gram of honesty in Berman’s remark, and it has little connection with anything I said. Berman is being intentionally snarky, that’s all. He’s not serious about the “relevance read-off” he’d proposed and he’d never been serious about it. His retort is more on the order of a small child running up, yelling a putdown then quickly running away.  For some reason, Beller and others were impressed by Berman’s remark—given out of context. It was one out of a series of exchanges I had with him. The end result was that David Berman backed out of the read-off, though we proposed a number of venues. We, in fact, had a “Relevance Read-off” anyway a few months later, without David Berman, in Chicago—though we would’ve included him or anyone from Open City right up to the last minute.

Why does Thomas Beller admire this behavior? There’s nothing admirable in it. Berman challenged the ULA, on behalf of Beller’s mag Open City—then he never followed through on it. So what was the point? It exposed THEM as frauds, not us.  Here, by the way, is David Berman’s initial email to me on the topic. Note that it’s semi-coherent and disingenuous. Graceful? Useful? I wonder why Thomas Beller doesn’t reprint this email?

“My name's David Berman, I wrote a book of poems for open city
and heard about you folks from Joanna Yas. I've checked out
your website and agree with a lot of what I see. Moody sucks
and he's rich and its a crime he got a grant. McSweeneys is
fueled by a lot of arrogant nerds (who i count as a more
insidious demographic than standard issue elitists) and open
city published too much euro trash. Yet, i really believe these
people are not the enemy. they actually publish blind
submissions. Its the fusty old journals who wont give a young
writer an even break. i stopped submitting along time ago to
paris review etc. because i cant stand rejection. So i offer
you a challenge. you have seven guys or so on your committee.
select your best writer and i will read against him at your
venue. i will represent open city and paint my face our team
colors your guy paints his face your team colors. after the
reading we will pass out a ballot to the audience they will
vote for which reader fulfills your criteria for good writing.
It will be based on YOUR CRITERIA so you start out with an
advantage. how about it?

sincerely david berman”

Saturday, February 2, 2013

More McSweeney’s Brainwashing

Here’s an interesting quote from a writer named Gladstone, found at the Comedy Conglomerate’s blog:

“It took me a long time to learn the McSweeneys voice and I definitely had to conform to their mindset to get published consistently there. That is a magazine’s right, but yes, I found it limiting. And I don’t know if it’s true, but I was afraid to write too much for McSweeney’s for fear it would mess up my voice.”

Conform, people. Conform! It’s a subject I cover in The McSweeneys Gang, my newest ebook.

Thomas Beller Joins Ranks of Anti-ULA Smear Artists

NEWSFLASH: Thomas Beller has called King Wenclas, former head of Underground Literary Alliance, "a maniac" in Tablet Magazine. Reaction:

A smear, a slur, a libelous label, called a maniac by Mr. Beller of Mr. Beller's Neighborhood. Not such a nice guy after all.

I'm informed that ULA still has photo of Mr. Beller attacking ULA at Housing Works, which contradicts Beller's mischaracterization of the incident.

Mr. Beller: Let's discuss this.

(The incident is discussed in the new ebook novel, The McSweeneys Gang by King Wenclas, available at Nook or Kindle.)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Tom Bissell Master Class of Propaganda

You could teach a course on the slants and distortions, the misrepresentations and falsehoods, the sheer dishonesty, of his essay about the ULA.

Part of the class would be analyzing the gullibility of readers. Why do they believe it? Why do they refuse to allow into their brains evidence to the contrary?

It’s because, with the established hierarchical literary scene, we’ve entered an area of faith. Those like Johannes Lichtman who’ve paid for high-priced degrees have paid for their own indoctrination. They’ve invested heavily, financially and emotionally, in the status quo system, and the products and standards of same. Their style of writing is better because it is. It has to be.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

How Do You Spell "Phony"?

Interesting interview Dave Eggers did with The Guardian.

I like this quote from him: "The financial system, the banks, the venture capitalists-- these players don't have use for a guy like Alan."

But they do for Dave Eggers! He 's buddied up with such people intensively-- has made certain to access "the financial system" to keep the many parts of his empire operating.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Quiz Question

Johannes Lichtman says he was paid $25 for his hit piece on the Underground Literary Alliance.

How much did the Eggman pay Tom Bissell for his hit piece on us?

A.) $25.
B.) $5.
C.) $2.50.
D.) Bissell paid Eggers $25 for the honor of writing it.

Get your guesses in now.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Brainwashed

One of the complaints from one of the reviewers I took to task is that the ULA portrayed its antagonists as blindly conformist sheep. Yet what else do you call it when writers like Tom Bissell and Maria Bustillos chain themselves to a dead art that nobody wants?

They cling to their affirmation that they “write well,” which distinguishes them from the DIY bottom feeders of the ULA, who do not in their estimation “write well.” “In the end, you have to write well,” Tom Bissell smugly tells us.

But what does that mean? Does it mean connecting with readers other than the indoctrinated? No! Of course not.

Tom Bissell has a certain touchy-feely glibness, and knows how to construct an artful takedown by being thoroughly dishonest, but the truth is that this appointed expert of letters, this “great” writer (per fellow apparatchik Hillary Frey) doesn’t write well. His writing, like all literary writing, has scant originality, little energy, and no pace. Most of Bissell’s essays in his recent book are unreadable. The ULA essay may indeed be the best of the lot. It’s a concoction of distortions from top to bottom.

Think I’m wrong? Listen to Tom Bissell interviewed by Ed Champion at “The Bat Segundo Show.” Dull speaking to dullest:

The interview is agonizingly slow—just like a “literary” prose tome. The conversation proceeds like the progress of a pet turtle across a tabletop, filled with significant pauses of weighty self-importance as the two struggle audibly to put together credible thoughts. Hear how difficult they have it. “What do I say now?”  they seem to be thinking. It’s terrible radio. A sports radio host like J.T. the Brick would’ve yelled “Time!” after a minute.

Listen to the two, Ed and Tom, with their dawdled pronouncements, and realize they’re intellectually stunted. The talk is confined within narrow lines—though it includes, against the Underground Literary Alliance, a profusion of falsehoods and slurs.

We see this in Bissell’s pre-election Yahoo News! articles also: Bissell’s indoctrinated stereotypes. The only way he’s capable of seeing the world: through the narrow restrictions of acceptable thought already laid down for him.

This includes Tom Bissell’s notions about writing, which he brought to his look at a writing scene he was congenitally unable to understand. Or unwilling to understand.

Bissell appears effective with his takedowns because there’s no opposition present. He’s like a boxer punching a padded bag, with no one hitting back. It’s been the way of the literary world; how it’s maintained itself. The only thing the literary establishment has going for it is its monopoly on print media access. Reviewers and critics are as indoctrinated as the writers. It’s all the same crowd. A rigged game. Maybe it’s always been a rigged game, so that a Dwight MacDonald could beat up a great novelist like James Gould Cozzens because Cozzens wasn’t able to fight back. One side only is retained and presented. The result is a warped truth, as warped as what Bissell did to the Underground Literary Alliance. But truth is the least of the established literary world’s concern.

If you make it that far in the Ed and Tom interview—if you can endure the dullness—note when the two slogs speculate about the fate of the ULA. What happened to those guys? They don’t have an idea.

Social context? The severe recession raging for half of America outside the doors of their studio? Reality? Nowhere to be found.

A more perfect example of bubble writers removed from their own place and time couldn’t be given. Their irrelevance is palpable. It hovers like a rancid smell over the stagnant interview.

Oh well. That’s the literary world now.


The previous post here, about someone obsessing over another blog of mine, has been taken down. The info there is being kept "in house."

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Hysteria of Franzen and Eggers

The established literary scene is so insular and weak, a handful of protests by a broke band of underground writers caused panic among some of American literature’s biggest and most powerful names. See this piece at one of my other blogs:

Like an elephant panicked by a mouse, they hysterically tried to stomp us out of existence. Strangely enough, they’re still trying.

Friday, January 18, 2013

A New Kind of Dave Eggers Contest

This blog is pleased to announce a new kind of Dave Eggers contest:


In honor of the McSweeney's Smiley Face.


Most gushy ass-eating tweet referring to Dave Eggers in the most glowing terms possible wins the contest. Contest ends when the judges can take no more insipid McSweeneyite lobotomized awestruck apple-polishing brown-nosing.


The ability to purchase the new satirical ebook novel The McSweeneys Gang by King Wenclas for 99 cents at Nook or Kindle.


One Attaboy! or Attagirl!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Culture of Lies

There will be a LOT, LOT LOT LOT LOT more to say about the decrepit state of literary journalism now that we’re finding out about the decrepit-but-relatively-healthy-compared-to-lit state of sports journalism.

Think about the two big sports stories right now.

1.) The fake Manti Te’o girlfriend story.

2.) The Lance Armstrong-as-good-guy fake story.

The same kind of thing goes on in the established literary scene, albeit on a smaller level. But take a look at it.

We have Believer Books last year republishing an essay by Tom Bissell which is essentially a fake. His research was nonexistent or shoddy. His use of sources was questionable. No—not questionable. He abused his sources, as I’ve been showing at in black and white.

Meanwhile, literary “journalists” like Garth Risk Hallberg and Maria Bustillos have raved about the fakery. Hallberg hailed Tom Bissell as a new kind of journalist. Well, he is that, I guess.

It’s not as if lit writers shouldn’t know that Tom Bissell is a dishonest writer. He was involved in questionable literary activity some years ago—yet the literary scene covered up for him and backed him.

When do we ever encounter honesty? A commitment to honesty? (Then there are other gullible writers like Johannes Lichtman of Oxford American who apparently believe in the Easter Bunny. He’s refused to read a word about the Bissell essay contrary to his prefabricated belief.)

AT THE SAME TIME as dishonest essayist Tom Bissell is on the scene (his dishonesty able to be shown in black and white), another dishonest character is on the scene. Namely, untouchable good guy Dave Eggers, whose public persona as good guy is fake. People must know this, but, um, no one wants or dares to say.

We now know that Lance Armstrong is a mean guy who tried to put out of business and destroy those who criticized him. This is the same kind of behavior engaged in by Dave Eggers and friends (see Daniel Handler) viz-a-viz the whistle blowers of the Underground Literary Alliance.

Hey, guys, isn’t this a good time to come clean? Look in the mirror and acknowledge the truth in what I’m saying.

This also should be a wake-up call to literary writers and “journalists” like Garth Risk Hallberg, Maria Bustillos, and Johannes Lichtman to stop believing in the Tom Bissell Easter Bunny and do some real investigating.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Is Dave Eggers Lit's Lance Armstrong?

There are a few parallels. Both have done many great charitable things. Both also, by all reports, behind the scenes can be quite mean.

Eggers has effectively bullied the entire literary scene. Is there a single journalist anywhere who’ll look into his personality or his operations? Most busy themselves writing abject puff pieces, dealing with the surface face only. But that’s not what real journalism is about—which should be, getting the real story.

The real story is what you never get from literature today. It’s all fake.

(Read the great e-novels Crime City USA and The McSweeneys Gang, fast-paced new fiction done in a non-“literary” pop style.)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Your Choice



The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus. $25.95.
Pseudo-intellectual, slow, literary. Why did you waste the time? Not entertaining. Reading as duty. Unexciting. Domesticated domestic byplay. Ultimately, boring.


The McSweeneys Gang by King Wenclas. 99 cents.
Fun, fast-moving, satirical. Occasionally over-the-top. An intelligent critique of the lit-world today.


Thursday, January 10, 2013


Dave Eggers is many things. Above all, he’s a master propagandist—so subtle and astute that a Goebbels would be envious. The bad side of the man—there is a bad side—is well hidden. Instead: constant photos of “Der Fuehrer”  with dogs and children. Blindly obedient McSweeneyites wait to scream whatever is the McSweeney’s version of “Seig Heil!”

I’m exaggerating, but not much.

(Tom Bissell likewise is a master propagandist—examine some of his Yahoo News pieces—which is why he was an apt choice as anti-ULA hatchet man.)

Examine the 826 projects across the country, which are nothing so much as part of a massive p.r. campaign designed to portray Eggers and his gang in the best possible light. Oh yeah, good is done. At the same time, every step of the programs are accompanied by blaring announcements. No one is allowed to miss the fact that the Dave is doing widespread good. (His novels about Third World types were similarly designed to present Eggers in a positive and liberal light.)

Nonstop positive publicity, across the country. Endless good will developed with journalists and reporters who love these kind of stories. Best of all, with others paying for it! The fundraising aspect is the true genius, because it allows Eggers to credibly network with the most powerful Big Money people in the country, establishing relationships with high-ups at places like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft—the controllers of contemporary dissemination of media. This can only have, down the road, for the McSweeney’s empire, positive effects.