While contemplating the booktrade.info page yesterday -- something that I do daily, and recommend -- I noticed that, in the essential links box, the GOB is still listed in the number 2 spot, just below Everyone Who's Anyone and above a few amateurish web sites such as Publishers Weekly and Amazon. Which is as it should be. But then I noticed that Galleycat is still at number 3, and since I hadn't read Galleycat recently, I went to take a look.
It turns out, as far as I can deduce, that Galleycat is in the middle of some sort of flame war with an outfit called ULA. I emphasise that all is conjecture here, because this is a foreign language to me, but Galleycat seems to have linked to a site called Hot From My Pockets, which is, if I've got this straight, a parody of ULA output. And someone objects to her doing that.
Now I was somewhat handicapped here, see, on account of I don't know who or what ULA are. I know, I know, it's pathetic really. I am so out of date it is barely credible, but that's the way it is when you get old. You struggle to remember what day of the week it is. Anyway, to find out more about ULA I went to Google.
Let's see now. Universidad de Los Andes? No, that doesn't seem very likely. Ultralight Adventure Equipment? Hardly. Utah Library Association? Ah, now that's a bit warmer. And, at last, Underground Literary Alliance. I guess that's it.
You will have to read this stuff yourself to verify my best guesses, but it looks as if ULA dates back to at least 2000. It describes itself as 'the most controversial writers group in America. We stand up for writers, expose corruption in the publishing world, and work to create a fun & exciting alternative to the literary mainstream.'
Well, that sounds all right. In fact their manifesto, at first glance, appears to contain a lot of stuff that I agree with. They argue that literature has become elitist, which I think I accept, depending on definitions; that style has become primary and convoluted; and that the literary establishment is corrupt to the core. As a consequence of these beliefs, the members of ULA renounce, among other things, 'the muddled style of contemporary literature, and bear witness that we will speak in clear voices, unfettered by "cleverness" and intellectual gobbledygook.' All of which sounds good to me.
There is a whole list of members, none of whom I've ever heard of, but that's neither here nor there. And there is a ULA blog which publishes stuff by ULA members. I haven't yet had time to read much of it, but my immediate reaction is that I don't like the typefaces used. I have a theory, which I have mentioned from time to time, that readers are sensitive to fonts, layout, and page design, to a far greater extent than is generally recognised.
Anyway, there it is. Somewhere along the line the ULA has pissed off somebody big-time, and he she or yt (I'm reading Ian McDonald) has decided to set up Hot from my Pockets. And Galleycat, who did no more, it seems, than point to Hot Pocket's existence, gets dung flung at her as a consequence.
It's a hard life being a blogger.
Mind you, Galleycat does end with reference to her 'long-held theory that the ULA is not a literary rebellion, but a very long, intricate piece of Andy Kaufman-inspired /Dadaist /Duchampian performance art, albeit with intentions no more lofty than your kid brother's on a long family car trip -- i.e., to annoy the shit out of you, or anyone else unlucky enough to be in its audience.' So you can see how she might have upset someone. Writers are terribly sensitive flowers, easily bruised.
Anyway, it's clearly all far too subtle for me. I think I will go out and cut the grass, which is about the only thing that Mrs GOB trusts me to do out there.
Thursday, May 12, 2005
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Dear Mr Allen--
I too have long (about eleven months) held the belief that the Underground Literary Alliance is the equivalent of Andy Kaufman's wrestling phase. Some of the members I know by name from the old DIY days in San Francisco, others remain shrouded in mystery. There's some talk that Hunter Thompson, before he died, was a member of the ULA in some minor capacity, but this is not likely. While I enjoy reading about their antics and, like you, agree with a good deal of their manifesto, their own collected works tend to be too hokey to truly enjoy. Moreover, reading about them in other people's blogs also cuts into my precious writing time but it's as damn additive as a drug. Which strangely enough makes the ULA's assaults on Literature a little counterproductive...
PublishedInNewYork.com: "Beating Our Tiny Fists on the Big Hairy Chest of the Corporate Literary World"
Some myths about the ULA:
1. Myth: The ULA is full of uneducated cavemen.
Actually, some of us are "uneducated" in that we don't have degrees, but a few of us have PhDs and Masters, and alot seem to have a bachelor degree.
Whether or not someone is educated we believe has nothing to do with them as writers. Hemingway and Faulkner were "uneducated." We judge writers based on their writing.
2. Myth 2: The ULA is a joke, a laughing stock.
If we were then we would not have the cultural impact upon the lit world that we are having as well as the cropping up of dissent like Foetry and many blogs that are much more prevalent after the founding of the ULA in 2000.
We laugh at ourselves alot, and adopt nutty nicknames so that we don't take ourselves to seriously.
3. Myth 3: The ULA hates M.F.A. students.
No we don't. We do not like the constraints of the M.F.A. system, and we point out that the M.F.A. degree itself is useful to less than 1% of graduates.
We also do not like the artistic conformity that comes along with the workshop method of learning.
Some of our members have M.F.A. degrees.
Those are a few myths I wanted to disabuse you of, and I encourage you to visit our site because the ULA is growing faster than we can really keep up with, and in the end, we are not going away.
Director of Research
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