Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Populist or Elitist?

The DIY zine scene, from which the Underground Literary Alliance was spawned, was by its nature populist literature. That’s to say, not imposed by mandarins from above, but a grass roots movement. As Jeff Potter calls it, folk art. Folk literature.

The robed defenders of elitist literature were the most intent on shutting out the ULA. But in so doing they were shutting out the world.

When Tom Bissell used the slur, “lots and lots of tombstones,” he may have been more prophetic than he intended. The tombstones won’t be for people, but instead for the relics of dead art. Elitist literary writing has been a near-corpse in a coma for decades, kept on life support by universities and nonprofits, unable to connect with the American populace, and so, an inauthentic representation of American culture.

Establishment literature has been a decayed and tottering castle waiting to be toppled. Now the approaching hordes of ebooks appear certain to accomplish the feat. Stale elitism won’t survive.

The only question is what style of new American literature will rise from the rubble?

The Underground Literary Alliance has always been the vanguard.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Newsweek: Why Is Print Dying?

Newsweek magazine has announced that it will no longer publish a print version of the magazine, effective at the end of the year.

The cause of this is not JUST that many readers are getting their information now from mobile devices. It’s attributable also to the insularity of the magazines themselves.

Tina Brown, for instance, is the best of her narrow class and viewpoint. But what does this upper class Brit know about the American populace? Do people here really want to read yet another article by or about Martin Amis?

The big New York magazines are dying because their staffs come from a tiny, elitist circle of viewpoint and opinion—Ivy Leaguers, for the most part. Elitists by training or birth for virtually all of them. Cronyism is the one law in their world. In this field, anyway, cronyism no longer works.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Simple Pop

Sunday morning I was listening on the radio to one of those Beatles breakfast shows you can find in nearly every town. I was struck, as I’m always struck, by the pure simplicity of some of their tunes, like “I Need You” from the “Help!” lp. (One of their best albums.) They were able, with the simplest form, to be striking, romantic, and evocative. You can sense the Britishness, the setting and sensibility of the piece. There’s an understated beat along with subtle touches of the guitar and a scant few other instruments. How did they do it?

The task of the new pop writer is to devise tales completely transparent and simple, yet which are evocative of time and place, of the world, and deep emotion. Make the difficult look easy. Do that and you’ll conquer the literary world.