February 17, 2003

Berman v. ULA cont.

As of right now, it looks as if wenclas has backed down.

>From: "Karl Wenclas"
>Reply-To: "Karl Wenclas"
>To: dcbermam
>Subject: ULA
>Date: Sun, 16 Feb
>Dear David,
> Thanks for your e-mail. ("Relevance.") It's written from your own point of view, not from mine. Open City, McSweeney's, Fence, aren't the ULA's "enemy," but they're hardly on the same side as zinesters like the ULA, and they make good representatives of the literary elite. For starters, they're backed by big money; Open City by the Rob Bingham fortune, as you know. Their staffs, and most, if not all, of the writers they publish comprise the young literary elite: prep school brats mainly; most Ivy League grads from the breeding ground of this nation's establishment leaders. Ben Greenman works for the New Yorker, flagship of the literary elite. All have published Rick Moody. As I'm sure you're aware, most of the writers chosen to be included for these journals aren't found through the slush pile, but through friendships, contacts, networking. (I was in an early issue of Open City myself, by request.) Dave Eggers has published a host of corporate/NY Times/New Yorker-backed writers; Moody, Minot, Klam, many others--many of the same greedy people gobbling up government grant money. The ULA showed at their celebratory party merely to observe and ask questions, to start a dialogue. We never even raised our voices at the event. These "alternative" magazines (alternative to what?) were forming an alliance among themselves, without a thought of outreach to true underground/alternative writers and publications. A consolidation of the trust funders, one could call it. We saw this as yet another example of the most privileged in society (by any standard, family background; education, etc. these folks are among the nation's top few percent) associating with and aiding themselves, to the exclusion of everyone else.

That was the point I may have unsuccessfully made about Housing Works's Darcy in the short, quick piece I put on our site about that evening; being able to pose as a great benefactor of the underprivileged, and relieving one's conscience is as old fashioned as prerevolutionary France, when the real solution is solving the vast inequities in society--in education, say--that exist in her own city, between herself and the average person riding the subway, say; or the abysmal state of health care that doesn't look out for many Aids victims or many sick of all kinds in this great wealthy country, and so makes it necessary for a proper prim stuck-up snob like Darcy to have to throw crumbs to them. (Darcy is merely an adequate representative for that entire clueless class.) Will these be some of the things we can discuss if we do a joint presentation? (Let me address your suggestion in another e-mail.)


a second email from wenclas to berman

From: "Karl Wenclas"
>Reply-To: "Karl Wenclas"
>To: dcberman
>Subject: More ULA
>Date: Sun, 16 Feb
>Regarding your suggestion of a joint show on the topic of relevance in writing, you'd then have to read something that fits the category. If you're prepared to do that, it shows you're moving in our aesthetic direction, and for that I'm grateful. You mention a venue of ours. Right now I haven't been able to put on all the events I've wanted because I'm just too busy. I've been involved with some of this anti-war stuff, with the nuts and bolts of helping to run the ULA (membership stuff, mail, distroing our zines), and with my day job. I'm supposed to be part of a reading in NYC in March for some people, maybe part of a zine conference a week later, and have been trying to set up a show of our (ULA) own. Most ULAers are equally busy. (And I'm sure you are as well.)

The question would be when and where to do this (and who will promote it) as well as who'll represent the ULA. On details: I'm not sure I could get a ULAer to paint his/her face. One of our main writers, Steve Kostecke, is in Korea. Michael Jackman lives in Detroit and might be available. Polling the audience? As you know, results of such depend on the audience, and would vary greatly depending on whether the event was in working class Detroit, say (where the ULA did a recent show) or in New York City. I was considering an event in Athens Georgia. That would be neutral territory. Rather than polling (look at the ridiculous results of polling about the war--again, it depends upon the audience) let both sides do write-ups of the event, or have an objective journalist or two in tow to do same. You say you're a poet. We've just brought a couple poets into the ULA--will be among our next crop of new members to be announced. One of them puts on shows here in Philly. I don't know if he'd be willing, but having you square off against him might be a possibility worth considering, and would give you a shot in the "relevance" category. (I'd want more ULAers on any card than just the person reading against you; that could be the main event, with a few readers leading up to it.) Anyway, these are my thoughts and difficulties on the matter. Let me know what you think.
> Regards,

berman's response


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


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