Pale Blue Auto-Mobile
You need no ticket to make a place for yourself here where humor, black and otherwise, comes to you from the stage where the human comedy itself is being played, its performance trumping the things dark and tragic and found in the world of literature.
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
In "Reason to Vomit" over at his Demi-Puppets blog King Wenclas made a good point about privilege vs authenticity.

My take here at Pale Blue Auto-Mobile:

I’ve got The Outlaw Bible of American Literature in front of me right now and it is filled with writers, who, if still around, would be firmly in the Underground Literary Alliance's camp.

The book is pub’ed by Thunder’s Mouth Press, which sounds pretty indie and DIY, right? Whoops, it’s “An Imprint Of Avalon Publishing Group” which is itself…well, you do the Googling. (They call themselves indie, but can any publisher that includes Carroll & Graf as an imprint really claim that with a straight face?)

From Kerouac to Acker to Lester Bangs the book is filled with outsiders, Beats and marginalized writers, who in their lifetimes were spit on by the establishment. Now dead, they’ve been co-opted. (Oh, and Dave Eggers is also in the book. Now there’s a real outlaw! Huh?)

It’s ridiculous that Moody, perhaps the ultimate insider, has bothered to paint himself as a literary outsider in his intro to the small press directory King considers. The reason why he does it is the better to get those who appreciate outsider/transgressive lit to buy the stuff he and his friends churn out.

One of the best things the ULA ever did was protest the HOWL reading at Columbia this past spring. The nabobs’ event was typical of how establishment publishers want to silence real outsider writers as they honor one of their heroes and then put them all back in the darkest corners of libraries and bookstores while they and their publishing machines glut the market with what they have told an all-too-ready-to-believe public is authentic literature.

I’m not naïve: I know that the Beats worked to make themselves a brand. I’ve been reading “Family Business” which contains correspondence between Ginsberg and his father Louis, also a poet, though of the old school. The way he shares in Allen’s excitement as he makes his name while changing the landscape of American poetry and lit at the time (even as he disagrees with some of his son’s choices) is a great example of how two opposed forces can work together to the personal benefit of both, as well as that of the world.

The Moodies of the world seem to want to work with no one but the other Moodies. I choose not to be a clone and am perfectly happy to be on the outside. If I get co-opted after I become worm food, so be it. I just want it to be on the record that when the patronage awards were handed out I was trying to tell the truth about the tangled pay-as-you-go mess that American lit has become.
You're right, it WAS characteristic of Ginsberg to have an eye on his place--and the place of the Beats--in the literary firmament, though the definition he had of what they were opposing was a little different from that of most underground poets today. Ginsberg, after all, counted Pound and Williams as his legitimate antecedents. The enemy, to Ginsberg--the Establishment that needed to be overthrown in poetry and everywhere else in culture--were the dull and the complacent, those whose minds worked along oppressively conventional lines. Ginzy wanted to depose the middle brow academics and dilettante (if that's how you spell it) poetry readers who couldn't deal with technical innovation or the wild visions of Pound and William Blake.

Kerouac, of course, had no real interest in changing people's minds, and no really clear sense of what he was opposing (if anything). Just a vague understanding that there was a looser, freer way of life than the one that Time magazine was offering. He chided Ginsberg on at least one occasion for trying to convince the world of the legitimacy of the Beat Generation's ideas and approach. And consequently, perhaps, Jack is still hated by most critics and academics (at least in England), while Ginsberg has almost become respectable...
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