January 27, 2006

The other fake writer and the fake literary critics

Remember our old pals at the Underground Literary Alliance? The whiney losers (is that un-snobbish enough for you?) who dragooned me into a stupid non-debate over some author I'd never heard of last year. Well, they weighed in James Frey and J.T. Leroy, and guess what? Unlike all the sophisticated literary elites, they were too REAL to have been taken in by that crap.

Of course, we in the ULA always knew there was something fishy about these two... the evident means of Frey didn’t square with our experiences with desperation, poverty, addiction and ending up on the wrong side of the law... Rather it seemed to collaborate with the clueless upper-class reader’s erotic fantasies... When a couple of well-fed musicians start claiming to be an exploited child prostitute with gender issues, but have none of the class anger and resentment that would go along with that, we in the ULA recognize that all is not right. Somebody is putting us on... When the son of an executive, a liberal arts school student, a fraternity brother, a khaki-wearing rich kid claims to have been a ruthless criminal and opponent of authority, we figure that, at best, he’s a poseur... The saddest lesson to take away from this story is that the panjandrums of publishing are so out of touch with the lower classes, so distant from the culture of the losers of our economic system, they would never know how to read a real down-and-outer, let alone trust them to tell their story. And so they’re easy prey for these frauds, these people who do a class version of blackface.

The amazing thing? This essay was published one year ago — well before Leroy and Frey were exposed! Ha ha, no of course it wasn't. It was published last week. Oh, sure, they knew the truth from the start, but it was too obvious to even mention back then, or maybe they didn't want to embarrass anybody, because they're so considerate that way.

But why bring this up? Because for all its bluster, the ULA itself was recently snared by a worse literary con artist, and it's now apparently trying to erase the evidence.

The con man is Tim Barrus, a middle-class writer of gay erotica who reinvented himself as a poor Navajo father named Nasdijj in a series of bestselling memoirs — a far more explicit and insidious version of blackface than Frey or LeRoy. The con was exposed this week by Matthew Fleischer in a tremendous LA Weekly article that's worth the read even if you've never heard of Nasdijj, as I hadn't.

Halfway through the article is a URL for a speech written by Nasdijj in which he rails against Jews and white bitches in the publishing industry. Nasdijj hates the publishing industry almost as much as the ULA. And indeed, as my buddy Kevin Shay noticed, the URL is for a page on the ULA site. And it's dead. (Though it's cached here.)

Ordinary linkrot? Doubtful. It's the only dead link in the entire archive for the ULA's "Monday Report Box" (For now it's still listed in that index: "6/28/04: PEN Award Winner Lashes Out!") Now of course the ULA didn't do anything more than cut and paste this speech from another site, but still, you have to ask why their sharp instincts didn't pick up the con. Surely it couldn't have anything to do with the fact that Nasdijj's line of bullshit was one they wanted to hear. I guess it's a hopeful sign that they took down the page. At least it means they're capable of shame.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


completely off topic, but I saw this and was reminded of you: http://www.slate.com/id/2134938/

No mention of Berkner's non-singing charms. Thoughts?


Yep, completely off topic alright.

Another middle-class guy masquerading as a down-and-out author who won accolades from naive editors and publishers:

Hollywood screenwriter Dan James aka chicano teenager "Danny Santiago"

John Gregory Dunne wrote about the hoax in NY Review of Books in 1984.

PURE PHONINESS are the attempts of demi-puppet lit-bloggers from Radosh to Rants to discredit the ULA over the Nasdijj matter. Why the hostility?

One year ago you folks castigated me for not being objective (I'd never claimed to be; the ULA's campaign is intentionally polemical) about questions of Tom Bissell's HARPER'S plagiarism. The nine examples I gave, however, were VERY objective. They speak for themselves-- go back to my blog www.kingwenclas.blogspot.com January 2005 and read them, on into Feb '05 when I discuss another example of HARPER'S plagiarism. Read the entire debate. Funny how the "objective" lit-bloggers got their shots in on their blogs then cut off debate. The impression given about the truth of the matter was misleading. The demi-puppet lit-bloggers know this and are embarrassed by it. Otherwise, why the hysteria over anything having to do with the ULA?
(Radosh's arguments were typically constipated sophistry, leaning on the legalistic case-- as any good apparatchik would think-- and not on whether Bissell had the other guy's book right in front of him as he composed his essay, which obviously he did.)
What of their objectivity now, over Nasdijj's tenuous connection to the ULA?
If they were at all fair-minded (they're not, merely suck-ups to the corporate-institutional literature which has failed our society); if they'd read the e-mail Nasdijj sent to the ULA and to others about his misdeeds, they'd realize there are many sides to the story.
As in everything, especially in a society cleaving into two halves of rich and poor, context is important. We had the context of Bissell and Harper's at the top of the literary food chain-- Bissell embedded among the most privileged writers in this country-- and we have the context of the position within this corrupt civilization of the writers of the ULA.
Overwhelmed by the resources and connections of our adversaries 10,000 to 1, we nevertheless strive for truth and honesty. They meanwhile know only the values of the Machine. Like all bureaucrats or trained stooges their opinions and arguments are determined by what best can keep the machine operating. Unspoken directions are sent out to its armies of servile flunkies: That a group of outspoken outsider voices would dare question and oppose the machine means we must be destroyed.
Yes, there are so many fakes in the lit world that it's difficult even for the Underground Literary Alliance to keep track of them. Nevertheless we stay true to our principles and will continue to publicly speak out against corruption and fakery.
Keep trying to steamroll us-- you discredit yourselves. Despite your efforts, the ULA remains.
Thanks. Have a good day.

Is it just me, or does he sound eerily like one of those pissed off Huckapoo fans?

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