The Unknown: The Red Line.

The Unknown FBI Files: Summary of Findings

Released through the Freedom of Information Act

It had been reported to our agency through an informant that a writing group known as “Unknown” were engaged in subversive activity, meant to undermine the American literary establishment. Agents of the FBI, in cooperation with members of the MLA, undertook a two-year operation designed to infiltrate and expose their operation.

It is in the interests of America that fiction writers continue to write in a style emulating John Updike, producing “kitchen sink” fiction in which Americans are revealed to have drinking problems, and to speak in meaningless, clipped phrases.

The Unknown, as our investigation revealed, do indeed have a drinking problem, but their tendency to write unrealistic dialogue in which fictional characters speak, and indeed seem to experience the world in complete sentences, appears to compose a serious threat. This fact was of great concern to the participating agencies, particularly the MLA, in whose interests it is to maintain the dominance of fiction critics over fiction writers in academic discourse.

Indeed, one of the things that marks these writers is their intolerance for critics. They despise critics. Not theorists, whom they admire deeply, but the sort of writer who makes their mark doing hack work for online encyclopedias or writing smug book reviews. Like “parasitic fish clinging to the flanks of whales” (quoth Rettberg), critics write irritating ripostes to elaborate works, and thus hope to see their name in print (or, more likely) on the monitor close to the names of those artists they secretly admire, and thus trash, in 1000 words or less and, paid a measely pittance, they then consider themselves “professional” writers. The Unknown made their way the hard way: by making the art they believed in whether or not anybody would publish it or pay them, and their resentment toward those who rode their coattails by pointing out the obvious fact that writers producing their own work at their own expense lacked some of the amenities (such as paid proofreaders) that spoiled professional authors took for granted. As Gillespie wrote in private correspondence to Stratton: “Give them a sophisticated graphical interface, and they bemoan the death of text. Give them good writing, and suddenly they want it to do fucking hat tricks when you move your mouse over it.” While such a hatred of reviewers is not unusual on the surface, the devil is in the details.

Following are the results of our investigation.

William Gillespie

William Gillespie, as our investigation concluded, poses no serious threat to American letters.

Gillespie’s low general morals, however, are without question. Seven national hotel chains have put Gillespie on their central blacklists for numerous infractions, notably the combustion and inhalation of tobacco in rooms designated as “non-smoking.” In-room audio surveillance files have captured Gillespie saying, “Smoking in a non-smoking room is like marrying a virgin.”

There is also abundant evidence that Gillespie is overly fond of a group of subversive French writers known as the OooooLaLaPoop [translation uncertain]. Aside from Lafayette, it is well known that the French, despite their putative status as our allies, are in fact desperately opposed to virtually everything we cherish as Americans. Their writers are no exception to this rule. Besides, they write in a foreign language which makes it difficult for us to understand what they’re up to. This concerns us. Tentative translations of some of this OooooLaLaPoop-style writing proved to be so unintelligible, we are convinced some complicated code or cipher is probably being used. Still, we can’t imagine they pose a threat given that the French rarely bathe, thus making a sneak attack unlikely.

Scott Rettberg

Scott Rettberg, to the best of our knowledge, refuses to admit doubt and seldom speaks in indirect terms. Suspected to be behind several assasination plots, national and international. There are three known contracts out on his life including one put out by operatives of the National Rifle Association, Mothers Against Textual Pornography, and followers of his co-author, Dirk Stratton, including the late actors Martin Sheen and Daniel Day Lewis. An expert at propagating misinformation, Mr. Rettberg wears a variety of disguises and is not deft physically. The subject is reportedly quite clumsy, and has suffered a string of comical if not serious head injuries, nonetheless he is still prone to spin puns, many of which are not at all humorous. Not much of a threat to American letters, this one.

Still, surveillance and phone taps should be maintained for the time being. The possibility remains that Rettberg has merely been purposely playing the buffoon to throw us off the scent.

Dirk Stratton

Dirk Stratton, finally, may be a serious threat to the state of American poetry, and it is our conclusion that he should be eliminated. We have been succesful in blocking him from getting a professional job, but he continues to write sparse Zen poetry, the sheer intensity of which may possibly unseat the dominant paradigm of American poetry, instituted by this agency in the late 1940s.

It is not the purpose of this report to detail the conclusions regarding Stratton: the problem has been transfered to a different agency which it is also not the purpose of this report to name. Regardless. As long as the lines of Stratton continue to be read by professional poetry scholars at a university level, our control over academic American poetry remains compromised.


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The Unknown at Spineless Books.