WE’VE BEEN THINKING a lot of late about games and strategy. About what we’re doing right and the literary mainstream is doing wrong– or more often, the size of the obstacle they represent and what we’re doing imperfectly in hoping to compete with them. In such discussions, the strategy of chess comes to mind.
AT PRESENT we’re behaving like a tentative chess player pushing pawns forward, hoping to find or create an opening– which, if one ever appears, we’ll need to jump through with all forces, talents, words, and arguments at our disposal.
WHICH BRINGS US TO our new featured story, “I May Have Been a Chess World Champion” by talented international writer Eva Ferry. It’s ostensibly about chess and chess players, but it’s about more than that. A metaphor for– ? The story carries the atmosphere of a spy novel. It evokes the feeling of hopelessness, dread, expectation and fear which engulfs the culture now, perhaps the entire world. But it’s only about chess. Or is it?
The men in the Centre were saggy, they were not handsome by anyone’s standards. But the beauty of their effort, their perfect commitment was real.
I wanted to be real too. That’s why I told the man from upstairs that I would be going to the tournament, even if that was the last thing I did in my life.
Speaking of terrific writers and writing, at the All-Time American Writers Tournament there’s a new Appreciation, this one by Robin Wyatt Dunn about Gene Wolfe. What strong writing looks like. Only 437 words but it’s dynamite.
Painting: “The Chess Player” by Frederich August Moritz Retzsch.
THERE HAVE BEEN examples of pop culture rescuing a nation’s morale. In this country, scarcely a month after the John F. Kennedy assassination came the British Invasion spearheaded by the Beatles– an example of escape from trauma offered by ART. Simultaneously, home grown pop music exploded with the “Sound of Young America” emerging from Motown. The joy didn’t last long– but left as legacy the best pop music ever recorded.
AT THE MOMENT American morale is in the toilet. Glum expressions from Debbie Downers everywhere. “Woe is us!” proclaims the intellectual class on Left and Right. As if the quixotic project called the American Dream Machine were over. To quote (name-drop alert) George Plimpton on the one occasion I met him: “Nonsense!”
If some believe the American experiment is over, with perhaps more perspective from the beaten-down streets of Detroit we see this moment as opportunity for a pop culture explosion.
WHY NOT pop literature? The last time writers were at the center of pop culture was the 1920’s– ironically, a decade that was a huge influence on the Beatles. The “fun-at-all-costs” attitude of the Fitzgeralds’ Jazz Age morphed into early 60’s fun music that rocked the world.
Change will come from literature only if new writers present stronger attitudes, unbeatable confidence and more exciting art. Along with a dollop of pure fun.
If we’re dynamic, there exists as antagonist and obstacle the moldy and static– the artistically inbred Manhattan monolith. We’ve been covering at our News blog the publishing Overdogs who run a phony puppet show known as the National Book Awards. Follow our coverage.
There’s also the ongoing All-Time American Writers Tournament. More to happen there as well, soon. Stay tuned.
(Painting: “Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire” by Russell Patterson.)
MONSTERS AND GOBLINS are products of the imagination. Reflections of our irrational minds.
What happens in an electronic world which overstimulates the brain to ever-higher levels of panic and hysteria? When media infiltrates our every waking and sleeping thought?
THESE QUESTIONS and others are raised in D.C. Miller’s intense, pop-tinged speculative novel, Dracula Rules the World and Mark Zuckerberg Is His Son. With his permission we’re able to present, in time for the mad pagan holiday of Halloween, five excerpts from the book.
Are the monsters inside us– or outside in the world?
Caught in the same chain of spaces, back and forth, between my apartment and the office, always facing a screen, as if I was trying to outstare it, it had gradually become unclear when I was inside the headset and when I was outside it.
(Painting: “Vampire” by Edvard Munch.)
OUR TASK at New Pop Lit is to find and present the best new writers. We don’t know what fiction in the future will look like– only that it shouldn’t resemble the acceptable fiction of now. Ideally, it should be more unorthodox, more creative, more real.
If our newest feature story is a guide, young writers are accomplishing those goals. A.K. Riddle‘s “The Professor” is an example of writing not yet constrained, handcuffed and put into a box. It shows as well the rare ability to put oneself into the head of another person.
The story, about a middle-aged and somewhat burned-out teacher at a prep school, is also entertaining– the first objective of any work. We hope you like it!
The Professor looks like a resurrected and plastic surgeried John Lennon. The Professor has a dog named after his ex-girlfriend, Layla. But his wife thought their pooch was named after the Eric Clapton song. The Professor is married but doesn’t wear anything on his left hand except for a black friendship bracelet, if that counts.
ALSO: Stay up on the All-Time American Writers Tournament. An announcement of more entrants is coming soon.
(Artwork: “The Miller” by Juan Gris.)
THERE’S NO DOUBT this is the decade of the woman writer. The majority of students in writing programs today are women. The majority of writers self-publishing via zines and ebooks are women. Of the National Book Foundation’s recent “5 Under 35” award selections, all five are women.
Far be it for New Pop Lit to neglect a trend. We’ll be presenting several talented writers in coming weeks who just happen to be women. We’re not being politically correct. We just go for the best.
First up is internationally-published writer Julie Parks with “Bigger Lies”— a stark urban tale about a boy with scams and dreams in Latvia.
In keeping with this week’s theme, at the All-Time American Writers Tournament we have a short essay about a renowned woman writer: “The Mary Gaitskill Problem.”
If you’re not keeping up with New Pop Lit, you’re not keeping up.
(Paintings: “Woman with Black Cravat” by Modigliani; Self Portrait by Marie-Denise Villers.)
Poetry in outer space,
poetry is every place!
Poetry is hip and cool
(Apologies to Dr. Seuss.)
WE MISSED National Poetry Day– likely one of those Hallmark-created holidays anyway. We’re making up for it by turning our site temporarily over to poets and poetry.
FIRST is this week’s feature, “Black Water and Other Poems” by renowned Ohio poet Robert Beveridge.
The departure began
at a Dave Smith reading
as I poured alcohol
and peroxide down
the podium to kill
the beer worms.
NEXT are the latest selections for the All-Time American Writers Tournament. ALL POETS!! Find out who they are here.
We ALSO recently posted a missive from a mysterious activist character at the Tournament named “Cherry Bomb”– which just happens to be in the form of a poem.
(If we’re not having occasional fun– then what’s the point?)
Pop it, punch it, make it snap
Poetry is where it’s at! 🙂
We like stories!
We like stories which are unpredictable in plot, point-of-view, and theme– such as our new feature, “Churchgoing in New England” by Richard Greenhorn. We’re on a quest for new kinds of stories– those outside the customary in ideas and viewpoint.
What should any short story accomplish?
The tale should convey knowledge and experience; emotion and meaning. It should carry the reader along then finish with surprise, insight, or impact. Something. See if this story fulfills those requirements.
One-time department stores and groceries had been replaced by specialty winter supply shops, novelty bookstores, a few adult boutiques, and an over-priced Leftist drinking establishment called The People’s Pub. On the town commons across the street were the placards and banners left over from this morning’s protest. . .
ALSO: Stay up-to-date with the All-Time American Writers Tournament.
(Painting: “A New England Town” by Middleton Manigault.)
(Featured painting: “Festival” by Daniel Celentano c/o Smithsonian.)
We’re not just an alternative to an embalmed establishment literary scene that’s artistically frozen in time. We’re the alternative to the alternatives. We offer the only possible way to unite antagonists on all sides to revive the literary art. We believe in the need for uniquely American literature– art which helps define and give voice to this land and people. We reject fragmented culture– the constant cultural warfare which those highly placed above the fray seem to want.
We present instead to readers and writers our banner of POP!
A populist ethos is one aspect– not the only aspect– of pop literature. Pop Lit!
As evidence of our dedication to American lit we’re presenting the All-Time American Writers Tournament. Latest happening there is the #4 Seeds announcement. Upcoming are profiles of J.D. Salinger, Misty Copeland(?), Mary Gaitskill, Ayn Rand, Henry Miller, Saul Bellow-versus-Herman Wouk, and many more of our literature-and-culture’s brightest stars. Plus official choices for #5 Seeds.
We also believe in giving you news about the literary world. Stories and scandals which no one else in literature today will touch. The newest post at our News blog is “The Lit Scene Now,” — first part of a revealing analysis of the literary business, examining current players and real motivations. Not to be missed!
Pop lit is alive and well!
(Painting: “Locomotive, Jersey City” by Reginald Marsh c/o Smithsonian.)
Storms have been in the news of late. As such, they’re the theme of the moment at New Pop Lit.
First, we feature a subtly emotional short story from one of the best story writers in America, Anne Leigh Parrish. The story is “Shelter.” Its underlying motifs are refuge and authenticity.
Cara’s truck bumped up the road, the rain in the headlights so thick it looked like snow. Drake was at the wheel. He insisted on driving. She was no good at it, he said, not on a road like this. Plus, the transmission was going. Hadn’t she said she was going to get it fixed?
We’ve just nominated a previous story of Anne’s “Picture This,” for the Best of the Net 2017 anthology, along with other work. See our nominations at our News blog.
For other storms, at least stormy personalities, check out the four most recent selections at the All-Time American Writers Tournament. Volatile personalities. Volatile art. Examples of the energy of which American literature can occasionally generate.
We’re out to capture, create, and showcase similar literary energy. Keep following us!
(Painting: “Storm in the Mountain” by Albert Bierstadt.)
What makes a good short story?
Conciseness, crisis, atmosphere, character– along with insight on human nature and the world. Above all the tale must be compulsively readable. Our new feature story “The Little Prince” by Brian Eckert embodies all of this. A thunderstorm and a curse– can the self-possessed “prince” get out of his dilemma?
Really what Greg wanted was to be left alone, to his devices—and as he got older, his vices. His aloofness was what others found distasteful about him. There was a mark of royalty on a man who preferred to be alone. Others felt diminished in his presence.
Also keep up-to-date on our exclusive coverage of the All-Time American Writers Tournament! #4 bracket seedings coming soon.
(Painting: “Starry Night Over the Rhone” by Vincent Van Gogh.)