Form and the Short Story

Pop Lit Fiction

CRAFTING STORIES

In the new year we will begin a project aimed at revamping the short story. A feat which won’t happen overnight and which will consist of much focus on how stories are created and constructed. We’re based in metro Detroit and view the short story the way an automotive engineer looks at a car.

THE QUESTION: How can stories be improved? Changed? Rearranged?

FORM
A large part of the creation of any art is form. The routes taken of theme and plot, be it linear, circular, or other. Where does the tale begin? At which destination does the reader eventually arrive? What conclusion is drawn, revelation made, emotions aroused? When examining the short story, as a reader, writer, or critic, (or editor!) there’s much to think about.

TODAY we present as our feature a brilliant tale set amid the glamorous-but-deadly streets of historic Granada in Spain. A story which is also a model of form. “Ballad of the Virgin Pain” by Justin Fenech.

AN APT way we believe to wrap up our features of 2018– setting the stage (we hope) for an array of glamorous and exciting presentations to come.

When he went back inside the instruments of torture, big and small, seemed to take on a life of their own; the room swirled violently around him, the instruments seemed to be moving, no, he was moving, he caught glimpses of the rack, the torture chair, the executioner’s black hood, the skeleton broken on the wheel. . . .

Joaquín_Sorolla_Alhambra,_hall of the ambassadors(1909)

(Art: “Night Scene from the Inquisition” by Franciso Goya; “Hall of the Ambassadors, Alhambra” by Joaquin Sorolla.)

Advertisements

The Art of Literary Performance

Feature

WE SOMETIMES FORGET that literature began as a spoken art. Stories, epic poems, mythic tales– passed down in taverns or around campfires for millennia. Even Shakespeare, greatest writer of them all, was as much a spoken word actor as scribbling writer. Historians who’ve examined documents signed by the actual man have wondered how literate English literature’s biggest name actually was.

He was a performer! Reciting verse from a stage. Reveling in the joys of sounds, of language.

ALL of which means we plan to give increased attention to the spoken aspect of the literary art in the coming year. As preview we offer an amazing story told by high school student Fran-Claire Kinney at our Open Mic feature, “A Series of Sharp Cracks in Succession.” Amazing in that the short piece is powerful yet at the same time, concise. Reveling in its brevity, if you will. It’s worth a listen.

AS you do that, we’ll lay plans for other projects involving the human voice. Perhaps a Challenge of some sort– though we’re so practiced at public performance, even the recorded variety, no one may pick up the gauntlet when thrown. Stay tuned.

(Painting: “The Duel After the Masquerade” by Jean-Leon Gerome.)

Gourmet Poetry

Poetry

CONNOISSEUR’S POEMS?

WE’VE BEEN DISCUSSING in another forum the idea of creating aesthetic effects. Memorable tweaks which make the literary meal, be it prose or poetry, a tastier experience.

Exemplifying this are Two Poems by Joyce Wheatley, which caught our attention because of the vividness of their images. One poem is about– or appears to be at the outset– a dinner. The other, about a turtle!

Experience them yourself, and see what you think.

Mud, slime and mold
patched over its dome,
Full-covered its back,
A pagoda shell home;

Traveling tools
Below jutted out,
Dull-pointed talons,
Weapons no doubt,

picasso pot wineglass and book
****

(First painting “Glass on Table” by Georges Braque; second painting “Pot, Wineglass, and Book” by Pablo Picasso.)

 

Fiction Reinvention

Pop Lit Fiction
REVAMPING THE SHORT STORY ART

WHY do we illustrate this post with the famous painting of Gertrude Stein by Pablo Picasso?

BECAUSE with her innovative writing style, Gertrude Stein kicked off one of those period attempts to reinvent writing. This effort had its greatest effect via Stein protege Ernest Hemingway, whose collection of short fiction, In Our Time, at the time revolutionized the short story art.

There is always a push-pull where the short story is concerned. Creators and innovators like Hemingway (or Gordon Lish and his minimalist friends Raymond Carver and Susan Minot in the 1980’s and 90’s) attempt to breathe new life into the form– only to see their efforts counteracted by the stodgy mindset represented by prestigious Iowa-style writing programs and The New Yorker magazine– which some would say are the same thing.

WE at New Pop Lit would like to kick off a round of short fiction innovation. Toward that end we are doing two things:

1.)  Beginning what we call The Short Story Process— a creative procedure through which we hope to arrive at the promised land of a reinvented art.

2.) Spotlighting new writers whose work in subject or style colors outside the lines of the artistically acceptable, the bourgeois, the already done. Toward that end we present a new story, “Ain’t Worth a Dollar,” by Atticus Davis, who writes under the name Savage Ckhild, a handle that may say it all.

She’s sitting in the car with her hair tied up, I forget how beautiful she is, I always think I’m going to be immune to her, to them—so she smiles this unblemished smile, that lasts one second before it collapses into this miserable, needy, fearful smile. I feel guilty for being here. 

 

Fiction: Cycles of Art

Pop Lit Fiction

REAL FICTION– real art– asks more questions than it answers. It becomes an alternate universe we enter to confront experience, and our own ideas, beliefs, and doubts.

SO IS IT with our newest feature, “Real Propaganda” by Christopher S. Bell, which raises questions about the recycling of gestures and stances from the rock music era.

IS there yet authenticity to be found in this scene– genuine artistic emotion? Or are bands and fans alike merely going through the motions– walking like artistic survivors through a landscape of cultural aftermath?

Read the story to find out.

“We all know what that first album is, why they made it, and why it still sounds so fucking good even to this day. It’s not hard to figure out; you just plug in and let it wash over you– “

bleach_a_side_label

(Featured art: “Mandolin and Guitar” by Pablo Picasso.)

 

A Beat Revival?

book review, Poetry

NEO-BEAT IN BOOKS AND POETRY

beat-generation-jack-kerouac

Cool, daddy-o. Like, wowsville, man. Dig it. Can the lip and cast an eyebrow at this.

THE LAST literary movement to become a phenomenon in the general culture, at least here in America, was the Beat movement created and popularized by Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg,  Gregory Corso and many other luminaries. The movement, the look, the sound, the slang, became mythicized and satirized in movies, magazines, and television programs. It influenced a host of artistic people, including Bob Dylan and the Beatles. In addition to their own literary works, the Beats and their milieu became subplots in novels from mainstream authors– see Alison Lurie’s chronicle of California in the early Sixties, The Nowhere City. Not to mention usual suspects like Joan Didion and Norman Mailer.

IT’S STILL WITH US! As a current of authentic English-language culture, the Beat sensibility never left. It played a strong role in the zine scene of the 1990’s when the print underground was alive and all young writers striving for reality were self-publishing, free thinking and doing free form living.

Which brings us to our review of a new collection of the best underground writing NOW, Howls From the Underground: An Anthology from Screamin’ Skull Press. To know what’s taking place beneath the monolithic towers of the conglomerates you must read the review then purchase the anthology.

SIMULTANEOUSLY we present here new beat vibes from neo-Beat U.K. poet beat56. Get the bongos and fall in.

Full of codeine and dreams and poems
the poet soon finds that the world has not

blossomed yet and his flowers and ambrosia blooms
like a beautiful sunrise. . . .

Later!

beatnik***

Fiction: The American Scene

Pop Lit Fiction

ABOUT AMERICAN CULTURE

IS there an American culture distinct from other cultures? Apart? Unique?

WHAT would be traditional aspects of that culture?

One hallmark of American culture for sure is American-style football, around which much energy is expended every week, every fall, at several levels– pro, college, and high school. A sport of unique speed and strategy, accompanied by uniquely American color and noise.

The smell of autumn. Homecoming. Marching bands. Cheerleaders. Local rivalries. The Prom. The Big Game.

As we’re currently into football season, New Pop Lit this week presents a short story, “The Austin Strangler” by Nick Gallup, which perfectly captures that milieu, along with everything right and harmonious in partaking of tradition, romance, and games.

He was definitely intrigued and bolted outside. He saw a Carolina-blue ‘55 T-Bird with the top down. That was beautiful, but what was inside was even more beautiful, a girl he’d known for years, but only from afar. He now knew her name, Lauren, and he’d never seen her in anything but shorts. She was a cheerleader for Austin High School, the cross-town rival of his high school, Harrington.

Leyendecker_Football

(Art: “Autumn” by Franklin Carmichael; “Football” by J.C. Leyendecker.)

 

 

Fiction, Film, Editors, and Gurus

Pop Lit Fiction

THE SUBJECT of editorial independence has come up within the literary world much of late– especially with the recent ouster of Ian Buruma at New York Review of Books.

TO STAY topical we present a new short story from that always entertaining observer of American business, manners, and culture, Alan Swyer.  His new tale, “The Sage,” looks at creative smarts and editorial independence within the film industry– a business Alan Swyer knows much about.

CAN Swyer’s lead character, a movie maker named Tarlowe, rescue a troubled film project involving a difficult celebrity wise man– and maintain his integrity while doing so? An inside look at a tumultuous world.

The non-stop travel, coupled with interviews that ranged from eye-opening to scintillating, proved to be a dizzying experience. But even as he reported in periodically, informing his benefactor about what had been said, and by whom, a question kept gnawing at Tarlowe. How would the man who billed himself as The Sage, but who came off in person like a somewhat epicene song-and-dance man, fit in among such luminaries?

*******

(Art: “Burning the Darkness” by Nicholas Roerich.)

Halloween 2018

Pop Lit Fiction

WHAT MAKES A GOOD HALLOWEEN STORY?

A good Halloween story should be truly scary– or at the least, disturbing. Something which climbs inside your head to unsettle your dreams. Or magnify your nightmares.

Our Halloween presentation for 2018, “God, the Machine” by Travis Simpson, does not involve pumpkins, demons or goblins. The story features instead that most frightening of nature-or-God’s creations, the human mind. Set in a futuristic world swiftly becoming contemporary and real.

She imagines the room filling with water, their bodies floating inside, spilling whatever blood is still loose inside them free in billowing clouds, a little like the nebulous entity outside the craft. This is the will of God, who moves through all dimensions and put this plan in her life from the moment she was conceived.

rivera controller of the universe

(Art: “The Headless Horseman” by Ichabod Crane; “Controller of the Universe” by Diego Rivera.)