WHERE ARE THE WRITER CELEBRITIES?
THERE HAVE BEEN a few of them over the years, even recently, as we find with our atmospheric new feature set in Manhattan, “That Time I Stalked Nick Tosches” by Brooklyn-based author Scott Laudati.
We wish we could’ve met Nick Tosches ourselves!
The Next Best Thing: To discover or create a few new literary celebrities. Which may be part of what this hyper-ambitious project is about. Until then, enjoy the essay.
“He’s a writer,” I said. “These guys don’t get the face time. They don’t hate their fans like actors do.”
It was a gamble, though. Would he dig a young fan interrupting his drink? There was a war in every line on his face. I hadn’t seen anyone else recognize him, but maybe that’s why he drank there. There was no way to know if he’d shake my hand or put his cigar out on my eye.
(Painting: “Portrait of Victor Chocquet” by Paul Cezanne.)
WITH SUMMER upon us we thought it was time for a bout of light reading– in this case via Two Short Pop Pieces by Andrew Sacks.
Both pieces connect to pop culture experiences in the real world. The first essay is about the similarities between poker and chess– which were once the chief games for people in America to play (not video games!), and provided great brain training for future endeavors. Both games involve a high degree of skill and psychology, as Andrew discusses in his essay.
His second piece is about cult movies. Do teenagers still flock to midnight movies on weekends? Nothing better embodies the cinema experience– screaming or laughing with a crowd of fellow moviegoers. Andrew gives us a few of his favorites. One can watch them at home of course– as virtually everyone has done during the pandemic– but is it really the same?
Anyway, pop culture reading not to miss!
At first glance, it seems that chess is a contest of pure skill and iron logic, and that any gambling card game must, inherently, incorporate so much luck that skill must play a small part and compare unfavorably with the Royal Game. But, in the final analysis, this turns out to be an oversimplified and naïve point of view.
(Art: “Chess Players” by Henri Hayden; “Checkmate” by Moritz Retzsch.)
A POP LIT POTPOURRI
We’re out to create literary tornadoes. Toward that end we point the reader to three new-or-recent posts at this project.
FIRST we have a new feature, “Tornado Country” by poet John Grey. Two very good poems for your reading pleasure.
and cars, long and proud and American made
explode like firecrackers in the heat of day,
and some small town like Millville is razed like it’s Babylon,
SECOND, we did a short “Pop Quiz” Q & A with the author of our previous feature, Transhumanist Presidential candidate Rachel Haywire.
THIRD, a return of our NPL News blog with a quick look at Lana DelRey and a possible? connection to future literary stars, “Reverse Jekyll and Hyde.”
Must reading to stay current with the Pop Lit literary scene.
(Art: “Tornado Over Kansas” by John Steuart Curry.)
AMERICA as a culture and civilization has centered itself around celebrities, for good and ill. Electronic gods coming to us through our televisions and computer screens. Who are these facsimiles of people? What are these personalities– these manufactured(?) personas– actually like?
Our new feature, “Jerry and Me” — by long-time Hollywood writer, director, and producer Alan Swyer— looks at one of the leading Hollywood-and-Vegas celebrities of the 20th century, comedian Jerry Lewis– best remembered today as forever host of the Labor Day Muscular Dystrophy telethons. A comic genius, but at the same time an extremely complicated, many-faceted individual. A contradictory personality which Swyer well captures in his up-close-and-personal memoir of the man.
His agents did nothing but, as he put it, “blow smoke up my ass,” telling him incessantly what he wanted to hear, which was how wonderful he was. Even worse were the staffers at his office in Century City, whose primary functions, other than fawning relentlessly, were doing his bidding and, when he felt the need to vent over something real or imagined, bearing the brunt of his wrath.
WHICH raises the question of celebrity in the literary scene. Is there a place for it? Does the art lose by not creating larger-than-life figures who can stand as blazing symbols attracting new readers to a marginalized cultural form? Is this possible? Desirable?
Those are questions we at New Pop Lit are determined to answer.
(Art: “Animal Clown” by James Pollock; “Marilyn Monroe” by Andy Warhol.)
NEW POP LIT GOES LOCAL
Our previous feature was by an esteemed international author. For this one we looked closer to home– presenting a unique work here by young Detroit-area writer Ambrose Black which is part profile of accomplished artist Leon Dickey and his work, and part imagination, as Ambrose enters the head of his subject to relate his background and complete his story.
The result becomes itself something like a modernist painting, with two different but complementary vantage points. Ambrose Black writes in an original style, reminiscent perhaps of Sherwood Anderson, but not really. He hasn’t been machine-stamped as from a press, and so views the world– and in this case, the artist– through fresh eyes.
The essay is in line with our stated objective for 2019: To search for the literary NEW.
He has to expose his truth to the world, for he is a creator. His truth is that one is in control of the self– the only judgment and choices one is responsible for is the self. His art is ironic to his truth, but purposefully and honestly. The trash he uses signifies his and our failures. But like a phoenix from the ashes, he uses the deconstruction to create something of beauty.
(Art: “Self-Portrait with Seven Fingers” by Marc Chagall; “Self-Portrait” by Paul Gaugin.)
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.)
AS A POP LIT website we’re out to redefine the mainstream– but aren’t beyond occasional forays outside our familiar lines if the work deserves it. (Our roots are in the literary underground.) Even if the source of the unfamiliar material is that dreaded monster-metropolis of New York.
(Accompanying NYC music.)
It’s in places of highest power and station– among wavering skyscrapers– that one finds an underside. The literary obverse.
We start then with one of Brooklyn’s best young poets, Rus Khomutoff. He calls his work surpoems. We have four of them here.
in a sea of dotted infinity
the rhythm of life
(Painting: “New York from Brooklyn” by Colin Campbell Cooper.)
NEXT we have an Appreciation from New York avant-garde icon Richard Kostelanetz, of New York poet Frank Kuenstler, part of the ongoing ALL-TIME AMERICAN WRITERS TOURNAMENT.
Has New Pop Lit been taken over by, gasp!, New Yorkers? Not quite.
NEW POP LIT ATTACKS NEW YORK!
FINALLY, we have a review of the January 29 issue of The New Yorker— flagship of the literary establishment and woefully decrepit. Or: The future is US.
(Feature painting: “Tower of Babel” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder.)
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! 🙂
THIS WEEK we briefly explore the subculture of literature with our long-overdue final installment of Hyper-Talents of the New Literary Age, in which we examine a diverse array of personalities from Bob Dylan to Aaron Cometbus, on up to underground writers of now– who create work just a tad rougher, wilder, and real than standard refined “literary” writing.
Accompanying the essay is a new story by one of our favorite zine writers, fishspit. The story is titled, “I Was a Juvenile Delinquent– Now I’m Just a Delinquent.”
Even the title wouldn’t make it through an MFA program!
Them teachers weren’t the sharpest set of educators. You had to be pretty doltish to wind up down there . . . nobody with an ounce of spirit, a dram of intelligence, would put up with that kind of horror-show. We were a regular freak show . . . the teachers were about as intelligent as carnies.
(ONGOING at one of our blogs is the All-Time American Writers Tournament. The latest news there is an appreciation of a prominent American author by Samuel Stevens. Don’t miss a post!)
Our series on new happenings in today’s literary world continues. “Hyper-Talents of the New Literary Age.”
Part III looks at the new generation of writers– literature’s hope and future. We were going to call this section “The Lost,” as a nod to the Lost Generation of the 1920’s, a huge influence on a couple of the best young writers we’ll be featuring. We decided that designation was too downbeat. We’re optimists. We might as likely call this section “The Found”– talented individuals who found writing as their preferred means of expression, when they might instead have been painters or musicians or movie directors.
(Of course, there are no longer painters; musicians are reduced to the atonal or electronic, the human element cut out. Movies? Are there still movies to speak of? The Academy Awards are this weekend, and by all accounts contain not an outstanding crop.)
No, the future belongs to writers– to new literature. We kick off this part of our overview with a new story by Samuel Stevens, “Greener Country Grass.” This will be followed by new work by three other young talents, as fast as we can ready and post them.
Despite his youth (he’s still in college), Samuel Stevens is a thinker, essayist, and novelist, as well as writing in the shorter form. Definitely a name on the literary scene for years to come. Read his story now.
“Do you have a lot of money like Ray?” one of them asked.
She took me aback. “No,” I said. Ray did come from a well off family. The girls were all a little drunk; Loeb must have been keeping them supplied while I talked to the bartender. I pulled up a chair and sat down.
(Painting: “The Red Tower” by Robert Delaunay.)