POP FICTION ASSAULT 2020
— commences today with a J. B. Stevens story about a diner and the man who owns it, and the women who work at it: “The Hostess Stand.”
The Crazy Chicken Café was nobody’s idea of fine dining. Stupid décor and non-offensive pop music were the themes, but Dan didn’t mind. The generic soul food buffet was a cash cow and he loved the smell of fried chicken.
WHAT IS pop fiction? It might be described as readable and real. Or, the story itself is the point, written not for stuffy professors in narrow towers so high they’re removed from the world, but for anybody. The idea that any stray unwary person could stumble upon it, begin reading and enjoy it. To provoke a smile, or frown, or an insight on the world we live in now.
J.B. Stevens is one of several adept pop fiction writers we’ll be featuring through the rest of the summer into the fall, and maybe the rest of the year. We know you’ll enjoy their work.
(Art: “Table in a Cafe” by Pablo Picasso.)
WE LIVE IN TUMULTUOUS TIMES!
Our innocuous little literary project is NOT at the forefront of anything happening in society– except those happenings involving ART.
TIRED of nonstop news of rebellion and disease? Of the world seeming to collapse outside your quarantined doors? WE have the antidote– a pop short story from one of the best pop fiction story writers on the planet, Nick Gallup.
The story is “The Mysterious Case of the Sticky Drawer.” WHO stole $3,000 in cash from a teacher’s drawer? Follow the plot and find out.
Our local cops didn’t do much more than write parking tickets and bust kids for buying beer with fake ID’s, so they made a federal case out of a $3,000 robbery. I was amazed the next day to see Miss McGee’s classroom cordoned off with police tape as they actually dusted her desk and handbag for fingerprints.
ALSO, don’t forget to stop into our POP SHOP and buy a product. Support independent literature NOT propped up by billionaires or conglomerates. (We also don’t give out free fast-food nearly-inedible tacos.) We ARE a genuine alternative. Thanks!
“THE MAN WITH TROTSKY’S GOATEE”
While we’ve begun publishing edgier and more experimental work in our new print journals (“zeens”), at heart we remain devoted to pop fiction. As proof, over the next month we’ll present at this site three– or maybe four– pop short stories. All user friendly. Which means, fun reads with some kind of punch, hook, or message to them.
First up is T.R. Healy‘s unusual tale, “The Man with Trotsky’s Goatee.”
What could be more pop than using a Communist icon for entertainment purposes? Besides, it’s a gem of a little story. Take a look.
He knew Trotsky was a vile and heartless tyrant but, despite that, he thought his goatee looked distinguished and decided he wanted to grow one like the Russian revolutionary. When he did, however, he looked more like a derelict on the street and was disappointed but not enough to shave it off.
AS LONG as you’re here, check out a more capitalist part of the New Pop Lit empire– our new online shop! Now available: Extreme Zeen. One of the more eye-catching literary creations seen this century. A first step toward the total reinvention of the printed literary publication.
(Art: Detail from “Man, Controller of the Universe” by Diego Rivera; Trotsky cartoon by Annenkow.)
ZINES AND ZEENS
Roots music pioneer Little Richard, one of the founders of the rock n roll genre, passed away the other day at age 87. Are there roots writers?
Yes! One of them self-published a print zine for many years named fishspit. We’ve published several of his short stories the past few years, and are able to offer our readers another, “Mephistopheles and Lilith,” which is about a cantankerous (but lovable?) cat. We hope you enjoy it.
As you’ll see when you read the story, zine writing is unlike anything you’ll receive from a university writing program anywhere. The writing is uninhibited and honest. No rules or codes or self-censorship adhered to. In this way it’s as natural and real– as authentic– as American roots music– blues, gospel, r & b, country, folk– was so many years ago.
She was a good woman. She did the best she could with me . . . bailing me outta jail . . . cooking healthy meals . . . and listening to my drunken reveries. She was a good woman, as far as women go. But that cat! Now that was a cat!
WHY are we presenting the writing of a zinester at this point in time?
As a nod to New Pop Lit‘s own roots– and the roots of our new print publication, Extreme Zeen, which is like an old-fashioned zine in that it’s print and DIY and contains zine elements, yet at the same time we’ve taken those elements to an entirely new level. Inventing something never quite seen before. At least, we think we have. To know for sure you’ll have to purchase a copy and judge for yourself!
(Art: “Dance Hall Scene” by Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson.)
KNOWING the literary game today is understanding that many of the best new writers circulating through the internet use pen names. A reaction to Cancel Culture? Possibly.
Judging by their work, we believe several of these little-known scribblers have the potential to become outstanding. To be part of the kind of real literary revival we seek. Time will tell if their potential becomes reality.
Our task as a literary project is to promote writing talent wherever we find it. For our new feature we present a short story, “The Prop Comic” by Bud E. Ice, which provides attributes of accomplished fiction: atmosphere, character, drama– and palpable tension. A story about a trip to a comedy club which becomes more a view of the defeated, the desperate, and, maybe, the insane. A quick glimpse at the underside of contemporary society. Read the tale and see. You won’t be disappointed.
Deep down this guy knew that the show was sorry and meaningless and full of a variety of wannabes, including himself. How could he be excited? The crowd wasn’t even excited. The fact that they were really trying to pull off a Vegas-like atmosphere, and were getting nowhere close, gave me second hand embarrassment.
ON OTHER FRONTS, check out our second “Pop Quiz” Q & A, this one with Angelo Lorenzo.
ALSO, see the latest performance at our Open Mic, “I Comfort Crow Jane” by renowned poet Joel Allegretti, who’s written a Halloween story we’ll be featuring at New Pop Lit in a few weeks.
Three terrific story writers. A preview of many things which will be happening at this site.
WHO WRITES POP SHORT STORIES?
AS WE WORK to develop what we call the 3–D story– a large component of which is pop writing– we’re aware of how few writers even try to write genuine pop anymore. The kind of accessible-and-fun stories which were once hugely popular– a time when the short story mattered. A time when the short story was THE popular American art form, written by the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald for large circulation magazines like Saturday Evening Post and The Smart Set. In 1930 Fitzgerald was paid $4,000 per story– the equivalent of $60,000 today. A Golden Age for story writers! Writers need to realize why.
Scott Fitzgerald believed he was slumming when writing in this mode– but he wasn’t. Viewed from a distance, many of his pop stories today read as the freshest, most genuine things he wrote.
MEANWHILE, we feature the reappearance of the best pure pop writer in America today, Alex Bernstein. His latest, “Props,” exhibits the special strength of the form. Which includes a fundamentally positive outlook on life, on people and the world. Which we could all use a little of right now.
I explained that Buster is my constant companion, my soulmate, and also a beautiful, stuffed, potted frond plant. He’s my oldest and most favorite prop, and the first real one I ever created. Buster’s been in every show I ever worked on. (He fades perfectly into the background.) We travel everywhere together. He’s very lucky. And yes, sometimes I talk to him. What’s it to ya?
(Paintings: “Arc De Triomphe” by Zelda Fitzgerald; “Potted Plant on Windowsill” by Edvard Munch.)
WHAT?? Experimental DIY author Wred Fright is going to save literature?
Well, he and others like him will if they maintain their imaginative ways of looking at fiction and literature– at what qualifies as fiction and literature. New ways of presenting the art, being readable, hooking unaware members of the greater populace on reading. Sorry, folks, but in the long run– or really, the short run– well-crafted New Yorker stories full of long paragraphs of finely-tuned verbiage putting masses of Manhattan commuters on trains and subways, or businesspersons on crowded airplane flights, to sleep just aren’t going to cut it.
Fiction needs what to compete?
First, immediacy. Second, the unfamiliar. The humorous or surprising.
WE’RE NOT saying Wred Fright is Tolstoy, mind you. (Though one never knows how he’ll be treated in future centuries as mankind keeps changing. He may well be taught in 2118 at online universities, the brick and mortar kind having been long closed or turned into the very WalMarts that Mr. Fright loves to mock!)
Enough of this– read “Yelp in Reverse.” Thanks for being here!
It’s two in the morning, I just want to keep doing shots in the manager’s office and get through the night at what has to be the worst Walmart in America. I want to get out of this hellhole, but a gal dreaming of a lucrative career in retail management has to start somewhere.
KEEP UP on News of the Literary World at New Pop Lit News.
(Main art: “Still Life of Books” by Jan Davidszoon de Heem. Tolstoy painting by Repin.)
Should the new short story be entertaining?
ONCE, not much over 100 years ago, the short story was the most popular art form. The American public consumed stories voraciously– work by Jack London, Frank Stockton, Richard Connell, O. Henry, Stephen Crane– even from more refined types like Edith Wharton and Henry James.
What was the hallmark of the short story?
They were entertaining.
Build a better story, we believe, and the public will beat a path toward your door. We’ve already seen steps– baby steps anyway– in that direction in the prestigious-and-usually-snobby pages of The New Yorker. which recently for the first time in decades published a story that some people actually wanted to read.
And so, we give you a tale of suspense and mystery– “The Rottweiler” by Alex Bernstein, one of the best new practitioners of the short story art going. You’ll find in the work a touch of humor, and perhaps a rottweiler or two. Jump into the adventure. . . .
“On the plus side – if we kill you – we don’t have to put up with all this fuss and noise all the time. On the negative side…mm…Woolsy, what was the negative side, again?”
(Painting by Claude T. Stanfield-Moore.)
WE PRESENT not just pop lit, but sometimes straight pop, on our path toward true “fusion” fiction. No less a personage than Jonathan Franzen has claimed to have a similar goal– except that in his ultra-long novels there’s less entertainment value than in a single story by Alan Swyer– and less than one-tenth the heart.
Doubt it? Read Alan’s new tale “Country Sweetheart” to see what the pop lit revolution is about.
Writers are reinventing the short story art! We’ve been covering this in our ongoing series, “Hyper-Talents of the New Literary Age.” In conjunction with running Alan’s story we present Part IV of the series at our News blog. This section is devoted to– what else?– pop writers.
Grab the New!
“When the world gets weird, instead of doing a Dusty Springfield –”
“‘Wishing And Hoping’ that things’ll change, you’ve got to do something so that you’re who’s changing.”
“That what you do?”
“It’s what I’m doing.”
To demonstrate our ongoing commitment to pop fiction we present as feature a new Norbert Kovacs story, “The Fight.” American literature became thoroughly American when it became thoroughly vigorous– expressing the tough lives and harsh environment of the American landscape. Back in the days when American lit, via writers like Jack London and Rex Beach, was thoroughly populist– not simply a plaything for generously-educated elitists in Brooklyn wine bistros or Manhattan drawing rooms.
We believe you’ll find the Kovacs story a far cry from that refined lifestyle! (Incidentally, when we continue our Overview of new literature, we’ll address the “Pop” side of the pop lit equation– this story a preview.)
Bruises colored his chest like dark blue medallions. His shoulder received a scarlet gash from a punch that had torn him. Mort strained to stand up under McCurdley’s new blows. He had to tell himself to fight. Deliver, he thought. Hit. He lunged and swung.
(Painting by Fyodor Bronnikov.)