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.)
Happy Halloween! We find ourselves without a new Halloween story to present to you– so we dug up from a literary crypt fragments of an unfinished slasher novel, like cut-up pieces of a corpse. The original idea was that the intellectual parts of the novel would be scarier than the scary parts. It’s about a city, a mayor, and his wife, and staff, and a series of murders with which they’re confronted. Read the excerpts here.
The resurrected novel notes anyway are an apt prelude to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) which kicks off November 1st. We’ll be doing a presentation for NaNoWriMo in the Detroit area– more info to follow .
The finely-sharpened hunting knife filled the killer’s vision. Staring at the edge of the knife intoxicated him. The image carried resonances of barbarism. Violence and blood. To his warped mind, the killings were necessary, but they’d also become fun.
We’re authentic. Our roots are in the DIY zine scene. It’s why we occasionally publish stories from one of the best underground zine writers in America, “Fishspit.”
Also, we’re shameless. We enjoy promoting this site. We can’t help noticing the love for cats across the Internet. Cats are a pop phenomenon. We want in on it.
What happens when you cross a tough underground writer with a cat?
You get “The Cutest Cat That Ever Lived.”
Is it “Literature” with a capital L? We don’t know! But it is entertaining. And authentic. And heartwarming. Especially if you like cats!
I’ve seen thousands of kittens. I’ve volunteered at countless cat rescue shelters . . . so you know I’ve seen cats in my life. I grew up on a farm where at any given time there were 17-23 cats. I have seen cats! I guarantee you Pip was the cutest kitten that ever existed. Don’t you even try to tell me your kitten is cuter.
What happens when you mix homeless veterans, a subway system, and a shady-but-not-all-bad lawyer?
Our new tale, “Tunnel Vision.” Summer reading from Steve Slavin. American reality with a heart.
I ain’t no Robin Hood. Yeah, I do take from the rich and give to the poor, but I’m really in this just for myself. And let me level with you: I make out OK. In fact, more than OK.
(Photos c/o Marie Curie via Untapped Cities.)
After 50 years of stagnation the American short story is changing. Stories now are expected to be entertaining– as they once were, incidentally. It’s the only way stories can compete in an increasingly noisy society with a myriad of choices.
That’s the premise, anyway, behind this website! Today we have a shoplifting story by James Guthrie, “Code 99,” which is short and simple. We believe it’s also entertaining. As they say in the restaurant biz, enjoy!
“You,” the floorwalker shouted, pointing straight at me. “Let’s go.” And off he sprinted, assuming I was close behind.
Dummies! No, we’re not talking about the nation’s political candidates. We refer to actual dummies– the crash test kind. (Quite appropriate, as this website is based in Detroit. Did we feed to our featured writer, Dave Petraglia, inside information?)
Petraglia’s story asks: What happens when a crash-test dummy desires a change? What kind of a change? Read “Crash Tested” and see. The story is very 2016!
In the process, Sean had skipped the childhood admonitions, the isolation and suffering, and found that in the catalog of human emotions and her reactions to them, she was not who she’d been molded to be.
(Artwork by Dave Petraglia.)