IT’S TOUGH being an artist, of any kind. Struggling to carry through your dream even when the entirety of your life and the world in a conformist machine age is operating against you.
IN new summer fiction, “The Monologue,” Jack Coey examines those struggles– in this case involving a young actor about to audition for a traveling theater company. A lot is on the line for him.
Can you feel his nervousness?
He was twenty-eight years old, and his father was impatient for him to grow up. He didn’t think about it, but there was a lot riding on this audition. He watched a cockroach cross the floor.
(Art: “Performance in the Bolshoi Theater” by Mihaly Zichy.)
JUST when you’ve had enough of summer and its heat, we come along with great summer reading set in Buffalo, New York, during the winter holidays. Snow! Cold! Blizzards!
The story is “Homecoming” by Michael Howard. It’s about a young woman returning home from sunny California during the Christmas season, encountering all the familiar warm faces and smells, but also something darker, lying wait inside the comfortable house. . . .
Lucy had the sensation that the room was growing smaller. She could feel her pulse thumping in her temples as she forced another smile and told him that it was nice of him to say so, but that they really should go back downstairs now. Her words didn’t seem to penetrate–
(Paintings: “Murnau Burggrabenstrasse” by Wassily Kandinsky; “At Dusk” by Childe Hassam.)
THE WAR between men and women in this culture is ongoing. Redress of long-held grievances. We’ve published an array of featured fiction and poetry addressing the issue.
Today we feature fiction from one of the best short story writers in America, Anne Leigh Parrish. The story, “He Said, She Said,” contains Anne Leigh’s trademark insights into the subtleties and outrages which entangle that tentative truce between the sexes we call marriage.
Does this sound like anyone you know?
He was a romantic character. Women outnumbered men at his book-signings, and when he went on tour, trips she couldn’t take with him, because of the children. His mystery novels were considered clever, good psychological studies of the criminal mind, the rationalization people engage in when they’ve done wrong.
(Painting: “Landscape with Sun Disk” by Robert Delaunay.)
MANY have been those writers who realize we’re trapped in a linear mode not just of thinking, but writing. Yet many are the modes the writer can use to convey his tale– to depict three-dimensional reality– and isn’t using them.
The trick in experimentation in fiction writing is to keep the prose readable. Today we have a story by literary magician Elias Keller which is very readable, but– and that’s all we’re going to say. (Note, however, subtle shifts in style.) The story is “On the Rails, Off the Rails.” You have to read it. Let us know what you think.
There was only one road leading out of the parking lot and he was blocking that. Surrounding the lot otherwise was the woods. She had no chance in raw combat, but she did run three miles a day.
(Art: “Portrait of Albert Gleizes” by Jean Metzinger.)
FATHERS AND SONS PART ONE
Father’s Day is less than two weeks away, so at New Pop Lit we’re marking the holiday with a small two-week celebration of relationships between fathers and sons, one of the primal relationships in our lives. In our new featured story, “Up On the Mountain,” Jack Somers captures the nuances in that relationship. Dad can be at times an embarrassment, a disappointment, a burden, or a revelation. An unavoidable shadow, good or bad, for us all.
(WRITERS: Note Somers’s ability to create atmosphere without excessive detail. You feel what it’s like to be a tourist in Athens. Photos to illustrate the story were unnecessary– but we added a few anyway.)
I had to come with him, if only to make sure he didn’t kill himself. I found myself thrust again into a role that had become all too familiar to me over the past few years: the parent of the parent. It seemed the older my father got, the more reckless and impulsive and childlike he became.
ON OTHER FRONTS we’ll shortly have new audio at our ongoing Open Mic, as well as a review of the latest novel from one of our favorite writers. Stay tuned– much more will be happening.
(Painting: “Greek Theatre at Taormina” by Tivader Csontvary-Kosztka.)
At New Pop Lit we’re continually on the lookout for new talent combined with striking personality– recognizing that talent is often if not always the expression of personality.
WE’RE AWARE and we’ve been aware for some time that the literary scene needs “stars.” It needs personas, BIG, bigger-than-Hemingway personalities, dramatic figures crafting unorthodox unpredictable fictions or poems taking the literary art in new directions, to new heights.
IN THIS ongoing search we have today two possible future literary earthshakers.
Our new featured fiction, “The Hunting Cabin,” is by Brian Eckert, one of the best independent short story writers on today’s scene– independent in the sense of not writing to please take-no-chances Manhattan magazine editors, or even paint-by-the-numbers university professors. Eckert writes for the unseen artistic conscience. His story is three-dimensionally honest. More rounded, with more depth– puzzles and questions– than usual literary fare.
WE ALSO have, along with Brian’s perspective, an equally powerful but quite different viewpoint from talented poet Kristin Garth, who’s been getting much attention lately across the internet, and who has kindly offered New Pop Lit a short recording for our ongoing Open Mic. Her poem is called “Kristins.” We believe you’ll find it striking.
We try to be a window on new literature!
(Paintings: “Matterhorn” by Edward Theodore Compton; “Window with Orange Curtains” by Robert Delaunay.)
THE SECOND story in our look at today’s dating scene is a much darker animal: “Cat Doctor” by D.C. Miller. Ostensibly a response to The New Yorker‘s recent Kristen Roupenian story “Cat Person,” it’s more than that– it’s a look at the malaise of the West’s current intellectual class. People who believe in nothing– not even themselves. Whose ideological inanities, post-conceptual art and postmodern literature are an expression of nothing. Representations of the void at the center of their lives. A world in which the villains aren’t men or women, but everyone.
Appropriately, the story is set in Berlin, a city forever on the cutting edge of the end of Western civilization. Last stop before the nightmare of gotterdammerung and oblivion.
It was a catchy statement, and she liked it, but she wasn’t certain where to take it, whether it was true or not, and even if it was, what it would imply. She heard the sound of someone sighing audibly, like an echo from another room, and for a moment felt confused, before she realized it was her.
IN THE FACE of such a pessimistic, albeit truthful, examination of relations between men and women, of ideas and culture, we remain optimists. We believe the culture will turn over because it has to turn over– it’s at a dead end, with nowhere to go but to scrap the present and embrace another direction.
(Featured painting: “The Night” by Max Beckmann. Other: “Sjalusi i Badet” by Edvard Munch.)
WE BELIEVE the only way to find truth in this fallen world is to look at life three-dimensionally. Which means, observing an object, idea, or person from more than one vantage point.
When dealing with a complex topic– like men and women; like dating– it’s best to present more than one narrative on the subject. Otherwise you might be perceived to be taking sides, even when you’re not.
Oh, we know. That’s not how it’s done at places like The New Yorker, which gained rare attention for their moldering enterprise earlier this year when they published a short story about the dating scene. AS we’ve received a strong submission which might be a response to their tale (due here in a week)– and AS we’re unable to publish their story ourselves, New Pop Lit‘s Kathleen M. Crane was asked, as Contributing Editor, to contribute her own perspective on the pitfalls of dating. The result is “Red Panties and a Guitar.” We hope you’ll find it an entertaining take on the #MeToo movement.
I went home disgusted. How could I continue in a relationship with someone so obviously self-centered? . . . But I did continue.
FAR AHEAD of her time in examining these issues– of men and women; of dating– was proto-Jungian author Jane Austen, whose profound insight was that things aren’t always as they seem– they might be the opposite of how they seem and what people believe them to be. In her best novel, Pride and Prejudice, the revelation is startling. The good guy shown to be bad guy– bad guy revealed as good guy. Slick libertine unmasked as pedophile, while the stoic snob everyone hates must ride, literally, to the rescue. Austen’s situations are surprisingly contemporary. Perhaps we’ve not changed as much, AS human beings, as we like to think.
Austen’s novels well illustrate New Pop Lit‘s beliefs about the three-dimensional viewpoint.
(Art: “Still Life with Guitar” by Juan Gris.)
READERS enjoy stories which deliver an emotional punch. This is not all that stories can do, but it’s one of the things stories can do.
It might take the writer 500 pages in a novel to deliver the impact. Or it might take a shorter time period– which is what the short story is about. Condensed emotion. Concentrated impact.
Our current story, “Racquetball” by Don Waitt, condenses many things into a small narrative space. Families, history, loss. Less can be more. Take a look.
“And I saw my Mom getting sucked into a black hole of despair. It was like looking into an old brick well filled with cold, dark swirling water being sucked into the bowels of the earth, and my Mom was in the middle of that water. And I knew that if I did not reach down and grab her hand and pull her up, she would be lost forever.”
Be sure to check out New Pop Lit‘s Open Mic feature. Dan Nielsen is our current performer– with more spoken word to come, including from Brian Eckert and Philadelphia poetry legend Frank D. Walsh!
(Painting: “Kosovo Maiden” by Uros Predic.)
THE LARGEST TOPIC for any writer– the greatest expanse of territory to cover– is the human mind. BUT WE ALSO live in a time with a dystopian vibe. Combine the two elements and you create fearful possibilities for the reader.
Our newest feature story, “Unraveling” by Tianna Grosch, is a plunge into the depths and memories of the mind– at the same time it’s a commentary on the contemporary age, on a kind of soullessness consuming everyone. Writers and artists seek metaphors for what’s happening. Zombies, pods, androids, robots. Loss of affect. Of emotion, depth, mind. What does it mean? Where are we going? Where have we been?
There’s much to be discovered in this thought-provoking tale by a talented young writer.
The doctors’ infinite, empty eyes peered out above crisp white masks. Masks shrouding the remainder of their faces so the crown of heads surrounding him became nothing more than a sea of irises ranging in color and depth, but never in emotion.
(Paintings: “Murnau” by Vassily Kandinsky; “Hospital Ward in Arles” by Vincent van Gogh.)