New Pop Lit’s Summer Reading Festival!

Announcement, Pop Lit Fiction

The summer people choked the road, filled up the taverns, trashed the beachfront, and parked everywhere and anywhere, even in places they shouldn’t.

So begins the feature story kicking off our impromptu Summer Reading Festival 2021, “People Ruin Everything,” by Anne Leigh Parrish, one of the best short story writers going. I don’t know if a story could better capture how everyone feels right now after eighteen months of pandemic, of interruption in our lives we naively thought would be over after three weeks or at most three months, but goes on. The story captures the mood: frustration that may seem illogical, but it’s there, in all of us, as undercurrent to the resumption of our lives.

Anyway, it’s a short story which should be in The New Yorker, but we’re fortunate and grateful to have it at New Pop Lit, and trust you’ll agree with our opinion of it.

She thought about the note they left. She didn’t like being lied to. Some people lived on lies, made a career of them, in some cases. Just look at any politician. She hated people who thought they were smarter than everyone else, who made getting over a full-time job. They’d laughed as they walked up to the car, and they were probably still laughing wherever they were now and wherever they were going.

XXXXXXX

What about the rest of our Festival? In coming weeks we’ll be featuring more great new fiction, as well as re-announcing selected readings– fiction and poetry– previously featured at this site. Is that all? NO!

OUR OPEN MIC RETURNS

We’re also restarting our Open Mic feature with a reading of a terrific poem by the UK’s Alisha J. Prince, “Heaven Bound.” Click the link and take a listen.

NEW YORK MEDIA NEWS

We ALSO have at our NPL News Blog a short article about curious doings at iconic Newsweek magazine. Is this the direction in which other New York publications will be headed? What do you think?

POP LIT PRINT READING

FINALLY, check out the print publications we now offer at our POP SHOP— where we’re free to be somewhat more experimental, in attitude, words, and design, than what we present here, as we attempt to cut new paths toward the literary future.

XXXX

Anyway, we hope everyone has a glorious summer– and does a lot of reading!

(Featured art: “Two Girls Reading” by Pablo Picasso.)

New Summer Fiction

Pop Lit Fiction

TODAY we present a slice-of-life story by Alex Law, “West Columbus,” about a young woman working as a stripper in a dive bar in a bleak neighborhood of that name. Life in America today? Is the story social commentary? Or merely a great short read?

Maybe it’s just literature— writing of rounded reality and depth which can encompass a number of meanings and viewpoints. Read it for yourself and see.

She ignores him. She isn’t afraid. His casual, daylight misogyny couldn’t be more boring. She lets the silence eat him alive. Bite by bite. Eventually his testosterone fades under the uncomfortable sideways glances from other passengers. He and his stink go away. Every bus Cadie has ever been on has men like this.

XXXXXXX

(Featured art: “Nude Woman Reading” by Robert Delaunay.)

Fiction for the Fourth

Pop Lit Fiction

HELLO! Another long holiday weekend is upon us, so we’ve taken the opportunity to present a slice of July 4th fiction, coordinating with the currently-unpopular theme of patriotism. The story: “The Deserters” by New Pop Lit regular Nick Gallup, whose work never disappoints. Gallup’s story is a reminder that America, yes, has occasionally done a few things right– one of them taking on head-on that embodiment of villainy, the Nazi war machine. This tale gives us a glimpse of the all-crucial Battle of the Bulge– putting you right there. Worth a read.

His depleted company followed him as they merged with hundreds of others from their division as they headed towards St. Vith, Belgium. The dirt road was hard and icy, and guys kept slipping and falling. It was bitter cold, and they wrapped their green scarfs around their faces and pulled their wool overcoats tight against their bodies to ward off the furious winds whipping them with snow and sleet. Many of the men they met up with had either lost or abandoned their weapons, and they just slumped forward into the wind, walking as fast as they could to escape. Lappy couldn’t see their faces, but he could read the defeat and despair in their owl-sized eyes.

XXXX

Art: “Breakfast in the Snow (Belgium)” by Robert N. Blair.

The Birth of POP

Pop Lit Fiction

NEW FICTION ABOUT A PEAK PERIOD IN AMERICAN ART AND CULTURE

WITH glamorous historic names like Bob and Andy glimpsed on the streets of Manhattan in the early 1960s when culture was VIBRANT–

–everything changing artistically, everything visceral, real and exciting, how can any reader resist our new feature, “SOUP CAN” by Brian McVety?

The task for all of us today involved in some way with artistic and cultural creation is to grab that influence, that excitement, to imagine, construct, paint or write a peak period for our own day.

Jane turned to the second to last page, and showed me a picture of a man with who had what looked like ironed bleached-blond hair, severely parted towards the left, with dark, square-framed sunglasses hiding his eyes. The photograph stopped at the man’s midriff, only showing his tight short-sleeve shirt with hypnotic horizontal stripes making him appear like a mirage. Although his eyes were hidden, the expression on his face suggested he was revolted his picture was being taken, yet he almost appeared to be posing at the same time. I had never seen a man like him before in my life.

XXXX

Stars and Fans

Pop Lit Fiction

What makes a celebrity? A star? What gives the person a special allure? Distance, illusion, mystery?

This is a question explored in our new fiction feature, “Fanboy” by Alan Swyer, set in the alluring capitol of glamorous stars, Hollywood circa today.

Incidentally or ironically, Alan Swyer is one of the literary stars featured in New Pop Lit‘s own modest version of a Photoplay-like fanmag, namely, Literary Fan Magazine. Is it time to create a literary version of Hollywood? Maybe!

Meanwhile, read the story.

“Why today? If so much stuff’s been bugging you, why’ve you been holding it in?”

Allison frowned. “I reached a point where enough is enough. But know what bothers me most? Not your snoring, not that you put your feet on furniture, not even that half the time you seem oblivious. Want to know?”

“Fire away.”

“Your shrine.”

<<<<>>>>

(Both artworks by famed illustrator Rolf Armstrong.)

New Fiction: Pandemic Life

Pop Lit Fiction

MANY GOOD STORIES are of the kind you admire for their plotting or their writing, colorful characters or sense of adventure.

Others challenge you, asking first, “What would you do?” They take you through several emotions then drop you back down to earth, a changed person.

Our new fiction feature is the latter: “Sorry For Your Loss” by Greg Golley. The story is not just excellent as a story, but as a metaphor for the changes, in lifestyle and emotion, we’ve all been through the past year. I’d like to think we’ve been changed for the better– deepened, put more in touch with our humanity– as the narrator in the story is changed.

Anyway, we hope you like it!

I seemed to be alone in the house. Soothed by the sound of the furnace kicking in and by the feel of warm slippers on my stocking feet, I opened the fridge to see what was there. I finally selected an IPA and ambled over to the window to admire my newly cleaned-up yard, wondering distantly how the whole dinner-with-Nathan question had been settled. Looking back, I can now appreciate these few thoughtless actions as my final moments of true innocence. What I saw when I looked into the backyard was my future – handed down to me like a sentence.

<<<<<<<>>>>>>>

(Art: “The Good Samaritan” by Eugene Delacroix.)

Adventure and Style in Fiction

Pop Lit Fiction

STANDARD in classic fiction of the past, especially from short story writers, was a sense of style or adventure– or both. Jack London and O. Henry emphasized adventure— albeit very different types of adventure: wilderness and oceans on the one hand, stray unpredictable adventures which could assault a person in cities like New York on the other. Writers Edith Wharton, Henry James, and F. Scott Fitzgerald placed more emphasis on the kinds of styles exhibited by their characters, and from the sophisticated settings in which they moved. This was back when the short story was the popular American art form.

Today we present a story which captures that much-needed sense of mystery, adventure, and style, “The Names Divine” by C. A. Shoultz. Our first feature of 2021, with more to follow.

In due course they arrived atop the stairs. Simon walked beyond the masked man and beheld a table covered in black velvet. A sign above it, written in gold script, said: “Choose your mask. Choose your name.” Sure enough, upon the table were a small number of masks just like his escort was wearing. They were widely and irregularly spaced apart, a sign that many others had come here before him and done what he was about to do.

<<<<>>>>

(Art: Above: “At the Masked Ball” by Jean-Louis Forain. Below: A section of a poster for a movie by Gaumont Films.)

The Art of Narrative

Pop Lit Fiction

AN EXAMPLE OF SHORT STORY ARTISTRY

Our new fiction feature is about a church in the woods. A simple story which shows what can be done with the short story by keeping it simple. What matters most with this particular writing genre– the short story– is not how many well-wrought sentences and long paragraphs you can string together as an example of talent– but the form of a particular story. Its construction. Design. Momentum. Flow.

NOT MUCH MORE can be said about this particular tale, “The Narrow Path,” by Zach Smith, without giving away the key to its plot. Suffice it to say it’s in the tradition of classic short stories from when the short story was THE popular American art form. When the form of the story was all. When story endings were the point of the works, as exhibited by masters of the art such as O. Henry, Jack London, or Frank Stockton.

There’s a clue somewhere within the last part of the previous paragraph– about the story’s plot– if you can find it!

(Note: It’s also a Christmas story.)

The church is two stories, taller than it is wide, without a second floor. A taut wire, an inch in diameter stretches from wall to wall, ten feet above the pews, with a second shorter wire intersecting it above the altar.

The door opens for Sunday service, and the congregation files in. The church is open to everyone, but few people come, less and less every year.

<<<<>>>>

(Art: “Deer in Forest” by Franz Marc; “Indian Church” by Emily Carr.)

Elements of the Pop Story

Pop Lit Fiction

FINDING A BETTER MODEL

WHICH elements will be required to create “hit” short stories that can grab the attention of large swaths of the public?

Some of them are present in our latest short story by Nick Gallup, “Just Another Silly Love Song.” Such as: two dynamic lead characters with strikingly different personalities; tangible details used to emphasize those personalities (a red Corvette; a black cocktail dress); a well-structured and unified plot with built-in conflict, nothing extraneous, which maintains focus throughout– and much else.

Add to these elements a sense of depth: the two lead characters displaying, well, character– the ability to move beyond themselves in helping others– and you have for the reader a perfect mix. Oh, did I also mention the element of love? That ultimate ingredient in crafting compelling art?

But the best way to know what we’re talking about is to read the story.

Roxy looked a mess. She took note of my looking and correctly interpreted my conclusions. “Sorry I don’t look party-perfect, Ty,” she said sarcastically, with heavy emphasis on Ty, as if it were an affectation. “An unexpected problem came up. I had to don a cap and gown and wash all my make-up off to avoid infection.” She held up slender hands. “Want to know where these have been for the past two hours?”

<<<<>>>>

(Art: “Return of a Night Bombing Flight of Voisin Aircraft” by Francois Flemeng.)

Virtual Insanity

Pop Lit Fiction

HAVE WE ALL LOST OUR MINDS?

ELECTRONIC MEDIA has graced us with bombardments of information coming at us from all directions, all sides, stimulating our curiosity at the same time making us believe we’re missing something if we don’t remain plugged in– and we’re all plugged in. The digital world, brilliantly described in Oliver Bennett‘s new short fiction piece, “On the Origin of An Event,” our newest feature. A descent into– ? You know the analogy.

he would wake up early, quickly dip into the news as he waited for the kettle to boil, then try to stay up to date on everything throughout the day, immersing himself in international relations on the toilet, taking a deep dive into the history of every major world power on the tube to work, and even the smaller countries in a brief lull between meetings, and he would wade through an article on finance while waiting for the office microwave to ping– credit swaps, interest rates, collateral debt obligations, inflation, deflation, stagflation…

We haven’t run many features this year, but they’ve all been terrific.

<<<<>>>>

Of course, the pandemic with its lockdowns and Zoom sessions has only accelerated the retreat from the actual.

IS there escape from the madness? A question we’ve begun exploring as we consider the future of this project and try to plot out what 2021 for us, and for everybody, will look like.

Enjoy the story!

>>>><<<<

(Art: “The Unfortunate Land of Tyrol” by Franz Marc; “Stormtroopers” by Otto Dix.)