REVAMPING THE SHORT STORY ART
WHY do we illustrate this post with the famous painting of Gertrude Stein by Pablo Picasso?
BECAUSE with her innovative writing style, Gertrude Stein kicked off one of those period attempts to reinvent writing. This effort had its greatest effect via Stein protege Ernest Hemingway, whose collection of short fiction, In Our Time, at the time revolutionized the short story art.
There is always a push-pull where the short story is concerned. Creators and innovators like Hemingway (or Gordon Lish and his minimalist friends Raymond Carver and Susan Minot in the 1980’s and 90’s) attempt to breathe new life into the form– only to see their efforts counteracted by the stodgy mindset represented by prestigious Iowa-style writing programs and The New Yorker magazine– which some would say are the same thing.
WE at New Pop Lit would like to kick off a round of short fiction innovation. Toward that end we are doing two things:
1.) Beginning what we call The Short Story Process— a creative procedure through which we hope to arrive at the promised land of a reinvented art.
2.) Spotlighting new writers whose work in subject or style colors outside the lines of the artistically acceptable, the bourgeois, the already done. Toward that end we present a new story, “Ain’t Worth a Dollar,” by Atticus Davis, who writes under the name Savage Ckhild, a handle that may say it all.
She’s sitting in the car with her hair tied up, I forget how beautiful she is, I always think I’m going to be immune to her, to them—so she smiles this unblemished smile, that lasts one second before it collapses into this miserable, needy, fearful smile. I feel guilty for being here.
REAL FICTION– real art– asks more questions than it answers. It becomes an alternate universe we enter to confront experience, and our own ideas, beliefs, and doubts.
SO IS IT with our newest feature, “Real Propaganda” by Christopher S. Bell, which raises questions about the recycling of gestures and stances from the rock music era.
IS there yet authenticity to be found in this scene– genuine artistic emotion? Or are bands and fans alike merely going through the motions– walking like artistic survivors through a landscape of cultural aftermath?
Read the story to find out.
“We all know what that first album is, why they made it, and why it still sounds so fucking good even to this day. It’s not hard to figure out; you just plug in and let it wash over you– “
(Featured art: “Mandolin and Guitar” by Pablo Picasso.)
ABOUT AMERICAN CULTURE
IS there an American culture distinct from other cultures? Apart? Unique?
WHAT would be traditional aspects of that culture?
One hallmark of American culture for sure is American-style football, around which much energy is expended every week, every fall, at several levels– pro, college, and high school. A sport of unique speed and strategy, accompanied by uniquely American color and noise.
The smell of autumn. Homecoming. Marching bands. Cheerleaders. Local rivalries. The Prom. The Big Game.
As we’re currently into football season, New Pop Lit this week presents a short story, “The Austin Strangler” by Nick Gallup, which perfectly captures that milieu, along with everything right and harmonious in partaking of tradition, romance, and games.
He was definitely intrigued and bolted outside. He saw a Carolina-blue ‘55 T-Bird with the top down. That was beautiful, but what was inside was even more beautiful, a girl he’d known for years, but only from afar. He now knew her name, Lauren, and he’d never seen her in anything but shorts. She was a cheerleader for Austin High School, the cross-town rival of his high school, Harrington.
(Art: “Autumn” by Franklin Carmichael; “Football” by J.C. Leyendecker.)
THE SUBJECT of editorial independence has come up within the literary world much of late– especially with the recent ouster of Ian Buruma at New York Review of Books.
TO STAY topical we present a new short story from that always entertaining observer of American business, manners, and culture, Alan Swyer. His new tale, “The Sage,” looks at creative smarts and editorial independence within the film industry– a business Alan Swyer knows much about.
CAN Swyer’s lead character, a movie maker named Tarlowe, rescue a troubled film project involving a difficult celebrity wise man– and maintain his integrity while doing so? An inside look at a tumultuous world.
The non-stop travel, coupled with interviews that ranged from eye-opening to scintillating, proved to be a dizzying experience. But even as he reported in periodically, informing his benefactor about what had been said, and by whom, a question kept gnawing at Tarlowe. How would the man who billed himself as The Sage, but who came off in person like a somewhat epicene song-and-dance man, fit in among such luminaries?
(Art: “Burning the Darkness” by Nicholas Roerich.)
WHAT MAKES A GOOD HALLOWEEN STORY?
A good Halloween story should be truly scary– or at the least, disturbing. Something which climbs inside your head to unsettle your dreams. Or magnify your nightmares.
Our Halloween presentation for 2018, “God, the Machine” by Travis Simpson, does not involve pumpkins, demons or goblins. The story features instead that most frightening of nature-or-God’s creations, the human mind. Set in a futuristic world swiftly becoming contemporary and real.
She imagines the room filling with water, their bodies floating inside, spilling whatever blood is still loose inside them free in billowing clouds, a little like the nebulous entity outside the craft. This is the will of God, who moves through all dimensions and put this plan in her life from the moment she was conceived.
(Art: “The Headless Horseman” by Ichabod Crane; “Controller of the Universe” by Diego Rivera.)
THE NEW GENERATION
WHAT are the kids doing, thinking experiencing? HOW are their lives different from ours? What’s changed? What burdens, obstacles, expectations and insanities are they going through– beyond those which we who’ve been around longer have already faced?
HAS there ever been a more connected yet more alienated generation?
WILL they soon simply proclaim in one voice “Enough!” and be done with all of it, and with us?
QUESTIONS which are raised by our new feature story by recent high school student A.K. Riddle, “Now All the Kids Are Making Noise Just Because It’s Something to Do.”
Experience? A.K. gives us a ton of it, along with the emotion and confusion of being young– of being human. Along with exceptional writing. Plus, a structure which doesn’t fit a predictable mold– which one would expect and want from an artistically fresh and talented young writer.
There’s a lot going on in this story. We hope you like it.
I wished I could play with them and laugh along to their jokes and sing along to their rap. But, as I looked to the clear sky and opened the door a little to feel the cold air, I remembered that I was just a poet. I was just there to tell their stories, not be like them. I don’t know if I liked it that way, but that’s just the way things were.
(Painting: “The Dance of Life” by Edvard Munch.)
WE meaning mankind have existed in insane periods in the past many writers and artists throughout history have been judged or diagnosed insane including Van Gogh and others like Dostoevsky Beethoven and Kafka have been on the edge, there have been crazy times, but have they been quite as extreme and chaotic as flat out mad crazy as OUR time? Now, in 2018?
Blame it on electronic media? Facebook? Twitter? Video games? The collapse of culture and decay of civilization?
TO ILLUSTRATE today’s madness we present to you the reader a story by Andrew Walker, “Blue Men in Black Coats,” which floats in between reality and madness, so that we ask, “Is this real? Any of this real? Or is it too real?” The story is too spot on, too much a presentation of now and the insane world which surrounds us.
The blue men do not look at you. From the books you’ve read, the shows you used to watch, the notes scribbled down in the pocket notebook you don’t use enough, you figured they would be some sort of bizarre, alien force come to act as a metaphor, an image, a symbol. Something come alive from the stories you have yet to write.
But these blue men appear to only be existing as anyone else would: to enjoy their Saturday.
(Art: “Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear and Pipe” by Van Gogh; “Blue Room” by Picasso.)
WE’VE begun to rethink several aspects of this project. One of the items on our planning table is fiction– the style offered. We’re toying with prototypes– will eventually implement tighter requirements. That it be dynamic, punchy, readable, fast, and if possible, fun. The future story will need to slap the reader in the face and grab that person by the collar, in order to survive as an art form.
EVIDENCE shows that the finely-detailed, well-crafted literary story is as slow and obsolete as a Studebaker automobile.
It reaches no one beyond a finely educated clique. A literary priesthood, stodgy and complacent, well-suited for preserving the literary art but not for taking it to new areas.
OUR NEWEST offering, “Hats Off to Bob” by Bob Lorentson– a story about hats!– gives a basic template to build on. Likeable and readable, with a modest-but-amusing punchline. Lorentson isn’t Ernest Hemingway. (Who is?) But we think Hemingway would appreciate what Bob Lorentson does with this unpretentious tale. If not a Corvette, then a Mini Cooper.
Confidence. As much as he hated to admit it, he knew that he lacked the confidence that all those other people had. Or appeared to have. All thanks to his wimpy name and bland, impotent face. Things he had absolutely no control over. It wasn’t fair. How could he go about getting more confident?
OUR LATEST New Pop Lit News report is about dinosaur booksellers, specifically Barnes and Noble. Read it here.
WHAT’S the future of books and literature? We’re not sure, but we know they belong to everyone.
(Art: “Her Paintings, Her Objects” by Sonia Delaunay.)
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.)