WE’VE ADDED New York City journal The Baffler to our knockout victims. See our analysis of that strangely esteemed magazine. In response to the seriousness of our points, to date the Baffler‘s editors have not been able to say anything.
At the same time we have an Open Mic feature going– which we promise to keep entertaining.
Kicking things off: “Kate Hepburn” reads a poem penned by one of our favorite writers. Listen to the recording. Let us know what you think.
Next week: New fiction.
(Art by George Bellows.)
RELATIONS between men and women have been under stress the last several months as never before. Fiction is proving to be the best forum for examining those tensions. Under the guise of the non-factual the writer is able to get to actual truths.
ONE OF THE BEST writers on the topic of men and women– one of the best American short story writers period– is Anne Leigh Parrish. We’re privileged to have another short work from her– short, but as always, with condensed impact. The tale is called “The First Time.” We hope you find it as striking a work of reality and art as we do– and that if this is the first, it not be the last time you come to our site!
I was stunned. Not that we might one day regret our liaison, but that you regretted it now.
(Featured art: “Ashes” by Edvard Munch.)
EVERYONE right now seems to have a cause or political movement, colored red, pink, purple, blue, or green, or is hysterically running around with signs about something. Mad ideologies from antifa to alt-right and all things in-between. There are dozens– maybe hundreds– of flavors of Marxism alone, whether Maoist, Leninist, Stalinist, Shigalovian, Trotskyite, Fabian (not the 50’s rock star); social democrat or democratic socialist; mixed with scores of identities of the academic pomo crowd– and at least as many varieties on the right. Cue the propaganda– the bots and printing presses are working overtime.
Far be it for us to miss a trend– so we’ve started our own movement. We reject ALL political cults and sects and invite those seeking change, dissatisfied with things as-they-are, the status quo, the Establishment, the established order and alternatives to the established order, cable and network news shows all of them as well as BBC propaganda biopics about queens and history dramas about Vikings, to unite together under our banner of POP LIT.
OUR FOUR-POINT PROGRAM
1.) We’re not a party but we like to party.
2.) Ideologues are androids.
3.) The only revolution that matters is the revolution of art. (The word art used broadly.)
4.) The way to access the creativity of the universe is by being creative.
The only requirement to join our movement is that you enjoy reading.
(Send your writings and paintings to us. If we like them we’ll use them.)
-Karl and Kathleen
(Featured art: “Composition with Two Figures” by Heinrich Campendonk.)
AS A POP LIT website we’re out to redefine the mainstream– but aren’t beyond occasional forays outside our familiar lines if the work deserves it. (Our roots are in the literary underground.) Even if the source of the unfamiliar material is that dreaded monster-metropolis of New York.
(Accompanying NYC music.)
It’s in places of highest power and station– among wavering skyscrapers– that one finds an underside. The literary obverse.
We start then with one of Brooklyn’s best young poets, Rus Khomutoff. He calls his work surpoems. We have four of them here.
in a sea of dotted infinity
the rhythm of life
(Painting: “New York from Brooklyn” by Colin Campbell Cooper.)
NEXT we have an Appreciation from New York avant-garde icon Richard Kostelanetz, of New York poet Frank Kuenstler, part of the ongoing ALL-TIME AMERICAN WRITERS TOURNAMENT.
Has New Pop Lit been taken over by, gasp!, New Yorkers? Not quite.
NEW POP LIT ATTACKS NEW YORK!
FINALLY, we have a review of the January 29 issue of The New Yorker— flagship of the literary establishment and woefully decrepit. Or: The future is US.
(Feature painting: “Tower of Babel” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder.)
THE FICTIONAL NARRATIVE is strengthened immensely by the presence of conflict. It doesn’t have to be all-out war– well covered over the years in works like War and Peace. It can mean merely the hint of approaching conflict. The sense of tension between characters– a troubling undercurrent saying, “All is not right here,” and, “This could if not carefully managed get quickly out of hand.”
The art of the fiction writer comes in creating and managing that tension. We see it in our current feature story, “Park Rangers,” by Joshua Caleb Wilson. A short tale about parents and a playground in which, like a modernist painting, one can see different things, depending on how you view it. On what you bring to it. A reminder that in the world, potential conflicts are endless and can be encountered anyplace.
“Oh, are you child psychologist?” Matt asked.
“No, I just thought…”
“But you don’t really know do you?” Matt interrupted.
(Art: “Battle of Legano” by Amos Cassoli.)
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.)
ANOTHER YEAR and this project is still going. A victory in itself.
What do we have planned for the New Year?
Many ideas are on the New Pop Lit drawing board. The trick will be implementing them. This will take time, resources, opportunity and energy. Not lacking is will. Keep watching– one never knows what we’ll be up to.
In the meantime read our latest book review, on the futuristic Robin Wyatt Dunn poem-novel Debudaderrah.
* * * *
(Painting: “The City” by Fernand Leger.)
THREE MEN were having trouble lugging their packages across the desert from afar, and came across a depressed bear. Depressed because there wasn’t much to do for a bear in the desert. A bear in a desert? Anyway, the bear was feeling purposeless and alone, and didn’t know if he could “bear it” much longer.
“Why oh why oh why oh why?” he asked, in bear talk.
The three men saw the bear lying in the sand, moaning, with his paws over his head. The three looked at one another.
“After all, it is Christmas,” one of them said, with a perplexed look in his eyes.
“Yes, it is,” one of the other three said.
“Yes!” said the third. “It truly is. It really really is.”
He took his smartphone from his robes and looked at it. Yep, there it was. December 24th. Christmas Eve. Year 0000.
“It’s decided then,” the three said simultaneously, and wondered that the three of them, each from a separate faraway land, had said the same thing.
So together in one voice they asked the despondent animal if he’d like to try “bearing” something useful– their heavy packages of gold, frankincense, and myrrh– to a destination in Bethlehem. The packages were in fact quite heavy and overburdening the camels. Encountering the bear was a fortunate occurrence. Almost miraculous. The bear gladly agreed, as the three men seemed particularly wise to him. He’d seen men before, who were not wise. Not wise at all. But these men were.
The little caravan continued on to Bethlehem until they found shepherds and animals congregated outside a tiny stable behind an inn. The three wise men strode in, bearing their gifts, while the bear quietly crept in behind them and took a place in the straw beside the other animals, who were first alarmed because, after all, he was a bear. But then they looked at the baby and weren’t alarmed at all.
From that day forward the bear was always forever more a happy bear.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from New Pop Lit!
-Karl Wenclas and Kathleen M. Crane
* * * * * * *
(Paintings: “The Journey of the Magi” by James Tissot; “Adoration of the Magi” by Fra Angelico.)
WE TALK OFTEN here at New Pop Lit headquarters about Hemingway’s “True Gen”: How to define it and how to find it– the thread of thought provoked by the death of singer-songwriter Pat Dinizio , long-time front man of working-class New Jersey rock band The Smithereens.
The band never quite hit the big time– yet were the genuine article, creating simple strong passionate art. This took us to a low rent same-named work from another medium: Susan Seidelman’s classic (?) indie film about the 1980’s punk scene: “Smithereens.”
The genuine is a quest, not always a destination. The search for the authentic involves the artist getting as close as possible to real experience– to find the true moment, the genuine emotion.
How do we find new writing of piercing reality?
By being open to it. This week we present a short story of tough background and authentic emotion, “Eighty Pounds” by Michigan writer Jon Berger. It’s about high school, classes, cliques, class, drugs, jobs, work: life. Not Manhattan literary slickness. Instead: reality, truth, grit. Read it.
Those guys in there, it’s like they knew how to size me up. Guys in the world, like Will, they only saw that I was in dumb classes and that I didn’t play sports or they saw where I lived and they thought that was my size.
(Painting: “The Boulevard” by Gino Severini.)
SOME wordsmiths escape into fantasy– into lands of werewolves, warlocks, and dragons– which we’re fine with, up to a point. Other, more serious writers depict today’s world as it exists.
“Start and Stop” by Gregory Yelnish is an unglamorized glimpse at reality, written in a style almost three-dimensional in its ability to show the reader its restricted stage of a room and the two troubled individuals within it. A young man. A young woman. Life today? Words as reality. Writing as art. Only from New Pop Lit.
Bright green paint on her toenails showed the stresses of wear. The discolored patches of skin leered at him as if they were alive. They had hollow faces, taunting him, shouting obscenities in a perverse version of her golden voice.
(Paintings: “Bedroom” by Vassily Kandinsky; “Girl with Blonde Hair” by Helene Schjerfbeck.)