What Does New Writing Look Like?

Pop Lit Fiction

THIS IS a question we hope to ask more often in coming months and perhaps provide answers– with the knowledge the short story is marginalized in the culture or at least fallen from its once-lofty station one hundred years ago when everyone in America was reading them and new story writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald were celebrities.

WILL the art become like string quartets or live theater– property of a set group of Insider cognoscenti based in select artistic capitals, with tiny groups of imitators scattered across the country, sharing their sacred texts like monks keeping an archaic cultural form scarcely alive? In what ways can it change? Is its regeneration doable– can a few Dr. Frankenstein mad scientists in artistic laboratories generate electricity through the monster’s body, and thereby rejuvenate it?

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We don’t know. Odds against the idea are steep. We only know that in future days we’ll be looking for stories which look different. Which try new things, no matter how offbeat or quirky.

TODAY we present a short story which looks and sounds different from the norm, “The Age of Insomnia” by Christopher Landrum. Not a linear story so much as a painting you look at and try to take in as one impression, with allusions to law, to literature, and to maybe the short story itself.

Father was a lawyer. The idea that all the cases and statutes of the law can be read together as some grand story sounds like a childish cliché—but what I wonder these nights is, can a story somehow be law? 

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WE HAVE other thoughts about art and the short story in a post at our NPL News blog, here.

ALSO be sure to see what we’re doing new with our print issues, here.

What Are Zeens?

News

INVENTING THE NEW

Zeens are a book-zine hybrid, with roots in the print-zine scene of the 1990s, taken to a whole other level of quality and design.

Zeens are a totally new product unlike anything before seen.

Zeens are a way to rejuvenate the literary game– a path toward connecting intelligent people from all spheres to the joys of literary reading.

Zeens are instantly attractive, accessible, and appealing, modestly packaged yet wonderfully colorful. They shout, “Take me, read me, collect me!”

They’re like finding a glowing treasure, the unexpected gift.

Purchase your zeen here, today.

ZEENS!

Announcement

A NEW KIND OF PUBLICATION

The book is dead. Or at least, the word itself turns off more than half of the potential audience, because they associate it with word-clotted unexciting tomes packaged in volumes reeking of dust and stodginess.

Time to rethink the package– and the product itself. Which is what we do in our latest “zeen” journal/fanzine hybrid, Extreme Zeen 2. Worth a look for the adventurous. Buy it here. Try out the New– soon to be the NOW. (We’ll be surprised if upon receiving it you don’t say, “Wow!”)

Until then, read the story behind the publication, “The Story of Extreme Zeen.”

The Pre-Breakthrough Moment?

Opinion

WE DON’T KNOW if we’ll be the ones to punch a hole in the culture which talented-but-undiscovered writers can jump through. But we know someone will, and soon. There are too many outsider writers better than those in the established New York-based literary order for artistic upheaval not to occur.

LOCATIONS

That there needs to be alternate centers of literary and publishing activity to the New York monolith, in other parts of the country, is stating the obvious. The way to do this is by creating better literary products along with inexpensive ways of producing those products.

VEHICLES

For us, it’s all or nothing. Breakthrough at some point or fold up shop.

Our chief tool to achieve our objectives is a new literary product which we’ve been calling–

THE 3D SHORT STORY

When’s the last time someone seriously tried to reinvent one of the standard literary forms? 

Allen Ginsberg did it with his poem “Howl.” A long time ago.

Gordon Lish tried to do it with his unique minimalist take on the short story as featured  from 1987 to 1995 in his literary journal, The Quarterly— which included the likes of Amy Hempel, Mark Richard, Diane Williams, and many others.

the quarterly

A worthy attempt. But his writers and their writing were too restrained, too tame– they didn’t go nearly far enough with their aesthetics or their imaginations.
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OUR attempt at Artistic Breakthrough begins on June 6th, 2019. Word will occur here as soon as one of the completed stories is posted. 3D Day IS coming.

giacomo balla street light

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(Art: “New Planet” by Konstantin Yuon; “Streetlight” by Giacomo Bala.)

 

 

What Happened to Proletarian Literature?

Populist Fiction

THERE WAS A TIME. . . .

There was a time when the American literary scene was defined by proletarian writing. Notably in the 1930’s, with the novels of John Steinbeck (Cannery Row, In Dubious Battle, The Grapes of Wrath) but from others, all-but-forgotten names like Horace McCoy, James T. Farrell, and Jack Conroy. The genre became so important that no less an author than Ernest Hemingway tried his hand at it, with the regrettable artistic and commercial failure To Have and Have Not.

After World War II the literary establishment, whether from reasons of commerce or ideology, de-emphasized populist writing. Scattered authors continued to add their insights and experiences. The excellent novella On the Line by Harvey Swados (1957) was one of them. By and large, though, with the rise of middle-class MFA programs and word-focused “literary” writing, the proletarian style of American literature fell by the wayside.

WHAT is the proletarian style? It’s marked by unpretentious prose– no sparkling Updike stylistic fireworks, sorry. No David Foster Wallace convoluted ruminations. Instead, simple accumulation of hard experience, focused on the working class, usually about economic hardship or collapse. Leaving the reader with a very different sort of impact. As if the reader had been– appropriately– punched between the eyes.

WE have an excellent contemporary example of the form, from a writer of now, Tim O’Connor, who gives us “The Baler.” In his story O’Connor expresses past hopes along with a disillusion which runs through many new writers. Amid a swiftly-changing world, an absence of faith in the future– in their future. As the editors of this site are from the long-beaten-down city of Detroit, we know that feeling well. As if the floor has dropped out from beneath you.

“The Baler” is a visit into a land alien to many Americans, the industrial world–

It’s the kind of scene you’d expect a factory worker to thrive in. The one where all the men at the bar are middle-aged and overweight. A majority of them have thick mustaches and wear thirty-year-old hats with retro beer logos on them. If you squint your eyes hard enough you can imagine them crushing cans of Schlitz, commiserating over another failed pennant race by the Tribe under the glow of a neon sign.

Thmas Hart Benton-Boomtown-mural

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(Art: “Detroit Industry” by Diego Rivera; “Boomtown” by Thomas Hart Benton.)

 

War Within the Literary World

Controversy

RIGHT NOW the U.S. literary world is divided over the Junot Diaz Controversy– the Pulitzer Prize-winning author accused of sexual harassment by an array of accusers. Which side is telling the truth? On which side should be our sympathies?

WE’VE been covering the issue at our News blog. Our 14th post on the topic, “System versus Zeitgeist,” looks at the politicization of the U.S. book world itself, giving context to what’s happening.

The post in the series which best expresses our author’s purpose might be this one, “Unlocking the Junot Diaz Puzzle.” 

Which side in the dispute will win? That is yet to be determined.

New York City Avant-Garde Invasion!

Feature

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.

Manhattan_Skyline_-_Flickr_-_Peter_Zoon

We start then with one of Brooklyn’s best young poets, Rus Khomutoff. He calls his work surpoems. We have four of them here.

Fading away
in a sea of dotted infinity
the rhythm of life
against monumentality

Cooper_New_York_from_Brooklyn

(Painting: “New York from Brooklyn” by Colin Campbell Cooper.)
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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.
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NEW POP LIT ATTACKS NEW YORK!

kk1

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.

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(Feature painting: “Tower of Babel” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder.)

Poetry Run Amok!

Feature

Poetry in outer space,
poetry is every place!
Poetry is hip and cool
(Apologies to Dr. Seuss.)

WE MISSED National Poetry Day– likely one of those Hallmark-created holidays anyway. We’re making up for it by turning our site temporarily over to poets and poetry.

FIRST is this week’s feature, “Black Water and Other Poems” by renowned Ohio poet Robert Beveridge.

The departure began
at a Dave Smith reading
as I poured alcohol
and peroxide down
the podium to kill
the beer worms.

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NEXT are the latest selections for the All-Time American Writers Tournament. ALL POETS!! Find out who they are here.

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We ALSO recently posted a missive from a mysterious activist character at the Tournament named “Cherry Bomb”– which just happens to be in the form of a poem.

(If we’re not having occasional fun– then what’s the point?)
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Pop it, punch it, make it snap
Poetry is where it’s at! 🙂

A Pop Canon?

All-Time American Writers Tournament

Did pop literature exist in the past?

Absolutely! Our latest bracket selections for the big Tournament include two of the most famous, hugely popular, world-renowned writers ever— both American– in the persons of Jack London and Edgar Allan Poe. From the days when the most fascinating, charismatic, or crazy persons in society became writers. (Which made for fascinating reading.)

Another selectee, Emily Dickinson, could be called a pop poet. The fourth, Tennessee Williams, a pop playwright? That’s stretching it.

Does their work hold up?

Read Jack London’s terrific story “Lost Face” and find out.

–in the foundations of the world was graved this end for him– for him, who was so fine and sensitive, whose nerves scarcely sheltered under his skin, who was a dreamer, and a poet, and an artist. Before he was dreamed of, it had been determined that the quivering bundle of sensitiveness that constituted him should be doomed to live in raw and howling savagery–

Double Controversy

All-Time American Writers Tournament

NOW we’ve stepped into it! Two literary controversies at one time, both of them connected to the All-Time American Writers Tournament. (We’ve been offering exclusive coverage of the tourney here.)

FIRST is the seldom-discussed matter of T.S. Eliot. Where lies his allegiance? America or Britain? Is Eliot considered a British poet– or an American one? Where should lie our allegiance? Contribute to the discussion, if you dare– should you care– here.

SECOND, we believe we’ve thrown new and historic light on the friendship between the two biggest names in American literary history, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. How deep went their feud? WAS Scott a passive actor– a simple punching bag; on the receiving end of Ernest’s shots and scorns– as our nation’s most esteemed lit critics seem to believe? Or did Fitzgerald get his shots in against one-time protégé Hemingway– not once, but twice?

Are we prepared to take on the entire U.S. lit-crit establishment over this issue?

YES!

Read about the matter here.

State-of-the-art thinking about writing and writers, letters and words, only at New Pop Lit.
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(Public domain image of Ritz Bar in Paris with photo of Scott Fitzgerald.)