Colder weather is upon us! Sooner than anyone expected. Which means it’s a good time for reading. At New Pop Lit we have several options for the discriminating reader.
FIRST is our new feature story, “Pretty Women Never Sit Next to Me on Airplanes” by Jason Feingold, a much-published short story writer making his first appearance with us. As its title indicates, it’s a quick tale about traveling. As so many of you will be traveling somewhere in the coming weeks, with the holidays nearly upon us, we believe you’ll find the story timely.
Age fourteen was my last good year. I’d peaked, and I never realized it until about fifteen minutes ago, because fifteen minutes ago is when I realized I’ll never have a renaissance.
WE ALSO offer a review of a controversial new book by Dana Schwartz, The White Man’s Guide to White Male Writers of the Western Canon. Does the book live up to the controversy?
FINALLY, we have at our NPL News blog (which presents the latest literary news, uncensored) an editorial about this past week’s layoffs at Bustle magazine. The editorial is bold. Don’t be thrown by it. As an upstart literary project with large ambitions, confidence in our project is the first requirement.
(Art by Heinrich Campendonk.)
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–
WHEN ONE CONSIDERS a project like our proposed “All-Time American Writers Tournament,” one bumps up against notions of the Canon. That collection of writers and literary works designated by the academy as worthy of preservation and study.
YET the world has changed so drastically the realization hits that for all its impact on society, there is no Canon. Or: no one cares. For the general public, a Neil Gaiman or Stephenie Meyer has more importance than a score of canonical writers. Names like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Pearl Buck barely register. Inside the classroom it’s hardly better, according to a college professor we know. The chief struggle is to keep students off their smartphones and have them read the assignments. Compared to the overwhelming noise of media found on phones, the internet, and television, of what impact is an assigned poem, play, or novel?
Professors themselves aren’t the respected figures they once were. A quaint person in a classroom– artifact from another era. Quickly forgotten.
So low is the standing of “Literature” in the culture that we ask ourselves, “Why bother?”
We’ll likely make the attempt regardless. An impossible task– to have readers become interested in dusty figures of history at a time when for most of the population there is no past, only NOW. A task but also a challenge. A test to see if the best writers, as personalities and talents, can be made interesting. Even provocative.
The Canon? Is there a Canon? Should writers today blow up all notion of a Canon? Or reinvent the Canon?
These are questions our tournament will address. . . .
Meanwhile take a look at our new book review blog with sample review. We have several reviews of our favorite authors to put up– but are also looking for reviews, commentary, or gossip by others, short and to the point. Make it new. Make it exciting. Make it pop!