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.)
(“Premonition” by Walter Nessler copyright Royal Air Force Museum.)
Our month-long Hemingway celebration continues with a striking new story by Samuel Stevens, “Diminutives,” whose setting of Paris is a nod to Ernest Hemingway and the Lost Generation. But so is its style. Few writers understand what Ernest Hemingway was fully up to when he revolutionized writing. Stevens is one of them.
Note how Stevens’ story is like a Modernist painting– a collage of parts expressing the fragmentation of our time. As if helplessly riding a bus about to crash, we’re replaying– reliving– that broken insane world Hemingway experienced. Around us is a sense of foreboding. Imminence. Chaos.
Stevens’ story is simple but at the same time it’s a mix of impressions and ideas. A splash of confusion, or a slap in the face. The story is there in front of us, like a painting. Right there. It’s very short, but there’s enough in it to like or dislike. Or hate.
Provocative and topical.
But what do you think?
There were no subjects to write about any more, either in America or here; the world was too mixed up to really stop and look at it.
Ideas! New Pop Lit is first and foremost a project of ideas. In a period when the public is demanding populist change, we advertise ourselves as literary change agents.
Toward that end we’re offering an essay by Samuel Stevens about publishing, outlining how writers who seek to change the literary art– who offer new aesthetic ideas– have often faced difficulties.
The critics of the day repudiated authors with mountains of literary criticism about them now. Names like Hemingway, Pound, Joyce, Eliot were at one time the enemy. Hemingway’s friend, the memory-holed author Robert McAlmon, published Three Stories and Ten Poems; the New York world wasn’t interested in the young Hemingway’s work.
Sam Stevens is included in our first “Lit Question of the Month” feature at our Extras!/Interactive blog, along with twenty-three other writers. The response was such– the answers uniformly terrific– that we’re likely to try the feature again. The list includes DIYers– bloggers, self-publishers, zinesters; those changing the literary product– but also status quo reps, from university professors and creative writing instructors, to long-time award-winning story writers Kelly Cherry, T.C. Boyle, and Madison Smartt Bell, to best-selling novelist Scott Turow. Among their number is possibly even a member of the dreaded literary establishment!– if that animal can be credibly identified. We thank them all for the generosity of their time and their minds. Read the answers here.
We ask readers to join the conversation. What’s your favorite answer? Your least favorite? Take a minute and tell us in the Comments section.