CLASSIC SHORT STORY LITERARY ART
Someone referred to our recent presentation of an Edgar Allan Poe plague story as “old pop lit.” Well, it is. Writers should recognize the history of their art. We recognize the history of pop literature. In particular, the pop short story, which long before hit records became the rage was the popular American art form.
HOW did it become that?
Because short story writers were able to make an emotional connection with readers, in the same way pop singers today make an emotional connection with their fans.
One of the masters of the American short story was Poe. Another was the man known as O. Henry, who during his brief career became the most popular story writer of them all.
One of O. Henry’s masterpieces is “The Last Leaf,” which we present, in these challenging times, as our feature. The tale is about disease sweeping through a city– but it’s also about love, friendship, and hope.
The setting? A bohemian neighborhood in New York. The characters? Two young artists and an older artist who lives beneath them. All are participants in that era’s version of the gig economy– and so are uniquely vulnerable to the hostile swings of misfortune. As fragile humanity is vulnerable, in our time, or in any time.
In November a cold, unseen stranger, whom the doctors called. Pneumonia, stalked about the colony, touching one here and there with his icy fingers. Over on the east side this ravager strode boldly, smiting his victims by scores, but his feet trod slowly through the maze of the narrow and moss-grown “places.”
(Art: “Park Street Church in Winter” by Arthur Clifton Goodwin; “New York” by George Bellows.)
ON CORONAS AND CONTAGIOUS MUSIC
Today is St. Patrick’s Day, but it’s an unusual St. Paddy’s Day because of the fear the hysteria the caution protection prevention over a bug, so the parades are fewer, the parties calmer, celebration muted. This year. Unless there’s a final wild-and-masque’d Edgar Poe blowout someplace.
APPROPRIATE then that we have as our new feature a short story, “Townies” by Philip Charter, about six friends traveling to Majorca to party. And party they do.
But what awaits them?
A contagion, yes, but a contagion of a different sort. Not a virus, but having something to do with music and sex.
READ IT! drink it inhale it as you quarantine yourself against the onslaughts of panic and madness.
Within one minute of Gavin fading in the music, the dance floor was covered. It was as if the beat was ripping girls out of their seats, me included. The boys of course followed.
(Painting: “Party” by Emil Nolde.)
Everyone is talking about it so we thought we’d post it– one of the best short stories ever written, “Masque of the Red Death” by that master of pop writing, Edgar Allan Poe.
The abbey was amply provisioned. With such precautions the courtiers might bid defiance to contagion. The external world could take care of itself. In the meantime it was folly to grieve or to think.
Strangely enough, our previous feature story, “Cracks“ by Wilson Koewing, was about masks (at Mardis Gras), and our next feature– due next week, by Philip Charter— is about partying. A different sort of partying– or is it?
(Painting: “Soldier at a Game of Chess” by Jean Metzinger.)
WHO ARE THE BEST NEW WRITERS?
We are going on a more relaxed posting schedule in the next so-many weeks, so we can focus on our behind-the-scenes activities.
-Creating a few print-zeen prototypes. The most ambitious aspect of the New Pop Lit project.
-Further development of our version of the “3-D” multidimensional story.
-Increased emphasis on locating striking new writing talent– with the proviso that talent isn’t enough. We seek ability to adapt to our artistic ideas of pop clarity and energy, as well as charismatic attributes.
Will we be staging an “NPL Combine” to access the best indie writers on today’s literary scene? Possibly!
We’re looking for the Billie Eilish of the literary world. Talent and pop attitude. If you’re that person, get in touch!
IN THE MEANTIME, we have much terrific writing upcoming– including a new fiction feature, more “Pop Quiz” Q & A’s, and for April, poetry and poetry-themed prose for this year’s Poetry Month. THEN, more excellent fiction. Not to miss.
(Art: “The Bach Singer” by Johannes Itten; “Portrait of Jean Metzinger” by Robert Delaunay.)
OUR OP-ED PAGE RETURNS
We are a free speech literary site. Which means an ability and willingness to express dissenting opinions. This includes dissenting opinions about literature.
TODAY we bring back our opinion page as an outlet, we hope, for a variety of opinions and criticism from all directions about today’s literary world and the products of that world. Starting with a biting review by G.D. Dess of Ben Lerner’s much-hyped novel, The Topeka School.
Holden’s voice echoes in your mind long after you put down the novel, whereas Adam’s voice becomes inaudible the minute you turn the last page.
(Art: “Brooklyn Bridge” by Joseph Stella, created 100 years ago.)
A MARDI GRAS STORY
Great 19th century novelists such as Victor Hugo, Charlotte Bronte, and Alexandre Dumas would often put a big scene of a carnival parade into their books. The feeling of uninhibited revelry, chaos, even madness was a way of heightening emotion and consolidating plot threads– as if the true hidden nature of their characters came out– came alive– amid the colors, music, drinking and shouting.
WE HAVE today in time for Mardi Gras 2020 a short story centered around carnival time in New Orleans, and it’s a good one: “Cracks” by Wilson Koewing. The story of course is about more than a parade. It’s about a relationship– more, it’s about life, about love, about being human and filled with the kind of chaotic mad emotions we flawed creatures are prone to. Put on your Mardi Gras mask and plunge in.
As we close in on St. Charles, the din of the crowd materializes. Carnival food smells ride on the breeze. You sense the impending madness. It rushes slowly, not towards you. You enter. It surrounds you. And you’re inside. There is a wall, and when it envelops you, there is no escape.
(ART: “The Peacock” by Natalia Goncharova.)
“Q & A” by Alan Swyer, our new feature, is an intriguing short story– it appears to be about one thing but is actually about something else, which adds a rounded quality to the work. A sense of dimension or depth.
Ostensibly the story is about a filmmaker agreeing to answer questions in a hostile environment. What happens when he steps on the stage to face that audience?
We hope you enjoy it.
Nor had a lengthy call with the festival’s program director put Donner’s mind at ease. “I like work that’s edgy and biting,” Todd Gallagher explained, which for Donner confirmed that his film was chosen with the hope that it would provoke. That belief was heightened when Gallagher added, “There’s nothing I love as much as a violent collision of cultures.”
(While you’re at it, please check out our two most recent blog posts: “Love Story Examined: A Writing Template” and “Miserable Love Stories by Alex Bernstein.”)
(Art: “Odysseus in the Land of the Dead” by N.C. Wyeth.)
THE SEARCH FOR LOVE
We all need it, we all want it, and those who’ve rejected the concept have built iron walls around their hearts to keep it out– so deadly to them is the fear of not being loved. Cynicism masks a thousand heartaches.
OUR ONLY ADVICE is: keep trying. The right person is out there for everyone, sometimes discovered when you’re not watching.
Is this the message of our new feature story, “A Wild Feeling” by Anne Leigh Parrish?
Well, kind of. . . .
He asks where love goes. She doesn’t know. She’s never known. Out there somewhere, with the waves and the sand. Maybe that’s what the gulls sing about every day, as they glide aloft.
(Art: “Large Poppies” and “In the Lemon Grove” by Emil Nolde.)
THE QUESTION OF POLITICAL FICTION
IS all art political? Can it be? MUST it be?
WE ARE NOT a political web site, though the storms of politics rage on all sides around us– and though we may (or may not) be in the final days in this contentious society of being allowed to not take a stand on the wrenching issues fake and real of our hysterical time. Our focus is art– the beauties, joys, simplicities and complexities of new literary art.
AT THE SAME TIME we’re not beyond creating fictional happenings about those same current political happenings– staying topical, as with our current feature from New Pop Lit‘s Editor: “The Perfect Candidate.”
(Do we contradict ourselves? We live in a three-dimensional world. Of course we contradict ourselves.)
THE STORY is an experiment at multidimensional writing, mixing viewpoints in an attempt to present a more rounded picture of the rather insane world we live in now. What’s the real story of the young would-be primary contender who seems to have all the answers?
As if on cue, the boy mayor faced him and began reciting several of his goals. Reasons he was considering entering the primaries. His eyes were focused, looking straight at Stewart Linton. A serious individual, Stewart thought. How old was he? According to his bio, thirty-seven. He looked younger.
(Art: Josef Capek, “Head”; Alexander Rodchecko, “Workers”)
A PART of the “pop” designation we’ve adopted is the word populist– which at its most basic level revolves in some way around the world of work. Few things in life are more intense than being thrust into the chaos of a new job– especially those of a low-wage variety. Particularly in the “do more with less” ethos of the 21st century. Hyper-efficiency in the work world be it high tech or fast food puts most of the onus on employees at the bottom of the hierarchy.
AS WE SEE in our latest feature story, “Hamburger Hill” by Irish writer John Higgins.
The manager came out of the office, finally, and strolled towards the grill. Her black shoes slapped off the lino and heralded her approach. She was a portly woman, and carried herself like a government minister, with her hairy arms crossed at the small of her back. To accompany the sound of her steps, she also tapped her knuckles against her palm. She smiled. Most of her teeth were hidden up in her gums, ashamed of their twisted form.