Short Sharp Fiction

Pop Lit Fiction

AS WE WAIT to introduce to the world in one month the innovation we call the 3D Short Story, we have a couple fictional works to present first. (As well as several new poems.) The two fictional works are different from the norm– in keeping with our 2019 mission to present new experiences to New Pop Lit readers.

The first of the two stories, by talented story writer Sophie Kearing, is “This Is.” We hope you enjoy it.

Every time she thinks about me, the skeletal digits of an invisible hand squeeze all the comfort from me like juice from a lemon. The hand keeps me firmly planted in the darkness, unable to reach any of the good feelings.

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ALSO, we have a new post at our NPL News blog about the aforementioned 3D Story– and whether critics of all varieties will be ready for it. Is literary change upon us? Maybe!

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(Public domain art c/o stockfreeimages.com.)

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Art and the Artist

Essay, Feature, profile
NEW POP LIT GOES LOCAL

Our previous feature was by an esteemed international author. For this one we looked closer to home– presenting a unique work here by young Detroit-area writer Ambrose Black which is part profile of accomplished artist Leon Dickey and his work, and part imagination, as Ambrose enters the head of his subject to relate his background and complete his story.

The result becomes itself something like a modernist painting, with two different but complementary vantage points. Ambrose Black writes in an original style, reminiscent perhaps of Sherwood Anderson, but not really. He hasn’t been machine-stamped as from a press, and so views the world– and in this case, the artist– through fresh eyes.

The essay is in line with our stated objective for 2019: To search for the literary NEW.

He has to expose his truth to the world, for he is a creator. His truth is that one is in control of the self– the only judgment and choices one is responsible for is the self. His art is ironic to his truth, but purposefully and honestly. The trash he uses signifies his and our failures. But like a phoenix from the ashes, he uses the deconstruction to create something of beauty.

gaugin self

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(Art: “Self-Portrait with Seven Fingers” by Marc Chagall; “Self-Portrait” by Paul Gaugin.)

Fiction Reinvention

Pop Lit Fiction
REVAMPING THE SHORT STORY ART

WHY do we illustrate this post with the famous painting of Gertrude Stein by Pablo Picasso?

BECAUSE with her innovative writing style, Gertrude Stein kicked off one of those period attempts to reinvent writing. This effort had its greatest effect via Stein protege Ernest Hemingway, whose collection of short fiction, In Our Time, at the time revolutionized the short story art.

There is always a push-pull where the short story is concerned. Creators and innovators like Hemingway (or Gordon Lish and his minimalist friends Raymond Carver and Susan Minot in the 1980’s and 90’s) attempt to breathe new life into the form– only to see their efforts counteracted by the stodgy mindset represented by prestigious Iowa-style writing programs and The New Yorker magazine– which some would say are the same thing.

WE at New Pop Lit would like to kick off a round of short fiction innovation. Toward that end we are doing two things:

1.)  Beginning what we call The Short Story Process— a creative procedure through which we hope to arrive at the promised land of a reinvented art.

2.) Spotlighting new writers whose work in subject or style colors outside the lines of the artistically acceptable, the bourgeois, the already done. Toward that end we present a new story, “Ain’t Worth a Dollar,” by Atticus Davis, who writes under the name Savage Ckhild, a handle that may say it all.

She’s sitting in the car with her hair tied up, I forget how beautiful she is, I always think I’m going to be immune to her, to them—so she smiles this unblemished smile, that lasts one second before it collapses into this miserable, needy, fearful smile. I feel guilty for being here. 

 

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.)

 

New Fiction: “Homecoming”

Pop Lit Fiction

JUST when you’ve had enough of summer and its heat, we come along with great summer reading set in Buffalo, New York, during the winter holidays. Snow! Cold! Blizzards!

The story is “Homecoming” by Michael Howard. It’s about a young woman returning home from sunny California during the Christmas season, encountering all the familiar warm faces and smells, but also something darker, lying wait inside the comfortable house. . . .

Lucy had the sensation that the room was growing smaller. She could feel her pulse thumping in her temples as she forced another smile and told him that it was nice of him to say so, but that they really should go back downstairs now. Her words didn’t seem to penetrate–

at dusk childe hassam

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(Paintings: “Murnau Burggrabenstrasse” by Wassily Kandinsky; “At Dusk” by Childe Hassam.)

 

Fiction: Writing of the Mind

Pop Lit Fiction

THE LARGEST TOPIC for any writer– the greatest expanse of territory to cover– is the human mind. BUT WE ALSO live in a time with a dystopian vibe. Combine the two elements and you create fearful possibilities for the reader.

Our newest feature story, “Unraveling” by Tianna Grosch, is a plunge into the depths and memories of the mind– at the same time it’s a commentary on the contemporary age, on a kind of soullessness consuming everyone. Writers and artists seek metaphors for what’s happening. Zombies, pods, androids, robots. Loss of affect. Of emotion, depth, mind. What does it mean? Where are we going? Where have we been?

There’s much to be discovered in this thought-provoking tale by a talented young writer.

The doctors’ infinite, empty eyes peered out above crisp white masks. Masks shrouding the remainder of their faces so the crown of heads surrounding him became nothing more than a sea of irises ranging in color and depth, but never in emotion.

Ward_in_the_Hospital_in_Arles
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(Paintings: “Murnau” by Vassily Kandinsky; “Hospital Ward in Arles” by Vincent van Gogh.)

New Fiction: by Alexander Olson

Pop Lit Fiction

New talent? WHO is devoted to new writing talent?

WE are! As we seek to move the center of literature out of the golden island of Manhattan, we’re hearing from new writers from the heartland of this country. Our plan: To showcase talented writers before they approach or cross the many barriers erected by the established publishing industry. To spotlight the best new writers first, before anyone else locates them.

pen

Toward that end we present  Two Flash Fiction works about life today by Alexander Olson. One is about consumerism. The other is about a dying relative. Both different– expressing emotions ranging from cynicism to compassion. Both are thought provoking.

She didn’t deserve me gazing at the floor, wondering vaguely if it was always like this. She deserved movie-quality sadness. Broadway-level grief. 

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Be sure to check out all the many other things happening at our site–  audio; reviews; news. An easy way is to click on the drop-down menu at “All Other” on this page. Thanks!

(Featured painting: “Isle of the Dead” by Arnold Bocklin.)

Conflict in Fiction

Pop Lit Fiction

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 dont really know do you?Matt interrupted.

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(Art: “Battle of Legano” by Amos Cassoli.)

Writing: Search for the Genuine

Pop Lit Fiction

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.

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.”

Smithereens 11
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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.
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(Painting: “The Boulevard” by Gino Severini.)

 

 

Literature Today: The World We Live In

Pop Lit Fiction

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.

Helene_Schjerfbeck_-_Girl_with_Blonde_Hair
“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.
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(Paintings: “Bedroom” by Vassily Kandinsky; “Girl with Blonde Hair” by Helene Schjerfbeck.)