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.)
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.
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.”
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.
(Painting: “The Boulevard” by Gino Severini.)
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.
“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.
(Paintings: “Bedroom” by Vassily Kandinsky; “Girl with Blonde Hair” by Helene Schjerfbeck.)
MONSTERS AND GOBLINS are products of the imagination. Reflections of our irrational minds.
What happens in an electronic world which overstimulates the brain to ever-higher levels of panic and hysteria? When media infiltrates our every waking and sleeping thought?
THESE QUESTIONS and others are raised in D.C. Miller’s intense, pop-tinged speculative novel, Dracula Rules the World and Mark Zuckerberg Is His Son. With his permission we’re able to present, in time for the mad pagan holiday of Halloween, five excerpts from the book.
Are the monsters inside us– or outside in the world?
Caught in the same chain of spaces, back and forth, between my apartment and the office, always facing a screen, as if I was trying to outstare it, it had gradually become unclear when I was inside the headset and when I was outside it.
(Painting: “Vampire” by Edvard Munch.)
–in which we continue Part III, “The Young Writers,” of our overview of today’s literary scene, “Hyper-Talents of the New Literary Age.” Continue reading the essay here, as we’ve added commentary about the second of four young writers to be profiled, Eli Cranor. THEN read Eli’s excellent short story about the teaching profession, “Five Minutes.”
As you’ll see, the question posed during this part of the essay is, “Can writers become cultural stars?” Our answer to the question is a resounding “YES!”– but we acknowledge it won’t be easy. Every cultural force has its beginnings. With the Beatles it was dive clubs in Liverpool and Hamburg. With revived literature, it might be right here. . . .
Mr. Koontz first few weeks at school had involved very little details. Instead there were a lot of situations like this: a large blonde woman sits down in front of you and she has a daughter, they look nice enough, but you can’t remember the girl’s name, not even a detail like her name.
(Painting: “The Fate of the Animals” by Franz Marc.)