THERE HAVE BEEN examples of pop culture rescuing a nation’s morale. In this country, scarcely a month after the John F. Kennedy assassination came the British Invasion spearheaded by the Beatles– an example of escape from trauma offered by ART. Simultaneously, home grown pop music exploded with the “Sound of Young America” emerging from Motown. The joy didn’t last long– but left as legacy the best pop music ever recorded.
AT THE MOMENT American morale is in the toilet. Glum expressions from Debbie Downers everywhere. “Woe is us!” proclaims the intellectual class on Left and Right. As if the quixotic project called the American Dream Machine were over. To quote (name-drop alert) George Plimpton on the one occasion I met him: “Nonsense!”
If some believe the American experiment is over, with perhaps more perspective from the beaten-down streets of Detroit we see this moment as opportunity for a pop culture explosion.
WHY NOT pop literature? The last time writers were at the center of pop culture was the 1920’s– ironically, a decade that was a huge influence on the Beatles. The “fun-at-all-costs” attitude of the Fitzgeralds’ Jazz Age morphed into early 60’s fun music that rocked the world.
Change will come from literature only if new writers present stronger attitudes, unbeatable confidence and more exciting art. Along with a dollop of pure fun.
If we’re dynamic, there exists as antagonist and obstacle the moldy and static– the artistically inbred Manhattan monolith. We’ve been covering at our News blog the publishing Overdogs who run a phony puppet show known as the National Book Awards. Follow our coverage.
There’s also the ongoing All-Time American Writers Tournament. More to happen there as well, soon. Stay tuned.
(Painting: “Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire” by Russell Patterson.)
We could call this week’s feature “Portrait of a Young Detroit Guitarist.” We’re privileged to run excerpts from an exciting new novel by a New York City photographer. “Frisky Moser” (his pen name) was once in a Detroit rock band, and has now penned a fictionalized-and-fresh version of events, “Jack Strat and His Baby Blues.”
Lately there’s been an influx of talented New Yorkers– artists, entrepreneurs, edge-seekers– into Detroit, as the Motor City continues its comeback. The aptly-named Frisky is evidence it’s a two-way interchange.
She started putting on makeup, mostly working her lashes and lips, checking me out as I was sitting on the couch with my guitar in my lap. I could see her stealing glances at me in the mirror. We were alone.
Art: “Harlequin with Guitar 1919” by Juan Gris.
With the fiction and at our Features page you’ll find actual photos of Jack– and his boots.
(Also keep up-to-date with the All-Time American Writers Tournament.)
“House pets” may be too strong a term to refer to the twenty-one American novelists featured in Granta magazine’s new issue. BUT, with one potential exception, none of the twenty-one is out to shock the literary establishment with contrary viewpoints– or with new ways of looking at the literary art. That’s left for upstart outfits like ourselves.
The London/New York literary establishments have marshaled their resources to stress the importance of this Granta issue. In the U.S., Slate, The Millions, The Center for Fiction, Library Journal, L.A. Times, Lit Hug; Lucas Wittmann, Laura Miller, Nick Moran, Barbara Hoffert, Michael Schaub, Carolyn Kellogg, Emily Temple; all the usual critical advocates– to the prestigious Guardian newspaper in the U.K. WE alone present the other side of things.
The key in this world is seeing issues and subjects three-dimensionally. One should never accept without question a flat presentation. What the mandarins of culture wish you to see. You might miss what’s really happening.
And so, at our News blog, our perspective on the Granta issue. Worth a look.
Also, please consider your candidates for the All-Time American Writers Tournament. Who’s your choice? If you have one, or several, email us with a name or names, reasons, or rationalizations. We’re at newpoplit AT gmail.com.
(Cat photo c/o Jamie Lockhart.)
Our mission is to publish terrific fiction.
Today we present a short story, “Clarity,” from one of the best story writers around, Alex Bernstein. The title of his story is apt, because Bernstein writes with distinct clarity– clarity of thought and clarity of style, which makes him one of the sharper commentators on the American scene today, combining humor with understanding. See if you agree.
“Julie – you can’t be happy with that guy. He takes undead hair scraps from people’s armpits and buries them in their scalps! He makes beer in his living room! Is that what you want?”