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.
ABOUT AMERICAN CULTURE
IS there an American culture distinct from other cultures? Apart? Unique?
WHAT would be traditional aspects of that culture?
One hallmark of American culture for sure is American-style football, around which much energy is expended every week, every fall, at several levels– pro, college, and high school. A sport of unique speed and strategy, accompanied by uniquely American color and noise.
The smell of autumn. Homecoming. Marching bands. Cheerleaders. Local rivalries. The Prom. The Big Game.
As we’re currently into football season, New Pop Lit this week presents a short story, “The Austin Strangler” by Nick Gallup, which perfectly captures that milieu, along with everything right and harmonious in partaking of tradition, romance, and games.
He was definitely intrigued and bolted outside. He saw a Carolina-blue ‘55 T-Bird with the top down. That was beautiful, but what was inside was even more beautiful, a girl he’d known for years, but only from afar. He now knew her name, Lauren, and he’d never seen her in anything but shorts. She was a cheerleader for Austin High School, the cross-town rival of his high school, Harrington.
(Art: “Autumn” by Franklin Carmichael; “Football” by J.C. Leyendecker.)
THE SUBJECT of editorial independence has come up within the literary world much of late– especially with the recent ouster of Ian Buruma at New York Review of Books.
TO STAY topical we present a new short story from that always entertaining observer of American business, manners, and culture, Alan Swyer. His new tale, “The Sage,” looks at creative smarts and editorial independence within the film industry– a business Alan Swyer knows much about.
CAN Swyer’s lead character, a movie maker named Tarlowe, rescue a troubled film project involving a difficult celebrity wise man– and maintain his integrity while doing so? An inside look at a tumultuous world.
The non-stop travel, coupled with interviews that ranged from eye-opening to scintillating, proved to be a dizzying experience. But even as he reported in periodically, informing his benefactor about what had been said, and by whom, a question kept gnawing at Tarlowe. How would the man who billed himself as The Sage, but who came off in person like a somewhat epicene song-and-dance man, fit in among such luminaries?
(Art: “Burning the Darkness” by Nicholas Roerich.)
WE’VE begun to rethink several aspects of this project. One of the items on our planning table is fiction– the style offered. We’re toying with prototypes– will eventually implement tighter requirements. That it be dynamic, punchy, readable, fast, and if possible, fun. The future story will need to slap the reader in the face and grab that person by the collar, in order to survive as an art form.
EVIDENCE shows that the finely-detailed, well-crafted literary story is as slow and obsolete as a Studebaker automobile.
It reaches no one beyond a finely educated clique. A literary priesthood, stodgy and complacent, well-suited for preserving the literary art but not for taking it to new areas.
OUR NEWEST offering, “Hats Off to Bob” by Bob Lorentson– a story about hats!– gives a basic template to build on. Likeable and readable, with a modest-but-amusing punchline. Lorentson isn’t Ernest Hemingway. (Who is?) But we think Hemingway would appreciate what Bob Lorentson does with this unpretentious tale. If not a Corvette, then a Mini Cooper.
Confidence. As much as he hated to admit it, he knew that he lacked the confidence that all those other people had. Or appeared to have. All thanks to his wimpy name and bland, impotent face. Things he had absolutely no control over. It wasn’t fair. How could he go about getting more confident?
OUR LATEST New Pop Lit News report is about dinosaur booksellers, specifically Barnes and Noble. Read it here.
WHAT’S the future of books and literature? We’re not sure, but we know they belong to everyone.
(Art: “Her Paintings, Her Objects” by Sonia Delaunay.)
MANY have been those writers who realize we’re trapped in a linear mode not just of thinking, but writing. Yet many are the modes the writer can use to convey his tale– to depict three-dimensional reality– and isn’t using them.
The trick in experimentation in fiction writing is to keep the prose readable. Today we have a story by literary magician Elias Keller which is very readable, but– and that’s all we’re going to say. (Note, however, subtle shifts in style.) The story is “On the Rails, Off the Rails.” You have to read it. Let us know what you think.
There was only one road leading out of the parking lot and he was blocking that. Surrounding the lot otherwise was the woods. She had no chance in raw combat, but she did run three miles a day.
(Art: “Portrait of Albert Gleizes” by Jean Metzinger.)