RIGHT NOW the U.S. literary world is divided over the Junot Diaz Controversy– the Pulitzer Prize-winning author accused of sexual harassment by an array of accusers. Which side is telling the truth? On which side should be our sympathies?
WE’VE been covering the issue at our News blog. Our 14th post on the topic, “System versus Zeitgeist,” looks at the politicization of the U.S. book world itself, giving context to what’s happening.
The post in the series which best expresses our author’s purpose might be this one, “Unlocking the Junot Diaz Puzzle.”
Which side in the dispute will win? That is yet to be determined.
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 LOOK for writers to invent pop lit style– new writing which is readable but also intelligent, meaningful, and real.
This week we have a new story by Dr. Wred Fright which qualifies as a possible pop lit template: “Operative 72 Takes a Swim.”
29) 73 wasn’t sure how much time had passed. There was always just the sea, the sun, and an island full of retired intelligence operatives rewarded with Sodom in the South Pacific.
65) Johnson was very drunk one night. “God wouldn’t care,” he said, pointing around at the rest of the bar, “If we killed every single one of them.”
American literature needs to be reinvented to retain credibility as an art form– for it NOT to be ghettoized within the broader culture. With changing technology, the art itself must change.
We believe in artistic change. The more esteemed “literary” segments of publishing have forever been last to jump on a change bandwagon.
This dates from 1955, when low-priced paperbacks began conquering the interest of the general reader. Harcourt Brace published a poetry anthology, edited by Oscar Williams, containing work from all the great American poets. Distinguished publishers Charles Scribners and Sons, and the MacMillan Company, refused to to permit the work of their poets, T.S. Eliot and Allen Tate among them, to appear in the paperback edition– because it was a paperback.
Question: Does literature belong to an enlightened few, or to everyone?
(Painting by Paul Gauguin.)
NOW we’ve stepped into it! Two literary controversies at one time, both of them connected to the All-Time American Writers Tournament. (We’ve been offering exclusive coverage of the tourney here.)
FIRST is the seldom-discussed matter of T.S. Eliot. Where lies his allegiance? America or Britain? Is Eliot considered a British poet– or an American one? Where should lie our allegiance? Contribute to the discussion, if you dare– should you care– here.
SECOND, we believe we’ve thrown new and historic light on the friendship between the two biggest names in American literary history, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. How deep went their feud? WAS Scott a passive actor– a simple punching bag; on the receiving end of Ernest’s shots and scorns– as our nation’s most esteemed lit critics seem to believe? Or did Fitzgerald get his shots in against one-time protégé Hemingway– not once, but twice?
Are we prepared to take on the entire U.S. lit-crit establishment over this issue?
Read about the matter here.
State-of-the-art thinking about writing and writers, letters and words, only at New Pop Lit.
(Public domain image of Ritz Bar in Paris with photo of Scott Fitzgerald.)
“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 here at New Pop Lit is to present exciting new ideas. No, we’re not a stale-and-stodgy business-as-usual literary site. We exist to CHANGE the literary scene. Change is inevitable. Change is sweeping. Change is part of nature and people. Constant. Onrushing.
Meanwhile, established literature operates as if it were still in the early 19th century. Tops-down, insular and clubby, promoting a literary art which changes at a turtle’s pace. (We give established literati enough credit not to call them snails.)
Where is literature going?
In our quest for answers we interview up-and-coming writer Samuel Stevens for our Hype page. Part of our showcasing the nation’s best new writers.
If you want to stay current on the future of books, publishing, and writing you have to read this site! As always, we welcome your feedback.
There’s definitely a shift in the zeitgeist. It’s just a very long battle. It’s not just “liberals” who limit free speech, you also have major corporations–the same ones mainstream conservatism loves to defend–love to push the same message.
Ideas! New Pop Lit is first and foremost a project of ideas. In a period when the public is demanding populist change, we advertise ourselves as literary change agents.
Toward that end we’re offering an essay by Samuel Stevens about publishing, outlining how writers who seek to change the literary art– who offer new aesthetic ideas– have often faced difficulties.
The critics of the day repudiated authors with mountains of literary criticism about them now. Names like Hemingway, Pound, Joyce, Eliot were at one time the enemy. Hemingway’s friend, the memory-holed author Robert McAlmon, published Three Stories and Ten Poems; the New York world wasn’t interested in the young Hemingway’s work.
Sam Stevens is included in our first “Lit Question of the Month” feature at our Extras!/Interactive blog, along with twenty-three other writers. The response was such– the answers uniformly terrific– that we’re likely to try the feature again. The list includes DIYers– bloggers, self-publishers, zinesters; those changing the literary product– but also status quo reps, from university professors and creative writing instructors, to long-time award-winning story writers Kelly Cherry, T.C. Boyle, and Madison Smartt Bell, to best-selling novelist Scott Turow. Among their number is possibly even a member of the dreaded literary establishment!– if that animal can be credibly identified. We thank them all for the generosity of their time and their minds. Read the answers here.
We ask readers to join the conversation. What’s your favorite answer? Your least favorite? Take a minute and tell us in the Comments section.
We’ve published some terrific fiction, poems, interviews, and essays on this site this year– in overall ideas, innovation and quality matching any other lit site anyplace. We’ll be making improvements to this site in coming weeks, to make it the ultimate reading experience.
But we want more! Our long-term goal is to be a publishing entity taking on the big guys– competing with the moldering “Big Five” Manhattan-based book giants. NO ONE in the entire lit scene today has more indy credibility– or is better positioned with DIY background and ideas to be at the forefront of the change which is shaking up the book industry.
So, we’ve introduced our first title, NEW POP LIT #1, a collection of new writing.
IF you want to glimpse what literary change looks like, and you’re eager to support that change, you’ll be eager to purchase a copy. For now we have our NEW POP LIT shop linked at our Detroit blog. Soon we’ll be selling the issue at other places. This project’s editor was once very able at obtaining attention for lit projects– and will do so with this one.
This is an opportunity to step on board the pop lit train as it’s leaving the station– perhaps literature’s most exciting new happening. We’re only beginning. Watch what we do in 2016! Thanks.
Yes, we’re pleased to announce that the long-delayed analog version of NEW POP LIT is at the printer. An actual hold-in-your-hand literary journal! We’ve corrected the mistakes made in our rushed-out prototype, and likely added new ones.
This has been a continual learning experience. We’ve gained a marked appreciation for anyone creating a print journal, because there are an endless number of things which can and will go wrong. Turning out a product with many contributors is far tougher than dealing with work of your own– there’s extra responsibility involved. We want to present great work from terrific writers, and we wish to present that work well. We keep reminding ourselves that this is our first lit product– first step in a long journey.
Fans of ours will notice we’ve run with a different version of the excellent Alyssa Klash cover. (Purple replacing the green-themed prototype.) We’ve done this for several reasons.
1.) The green cover-with-colorful back was almost too good. Too pop. Too striking, so as to be a tad out of balance with the contents. The purple-and-gray version, being more muted, will stress that we’re pop but we’re also serious presenters of significant, meaningful work. We believe when you read the issue you’ll agree with this assessment. Our objective from the start has been to be pop and serious both.
2.) Presenting our “real” version with a different-colored cover frankly makes the prototype more of a collector’s item.
But all versions of NEW POP LIT #1 will be collector’s items, if we move forward as a major literary player, as is our plan.
Thanks to all concerned for their indulgence and patience.
(To pre-order your copy of NEW POP LIT, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
The topic of conversation this week in the established literary world is the publication of Jonathan Franzen’s latest big novel, Purity— one of those sporadic books meant to justify the existence of said literary world. No American novelist over the past fifteen years has received the same level of critical attention combined with media hype.
Is the hype justified?
To answer that question, NEW POP LIT’s Karl Wenclas questions the esteemed author and book reviewer Tom LeClair, who reviewed Franzen’s novel last week at The Daily Beast. Now LeClair amplifies his thoughts; holding nothing back as he examines Franzen, other reviewers, and the current state of American literature and publishing. Read our exclusive interview with him now!
–the critics who go along with Time’s assertion that Franzen is a “Great American Novelist” will be found out and mocked. . . .