THE SECOND story in our look at today’s dating scene is a much darker animal: “Cat Doctor” by D.C. Miller. Ostensibly a response to The New Yorker‘s recent Kristen Roupenian story “Cat Person,” it’s more than that– it’s a look at the malaise of the West’s current intellectual class. People who believe in nothing– not even themselves. Whose ideological inanities, post-conceptual art and postmodern literature are an expression of nothing. Representations of the void at the center of their lives. A world in which the villains aren’t men or women, but everyone.
Appropriately, the story is set in Berlin, a city forever on the cutting edge of the end of Western civilization. Last stop before the nightmare of gotterdammerung and oblivion.
It was a catchy statement, and she liked it, but she wasn’t certain where to take it, whether it was true or not, and even if it was, what it would imply. She heard the sound of someone sighing audibly, like an echo from another room, and for a moment felt confused, before she realized it was her.
IN THE FACE of such a pessimistic, albeit truthful, examination of relations between men and women, of ideas and culture, we remain optimists. We believe the culture will turn over because it has to turn over– it’s at a dead end, with nowhere to go but to scrap the present and embrace another direction.
(Featured painting: “The Night” by Max Beckmann. Other: “Sjalusi i Badet” by Edvard Munch.)
READERS enjoy stories which deliver an emotional punch. This is not all that stories can do, but it’s one of the things stories can do.
It might take the writer 500 pages in a novel to deliver the impact. Or it might take a shorter time period– which is what the short story is about. Condensed emotion. Concentrated impact.
Our current story, “Racquetball” by Don Waitt, condenses many things into a small narrative space. Families, history, loss. Less can be more. Take a look.
“And I saw my Mom getting sucked into a black hole of despair. It was like looking into an old brick well filled with cold, dark swirling water being sucked into the bowels of the earth, and my Mom was in the middle of that water. And I knew that if I did not reach down and grab her hand and pull her up, she would be lost forever.”
Be sure to check out New Pop Lit‘s Open Mic feature. Dan Nielsen is our current performer– with more spoken word to come, including from Brian Eckert and Philadelphia poetry legend Frank D. Walsh!
(Painting: “Kosovo Maiden” by Uros Predic.)
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.
(Paintings: “Murnau” by Vassily Kandinsky; “Hospital Ward in Arles” by Vincent van Gogh.)
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.
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.
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.)
RELATIONS between men and women have been under stress the last several months as never before. Fiction is proving to be the best forum for examining those tensions. Under the guise of the non-factual the writer is able to get to actual truths.
ONE OF THE BEST writers on the topic of men and women– one of the best American short story writers period– is Anne Leigh Parrish. We’re privileged to have another short work from her– short, but as always, with condensed impact. The tale is called “The First Time.” We hope you find it as striking a work of reality and art as we do– and that if this is the first, it not be the last time you come to our site!
I was stunned. Not that we might one day regret our liaison, but that you regretted it now.
(Featured art: “Ashes” by Edvard Munch.)
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.)
Should the new short story be entertaining?
ONCE, not much over 100 years ago, the short story was the most popular art form. The American public consumed stories voraciously– work by Jack London, Frank Stockton, Richard Connell, O. Henry, Stephen Crane– even from more refined types like Edith Wharton and Henry James.
What was the hallmark of the short story?
They were entertaining.
Build a better story, we believe, and the public will beat a path toward your door. We’ve already seen steps– baby steps anyway– in that direction in the prestigious-and-usually-snobby pages of The New Yorker. which recently for the first time in decades published a story that some people actually wanted to read.
And so, we give you a tale of suspense and mystery– “The Rottweiler” by Alex Bernstein, one of the best new practitioners of the short story art going. You’ll find in the work a touch of humor, and perhaps a rottweiler or two. Jump into the adventure. . . .
“On the plus side – if we kill you – we don’t have to put up with all this fuss and noise all the time. On the negative side…mm…Woolsy, what was the negative side, again?”
(Painting by Claude T. Stanfield-Moore.)
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.)
WE’VE BEEN THINKING a lot of late about games and strategy. About what we’re doing right and the literary mainstream is doing wrong– or more often, the size of the obstacle they represent and what we’re doing imperfectly in hoping to compete with them. In such discussions, the strategy of chess comes to mind.
AT PRESENT we’re behaving like a tentative chess player pushing pawns forward, hoping to find or create an opening– which, if one ever appears, we’ll need to jump through with all forces, talents, words, and arguments at our disposal.
WHICH BRINGS US TO our new featured story, “I May Have Been a Chess World Champion” by talented international writer Eva Ferry. It’s ostensibly about chess and chess players, but it’s about more than that. A metaphor for– ? The story carries the atmosphere of a spy novel. It evokes the feeling of hopelessness, dread, expectation and fear which engulfs the culture now, perhaps the entire world. But it’s only about chess. Or is it?
The men in the Centre were saggy, they were not handsome by anyone’s standards. But the beauty of their effort, their perfect commitment was real.
I wanted to be real too. That’s why I told the man from upstairs that I would be going to the tournament, even if that was the last thing I did in my life.
Speaking of terrific writers and writing, at the All-Time American Writers Tournament there’s a new Appreciation, this one by Robin Wyatt Dunn about Gene Wolfe. What strong writing looks like. Only 437 words but it’s dynamite.
Painting: “The Chess Player” by Frederich August Moritz Retzsch.