AN EXAMPLE OF SHORT STORY ARTISTRY
Our new fiction feature is about a church in the woods. A simple story which shows what can be done with the short story by keeping it simple. What matters most with this particular writing genre– the short story– is not how many well-wrought sentences and long paragraphs you can string together as an example of talent– but the form of a particular story. Its construction. Design. Momentum. Flow.
NOT MUCH MORE can be said about this particular tale, “The Narrow Path,” by Zach Smith, without giving away the key to its plot. Suffice it to say it’s in the tradition of classic short stories from when the short story was THE popular American art form. When the form of the story was all. When story endings were the point of the works, as exhibited by masters of the art such as O. Henry, Jack London, or Frank Stockton.
There’s a clue somewhere within the last part of the previous paragraph– about the story’s plot– if you can find it!
(Note: It’s also a Christmas story.)
The church is two stories, taller than it is wide, without a second floor. A taut wire, an inch in diameter stretches from wall to wall, ten feet above the pews, with a second shorter wire intersecting it above the altar.
The door opens for Sunday service, and the congregation files in. The church is open to everyone, but few people come, less and less every year.
(Art: “Deer in Forest” by Franz Marc; “Indian Church” by Emily Carr.)
FINDING A BETTER MODEL
WHICH elements will be required to create “hit” short stories that can grab the attention of large swaths of the public?
Some of them are present in our latest short story by Nick Gallup, “Just Another Silly Love Song.” Such as: two dynamic lead characters with strikingly different personalities; tangible details used to emphasize those personalities (a red Corvette; a black cocktail dress); a well-structured and unified plot with built-in conflict, nothing extraneous, which maintains focus throughout– and much else.
Add to these elements a sense of depth: the two lead characters displaying, well, character– the ability to move beyond themselves in helping others– and you have for the reader a perfect mix. Oh, did I also mention the element of love? That ultimate ingredient in crafting compelling art?
But the best way to know what we’re talking about is to read the story.
Roxy looked a mess. She took note of my looking and correctly interpreted my conclusions. “Sorry I don’t look party-perfect, Ty,” she said sarcastically, with heavy emphasis on Ty, as if it were an affectation. “An unexpected problem came up. I had to don a cap and gown and wash all my make-up off to avoid infection.” She held up slender hands. “Want to know where these have been for the past two hours?”
(Art: “Return of a Night Bombing Flight of Voisin Aircraft” by Francois Flemeng.)
WHAT’S Pop-Lit Fiction?
What we call Pop-Lit Fiction is fiction written with perfect clarity that at the same time “pops” with color and tangible life– making for an enjoyable reading experience. A story whose well-structured form provides a feeling of harmony. An artistic sense of unity and completeness.
No easy feat– but accomplished in our new feature story, “Spoiler Alert” by young Philippine writer Angelo Lorenzo. Structure using simple plot which results in surprising emotion. Tangible details. Manifest humanity.
Read it and see if you agree.
But here she is beside you, and you can’t help but be grateful. Now, the screen shows
the action sequence. You see the superheroes in iron suits, capes and tight fitting spandex
dueling against an armored purple alien and his massive army on a red planet. You wonder if each thundering blast comes from the screen, or from the fast-paced beating in your chest amplified by the theater’s Dolby Digital surround sound system.
(Art: “Man and Woman” by Fernand Leger.)
STORY PROTOTYPES NEAR READINESS
THE FIRST PUBLIC showing of the 3–D Short Story— the historic date– has been announced at our NPL News page.
THE RELEASE of a completed multi-dimensional story will provide a window into the limitless possibilities of the form. The potential of new art. A starting point.
WE LOOK for new writers with style and talent. Intelligence and verve. Personality and insight.
ONE WRITER with those qualities in multiples is Meeah Williams, who graces us with a short tale, “The Nose That Ate Cleveland.” This short piece is so good we took time out from our own literary experiments to feature it.
I’ve been a lot of things to a lot of guys, but never a muse. It sounds so romantic but let me tell you, it’s not. The way they portray it in poems and stories, you do a lot of traipsing around from room to room, barefoot, in long flowing white gowns, your hair wreathed in flowers. In real life, it’s nothing of the sort.
(Painting: “The Poor Fool” by Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso.)
In the first weeks of 2019 we’ll be on a relaxed schedule as we work behind the scenes to improve this project– as well as focusing on our own writing a bit as we experiment with new ways of crafting the short story. Looking for an elusive breakthrough. Knowing unless we find it, fiction will be stuck in a rut, and all literary sites like ours along with it.
Art NEEDS to change. Our literature NEEDS to be different– at least show variety away from the same-old same-old.
The short story first. Then, poetry. Then, the novel. Then: the world?
THE NEW POP LIT PROJECT IS FAR FROM OVER.
WE meaning mankind have existed in insane periods in the past many writers and artists throughout history have been judged or diagnosed insane including Van Gogh and others like Dostoevsky Beethoven and Kafka have been on the edge, there have been crazy times, but have they been quite as extreme and chaotic as flat out mad crazy as OUR time? Now, in 2018?
Blame it on electronic media? Facebook? Twitter? Video games? The collapse of culture and decay of civilization?
TO ILLUSTRATE today’s madness we present to you the reader a story by Andrew Walker, “Blue Men in Black Coats,” which floats in between reality and madness, so that we ask, “Is this real? Any of this real? Or is it too real?” The story is too spot on, too much a presentation of now and the insane world which surrounds us.
The blue men do not look at you. From the books you’ve read, the shows you used to watch, the notes scribbled down in the pocket notebook you don’t use enough, you figured they would be some sort of bizarre, alien force come to act as a metaphor, an image, a symbol. Something come alive from the stories you have yet to write.
But these blue men appear to only be existing as anyone else would: to enjoy their Saturday.
(Art: “Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear and Pipe” by Van Gogh; “Blue Room” by Picasso.)
FATHERS AND SONS PART ONE
Father’s Day is less than two weeks away, so at New Pop Lit we’re marking the holiday with a small two-week celebration of relationships between fathers and sons, one of the primal relationships in our lives. In our new featured story, “Up On the Mountain,” Jack Somers captures the nuances in that relationship. Dad can be at times an embarrassment, a disappointment, a burden, or a revelation. An unavoidable shadow, good or bad, for us all.
(WRITERS: Note Somers’s ability to create atmosphere without excessive detail. You feel what it’s like to be a tourist in Athens. Photos to illustrate the story were unnecessary– but we added a few anyway.)
I had to come with him, if only to make sure he didn’t kill himself. I found myself thrust again into a role that had become all too familiar to me over the past few years: the parent of the parent. It seemed the older my father got, the more reckless and impulsive and childlike he became.
ON OTHER FRONTS we’ll shortly have new audio at our ongoing Open Mic, as well as a review of the latest novel from one of our favorite writers. Stay tuned– much more will be happening.
(Painting: “Greek Theatre at Taormina” by Tivader Csontvary-Kosztka.)
THE STRUGGLES OF A WRITER can seem lonely indeed– often resulting in rejection and neglect. Yet they keep at it, pursuing their art because they believe it’s important to express truths about life and the world.
When those struggles find notice– and a sense that a reader gets it, understands what the work’s about, this keeps the writer (and in our case, editors) going. No, the effort expended was not for naught!
Christopher Landrum at the literary site Bookbread has examined here four recent short stories, three of which appeared at New Pop Lit. They are:
–“The Fetus” by Clint Margrave.
–“Eighty Pounds” by Jon Berger.
–“The Professor” by A.K. Riddle.
If you’ve read these three excellent tales, they’re worth rereading. If you haven’t, please do so! Then see what Mr. Landrum says about them.
(Art: “The Passion of Creation” by Leonid Pasternak; “Woman Writing” by Gerard ter Borch.)
IS ANYONE looking for the New? Does anyone besides ourselves actually want and is actively searching for and creating the NEW?
Pop Lit is about discovery and synthesis. It’s about creating. About fusing two poles, in poetry’s case, of stasis and chaos. System and street. Bebop rhythm and wordplay, the energy of freedom combined with poetic learning, predecessors, history. IF the humanities mean anything (one hears massive nonsense about “the humanities”) it means nods to the past but not shackling institutionally the talents and voices of today.
TODAY we present fresh creations from young verse-master Timmy Chong— seven or nine poems depending upon how you count them– which he names “Twenty & Change.” Note his euphonious use of assonance, rhythm, occasional rhyme, with urban/suburban themes, a hip-hop feel– but it’s not hip-hop– and with tricks absorbed from past masters like Plath or Berryman– but it’s not like anything they wrote either. It’s only, hyperbolically-speaking, where poetry needs to go. Where it needs to be, in 2018, or 2020.
Boy got them low eyes,
got that good lip
reeking purple like periques.
Says when the plug dry
AS PART of our Poetry Attack! we’re soliciting audio for our ongoing Open Mic, at Club New Pop Lit. (Think neon letters reflected on a rainy Detroit-or-Philly street.) The club is imagination but the voices are real. (Well, maybe not Ms. Hepburn’s.) COMING within days or hours to the club is spectacularly talented Detroit-area poetess Erin Knowles Chapman with a reading ostensibly about a bowling alley.
Exciting things are happening. Just saying.
(1st public domain action painting is by Michael Philip. 2nd public domain “spin art” painting is by German artist calling self Kungfuman.)