Styles of Failed Literature

MOVING BEYOND THE PRESENT: A DISTEMPERED ANALYSIS

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FEW individuals involved in the creation and packaging of literature would argue there are any failed styles. After all, the Big Five book conglomerates remain in place, authors still receive six-or-seven-figure advances, and several of their books sell millions of copies. The industry chugs along.

HOWEVER, if the goal is to push the art and industry to new levels– to no longer consider “literature” as a separate phenomenon, but to compare it with other cultural happenings such as sports, movies, music– then as a whole literature is failing, because it’s no longer at the center of culture (as it once was), and is not connecting to large segments of the public in any fashion.

CURRENT OPTIONS

What are several of the current alternatives for writers and readers?

MEDICINE LITERATURE

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This comprises novels and books you’re supposed to read because they’re good for you. They address a cause or societal ill. At times they’re “of the moment” and sell well. Usually though they’re hitting you over the head with a problem you already know about, are poorly written, and deadly dull. They win plaudits and awards, but 999 out 1,000 aren’t going to generate excitement within the culture-at-large, sorry. Life isn’t fair.

“LITERATURE” LITERATURE

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This category includes standard big novels written by the likes of Joyce Carol Oates, as well as short stories by Oates, John Updike, Jonathan Franzen, Alice Munro, ad infinitum. The works are distinguished by Detail Disease, aka word clot. Meaning, they’re a slog to get through. Only the most intrepid young person (or adult) will make the effort. For those who do, it’s all the same tepid insights and weak-tea conclusions. Going to save literature, when it’s been the cause of literature’s downfall? Nope.

ADOLESCENT FANTASY LITERATURE

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An enormous category with a host of big-selling authors cranking out massive volumes of unending sagas. Behind them await tens of thousands of other wannabe-novelists creating their own interminable tomes. Why are these novels not the answer? After all, they do sell.

They’re not the answer because they’re crap. It’s impossible for any serious person beyond the age of seventeen– or twelve– to take any of it seriously. Yes, many do. You see them dressed in bizarre costumes at fantasy or sci-fi conventions. The books are popular. That’s good. There are lessons to be taken from it. It remains silliness, not great art.

On top of that, none of the famed authors has the requisite charismatic persona to upend the culture. George R.R. Martin is not going to.

DYSTOPIAN AND POST-APOCALYPTIC LITERATURE

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Margaret Atwood is the best-known contemporary practitioner of this kind of work. In the Age of Hysteria we’re living through, they add more hysteria. Truth is, there have been two or three, tops, of these kind of authors who’ve been any good, George Orwell among them. Even Brave New World is a terrible novel.

DEPRAVITY LITERATURE

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Maybe horror novels can be grouped in this category (though many belong in fantasy with the vampires and werewolves). This category includes sub-Bukowski Lit, where the author becomes as gross and psychotic as possible in constructing the narrative– and likely, in real life, is. (Incel Lit is a new variation.)

NEOCON LITERATURE

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This category was popularized by Tom Clancy of Hunt for Red October fame, but might be more typified by spy novelists Robert Ludlum, Vince Flynn, and Brad Thor, who each presumably have teams of agents in Langley, Virginia writing their books for them. (They’d have to, because Ludlum and Flynn have moved on from this world.)

My attitude toward these novels might be typified by a review I wrote about one of their number back in 2012 at a now-defunct blog.

CONCLUSION

My informed conclusion is that nothing coming from one of these categories will rescue the literary game. They’re accepted and known.

What will take the literary art to another level?

THAT is what we’re working on. Stay tuned.

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-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit NEWS

 

 

Extreme Zeen Debut

THE FUTURE IS HERE

EZ in plastic
(Pictured: Copy of Extreme Zeen in safety plastic.)

YES, it’s here. The world’s first (?) Technicolor literary journal. Includes colorful visuals. Made of high-quality paper. Merely an early sign of the many wonderful products on our drawing board.

HOW does one interest the world in books and literature?

By presenting a more exciting experience. Extreme Zeen is about having that experience.

Are you ready for it? Then head to our online Pop Shop and purchase a copy. Better yet, purchase TWO copies and give one to a friend or relative.

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The world is changing. So is literature.

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Start-Ups and Upstarts

BUSINESS HISTORY AND THE ARTS

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To understand the role start-ups have played in the economy and in reinvigorating the culture, one need only look at the music business. If America had been strictly a rigid tops-down nation, there would never have been the populist explosion of rock n roll, which began in the 1950’s. (And was followed by punk, hip hop, and other variations.)

WHAT if the only people entitled to call themselves musicians were decided by musicologists, requiring academic degrees and proper certificates? The institutional mindset.

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Rock n roll was started by low-rent hustlers like Leonard Chess and Sam Phillips, with upstart little record companies like Chess and Sun Records. Start-ups? Of course! They were nothing but– as was Motown Records, founded by Berry Gordy Jr. with $600 in seed money, “venture capital,” from his sister. (Gordy at the time was working on a Detroit production line.)

Rock n roll music, scorned by intellectuals and critics, was strictly a product of America’s lower classes. The entrepreneurs were two-bit salesman. The artists were from the poorest sections of the country, whether they be Muddy Waters, Elvis Presley– or the Supremes, who were discovered in a Detroit housing project.

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Hundreds of other start-up little record companies failed. Such is the way capitalism works. Enough succeeded to transform American (and world) culture– and in the process multiply the music business many times over, providing pleasure to millions– and opportunity to hundreds of musical artists, who in a rigidly controlled system, managed by apparatchiks and credentialed experts, would never have had opportunity at all.

The irony is the nature of free enterprise capitalism, when turned loose, levels the playing field more than a system which depends on decision-making from above– where selections are made according to a.) standardized testing b.) cronyism and connections c.) how well one conforms to the prevailing ideology imposed from above. It’s the difference between the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. during the Cold War. Between a dynamic system and a static one. (The dynamism of America, expressed through rock music, infiltrated the Soviet Bloc and contributed to its collapse.)

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Upstarts/start-ups have been with us for at least 200 years– seen in the careers of imaginative individuals like Elias Howe, Cyrus McCormick, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Nikola Tesla, Henry Ford  — on up to Steven Jobs, Elon Musk and Travis Kalanick. They propelled the United States to quickly becoming the world’s largest economy, creating millions of jobs and many trillions of dollars of wealth in the process. Economic value is the product of the human mind. All of this should go without saying, but in this bizarro upside-down world we live in, it doesn’t.

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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

Love Story Examined: A Writing Template

A VALENTINE’S DAY ANALYSIS

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A WRITER who was far ahead of the curve with his writing style was Erich Segal, best known for his mega- best-selling 1970 novel, Love Story.

By accident or design (the book was based on his yet-unproduced screenplay) Segal keyed into a type of structure, with attached motifs, which made the novel a popular success but also left it as a template for experiments in future literary art.

Several literary projects including ours have decided “literature” in its current accepted form needs to drastically change. We’re analogous to fledgling auto companies fifteen years ago, knowing internal combustion engine technology was obsolete and scrambling to create its replacement.

The question is what the future will look like.

Creating a work with extreme clarity, as Erich Segal did– making it look simple– is more difficult than it appears, because everything is exposed: all flaws in the tale and the telling of it.

There’s nowhere to hide.

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Segal’s style could be called Hemingway Squared. No excess verbiage to impress and distance the reader. Instead, reliance on aesthetic basics– plot and character, but also form. (The novel opens with the ending, then shows what led up to it.)

Segal sets up a superstructure– a square blank canvas– and fills it in, like a painter adding paint daubs. Tangible details. The clarity of the style helps the “aesthetics” of the novel to stand out:

-The contrast between rich and poor.

-The tense dynamic between authoritarian father and independent son.

The tagline– “Love means never having to say you’re sorry”– is used twice, once right near the end for maximum impact. Dialogue throughout is super-tight. The spare lines used by the characters stand out because they’re not overwhelmed by unnecessary literary verbiage placed around them. They “pop out” of the story. 

That Erich Segal was a screenwriter was an asset. The narrative itself is very tight, and contains another kind of aesthetics– tangible details.

(A James Bond movie, for example, is filled with tangible details– clothes, drinks, accents, cars– which you don’t consciously notice but which impress themselves on your mind.)

One of Segal’s details is the Harvard Club. He doesn’t need to describe it– the reader imagines it. Fills in the blanks.

Everything in and about the novel sets up the ending. 

Manipulative? Sure. But so was Oedipus Rex. Audiences– including audiences of readers– want to be manipulated.

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The novel Love Story is a template– a starting point from which more can be accomplished.

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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

Adrienne Miller and the Big Brain Boys Club

DISAPPEARING FICTION AND WHY

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THE LATEST BOOK WORLD NEWS is a memoir by former Esquire magazine Literary Editor Adrienne Miller entitled In the Land of Men. In it Miller details her problems handling giant male egos during her years in the Manhattan magazine realm– most notably that of David Foster Wallace. The book is discussed in various publications, including in an essay, “Infinite Jerk” by Laura Marsh at the New Republic.

MOST INTERESTING to this commentator are the assumptions made by Ms. Marsh about the decline of interest in fiction, at Esquire and throughout the clubby New York City world:

Miller declares her faith in “vibrant, necessary fiction. . .”

. . .the decline of the publishing industry and the shrinking demand for literary fiction.

• . . .her industry is dying and that her publication is less and less interested in acquiring fiction also puts limits on her career. When she starts at Esquire, the magazine is publishing 10 short stories a year; by the time she leaves, she can barely get anything into print, and her bosses kill a Wallace short story that she has labored on for months. All this comes after she wins an ASME award for fiction.

Never once does Laura Marsh question why fiction was disappearing at Esquire. That maybe the award-winning stories Miller was accepting were failing to engage the public. That perhaps, “literary” fiction of the prestigious self-involved style written by David Foster Wallace and other Big Ego Members of the Club was obsolete by the time Adrienne Miller came along. (And more obsolete now.) That to Miller and her friends, impressive fiction was more important than an exciting story a typical Esquire buyer might actually read.

(During the 2000’s, while Adrienne Miller plied her trade, a change-oriented writers group named the Underground Literary Alliance, whose mission was to promote more authentic and relatable writing– as well as to expose corruption in the established literary realm– referred to hyped authors such as Foster Wallace, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers, George Saunders, and others of that type as “The Big Brain Boys Club.” No one listened to the group. Even for an Adrienne Miller it was more important to “go along to get along.” Question nothing.)

ARTISTIC CHANGE

In any field– including literature– change is inevitable. The more it’s delayed, the more drastic that change is going to be. One day the Manhattan literary crowd will glance over the high walls of their crumbling castle to see change approaching– and still won’t understand what’s happening.

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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

 

On Clarity and Clowns

THE TASK OF THE NEW WRITER

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CLARITY is totally underrated by today’s literary community. It starts with what the text looks like on the page. The wrong way to write in our eyes is to present dense blocks of text with no way in.

THE FIRST TASK of the writer is to show the reader a quick way into your narrative– your world. (Why hooks are important.) Reading can’t be a leisurely activity because we don’t live in a leisurely world. Life is fast– boom, boom, boom— rushed hustling images words sounds bombarding the body and brain from all directions, overwhelming.

HOW DO WE COMPETE?

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HOW do we as writers stay relevant against distractions of every kind, from video games to TV screens smartphones Pokemon, chat rooms, all the unintelligible irrational noise and nonsense, talking head politicians blabbering blather waving arms around, give me your VOTES, give me power you can trust me really you can. . . .

It’s all a circus sideshow.

The one thing you can say about the current occupant of the center ring of the three-ring circus is he recognizes the spectacle and is happy playing the clown.

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-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit NEWS

 

More About the Multidimensional Story

ANOTHER SAMPLE 3-D STORY

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THOUGH we have several “3-D” multidimensional stories completed or near completion, we decided to release only one other of them, “The Perfect Candidate,” due to its topical nature, this being political caucus and primary season. The story was in fact written and rearranged in a matter of days– a test of speed in creating them.

Our thinking being– once the literary world does catch on to their advantages, and reader demand is created, we’ll need to be able to produce them at a fast rate.

(At some point we’ll commit fully and will run at our main site multidimensional fiction only.)

Speed is everything.

WHY THE 3-D STORY?

Writers write the short story one way– and have for decades if not centuries. Writers automatically fall into the familiar one point-of-view linear story, because that’s how we’ve been trained.

Exceptions to this have always existed– experimenters testing the artistic bounds of the story. Two of them caused me to think about the technique. One: F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s long story “May Day.” Another: Kenneth Fearing‘s classic noir novel The Big Clock

We’re taking the technique a few steps beyond, switching viewpoints at a much faster rate. This may at first be unfamiliar to the reader– then the mind makes an adjustment and reading becomes as natural as the old way. Too natural perhaps, as it doesn’t stand out as much as it could, as we hoped, its effects subtle.

Our focus with the technique is making the narrative faster; expanding the reader’s view of the presented world. Multidimensional writing allows more ways to play with space and time. The goal: improving the reader’s aesthetic experience.

Emphasis on structure, as 3-D writing demands, means bringing more analytical “left brain” thinking into the equation without overintellectualizing things. The narrative becomes fragmented– but they’re fragments which fit. 

CHANGING THE GOLF SWING

As with a revamped golf swing, the first attempts at writing the multidimensional story can look awkward. But if it’s truly a better technique, a better way of writing the story– albeit difficult to master– once the technique is mastered the result should be a spectacular improvement.

It’s to our advantage that no one right now understands what we’re doing– doesn’t see what a breakthrough the technique is. This enables us to further practice and develop its possibilities– and we will.

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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

 

Diversity Dilemmas?

PROBLEMS IN PUBLISHING DEPARTMENT

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THE BIG NEWS in the publishing world this week is the cancellation (in both meanings of the term) of Barnes & Noble’s “Diverse Editions” series– someone’s ill-advised marketing strategy for Black History Month, which consisted of putting black faces on the covers of classic novels like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Critics argue that instead of such superficial gestures, big-time publishers should be signing more authors of color– to celebrate actual literary diversity. (A recent Lee and Low survey indicates that 79% of those who work in the publishing and book review industries are white. The same survey states that 78% of those in the field are women, but no one seems too concerned about that!)

Yes, by all means the Big Five publishing world based in New York City needs more diversity. There’s one super-huge problem in obtaining it– the over-reliance by these publishers on staffers with an Ivy League pedigree. (With a smattering of Stanford grads and upper-class Brits thrown in.)

The universities publishers recruit from sit at the top level of the most hierarchical and regressive industry in America: higher education.

What, you say? How could this be possible?

Universities are designed to be exclusionary. That’s, er, their whole point– to create artificial monopolies in field after field, industry after industry. Most pronounced the higher the prestige– and endowment– of the particular institution. A guild mentality, where if you’re a Member of the Club you get all the benefits. If not, tough luck. Gotta have that certificate, folks. Credentialism. “Meritocracy”– where as we’ve seen with recent scandals, the wealthy and powerful have better access to obtain the benefits for their ostensible merits. 

THIS IS MOST PRONOUNCED with Ivy League schools. Especially with Harvard and Yale. We recently went through a stretch where every U.S. President from 1988 up to 2016 was a graduate of either Harvard or Yale. Or both.

Is that what democracy looks like?

It might be that not until the “Big Five” lose their monopolistic position in the publishing world will true diversity arrive regarding the books that are published and promoted in America right now.

(Which is one reason we exist as a literary project.)

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-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit NEWS

 

Working for the Man 2020

JOBS BOTH GOOD AND BAD

Modern Times Hero

ONE of the realms least understood by the intellectual class is that of work. They see it via categories and stereotypes. Since the world and its hierarchies to them is static– they’ve been trained within hierarchies to view it as such– they don’t realize the chief goal of everyone who works a shitty job is to leave it. 

At the same time they don’t understand that most of us out here in the world enjoy work. It gives us meaning. Purpose. Especially when it involves successfully completing tasks. The human animal has advanced through completing tasks. 

Last week we had several experiences with individuals who enjoy being competent at their jobs. Including an intelligent young plumber who quickly isolated the problem in the old house we rent, then described it as if he were Sherlock Holmes solving a case. Another, a cook at a local Mediterranean restaurant we frequent, explaining to us how he cooks chicken for sandwiches and salads to perfection. 

ON THE OTHER HAND there’s the world of fast food, and other industrial-minded professions which have brought hyper-efficiency to business, breaking service down to a series of repetitive, mundane tasks. Impersonal roles which could– and someday will– be performed by robots.

Our latest feature short story, “Hamburger Hill” by John Higgins, is as frightening an inside look at the fast food business as you’ll find.
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THE JOYS OF WRITING

But what about writing?

THE APPEAL of writing in part is the work. The joy of making something. Constructing an entire world from a blank page. Giving the construction form, color, finish: appeal. Little different than making a cabinet. All writers– most, anyway– aim to present a well-made product.

On rare occasions that process is synonymous with the creation of art.

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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

Mass Media Hysteria!

WHAT ARE WE GETTING HYSTERICAL ABOUT TODAY?!!

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EVER NOTICE that all electronic media anymore is filled with hysteria? From television news to the twittersphere and other social media. 

Gone are the days when individuals could step back and keep everything in proportion put all things into context, adopt for themselves for the sake of society or at least their own sanity an objective perspective.

Instead it’s a scene from a bad 1970’s disaster movie: “We’re all gonna die, we’re all gonna DIE!”

This past week we’ve had Trump Impeached, Rogan and Bernie, Tulsi suing Hillary, latest fronts on Climate Change and a Killer Virus in China. Rockets Dictatorships Doomsday Clocks Billionaires in Davos, Meghan and Harry, with the unsettling Disappointments of the Queen across every tabloid– look at her face– people executed someplace latest Earthquake, Blizzards, Shootings, Revolutions and Revelations– you name it, and the intentional beneficiary of these flurries of mad mob behavior is the news media. Bump up those ratings!

At New Pop Lit we want people hysterical only about ART!

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