Start-Ups and Upstarts

BUSINESS HISTORY AND THE ARTS

Muddy Waters

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.

sun

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.

supremes

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.)

>>>><<<<>>>><<<<

graham bell

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.

>>>>>>>><<<<<<<< 

-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

Love Story Examined: A Writing Template

A VALENTINE’S DAY ANALYSIS

DSC06852 (1)

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.

love story cover

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.

oedipus

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

<<<<>>>><<<<

-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

Adrienne Miller and the Big Brain Boys Club

DISAPPEARING FICTION AND WHY

esquire 2
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.

<<<<>>>><<<<>>>>

-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

 

On Clarity and Clowns

THE TASK OF THE NEW WRITER

0210200908

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?

TV

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.

circus

>>>><<<<>>>>

-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit NEWS

 

More About the Multidimensional Story

ANOTHER SAMPLE 3-D STORY

3-D BIG 4-page-001 - Edited

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.

<<<<>>>><<<<

-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

 

Diversity Dilemmas?

PROBLEMS IN PUBLISHING DEPARTMENT

b and n covers

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.)

>>>><<<<>>>>

-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.
<<<<>>>><<<<>>>>

cabinet

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.

>>>>>>><<<<<<<>>>>>>>

-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

Mass Media Hysteria!

WHAT ARE WE GETTING HYSTERICAL ABOUT TODAY?!!

pillage of rome unknown artist

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!

ART! postcard-page-001 - Edited (1)

>>>><<<<>>>>

“Big Daddy”

(EXCERPT FROM AN UPCOMING SATIRICAL NOVEL: AFTER THE REVOLUTION.)

bernie silhouette

THE PRELIMINARY EVENT of the Revolution, which led to all that followed, was the presidential candidacy of Big Daddy. Eighty year-old politician of retro Marxist beliefs, which he’d clung to for six decades, unswayed by continuous technological changes and countless political upheavals– the collapse of the Soviet Union and its satellites only one of them.

The ultimate True Believer, maintaining his faith in the God That Failed.

This fixed dedication was the chief attribute that caused a generation of rootless young people to flock to his banner. He knew their hunger for a cause. He– Big Daddy, the ultimate father figure (dare we say patriarch?) would provide for all wants. Would answer the desire for a world free of want, free of need, of unease, anywhere– of having to face the awful questions of life or the discomforting realities of a fallen, imperfect world.

Like good daddies everywhere, Big Daddy promised to write a big check– or several– to cover their regrettable debts, as well as correct the mentioned imperfections of society, and make all things well. 

Symbol more than person, he fervidly played the part– white-haired, red-faced, perpetually outraged, waving his arms about– as his young supporters ran his campaign and propped him up psychologically and physically (he’d suffered a recent heart attack), and the great Cause, akin to a religious movement, grew in momentum. Streets filled with the voice of Change (what the mob perceived as Change) until the movement appeared to be– and became– unstoppable. 

nyc protest

(Read a previous excerpt, “People’s Coffee.”)

(Note: The novel will present an artistic run-through of pseudo-left revolution and its consequences– so we don’t have to experience it for real. Last chapter: “A Better Left.”)

<<<<<<<>>>>>>><<<<<<<

-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

The Social Justice Merry-Go-Round

OR, VIRTUE-SIGNALING MUSICAL CHAIRS

am dirt cummins

Pity the poor book conglomerates! New York City’s “Big Five.” They want to do the right thing, to be on the side of progress, social justice and all that, but they keep making missteps. Could it be the giant institutions and their Ivy-educated staffs are too removed from these issues? Too out of touch?

The latest mistake being the seven-figure-advanced publication of American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins. Intended as a takedown of the horrors of the border crisis, instead the book has caused a furor among LatinX writers, who see the novel as exploitation of the issue by a person who shouldn’t be commenting. (Ms. Cummins looks Latina, but apparently isn’t.)

cummins 

Another Rachel Dolezal? Elizabeth Warren? Or not?

I’m not going to comment on the book, its author and the controversy further, other than to say that perhaps the problem is with the huge conglomerates themselves. That the solution is to encourage more independent publishers, smaller and closer to the ground, instead of a one-size-fits-all bureaucracy that will always get things wrong– in the flurry of virtue signaling-run-amok, with so many ambitious writers out there, a bureaucracy that will continually behave incorrectly or be scammed, despite or because of their good intentions.

(And no, the answer is not to nationalize the book business. Sorry, Marxists. Replacing five too-large cronyistic-and-insular monoliths with one even larger monolith solves nothing.)

The best answer, as with so much else in this contentious country, is DIY. More access. More options.

(Note: American Dirt was published by Flat Iron Books, an imprint of Macmillan Corp. Flat Iron’s publisher Amy Einhorn, who gave the seven-figure advance, is a graduate of Stanford, not an Ivy League college.)

<<<<<<<>>>>>>><<<<<<<

-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit NEWS