Bustle and the Books Editor Layoffs–

–AND HOW TO STOP THE LITERARY DOWNTREND

cristina arreola

CAN’T HELP NOTICING the layoffs today at online site Bustle, including of their Books Editor Cristina Arreola (pictured above). 

WHY are books editors invariably among the first ones cut when media layoffs take place?

WHY have book review sections vanished from newspapers (while sports coverage is greater than ever)?

WHO has an answer?

WE do! The thrust of our argument since this project began a few years ago has been that the established literary scene is generating no excitement. This is because there are no charismatic writers (sorry, George R.R. Martin and Margaret Atwood) and few if any exciting new literary products.

We’ve begun to resolve this situation on both fronts. First, by locating and publishing personable new talents who write with verve and style, such as Angelo Lorenzo, Brian EckertBud E. Ice and Rachel Haywire, and second, and in the long run more important, by developing better, faster moving and/or eye-catching stories and poems.

In truth, early this summer we sent promo materials– press releases, postcards, and emails– to a host of media persons who cover the literary industry, including Ms. Arreola, announcing our innovations (including the release of the world’s first “3D” multidimensional short story). We received zero interest. This, from a realm starved for the new and exciting, which should jump on any opportunity to announce radical advancements in the field they’re supposed to be covering.

Instead, they keep recycling the same-old announcements about the same-old style of paint-by-the-numbers products cranked out by “Big Five” Manhattan-based publishing.

Changes are afoot in the art. Those employed to cover such changes will be the last ones to see them.

Just saying.
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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

 

 

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Canonical Follies

Harvard-University

It frankly doesn’t matter if “The Yellow Wallpaper” is taught in high schools instead of The Great Gatsby (which is too deep and well-structured a book for high schoolers anyway). Raising the question is asking which texts students will be bored by.

THIS is a quote of mine in a review about a new book by Dana Schwartz about white male writers and the Western Canon. My own view has long been that to be a living art, that art needs to survive and thrive outside institutional settings. Categorizations such as the so-called literary canon say more about the mindset of the supporters and curators of such places than they do about the art form being preserved and celebrated. (One need look only at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with its curious list of omissions and entrants.)

IF I cared more about the literary canon, I’d mention several writers who should be in it, or ranked higher within it– beginning with the American novelists Frank Norris and James Gould Cozzens, masters at that particular art.

gatsby cover

(p.s. For what it’s worth, F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s The Great Gatsby is a far superior, more complex work of fiction than “The Yellow Wallpaper,” a short story by Charlotte Perkins Stetson— one of those overwritten, obsessive inside-the-head tales of the kind often done by overrated canonical author Henry James, and later popularized by Mary Roberts Rinehart, who no one is rushing to put into any canon. Outside that of mystery writers.)

mary roberts rinehart(Mary Roberts Rinehart.)
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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

 

Creating Personas

THE RIGHT WAY TO USE PSEUDONYMS

ONE THING writers seem congenitally incapable of doing is creating interesting personas for themselves. Turning themselves into imagined characters. Yet in this hyper-noisy society it might be, among a mass of wannabe scribblers, one of the only ways to stand out.

RECALL how easily performers in other fields created entertaining personas for themselves. One of the earliest of them was rock n roll pioneer Screamin Jay Hawkins.

Hawkins-Screamin-Jay

Similarly, local television hosts created memorable characters for themselves– one broadcast on stations in Cleveland and Detroit known as The Ghoul.

the ghoul

Radio hosts did likewise– a classic example being Dr. Demento.

dr demento

WHY NOT writers? It would make perfect sense for a writer of horror stories to brand himself as “Count” something-or-other and play the part. Or, for the author of romance tales to name herself “Barbara Bodice” and sell sex appeal. Alls fair in love and marketing.

Oh, plenty of young writers use pseudonyms. Too many of them– but their stage names have no visual quality and no flair. Usually the names are obscure pseudo-intellectual references to this philosophical idea or that one– because said writers see themselves not as potential pop stars, but– ridiculously enough– as intellectuals. Steering (even those who have actual writing talent) their work in that direction. Which means strictly limiting its appeal. A fan base consisting of their own circle of overeducated in-debt college grads. The notion of writers as entertainers is anathema to them. They’re “serious.” Which is why the literary art as a relevant cultural form has been sinking faster than the Titanic.

THE OBVIOUS example of course, of the success of created personas, is the wrestling game, particularly the WWE under the stewardship of Vince McMahon, greatest promoter in American culture since P.T. Barnum.

WWE

COULD a literary project produce valid literary works, poetry and fiction, and do it with fun and flair?

This is just one of the challenges we’ve set for ourselves. 

It will take a few hungry new writers eager to become personalities. To be stars.
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-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit NEWS

Matthew Stoller Misses a Goliath

AND IT’S A BIG ONE

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Liberal journalist, advocate, Harvard grad and all-around guy-on-the-make Matthew Stoller has written a new book about the power of monopoly and its threat to democracy– GOLIATH.

Except he seems to have missed a very big Goliath, one standing directly in front of him. His publisher! Simon & Schuster is one of publishing’s notorious “Big Five” book conglomerates.

How big are they? Take a look at this chart and judge for yourself:

http://almossawi.com/big-five-publishers/

Be sure to scroll down to see all of it.

The chart gives only part of the story. The real clout of these New York City-based conglomerates with their many imprints is their influence over Manhattan media– the scores of publications both print and internet, from the New York Times and The New Yorker on down, which determine which books– which voices– are allowed to be heard in this extremely noisy society. 

Threat to democracy?

In some ways, the Big Five and their many appendages and fellow travelers are the biggest threat to democracy. The most pernicious, most influential concentration of power. All congregated on a single island.

matt stoller(Matt Stoller, looking smug.)

Matt Stoller well knows of course how dominant, how influential they are. Which is why he chose to publish his book with them– and not with one of the many alternative publishers out there. 

Such is the game and how it’s played.
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-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit NEWS

Will the Revolution Be Co-opted?

WILL CAPITALISTS BUY OUT COMMUNISTS, SOCIALISTS, DSA ET.AL.?

aoc toy figure

THEY ALREADY HAVE!

Witness the new Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Action Figure from a Brooklyn-based outfit named FCTRY, run by CEO Jason Feinberg and Chief Design Officer Alyssa Zeller Feinberg.

“We turn ideas into products!” FCTRY claims. “We marry pop design to mass production, turning original concepts into global brands.”

Other action figures include that legendary foe of Corn Pop, Joe Biden.

ID_Biden_WithBox_1080_1024x1024

Am I criticizing FCTRY? Not at all! Tremendous kudos and respect to them for their initiative. They get what it’s all about. 

(For more information on their products, go on their website.)
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-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit NEWS

 

Reverse Jekyll and Hyde

THE LANA DEL REY STORY

lizzy lana collage

I’VE BEEN THINKING about the career of pop singer Lana Del Rey after reading a 2012 article about her in The Guardian. About how she was going nowhere under the moniker Lizzy Grant– then changed her name and with it, her musical persona. As the article relates, “She married her music to a mysterious image, self-styled as a ‘gangster Nancy Sinatra,’ that paid homage to 1960s fashions and seedy showbiz glamour.”

A created character, with more confidence. That is, until word got out about her previous self, and the mask dropped when she appeared on Saturday Night Live. “She gave a hesitant, uncertain performance – suddenly more Lizzy Grant than Del Rey–“

nutty professor

This is straight out of the 1963 Jerry Lewis movie “The Nutty Professor” (remade by Eddie Murphy)– when hyper-confident, hyper-aggressive “Buddy Love” begins to unintentionally transform back into the uncertain professor who created the character.

(For what the off-camera Jerry Lewis was like, read producer Alan Swyer‘s recent NPL  essay on the topic.)

Call it Reverse Jekyll-Hyde. Instead of the mad doctor creating a less attractive alter ego, he creates a more attractive one.

annex-march-fredric-dr-jekyll-and-mr-hyde_nrfpt_03

This is essentially what Hollywood stars Marion Morrison (John Wayne), Archibald Leach (Cary Grant), and Norma Jean Baker (Marilyn Monroe) did.  While there was some connection between the previous individual and the created persona, much was a kind of fantasy projection of who the person wanted to be. Or who Hollywood agents, directors and producers wanted the person to be. Cary Grant/Archie Leach famously said that it took a lifetime of pretending to be Cary Grant until he actually was Cary Grant.

HAVE any writers created alter-egos?

Yes. Ernest Hemingway for one, who followed the philosophy of be your own hero. As several of his biographers make clear, “Ernest Hemingway” was in large part a self-created myth.

A topic to think about when considering ways that what’s known as “Literature” can break out of its tiny cultural box!
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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

A Jerry Lewis Essay

buddy-love_opt

WE’VE received good positive feedback for an essay we recently ran at our main site, “Jerry and Me” by esteemed Hollywood producer and director Alan Swyer– a mini-coup for New Pop Lit to be given this inside look at one of show business’s biggest all-time personalities. Worth a look if you haven’t already read it.
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Why Reading Is Important–

–TO ME AND TO SOCIETY

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My father could scarcely read.

At the time I was born already well into middle age, my father was from a different era and a very tough background. Had dropped out of school in his teens. After he married, my mother forced him to attend night school while he worked days in Detroit shops and factories. By the time I came around he was semi-proficient. What he most enjoyed were the comic sections in newspapers, and boxing magazines.

My gateway to reading– like many young guys– was comic books. Spiderman and company. After awhile I became hungry for more challenging reading. Mysteries were stimulating. I devoured everything by Raymond Chandler, whose paperback books carried enticing titles on dangerous-looking covers.

the high window

Eventually, while working nights as a clerk in a railroad yard– with time to kill between trains– I moved up to the heavyweights of reading: Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. War and Peace and The Idiot. Life-changing novels. The kind of artistic experience which expands the mind and the imagination, opening up new vistas, entire worlds.
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HOW important is reading to the development of the mind?

Many educational experts have believed it’s critically important. Here’s one named Samuel L. Blumenfeld on the topic, from an old book called How to Tutor:

Reading is the most important single skill a child will learn during his entire school career, for on the ability to read depends the development of everything else. In fact, reading is the beginning of real intellectual development, and if the child is not taught to read properly, his entire intellectual development will be handicapped. The reason for this is quite simple. Language is the vehicle of thought. We formulate all our concepts in terms of words. If we restricted our thinking and learning only to the words we heard and spoke, our intellectual development would not be very great. The written word, however, is the depository of all humanity’s complex thinking, and an individual must have easy access to the world of written language to be able to increase his own intellectual development. Thus, the facility with which a person reads can influence the degree of his intellectual growth. If a child is taught to read via methods which make reading disagreeable to him, he will turn away from the written word entirely and deprive himself of man’s principle means of intellectual development.

TODAY among the new generation, within schools and outside of them, are millions of functional illiterates. Wasted potential. I know. I’ve worked as a substitute teacher in inner city schools and I’ve seen how schools are failing kids.

NOTHING IS MORE IMPORTANT for the future of this society, this civilization, than finding ways to connect with these young people– to get them reading. Reading is the gateway to survival in this ultra-competitive world. Reading opens neuropathways in the brain, increasing real intelligence. Contrary to what genetics apologists at publications like Quillette believe, no one is assigned their fate at birth. The best way to adjust that fate is by reading. 

It’s no accident that billionaire industrialist Elon Musk– he of the gigantic imagination conceiving exciting electric cars and spaceships to Mars, then building them– as a child was an avid reader. According to his biographer, Ashlee Vance, “The most striking part of Elon’s character as a young boy was his compulsion to read.” Musk’s self-imposed reading regimen included two sets of encyclopedias.

IS literature today reaching the mass of people? No way! To compete in this fast-paced hyper-busy age, writing will need to grab new readers from the first sentence and not let go of them.

This is the objective we’re striving for with our development of the “3D” multidimensional short story. Narratives of speed and immediacy which demand to be read.

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To achieve our ends we’ll need writers willing to discard past ways of thinking. At the moment even most “alternative” literary sites and presses are run by intellectuals or pseudo-intellectuals more interested in impressing the reader than connecting with the person.

Yet to expand the market for books, zeens, reading, connection is everything.

Our mission is to create the new literary product– which we call Pop Lit– exciting reading packaged in a striking format. Then begin spreading those new creations into schools and neighborhoods. An ambitious task– but worth pursuing.
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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

Diana Athill on Virginia Woolf

AN INSIDER’S HONEST LOOK AT THE INSIDER LITERARY SCENE

VIRGINIA WOOLF(Virginia Woolf.)

VIRGINIA WOOLF is considered one of the literary gods of the Twentieth Century, not just by British literary critics, but those in America as well.

I found it interesting, then, to discover this quotation in a book, Stet: a memoir, by long-time British editor-publisher Diana Athill. In this excerpt from her memoir’s final chapter, Athill is discussing “a particular caste” in control of British publishing:

Of that caste I am a member: one of the mostly London-dwelling, university-educated, upper-middle-class English people who took over publishing towards the end of the nineteenth century from the booksellers who used to run it. Most of us loved books and genuinely tried to understand the differences between good and bad writing; but I suspect that if we were examined from a gods’-eye viewpoint it would be seen that quite often our ‘good’ was good only according to the notions of the caste. Straining for that gods’-eye view, I sometimes think that not a few of the books I once took pleasure in publishing were pretty futile, and that the same was true of other houses. Two quintessentially ‘caste’ writers, one from the less pretentious end of the scale, the other from its highest reaches, were Angela Thirkell and Virginia Woolf. Thirkell is embarrassing– I always knew that, but would have published her, given the chance, because she was so obviously a seller. And Woolf, whom I revered in my youth, now seems almost more embarrassing because the claims made for her were so high. Not only did she belong to the caste, but she was unable to see beyond its boundaries– and that self-consciously ‘beautiful’ writing, all those adjectives– oh dear! Caste standards– it ought not to need saying– have no right to be considered sacrosanct. 

This applies not just to British publishing of the Twentieth Century– but to American publishing centered in New York City, and to those in the academy, now. A marked inability to look beyond their narrow world to see the possibilities that exist for the literary art today, and those which could exist, given imagination, ambition, and boldness.
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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

Summer Reading 2019

YOU WANT summer fiction? WE have summer fiction.

beach reading

Three terrifically good stories, each very different, from three excellent new writers.

FIRST was “The Uncertainty” by Alexander Blum. A story about a displaced friend, a university, a Greek play, and many others things. The complications of life today.

NEXT was “Jerusalem” by Zachary H. Loewenstein— a quick but atmospheric look at that most historic and contentious of cities. Traveling this summer? This story exudes the feeling of travel.

MOST RECENT was “Spoiler Alert” by Angelo Lorenzo, an empathetic and romantic tale of the stirrings of love– or possible love– found at a movie about superheroes.

Something for everybody? We think so. All three short stories are highly readable and we think you’ll enjoy them.

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