How to Save Literature

THE PROBLEM with so-called serious literature is that it’s pitched at a narrow audience, and not at the vast bulk of the American public. (Pitched really, at upscale editors at desks in London and New York.)

Building_class_O3

Occasionally establishment writers give the game away, as did renowned young novelist Sally Rooney in Issue #30 of The Moth Magazine:

A lot of what (literature) does, to me, is reassure bourgeois readers by saying, you read fiction, you are a member of a particular class. . . the question for writers who have a social conscience is, how do you challenge that in some way while still working within the same industry that produces it, and I don’t really know what the answer is.

Then there’s the recent rant in Paris Review by esteemed short story writer Peter Orner, explaining why he will not defend the short story– his remarks making clear he doesn’t believe the story art is for the general public– and no apologies for this from establishment writers are needed, thank you.
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boxNeither Rooney nor Orner consider a way out of the box in which the literary art is trapped, currently accessible only to “a particular class.” They have no incentive to seek an alternative.

We at New Pop Lit do, as we and our modest literary project exist on the margins of what has become a marginal art. We’re thinking of ways to change this.

ONE WAY is the multidimensional (“3-D”) short story, designed to be faster and more thrilling than the standard literary model, answering those attention-span questions Peter Orner scoffs at.

uzi - Edited

One prototype example of this kind of story has been released by us, “Vodka Friday Night.” More are coming.

CAN THE ART BE SAVED?

elvis-60-years-of-rock-and-roll-1(Early Elvis and friends.)

Business history of other arts shows that it can. I’ve given often the example of the music business and the rise of rock n roll– which multiplied the size of that industry many times over. This is well explained in this article by Johannes Ripken. Can writers duplicate that outsized success? Maybe– if they create more exciting short fiction that’s even faster and more direct than our prototype. Moreover, what’s needed are young writers who can connect with a new generation of readers via personality, talent, and attitude. In other words, stars.

Screaming_Jay_Hawkins(Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.)

Is this do-able? We’ll see.
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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

 

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The Future of Fiction Writing?

THE 3D MULTIDIMENSIONAL SHORT STORY

333DDD 2-page-001 - Edited

NOW that it’s been introduced, the multidimensional story technique won’t be stopped. All attempts to shut out new ideas in art inevitably fail.

What makes 3-D Story technique unique is that it pushes against the bounds of time and space– short story limitations– in so doing working against the standard linear, one-viewpoint model which has sustained the short story form for decades.

A BETTER MODEL

The idea behind the 3-D “pop lit” short story– modernist pop– is that it’s faster-paced therefore more exciting than an old-fashioned story. Especially a finely drawn literary story. Taking advantage of rapid cognition. More complex yet still readable. A fuller look at the world but also entertaining, even thrilling.

SO FAR we’ve released for public viewing a single modest prototype.

tesla early view(Early Tesla Motors vehicle.)

Like all prototypes, it’s practice. Testing. Experiment. Example. Learning. Many more examples of the format, from both of us at New Pop Lit, will be forthcoming. We hope other writers talented and daring– early adopters– will try the technique, and go far beyond our own forays. A door has been opened. A glimpse of innovation. Once artists move past boundaries, possibilities multiply.

There’s no bandwagon for the technique, yet. There will be.
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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

The Decline of Literary Criticism?

OR THE DECLINE OF LITERATURE?

ERNEST HEMINGWAY

AN INTERESTING ARTICLE appeared last week at the Time Literary Supplement“Death of the Critic?” by Michael LaPointe. The article addresses the topic of the decline of literary criticism via addressing two recent books on the subject.

LaPointe argues against nostalgia for bygone literary days. He says the importance of literary critics circa 1950 was an aberration. In his eyes the absence of strong figures like Edmund Wilson and Lionel and Diana Trilling today is not to be taken too seriously. He concludes, in fact, by suggesting literature must become more detached from the culture-at-large. From general society. You know, like monks scribbling away in monasteries in bygone medieval days.

The bigger story is right in front of him, but Michael LaPointe waves the story away– the decline of literature in the culture.

CULTURAL FOOTPRINTS

Publishing seems as healthy as it’s ever been. Book readership has kept pace with GDP growth, demographic changes and the like. But that’s the point– it’s only kept pace the last seven decades, maintaining incremental improvement year-by-year, while overall cultural noise has exploded exponentially. While rival claimants for attention– notably sports and music– have increased their cultural profile many times over.

QUICK: Can anyone name an NFL player from 1950? Bob Waterfield maybe? Or a basketball player??

c o ebay(photo c/o ebay.)

In 1950 NFL football was scarcely a blip on the cultural radar screen. It produced zero (0) figures as recognizable and renowned as Ernest Hemingway.

Today the situation is reversed. With the rise of the NFL has come countless commentators and analysts– magazines by the score and entire cable networks– devoted exclusively to picking apart every last personality and encounter involving their favorite game.

Music? The music business began increasing its cultural footprint beginning in 1956– interest generated by energetic new products and wildly charismatic personalities.

elvis-1

With the rise of rock came the creation of the rock critic, via flagship rock magazines like Creem, Rolling Stone, and many others.

creem

Meanwhile, the ship of literature floated placidly along. Unconcerned. Unaware. Complacently satisfied that within the stuffy world of letters, all seemed fine.

titanic

Literature’s leading figures became less charismatic, less interesting. Finally– with the likes of Donna Tartt and Jonathan Franzen– either reclusive or irredeemably bland.

Jonathan_Franzen

The art’s attempts to reverse this situation– with authors literary or popular from Roxane Gay to George R.R. Martin– are going no place. (Bret Easton Ellis fights heroically to gain cultural attention, but is himself too identified with a moribund and stuffy “Big 5”-backed establishment literary scene to make much headway.)

Without an exciting underlying art to describe, there are unlikely to be exciting critics to describe it.

IS THERE A SOLUTION? 

YES! The solution is the one we prescribe: to mesh both poles of the art, the literary and the popular, creating a new synthesis that’s relevant and meaningful yet connects with a large portion of the populace at the same time. Popular critics would arrive as byproduct.

This starts with a better product. (See recent posts of ours about the 3D Short Story here and here and here.)

Then, more striking personalities to become faces of a renewed art.

Quixotic? Maybe. Art is never transformed by the timid.

Titanic_the_sinking

It’s time for literature to walk away from its clubby salons and musty university lounges and step fully back into the game.

THE 3D STORY DEBUTS JUNE 6 AT OUR MAIN SITE.

http://www.newpoplit.com
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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

Literature of Limits

THOUGHTS ON SALLY ROONEY’S NOVEL NORMAL PEOPLE

steel box

ONE CAN’T HELP but notice, with the massive hype accompanying the U.S. release of the Sally Rooney novel Normal People, how willing literary people today are to settle for limited accomplishment from limited talents. To accept the achievement of small effects, delicately arrived at.

I read the novel before most because a friend of ours in the U.K. gave it to us. It’s not a bad novel. Not at all. But the final emotion given this reader upon finishing it was, “So what?” Is this really the best Big Five London-New York publishing can come up with? Careful language, careful plotting, careful characters, careful themes and ideas– as if today’s world of political correctness has put today’s writer into a cage.

rusted-lock-on-the-fence

Maybe it’s not politics (though there are signs that it is). Possibly it’s the temperament of this age, to see the world in muted tones. Melodrama? Heavens no. The reverse. By and large no drama– other than a couple brief appearances of a mostly offstage male villain in the form of an angry brother– whose rage is never explained or understood. Or the drama of deciding which MFA writing program to enroll in. (I kid you not.)

For temperament and limits, this novel can be compared to the delicate poems of recently deceased award-winning poet Mary Oliver, which aim for modest achievement, limited effects. Worthy, if that’s all you want– but a distinct dropping off from the exuberance of a Walt Whitman or Allen Ginsberg. Or the craft and passion of a Sylvia Plath.

Today’s literature exists inside the constraints of a cage or a box. It’s time to crash out.

(As we’ll attempt to do with our 3D Story project.)

3-D BIG 4-page-001 - Edited
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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit News

Khabib, MeToo and Misbehaving Men

ARE WESTERN MEN TOO DOMESTICATED?

AP photoJohn Locher(AP photo/ John Locher.)

While the MeToo movement has accomplished many good things, exposing an array of real sexual predators, it has also occasionally strayed over the lines, in this commentator’s estimation. Lost in the effort to properly domesticate Western men is context. Context! Meaning, the relationships between men and women worldwide.

Case in point is Saturday night’s UFC mixed martial arts fight between Conor McGregor and Russian Muslim Khabib Nurmagomedov, which Khabib won fairly easily.

Conor McGregor had been the Gold Standard for macho male misbehavior. Saturday night he was out-macho’d and out misbehaved. First Khabib defeated McGregor in the Octagon, then climbed out of the cage they’d fought inside and began beating on McGregor’s trainers. A domesticated male? Not hardly.

khabib with wife(Khabib with wife.)

Khabib Nurmagomedov comes from an ultra-macho culture, and an extremely populous (1.5 billion-and-growing) male-dominated religion in which women are manifestly subservient.

While Western Man is becoming feminized.

bora(Bora Zivkovic with friends.)

Think I’m joking? Poster Boy for Male Misbehavior on the literary scene might be Monica Byrne Target #1, 125-pound Bora Zivkovic, aka “The Hugger.” His modus operandi wasn’t jumping out of ring cages and punching out people, but being in effect “one of the gals.” Harmless– one would think.

Ah, but then those dastardly male hormones kicked in. Out with Mischievous Monica for a drink, married Zivkovic confided– as any “gal” might do– in Monica about his unsatisfactory sex life. That was enough. Outrage! Zivkovic career destroyed. The poor soul still doesn’t know what hit him. As befuddled as Conor McGregor after last night’s fight. As if Bora himself had been in the ring with dangerous Khabib.

What happened to Bora Zivkovic? Check out this article by Amy Alkon from 2015 and read the gory details.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

(NOTE: Monica Byrne’s next hapless target was discredited for giving Monica an actual hug, at the end of a night of drinking.)

Monica+at+15(Monica Byrne at 15.)

Never mind that Monica Byrne lifts weights, beats men at arm wrestling, and might give Khabib Nurmagomedov a tougher battle in the MMA cage than did Conor McGregor.

arm wrestling2(Monica arm-wrestling.)

WHAT’S THE SOLUTION?

The solution isn’t to turn Western men into walking wimps afraid to raise their voices or offer a difference of opinion to women. (Both instances used as evidence of abuse in the Junot Diaz case.)

NEITHER is it to pretend men and women are physically and temperamentally the same. (Volatile Celt Monica Byrne notwithstanding.) On the whole, by nature women are less aggressive, and more easily triggered– as events have shown– than males of the species. A distinction which can’t be wished away, no matter how many Gender-and-Feminism 201 courses are taken stating otherwise.

lindsayandmackinnon

NOR is the solution to divide men and women forever into opposing camps of incels versus radical feminists, each side alienated and angry, warring with the other everywhere but in the MMA ring.
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elcid2(Charlton Heston as “El Cid.”)

The solution? Perhaps the solution has been with us all along, in the chivalric ideal of knights powerful and pure of heart. Mighty in battle but behaving with deference and gentleness toward the esteemed ladies who give their quests purpose.

Such ideal is considered woefully obsolete in this unhappy period of Harvey Weinstein pigs and purge-hungry Poetry Cops. In this timid time of self-censorship and safe zones. Of sexless Mao-jacket sameness in all things.

Could the chivalric ideal of gentlemen and ladies return?

Should it return?

You tell me.
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-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit NEWS

Media Insanity Report

KEEPING UP ON MAINSTREAM MEDIA ANTICS

beautiful and damned

-A NEW FEATURE-

WE JUST learned today that the term “lady” is now considered unacceptable by the Orwellian arbiters of thought and language. I’ve seen the notorious wannabe-totalitarians known as the Poetry Cops complain about the term. Now, from someone a bit higher up on the media power ladder– Ginia Bellafante of “paper of record” The New York Times.

QUESTIONS arise.

-Is the term “gentleman” also considered offensive? (Does this explain Brett Kavanaugh‘s alleged behavior in the past?)

-Does the prospective outlawing of these terms explain a lot of behavior from a great many people in recent years?

And finally–

-WHO is going to tell Lady Mary?

downton-lady-mary_3061685b

THE spectacular success of Downton Abbey (movie version being filmed as I type this) might be because a large part of the populace is tired of people looking like slobs. They’d like a return to those old-fashioned concepts of grace, beauty, class, and style.

Even (gasp!) a return to ladies, and gentlemen.
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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

Literary Lynch Mob Locates Another Villain

noose

WORD today is that Ian Buruma is out as editor of New York Review of Books after fallout from his allowing accused sexual batterer Jian Ghomeshi to write a mea culpa complaint for the publication. Some past accusers like Jesse Brown counter-complained  that Ghomeshi’s essay was filled with “inaccuracies, omissions, evasions, and mischaracterizations.” Other literary persons and activists were outraged simply that Ghomeshi’s name appeared in anything.

Ghomeshi, yes, gave his viewpoint. Distorted? Probably. Surely fair game for attack and debate.

BUT– that wasn’t enough for these hysterical times. For the mob, Ghomeshi and anyone who enables him– though he was already judged by the legal system– needs to be obliterated.

New York Review of Books was founded under questionable circumstances during a newspaper strike with Random House money. Yet, over the decades it’s had quite the glamorous history. Has been contentious, and to this commentator’s knowledge has never before caved under pressure– at least not so immediately.

SOME OBSERVATIONS:

-WRITERS themselves seem to be leading the literary lynch mob, which conjures up images of approved apparatchik scribblers during the halcyon days of the Soviet Union.

-WHETHER Ian Buruma resigned or was fired, someone at NYR of B caved into mob pressure all too quickly. Another blow to the integrity and independence of literary magazines.

-THIS is another in the ongoing castration of classically macho establishment literary publications. (See Paris Review.)

WHO’S NEXT?
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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

Unreason and Literature

OBJECTIVE TRUTH IN THE JUNOT DIAZ CONTROVERSY

scalesofjustice

Interesting to me is how the Junot Diaz accusers and the accusers’ supporters aren’t interested in the truth of the matter. To them, objective truth is an outmoded concept. To them, objectivity is impossible. They don’t care about evidence or the lack of evidence, because to them, evidence is irrelevant.

Most important is the cause.

An anti-Junot Diaz advocate tweeted this quote from Nietzsche:

All things are subject to interpretation. Whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.

Nietzsche

It’s a Nietzschean concept, and also a Hitlerian one.

We’re living in a post-truth age. We’ve seen this in fiction for awhile. More and more, best-selling novels are about fantasy, not reality. Fantasy of some kind, be it vampires, zombies, sci-fi– or the medieval dragons of George R. R. Martin and Company.  Quite a difference from, say, sixty years ago when readers still lived in reality and expected to encounter reality in their reading.

2010-01-C&E_Dragon(Artwork: David Revoy/Blender Foundation.)

A noteworthy example of this change is chief planner, organizer, and accuser in the Junot Diaz Controversy, Monica Byrne. Would that her novel was as well plotted as the Diaz takedown. Instead, it’s an assault of Too Much Information– experiences and imaginings jammed together with uncountable settings, characters, and ideas in a well-written but ultimately incoherent story.

Byrne classifies herself as a Christian– a style of Christianity untethered to any church or doctrine. A belief system where the individual herself determines her own beliefs, her own morality.

It’s old-fashioned Gnosticism, which gave established Christianity heavy competition around 150 A.D.

the-gnostic-gospels

-Whoever follows the direction of his own mind need not accept anyone else’s advice.

-Convinced that the only answers were to be found within, the gnostic engaged in an intensely private interior journey.

-Elaine Pagels
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TODAY: Post-truth, post-reality, post-objectivity– spawned by postmodern philosophies which began with Nietzsche. Truth merely a construct. Who’s better at selling their version of truth? One version is as good as another– the conflict little more than a PR battle.

1979 Grammy Music Awards

Pretended truths and made-up belief systems on all sides. It’s not new. Nietzsche brought forth from his own insanities nothing new. The mindset has been with us for millennia.

Gnosticism matches the attitude toward objective truth found among the Junot Diaz accusers and their supporters. If it’s “your truth,” that’s all that matters. Your truth, your reality, accuser always believed. The accused is assumed to be guilty.
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Responses to these remarks are invited.

-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

 

Junot Diaz and the Sensitivity Police

SENSITIVITY TRAINING FOR ALL NOVELISTS?

USAF_Mess_Dress

(NOT the Sensitivity Police.)

I DISCUSSED the matter months ago in the latter part of my second post about the Junot Diaz controversy. The rules and standards the writer must obey, and the lines he or she must never cross, expand by the day. Maybe the hour.

The writer’s personal behavior is subject to scrutiny in the new Orwellian literary world. But as important is a person’s writings. Fiction is no longer regarded as fiction. It will be used in judging you.

dress uni woman w knife

Case in point is this essay by Lyta Gold from the precocious characters at Current Affairs which appeared on May 8th. (I’ve covered Current Affairs before at this blog, including here.) Note how, referring to Junot Diaz, Lyta Gold has “strongly suspected, from his prose alone, that he’s a virulent misogynist.” Quite a leap. (Was the character Popeye in William Faulkner’s novel Sanctuary based on Faulkner? Who knows!)

The atmosphere of Gold’s essay is not that of literature, but religion. Current Affairs‘ peculiar pseudo-Communist/Social Justice religion.

Military_of_Hungary-welcome

The giveaway line is when Lyta Gold says, about Junot Diaz’s writing, “his work was presumptively taken to be flawless and free of sin. . . .”

Free of sin? Is this how writing is being judged?

Nun_ruler - Edited

Lyta Gold further says that “no writer . . . gets to be validated by invisible particles of virtue.”

Well, yeah. But is this the standard? Is this why Junot Diaz was validated to begin with?

Virtue?

David_A_Christian_in_dress_uniform(Literary awards– for virtue?)

Or because of his writing? Why are writers published? If all that will be accepted, after thorough personal screenings and background checks, are virtuous writers, the art of literature will be in even more trouble than it is now.
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current affairs staff

(Current Affairs staff, from their website.)

PART of what’s happening, ironically enough, is the imposition of bourgeois morality. The Current Affairs staff, like many such staffs, is completely bourgeois in background and sensibility. When expedient– in feeding their own selfish needs and conveniences– they’re as egoistic as Ayn Rand. In the case of Current Affairs, ambitious careerist ladder climbers. Harvard grads, most of them.

The happenings which Junot Diaz puts into his stories and novels are outside their experience. Not surprising, then, that they’re thrown by them. Which doesn’t justify an easily applied label like “misogynist” (a clinical term). If we start judging writers by their musings, their fantasies, and their fictional characters, we’re all in trouble.

This could be the future, if the Sensitivity Police have their way. A kinder, gentler literature– innocuous, harmless, and irrelevant.

The_Bow_(11106700545)

Comments are welcomed.
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-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit NEWS

Should Writers Be Purged?

LITERARY EDITORS AND PUBLISHERS are divided over the question of whether or not a writer’s work should be purged over misbehavior imagined or real taking place outside the sphere of the art itself. We may well be in the minority for answering, “No.”

Another question inevitably arises during such censorious periods: Where does the purge end?

Ezra_Pound

For instance, should Ezra Pound, founder of literary modernism, be deleted from memory banks and lit-history books? Should every award granted him be expunged?

(We addressed the question here in our yet-to-be-resumed All-Time American Writers Tournament.)

What do you do with a host of classic-but-problematic writers whose lives or art would today be considered beyond acceptable bounds?

American_Psycho_by_Bret_Easton_Ellis_first_US_paperback_edition_1991

ARE WRITERS BEING BLACKBALLED?

We have the case of poet Joseph Massey, accused earlier this year of harassing women. According to Massey,  this was based on anonymous, distorted, and fictitious allegations. His chief accuser is a poet who had a two-year affair with him. I haven’t looked into the substance of the claims. Massey did admit, in a Facebook apology which was later taken down, to having issues.

WE’VE SEEN in the Junot Diaz controversy that an apology isn’t enough.

Joseph Massey, well-regarded though he’s been, lacks as big a name and reputation as Diaz. After the allegations, accompanied by an article or two about the matter, Massey’s work was deleted from The Academy of American Poets website, including an essay written about his work. Joseph Massey was also deleted from The Poetry Society of America, where he’d been announced as “New American Poet” in 2009. Down the memory hole.

NO DOUBT there are many flawed individuals within the walls of the literary scene, as there have always been. Some seriously flawed. As there have always been in the arts, period. History shows that many of the best artists, writers, composers, musicians, have been in some ways disturbed, wrestling with demons in the world, and within themselves. An argument can be made that it’s part of experiencing the world with more intensity than the rest of us. To feeling, raging, and suffering more than “normal” people.

van-gogh

(Some will regard this as mere excuse making.)

Do we delete them and their work, all of it?

HOW MANY of the rest of us writers and poets have misbehaviors in our backgrounds which could someday be exposed? A few of us? All of us?

Do we all submit to background checks before submitting our work, just in case?

In this hyper-regulated day and age is the following statement obsolete– or does it still have relevance?

Let the one among you without sin cast the first stone.

stones
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-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit NEWS