“Big Daddy”

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

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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. 

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(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.”)

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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

The Social Justice Merry-Go-Round

OR, VIRTUE-SIGNALING MUSICAL CHAIRS

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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.)

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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.)

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-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit NEWS

Do Awards Matter?

THE STEPHEN KING CONTROVERSY

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THE LATEST literary news is that author Stephen King is the latest celebrity to have inadvertently generated outrage, with what some view as an outrageous statement. (Made on Twitter, which should never be taken too seriously.) He was discussing the Academy Awards. What he said:

I would never consider diversity in matters of art. Only quality. It seems to me that to do otherwise would be wrong.

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THE POINT both Stephen King and his critics largely miss is that the Oscars like all such awards have always been political. Awards ceremonies, like hall of fames– sports, music, and otherwise– are in reality highly successful PR appendages to their particular industry. As such, a big part of choosing “winners” is putting the best face possible on the industry, “quality” often pushed to the sidelines.

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Case in point: Academy Award winners for the retrograde year of 1961. (A very good year for cinema.) For the Oscars– presented in April 1962– two overtly political message movies dominated the nominations and awards. “West Side Story” and “Judgement at Nuremberg” received eleven nominations each. The former won ten of those categories; the latter, two.

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Both are fine movies. Yet in retrospect, one can name five other films from the same year which are artistically better (especially when viewed in a movie theater): El Cid, The Guns of Navarone, The Misfits, One-Eyed Jacks, and The Hustler. All five of these are visually superior, deeper films. The last three have not just better acting, but are virtual master classes of film acting. I’m confident that in the perspective of more time, all five will be ranked higher on any critical list than they are now– this especially true for One-Eyed Jacks, which is psychologically deeper than even the movie currently ranked all time #1 by the prestigious British Film Institute, Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. (Which itself was ignored by the Academy Awards when it came out.)

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Awards are of the moment, swayed by the ideological currents of the moment. As important as they are for their particular industry as a way to hype products– and for the winners and losers themselves– in the long run their meaning is minimal, and should be recognized by the intelligent observer for what they are, and not more than what they are.

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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

 

We Want Tips!

BOOK WORLD INFORMATION REQUEST

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We need tips! Not waitress or bartender tips, or racetrack tips, or stock market tips, but tips about happenings across the literary universe. IF it’s compelling (scandal, gossip, excitement, speculation), we’ll run with it. 

SEND TO: newpoplit2ATgmail.com.

OaklawnTipSheetVendor

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Romance Writers Catfight!

TURMOIL IN A RENOWNED WRITERS ORGANIZATION

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What’s the biggest story in the book world right now?

Without question, it’s controversy within the 10,000-member Romance Writers of America organization.

The controversy was kicked off when Chinese-American author Courtney Milan was sanctioned by the RWA Board of Directors– apparently for expressing an opinion about depictions, in another author’s work, which Milan perceived as racist.

THERE SEEM, to this commentator, to have been overreactions all over the place. First, the egregious actions by the board. Then, the firestorm blowback from Milan and her supporters. More contentious than the dispute between the U.S. and Iran, Trump and Khamanei?

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In many ways, yes, because there was no attempt to pullback, much less compromise. Instead, accusations from both sides. From Courtney and Company, cries of racism and calls for “radical inclusion.” From their foes, those they derogatorily call NWL’s (Nice White Ladies), charges of censorship and cancel culture.

The result: Yesterday, the resignation of RWA president Damon Suede. (Could that possibly be his real name?) With the existing level of dissension and hurt feelings, there appears no way this matter will be resolved smoothly.

(The latest question: Whether Damon Suede even properly qualified to be RWA president in the first place. He appears to have fudged the eligibility requirements.)

The biggest irony? That the dispute takes place among a group of authors devoted to, of all things, romance. Have they forgotten the adage, “Make love, not war”?

Just asking!

(Comments about this matter from any and all parties are welcomed.)

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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

What Is Pop Lit?

A TEMPLATE

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Pop Lit is a new alternative writing style created in our minds as a way to avoid the generic.

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ABANDON THE SAFE

We’re out to overthrow ALL of that, every shard and shred, by presenting new hybrids with the intelligence and craft of literary writing combined with the clarity and excitement of standard genre work– while taking the best of both styles to new levels.

CAN IT BE DONE?

YES it can be done! But we depend upon YOU the new writer to accomplish this, and YOU the new reader disgusted with the same-old same-old to INSIST upon it.

We ourselves in the New Pop Lit Design Studio located underground near the Detroit River in the vicinity of Wyandotte, Michigan. are working furiously toward that objective.

We may not go all the way to the Promised Land of radically new art– but we seek to cut a path toward that end. Signposts for others to follow.

THE TWENTIES!

This year, a magical new year first year of a new decade– The Twenties!– we’ll present more of our own attempts, as examples of our experiments.

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We are mad literary scientists, using the high-tech code of language to create not monsters, but ART as shocking and powerful as any man-made monster which can be imagined. Please join us on that ambitious path.

(Listen to an audio version of this editorial here.)
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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

 

Trump versus Khamenei Steel Cage Match!

FIGHT OF THE DECADE!

New Pop Lit Presents Trump vs Khameni

AS A WAY to avoid war between the United States and Iran, we at NEW POP LIT hereby offer to stage and promote a Steel Cage Match between the leaders of the respective nations, Donald J. Trump and Ayatollah Khamenei, at a place and date to be announced.

It will, of course, be Pay Per View. We expect the event to break all previous PPV records. Or: It will be YUGE!!

(We ask the two parties to contact us asap to quickly arrange this great match! Thanks. NewPopLitATgmailDOTcom.)

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Pushcart Nominations 2019

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OUR GOAL at New Pop Lit is to do things correctly in the microcosm before we start on the macrocosm. This means, finding exciting work from new writers which approximates the kind of literature we’d like to someday distribute throughout the world on a massive scale.

These thoughts were present in choosing our 2019 nominations for the Pushcart Prize. Conciseness and intelligence combined with condensed energy.

Along with other considerations. (Such as low ink levels in our printer!) Having to send in hard copies of nominated work, our tendency was toward brevity. Fewer pages.

AS every year, there was more good work to choose from than could be chosen. Selections to some extent are arbitrary. One criteria this year was that each of the three stories chosen, and each of the three poems, fit our model– be excellent– yet at the same time be different from the others. Unique. The three poetry selections are very different from one another. As are the three stories also very different from one another. 

POETRY

“That’ll Do, Pig” by James D. Casey IV
published March 8, 2019

“Head Honcho” by Kai Warmoth
published March 15, 2019

“Sailor Song” by Jess Mize
published April 12, 2019

FICTION

“The Uncertainty” by Alexander Blum
published June 27, 2019

“Spoiler Alert” by Angelo Lorenzo
published July 24, 2019

“The Prop Comic” by Bud E. Ice
published September 30, 2019

MUCH THANKS to all the writers who allowed us to publish their work in 2019!

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The Joyce Carol Oates Ad

MASTER CLASSES AND EXPERTS

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ANYONE watching Youtube videos the past several days has been hit with utterly pretentious ads for something called “Master Class.” Among them is one by Joyce Carol Oates which might be the apex of the type, for a variety of reasons.

“Joyce Carol Oates Teaches the Art of the Short Story.”

Yes, budding writers. You’re original, you’re unique. You’re YOU. Now follow these rules so you can craft the acceptable literary story which looks and sounds like what everyone else is doing. . . .

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RULE OF THE EXPERT

RECENTLY I read a fascinating old book on tutoring by Samuel L. Blumenfeld. (A contrarian kind of expert, who in his day bucked the educational establishment.) In the book, Blumenfeld explains that the alphabet and 0 to 9 numbering system were primitive coding tools: “–the great intellectual leap forward” providing narrow roads for humans out of their fog of ignorance. Primitive ways for understanding the complexities of the universe– a universe which today’s physicists are discovering is 1,000 times more complicated and unknowable than Newton dreamed of. They’re usable tools– simple versions of other tools which might someday be available.

Or: In the greater scheme of things none of us knows as much as we like to tell ourselves about how this world operates. Or of what could be known.

From the first day of school we’re brainwashed to believe in experts– made to adopt the illusion that we humans fully understand this world. That all answers are possible and available. Yet by using our own limited animal brains– along with simplistic coding tools like language or computers– we’re incapable of fully comprehending the cosmos.  (Ancients flipped the script– believing the only fully true knowledge was revealed knowledge: the mind of the universe intentionally communicating to us.)

This society remains sold on the idea of experts. Not on those grasping with humility for knowledge, no, but instead, those assumed to already have it. Nowhere is this more evident than in the writing game.

THERE ARE hundreds more possibilities of how to write a short story than, say, of how to play the high-level chess game. Yet students in writing programs are taught there’s only one way: the accepted, well-crafted literary story.

ONE of the Assumed Experts in this matter is Joyce Carol Oates. And so we’re presented by an outfit named Master Class with the Joyce Carol Oates Master Class Video. For a fee, of course.
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“ONE OF THE TOWERING CAREERS IN AMERICAN LETTERS”

In her ad for the class, Oates fully adopts the role of Expert. Font of all literary wisdom. The appeal to the fledgling writer is not the presumed outcome– the creation of art– but instead, the self. Feeding the writer’s ego.

“If one can face the darkest elements in oneself, and things that are secret, you have such a feeling of power.”

(Among other things, this is pure gnosticism.)

“You’re going to explore your own imagination deep within you.”

Er, what about experience and observation?

“Language is the point.”

This is the philosophy of the literary writer. The words are more important than the tale.

Oates stands against the idea of a story moving too fast– she knocks the notion of reading a story in five minutes or less. (Note her smirk on the video at the very idea of it.) Never mind that pop music exploded in popularity when it offered songs with an average length of two minutes. They were dynamic, sharp, fun, and left the listener wanting more.

The Joyce Carol Oates technique is to offer the reader too much, drowning the narrative in insignificant details to slow down its pace. Anything to keep it from moving too fast. That would be wrong– at least by her moldy standards, which haven’t changed in sixty years. A time during which the short story has plummeted in size of audience, public interest, and cultural importance.

In the actual class Oates apparently talks about how interruptions are “the #1 thing that ruins creativity.” Well of course they are– if the technique is to draw the story solely from the imagination. This is the stale literary idea which posits The Writer as pristine individual existing in a bubble apart from the rowdy mass. Interruptions? People? LIFE?! NO! the precious Oates-style writer screams. Not when I’m in the middle of my imaginings!!

A DIFFERENT kind of writer welcomes interruptions, noise, life– Shakespeare at a tavern downing pints– because that writer knows experience is a writer’s material. Plot ideas and thematic points will still be in the brain in the morning. Along with much more– the insight and depth which come with being part of the social world.

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The Master Class is aimed at upper-middle class aspirants who wish to become writers but unsure how to go about it. This is obvious in the two bougie students depicted eagerly accepting advice from the all-knowing oracle. The art of literature itself has dwindled in importance during the life of the Joyce Carol Oates career, but she herself has done fine, which is all that matters for the ambitious scribes. Find new literary territory? Write in a new way? Cannot be contemplated. Too risky. Pay your money and learn from the Voice of Authority. Of the status quo. Princeton professor. The same-old same-old.
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On the other  hand, I and my partner in this project and in life, Kathleen Marie Crane, are seeking new territory. Our tactics include speeding up the art. Speed and immediacy are our object. Instant connection with the reader– as fast as punchy as a punk rock song. We know people will dismiss our experiments. The early products won’t look like anything that would be taught in a “master class.” We proceed regardless– because change is what art is and has always been about.
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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

 

 

 

 

 

Bustle and the Books Editor Layoffs–

–AND HOW TO STOP THE LITERARY DOWNTREND

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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