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!
*******

-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

Advertisements

Revolutions in Literary Style

IN MANY ARTS there’s a push-pull between simplicity and complexity. It happened in the rock music scene, where what started out as direct and immediate– early rock n’ roll– transformed itself into increasing virtuosity and complexity with the pretentious “prog rock” of Yes, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Pink Floyd, ELO and Company. The reaction to this barrage of bombast came with the in-your-face simplicity and immediacy of punk rock.

sex pistols

A similar situation occurs in the literary world. Literary revolutionaries like Ernest Hemingway and Jack Kerouac strove to cut the excess detritus from what they saw as a corrupted and decadent art– corrupted by the convolutions of Henry James and similar stuffy esoteric literary icons for whom direct communication with the reader was a secondary consideration.

WHY CLARITY AND DIRECTNESS?

Over the past few decades literature has been beat up badly by rival arts like movies, comic books, even video games, whose advocates place their favorite art on the same level as novels– which those of us who understand all the novel can achieve artistically, emotionally and intellectually view as an absurdity.

What those arts are able to do, and do well, is communicate. They make a direct connection to the individual experiencing them, stressing what have been the strongest parts of literary creations– character and plot. Aspects which elite writers have downgraded as they’ve retreated further into the solipsistic mind and the contortions of their writing styles.

If literature begins once again to compete, it will sweep the field of every rival. After all, comic books have their roots in the Dumas novel The Count of Monte Cristo— which in itself remains a far greater artistic work than any comic book, any superhero movie, any video game.

monte cristo

THE SOLUTION

The solution to the dilemma of literature in today’s world will be found in another stylistic revolution which simultaneously cleans up and strengthens the literary art, leaving it more readable and far more exciting.

The 3-D Short Story we’ve been advocating and constructing is only the first step.
*******

-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
*******

-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

Pop Lit as Art

BASICS OF 3D STORY THEORY

ART! postcard b&w-page-001 - Edited (1)

WHAT Ernest Hemingway was working toward in his early short stories– before he adopted the persona of Papa Hemingway– was writing as art object. Whole and complete. As finished project.

MANY books and articles, too many to list, document the influence of modernist painters such as Joan Miro and Paul Cezanne on Hemingway’s writing. Though his quoted remarks are vague on the specifics of that influence, we can look at his works themselves to see. Not simply the marvelous descriptions (the opening to A Farewell to Arms for instance), but the sense of form and conciseness in his best stories. “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” to name one.

HEMINGWAY was working toward something which could metaphorically be put on a wall and looked at– meaning, seeing the entirety of the work. Moving away from linearity.

This is a starting place for Pop Lit. Emphasis on clarity and transparency. The essence of “Pop.” Pop as in an Andy Warhol painting, or in a classic two-minute pop-rock song. Or a two-minute punk rock song which gives the listener two minutes of concentrated energy, then abruptly ends.

This is what I was striving for in my experimental work Ten Pop Stories. (An ebook written under the pen name King Wenclas.) Ten pop songs– or ten pop paintings.

THE MAIN IDEA is giving the reader a sense of the American experience– as Andy Warhol in his depictions of Coca-Cola bottles and of Marilyn Monroe so brilliantly conveyed the fast-paced madness of American experience. The American civilization, which for a hundred years has been the world’s dominant civilization.

THE 3D STORY

Speed and immediacy– what this aspect of Pop-Lit theory is about. What the upcoming 3D Story form will be about, in multiples. If our experiments work, things in the literary realm are about to become very exciting.

yellowpop

*******

-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit News

 

Modernism and Editing

FURTHER THOUGHTS ON 3D WRITING

Paul_Cézanne_058(“A Painter at Work” by Paul Cezanne.)

Modernist art IS editing. It’s cutting away all unnecessary material and allowing our minds to fill in the empty spaces. A technique in writing pioneered by Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, and Georges Simenon.

These writers knew painting and they knew how a daub or two of paint could touch our emotions and allow us to “see” the reality of the image. In writing, a key touch of color or taste or sound to suggest something greater. To stimulate our memories, our own experiences.

This is the antithesis of standard literary writing which strives to tell you everything, overwhelming the narrative with details.

****

AN EXAMPLE of modernist editing in another art form can be found in this movie trailer:

The film: the 1959 version of Ben-Hur. (Which WILL be playing in movie theaters across the country this month, April 14 and 17, to celebrate the film’s 60th anniversary.)

The trailer is a work of art, superbly edited to suggest the four-hour long motion picture. It achieves a conciseness, a modernist sharpness, not possible from the larger work it serves to advertise. Note especially how the unknown editor uses voice-overs from other scenes to make thematic points; and how he dissolves the two biggest sequences, the chariot race and the crucifixion, into each other.

All movies are shaped and “cut.” Material left out. The trailer is extremely cut.

The idea points a direction for those wishing to make fiction– the short story in particular– as sharp, angled, fast-paced, and exciting as possible.

Which we’re attempting to do with the 3D Story.
*******

Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

Underground Hemingway

AN ADVENTURE IN NORTHERN MICHIGAN’S HEMINGWAY COUNTRY

DSC06869

(A moose at the Mitchell Street Pub in Petoskey.)

WHILE we were on our honeymoon two weeks ago, one of our more fascinating experiences was an underground tour conducted by a young woman who may or may not exist in reality. (A ghost?)

We were at the City Tavern Grill in the quaint town of Petoskey, both of us sitting at the bar, in a saloon which young Hem himself used to frequent. I was at the exact spot– second from the end– which Hemingway was said to like.

We must’ve seemed easy marks. Out of nowhere, a woman approached us and asked if we’d like a tour of the saloon, including its underground tunnels.

“Sure,” we said.

The woman was dressed like someone from another time period– the 1920’s, perhaps– with a feather in her hair and wearing a delicate retro black dress. In build she was tiny, as if from that bygone era when people were smaller than today. Her waist could not have been more than 20 inches around– Scarlett O’Hara territory.

Beyond this, she spoke in a dramatic manner, as if on a Victorian stage. She batted her eyelashes like a silent movie actress. When she walked, she shimmied like a flapper from the pages of a Scott Fitzgerald story.

DSC06872

The woman knew, somehow, by looking at us that we were Ernest Hemingway fans. She told us how often Hemingway frequented this spot– named The Annex in his time. The bar and its furnishings were the same. She showed us signed bills from Hemingway for food and drinks. The last one was from 1947.

This narrative was related in a secretive manner, as if she’d personally known the man.

Her name, she said, was Mary Ellen. She reminded us that in the time Ernest Hemingway first came here, Prohibition was in force. At any sign of police, observed through a peephole, booze and customers moved swiftly downstairs, to the basement.

Mary Ellen asked us cryptically if we’d like to visit the basement.

Without waiting for a response she turned and made her way down rickety stairs to the basement. We followed.

DSC06876

The basement was gray and dimly lit. Bannisters, walls, shelves of liquor bottles– everything– was covered in dust. Layers of dust, in some cases. We looked at each other with our eyes, asking ourselves, “Can we trust this woman?”

In the way she spoke and was dressed, she could have indeed stepped through a time warp. Or, could she be instead an escapee from– ?

We didn’t continue that thought because we didn’t want to continue it. Instead we stumbled along after Mary Ellen, through lengthy depths.

DSC06878

Mary Ellen showed us a number of blocked or partly-blocked tunnels, used both to smuggle bootleg liquor into the saloon, or out of it. One of the tunnels led to the nearby Perry Hotel, where we happened to be staying for the week.

DSC06877

The smuggled booze came from the Al Capone gang. From his base in Chicago, Capone controlled all liquor going into resort towns which spread north along the Lake Michigan shoreline, including this one.

The lights began flickering.

“The lights are going out!” Mary Ellen said dramatically.

Her eyes seemed truly afraid. Perhaps the time allotted for the private tour was over, or someone above needed her. Or perhaps she was about to turn into a pumpkin, or vanish, or appear her real age, or something. We were, after all, only days from Halloween.

DSC06859

We made it back up shaky wood stairs to the main floor, breathing, despite ourselves, a sigh of relief.

The tour was one of many highlights we encountered in the quaint town of Petoskey.

-K. and K.

DSC06885

*******

Our “Best of the Net” 2018 Nominations

Here are our Best of the Net nominations for 2018.

botn2017

They encompass work published online between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018.

(Best of the Net 2017 is here. The Sundress Publications website is here.)
*******

AS ALWAYS we had more good work than we were able to nominate. For fiction, we nominated two of our longer stories– both require some investment in reading. Both stories required an ample investment in imagination and work in writing. Both stories are excellent in very different ways. They exhibit the range available within a “Pop Lit” designation.

WE hope you read or re-read all of the nominated works.

We thank these writers and all the writers who’ve generously allowed us to publish their work.

Fiction:

“Churchgoing in New England” by Richard Greenhorn,
published 9/28/17.
“The Rottweiler” by Alex Bernstein,
published 1/12/18.

Non-Fiction:

“Hemingway” by Samuel Stevens,
published 7/28/17
“Cry Wolfe” by Robin Wyatt Dunn,
published 11/16/17.

Poetry:

“Black Water” by Robert Beveridge,
published 10/16/17.
“Processed World” by Rus Khomutoff,
published 02/02/18.
“Starbucks Bars to Be Sung I” by Timmy Chong,
published 4/12/18.
“Jonesing” by Timmy Chong,
published 4/12/18.
“Tourist Trap” by Holly Day,
published 4/18/18.
“Losing Another One” by James Croal Jackson,
published 5/7/18.
*******

Happy Hemingway Day!

YEP, another year has shot by and we’re again back celebrating one of our favorite authors, Ernest Hemingway. Maybe we just like his Michigan connection, an excuse for us sneak up to Hemingway country in Petoskey and environs. Away from urban civilization as we know it.

WE were there this May, encountering a Hemingway statue–

DSC06768

–and examining the pier in Harbor Springs where the boat from Chicago carrying the young Hemingway would dock–

DSC06745

–or staying in the exact same hotel in Petoskey that young Ernest Hemingway boarded at–

DSC06758

–drinking at taverns with trademark Hemingway atmosphere–

DSC06759

–reading Hemingway novels–

farewelltoarms

–then closing the day with a Petoskey Michigan sunset.

DSC06755

*******

New Hemingway-Fitzgerald Discovery?

basil and josephine cover

Is New Pop Lit about to make some literary history?

We had assumed someone else had written about this– maybe someone has– but it seems that in the answer to our Hemingway-Fitzgerald Trivia Question lies a different take on the relationship between those two giants of American letters. It’s important because the two talents stand today as THE largest personalities dominating the field of American letters– in particular, the novel and short story. Iconic figures.

The new take is this: Ernest Hemingway took some obvious shots at F. Scott Fitzgerald over the years. But what if Fitzgerald had been creating some snarky portrayals of Hemingway, in his fiction, first? This appears to be the case.

We’re readying an explanation of all this. . . .

#1 Seeds

Two American writers were so gigantic in standing and influence, even on the world stage, that they’re automatic #1 seeds. Both of them, in ways good or bad, helped define what it is to be American.

A.) Ernest Hemingway

hemingway at work

B.) Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman

We’ll explain our choices this afternoon at New Pop Lit’s Interactive blog.

****

We’re re-discussing the other two #1 seeds. May not announce those until the weekend. . . .