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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3-D Story Release Date

EIGHT YEARS IN DEVELOPMENT

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WHAT BETTER day to introduce the 3D Short Story than D-Day, June 6th?

“D-Day” in 1944 was the date American, British, and other Allied soldiers under the overall direction of General Dwight Eisenhower invaded the European continent to help rescue it from the Nazi menace. The assault changed the face of the war. Within a year the Nazi regime was over, Adolf Hitler dead from a self-inflicted bullet wound in the mouth.

WILL the 3D Short Story change the literary scene that swiftly? To that extent?

One can hope.

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Year-End Wrap-Up 2018

CONCLUSIONS OR DELUSIONS?

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(Painting c/o wikipedia commons, “outsider art.”)

2018 was a challenging year, as we injected ourselves, on several occasions, wisely or unwisely, into debates in defense of free expression and of truth.

A score of posts at this blog were devoted to our investigation of the Junot Diaz Controversy. See one of our reports here.

We also came out publicly in opposition to the depublishing of poets in response to pressure by what I called “Poetry Cops.” One of our reports on that matter is here. In this post we asked the question, “Is American literature becoming a censorship horror show?” As of this writing it remains an open question.
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AMID the noise, we found time to present some of the best fiction and poetry found anywhere, from present and future literary luminaries and of all kinds and styles. Examine them and their work at our Features line-up here.
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OUR own highlight at this blog and in our lives in 2018 was this trip back up to northern Michigan’s Hemingway country, this time for distinctly personal reasons.
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What’s in store for New Pop Lit for 2019?

More new fiction and poetry,

BUT ALSO–

We’ll attempt to reinvent the short story. That’s all.
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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit News

Neo-Beats Out of Control!

style

(Classic style.)

At least, they’ve taken over the New Pop Lit site. New Beat writing in all its various iterations.

First, a review of an anthology of Beat-style in-the-larger-sense fiction and poetry.

Second, a current poetry feature of lakebeatgrunge poems from beat56.

AND, a home page Intro to all of this.

HELP!!!

(Our self-appointed task is to cover what’s happening in the lit world. What’s happening at the moment might be right here.)

A NOTE ON STYLE

One thing the cultural period of the late 1950’s and early 60’s had was style. The Beats were the obverse to the established “Mad Men” look. (Think Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack, pictured.)

rat pack

As such, the Beats were relentlessly satirized by established pillars of culture. Thoroughly mocked– in venues ranging from television shows such as Dobie Gillis and The Beverly Hillbillies, to movies such as Funny Face starring Audrey Hepburn. The point is that poets and writers mattered. The Beats suffered the slings and arrows of the culturally challenged but they also created exciting fun art.

Audrey Hepburn funny face 50s black polo neck beatnikdancing white socks

(Audrey Hepburn.)

 

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: Captive of the System

THE HARASSMENT CONTROVERSY VIEWED FROM A DIFFERENT ANGLE

phantom monster

IF all men are monsters, then that psychic grievance needs continual proof in the form of visible examples. Junot Diaz fit that need.

THE NARRATIVE

Evidence shows the accusations against Junot Diaz to be flimsy– more a case of bruised egos or a dismissive personality than sexual harassment. Junot Diaz fans blame the accusers themselves for the controversy. (Two accusers, in fact, are ambitiously eager to exploit every opportunity to gain publicity.)

For me the matter is caused more by a politicized literary scene– and by the media which covers that scene needing a steady supply of victims and guilty. The accusers are the Id of that media– the realized expression of their beliefs and needs. Without encouragement behind the scenes, the matter would never have become a story in the first place.

THE MACHINE

chaplin_charlie_modern_times_01

One has to write outside today’s New York-centered literary system in order to see it AS a system. Those inside it have no perspective on it.

THE PRISONER

Junot Diaz’s reaction to the accusations against him has been constrained by his membership in the club. He became successful as a creature of the machine, but now the bill has come due and he’s paying it.

MUCH has been made about Diaz hiring a PR firm, and by appearing at his Boston Globe interview accompanied by a lawyer– but these are shackles on no one so much as him.

Handcuffs01_2003-06-02

Did you see the expression on his face in the photo by Suzanne Kreiter which the Boston Globe used? The expression of a prisoner. What you didn’t see are the invisible handcuffs chaining him to that lawyer. Said attorney and said PR firm exist to keep Junot Diaz from speaking his mind. From being himself.

That’s a hell of a position for any artist to be in.

BUSINESS

What was the quote from the Hyman Roth character in the movie Godfather II?

hyman roth

“This is the business we’ve chosen.”

Junot Diaz chose the world of establishment literature when he signed up for the MFA program at Cornell University he was later to write about in his 2014 essay “MFA vs. POC.”

Cornell_University_arts_quad

Diaz was one of the few writers of color in that writing program. He also may have been the only non-bourgeois person in it.

MFA programs teach students how to write in the proper upper-middle class “literary” style of long slow paragraphs of finely-detailed descriptions expressed in well-wrought sentences and it’s all very impressive to the cognoscenti but it’s also removed from the fast-paced real world lives of 95% of the American populace– a big reason why the short story, once the most popular American art form in the vulgar days of O. Henry and Jack London, is today only the delicate captive of writing programs, MFA grads, and New Yorker magazines sitting unread on Manhattan-or-the-Hamptons coffee tables.

manhattan c of alexkotlickDOTcom(Photo c/o AlexKotlik.com.)

It’s to Junot Diaz’s credit that his talent rises above the limitations– the handcuffs– of that very same refined writing style.

NOW he’s being judged by the same people he loathed when he was in those classrooms. Yes, those perfect beings currently staffing Buzzfeed, The Cut, Slate, The New York Times, etc. etc.; almost all from privileged backgrounds and in their Resistance daydreams looking for purpose, looking for causes, looking for harsh macho misogynists looking for anyone they can accuse hang and shred on the altar of their virtue signaling. Someone to nail to the wall for offending their sensibilities with too much reality brushing indelicately and intolerably against the fragile bubbles of their sterling New York City lives.

pelt on wall

-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit News

The Real Literary Gender Gap?

VANISHING MEN IN LITERATURE AND PUBLISHING

Penguin_Random_House_Tower_New_York_2005

Much noise is made by organizations like VIDA about the gender gap in today’s publishing world. When you examine the actual data, however, you find a different tale.  According to this story from 2016 in The Guardian, the U.S. publishing industry is not only predominately white, but 78% women. (At the executive level, with hangers-on from past male dominance, the industry is 60% women.)

Doing swift calculations of the figures, we can further say that the single largest demographic group in the industry is white women, at more than 60%. By contrast, Latino men make up 1.2% of the industry– hardly registering, which makes the dilemma of Junot Diaz more eye-opening.

Another striking article is this one which appeared in The Atlantic in 2017, which describes how many male authors pretend to be women in order to be published– a turnaround from the days of George Sand. According to this article, 80% of fiction readers are women.

Do you want more statistics? Per the Humanities Indicators site, approximately two-out-of-three English graduates– bachelors, masters, and Phd– are women. Per Data USA, 62% of “writers and authors” are women.

documents

We’re beginning to see these ratios reflected in literary awards. For the most recent National Book Foundation awards, 15 of 20 finalists were women. All five of the “5 Under 35” award winners were women.

As I pointed out in an earlier post about the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, the few male authors in some writers organizations are so outnumbered by women they feel like kids in a candy store– some of them getting into trouble for too many affairs, too many hook-ups while partaking in the book industry’s “meet and greet” soirees.
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WHAT does it all mean? For starters, an industry or art form catering to the public gets into trouble when it disregards half of its potential audience. For example look at what happened to the Western movie when it began focusing almost exclusively on men characters (many Spaghetti Westerns did not have a single woman in the cast)– writing out the women who played a large part in the historic West, to present instead sociopathic narratives of obsessive bloodletting, often starring squinty-eyed and emotionless Clint Eastwood. A far cry from the days of the torridly romantic Selznick spectacular “Duel in the Sun.”

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Today, the Western movie has all but vanished.
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IF figures pertaining to class were available, we’d find the narrowness of viewpoint further skewed. Examine the mastheads of Manhattan magazines which cover arts and letters and you’ll find the staffers from the top down are graduates overwhelmingly of Ivy League universities, with a few Stanford grads and Brits from Oxford thrown in. The same holds true, from what I’ve examined, for the Big 5 New York City-based publishers. Those who decide which authors and books are published and reviewed are, in the main, upper-class women. Not by any measure the best way to create a representative literature for a very large and complex civilization like ours.
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With an array of male authors and editors being purged from the book industry after “MeToo” revelations, the trend toward an all-female business and audience doesn’t look to turn around any time soon.

MORE TO SAY on this matter. . . .
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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit News

Schizophrenic Literary World

THE CURIOUS REHABILITATION OF TAO LIN

Tao_Lin_in_2010_(cropped)

THE WAR within establishment literature continues– as evidenced by this article by Jakob Maier of Buzzfeed News commenting on the sudden comeback of alt-lit opportunist Tao Lin.

(NOTE: Buzzfeed News was at the forefront of promoting accusations against Pulitzer Prize-winning author Junot Diaz— we have yet to receive a yes-or-no answer from reporters Amber Jamieson and Dara Levy about how much they knew in advance about the Zinzi Clemmons confrontation with Diaz at the Sydney Writers Festival this past May.)

ACCORDING to the Jakob Maier article, Tao Lin is currently being promoted by several icons of the established literary world– Vintage Books, The New Yorker and New York magazine. Anna Silman of The Cut (a New York mag project), has been leading the charge against Junot Diaz, so it’s a bit surprising to see this article in New York about what Tao Lin– accused of statutory rape four years ago– adds to his shopping cart.

shopping cart

AS Tao Lin infamously published a book titled Shoplifting at American Apparel, can we surmise that he doesn’t have a shopping cart? Confusion, confusion, all is confusion.

(To add to the confusion, the publisher of that book, Melville House, has also been on the anti-Junot Diaz bandwagon.)

For the record, Tao Lin as a writer is no Junot Diaz. In this critic’s opinion he has yet to demonstrate any writing talent at all.

More worrisome is possibility that the entire alt-lit movement of literary scam artists will make a comeback. Let’s hope not.

View from the Dominican Republic

OUR COVERAGE OF THE JUNOT DIAZ CONTROVERSY CONTINUES

viewfinder

WE’VE been receiving a certain number of tips and information regarding the Junot Diaz matter and are trying to look into all of them. Several of them come from the Dominican Republic.

One, for instance, about the mysterious @Get_Hip twitter account. This person joined the anti-Junot Diaz bandwagon when news broke, claiming to be from the Dominican Republic. Journalist Anna Silman even encouraged this individual to contact her– but when “Get Hip” was questioned about her claims the twitter account swiftly vanished. One of Monica Byrne’s apocryphal 38 names?

punta_cana

AMONG other emails we’ve received, I can excerpt these quotes, from individuals who wish to remain anonymous:

One (almost) invisible aspect– at least in the mainstream media–of this saga is the silence of the Dominican artistic community. Why? you might wonder. According to a well respected male Dominican writer and early supporter of Junot –and early means the time he was starving like a dog–there is a climate of fear thanks to the way some people have reclaimed the #MeToo movement or sentiment to advance their own personal, reactionary and individualistic agendas that have nothing to do with fighting for women’s liberation or fighting for a just and better world. So some people are waiting to see how it all ends. No one wants their careers, personal reputations or livelihoods destroyed by a media frenzy. Despues de la tormenta viene la calma.

And this:

When the Junot affair exploded it also had important ramifications in the Dominican Republic where most people adore him except for right wingers because of his political outlook. In social media, right-wingers used Zinzi Clemmons’ words to destroy Junot and demonstrate what a ‘pervert” and “degenerate” he was. For right wingers, Junot should be silenced at all cost for his outspoken support of social justice causes: immigrant rights, abortion, gay liberation, etc. Was Zinzi aware of the damage she was inflicting on Junot or the Dominican community? Did she know that by attacking Junot she was also silencing someone who spoke out against injustice against immigrants and other marginalized groups in society not only in the Dominican Republic but also in the US? Perhaps she never cared about the consequences or she was not aware of the activism Junot was involved. Or better yet, she never cared. The middle class never cares. Clearly, there are class issues at play. 

Zinzi and the others aided far right xenophobic elements in the Dominican Republic who now argue that Junot is a rapist or a sexual predator. Her actions damaged the reputation of one of the most outspoken writers of these last decades in the US and the world, someone who went to picket lines; denounced corrupt politicians here and abroad and expressed solidarity for the best causes. And the end, this is the story of how a media frenzy was able to silence–for the time being– a public intellectual.
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THESE quotes are a mix of information, speculation, and opinion. I’m offering them here for information purposes– our goal to present vantage points not given by the mainstream media. Take them for what you will– Dominican writers can better judge their accuracy than I can.

THOUGH I think in some sense the affair is over– or should be over, given what’s been discovered about the weakness of the accusations against Junot Diaz– I also believe there’s more to find out about the larger picture. Including the full role of media people in creating this controversy on May 4.

If YOU have credible information to add, feel free to send it to us c/o newpoplitATgmailDOTcom.

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-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit News

How Does a News Story Go Viral?

PUBLICITY IN THE JUNOT DIAZ CONTROVERSY

epstein in cavern

I ADMIT IT. I’m amazed at how fast the publicity game has changed, thanks to social media. Compared to ten years ago, the creation of buzz moves now at lightning speed.

It’s the difference between military techniques in World Wars One and Two. The speed of blitzkrieg in the latter contest revolutionized the game.

As I’ve said a couple times in this series: Who wins the debate over the sexual harassment allegations about prize-winning author Junot Diaz will be decided by who’s better at PR. Institutions (MIT; Boston Review) cleared Diaz, but it’s out of their hands. In the new media age, static bureaucracies have been left behind.

A key post of ours in this regard is “System versus Zeitgeist.”

The Junot Diaz camp is now fully in the game with their army of twitter fans and trolls. They’ve moved quickly up to speed. Will it be enough?

We have two opinion armies maneuvering against one another online– across twitter, blogs, and media sites.

The accusers’ side has made significant mistakes– but their opening moves in the chess game which began May 4th were breathtaking.

CREATING HYSTERIA

epstein again

THE GREATEST publicity feat of all time was the creation of Beatlemania. Most people believe it was spontaneous. Yeah, yeah, the band was talented and young people liked them. As simple as that? Not really.

In November, 1961, Liverpool record store manager Brian Epstein saw an unkempt band playing in an underground club in that beaten-down UK working class city and thought, “I can make these guys bigger than Elvis Presley.” A hidden genius behind the scenes, Brian Epstein was in back of every step of the band’s rise. Some of the facts of how he accomplished this are known. For instance, mass hysteria in New York City in February 1964 when the little-known (in America) band landed for the first time. Reluctant Capitol Records was forced by Epstein to spend $70,000 ($570,000 in today’s dollars) to promote their arrival and the concurrent release of their single, “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

The-Beatles-At-JFK-tarmac-530x353

WE ALSO know the mob of kids holding signs at the airport wasn’t a spontaneous happening. Their presence was arranged. The kick-off of Beatlemania was staged.

MAY 4 ANTI-JUNOT DIAZ HYSTERIA

I’m still amazed at how quickly fervor against Junot Diaz took place. Three threads of tweets from Zinzi Clemmons, Monica Byrne, and Carmen Maria Machado taking place in the middle of night, one right after another. By morning they’d gone viral. To such extent that The Cut’s Anna Silman was already contacting Monica Byrne for a statement.

Spontaneous? Byrne said to Silman, “The network was activated”– which might be clue enough for an explanation.

Monica Byrne’s unsupported rumors about Melania Trump in June 2017, which went viral, albeit on a smaller scale, served as trial run for this situation. This time out Byrne had at least a smattering of substance to the story, and other women on her side. Enough substance that even the mighty and respectable New York Times joined the generated hysteria.

QUESTION: Was the hysteria against Junot Diaz generated or spontaneous?

Another tweet from Monica:

AIDING buzz creation was dramatic language used by the accusers in the tweeted narratives.

BYRNE: “I’ve never faced such virulent misogyny in my adult life.”

MACHADO: “–a blast of misogynist rage.”

Promotional blitzkrieg on May 4th worked masterfully– on that very same day the accusations were news across the globe. The feat deserves a chapter of its own in the history of publicity. The planning and coordination worked– but not well enough to claim quick victory. No knockout. Junot Diaz apologized, but he and his institutional backers held firm. By now, today, the controversy has settled into trench warfare– both sides sniping at each other from steady lines, World War One-style.

For the time being, the controversy is at a stalemate.

wwI
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WILL the stalemate continue? More to come from:

-New Pop Lit News-
https://newpoplitnews.wordpress.com/

-Karl Wenclas on the literary news beat.