Our “Best of the Net 2017” Nominations

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We’ve nominated two stories and four poems for the Best of the Net 2017 anthology put together by Sundress Publications.

The stories are:

“Picture This” by Anne Leigh Parrish
https://newpoplit.com/portfolio/picture-this/
2/10/2017

 “Travelogue” by Robin Wyatt Dunn
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The poems are:”(Terre Noir)” by Jess Mize
https://newpoplit.com/portfolio/inspired-by-death-in-the-afternoon/
7/8/2016

“Shocking” by Dan Nielsen

 08/29/2016

“Frat Boy” by Timmy Chong

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AS WE never know how editors judge these things, our policy is three-fold:

1.) Submit strong writing.

2.) Choose fairly brief submissions– making it easier for overburdened editors/judges to both read and include in a voluminous anthology.

3.) Choose a variety of writing styles, in hopes one of the works will catch the judges’ taste.

All six of these works are striking, albeit in different ways. Have fun rereading them!

Death of the Alt-Right

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While it will likely stumble on in the political sphere a while longer, the so-called alt -right is finished in the literary realm. Didn’t take much to end it. An alt-right site, Excavation– digging up the underground, was forced to shut down by an aggressive antifa campaign. Its editor, Michael Marrotti, has vanished from view. From what evidence I’ve seen, the criminalized words he used ranged from “Jewish Sharia” to “white pride.” As epithets,  fairly mild– but still thought crimes in this well-regulated time. The poets who’d published their work at the site didn’t realize he was a white supremacist until told about it.

Marrotti himself is a working class poet from the rust belt city of Pittsburgh– not a person of any power. “Supremacist” is a misnomer. “Defensivist” might be more accurate.

“It’s all about pain
steak knives used
to warm the soul
from a frigid planet”
-from Marrotti’s poem, “Optimistic Poetry”

Another alt-right site, Casper Magazine, changed its name several months ago when the ideological weather vane began changing– at the same time its original editor, “Pozwald Spengler,” either radically changed his identity and belief system, or sped away without a whimper of protest, not to be heard from again.

At least two stories were expunged from the site, “Cathy” by Ben Arzate, and “Scumbag,” by Alice Florida Xu. They’ve been safely flushed down the Orwellian memory hole. No complaints heard yet from either of the two writers. Given today’s hysterical McCarthyist climate, one can understand their silence.

Other alt-right figures who were once buoyant about creating an intellectual alternative to today’s p.c. monolith have backed off from, or recanted, their ideas.

OUR CONCLUSION is that it was never much of a movement– more straw man than army. Its few writers and editors were easily intimidated. If any remain they’ll be rounded up by the antifa posses, publicly chastized and silenced.
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How much of a danger did alt-right-leaning writers pose? Could they have posed?

It’s noteworthy that these advocates of “supremacy” had not a sole representative at any of this nation’s major cultural and literary institutions. Not at publishing’s Big Five, nor at the Washington Post or New York Times, nor at The New Yorker magazine, Vanity Fair, Esquire, New York Review of Books, Bookforum, LARB, etc. etc. etc. Instead, individuals of marked privilege themselves at these bastions of influence have used the opportunity to themselves denounce any trace of alt-right thinking in literature today, to adopt a posture against privilege, and approve and endorse the angry antifa posses.

In the literary sphere, there are dangers and then there are dangers.

 

Disclaimer

CAUTION: We’re turning this blog into a free speech zone, where we’ll discuss actions of the New Censorship Movement; in some cases mentioning the incidents and names (gasp!) of those writers or literary sites which have been expunged from the Internet. Such actions reek too much of Orwell’s classic novel 1984 to suit our taste. Too many people have fought too hard for the freedom of expression all of us (up until now) have enjoyed, for us to casually sit by when such freedoms are restricted.

Example: Our upcoming new entrants in the All-Time American Writers Tournament include two controversial writers, one controversial in his political ideas and actions and the other controversial in his art. Should they be expunged from memory because they offended people?

We’re frankly amazed by the complacency of writers to what’s happening– but we shouldn’t be, given our own history within a well-regulated U.S. literary world. We may at some point discuss that history here, and the role it’s played in our thinking.
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THE WEEK IN POP LIT

The current week includes a very good new story by Brian Eckert which affirms the right of an individual to live life as he chooses. We also reported on the above-mentioned Tournament (more reportage this weekend). Keep up on pop lit doings at our home page.

Thanks for reading!

The Week in Pop Lit

TO GET THIS NEWS BLOG going again, we’re going to try to provide weekly updates– for now, mostly about ourselves.

And a lot has been happening!

First, twitter wars. At his own twitter account, our chief editor took on anonymous ghosts of the internet– demi-puppets (see Shakespeare’s definition) who were trying to close down another literary site. Apparently there’s a new literary movement afoot– literary journals whose purpose is to shut down other literary journals. A kind of New Censorship Movement. Yes, things have come to that. We’ll have more about what that’s about here at this blog.

At the @NewPopLit twitter handle we engaged in a quick debate with a confused Brown University prof who believes America is about the worst thing that ever happened. We’re obviously more positive about this country than he is.

Second, we posted a lot of new material this week– a new story, a new chapbook review, new photos, and more analysis at the All-Time American Writers Tournament. Get on our home page and check it all out!

 

Granta’s Young American Novelists

A CONTRARY VIEW

Granta cover

LITERARY ARISTOCRACY LIVES!

At least, it lives within tiny literary circles in London and New York. The aristos exist in small rooms with mirrored walls which make their numbers and clout appear greater– to themselves– than they actually are.

And so, Granta Magazine‘s “Best of Young American Novelists 3” has sent shock waves through the clubby room, if nowhere else. Which well-connected New York-based writers should have been included? Which had better been left out?

We’re not talking the 1920’s, when there were a host of culturally-and-artistically significant young American novelists to talk about– Hemingway/Fitzgerald/Faulkner/Wolfe/Dos Passos– giant names, talents, personalities, personas.

No, there is no young Tiger Woods waiting to revive the literary sport. What we get is what we get. The Granta 21.

One can assume the presented writings of the Granta 21 will appear daring to established literati. That everything said by them will appeal to the New York literati mindset and the greater literary mob. They wouldn’t have been included otherwise.

But enough of this rant. What are the facts?

THE FACTS

17 of the 21 novelists are captives of New York-based “Big 5” conglomerate publishing. (Random House with the most.) Of the other four writers, two live in New York City. Which proves that, for establishment lit people, New York remains center of the universe.

Most, if not all of the Granta 21 came up through the system– jumping through the required hoops at select writing programs of Stanford, Columbia, Iowa, or Brown. Most have been awarded with lavish non-profit (tax shelter) largesse: MacArthur Genius awards; grants from PEN, Young Lions, Guggenheim, National Book Foundation– large pools of well-protected wealth. Fellowships as well: MacDowell, NYFA, Fulbrights. There remains a truly massive system in the United States for creating approved writers; the greatest ever seen in world history. Huge bureaucracies. Enormous expenditures via sprawling real estate-gobbling universities, and Manhattan skyscrapers bursting with agents, editors, and publicists. The Granta 21 is what the giant behemoths have produced. Best of the best of system art, for whatever that’s worth.

Our contention is that the 21 aren’t representative of America, so much as a well-screened, well-indulged fragment of America.

IMPERIAL LITERATURE

union jack

Even more than New York City, London– where Granta is based– has an ingrained imperialist mindset. The point-of-view is always tops-down, with the rest of the world there to be colonized by those with the proper tops-down mindset. Everything stems from the ivory towers of Cambridge and Oxford. (In the U.S.A., Yale, Harvard, Columbia, Brown et.al.) Those from outlying territories can join the club by coming to the Imperial City or going through one of the elite academic screening centers.

The sun never sets on the Anglo-American cultural empire.

This isn’t bad or good. It just IS.

EXCEPTIONS

There are a few ringers thrown in. or at least one, in the person of Halle Butler, who lives in Chicago and is published by an indy, Curbside Splendor Publishing, based in Chicago. Hail Halle!

There are two African-born writers who may be American, or may not. Dinaw Mengestu was educated in the U.S., but now lives in Paris. Close enough. Chinelo Okperanta was shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African writers. In this day and age, editors get diversity any way they can. Everything is global, after all. (Globalism has always been a euphemism for Imperialism.)

Then there’s Mark Doten, published by indy Graywolf Press; fiction editor at indy Soho Press. Doten teaches English at Columbia University, as does one of the four Granta judges, Ben Marcus. Mark Doten straddles both worlds.

QUESTIONS

We have two questions.

1.) Is any one of the 21 “best” novelists under 40 qualified to be in the All-Time American Writers Tournament? They’re the future, after all. The present. Is forty years enough time to show outstanding talent?

garth2

What about Garth Hallberg? Hallberg received an enormous advance for his novel, then a tremendous publicity blitz behind the book from the Manhattan publicity machine. Ever hear of Garth Hallberg? Does he deserve to be ranked with Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Morrison, and company? (Uh, no.)

2.) Are any of the Granta 21 even as talented as the four young writers, under the age of 30, that we recently profiled? See our Overview, which contains links to their work.

Granta‘s 21, or our four? Judge for yourself.

-K.W.

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New Pop Lit is at New Pop Lit.

 

 

 

Pop Writers

HYPER-TALENTS OF THE NEW LITERARY AGE PART IV

Rippl_The_Detective for essay

(Painting: “The Detective” by Jozsefs Rippl-Ronai.)

Why pop short story writers?

Because in the days of Jack London and O. Henry, the short story was THE popular American art form. Any renewal of literature starts there.

It’s begun!– particularly with various styles of “flash” or short short fiction, which puts an emphasis on brevity, clarity, and punch. But there’s no reason why entertaining and accessible stories can’t be longer, as they once were.

Recently we published a fairly long pop story by Norbert Kovacs, “The Fight,” which gives a hint at what’s possible.

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We’ve published several writers who skirt the line between pop and pop lit, often through different twists on genre fiction. Among them is Ian Lahey, whose most recent story for us, from 2016, is “What I Don’t See.”

Ian Lahey

 

 

 

 

Ian uses a genre style and setting of agents conducting an interrogation to throw the reader off balance– making us see in the situation what we otherwise might not see.

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However, the best pure pop story we’ve run to date is a new one by Alan Swyer, “Country Sweetheart.”

Alan Swyer photo one

What makes Swyer’s story work is its sense of humor, along with the affection Alan Swyer has for the characters and for the often-quirky world of country music. It’s an entertaining story about entertainers– and about other things like authenticity. Authentic art. The main character may in some ways be a fraud (to put it mildly!) but at the same time his feeling for the music, his colleagues, and his audience is thoroughly genuine. The suspense comes from the question of how long he’ll be able to get away with the imposture. Or, how will he be caught?

The tale is quintessentially American in a variety of ways. Not least of them is the theme of reinvention– that, contrary to what Scott Fitzgerald once said, there are second acts in American life. (Why people came here in the first place.) But also the story’s love for the land and people, combined with a sense of good old fashioned fun-loving ballyhoo. The American quality of finding yourself through being an entertainer. Entertaining through singing, or entertaining through storytelling.

Our interest here is in the latter. . . .

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Next up in this series: “Underground”

Hyper-Talents Part III

fitzgerald

Part III of our overview, “Hyper-Talents of the New Literary Age,” will be a bit longer than the previous, so we created a separate page for it, available here. We’ll be featuring new writing from four different millennial writers. We’ll be adding profiles to the thread as we go along. This, as we scout the landscape for other young talents. If you want to know what’s happening on today’s literary scene, this is the place.

Report: New Pop Lit in 2016

npl-promo

What were the year’s highlights for the literary project known as New Pop Lit?

Among them have to be the two big Lit Questions we asked writers and editors of all stripes, which received terrific feedback. The first Question was about the contemporary short story. Our second Lit Question was about Ernest Hemingway. You’ll find the answers we received in both cases to be stimulating reading.

The Hemingway question was part of our celebration of Hemingway Day 2016. Another part of that celebration was an excursion by New Pop Lit editors to classic Hemingway country in northern Michigan. If you’re a fan of Hem, or of American literature, or of writing period, our little search for the man and myth makes must reading.

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Another highlight for us was our appearance at the Troy Public Library, giving a presentation as part of NaNoWriMo (National Writing Month). (Much thanks to Erin Chapman for setting this up.)

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In-between we found time to feature an array of new fiction and poetry from Tom Ray (twice), Ron Singer, Ian Lahey, Scott Cannon (twice), Jess Mize (three times), Dave Petraglia, (our own) Kathleen M. Crane, Joshua Isard, John Grochalski, Anne Leigh Parrish, “Fishspit” (twice), James Guthrie, Ken O’Steen, Erin Knowles Chapman, Jeff Schroeck, Steve Slavin, Samuel Stevens, Andy Tu, A.N. Block, Alex Bernstein, Andrew Sacks, Bruce Dale Wise, Timmy Chong, David R. Gwyn, Yoav Fisher, Lori Cramer, and a featured book review by Andrea Gregovich, AND several interviews with writers, some of them linked at our “Hype” page at our main site. I’m sure I’ve missed a name or two. Thanks to all the talented people who made our literary project an artistic success.

Last but not least we started a new feature we call Fun Pop Poetry, which can be found at our Interactive blog, along with other cool things. We included there the very best pop poets in America, as well as some of our favorite writers. Please read all 23 pop poetry entries– you’ll find them entertaining.

We’re here to entertain you. (We sneak our artistic theories in the back door peripherally and subliminally.) We’ll be doing a lot more entertaining in 2017.

-K.W.

 

Our Pushcart Nominations and Why

pushcart-2016

We at New Pop Lit have joined the annual flood of mail sent off to the good people at Pushcart Press in Wainscott, New York, in the form of six nominations for consideration for Pushcart Prizes. Winners are included in the Pushcart Prize annual collection.

Every year the Pushcart people receive thousands of nominations from hundreds of literary outfits. The competition is stiff, to say the least.

If the editors have a bias, it’s understandably toward print journals, as they continue to operate in print. They may also be biased toward “name” writers– we’ve seen the likes of Joyce Carol Oates and Mary Gaitskill in their collection. This is understandable also. The Pushcart people seek credibility and recognition, just like the rest of us.

OUR OBJECTIVES

What should be our objectives when deciding which works published in the past year to nominate?

1.) To nominate some of our best/favorite writings. Including work that pleased our readers.

2.) To present an eclectic mix. We’ve included in our nominations this year a poem and a book review. “Eclectic” in our mind includes mixing younger and older writers.

3.) To give ourselves an outside chance that one of our nominations wins a Pushcart Prize. Which means, long stories or essays are out. As a print publication, Pushcart has strictly limited space. If an upstart like ourselves has ANY shot to be included, it’s with a short work that grabs their attention.

Perhaps the best story we published in the past year was “Lucid Dreamer,” by Scott Cannon. It starts slow, and is quite long. This excluded it, in our eyes, from being nominated. Fortunately, we ran a shorter work by Scott in 2016 which is also an excellent story.

The other side of the coin is that we nominated not one of the “flash fiction” stories we published. Which brings us to our fourth criterion:

4.) To indulge our capricious whims. We’re writers– artists– ourselves. Which means at some point we throw away logic and operate on emotion and instinct. if we don’t have fun doing this project– what’s the point?

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OUR NOMINATIONS

“Clarity,” a story by Alex Bernstein.

“Ergo Propter Hoc,” a story by Scott Cannon.

“Diminutives,” a story by Samuel Stevens.

“The Old Neighborhood,” a story by Andy Tu.

“Colapinto’s Undone,” a book review by Andrea Gregovich.

“Death in the Medicine Cabinet,” a poem by Blixa BelGrande.

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Many thanks also to Anne Leigh Parrish, Tom Ray, Jess Mize, Ian Lahey, Erin Chapman, “Fishspit,” Tarzana Joe, Dan Nielsen, Wred Fright, and the other talented writers we could’ve or should’ve nominated this year.

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Thanks most of all to the people at Pushcart Press. The best way to support what they do is to purchase one of their collections– at a bookstore near you.

A National Book Awards Skeptic

IT’S ALWAYS HEARTENING to see contrarian viewpoints within the often-monolithic established literary world. One of the consistent contrarians is critic and book reviewer Thomas Leclair. Recently he wrote this provocative examination of the National Book Award fiction finalists. (Winners were announced last Wednesday, November 16.) We agree with Leclair’s calling for more nominees from the small press– though we may be thinking of a different small press than he is. Our favored small press is in the process of creation– presenting neither “Big Five” commercialized crap, nor excessively “literary” scribblings penned by an insular literary elite disconnected from the vital currents of the American people and land. We look for a new hybrid– literary art which will be both popular, relevant, and original. A new American literature.

We also note that Leclair avoided the question of political correctness– of whether or not politics and/or ideology played a role in the NBA selection process. The task of the writer– of any artist– is to avoid the trap of an approved status quo viewpoint.

We trust that Thomas Leclair will continue to question the literary status quo, whatever his viewpoint.

(Also see our own recent look at the National Book Award poetry finalists. The announced winner shows the topsy-turvy alternate-universe world of American literature now.)