Teardowns and Literature

MAKING CREATIVE CHANGE PART IV

There are 20 possible opening moves in chess. How many ways are there to write the short story? There should be hundreds. In practice, there are maybe ten– and some of those, like Poe’s, are no longer done.

HOW?

How does one create a new short story form– or a new anything? One way is the concept of returning to First Principles, which is outlined here.

The first question: What’s essential? The sentence. Basic grammar. The alphabet. Words. All else is up for grabs. The idea to recreate from the ground up.

I’ve asked the question: Why do people read?

FOR: Mystery, character, adventure, ideas, knowledge, sensation, emotion, passion, entertainment, escape, understanding, wisdom, experience. What else?

The idea should be to construct a narrative, and adopt a writing style, which can best present these attributes. Or, as many of them as possible.

Our first step has been to break away from the strictly linear, single-viewpoint mode of operating. My first attempts relied too heavily on precise structure conceived in advance. KMC’s, not as much. In the future we’ll move away from that. My belief is that with further attempts we’ll find the non-linear format gives the writer more creative freedom, not less.

TEARDOWNS

The electric vehicle crowd has been big on tearing down automobiles of all kinds to find out what makes them work, then re-engineering them. The most prominent teardown engineer is Sandy Munro, a former Ford engineer who’s put out dozens of videos depicting his analysis of various vehicles.

c/o munrolive.com

For the New Pop Lit project, I’ve taken apart short stories of all kinds to discover what makes them work– from Edgar Allan Poe’s, which rely heavily on exposition and invariably lead to a strong or explosive conclusion conceived in advance– such as this one— to romantic adventure stories from Robert Louis Stevenson, to Jack London’s brutally surprising “Lost Face,” to tales by D.H. Lawrence and James Joyce, to Ernest Hemingway’s famous and subtly complex “The Short, Happy Life of Francis Macomber.” As well as more recent work, such as stories by Mary Gaitskill. There’s much to learn in all of them.

PROTOTYPES

The next step, after many teardowns, is constructing an all-new prototype utilizing what’s been learned. A topic I’ll cover in a later installment of this series on creative change and how to make it.

K.W.

Three Kinds of Revolution

MAKING CREATIVE CHANGE PART III

1.

TRADITIONAL REVOLUTION. Thorough and swift destruction and replacement designed to demolish existing institutions and the System itself and replace them with all-new everything. See Robespierre and Lenin.

2.

GRADUAL REVOLUTION. Change within existing institutions and hierarchies, designed to capture them. Theodore Adorno and the Frankfurt School might exemplify this mode of thinking. Or were precursors of it, along with Antonio Gramsci.

3.

COMPETITIVE REVOLUTION. Competing with existing institutions using smaller, faster, more mobile and vastly more creative new organizations. Elon Musk’s various projects, as well as many popular DIY podcasts, fit this category.

CHANGE AGENTS

Currently we live in a world where Revolution Style #3 has pushed its way to the forefront. Upstarts everyplace. New ways of thinking pushed by what could be called change agents. The active molecules mentioned in Part I of this series.

Musk due to his penchant for publicity is at the forefront of such energized entities. Elon Musk has always been a huckster, combined with an arrogance unleavened by humility. (He’s yet to be knocked down hard by life.) His real strength lies in his ability to see weakness in established institutions, whether they be Boeing in aerospace, or General Motors and other legacy giants in the auto industry. The ability to observe “the best” and realize they can be taken down.

Elon Musk carries the ethos of the upstart– eager to topple complacent established kings and set himself up as new one.

In this quest, he relies on the doctrine of First Principles, which we’ll look at in the next installment of this series on change and how to make it.

-K.W.

Teaching Gatsby

MAKING CREATIVE CHANGE PART II

MOST WRITERS are the product of the stale way literature is taught.

Much emphasis on themes and sentences. A great example of this is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby, a favorite of high school teachers and freshman-level college American lit profs. Along with Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, the most over-taught American novel ever.

Yet none of the instructors approaches what Fitzgerald was doing with it that gives the story and the main character their sense of mystery. What’s taught instead are its themes: “The American Dream”– striving after “the green light” blah blah– along with the book’s lyricism. Fitzgerald’s beautiful passages, particularly the opening and closing. “The well-written sentence.” What’s missing?

For starters, Fitzgerald combines pop elements with the literary. Gatsby, after all, is a gangster. The lyricism is used carefully– much of the story is propelled by simple declarative sentences. Like a baseball fastball following a series of off-speed pitches, the occasional lyrical sentence stands out.

Most important though and seldom examined is the book’s structure. The serious writer, when confronting the novel, needs to approach it like an engineer. How does it really work?

Take the book apart and you find it has a complex structure– the story of Jay Gatsby put together using the narrator Nick Carraway’s own impressions combined with rumor, speculation, and hearsay. Beyond this, the narrative doesn’t stick strictly to the present, but gives the reader, in segments, a great deal of backstory. Jumps into glimpses of the past.

Examining the thematic instead of the technical is fine if you’re an English professor, but writers looking to reinvent the art need to seek all possible examples of structural innovation, which can be utilized, refreshed, or merged, toward the goal of creating a more exciting product.

Which will be discussed in future parts of this impromptu series intended to explain a little of what we’re up to in the New Pop Lit development studio.

-K.W.

Making Creative Change

PART I: WHAT WE’RE NOT TAUGHT

Few people see the world as it really is, because we’re not taught to see it that way: As conflict between the dynamic and the static. The active agent, and the acted upon.

Count Leo Tolstoy discussed this in his massive masterpiece novel War and Peace. Is history the product of great men– or of the movement of massive unseen forces? Or a combination of both?

In his discussion of Napoleon and the invasion of Russia, Tolstoy saw the great man as merely along for the ride, accompanying a wave of economic and social forces. Yet change as often as not, even in the instance cited, is a matter of the willful individual pushing and driving the merely passive: the static. The inertia of movement pushing the inertia of the unmoving. Force upon molecules. One dynamic individual disturbing all around itself, like a cue ball upsetting a rack of balls in a pool hall.

XXXX

CHANGE should be especially true in the arts, which are intended to be dynamic. In constant flux.

The question for writers is: Which side of the equation are you on?

If you’re not published by one of the Big Four Manhattan publishers, or a professor at a university, it makes little sense to be on the side of the static. Of the aesthetic status quo. (Unless you write and publish as a hobby, to impress relatives and friends. But if you want more– ?)

NEXT: “Teaching Gatsby.”

State of the Site 2022

NEW POP LIT ENTERS A NEW YEAR

THE BIG NEWS for the New Pop Lit project is our receiving a “Creators of Culture” grant from a wonderful Detroit-based arts organization named Culture Source. As near as we can determine, we qualified based on several criterion:

-Our EIC’s long history of promoting overlooked writers, notably in the 2000s with the Underground Literary Alliance.

-New Pop Lit’s focus on artistic innovation and design, including with our one-of-a-kind publications. “Craft publishing”: the idea to make our publications as creative and non-generic as possible.

-Our continued experimentation with literary form. This includes our behind-the-scenes effort to completely reinvent the short story, ongoing.

The starting point for everything we do is that the literary status quo isn’t good enough.

THE FUTURE

We’ll use the graciously-awarded funds not solely to keep this project operating (it’s been touch-and-go at times), but chiefly to discover and spotlight new writing and artistic talent, with more focus on talent in metro Detroit and environs.

Toward those ends, we’ll hold a contest or three, with monetary prizes.

The grant will also enable us to create more print publications. A portion of the award will be spent on necessary equipment and supplies. (Notably, paper and ink!)

The intelligent universe has conspired to keep us ongoing a while longer. As long as New Pop Lit lasts, we’ll aspire to achieve amazing arts breakthroughs– or at least one!

Stay informed via our Coming Soon page. Thanks.

XXX

Welcome 2022!

THE PAST TWO YEARS have been tough ones for us, as for a lot of people. We plan to turn things around in 2022 (have already begun to)– and turn New Pop Lit into a more viable and exciting project.

Within days we’ll post at this blog a “State of the Site” announcement discussing what’s been happening.

IN THE MEANTIME, a few goals:

1.) A lot of talented new writers are out there. We haven’t failed to notice. (Good poker players that we both are, we don’t miss a thing.) We intend to connect with more of those writers.

2.) We have to do a lot more to sell our unique aesthetic ideas to literary people, and beyond. We’ll do so.

Those ideas center around:

DESIGN

New designs of writing and presentations of writing. For both aspects, we favor a modified 20th century modernist aesthetic. Meaning, clear, colorful, and stylish. Cultural chaos is everywhere. To be truly different, an arts project should offer an alternative to the chaos. Escape from the madness.

CLARITY (of thought and presentation) is important to us, as a foundation to build upon in endeavors to connect literature to a larger swath of the general public.

3.) At some point soon enough we’ll need to add more contributors to our staff– those in general synch with what we’re about, who can bring with them new ideas to supplement ours. As a project we’re foremost an expression of ideas.

Currently KMC and I work drudge day jobs. But give us enough time and help and we’ll unleash the full potential of this ambitious project. That’s the goal.

Thanks for your interest!

Karl Wenclas

Where’s the Literary Underground?

FINDING THE UNDERGROUND

WHERE is underground culture?

NO ONE online is underground. We’re on a system this instant– the Internet– that was initiated and in large part paid for by the United States Defense Department. An electronic arrangement where every word can be recorded and tracked with a few keyboard clicks.

With our new state-of-the-art print zeens, we at New Pop Lit are partially underground. They’re handmade in-house, and unregistered. No barcodes.

Why is this important? Because print underground literature is an actual alternative– samizdat!— a free space of ideas not subject to self-appointed hall monitors and censors. Breaking the hive mind. No bureaucrats, official or unofficial. In the tradition of Thomas Paine, Davy Crockett, Walt Whitman, Stephen Crane, Robert McAlmon, the Beats– and including Alexander Solzhenitsyn and a host of other international samizdat writers. The genuine article. The authentic American yawp.

THE ANALOG EXPERIENCE

We’ve begun exploring ideas behind new analog culture (vinyl, zines, film) in a newsletter, The Analog Experience. We’ll soon send copies to our “prestige” customers– those who’ve purchased three or more of our zeens. BUT you can subscribe to four issues now at our POP SHOP.

Doing so will keep you abreast of underground happenings, ideas, and debates. Plus in some small way it keeps this project alive.

Consider it a door to another world. A portal to underground culture.

XXXX

Fight the Monolith!

Which Side Are YOU On?

c/o Kamil Grzybek

We are watching in real time the conglomerization and monopolization of everything.

The gigantic corporations every day become more gigantic. Amazon WalMart Google Disney Apple Microsoft CVS Facebook growing larger encroaching over more real estate removing privacy small business competition independence options and they decide who’s given a platform is allowed to speak to market to express contrary opinions or ideas.

We’ve all become members of the Herd. Everyone is plugged into the Hive.

HOW do we get out of it? Is there a way to escape?

YES! The escape is in new analog culture. This includes authentically-independent literature, of the kind offered at New Pop Lit‘s POP SHOP. We’re making plans to move more of our operation offline as we operate under the radar screen of mass A.I.-generated conformity, orthodoxy, and groupthink. To stop having everything monitored and recorded online is the first step toward living once again as free-thinking beings. Our literature, if nowhere else, should be an intellectual refuge free from raging ideological mobs left, right, and center– the blind unthinking stampeding throngs on all sides.

Escape into Art– and freedom.

(The contents of our upcoming analog in-house-produced newsletters as well as our artistic print zeens now on sale are UNavailable in pdf form or any other way on the Internet, except for brief glimpses used for announcement purposes.)

XXX

Zines or Zeens?

RETURNING TO PRINT

THE WAY to think about the difference between zines and zeens is to think lo-fi versus hi-fi. Or cassettes versus vinyl.

Traditionally, print zines– real zines, of the photocopied-at-a-coffeeshop variety– were inexpensively made, black-and-white images and text on basic 20-lb copy paper. The DIY punk rawness of the presentation was the point. Illustrations were cut-ups and collages, for a sense of chaos. Type was the smallest possible, words scarcely readable, and there was a lot of it. A few classic zinesters are still using something akin to this style, among them Joe Smith of Alternative Incite:

At the same time (90s; early 2000s) there were a lot of art zines around, which were raw in a different way. Unique shapes and sizes. More colors; usually better paper. Hand-colored pages with unique drawings and designs. Even material glued on them– feathers, sequins, felt: anything. Words themselves often hand-lettered. The drawback to more intense artistry was that the number of copies which could be made was strictly limited. Sometimes as few as 20 or 25.

THE ZEEN DIFFERENCE

With our new print zeens we’ve taken every advantage of print zines and bumped them up a level. There’s rawness and authenticity– combined with quality. Quality materials, designs, and writing. We’ve emphasized the analog experience, so that words and images pop off the page. The writing we’ve accepted or solicited for each zeen has fit the particular aesthetic of that zeen, so that each one– Extreme Zeen 1 and 2, ZEENITH, Crime City U.S.A. and Literary Fan Magazine— has its own individual personality.

Purchase a couple or three at our POP SHOP and see.

XXXX

The Art of Pop Poetry

POETRY NEEDS HOOKS!

MUCH DISCUSSION has taken place in recent days– based on the firing of Danielle Rose by Barren Magazine— about the place of poetry in contemporary society.

Is anyone asking the question of HOW to best connect the poetic art with the general public?

At New Pop Lit we’ve tried to do it in a variety of ways. At our online site, by publishing what we consider the highest quality poetry we can find.

For our new print-zeens, we’ve sought high-quality poems that, for the most part, are also visual and concise. Poems which can be illustrated or used with designs in some way to make the reading experience more striking.

Then, also, there have been our experiments a few years ago with Fun Pop Poetry.

FUN POP POETRY

Fun Pop Poetry was a feature we ran for a number of months at one of our blogs. (Which was then later used for the uncompleted “All-Time American Writers Tournament”– yet another example that we’ve been experimenting with a number of things.)

The idea behind Fun Pop Poetry was understanding the roots of poetry lie in oral culture. Pre-literary. Poetic devices such as meter and rhyme were used to make recitations of the spoken word musical and memorable. Rhyme and other euphonic tricks are hooks that embed themselves in the poet’s– and the audience’s– brain.

EVEN Shakespeare’s work– the soliloquys in particular– though usually written in blank verse, has hooks all over the place: “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day. . . .”

Which make them easy to remember and a joy to recite.

The idea of hooks in poetry is akin to hooks in pop songs. Which brings us to pop poetry.

New Pop Lit‘s Kathleen Marie Crane writes poetry with hooks which stay in your head– is in fact the master at it. For instance, “You Don’t Stand a Chance,” which she recorded for our Open Mic feature.

Or, this previously unpublished poem:

Grand Mackerel Spa and Resort 2

Pre-fab flab floating flotsam hotel pool

Blank faced guests spoon their morning gruel

Evening drunks form a fluorescent queue

Craft designer drinks served by a skeleton crew

Mirthless grins light dim empty faces

Labyrinth of vacant rooms with no human traces

Pint glasses clink with a hollow sound

Here’s to burning this fucking hotel to the ground!

XXX

How could anyone not remember that first line? (Or not have fun reciting it?)

Kath has written many other pop poems, some of which are at the aforementioned blog under the Fun Pop Poetry heading, under a pseudonym. We hope to someday collect those and many more from other poets who participated in that feature, into a zeen. If so, it will be colorful.

XXX