Start-Ups and Upstarts

BUSINESS HISTORY AND THE ARTS

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To understand the role start-ups have played in the economy and in reinvigorating the culture, one need only look at the music business. If America had been strictly a rigid tops-down nation, there would never have been the populist explosion of rock n roll, which began in the 1950’s. (And was followed by punk, hip hop, and other variations.)

WHAT if the only people entitled to call themselves musicians were decided by musicologists, requiring academic degrees and proper certificates? The institutional mindset.

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Rock n roll was started by low-rent hustlers like Leonard Chess and Sam Phillips, with upstart little record companies like Chess and Sun Records. Start-ups? Of course! They were nothing but– as was Motown Records, founded by Berry Gordy Jr. with $600 in seed money, “venture capital,” from his sister. (Gordy at the time was working on a Detroit production line.)

Rock n roll music, scorned by intellectuals and critics, was strictly a product of America’s lower classes. The entrepreneurs were two-bit salesman. The artists were from the poorest sections of the country, whether they be Muddy Waters, Elvis Presley– or the Supremes, who were discovered in a Detroit housing project.

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Hundreds of other start-up little record companies failed. Such is the way capitalism works. Enough succeeded to transform American (and world) culture– and in the process multiply the music business many times over, providing pleasure to millions– and opportunity to hundreds of musical artists, who in a rigidly controlled system, managed by apparatchiks and credentialed experts, would never have had opportunity at all.

The irony is the nature of free enterprise capitalism, when turned loose, levels the playing field more than a system which depends on decision-making from above– where selections are made according to a.) standardized testing b.) cronyism and connections c.) how well one conforms to the prevailing ideology imposed from above. It’s the difference between the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. during the Cold War. Between a dynamic system and a static one. (The dynamism of America, expressed through rock music, infiltrated the Soviet Bloc and contributed to its collapse.)

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Upstarts/start-ups have been with us for at least 200 years– seen in the careers of imaginative individuals like Elias Howe, Cyrus McCormick, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Nikola Tesla, Henry Ford  — on up to Steven Jobs, Elon Musk and Travis Kalanick. They propelled the United States to quickly becoming the world’s largest economy, creating millions of jobs and many trillions of dollars of wealth in the process. Economic value is the product of the human mind. All of this should go without saying, but in this bizarro upside-down world we live in, it doesn’t.

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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

Love Story Examined: A Writing Template

A VALENTINE’S DAY ANALYSIS

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A WRITER who was far ahead of the curve with his writing style was Erich Segal, best known for his mega- best-selling 1970 novel, Love Story.

By accident or design (the book was based on his yet-unproduced screenplay) Segal keyed into a type of structure, with attached motifs, which made the novel a popular success but also left it as a template for experiments in future literary art.

Several literary projects including ours have decided “literature” in its current accepted form needs to drastically change. We’re analogous to fledgling auto companies fifteen years ago, knowing internal combustion engine technology was obsolete and scrambling to create its replacement.

The question is what the future will look like.

Creating a work with extreme clarity, as Erich Segal did– making it look simple– is more difficult than it appears, because everything is exposed: all flaws in the tale and the telling of it.

There’s nowhere to hide.

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Segal’s style could be called Hemingway Squared. No excess verbiage to impress and distance the reader. Instead, reliance on aesthetic basics– plot and character, but also form. (The novel opens with the ending, then shows what led up to it.)

Segal sets up a superstructure– a square blank canvas– and fills it in, like a painter adding paint daubs. Tangible details. The clarity of the style helps the “aesthetics” of the novel to stand out:

-The contrast between rich and poor.

-The tense dynamic between authoritarian father and independent son.

The tagline– “Love means never having to say you’re sorry”– is used twice, once right near the end for maximum impact. Dialogue throughout is super-tight. The spare lines used by the characters stand out because they’re not overwhelmed by unnecessary literary verbiage placed around them. They “pop out” of the story. 

That Erich Segal was a screenwriter was an asset. The narrative itself is very tight, and contains another kind of aesthetics– tangible details.

(A James Bond movie, for example, is filled with tangible details– clothes, drinks, accents, cars– which you don’t consciously notice but which impress themselves on your mind.)

One of Segal’s details is the Harvard Club. He doesn’t need to describe it– the reader imagines it. Fills in the blanks.

Everything in and about the novel sets up the ending. 

Manipulative? Sure. But so was Oedipus Rex. Audiences– including audiences of readers– want to be manipulated.

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The novel Love Story is a template– a starting point from which more can be accomplished.

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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

Adrienne Miller and the Big Brain Boys Club

DISAPPEARING FICTION AND WHY

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THE LATEST BOOK WORLD NEWS is a memoir by former Esquire magazine Literary Editor Adrienne Miller entitled In the Land of Men. In it Miller details her problems handling giant male egos during her years in the Manhattan magazine realm– most notably that of David Foster Wallace. The book is discussed in various publications, including in an essay, “Infinite Jerk” by Laura Marsh at the New Republic.

MOST INTERESTING to this commentator are the assumptions made by Ms. Marsh about the decline of interest in fiction, at Esquire and throughout the clubby New York City world:

Miller declares her faith in “vibrant, necessary fiction. . .”

. . .the decline of the publishing industry and the shrinking demand for literary fiction.

• . . .her industry is dying and that her publication is less and less interested in acquiring fiction also puts limits on her career. When she starts at Esquire, the magazine is publishing 10 short stories a year; by the time she leaves, she can barely get anything into print, and her bosses kill a Wallace short story that she has labored on for months. All this comes after she wins an ASME award for fiction.

Never once does Laura Marsh question why fiction was disappearing at Esquire. That maybe the award-winning stories Miller was accepting were failing to engage the public. That perhaps, “literary” fiction of the prestigious self-involved style written by David Foster Wallace and other Big Ego Members of the Club was obsolete by the time Adrienne Miller came along. (And more obsolete now.) That to Miller and her friends, impressive fiction was more important than an exciting story a typical Esquire buyer might actually read.

(During the 2000’s, while Adrienne Miller plied her trade, a change-oriented writers group named the Underground Literary Alliance, whose mission was to promote more authentic and relatable writing– as well as to expose corruption in the established literary realm– referred to hyped authors such as Foster Wallace, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers, George Saunders, and others of that type as “The Big Brain Boys Club.” No one listened to the group. Even for an Adrienne Miller it was more important to “go along to get along.” Question nothing.)

ARTISTIC CHANGE

In any field– including literature– change is inevitable. The more it’s delayed, the more drastic that change is going to be. One day the Manhattan literary crowd will glance over the high walls of their crumbling castle to see change approaching– and still won’t understand what’s happening.

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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

 

On Clarity and Clowns

THE TASK OF THE NEW WRITER

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CLARITY is totally underrated by today’s literary community. It starts with what the text looks like on the page. The wrong way to write in our eyes is to present dense blocks of text with no way in.

THE FIRST TASK of the writer is to show the reader a quick way into your narrative– your world. (Why hooks are important.) Reading can’t be a leisurely activity because we don’t live in a leisurely world. Life is fast– boom, boom, boom— rushed hustling images words sounds bombarding the body and brain from all directions, overwhelming.

HOW DO WE COMPETE?

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HOW do we as writers stay relevant against distractions of every kind, from video games to TV screens smartphones Pokemon, chat rooms, all the unintelligible irrational noise and nonsense, talking head politicians blabbering blather waving arms around, give me your VOTES, give me power you can trust me really you can. . . .

It’s all a circus sideshow.

The one thing you can say about the current occupant of the center ring of the three-ring circus is he recognizes the spectacle and is happy playing the clown.

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-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit NEWS

 

More About the Multidimensional Story

ANOTHER SAMPLE 3-D STORY

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THOUGH we have several “3-D” multidimensional stories completed or near completion, we decided to release only one other of them, “The Perfect Candidate,” due to its topical nature, this being political caucus and primary season. The story was in fact written and rearranged in a matter of days– a test of speed in creating them.

Our thinking being– once the literary world does catch on to their advantages, and reader demand is created, we’ll need to be able to produce them at a fast rate.

(At some point we’ll commit fully and will run at our main site multidimensional fiction only.)

Speed is everything.

WHY THE 3-D STORY?

Writers write the short story one way– and have for decades if not centuries. Writers automatically fall into the familiar one point-of-view linear story, because that’s how we’ve been trained.

Exceptions to this have always existed– experimenters testing the artistic bounds of the story. Two of them caused me to think about the technique. One: F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s long story “May Day.” Another: Kenneth Fearing‘s classic noir novel The Big Clock

We’re taking the technique a few steps beyond, switching viewpoints at a much faster rate. This may at first be unfamiliar to the reader– then the mind makes an adjustment and reading becomes as natural as the old way. Too natural perhaps, as it doesn’t stand out as much as it could, as we hoped, its effects subtle.

Our focus with the technique is making the narrative faster; expanding the reader’s view of the presented world. Multidimensional writing allows more ways to play with space and time. The goal: improving the reader’s aesthetic experience.

Emphasis on structure, as 3-D writing demands, means bringing more analytical “left brain” thinking into the equation without overintellectualizing things. The narrative becomes fragmented– but they’re fragments which fit. 

CHANGING THE GOLF SWING

As with a revamped golf swing, the first attempts at writing the multidimensional story can look awkward. But if it’s truly a better technique, a better way of writing the story– albeit difficult to master– once the technique is mastered the result should be a spectacular improvement.

It’s to our advantage that no one right now understands what we’re doing– doesn’t see what a breakthrough the technique is. This enables us to further practice and develop its possibilities– and we will.

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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

 

Diversity Dilemmas?

PROBLEMS IN PUBLISHING DEPARTMENT

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THE BIG NEWS in the publishing world this week is the cancellation (in both meanings of the term) of Barnes & Noble’s “Diverse Editions” series– someone’s ill-advised marketing strategy for Black History Month, which consisted of putting black faces on the covers of classic novels like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Critics argue that instead of such superficial gestures, big-time publishers should be signing more authors of color– to celebrate actual literary diversity. (A recent Lee and Low survey indicates that 79% of those who work in the publishing and book review industries are white. The same survey states that 78% of those in the field are women, but no one seems too concerned about that!)

Yes, by all means the Big Five publishing world based in New York City needs more diversity. There’s one super-huge problem in obtaining it– the over-reliance by these publishers on staffers with an Ivy League pedigree. (With a smattering of Stanford grads and upper-class Brits thrown in.)

The universities publishers recruit from sit at the top level of the most hierarchical and regressive industry in America: higher education.

What, you say? How could this be possible?

Universities are designed to be exclusionary. That’s, er, their whole point– to create artificial monopolies in field after field, industry after industry. Most pronounced the higher the prestige– and endowment– of the particular institution. A guild mentality, where if you’re a Member of the Club you get all the benefits. If not, tough luck. Gotta have that certificate, folks. Credentialism. “Meritocracy”– where as we’ve seen with recent scandals, the wealthy and powerful have better access to obtain the benefits for their ostensible merits. 

THIS IS MOST PRONOUNCED with Ivy League schools. Especially with Harvard and Yale. We recently went through a stretch where every U.S. President from 1988 up to 2016 was a graduate of either Harvard or Yale. Or both.

Is that what democracy looks like?

It might be that not until the “Big Five” lose their monopolistic position in the publishing world will true diversity arrive regarding the books that are published and promoted in America right now.

(Which is one reason we exist as a literary project.)

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-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit NEWS

 

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

 

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