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?

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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

 

 

 

 

 

Bustle and the Books Editor Layoffs–

–AND HOW TO STOP THE LITERARY DOWNTREND

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CAN’T HELP NOTICING the layoffs today at online site Bustle, including of their Books Editor Cristina Arreola (pictured above). 

WHY are books editors invariably among the first ones cut when media layoffs take place?

WHY have book review sections vanished from newspapers (while sports coverage is greater than ever)?

WHO has an answer?

WE do! The thrust of our argument since this project began a few years ago has been that the established literary scene is generating no excitement. This is because there are no charismatic writers (sorry, George R.R. Martin and Margaret Atwood) and few if any exciting new literary products.

We’ve begun to resolve this situation on both fronts. First, by locating and publishing personable new talents who write with verve and style, such as Angelo Lorenzo, Brian EckertBud E. Ice and Rachel Haywire, and second, and in the long run more important, by developing better, faster moving and/or eye-catching stories and poems.

In truth, early this summer we sent promo materials– press releases, postcards, and emails– to a host of media persons who cover the literary industry, including Ms. Arreola, announcing our innovations (including the release of the world’s first “3D” multidimensional short story). We received zero interest. This, from a realm starved for the new and exciting, which should jump on any opportunity to announce radical advancements in the field they’re supposed to be covering.

Instead, they keep recycling the same-old announcements about the same-old style of paint-by-the-numbers products cranked out by “Big Five” Manhattan-based publishing.

Changes are afoot in the art. Those employed to cover such changes will be the last ones to see them.

Just saying.
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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

 

 

Creating Personas

THE RIGHT WAY TO USE PSEUDONYMS

ONE THING writers seem congenitally incapable of doing is creating interesting personas for themselves. Turning themselves into imagined characters. Yet in this hyper-noisy society it might be, among a mass of wannabe scribblers, one of the only ways to stand out.

RECALL how easily performers in other fields created entertaining personas for themselves. One of the earliest of them was rock n roll pioneer Screamin Jay Hawkins.

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Similarly, local television hosts created memorable characters for themselves– one broadcast on stations in Cleveland and Detroit known as The Ghoul.

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Radio hosts did likewise– a classic example being Dr. Demento.

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WHY NOT writers? It would make perfect sense for a writer of horror stories to brand himself as “Count” something-or-other and play the part. Or, for the author of romance tales to name herself “Barbara Bodice” and sell sex appeal. Alls fair in love and marketing.

Oh, plenty of young writers use pseudonyms. Too many of them– but their stage names have no visual quality and no flair. Usually the names are obscure pseudo-intellectual references to this philosophical idea or that one– because said writers see themselves not as potential pop stars, but– ridiculously enough– as intellectuals. Steering (even those who have actual writing talent) their work in that direction. Which means strictly limiting its appeal. A fan base consisting of their own circle of overeducated in-debt college grads. The notion of writers as entertainers is anathema to them. They’re “serious.” Which is why the literary art as a relevant cultural form has been sinking faster than the Titanic.

THE OBVIOUS example of course, of the success of created personas, is the wrestling game, particularly the WWE under the stewardship of Vince McMahon, greatest promoter in American culture since P.T. Barnum.

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COULD a literary project produce valid literary works, poetry and fiction, and do it with fun and flair?

This is just one of the challenges we’ve set for ourselves. 

It will take a few hungry new writers eager to become personalities. To be stars.
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-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit NEWS

Matthew Stoller Misses a Goliath

AND IT’S A BIG ONE

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Liberal journalist, advocate, Harvard grad and all-around guy-on-the-make Matthew Stoller has written a new book about the power of monopoly and its threat to democracy– GOLIATH.

Except he seems to have missed a very big Goliath, one standing directly in front of him. His publisher! Simon & Schuster is one of publishing’s notorious “Big Five” book conglomerates.

How big are they? Take a look at this chart and judge for yourself:

http://almossawi.com/big-five-publishers/

Be sure to scroll down to see all of it.

The chart gives only part of the story. The real clout of these New York City-based conglomerates with their many imprints is their influence over Manhattan media– the scores of publications both print and internet, from the New York Times and The New Yorker on down, which determine which books– which voices– are allowed to be heard in this extremely noisy society. 

Threat to democracy?

In some ways, the Big Five and their many appendages and fellow travelers are the biggest threat to democracy. The most pernicious, most influential concentration of power. All congregated on a single island.

matt stoller(Matt Stoller, looking smug.)

Matt Stoller well knows of course how dominant, how influential they are. Which is why he chose to publish his book with them– and not with one of the many alternative publishers out there. 

Such is the game and how it’s played.
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-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit NEWS

Will the Revolution Be Co-opted?

WILL CAPITALISTS BUY OUT COMMUNISTS, SOCIALISTS, DSA ET.AL.?

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THEY ALREADY HAVE!

Witness the new Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Action Figure from a Brooklyn-based outfit named FCTRY, run by CEO Jason Feinberg and Chief Design Officer Alyssa Zeller Feinberg.

“We turn ideas into products!” FCTRY claims. “We marry pop design to mass production, turning original concepts into global brands.”

Other action figures include that legendary foe of Corn Pop, Joe Biden.

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Am I criticizing FCTRY? Not at all! Tremendous kudos and respect to them for their initiative. They get what it’s all about. 

(For more information on their products, go on their website.)
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-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit NEWS

 

A Jerry Lewis Essay

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WE’VE received good positive feedback for an essay we recently ran at our main site, “Jerry and Me” by esteemed Hollywood producer and director Alan Swyer– a mini-coup for New Pop Lit to be given this inside look at one of show business’s biggest all-time personalities. Worth a look if you haven’t already read it.
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