The Decline of Literary Criticism?

OR THE DECLINE OF LITERATURE?

ERNEST HEMINGWAY

AN INTERESTING ARTICLE appeared last week at the Time Literary Supplement“Death of the Critic?” by Michael LaPointe. The article addresses the topic of the decline of literary criticism via addressing two recent books on the subject.

LaPointe argues against nostalgia for bygone literary days. He says the importance of literary critics circa 1950 was an aberration. In his eyes the absence of strong figures like Edmund Wilson and Lionel and Diana Trilling today is not to be taken too seriously. He concludes, in fact, by suggesting literature must become more detached from the culture-at-large. From general society. You know, like monks scribbling away in monasteries in bygone medieval days.

The bigger story is right in front of him, but Michael LaPointe waves the story away– the decline of literature in the culture.

CULTURAL FOOTPRINTS

Publishing seems as healthy as it’s ever been. Book readership has kept pace with GDP growth, demographic changes and the like. But that’s the point– it’s only kept pace the last seven decades, maintaining incremental improvement year-by-year, while overall cultural noise has exploded exponentially. While rival claimants for attention– notably sports and music– have increased their cultural profile many times over.

QUICK: Can anyone name an NFL player from 1950? Bob Waterfield maybe? Or a basketball player??

c o ebay(photo c/o ebay.)

In 1950 NFL football was scarcely a blip on the cultural radar screen. It produced zero (0) figures as recognizable and renowned as Ernest Hemingway.

Today the situation is reversed. With the rise of the NFL has come countless commentators and analysts– magazines by the score and entire cable networks– devoted exclusively to picking apart every last personality and encounter involving their favorite game.

Music? The music business began increasing its cultural footprint beginning in 1956– interest generated by energetic new products and wildly charismatic personalities.

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With the rise of rock came the creation of the rock critic, via flagship rock magazines like Creem, Rolling Stone, and many others.

creem

Meanwhile, the ship of literature floated placidly along. Unconcerned. Unaware. Complacently satisfied that within the stuffy world of letters, all seemed fine.

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Literature’s leading figures became less charismatic, less interesting. Finally– with the likes of Donna Tartt and Jonathan Franzen– either reclusive or irredeemably bland.

Jonathan_Franzen

The art’s attempts to reverse this situation– with authors literary or popular from Roxane Gay to George R.R. Martin– are going no place. (Bret Easton Ellis fights heroically to gain cultural attention, but is himself too identified with a moribund and stuffy “Big 5”-backed establishment literary scene to make much headway.)

Without an exciting underlying art to describe, there are unlikely to be exciting critics to describe it.

IS THERE A SOLUTION? 

YES! The solution is the one we prescribe: to mesh both poles of the art, the literary and the popular, creating a new synthesis that’s relevant and meaningful yet connects with a large portion of the populace at the same time. Popular critics would arrive as byproduct.

This starts with a better product. (See recent posts of ours about the 3D Short Story here and here and here.)

Then, more striking personalities to become faces of a renewed art.

Quixotic? Maybe. Art is never transformed by the timid.

Titanic_the_sinking

It’s time for literature to walk away from its clubby salons and musty university lounges and step fully back into the game.

THE 3D STORY DEBUTS JUNE 6 AT OUR MAIN SITE.

http://www.newpoplit.com
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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

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Critics and New Art

THOUGHTS ON THE 3D SHORT STORY

impression sunrise claude monet(“Impression Sunrise” by Claude Monet.)

THE TEST of an artistic critic is how swiftly the person adapts to artistic change. The ability to embrace the NEW and not be left behind.

EXAMPLES from the past include the rise of modernist art, beginning with the 19th century Impressionists. As Robert Hughes and others noted, the inability of art critics to keep up with change became a cliche, until anything new was automatically accepted in fear of being wrong again.

jazz singer

ANOTHER example is the transition in the late 1920’s from silent cinema to sound. Or, in the 50’s and 60’s, from “silver screen” movies to Technicolor and Cinemascope, which even as astute a film critic as Pauline Kael found difficulty dealing with, so enamored was she with smaller films of the 1930’s. Kael’s antipathy to wide screen movies was such that director David Lean once exclaimed to her, “You won’t be happy with any movie I make unless it’s shot on 16 mm in black and white!”

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HOW will literary critics react to the emergence of a new style of short story? One faster, more designed, more exciting than any short story offered now? A story, moreover, which fuses literary and pop elements to create a visibly different work?

Questions, questions. . . .
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Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

How to Change Literature

WHO NEEDS THE 3-D STORY?

mosaic photo a lesik via shutterstock(Photo: A Lesik via Shutterstock.)

I’ve been engaging in a lot of talk about the three-dimensional story, and will engage in more of it, BECAUSE whether or not we at New Pop Lit are able to perfect the idea– or someone else does– it’s a way out of the box into which the literary art has placed itself.

rabbitinbox

WHO needs the 3D short story?

EVERYONE involved in the literary game in any way needs it– including at the highest levels, which are filled with caretakers and functionaries as much as literary artists. The scene is starved for a new kind of product– akin to the automobile business in the early 1950’s before the arrival of the Corvette, the Thunderbird, and the Mustang.

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(Especially had the only models available back then been stodgy Studebakers and Ramblers. Which is the condition of today’s established literary world.)

TIME FOR A NEW MODEL

The 3-D Story is the key to unlocking the future of literature. At this time, at New Pop Lit headquarters, in our labs and workshops, we’re furiously designing story prototypes– discarding some, keeping others, with a single goal:

To create the most brilliant and exciting short story ever written.

Once the new model is perfected and street-ready– fully readable and unique– the task will become leveraging it. Properly announcing the better literary product to the world.

These posts, at this blog, are laying that groundwork.
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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

Value of the Mind

REFLECTIONS THE MORNING AFTER THE SUPERBOWL

patriots

The NFL will have to invoke the mercy rule. The New England Patriots have gone to the Superbowl too many times. They’ve turned the vaunted National Football League into something of a joke. Despite all attempts at creating parity in the league, one increasingly creaky team continues to dominate.

They achieved the Lombardi Trophy for winning the Superbowl with a 41 year-old quarterback against three teams each with more talent than them.

HOW DO THEY DO IT?

The New England Patriots’ success illustrates the truth that value in the world, as in an economy, comes from the mind.

For 18 years the Patriots have leveraged some incremental intangible advantage– somehow out-training and out-thinking their adversaries. Not by a lot, but by enough. Over the years that edge has multiplied so that even this year with a team of players literally in some cases off the street, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, instituters of a slightly better system, have devastated the league– to the extent that critics continue to cry “luck!” or “cheating!” Which illustrates the critics’ lack of understanding.

HOW THE WORLD WORKS

Isn’t it the way of the world that an enterprise gains a slight edge over its competitors, and that edge multiplies itself again and again until the business dominates its field? In some cases becoming a monopoly. This explains the success of Starbucks and McDonald’s. They have a slight intangible edge– are able to in some way out-think and outperform their rivals. A better plan. Better thinking.

The key part of this is the way an edge is leveraged. Which explains the creation of billionaires.

This phenomenon applies to history. It explains, for instance, the rise of the West– how a better economic system combined with a stronger belief system gave Europe an edge which continued to increase, and increase. The phenomenon explains how America became, in less than 200 years after its founding, the greatest civilization the world has ever seen.

THAT America continues to value the individual mind more than do other countries– the key to American success– continues to give it an edge which draws value, in the form of ambitious go-getters, from around the world.

BETTER THINKING APPLIED TO LITERATURE?

Our bet at New Pop Lit is that creating and discovering better literary products, and presenting them in a better way, will give us an edge which will multiply quickly throughout the literary realm– and draw ambitious talent to our modest site.

WE SEE how the wrong way of writing has multiplied itself throughout literature and publishing, via MFA programs and take-no-risks conglomerates– which explains the stagnation of the dominance of mere competence in fiction and poetry circa 2019.

The task is to change that.

New England Patriots at Washington Redskins 08/28/09
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Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS