How to Save Literature

THE PROBLEM with so-called serious literature is that it’s pitched at a narrow audience, and not at the vast bulk of the American public. (Pitched really, at upscale editors at desks in London and New York.)

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Occasionally establishment writers give the game away, as did renowned young novelist Sally Rooney in Issue #30 of The Moth Magazine:

A lot of what (literature) does, to me, is reassure bourgeois readers by saying, you read fiction, you are a member of a particular class. . . the question for writers who have a social conscience is, how do you challenge that in some way while still working within the same industry that produces it, and I don’t really know what the answer is.

Then there’s the recent rant in Paris Review by esteemed short story writer Peter Orner, explaining why he will not defend the short story– his remarks making clear he doesn’t believe the story art is for the general public– and no apologies for this from establishment writers are needed, thank you.
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boxNeither Rooney nor Orner consider a way out of the box in which the literary art is trapped, currently accessible only to “a particular class.” They have no incentive to seek an alternative.

We at New Pop Lit do, as we and our modest literary project exist on the margins of what has become a marginal art. We’re thinking of ways to change this.

ONE WAY is the multidimensional (“3-D”) short story, designed to be faster and more thrilling than the standard literary model, answering those attention-span questions Peter Orner scoffs at.

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One prototype example of this kind of story has been released by us, “Vodka Friday Night.” More are coming.

CAN THE ART BE SAVED?

elvis-60-years-of-rock-and-roll-1(Early Elvis and friends.)

Business history of other arts shows that it can. I’ve given often the example of the music business and the rise of rock n roll– which multiplied the size of that industry many times over. This is well explained in this article by Johannes Ripken. Can writers duplicate that outsized success? Maybe– if they create more exciting short fiction that’s even faster and more direct than our prototype. Moreover, what’s needed are young writers who can connect with a new generation of readers via personality, talent, and attitude. In other words, stars.

Screaming_Jay_Hawkins(Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.)

Is this do-able? We’ll see.
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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

 

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Literature of Limits

THOUGHTS ON SALLY ROONEY’S NOVEL NORMAL PEOPLE

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ONE CAN’T HELP but notice, with the massive hype accompanying the U.S. release of the Sally Rooney novel Normal People, how willing literary people today are to settle for limited accomplishment from limited talents. To accept the achievement of small effects, delicately arrived at.

I read the novel before most because a friend of ours in the U.K. gave it to us. It’s not a bad novel. Not at all. But the final emotion given this reader upon finishing it was, “So what?” Is this really the best Big Five London-New York publishing can come up with? Careful language, careful plotting, careful characters, careful themes and ideas– as if today’s world of political correctness has put today’s writer into a cage.

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Maybe it’s not politics (though there are signs that it is). Possibly it’s the temperament of this age, to see the world in muted tones. Melodrama? Heavens no. The reverse. By and large no drama– other than a couple brief appearances of a mostly offstage male villain in the form of an angry brother– whose rage is never explained or understood. Or the drama of deciding which MFA writing program to enroll in. (I kid you not.)

For temperament and limits, this novel can be compared to the delicate poems of recently deceased award-winning poet Mary Oliver, which aim for modest achievement, limited effects. Worthy, if that’s all you want– but a distinct dropping off from the exuberance of a Walt Whitman or Allen Ginsberg. Or the craft and passion of a Sylvia Plath.

Today’s literature exists inside the constraints of a cage or a box. It’s time to crash out.

(As we’ll attempt to do with our 3D Story project.)

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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit News