Why Reading Is Important–

–TO ME AND TO SOCIETY

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My father could scarcely read.

At the time I was born already well into middle age, my father was from a different era and a very tough background. Had dropped out of school in his teens. After he married, my mother forced him to attend night school while he worked days in Detroit shops and factories. By the time I came around he was semi-proficient. What he most enjoyed were the comic sections in newspapers, and boxing magazines.

My gateway to reading– like many young guys– was comic books. Spiderman and company. After awhile I became hungry for more challenging reading. Mysteries were stimulating. I devoured everything by Raymond Chandler, whose paperback books carried enticing titles on dangerous-looking covers.

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Eventually, while working nights as a clerk in a railroad yard– with time to kill between trains– I moved up to the heavyweights of reading: Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. War and Peace and The Idiot. Life-changing novels. The kind of artistic experience which expands the mind and the imagination, opening up new vistas, entire worlds.
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HOW important is reading to the development of the mind?

Many educational experts have believed it’s critically important. Here’s one named Samuel L. Blumenfeld on the topic, from an old book called How to Tutor:

Reading is the most important single skill a child will learn during his entire school career, for on the ability to read depends the development of everything else. In fact, reading is the beginning of real intellectual development, and if the child is not taught to read properly, his entire intellectual development will be handicapped. The reason for this is quite simple. Language is the vehicle of thought. We formulate all our concepts in terms of words. If we restricted our thinking and learning only to the words we heard and spoke, our intellectual development would not be very great. The written word, however, is the depository of all humanity’s complex thinking, and an individual must have easy access to the world of written language to be able to increase his own intellectual development. Thus, the facility with which a person reads can influence the degree of his intellectual growth. If a child is taught to read via methods which make reading disagreeable to him, he will turn away from the written word entirely and deprive himself of man’s principle means of intellectual development.

TODAY among the new generation, within schools and outside of them, are millions of functional illiterates. Wasted potential. I know. I’ve worked as a substitute teacher in inner city schools and I’ve seen how schools are failing kids.

NOTHING IS MORE IMPORTANT for the future of this society, this civilization, than finding ways to connect with these young people– to get them reading. Reading is the gateway to survival in this ultra-competitive world. Reading opens neuropathways in the brain, increasing real intelligence. Contrary to what genetics apologists at publications like Quillette believe, no one is assigned their fate at birth. The best way to adjust that fate is by reading. 

It’s no accident that billionaire industrialist Elon Musk– he of the gigantic imagination conceiving exciting electric cars and spaceships to Mars, then building them– as a child was an avid reader. According to his biographer, Ashlee Vance, “The most striking part of Elon’s character as a young boy was his compulsion to read.” Musk’s self-imposed reading regimen included two sets of encyclopedias.

IS literature today reaching the mass of people? No way! To compete in this fast-paced hyper-busy age, writing will need to grab new readers from the first sentence and not let go of them.

This is the objective we’re striving for with our development of the “3D” multidimensional short story. Narratives of speed and immediacy which demand to be read.

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To achieve our ends we’ll need writers willing to discard past ways of thinking. At the moment even most “alternative” literary sites and presses are run by intellectuals or pseudo-intellectuals more interested in impressing the reader than connecting with the person.

Yet to expand the market for books, zeens, reading, connection is everything.

Our mission is to create the new literary product– which we call Pop Lit– exciting reading packaged in a striking format. Then begin spreading those new creations into schools and neighborhoods. An ambitious task– but worth pursuing.
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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

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How to Write the New Story

WRITING THE BETTER SHORT STORY

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ONE THING which surprised me after we released to the world the first3-D” multiple viewpoint short story is how not-obvious the technique appears to people. A tribute to how well the tale is put together to maintain momentum and flow, despite there being 82 individual mini-chapters, with continual switching of point-of-view– what had been told to me by esteemed literary writers should never be done by the serious writer.

(When an expert tells you something is impossible, or shouldn’t be done, that’s exactly what you want to work on accomplishing.)

MOST story writers maintain a single viewpoint throughout, whether that of one character, one consciousness, or for the more ambitious, the omniscient narrator, who in a short story still tends to have a narrow focus. Many use first person, which strongly emphasizes the single viewpoint.

A similar narrowing effect is created when writers eliminate quote marks normally used to distinguish when characters are speaking. (See Sally Rooney.) This strengthens the solipsism of the work. Many writers today, focused more on themselves than the reader’s experience, are solipsistic.
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The new 3D fiction writing technique destroys all of this to bring in a multiplicity of viewpoints. Shifting angles, so that characters, events, and the world are viewed multidimensionally. The technique gives a more real depiction of the world, but also makes for a faster-paced story. “Vodka Friday Night” compresses enough plot and number of characters for a short novel into a 7,000-word short story. The overall effect of the piece becomes more concentrated. Intense. Dynamic.

HOW IT WORKS

A few simple tricks are utilized to do this. One is dividing the story into chapters, making sure each one is extremely brief. Separating them in some way, whether by asterisks, titles, or chapter numbers. F. Scott Fitzgerald did this in his long 1920 story “May Day.” Jay McInerney did something like this as well in his 1998 novella, Model Behavior. (I’m sure other authors have done so also.)

How brief of chapters?

I settled on a 240-word limit. Fitzgerald’s “May Day” chapters are way longer– except for the concise conclusion, which comes in at 238 words.

I came to the limit though by having the McInerney book open before me, on a particularly A.D.D.-tired eyes day, and choosing which chapters held my interest at a glance, and which didn’t. The ones at 240 words or less always came out right.

If you notice in the “Vodka” story, I also play with time in it, using a flashback or two, or not putting a few sections in strict chronological order. The idea being that we don’t experience the world in a straight line. Interspersed with the moment may be memories of past happenings, or images of future dreams.

There’s a lot more which can be done in that regard. The idea is to get the short story out of the narrow corridor it’s been trapped in, by playing with both time and space. (Ideally, expanding the number of views, characters, directions, broadens the work.)

THE RESULT

The result is a faster-paced yet more involved story. The reader enters a new world– of hyper-experience.
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I plan on using other tricks in future prototypes. My co-editor Kathleen Marie Crane plans to do so as well. (Her first foray into the idea was when she took the title story from her short story collection, “Aloha from Detroit,” and rewrote the same events from the perspective of another character– which we ran at New Pop Lit as “Aloha from Detroit Revisited.” Reading both stories one after another adds roundedness; depth.)

THERE REMAIN many, many aspects of the short story form which can be played with. It’s time writers began playing with them.

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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit News

Reinventing the Short Story

CAN THE AMERICAN SHORT STORY BE REINVENTED?

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MOST in the established literary scene would say, NO. They scoff at the idea. To them, work from currently approved writers– most if not all of them the product of prestigious writing programs– is the best of all possible worlds.

officer training(Photo public domain.)

The graduates are like soldiers in elite units of the U.S. Armed Forces. Navy Seals, Green Berets, Airborne and the like. Best of the best. HAVE been through rigorous screening and training. ARE the vanguard and face of a gigantic billion-dollar investment in the literary art, via hundreds of university writing programs headed and taught by hundreds of extremely talented writers.

photo by Virin(Photo by Virin.)

HOW COULD THEIR STORIES NOT BE THE BEST?

THE PROBLEM is the consensus itself. Because everyone within the system believes writing produced by the system is the best possible– raved about in articles, reviews, and blurbs– no one questions it. No one looks outside the parameters of the consensus searching for ways to change and rearrange the product.

NO ONE EXCEPT US!

COMING on 3D-Day June 6th, a different model for the short story.

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EXCLUSIVELY at NEW POP LIT.
http://www.newpoplit.com 
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What Is the Pre-Breakthrough Moment?

WHAT IS the Pre-Breakthrough Moment?

It’s that period before drastic artistic upheaval when everything seems quiescent on the surface but for the very acute, rumblings of dynamic change can be sensed beneath the surface. A conjunction of forces about to come together to become explosive.

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AN EXAMPLE of this is the moment in the 1960’s– late 1963– when the universe was ready to signal such change. When all in America seemed calm, yet within months a rock and roll band from Liverpool, England, would appear on the scene so different in look and attitude it would overturn the culture and herald the overwhelming changes of the Sixties, spearheaded by the rock revolution. The Beatles appearance on national television on the Ed Sullivan Show the initial step.

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Is such long-overdue change coming to the literary world?

We can hope!

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(3D Day is June 6th, exclusively at New Pop Lit.)
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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Gimmicks and Art

THOUGHTS ON THE 3D SHORT STORY

IS the 3-D Story a gimmick? Yes. Most arts innovations at first are gimmicks.

A classic example was the change from silent movies to sound ones, which began in 1927 with The Jazz Singer. In that Al Jolson flick, sound was used strictly as a gimmick– intended only for the musical numbers. That Al Jolson ad-libbed a few lines of dialogue created (according to this video) a sensation and signaled the upcoming end of silent cinema.

CINEMA in its early years progressed through continual innovation. Most of them when they were tried were considered to be gimmicks. (As movies themselves at the outset were thought to be a gimmick and not art.) Among developments: Technicolor, introduced in the 1930’s and becoming widespread by the 1950’s. The 50’s also saw the rise of wide screen film processes like Cinemascope, Vista-Vision, and Todd-AO, culminating in triple-screen Cinerama, most famously used for 1963’s How the West Was Won. The ultimate movie gimmick of course, in the 1950’s and more recently, was 3-D.

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All of them began as gimmicks, but some were perfected and became standard part of the film art form.

Sound became so dominant, the making of a silent film in 2011, The Artist, was– let’s face it– a gimmick

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GIMMICKS have sustained the world of painting since the late 19th century, beginning with the impressionists–

340px-Claude_Monet,_Impression,_sunrise(Claude Monet, “Impression, Sunrise.”)

–then expressionists, cubists, Dadaists and surrealists. Abstract art, fluxus, op art, pop art. Was not Andy Warhol a genius of gimmicks?

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Only recently has the art world run out of new ideas.

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What about music? Rock n’ roll— though it sprung from authentic American roots music– was definitely a gimmick, promoted by carny barker hustlers like Alan Freed, Colonel Tom Parker, and Dick Clark.

rock n rollers(Little Richard and Elvis Presley.)

Some might say that hip-hop began as a gimmick as well.

dmc and mc hammer(Run DMC and MC Hammer.)

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ONLY ONE arts field has displayed no gimmicks– and no progress– for sixty years: literature.

Our task is to change that.

(We’ll be ready to preview our innovative new story in one month.)

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BONUS: “You Gotta Have a Gimmick” from Gypsy (1962)–

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Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS