The Lit Scene Now

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All sides represent contradictions, as American literature is in a state of flux and objective(?) observers such as ourselves wait for things to sort themselves out. For the moment, intellectual thought about all matters literary is polarized.

THE RIGHT
We pass over long-time conservative journals like Commentary and National Review, which are adjuncts of an internationally focused intellectual establishment based in Washington D.C. and New York. We’re talking about the new Right.

What is it? Can it be defined? We wait for someone to define it. There is new thought, new energy coming from that end of the spectrum. To us it seems a badly put-together Frankenstein monster; a contradictory amalgam of Nietzschean paganism and tradition-leaning Catholicism. Its origins are found in intellectual journals like Taki Mag, with writers ranging from libertarian to libertine to anarchist to all things. Hardly conservative– many have opened Pandora’s Box. The aesthetic attitude is often snobbish and effete, and as such, out of synch with the mass of populists who voted for Trump. The impact to date on the literary world of these writers is small.

THE LEFT
The energy on the Left comes from a spate of journals like Jacobin Mag, The Baffler, and n+1— along with at least one interesting new one which we’ll discuss at a later time. All espouse some variety of Marxism. All editors, writers, and interns of these journals are from real privilege. Are they the Left? A curious form of it. Their common origin point is the Ivy League. What the publications present in their essays, editorials, poetry and prose is the skewed “View from Harvard Yard.” The tops-down acceptable narrative from cogs and creators of the established machine. Each individual has paid dues within the current literary system. They’re artistic conformists in every aspect.

Today’s nobility, representing a tiny sliver of America, peering at the Unknown from their Brooklyn/Manhattan fortress. Living a 2017 variation of Margaret Mitchell’s Plantation Madness.

overseer
(Former overseer Jonas Wilkerson and “white trash” Emmy Slattery getting thrown off the Tara estate.)
Well-bred aristocrats united with loyal retainers of color against the Enemy: white populists of sketchy background who carry the potential to upset their flimsy Potemkin facade. That high and narrow construction of paste and plywood labelled “LITERATURE,” which they present as the legitimate article– when it’s clearly NOT.

To understand these journals and editors and the role they play in literary culture, one first has to understand their predecessors. We’ll examine those in our next post.

 

Our “Best of the Net 2017” Nominations

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We’ve nominated two stories and four poems for the Best of the Net 2017 anthology put together by Sundress Publications.

The stories are:

“Picture This” by Anne Leigh Parrish
https://newpoplit.com/portfolio/picture-this/
2/10/2017

 “Travelogue” by Robin Wyatt Dunn
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The poems are:”(Terre Noir)” by Jess Mize
https://newpoplit.com/portfolio/inspired-by-death-in-the-afternoon/
7/8/2016

“Shocking” by Dan Nielsen

 08/29/2016

“Frat Boy” by Timmy Chong

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AS WE never know how editors judge these things, our policy is three-fold:

1.) Submit strong writing.

2.) Choose fairly brief submissions– making it easier for overburdened editors/judges to both read and include in a voluminous anthology.

3.) Choose a variety of writing styles, in hopes one of the works will catch the judges’ taste.

All six of these works are striking, albeit in different ways. Have fun rereading them!

Death of the Alt-Right

funeral

While it will likely stumble on in the political sphere a while longer, the so-called alt -right is finished in the literary realm. Didn’t take much to end it. An alt-right site, Excavation– digging up the underground, was forced to shut down by an aggressive antifa campaign. Its editor, Michael Marrotti, has vanished from view. From what evidence I’ve seen, the criminalized words he used ranged from “Jewish Sharia” to “white pride.” As epithets,  fairly mild– but still thought crimes in this well-regulated time. The poets who’d published their work at the site didn’t realize he was a white supremacist until told about it.

Marrotti himself is a working class poet from the rust belt city of Pittsburgh– not a person of any power. “Supremacist” is a misnomer. “Defensivist” might be more accurate.

“It’s all about pain
steak knives used
to warm the soul
from a frigid planet”
-from Marrotti’s poem, “Optimistic Poetry”

Another alt-right site, Casper Magazine, changed its name several months ago when the ideological weather vane began changing– at the same time its original editor, “Pozwald Spengler,” either radically changed his identity and belief system, or sped away without a whimper of protest, not to be heard from again.

At least two stories were expunged from the site, “Cathy” by Ben Arzate, and “Scumbag,” by Alice Florida Xu. They’ve been safely flushed down the Orwellian memory hole. No complaints heard yet from either of the two writers. Given today’s hysterical McCarthyist climate, one can understand their silence.

Other alt-right figures who were once buoyant about creating an intellectual alternative to today’s p.c. monolith have backed off from, or recanted, their ideas.

OUR CONCLUSION is that it was never much of a movement– more straw man than army. Its few writers and editors were easily intimidated. If any remain they’ll be rounded up by the antifa posses, publicly chastized and silenced.
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How much of a danger did alt-right-leaning writers pose? Could they have posed?

It’s noteworthy that these advocates of “supremacy” had not a sole representative at any of this nation’s major cultural and literary institutions. Not at publishing’s Big Five, nor at the Washington Post or New York Times, nor at The New Yorker magazine, Vanity Fair, Esquire, New York Review of Books, Bookforum, LARB, etc. etc. etc. Instead, individuals of marked privilege themselves at these bastions of influence have used the opportunity to themselves denounce any trace of alt-right thinking in literature today, to adopt a posture against privilege, and approve and endorse the angry antifa posses.

In the literary sphere, there are dangers and then there are dangers.

 

Disclaimer

CAUTION: We’re turning this blog into a free speech zone, where we’ll discuss actions of the New Censorship Movement; in some cases mentioning the incidents and names (gasp!) of those writers or literary sites which have been expunged from the Internet. Such actions reek too much of Orwell’s classic novel 1984 to suit our taste. Too many people have fought too hard for the freedom of expression all of us (up until now) have enjoyed, for us to casually sit by when such freedoms are restricted.

Example: Our upcoming new entrants in the All-Time American Writers Tournament include two controversial writers, one controversial in his political ideas and actions and the other controversial in his art. Should they be expunged from memory because they offended people?

We’re frankly amazed by the complacency of writers to what’s happening– but we shouldn’t be, given our own history within a well-regulated U.S. literary world. We may at some point discuss that history here, and the role it’s played in our thinking.
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THE WEEK IN POP LIT

The current week includes a very good new story by Brian Eckert which affirms the right of an individual to live life as he chooses. We also reported on the above-mentioned Tournament (more reportage this weekend). Keep up on pop lit doings at our home page.

Thanks for reading!

The Other Two

OUR OTHER TWO writers selected as top (#1) bracket seeds for the Tournament ARE:

C.) Herman Melville

Melville

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D.) Mark Twain

Mark_Twain_by_AF_Bradley

We’ll explain our choices tonight at New Pop Lit‘s “Fun Stuff” Interactive blog.

Let the catcalls begin!

Pop Writers

HYPER-TALENTS OF THE NEW LITERARY AGE PART IV

Rippl_The_Detective for essay

(Painting: “The Detective” by Jozsefs Rippl-Ronai.)

Why pop short story writers?

Because in the days of Jack London and O. Henry, the short story was THE popular American art form. Any renewal of literature starts there.

It’s begun!– particularly with various styles of “flash” or short short fiction, which puts an emphasis on brevity, clarity, and punch. But there’s no reason why entertaining and accessible stories can’t be longer, as they once were.

Recently we published a fairly long pop story by Norbert Kovacs, “The Fight,” which gives a hint at what’s possible.

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We’ve published several writers who skirt the line between pop and pop lit, often through different twists on genre fiction. Among them is Ian Lahey, whose most recent story for us, from 2016, is “What I Don’t See.”

Ian Lahey

 

 

 

 

Ian uses a genre style and setting of agents conducting an interrogation to throw the reader off balance– making us see in the situation what we otherwise might not see.

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However, the best pure pop story we’ve run to date is a new one by Alan Swyer, “Country Sweetheart.”

Alan Swyer photo one

What makes Swyer’s story work is its sense of humor, along with the affection Alan Swyer has for the characters and for the often-quirky world of country music. It’s an entertaining story about entertainers– and about other things like authenticity. Authentic art. The main character may in some ways be a fraud (to put it mildly!) but at the same time his feeling for the music, his colleagues, and his audience is thoroughly genuine. The suspense comes from the question of how long he’ll be able to get away with the imposture. Or, how will he be caught?

The tale is quintessentially American in a variety of ways. Not least of them is the theme of reinvention– that, contrary to what Scott Fitzgerald once said, there are second acts in American life. (Why people came here in the first place.) But also the story’s love for the land and people, combined with a sense of good old fashioned fun-loving ballyhoo. The American quality of finding yourself through being an entertainer. Entertaining through singing, or entertaining through storytelling.

Our interest here is in the latter. . . .

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Next up in this series: “Underground”

Hyper-Talents Part III

fitzgerald

Part III of our overview, “Hyper-Talents of the New Literary Age,” will be a bit longer than the previous, so we created a separate page for it, available here. We’ll be featuring new writing from four different millennial writers. We’ll be adding profiles to the thread as we go along. This, as we scout the landscape for other young talents. If you want to know what’s happening on today’s literary scene, this is the place.

PLRKNIB: A Book Review

“Stand-Up Comedy and Writing”

A REVIEW OF ALEX BERNSTEIN’S PLRKNIB

Is stand-up comedy a good training ground for becoming a writer?

The question comes up after reading Alex Bernstein’s new memoir, Plrknib. Plrknib is about Alex’s days as a 17 year-old stand-up comic at a comedy club in Cincinnati, Ohio. One gets the impression this is an experience Alex had to write about. It’s a necessary prelude to his becoming a writer.

The book is a primer on stand-up– or at least, a great introduction to it. Despite this, the narrative is insightful more than humorous. Bernstein cautions the reader about this at the outset. Jokes aplenty are scattered throughout the pages, but he makes clear that the effectiveness of a joke depends on the delivery. On how it’s told, the confidence behind it. Confidence communicated to the audience.

(Has Jay Leno ever– ever– told a truly funny joke? Leno is adept at selling a joke, with his big grin and big jaw, hand slapping into the other when the joke’s finished as his eyes scan the audience for confirmation.)

Like a comedian’s joke, Plrknib is the kind of narrative you fight against when you start reading it, but it pulls you along despite yourself. Like most of Bernstein’s writing, it’s irresistibly absorbing. Where is this book heading, you ask? What does “plrknib” mean? You’re skeptical, but you continue reading.

The connection is made: good stand-up operates on the same principle as good writing. The first task is to keep the listener listening. The reader, reading. Alex Bernstein does this in his writing with hooks, but most of all with clarity of style. His voice is infectiously engaging. The effectiveness of any narrative depends on its delivery.

Which doesn’t limit Bernstein to stand-up routines, but sets a foundation for studies of situations and character. In Plrknib Alex Bernstein’s lead character– himself– finds himself again and again in real situations. The kind with which we can all identify.

This is the real punchline.

(Buy Plrknib here.)

Interview with Sonia Christensen

typewriter-keys

(Literary news is when we publish the best new short fiction featured anywhere. In conjunction with the story “Dry Bones” we interviewed the author.)

NEW POP LIT: Hi Sonia. Are you a morning writer or evening writer?

SONIA CHRISTENSEN: Definitely evening, or better yet, night. There’s something about writing in the dark—it’s easier to be honest in the dark, I think, and it’s easier to get lost in your story.

NPL: When did you first begin writing?

SC: I was pretty young when I first started writing. There was a story I wrote in te fourth grade about a girl hiding under a tree (in some kind of cavern? Underground treehouse? Not sure). My mom kept that one in her memories box for years. And then I didn’t have to take gym in the seventh grade because I took writing instead, which is one of the best things that has happened to me to date. I’d say I got serious about writing my sophomore year of college though.

NPL: What was the impetus for your story, “Dry Bones?”

SC: Well the cat was actually real. I had to take the bus to work one day and I ended up walking with a coworker from the bus stop to the warehouse and there was an actual cat there and she did actually say “oh god it’s still there,” and that got my attention to say the least.

NPL: How much of the story is imagined? How much is reality?

SC: So the cat itself was real, although I only saw it the one day and I don’t know what happened to it. Everything else is fictional.

NPL: Who’s your favorite novelist? Story writer?

SC: I’m not sure, my favorites change so often. I just read Bastard out of Carolina and fell in love with Dorothy Allison. But I also love Daniel Woodrell and Gillian Flynn and lately again my childhood favorite, Agatha Christie. Short story-wise I’d have to say Lydia Davis, George Saunders and Tobias Wolff.

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Thanks, Sonia!