Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Shocking!

Caesar or Savior?

I’ve long been a chronicler of hysteria. The hysteria pro and con over the Donald Trump candidacy became an irresistible topic to write about. So I have, in a new e-book called Trump and the Populist Revolt.

Is the book fair? Objective? You’ll have to judge that for yourself. I do bring to the matter a populist perspective. Buy it at

Amazon and at

Barnes and Noble.

Comments welcomed!

trump b w titled 

Technorati Tags: ,

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Poetry and Other Things

What have I been up to?

For one thing, keeping the NEW POP LIT project going. At the moment we feature four poems by John Grochalski. Worth checking out.

For another I’m working furiously to complete an e-book on the current campaign season. It will also be about many other things—including a chapter about populist literature and art, which has been one of my pet themes on this blog.

The book will be titled Trump and the Populist Revolt. Due out shortly. Packed with ideas. Controversial topics. Please watch for it!

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Misunderstanding “Ben Hur”

With Easter just past us, this seems a timely topic.

The trailer for a new movie version of “Ben Hur” is out there:

http://teaser-trailer.com/movie/ben-hur/

After browsing the comments sections of several sites to see what viewers think, I’m amazed by the lack of knowledge of many of them about their history—the background of ideas which form our civilization.

For instance, many commenters mention the previous (1959) version, usually favorably—but they describe the religious theme of that work as “tacked on.”

Tacked on? Really?

Religion—the battle of religions—is steeped through every frame of that film. The character Ben-Hur is caught between two opposing forces.

On one side, paganism—as represented by the words of his childhood friend Messala, by consul Quintus Arrius, and by Judean governor Pontius Pilate. It’s a world focused on control of the physical world. An ethos of beauty, power, violence, and sensuality. The scenes in Rome are filled with parties and parades. The chief physical conflict is a chariot race, after which Ben-Hur becomes for the populace, in Pilate’s phrase, “their one god.”

Throughout is a display of pagan gods, and pagan ideals, focused on the here and now.

On the other side, as counter-argument, is Ben-Hur’s own religion, but also the message of love and peace offered by a young rabbi, who before the flick ends will be crucified by the all-powerful Roman state.

To miss fhe battle of religions is a display of anti-religious smugness and staggering ignorance not just of history, but of themselves and their own civilization. After all, don’t we live in a thoroughly pagan time, with our own fake gods of celebrities, athletes, wealth and power? With Christianity living for the most part on the fringe. Religion, for today’s pagans, is something to be mocked, not taken seriously—a complex theology like Christianity seen through sound-bite stereotypes, easily dismissed with a phrase.

For comparison of movies, here’s a trailer for the 1959 version:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4hrbRDAOF4k

Needless to say, a masterpiece. If you can see the 1959 version on a real movie screen, do so, to get the full, overwhelming movie experience.

As for the new version, it’s up to you to judge whether it’s worth seeing!

Technorati Tags:

Friday, March 18, 2016

Cycles or Progression?

There are two ways of viewing history.

One is the progressive, linear view, which assumes anything today is better than anything in the past.

The other sees history going in waves or cycles—matching the rhythmns of nature and the universe.

If everything today is better, than why has literature regressed from past peaks?

******

I thought this as I was memorizing a poem today. My fiancee’s mother is impressed when I recite poetry. Hey, whatever works. I decided to recite some Dylan Thomas:

“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day,
Rage, rage, against the dying of the light.”

Note the euphony—age, rage, day—which adds to the emotion of the piece.

Here’s the question: Why were poets of the 1950’s so much better than those today? Why has the art deteriorated? I can think of two other poems off the top of my head from that era which could easily be classified as masterpieces: “Thou Shalt Not Kill,” by Kenneth Rexroth, and “Daddy,” (too obvious) by Sylvia Plath. Incidentally, Plath more than lives up to her giant reputation, once you read her poetry—or more, hear her voice reading it!

But, the question is out there. What happened to poetry?

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Fighting Against Establishments

As an objective, non-partisan observer (I loathe both political parties) with no dog in the fight, I find interesting the goings-on of the political race. Especially now, the panic and hysteria in the Republican Party created by Donald Trump’s victories. Because someone’s power and turf are at stake, party Insiders will fight ruthlessly to protect their petty fiefdoms against change. As they’re currently doing.

I know this well, because I faced the same thing—on a vastly smaller scale—during my days last decade leading the notorious Underground Literary Alliance. Our lit-establishment opponents proved capable of virtually anything. The lies and distortions made about us and our ideas were amazing. Shocking assertions were manufactured out of nothing. (I notice Trump’s opponents doing this over his not disowning someone fast enough, or enough times—accusing him of thus holding the person’s ideology.)

Part of what’s going on is Trump’s personality. Yes, he’s a bit of a barbarian, but is also too strong and assured for the weaselly puppets he’s facing. In any field, the go-along-to-get-along crowd are most comfortable with mediocrity—because they themselves are mediocrities. Many people hate anyone who stands out—who by force of personality can’t help but stand out. I found this myself within the ULA itself at times; at least, once a number of petty egos entered the gang. For Trump, he might be a very bad President or a great one—but he will not be boring. He won’t be a mediocrity.

The same thing, incidentally, would or will happen with the Democrats if Bernie Sanders shows signs of being able to actually win the thing. Apparatchiks of any variety fear change.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Best Literary Discussion Ever?

Maybe not, but it’s a good one. See our discussion on the short story at the New Pop Lit Interactive blog here.

The question asked concerns whether or not the short story should be revamped in order to reach a broader audience. We found surprising hesitation at the question—some questioned whether writers should even want a broader audience.

The trick of course isn’t to talk of revamping the story but to do it. We sparked the discussion as a way to introduce a collection of writing—which includes stories that in various ways point toward the new. The reinvention of the short story form is beginning to happen. Organic, natural, intentional—does it matter? What matters is the result.

NPL Cover 2 Hi

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Smashing the Rules?

Why has NEW POP LIT published surfer girl Jess Mize’s short story “Valentine's Day”? Beyond the reasons given in our Intro (), we want to push the short story form beyond the genteel bounds within which it’s been trapped.

*******

What’s the real America?

The notion of 1% versus 99% is misleading. A PR gimmick. A theory which fits the need of affluent Leftists to identify themselves with “the people.”

The real divisions in America are more like this:

Top 20%: well-educated and comfortable. Call them the Affluent. Or, Aristocrats.

After them come a 40% who could be called Strivers. Those who seek to be in the top level. “Middle class,” or really, middle-class wannabes, consciously or instinctively trying to live “The American Dream.”

The remaining 40% are the underclass. Many are people of color, but there’s a huge white element as well.

This bottom 40% is seldom depicted in literature, and when it is, almost never in an accurate way. Sorry folks, but Ray Carver-style “K-Mart Realism” was always a stripped-down sham, full of lethargic, inarticulate zombies who could barely mumble, much less speak.

In her story “Valentine’s Day” jess Mize gives voice to that underclass. The story takes for granted the infidelities, vulgarities, and violences of those who in crude hyper-Zola fashion try to find skewed versions of love at the same time they’re trying to survive.

*******

Am I rationalizing why we accepted the story? Maybe. It’s clearly NOT written by Alice Munro, or even Mary Gaitskill. The art of those writers has seen its day. The Jess Mize story isn’t genteel, and its rough edges haven’t been sanded away.

Regarding the short story, at the NEW POP LIT Interactive blog we ask the question, “Should the contemporary short story be radically revamped in order to reach a broader audience?”

We wouldn’t have asked the question if we didn’t have answers for it, in the form of stories unlike those which exist today. We want to provide the shock of change. We seek writers who haven’t had mental barriers thrown around their minds signaling what they’re allowed or not allowed to say. Universities right now with their indoctrinations and speech codes are the worst possible training ground for creative writers. In addition to their restrictive give-no-offense outlook, there’s their institutional complacency. An attitude which says, “all is fine”; no need to change anything.

(A few of the answers we’ve received reflect that mindset—or even show hysteria at the very notion of change.)

All is NOT okay with the short story today. It reaches relatively few people in this society, when it should reach everybody.

We are going to produce short stories which reach everybody. The Jess Mize story “Valentine’s Day” is a first strike. A deliberate punch in the face. A rock thrown through a gray pane of glass. Ms. Mize will only get better as a writer, as long as she doesn’t lose the strength and freedom of her voice.

*******

My co-editor, Detroit-area writer Kathleen Crane, has written a story which more fully fits our guidelines. The story’s attributes are simplicity and compassion. It’ll be ready in a few weeks. Watch for it! Then tell us whether or not the short story can be better; whether or not it can be consciously changed.