Friday, December 31, 2010
Write your literary stories 90% of the time. But also try your hand at pop. Do it, and if it's in any way pop I'll post it at my American Pop Lit blog, which is a blog devoted not to the ultimate, "serious" literary product-- but to experiments at POP.
This is what I've been posting there myself. Yes, much of it might be considered to be bad writing. The tales break many of today's literary rules. When you're creating something new, you're going to be bad at it until you become good-- until you get to the finished point which exists now only as an ideal within your head. You need to imagine the ideal, then try to produce it.
Think of creating an entirely new kind of automobile. Your first prototypes likely won't run-- or they won't run the way you want them to run. This is fine as long as each attempt gets you closer to the goal. It might take a hundred attempts-- or a thousand. At the end of the line awaits the produced vision, the revolutionary answer to sweep the board of the status quo.
This is what the progress of art has ever been about.
THE BABE RUTH EXAMPLE
The most profound thing baseball player Ty Cobb ever said was his insight into why and how Babe Ruth was able to revolutionize the sport. A sport at which, before the Babe appeared, Cobb had been dominant. Cobb exemplified the dead ball era, when precision and control when hitting the ball was the norm.
Babe Ruth was a pitcher. It didn't matter if he made hits or not. He was presumed to be an out.
Having no pressure on himself, Babe Ruth began experimenting with his batting swing. He didn't take himself too seriously. He didn't care if he struck out, or looked foolish while doing so. He didn't have the vanity and self-importance of a Ty Cobb.
To amuse himself, Ruth began swinging as hard as he possibly could to see how far he could hit the era's rock of a baseball. Often he swung so hard he fell down. Other times he hit the ball farther than anyone before him ever had. The crowds took notice, as did the lords of the sport. The game was transformed. Its popularity, along with the popularity of Ruth, skyrocketed.
What's the lesson for writers?
You can't be afraid of looking foolish.
Not that some emotion on occasion isn't stirred. The writing of David Foster Wallace, for instance, seems to generate a certain empathy from a narrow circle of readers. It's the kind of emotion felt for the android in the movie "Blade Runner."
Literature will become great only when it stirs again great emotion-- when it reaches deep, as great art reaches deep, into our very souls. That should be the goal.
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Sunday, December 26, 2010
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Call it Art Pop or Neo Pop, Power Pop or Neo Pulp. A handful of writers in America are trailblazing a new direction for the literary scene. Imagine! Exciting new writing. Not standard popular fiction, and not standard “literary,” but something better, something more. Old fashioned raw and gritty zeen writing with a brass section and an added beat. In the final chapters of my novella which doesn’t have a title but which I describe as the Big Boy Saga, I intend to take fiction into a new place. This will be on the remaining cuts on my pop album. (Ten chapters altogether.) Have a view. Take a listen.
Chapter Six: “The Trap”
Chapter Seven: “The Armory”
A few moments of thought should dispel that. Computer models "prove" the theory. I'd like the same computers to pick a Super Bowl winner. Even in a very controlled situation, like a horse race, where most of the variables can be quantified-- weights and speeds, history, track conditions-- it's difficult if not impossible to be consistently correct in the analysis. How much more difficult with climate, where you're facing infinitely more variables. Scientists are dealing with a mere two hundred years of semi-reliable recorded weather statistics, out of millions of years of climate on this planet. Very tough to credibly determine any cycles or patterns, which are the most likely explanation for modest warming. Scientists also focus on one variable-- co2-- out of thousands. Not the largest variable either. (See the sun.)
What was P.T. Barnum's quote? No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.
Friday, December 17, 2010
Who will win the now-unleashed gang war? Maxwell aka "Big Boy"? The malicious but well-loved Fake Face? The District Attorney? Sal the Hood? Jake Pol?
Exciting chaotically colorful chapters are yet to come.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
But what are the worst Christmas songs? Nominees abound. There are good bad songs, like Dylan's, and then there are songs which are simply bad. Among the latter put Bruce Springsteen's "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," a typical pretentious Bruce shoutathon; the Burl Ives version of "Twelve Days of Christmas," which seems to last an entire twelve days; and, well, 95% of what you hear in a shopping mall. What I loathe the most though are the Elvis Presley Christmas songs which have been layered over with the voices of bad contemporary female country singers. It results in mangled Frankenstein monsters, mistmatched sounds, and shows that, whatever Presley was, he wasn't really a country singer. (A hillbilly yodeler at Sun, maybe, but that's not the same as the generic corporate pop country music of now.)
Anyone else have Worst Christmas Song candidates? Surely by now others must also be cringing from the omnipresent onslaught of recorded garbage.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Someone named after a Christmas carol, as I am, should be something of an authority on Christmas songs. In that light I now have a new favorite Christmas song, Bob Dylan’s “Here Comes Santa Claus,” beating out prior #1 “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.” The Dylan gargle-with-broken-glass voice effect, combined with a corny beat, is untoppable. Sure, he’s destroyed his reputation—but created a Christmas classic in the process!
(On other Christmas song fronts: Sorry, Taylor Swift, but your wimpy “Santa Baby” is a poor trade-off for the sexy original by Eartha Kitt.)
I have the opposite feeling in Philadelphia now. Everything is going right, as evidenced by the Cliff Lee baseball signing. In football, Michael Vick and the Eagles are running wild. The hockey team's winning. The town's arts are reviving. Philly's home monopoly, Comcast, is finalizing the details for acquiring NBC. Strength is pouring into the city and running through its streets. There are some great, vibrant neighborhoods. It's why I'm glad to be here. With good vibes comes great opportunity.
Monday, December 13, 2010
The New Writer will go beyond the current to create a synthesis of past and present; a better model to return excitement to reading. Those who are right now attempting this are artistic pioneers, trailblazers willing to set out on a lonely path in hopes of discovering a glorious new uninhabited spot upon which to recreate the literary art.
Wednesday, December 08, 2010
Two points about it. First, their premise that MFA programs are healthy because at least writers are read by other writers is a bridge too far. Writers don't read other writers, beyond those in The New Yorker or a few "Best" collections, who are studied as successful models. Otherwise, forget it. This is why standard lit journals have no readers.
Second, the Bubble Boys disdain the notion of writing for "the market," which means writing for an audience, which means writing for other people. Can't have that. So the writer writes for him-or-her self.
Since they don't read one another's work anyway, it makes no difference.