Friday, December 31, 2010

Experiments in POP

IT MAKES ALL SENSE for writers of any type to begin experimenting in what I call "pop" fiction. Fiction designed to be popular, populist, and at the same time, very much intended to be art.

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 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.

Intellect-- or Soul?

What the best popular novels-- think the books of Michael Crichton-- have in common with postmodern novels is that the focus, the viewpoint, is on and from the intellect. It's what makes them, in both cases, artistically unsatisfying. Which makes them ultimately dead.

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

Pop Story Rerelease

Now up at "POP," the return of "Strange Mummer Creatures of Philadelphia," in celebration of the New Year's holiday.

Still to come: the concluding chapters of th Big Boy Saga.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

About POP Fiction


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”

Confidence Men

Reading about the snowstorms in Britain and Europe, I thought again about the man-made global warming hoax. Why have so many otherwise intelligent people bought into it? Likely because of the boldness. It's in the tradition of a couple confidence men who were around in the 1930s, early postmodernists, who said that people are more likely to believe a lie if it's a very big one. Global Warming theory is such a large, dramatic concept, that most people accept that it must be so.

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

Another Chapter!

Yes, the latest part of the Big Boy Saga, "The Trap," is up at

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

Worst Christmas Songs?

In the post below I stated my two favorite Christmas songs. I could add to those anything by Mario Lanza-- the greatest voice ever-- and anything related to Snoopy, from the entire Vince Guaraldi "Peanuts" Christmas repertoire to "Snoopy's Christmas" by the Royal Guardsmen, a true holiday classic.

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

Favorite Christmas Song

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.)

A City's Karma

There are some cities which exist under a permanent cloud; where nothing ever goes right and the streets fill with negativism. This was the feeling I had when I was back living in Detroit recently. The auto companies were going broke. Even the football team went an entire season without winning a single game.

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 Other Way

IF I BELIEVED for half-a-minute that the only choices for writers and American literature was that of MFA writing versus conglomerate New York City, I'd abandon all interest in contemporary lit and spend my time instead reading Dumas and watching baseball. Established literature is oppressively mediocre. There's no life to it in any of its aspects, from the refined-to-the-point-of-constipation MFA prose and poetry, to the unintelligent and watered down popular novels which are like buildings of bland steel superstructures with nothing else; no floors, walls, coverings, furnishings-- no artistic design. (MFA prose is all furnishings, dropped loosely in a heap in the middle of the street.)

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

Bubble Boys

One thing you can be sure of about the Bubble Boys at n+1 is that their ideas are consistently wrong. Latest is the essay about MFA programs, "MFA versus NYC."

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.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Stop the Phoniness!

The problem with establishment literary journals like n+1 is the pose they adopt of caring about the inequities of this society, when the pose runs counter to themselves and everything about their lives. These characters live among the most privileged levels of this country, certainly the most aristocratic level of the literary realm, from which they love to pontificate to and about those below-- which comes across frankly as unaware flatulence. Be true to yourselves, guys! You're aristocrats. Admit it.

More POP: "The Girl"

The Big Boy Saga begins to heat up at
Check it out!