Wednesday, March 30, 2011
American Writer Tournament
Monday, March 28, 2011
Saturday, March 26, 2011
Congrats to Amanda
I think it's fantastic! Way to go, Amanda.
It's curious that folks in the publishing industry are clinking champagne glasses as they celebrate this signing. It's DIY folks who should be celebrating more. Things are going our way.
The status quo celebrating their "victory" is akin to Romans in the latter stages of their Empire celebrating a victory in battle over Atilla the Hun-- a victory accomplished only with two large armies of barbarian Germans at their sides. When you have to buy out the competition to stay ahead-- to maintain your standing-- you're in more trouble than you know.
Industries, like empires, go in cycles. I'd say the publishing industry is at, er, a very mature stage. One corresponding to complacency, arrogance, and stagnation.
The momentum is with the upstarts. The bigs don't have the bucks to buy them all out. But I very much hope they continue trying! Spread those bucks around.
Immediately after, a new game at Pop Lit will begin-- one requiring participation from everyone. You will not want to miss it.
Also, I hope to begin selling ebooks right from this blog as early as next week-- mine and select others. I plan for this to become Ebook Central for independent, DIY lit-- no conglomerates wanted, thank you-- where you will not only be able to order real cutting edge literature-- not the phony academy kind-- done in the new Pop Art Lit style, but also get the latest insights on where the literary art, and the literary system, are headed. Of course your input on these matters will be desired.
The future of literature is right here, right now.
Friday, March 25, 2011
I'll make the final call early next week. I'm leaving things open for public comments until then. Please post any input you may have as a Comment right at the first post of the contest blog. (Or here, if you'd like.)
The entries themselves are at
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
The Most Beautiful Woman Ever?
I’ve been sitting at an ING Direct cafe watching news clips of various Elizabeth Taylor movies. If you haven’t heard. . . .
The camera loved her, that’s for sure. If she wasn’t the most beautiful woman ever, she’s up there.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
The System versus the Writer
Ebooks and other changes allow the possibility for equalizing the relationship between the writer, on one hand, and the system of agents, editors, and marketers employed by the big book companies, on the other. The current system doesn't serve the writer well. Even when a book is accepted for publication, the promotional backing offered, except in a few select cases like with Jonathan Franzen, is minimal.
There has to be a better way. Writers are the creators. Leverage rightly should be in their hands. In the present system they're reduced to approaching the publishing world with hat in hand. "Please publish me!" It's no wonder, when the apparatchiks see the horde of supplicants, that they don't respect them. In many cases they view them with contempt. "The Writer from Hell" becomes their topic of conversation.
You end up with something out of Gogol: a collection of bureaucrats who behave like tin pot dictators toward those who approach-- which is the case with any large bureaucracy.
Beyond this, due to the nature of the bureaucratic mentality, how you present the work becomes more important than the work itself. Are your papers in order? Bureaucrats focus on trivialities. Who/whom? Let's do it correctly, says the faceless bureaucrat. Have you followed all rules and regulations? The chief value becomes conformity-- not exactly in tune with the artistic personality. It's one reason why the face of American literature today is Jonathan Franzen, a competent but unexceptional novelist with a notably unexciting personality. And even he's balked at jumping through the proper hoops on occasion!
When the writer encounters petty apparatchiks in their anonymous state-- a situation which they greatly enjoy-- the nastiness is better revealed. One dare not criticize the system which employs them. To them, such criticism is unthinkable.
The question a truly independent writer has: Do I really want to do business with these people?
Most writers of course will do business with them, out of necessity.
The experience of the Underground Literary Alliance was the experience of encountering the system's fear and weakness. We felt these emotions: a firestorm of blowback against us that hit us with great intensity. Even three years after the ULA stopped moving, demi-puppets continue to mutilate and distort the ULA's, and my own, wikipedia entries. Fair play, as the ULA revealed when we began exposing lit-world corruption, has no room among these people. They'll work to stamp out all opposition, and shut down any criticism. It's an unfortunate situation.
Will this situation ever change? We shall see.
Monday, March 21, 2011
Living Art versus Dead Art
Symphonies are dying. Their audience will for the most part be gone in a decade. The demographic model they've obtained is a nightmare. Orchestras survive, of course, only through extensive fundraising.
The concert, by the way, was artistically exciting. It included a piano concerto full of skill, drama, and passion-- anything an art could want.
What, then, is the problem?
The problem is with presentation. In many ways, the literary world today is in a similar situation.
Take the standard literary reading. It's very polite and it's also extremely boring. Yet this is the face literature is giving to the world: authors who have no business being at a podium reading their story or poem in a monotone while they refuse to make eye contect with the audience.
It's the model that was destroyed last decade by the Underground Literary Alliance. We took our example from the history of rock n roll. Instead of an audience sitting still and silent listening to classical music, we sought to provoke and rouse that audience, and to do so we thought of Screaming Jay Hawkins in the 1950's rising from a casket, or Iggy Pop in Detroit in the 1970's expressing himself with "Raw Power," with fake-and-real violence on stage. In other words, theater. The ULA was a throwback to Shakespeare's plays at the Globe, where interaction with the audience, hostile and not, was part of the play. "For those of you who've been offended, think of this, and be amended."
Rock's theatrical presentation, its more creative promotion and marketing, and its very founding by carnival barkers and low-rent hustlers like Colonel Parker and Alan Freed-- plus its appeal to all classes of society-- were why it prevailed.
In the late 50's, classical music was yet a vibrant art. Leonard Bernstein did popular TV shows and wrote the score for a popular Broadway play and movie. Tenor Mario Lanza starred in films, gave sold out concerts at the Hollywood Bowl, and achieved rock star-style publicity. Pianist Van Cliburn was given a ticker tape parade in New York City and performed, I'm told, before a crowd of over 100,000 in Chicago, and large crowds other places. Rock "stars" meanwhile for the most part were like Buddy Holly living in flea bag cold water apartments and doing shows in obscure spots like the middle of Iowa while flying from show to show in creaky puddle jumper airplanes.
Nothing is written in stone. The top dog today can be nowhere tomorrow. The literary underground has the opportunity to achieve great things. Whether it will or not remains to be seen.
(For an example of how the ULA was exciting everywhere we went, see a relatively objective writeup of one of our events at
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Collapse of the Literary Establishment
The New York Times, which has been on the verge of bankruptcy for some time, has announced it will be charging for online content. What do you think? Will it work? Will people buy?
Simultaneously, Borders Books has announced it'll be closing 200 stores. Can their model compete? How will this shakeout?
An old adage: With crisis comes opportunity.
Conflict and Disagreement
no one is thinking.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
At the time I stressed that 99% of our energy needed to go into our pr activities. Everything-- everything-- should've been secondary. The objective was to break through every boundary.
If the reaction is ever restarted, this is how it will operate.
Monday, March 14, 2011
Contest Ends in One Week!
The three prizes up for grabs are a big temptation.
Some Good New Pop Music
The pop music art is sustained by semi-retro throwbacks astute enough to capture the emotion of pop music's greatest period. Who realize that pop is about not technical gimmicks, but emotion, period. Now, if the same thing can be done for pop literature. . . .
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Questions About Amanda Hocking
Everybody is talking about Amanda Hocking selling ebooks to the tune of 450,000 copies. I don’t buy that number for a minute, by the way. She’s a young adult author. Do half-a-million adolescents even have ebook readers? Amanda herself admits to selling 2,000 paperbacks since October. I assume this means the physical commodity.
Which raises the questions: What are the real numbers? What’s the breakdown? Does sales by ebook mean on the various readers, or as attatchments online? What’s the demographic breakdown of those with ebook readers?
One gets an idea about the “How” she sold many copies of her novels. Apparently she’s written seventeen of them. Mark of a complusive personality. Presumably spent day and night twittering and Facebook networking, which takes tremendous mental energy and a unique personality. Through her efforts, a critical mass was achieved where the buzz began feeding on itself, like a nuclear reactor busting out of its containment facility. (I’m trying to stay timely!)
Those with answers to these many questions, let us know what they are, please. Thanks!
Friday, March 11, 2011
Sympathy for Japan
About "Experimental" Writing
In truth, the so-called avant-garde captured the academy, and the literary establishment with it, decades ago. With this, however, rose a problem. How could a current self-designated "avant-garde" be the establishment, and at the same time pose as on the margins, as dissenters to that very same establishment? The contradiction doesn't register.
(This is reflected in the discussion I had with Kris Saknussemm at The Millions, as mentioned yesterday in a post below this one.)
We see the contradiction in play time and again, such as with the ULA's "Howl Protest" in 2006, when members of the Underground Literary Alliance-- genuine literary dissenters-- barged into a genteel reading of Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" at Columbia University which included the most affluent, bourgie, conformist readers and audience you could possibly put together. Their lack of self-awareness, their own self-mythology, was palpable. Needless to say, the speakers and audience were outraged at us for shattering their illusion, or really, their self-delusion.
Real dissidence, of course, from those who criticize the literary establishment and the narrative of that establishment, is eliminated. Disconnected. Wiped out and pushed down the memory hole.
For background on this, see the chapter "The Avant-Garde Dies" in Eric Hobsbawm's massive historical work "The Age of Extremes." He outlines how the avant-garde devolved into parlor tricks, "desperate gimmicks" of the like Robbe-Grillet has gotten away with, as they and their art became more and more irrelevant.
The novel traditionally was an aid in understanding the world, and understanding ourselves. That it no longer does that may be why there's an absence of self-knowledge among the literary elite. (Harvard students and profs wearing Che t-shirts.)
How does that elite get away with its contradictions? Because they're part of the Dominant Narrative of literature, and control that narrative. It's how they perpetuate an Orwellian, totalitarian set-up where they're controllers and dissenters both, taking all the space, while defining anything done by real experimenters (from Wred Fright to Urban Hermitt to James Nowlan) as non-literature, the writers themselves, accordingly, as non-persons. Which is exactly how the dissent and threat of the ULA was handled.
This is a huge subject, too big to cover here. It's part of an intellectual contest that was happening in 1900 between literary populists and elitists, which ended in the 1950's and 60's with the populists demeaned in the academy, for political reasons, the elitists, including the culturally irrelevant pseudo-intellectual part of the avant-garde, fully in charge.
There's at the same time the cultural disaster that is postmodernism. Postmodernism was a symptom of the crazy philosophies of the Twentieth Century. In 2011 it's relevant only to the point of being harmful. If it was always out-of-date, as Hobsbawm pointed out fifteen years ago, it's moreso now. It preaches nonsense when young people-- young men especially-- are looking for real-world answers to the insanity around them, seeking certainties, character, credibility, truth, and strength, and not finding it in what passes today-- what is shit out at the public from the ivory towers and the conglomerates both-- as American culture.
Anyway, in the pop novel I'm writing I hope to bring in several clashing perspectives on this society, held by major characters. Art itself is the best place to address these questions.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
“Elvis Meets the Beatles”
A POP STORY OPENING
The King of Rock n’ Roll paced the thick shag carpeting of the front room of his Beverly Hills mansion. Handsome and tanned, in the prime of looks and voice, the man had no reason for trepidation. Yet, here he was, scarcely thirty years old, and already obsolete.
Elvis wore black slacks and a bright red shirt. On a nearby sofa, Priscilla sat with heavy makeup and her trademark beehive. Around her waited—eagerly?—his guys, the “Memphis Mafia.” Behind them stood the Colonel, man with the cigar, who’d arranged this meet-up.
On their way were the Lads from Liverpool. The Fab Four. Biggest musical act on the planet. Strange fops, maybe, with their mop tops. Nevertheless, they’d created unprecedented hysteria.
The phone rang. Lamar answered it.
He looked at Elvis.
“That was the security gate. They’re on their way up.”
Oh Lord. How was he ever to impress these guys?
They heard cars pull into the driveway. The famous man took a deep breath, opened the door and stepped onto the porch to greet them.
The Story Opening Contest at www.americanpoplit.blogspot.com runs until March 21st. I hope that writers aren’t taking it too seriously. If you’re afraid of embarrassment, then if you have to, use a phony name. I need more fun entries! (First Prize: A set of Elvis dvd’s.)
Readers of this blog may be interested in a discussion I’ve engaged in at
There’s a philosophical difference between Mr. Saknussemm and myself. As a postmodernist, he believes reality is created by individuals, or by collectives of people—which can mean, by authority. I take as my starting point, on the other hand, George Orwell’s implied criticism of this, of the notion that “Two-plus-two equals four, but sometimes it equals five.”
Wednesday, March 09, 2011
Win a Free Elvis 3-Dvd Set
How to win? Simply write the best short story opening, 200 words or less, and post it at the First Pop Lit Story Opening Contest at
First prize is the Elvis dvd set. The entry doesn't even have to be about Elvis. But it could be! (I'll be posting a story opening centered around Elvis Presley, right at this blog, as a sample, later this week. Don't miss it.)
Tuesday, March 08, 2011
Win a Free Recording: Marcopolos Reads Salinger
How to win? "Teddy" is Second Prize offering for the First Pop Lit Story Opening Contest at
www.americanpoplit.blogspot.com, which is still on.
Then again, you might write too fine an opening, and win an Elvis Presley dvd set instead! Life has risks ya know.
What do other writers use? Suggestions welcome.
Thursday, March 03, 2011
A Pop Novel?
A Pop novel? What exactly is a Pop novel?
With his best-selling novels, author Jonathan Franzen has tried to create works that can be both literary and popular. To a strictly limited extent, he’s succeeded. His problem is that the novels come from, and are set among, a narrow class of people. The genteel people who, more or less, are already consuming literature. Franzen’s books never move out of the accepted parameters. He inhabits no new territory.
I’ve begun my attempt at what I call a Pop novel—a novel accessible to everybody, yet which is art at the same time. The goal is to be both more truly “pop,” with everything American pop embodies, yet more of a work of art than, say, Franzen’s two big books, which are wordy and literary but touch only scant levels of depth and meaning.
I’ve posted the opening of this experimental novel at my Literary Mystery blog (American Pop Lit is occupied with a writing contest).
Does the novel lay down plot threads? Are the themes and happenings relevant to America today?
Take a look and see what you think.
Wednesday, March 02, 2011
Where the literary underground stumbled during its “First Wave” from 2001 to 2007 is that we lost the messaging battle with our opponents. They defined what we were about. Their skewed view of the underground, our work and our goals, became the accepted narrative, even though the narrative was, at best, a caricature. And so we had radio hosts and magazine editors, having read anti-ULA propaganda, worrying publicly that we wanted to, or somehow could, exclude establishment writers. All we wanted and want is some small place among the smorgasboard of literature—or what should be a smorgasboard but instead has become a one item menu, the one item being a bowl of overcooked oatmeal.