Monday, October 28, 2013

In Defense of New Media

I CAN UNDERSTAND  concerns about the omnipresence of new media, including social media outlets like Twitter, blogs, and Facebook. Too many people are letting social media seemingly to dominate their lives.

The flip side to these concerns is that new media at least presents in our society the possibility of alternate viewpoints.

Anymore, established media, especially that based on the east coast, gives us one way of thinking. Every “journalist” and spokesperson has the same assumptions about the world, the universe, and this nation. I call it monothink.

Monothink extends to the literary scene. This blog, with its contrary ideas, presents, for those who wish to find it—few as those individuals may be—an alternative way of considering American literature and its players. If it were up to the Overdogs who dominate approved literature, there would exist no contrary ideas. Anyplace.

I’m a rare person in that I enjoy the exhilaration of alternate ideas. Part of the excitement of reading The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, for instance, is not simply that it’s a terrific novel, but also that it gives the reader a wholly different way of viewing our world. Most of today’s “intellectuals” fear to have their assumptions challenged. They’re incapable of engaging in the give-and-take of clashing ideas.

For now, the Internet remains a place to discover notions, some crazy and others not so crazy, that would never make it past the careful screening of established society’s designated gatekeepers.


(To read more of my own incorrect views look into my ebooks, offered via Kindle Store or Nook Books. Writing outside the monolith.)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Munro Doctrine

The truth is that Alice Munro is a terrible writer.

All one need do is look at the short story The New Yorker has republished in its current (10/21/13) issue: "The Bear Came Over the Mountain." I didn't get past the overwritten first paragraph. Like most literary writers, Alice Munro is afflicted with detail disease. In the story she gives us a well-observed cataloging of minutiae. Is this guaranteed to hook anyone outside a creative writing course? Uh, no.

What Munro gives us, like so many of her literary establishment peers, is a bad model for the short story. All emphasis is on the "well-crafted sentence." This has become the lit world's highest value. And so they pile on impressive sentence after sentence, not caring that the sentences should be mere pieces toward a larger goal. As the work becomes coagulated, reading it becomes a slog.

Gatekeepers of the art like Heidi Pitlor are incapable of looking beyond the indoctrination of the writing program. Glance at Heidi's twitter account, @BAShortStories. She posts literary sentences which catch her interest. Plot? Theme? Excitement? Pace? Meaning? It's clear what Heidi Pitlor values.

Meanwhile, as Alice Munro has pursued her delicate and irrelevant art, interest in the short story from the general public has dwindled almost to nothingness. I've said before, I doubt if even many New Yorker subscribers read their fiction. Its purpose isn't to be read. Like a fashionable glossy magazine on a gentrified coffee table, the fiction exists as a taste marker. A sign of breeding and class.

The structure of the literary story today is particularly inapt in our A.D.D. era.

Short stories weren't always like Munro's. Once, writers got to it. "None of them knew the color of the sky." Yes, once, story writers like Stephen Crane, Jack London, and Ernest Hemingway could be descriptive but also vigorous and compelling. Painting a picture with a few brushstrokes-- not parked under the kitchen table jotting down like an observant cockroach every last teapot, cobweb, and kitchen spoon in the room.

(To read my own experiments in reviving the short story, pick up my ebook, TEN POP STORIES, at Kindle or Nook. Rumor has it the ebook is quite affordable. Each story is different. There's no excuse for not putting it onto your reading device!)


p.s. Here's a link to typically overwritten gushy praise from literary establishment types about Alice Munro. I picture Joyce Carol Oates, while typing her remarks, simultaneously poking the eyes out of an Alice Munro doll, wanting to tell the world that after all, others also, including herself, SHE, have produced overwritten, Chekovian and even hysterical short stories-- sometimes very violent stories-- in her particular instance, quite a few of them; if people anyone SOMEONE is handing out awards to deserving or at least long-suffering writers. . . .

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Corruption of Language and Thought

Here's what seems to me a confused essay relating the sublime to horror movies:

The writer, Eve Tushnet, uses "sublime" as almost the opposite of "beautiful." Yet the sublime is supposed to be the best in mankind. That which elevates us from the base. Horror movies, on the other hand, wallow in the base. Their effect comes from depictions of grossness and ugliness. They examine what's darkest within us.

Our culture today is in a full-on embrace of irrationality. Of nonstop media depictions of cruelty. Movies of horror, fantasy, and sadistic violence. That people enjoy these depictions says something about where we are now as a civilization. The greatest forms of art, the truly beautiful and sublime, have been shoved aside. We're more in pagan Rome than in what was once the good old U.S.A.-- which carried the heritage of the glories of Western civilization.


In my newest ebook, ABOUT WESTERN MOVIES, I discuss a movie genre which can be cruel but can also be, at its best, very beautiful. I'll take that genre anyday over the unending savagery of horror movies, which once were an artistic curiosity but have gone completely mainstream, leaving confusion in their wake.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Believing in the Devil?

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia made some waves recently when he affirmed his belief in the devil. See:

Many media commentators saw Scalia’s statements as a big joke. Yet how wrong was he?

I’ve been around enough to say I believe in the existence of evil. I’ve seen, once or twice, persons who seemed possessed by a spirit of evil.

When one studies history—the French Revolution, for instance—the idea of human evil becomes more tangible.

The question is whether or not evil is a personality, or the attribute of a personality. Or a living personality.

Is the notion of the devil childish? Or rather, is not the failure to believe in the evil in man and mankind—call that evil Original Sin, or call it the devil—the true childish viewpoint?

(As Scalia says, far more intelligent men than anyone alive today believed in the existence of the devil. Yet today’s intellectuals—nothing if not narrow-minded and arrogant—have all the answers. At least in their own uninquisitive minds.)

Monday, October 14, 2013

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

A Pauline Kael Quote

Here’s an interesting quote from famed film critic Pauline Kael, from an essay, “Are Movies Going to Pieces?” dating from December 1964:

“The ‘pure’ cinema enthusiast who doesn’t react to a film but feels he should, and so goes back to it over and over, is not responding as an individual but as a compulsive good pupil determined to appreciate what his cultural superiors say is art. Movies are on their way into academia when they are turned into a matter of duty, and in this country respect for High Culture is becoming a ritual.”

This situation today of course holds true even more for literature than for film. What we see now, even from the youngest generations—especially from them—is an unwillingness or inability to question the accepted premises handed down to them. The assumed gods. Which is not the path toward vibrant living art forms; only stagnating status quos. Dead art.