Monday, December 29, 2014

Happy 2015


Will 2015 be the year American literature is finally reinvigorated; made relevant again to the American people? Some of us keep trying! Join the campaign. Much will be happening at New Pop Lit particularly. (Right now you can see who we nominated for Pushcart Prizes. Read the stories and see what you think.)

(NOTE: The photo is NOT a collection of New Pop Lit writers!)

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What’s Wrong with this Picture?


WE at New Pop Lit ( received a tweet Tuesday from n+1 magazine leader Keith Gessen. The tweet was in response to a question we asked publicly, as to whether n+1 could be said to be “oligarch-backed.” Granted, that phrase might be exaggerating the situation—but only slightly. If media moguls are nice guys, and parents of your officially listed editor, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not oligarchs!

In his tweet, Gessen pleaded poverty. They’re a “nonprofit” (the word “nonprofit” having magical qualities). They’re mostly volunteers, struggling, none of them has any money; it’s all very bleak. A situation with which I can easily identify! Reading the tweet, in fact, I became quite concerned. I expected to run into the n+1 people when turning a corner here in Detroit, the lot of them squatting in rags on the sidewalk holding cardboard signs—Keith, Dayna, everybody—the signs saying “Please help me!” I thought, “What can we at New Pop Lit do to help these beaten-down writers?” A joint presentation?

Then I caught myself and asked myself a few questions. I outlined in my head a few facts and certainties.

Among them, that the n+1 staff consists of the so-called best and brightest. All are from Harvard, Brown, Columbia, and the like. They have access to the so-called best writers in the nation; bonded and branded, well-awarded and certified. Many of them published by the Big Five. n+1’s advisors include some of the shrewdest business people on the planet, including, as I mentioned, a big-time media mogul, as well as two of the publishing world’s most successful literary agents.

On top of this, for ten years n+1 has received more and better publicity than any literary journal in the country—including the McSweeney’s machine—always positive; in the most prestigious and widely-read newspapers and magazines. World-respected newspapers and magazines. Among them, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, the Washington Post, the New York Times. And many, many smaller outlets. People love a designated winner. n+1 has received publicity and promotion that ANY business in any field could only dream of, much of it coming from the very center of media empire, New York City, n+1’s home base.

In short, everything has gone their way.

And they’re still not making it?

An intelligent person involved with a more modest project would try to learn from their mistakes. Would analyze the situation. During that analysis, I come up with three possible reasons for n+1’s unhappy plight. Feel free to tell me which one you believe is most, er, on the money.

A.) A bad product.

B.) Flawed thinking.

C.) On the wrong side of literary history.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Worst Novel Ever?


Ever see the satirical movie about the art business, “Untitled”? Toward the end of that film, an “artist” appears whose “art” consists of pencil scribblings on sticky notes. When someone interviews him about his work, he’s so intellectually feeble he can respond only with vague mutterings; gurgling his words like a two year old.

blake butler

I thought of this character when reading a review at L.A. Review of Books by one Tiffany Gilbert of the latest novel by alt-lit icon Blake Butler, 300,000,000.

This single review shows everything wrong with the established literary game and the New York-based book business. The novel is about a man’s quest to kill everyone in the entire country. Ambitious, one could call it, I guess. It’s apparently written in standard postmodern style. Think David Foster Wallace. Only more so. The idea that Harper Perennial would invest a large sum of scarce funds into publishing and promoting this kind of work is, on the surface, incomprehensible.

The people at Harper Perennial (won’t be “perennial” for long!) need to ask themselves: What business are they in? Answer: Selling books! How do they presume to market a novel which is deliberately hostile to the reader? Tiffany Gilbert: “—Butler usually destroys understanding, favoring emotion and instinct over narrative.”

Who needs narrative?!

“Butler remains elusive, creating linguistic puzzles that we must sink into rather than solve.”

Linguistic puzzles! Haven’t we seen that before? from Nabokov, Pynchon, Foster-Wallace; from all the postmodern academy darlings praised by academy types who love “sink”ing into such shit because they apparently have nothing better to do? Justifies their standing in front of classrooms of the naive and gullible.

Tiffany Gilbert says that we as readers are “often demanding that our narratives conform to conventional rules of sense making.” (Sense making? Who wants sense making?) “Butler defies those expectations.”

Tiffany Gilbert is gushing about Blake Butler’s work, signifying his literary importance. Butler provides more than enough convoluted mish-mash for a Tiffany Gilbert to rationalize about.

Would I be surprised to learn that Tiffany Gilbert has a Phd from somewhere, and works as a university professor? Not at all. You have to be trained to buy into (or “sink into”) a compendium of nonsense. It doesn’t come naturally.

“Unlike many contemporary writers,” Tiffany Gilbert assures us, “Butler does not dabble in darkness. He is ensconced in it.”

(Great. That’s all we need from today’s art. More darkness!)

“Butler’s novel subsumes Bolano’s concerns with death, vilification, and secrecy and multiplies them tenfold.”

There’s a larger point to be made about the new generation of approved writers—their white guilt and self-hatred; their pessimism; their disbelief in God, themselves, anything and everything. Warped, miseducated creatures; casualties of a broken educational system and a twisted, hate-filled philosophy. That’s a point for another essay!

From the start the alt lit writers weren’t literary artists, but con artists. They carried a postmodern philosophy which says there is no truth, nothing means anything and it’s futile to try to know anything. A novel like 300,000,000 is the logical result. The alt lit writers have made no effort to learn the difficult essentials of writing a competent, readable novel. (It takes talent to be readable.) To learn literary tools like structure and form; pace, clarity and plot. The artful weaving of narrative threads (there’s that darn word “narrative” again!) to build interest, suspense, and momentum. The drawing of believable characters.

Why should alt lit authors bother with such quaint notions, when a Harper Perennial will publish their vomitry regardless?

The related question is: Why is Blake Butler shoving so many novels through the crumbling Big Five publishing system? Possibly because he suspects the Big Five’s days are numbered. Or because he realizes a con game can go on for only so long.

There are only so many over-trained professors out there looking for something to laud.

“—at one point, he sucks the eyes out of a miscarried fetus after killing its mother.”

Golly gosh! Isn’t that wonderful?

Did I mention the novel’s about a serial killer?

Think of the sad mindset of those individuals who’d actually care to read this novel. Or would read it. If there are in fact very many of them, this civilization’s in trouble.

The postmodern prose style—not the subject—will be most offputting to general readers.

“Philistine!” a Tiffany Gilbert might say to anyone expecting that a novel make sense.

Anyway, who cares today—in the “intellectual” crowd—about the market?

But a novel is not only subject to the market, it’s subject to aesthetic rules. Rules which conform not to academy dictates, but to the hidden rules of nature and the universe. General rules appreciated by all, except for confused well-brainwashed alt litsters, or professors like Gilbert, who seem to believe there are no aesthetic rules. If nonsense is acceptable, nonsense is not only possible, but probable.

May as well have the proverbial 100 monkeys then pounding on keyboards to see what occurs. The outcome might be better than Blake Butler’s 300,000,000.


Are there alternatives to Big Five nonsense? Yes! It comes from the DIY ebook crowd, and from New Literary Media outlets like

(Be sure to read, at New Pop Lit’s Opinion page, my essays on another alt lit figure, Tao Lin.)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

An Economic Model

Can one predict how the changing publishing environment will shakeout?

With changing technology comes changing art.

One model to look at is what happened to the music industry in the mid-1950’s. (I’ve told this story often.)

A technological happening:

A smaller disc was brought to the market: the 45 rpm. Looked fun. Played music of short duration. Was affordable for everyone. Including the mass public. Including teenagers.

Simultaneous with this, likely because of it, came the rise of more populist music. “Rock n’ roll,” as it came to be known.

The Big Four record companies who controlled 85% of the market scorned the new music. It went against acceptable “taste.” They ended up losing nearly half their market share in a couple-year period. Who took it? Fast-moving entrepreneurs like Alan Freed and Dick Clark. A few years later, in Detroit, Berry Gordy Jr., who created Motown.


What’s happening in the book business? New technology. Connect the dots. Draw the inescapable conclusions.

What’s coming? New literature pushed by outfits like

These are exciting times.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Shocking Truth!


I was reminded of this truth—for the umpteenth time—in the follow-up to NEW POP LIT’s revelations about the n+1 lit journal operation:

I’ve been beating up that insulated crowd of “intellectuals” a little bit on twitter, simply to draw attention to our story. I paused to wonder if I would ever get any twitter response or byplay from them. (I did have some guy attacking me anonymously at one of my twitter accounts in advance of the story, but none too effectively.) It occurred to me that I’ll never get byplay from any of them—for the key reason. What’s that shocking reason?

They’re not very bright! I’ve yet to meet one well-hyped New York City “literary” writer who could think very fast on his-or-her feet. And I’ve met more than a few of them, even before the big 2001 debate between the Underground Literary Alliance and the Paris Review staff at CBGB’s. (An affair which was ridiculously one-sided.)

“The shocking truth” is a revelation which disgraced interviewer Ed Champion must’ve come to on more than one occasion. He talked to enough of them. I don’t know to what he attributed it—but the irritating truth led to an 11,000-word online blow-up from him and something akin to a nervous breakdown.

You see, he had bought beforehand the mythology that these are the nation’s best writers.

The question: what’s the reason? Why aren’t Approved literary writers very sharp?

It could be because of the slow and deliberate way they’re trained to write. (Think of a typically slow and excruciatingly long Jonathan Franzen novel.) Such writers end up thinking slow and deliberately.

Or it could be that most of them are trust funders who’ve never been challenged by life, were never required to move fast or think quickly.

Even from the best of them you find scantly a trace of wit in their conversations. Some of them can be humorous—Daniel Handler comes to mind—but it’s a warped, childish, frat boy kind of humor. As I depicted him in a satirical ebook novel (still available!), it’s the kind of humor which takes delight in pulling the wings off butterflies. Bludgeon-like humor. Which I take it didn’t go over very well recently at some swanky Insider Manhattan affair he was hosting!


Rambling: The last n+1 individuals I met in person was in 2009 at the Philadelphia Free Library’s Book Fair, at which those very radical n+1 people—looking very preppyish—had a table. I think Marco Roth was one of them, along with a collection of staffers or interns who looked like they just got done modeling for either Vogue or GQ magazines. I was with Philly-based poet Frank D. Walsh, who thinks and speaks so fast, with puns and asides, it’s tough for the best of us to keep up with his wide-ranging conversation. We chatted with the n+1’ers, an impromptu debate, for ten or fifteen minutes.

It was like conversing with pets. You know: the slow stare. They know you’re saying something, but they can only look at you with abject stupidity.

I’m not exaggerating!

Friday, December 05, 2014

The Last Company Town

The last company town in America is New York City, Brooklyn included, and the last out-of-date stodgy business ready to go under is the book biz, which continues to operate as if it were 100 years ago.

Of all the businesses which have had shakeups over the years due to changing economic circumstances, the “Big Five” publishers and their acolytes are the most insulated and the most elitist. Theirs is a clubby little world. Many of them are clueless pampered Ivy League rich kids. Bubble people. The handwriting is on the wall but they refuse to see it, which I suppose from my perspective is fine.

Daniel Handler is the perfect front man for them because in his person, thoughts, and style of speaking he well represents their ignorance and arrogance.

I asked the most “Leftist” of the New York-based lit rags, Guernica, Jacobin Mag, and n+1, if they had spoken out about Handler’s watermelon jokes, and received no response. But what could they say? Daniel Handler is inextricably so much a part of them, it would be unseemly and tactless to say a word. They’re outraged at everything else. About their own privileged world and its in-bred attitudes they remain mum.

Meanwhile, their products—their approved models—are like the Edsel automobile; ridiculously old-fashioned and stodgy Most should be subject to recalls. When NEW POP LIT is up to speed it’ll blow the lot of them out of the water.


I’m writing an essay about how n+1 operates for the Opinion page at I’ll try to remain as factual and disinterested as possible. I plan to point out that crowd’s split personality. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Brooklyn’s Literary Snob Set

Brooklyn Snob Set

(Pictured: Rumored to be a photo of Brooklyn’s Literary Snob Set at, er, work.)

WHAT is Brooklyn’s Literary Snob Set? WHO belongs to it? HOW do they operate? (The WHERE of the matter is obvious: gentrified sections of Brooklyn, NY.)

These are questions I’ll endeavor to answer in coming weeks.

Word has it that these are part of an endangered cultural species: supporters of New York-based establishment literature. Progeny of privilege. Well-connected holdovers clinging desperately to the familiar and known.

One thing is certain: NEW POP LIT ( is an antidote to the east coast literary snob set.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Covering the Daniel Handler Fiasco

The problem with Daniel Handler’s “watermelon” remarks at the National Book Foundation black-tie awards ceremony in Manhattan last week is larger than one individual. They say a lot about the system of establishment literature. I’ve tried to examine the larger picture, first here at the NEW POP LIT blog:

Then at my ’”Literary Circus” blog:

Am I a biased observer? Absolutely! Daniel Handler spent years harassing a writers group I used to lead, the Underground Literary Alliance. He did so because our mission was to expose corruption within the clubby halls of establishment literature.

Unfortunately, anything I say here or elsewhere is overwhelmed by hordes of go-along-to-get-along writers retweeting articles which portray Handler in a more positive light. (He’s a man of immense wealth and power.)

The most unfortunate of these articles may be this “Shelf Life” post by self-proclaimed “social justice ally” Carolyn L. Todd, an Entertainment Weekly intern. 

How far, Carolyn, do your principles go in the real world?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Daniel Handler Opens Mouth, Inserts Foot

Handler Hand

Here’s the latest literary-establishment scandal, covered by the folks at the Daily Dot:

Curious that several past opponents of the dormant Underground Literary Alliance are self-destructing. Ed Champion, Tao Lin, and now that jolly fellow Daniel Handler. Are their true egregious characters sneaking out?

Friday, November 14, 2014

Staggering Hypocrisy


I happened to stumble upon a twitter exchange between establishment novelist Ayelet Waldman and Salon writer Dahlia Lithwick. Waldman was congratulating Lithwick on an article in The New Republic which criticizes the narrowmindedness of the U.S. Supreme Court—as all have Ivy League educations.

Disconnected reality indeed! I made the mistake of pointing out that the east coast literary media is predominately Ivy League. I asked Ayelet Waldman where she was last decade when the Underground Literary Alliance tried to democratize the U.S. literary scene, and for its efforts was blackballed and destroyed. Ms. Waldman responded quickly:

Ayelet Waldman@ayeletw 

@LiteraryCircus Seriously? You're questioning my advocacy? Because I'm not working on your issue in exactly they way you are? Fuck off.


Yes, I was questioning her selective advocacy—which clearly steers away from her own field. Dare not one criticize one of the elite! These are questions, of course, which members of the literary establishment can’t debate. They know they can’t debate them. During the entirety of the ULA’s history, the response was the same: invective and blackballing.

Do I need to mention that Ayelet Waldman is a Harvard graduate, while Dahlia Lithwick is a graduate of Yale?

Incidentally, or not, here’s a NEW POP LIT blog post which looks at the mindset of New York-based publishing.

Also be sure to read NPL’s latest Opinion piece, wrapping things up about the Tao Lin story, “Self-Marketing 101: Tao Lin”

My co-editor refers to the piece as “Art of the Con.” One thing to be said about Tao Lin is that he isn’t Ivy League—not part of the power elite—and so may have decided that extraordinary measures were needed.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Literary Sloppiness


A major difference between modernists and postmodernists is how the writers or artists implicitly view the universe, and by extension, their art.

For instance, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby both portray seemingly chaotic worlds. But the works themselves are as structured, as complex, as any literary works ever. They’re in line with how current physicists increasingly view the universe—chaotic on the surface, but behind this, far more complex and ordered, in a way we’re only beginning to comprehend.

In that sense, modernism is a truer depiction of the world. Today the postmodernists assume the world is chaos, and hand us sloppiness in their work. Baggy monsters. They don’t know where they’re going in their novels and don’t really care. The writing itself—the words and sentences—are their only value. They don’t understand that meaning comes with form and structure.

Another example of the use of structure is in music—the jump between the classically ordered mathematically-precise symphonies of Beethoven and the modernist impressionism of Claude Debussy. Behind the seeming jumble and flow of Debussy’s “La Mer” IS form and structure, which makes the work cohere, gives it momentum, and allows it to close at a peak, providing artistic satisfaction. The satisfaction of art; of form.


I attempt to provide complexity, simplicity, and form myself anyway in my recent ebook, Assassination of X. A murder takes place in a chaotic situation. The puzzle seems insoluble. Yet order and intelligence might after all be somewhere present behind all.

Read the novella and see if I accomplish my artistic goal.

Friday, October 31, 2014

“Horror House”

The Latest at NEW POP LIT

Two young hipsters, Darla and Simon—one of them an artist—decide to open their own haunted house. Complications ensue.

New pop fiction from a mysterious character known as “Ghost Writer.” (Who is the Ghost Writer?)

Enter our haunted literary house for fun and thrills!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Author Outreach

One of our tasks at NEW POP LIT is to reach out to writers on all ends of the literary spectrum.

Toward that end, we found an author, Chris Cander, somewhere in the middle of ongoing debates. She's been published by a legitimate press, but has also published a book DIY.

Her style of writing is also somewhere in the middle-- in the gap between "pop" and "literary"-- which is where NEW POP LIT seeks to operate.

Read our interview with Chris Cander here:

Stay tuned for more exciting happenings!

(Tomorrow morning we have scheduled a scary? pop Halloween story!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Publishing and Cronyism

It’s a subject I’ve covered often over the years. I’m at it again, at NEW POP LIT. Why? The problem never ends.

What’s the solution?

To move the center of U.S. Publishing out of New York.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Strange Encounters Dept.

Both are now the subject of literary scandals. But the objective reader asks: Have Ed Champion and Tao Lin encountered each other in the past?

They have, at least online. Here’s an example from 2007:

Both take opposing sides on the question, of all things, of Dave Eggers. I enter the picture as well, toward the end of the discussion. Makes interesting reading in hindsight.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Ed Champion and Tao Lin: Double Standard?

I’m not a fan of either individual. Their styles of attack are different. Ed Champion goes after you with a mallet, Tao Lin, a stiletto. One is crude, the other subtle.

Still, the question has to be asked: Why are many literary insiders defending Tao Lin and not Ed Champion?

Is it because several publishing concerns have invested heavily in Tao Lin? I speak of Random House, Melville House, and the lit journal n+1. They’ll likely try to salvage the guy, if possible.

It’s curious that women writers, such as Sheila Heti, or Champion’s antagonist Emily Gould, are defending Tao Lin on twitter. Regarding Ed Champion, there’s been widespread agreement that he should be blackballed. Yet Ed Champion, to my knowledge, didn’t physically assault anybody. By all accounts, he had a good relationship with his girlfriend Sarah Weinman. He did write an insulting and crude review, and threatened a woman writer via twitter—threatened her not physically, but that he would publish nude photos of her. Bad enough—but Tao Lin and his fellow “Alt Lit” writer Stephen Tully Dierkes are accused of something more.

Champion has been tagged with the label of ambition—but who’s been more ambitious than Tao Lin?

Tao was one of the cool kids. Ed clearly was not. In the final analysis, do charm and glamour win out?

I have no answers regarding the two of them—am trying to figure out the mind of the established literary world, which still carries clout. I’ll say this: the problem may be that literary culture is centered in a single town. Which creates a hive mindset; in which nonconforming individuals are continually ostracized, and the everpresent thought is: Who’s In and Who’s Out?

(Read more about his issue at

NEW POP LIT is the better alternative.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Friday, October 03, 2014

Bankrupt Literary Philosophy



Here’s a slightly edited transcript of a discussion I engaged in on a HTML Giant post from July 5, 2011. The post was “POP: A Polemic on a Contemporary Language-Based ‘Objectivity.’ “ It was written by postmodern writer Mike Kitchell:

Kitchell’s essay generated 233 comments. Mine came toward the end of them. I went on there originally because I didn’t think Alt Lit had much to do with “pop” writing. It wasn’t populist, wasn’t readable, wasn’t fun. As you’ll see if you read this excerpt from the discussion, we went on to other matters—including the philosophical ideas bolstering Tao Lin and the other members of the short-lived(?) Alt Lit phenomenon.



When I read all this term-paper intellectualizing about something-- pop-- which isn't intellectual but instead pure and emotional and instinctive, I'm reminded of a scene in the classic Elvis movie "Jailhouse Rock."

Elvis Presley of course was one of the early embodiments of American pop culture. His movies became a pop genre unto themselves.

In the flick Elvis (previously seen smashing a guitar) is dragged to a party by his manager. Elvis gets into a discussion with a stuffy prof who, upon hearing he's a musician, proceeds with a long-winded pseudo-intellectual analysis of contemporary jazz. Elvis stares at her for a moment then drawls, "Lady, I don't know what the hell you're talking about."

This was in the early days of rock n' roll which, like the punk version twenty years after, was a rejection of artistic pretentiousness. (See 70's Pink Floyd.) It embraced instead the natural and the organic.

Tao Lin is a pure hustler, and in that sense he's akin to the Colonel Parkers of early rock. But there's nothing remotely punk or genuine about him, absolutely nothing counter to the status quo. I know this well, as I remember his attacks on what was a rebellious, DIY, punk-style lit group from last decade, the Underground Literary Alliance.

Does anyone here know-- or care-- what real pop writing looks like?

(Broah CCro)

Your anecdote about Elvis exposes that, yes, you don't know what anyone is talking about. "Pop which isn't intellectual" only notes the origination and/or intentionality of that which is created. As to its interpretation (which, regardless of my disagreements with Kitchell, we are in agreement), hermeneutic work involves a dialectic with both the text and the reader that is less narrowly defined than assuming the authorial intent to be supreme.

You hate monger academia and theory ("term-paper intellectuallizing" and "are supposed to know because our professors have told us") and yet later consider Tao's relation to late 19th and 20th century Continental philosophy. And while contradicting yourself, you assume a causal relation between postmodernism and "the most inhuman crimes and wars in all of human history." Furthermore, you attack Kitchell's reference to Robbe-Grillet on the grounds of it not being related to American identity/works. So by being hypocritical, rantish, anti-intellectualizing, and tangential, you've fully embodied the Glenn Beck of the literati. Keep up the Ayn Rand references on your blog and maybe some tea baggers will buy your pop.


Say what?

Lady, I don't know what you're talking about.

Criticizing the academy isn't "hate monger"ing it.
I'm anti-intellectualizing, sure. But I'm for sense and intelligence. As I've pointed out, the standards of the academy of late have embraced nonsense and anti-intelligence.

It's a documented fact that many of the creators of postmodernism were either card-carrying Nazis (Heiddegger) or collaborationists (Paul DeMan). It's also impossible to read Nietzsche without seeing some stark parallels to "Triumph of the Will" and such. I assume nothing about postmodernism. The links are there in black and white.

I was using the example to analyze the thinking of Tao Lin, whose own words speak
for themselves. I wasn't discussing there the idea of pop per se. I know that Tao isn't beyond appropriating any idea, without crediting the source, if it serves his own end.

I can't comment on Glenn Beck, as I've never watched his television show. From what I've heard about him, he's yet one more con artist himself. I guess he makes an easy label for you to use. Is that all you can come up with? Go to it.

Re Ayn Rand. She espoused a philosophy of selfishness. The lone artist etc. I understand the appeal, though I strongly disagree with much of it. My entire history speaks against her mindset. The ULA espoused a cooperative mode of operating.

What I won't do, however, is compromise my integrity to the extent of insisting she wasn't a significant American novelist. For me, truth is the highest value.

The difference between Ayn Rand and today's nonsensical postmodernists is that she was living, more or less, in the real world. She knew that you have to know up from down in order to build a house. In Tao Lin's philosophy, in his own words, one can't know anything. He's got the egoistic will part of Ayn Rand down pat but has thrown out the reality ("A is A") part.

(Broah CCro)

You repeatedly are vague about the term postmodernism in your posts. You misrepresent the history of the term and its philosophical ties by relating its creation to Heidegger (one "d") and DeMan. Whereas you could point to Heidegger's later works in relation to destruktion as having ties with what many of the French writers would later popularize, it is inaccurate to call him a "creator." Also, Paul DeMan is a stretch as his works are overwhelmed by the popularity of Derrida (who aligns the two references and seems to be one of the main figureheads you won't note). However, mentioning Derrida who wrote several texts on the Jewish plight (and who is much more appropriately noted as one of the "creators" of postmodernism) would not allow you to make your skewed point as to the evils of the movement. Furthermore, Heidegger's biography notes that as he was writing for the Nazi party, he quickly conceded his role when he began to realize their unethical intentions were in stark contrast to his philosophy of "Being-alongside-others with care." If truth is the highest value, I suggest you read more.

Even if your argument was valid (both in the sense that these two could even be considered in the top ten main fore thinkers of postmodernism and that their Nazi ties were so tightly knit), it still assumes that the work is less valuable as its originators have unethical ties. This is your greatest fallacy aside from your ignorance of these topics as you assume that a work is less worth consideration if its ideological system has unethical practices.

Your traditionalist ties to the superiority of the Enlightenment and supposedly greater American writers misinform your views on what postmodernism means/can refer to. You want to discredit this supposed academy (which you still haven't defined) for its over-intellectualizing yet are unable to draw a distinction as to where your own ignorance should end and education should begin. Please articulate just how knowledgeable us as readers should be before we begin to stare to closely into Nietzsche's darkness.


Here's a definition of sorts about what is and always was a jumble of ideas, from historian Eric Hobsbawm from his book The Age of Extremes:

"All 'postmodernisms' had in common an essential scepticism about the existence of an objective reality, and/or the possibility of arriving at an agreed understanding of it by rational means. All tended to a radical relativism. All, therefore, challenged the essence of a world that rested on the opposite assumptions, namely the world transformed by science and the technology based upon it, and the ideology of progress which reflected it."

Both Kitchell in his original post, and Tao Lin in the quotes I posted of his, dismiss or even mock the notion of objectivity. In this sense, they're postmodernists in the broad sense that Hobsbawm uses the word.

To further push Hobsbawm's point: It's one thing to dismiss objective reality in parlor-game philosophizing ("hermeneutics") akin to debating the number of angels that can fit on the head of a pin. I kind of doubt that you or Kitchell or Tao dismiss objectivity when out in the real world. I'm fairly certain you don't often cross against a red ("red") light into the middle of traffic, into what may-or-may-not be real automobiles. You don't walk UP the stairs when you wish to go DOWN to the street, or put your shoes on your head instead of your feet. Why, then, do you dismiss objectivity when it comes to literature and writing?

As for the supposed superiority of the Enlightenment, Hobsbawm's massive work allows me to attempt to further connect the dots about a few of the other things I said, which I admit may seem like a stretch.

In a long section about the past century's endless nihilistic wars, Hobsbawm stresses that the Allies, both the Anglo-American liberal democracies on one hand, and the Soviets on the other, were united by what he calls "the shared values and aspirations of the Enlightenment." Both so-different parties saw themselves as products of the Age of Reason, heirs to that legacy. They united against a society which plunged itself into pure madness, whose leaders embraced UNreason and scorned the Enlightenment in favor of notions of blood, irrationality, and will; ideas which can be found in Nietzsche again and again. Even the uber-Conservative himself, Winston Churchill, was alarmed enough by what he expressly viewed as a unique threat-- a retreat from the values of civilization into barbarism.

How does this apply to literature?

For most of the history of American literature there was a similar consensus between Left and Right about what literature was, what made literature great, the "great American novel" and so forth. And so we see that two great American novels, The Octopus by Norris and Atlas Shrugged by Rand, share aesthetic assumptions and values while coming from opposite ends of the political spectrum. Neither author believes that the writer can know nothing about this world. Instead they seek to express very large themes embracing all of America, using interwoven narrative threads that lay themselves out like a chess game on a chess board, exemplars of intelligence.

You throw this away for-- what? The mentality of a housecat?

As I've said, it leads not only to jargon-filled writing, it's an artistic dead end.
On one point Tao Lin is right-- that's in seeing "pop" as an aesthetic path, a way to revive the literary art. But to take that path writers will need to knock hermeneutic nonsense out of their heads, to be able to speak, as writers once spoke, with clarity, intelligence, and sense.


Hermeneutics is not an 'anti-objectivity', but rather, takes seriously subjectivity and intersubjectivity as modes of or paths to - or constitutive of - "truth".

Gadamer takes up the philosophical conversation of Aristotle, Hegel, and the rest of the tradition of philosophical investigation that's before him, and does so with a seriousness not a bit less humane - and readable - for its intellectual strength and meticulous scholarship.

Anyone interested in a presentation of actual relations between hermeneutical perspectives and postmodern ones would be well-advised to read the Gadamer/Derrida book and see first-hand a vivid example of the contrasts between these diverse philosophical approaches.

(Broah CCro) (to me)

Your understanding of postmodernism follows from, by your own post, a secondary source. The only philosopher you've noted to have actually read is Neitzsche which you erroneously assume is a postmodernist (which even considering someone a proto-postmodernism seems fallible if they were before the linguistic turn). Any comments regarding actually discussing postmodernism and its relation to hermeneutics (a field of study) is deemed as parlor tricks. How an entire field of study with numerous, divergent opinions can be a parlor trick or nonsense is anybody's guess. Please inform yourself of the topics you want to rave about.


But Heidegger makes little sense even to philosophy professors! There's strong debate taking place about Heidegger within the academy about what he was talking about, and how much he was or wasn't a Nazi. The prof at
for instance argues that Heidegger was a Nazi through and through.
Nearly all sources present Martin Heidegger as the father of postmodernism.
These same sources give Nietzsche as a major influence on Heidegger's ideas, if not the chief influence.
Eric Hobsbawm, from whom I took my definition, is a writer of rare clarity and intelligence. NO ONE has written with more thoroughness about Twentieth Century thought than he has, as you'd understand if you read his Age of Extremes.
The world and what we make of the world is a reflection of our thought.
Clarity of writing is a reflection of clarity of thought. It's that very clarity which is missing from too many writers now-- and it was certainly missing from the work of Martin Heidegger, likely the past century's #1 intellectual con-artist. He even conned his way out of any punishment after the end of the Second World War. The guy could rationalize anything. He was the ultimate bullshit artist-- puts others of the breed like Robbe-Grillet and Tao Lin to shame.


p.s. Broah's post shows the way he's bought the Right/Left binary way of thought which the mass media-- and the educational system-- pushes everyone toward.
Things are a little more complicated.
For instance, in the Cold War context of the time, Robbe-Grillet's ideas were reactionary. They were anti-populist and anti-activist. They were a retreat from involvement in the world. In this sense they were in line with the attitude espoused by William Styron in the Paris Review when he came out against "axe-grinders." In 1950's Europe the Paris Review and Encounter magazine, both backed by CIA  money, were promoting a nonpopulist style of literature as an alternative to what might be called anything smacking of social realism or socially active literature. The same battle was happening within American literature, of course.
This isn't to say Robbe-Grillet was on the "Right." But-- our artistic work is the product of our thought, the foundation of the underlying belief system. The progress of a culture and its art can be tied to the underlying belief system. Is it an accident that the Enlightenment created the greatest works of art and architecture the world has ever seen?
ideas matter.
Many of the ideas being pushed today, in places like the academy, are an intellectual and artistic dead end. You limit yourselves as writers if you fail to recognize this.

Convoluted thought is everywhere, but there are points about this thread, this discussion, to be made.
A couple are about M. Kitchell himself.
Beneath the self-referential nature of his post, ("I suppose," "I feel like," "What I'd like to," "I am invested," "I almost feel like," is the underlying mindset. Kitchell and Tao Lin have superficial disagreements but are in fact ideological soulmates.
The incoherence of Kitchell's post is a reflection of the incoherence of his thought. It's not his fault. His situation is likely shared by most of the readers of this blog.
Everything is conditional. Kitchell can't say anything for sure. Anything he says comes with provisos. Sure, he "disagrees" with "Tao" about "language," but what's "language," something having to do with "words," whatever "words" are. "Tao" is pushing "objectivity," but as we all know or rather are supposed to know our professors have told us there is no "objectivity," and can be none. Or rather, there "is" "no" "objectivity," we can't really know or ultimately say anything, can we? "Know," "say," etc.
Why does Kitchell reference Robbe-Grillet? Why would any American writer reference Robbe-Grillet? R-G and his feckless ideas have nothing to do with the history of American letters, the American character, or the American voice. With the path writers like Kitchell are on or should be on. Robbe-Grillet is taught in the university because his ideas are quirky, and so absurd that for bored profs they're interesting. Kitchell, like so many eager students, has swallowed him whole.
What can we say about Robbe-Grillet?
Yes, I know we can't really say-- or know-- anything about anything, but if hypothetically we lived in an alternate universe where not everything was relative and conditional, where people had sense, then what would we say about a writer like Robbe-Grillet?
(We should put "writer" in quotes in this instance, because scarcely being a "writer" is the R-G appeal, at least for the easily gulled.)
We would say that Robbe-Grillet was a bigger con artist than Tao Lin. Could we say, he was a quack? ("Quack.")
What was Robbe-Grillet peddling? Do you know?
He was selling the ideology of stupidity.
Can anyone dispute this?
Robbe-Grillet wished the writer to empty the mind and so regress himself as a writer as to become the equivalent of a house cat. Like an observant house cat, to merely notice and record, with no thought or judgment brought into the equation.
The great historical analysis, assessment of human society, and theological musings of a Tolstoy-- or even a Frank Norris-- aren't allowed in. That, truly, for Robbe-Grillet, is ("is") another literary universe.
A universe where literature is relevant and important.


tao lin may in fact be a hustler yes but then again so was allen ginsberg / will the world ever be rid of hustlers? i doubt it

poor elvis & all the movies they made him do

i will take a look at yr blog


Now for some further comments on Tao Lin himself. Such comments are for you unfamiliar, uncomfortable to read. Just remember that many people in this society-- possibly even yourself-- are Eloi to whom strong opinion, disagreement, and emotion are new experiences.
A revealing discussion about Tao Lin is the infamous one he had several years ago with Whitney Pastorek. It's still to be found at Tao's "hehehehehehehehe" blog, which might be better named "mememememememememe."
Tao describes how he uses "concrete language," "without emotion." Very Robbe-Grillet-like. He means, without opinion, judgement, humanity.
Here are some interesting quotes from Tao:


(The quotes are the same given yesterday on this blog’s previous post.)

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Quotes from Tao Lin

AS the writer Tao Lin is the latest lit-world darling to self-destruct, I thought I’d post a few quotes of his, for perspective:

"--sometimes my goal is to gain as much power in the lit world as possible, sometimes my goal is to focus on real human beings that i can touch in reality as much as possible, sometimes my goal is to try to be as truthful as possible in the world, sometimes my goal is to try to reduce pain and suffering as much as possible in the world, sometimes my goal is to be as selfish as possible and get as much pleasure as possible for myself, sometimes my goal is to try to not care about identity and to destroy my own, etc., about a thousand more goals and all these goals have probably occurred before within the same hour, if even just 'entertained' for a millisecond—"

This is an expression of the intellectually and morally bankrupt postmodernist philosophy which underpins Tao Lin and his work. As is this:

"I live in the universe
therefore I have no answers, I have no rules, and I don't know anything."
"It should be obvious to everyone that no one knows what to do, no one is right, nothing is right or wrong . . . it is impossible for me to know any of these things. . . ."

I gave these quotes and their source in a discussion I engaged in about Tao Lin and his philosophy in 2011, in the comments section of HTML Giant, of all places—the spawning ground of “Alt Lit” and its nonsensical ideas. HTML Giant says it’s shutting down in a few weeks, incidentally. I suppose rocked by too many scandals. I’ll be posting more of that discussion here in coming days, because it’s, er, enlightening.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Biggest Dinosaur

INDEPENDENT EBOOK AUTHORS are having a field day laughing at this New York Times article, “Literary Lions Unite,” by David Streitfeld:

Death throes of the literary establishment?

Ebookers call it “The Land that Time Forgot,” and refer to the authors mentioned as dinosaurs.

If so, literary agent Andrew Wylie, checking in from Paris, of all places, is the biggest dinosaur of them all. He’s obviously making an extremely good living, being—what? A literary artist? No. Andrew Wylie is a middleman, nothing more, feeding off the current inefficient and top-heavy publishing system; taking a very generous slice of the profits.

Expect more about this issue at NEW POP LIT ( either at the Opinion page, or an upcoming NPL News page.

Monday, September 22, 2014

More Mantel


Predictable voices of offense and protest, as if on cue (the publicists scripted this very well) have been raised about Hilary Mantel’s story, “The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher.” See my review of the story:

as well as this in-depth NEW POP LIT examination of the controversy:

The question arises: Are Mantel’s critics practicing censorship? Is this a free speech issue?

IF the amount of free speech one has is judged by the size of the microphone, then Hilary Mantel has an enormous amount of free speech, given that her book is published by not one, but two of the largest book conglomerates on the planet. Her “assassination” story was published by two of the most important newspapers on earth. If free speech is judged by with what power a writer is supported, and how widely her words are circulated, then Hilary Mantel has many times the amount of free speech as the average writer. Is it 1,000 times more? 10,000 times? That’s the way the matter should be honestly judged.

After all, both the HarperCollins and MacMillan book empires by nature “censor” writers, every day. Seeing that Hilary Mantel’s provocative story is shallow and not very interesting, in and of itself, one can conclude that the decisions made by the book giants as to which writers are published and promoted are based as much on politics as on quality.


What’s most visible in this affair is the sad state of literature today. This great writer, Hilary Mantel, selected for massive publicity; the acme of the legacy publishing industry; lacks an artistic conscience. Not only is her story a cheap hit piece—metaphorically and in actuality—it makes no effort to examine the causes and effects of violence in society. The meaningful questions which a work of literature would be expected to address are nowhere to be found. Unlike the literary giants of past days, the Dickenses and Dostoevskys, Dumases, Hugos, and Tolstoys, Hilary Mantel lacks a moral voice. In judging the story, aside from all other considerations, that lack is everything.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Dueling Assassins


The literary establishment in both the United Kingdom (united a while longer) and New York is making noise about a story by one of their “best,” Booker Prize winner Hilary Mantel. The story is “The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher.”

This interested me, because a couple months ago I produced my latest ebook, a short novella titled Assassination of X. Unlike Mantel, I don’t name my victim, a U.S. senator. My story is also written in a completely different style from Mantel’s, who can write only in the standard status quo literary fashion. You can read her tale here:

The story is not really about Margaret Thatcher, but Hilary Mantel. Which is why she has to name Thatcher—it’s a way to draw attention to herself and her politically-correct attitude. It’s a species of exhibitionism. “Look at me!” Mantel is demonstrating how much she’s always hated Thatcher—used as a symbol—and so, this demonstrates to the intellectual elite her credentials as one of them. The story is merely the excuse used to make the demonstration. It might as well be a painting; Margaret Thatcher with a sour expression on her face; examples of her social crimes depicted behind her. Waiting assassin off to the side.

The story Mantel tells is ridiculous. It’s a farce. Hilary Mantel doesn’t have a clue how such a crime would be done; or what an actual assassin would be like.

Mantel introduces the story with endless description—paragraphs full of it—as if to ensure that all but the proper “literary” audience will lose interest. This completed, the rest is conversation between a Hilary Mantel stand-in and the assassin. All very British and ludicrous. The assassin, about to commit the crime of the century, has scant focus. It’s all very casual. Make the tea, someone. “I’ll mind the gun.” (Note to Mantel: rifle.)

The narrator—these stories are almost always first person; they can only be so because the solipsistic viewpoint is all—has, like Hilary Mantel, not a clue about the weapon used, preparation needed, and such. The assassin is no professional, nor a credible facsimile of a good amateur. Instead, he’s popped whole out of her imagination, a man of stupidity and carelessness, which allows the narrator to engage with him in what might be the most insipid conversation ever—again, given the gravity of the event.

Hilary Mantel takes a pop premise and turns it into literary idiocy. Into cutesiness. This at a time when real terrorists are loose in the world; actors of serious business. With, instead of British casualness, deadly purpose. Unclownish focus. An actual assassin would dispose of the talkative Hilary Mantel stand-in within five seconds—and save himself from her self-centered conversation and precious arrogance.

The story can’t be taken seriously and isn’t meant to be taken seriously. It has no connection to reality. It serves as a way for Mantel to make a connection to the like-minded. As such, though it’s “well-written” by literary standards, it’s not literature. It asks no questions. It challenges no one to re-examine the world or themself. There are no shadings or depths to the story. It’s affirmation, not art.

Of course, I’m biased. Through a new website, at which I’m co-editor (, I’m promoting a style of writing opposed to that of a Hilary Mantel. It’s a different way of looking at the short story art, and at the world.

In my own tale I seek to plunge the reader into the reality of a shocking event. The world itself is the focus—and not the vapid spaces of a privileged author’s head. You can read my modernist pop tale via Kindle or Nook Books. Here’s an Amazon link to it:

I invite you to read both stories and judge the difference.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Diversity of Ideas

As you may have heard, I’m now Editor-in-Chief at an ambitious project called NEW POP LIT ( The main engine behind the endeavor is a Wisconsin dynamo named Andrea Nolen. We receive ideas and support from a variety of “friends and enemies.” While we’re starting as a web site, our plans go far beyond it.


What’s our editorial policy?

Any project I’m involved in will slant toward the DIY end of the spectrum. HOWEVER, presenting one viewpoint isn’t good enough, if we’re to be all things to all readers and writers. While we aim to be at the forefront of change in the literary world, we also seek to present a diversity of ideas.

Diversity of opinion and ideas, even on questions of art, is seldom seen anywhere today.

Left-wing media present left-wing ideas, while right-wing media present right-wing ideas.

A literary journal like Brooklyn-based n+1 presents their narrow range of ideas, while a similar lit journal like The Believer, albeit in San Francisco, presents a slightly quirkier version of same; no less pretentious, with an equally narrow range.

Sides have been taken on the Amazon-versus-Hachette fight. Establishment writers and editors plead with Jeff Bezos or the universe to stop economic change— “Save us!”—while other writers embrace that change. No middle ground is found between the two camps, but castigations ARE all over the place.

NEW POP LIT stands for a new literary path. We’re asking a smorgasboard of voices to help us determine a “Third Way” between competing sides. For literary art: a hybrid. Compromise. For ideas about process and publishing, we’ll explore all viewpoints.

In coming days we’ll solicit informed opinions on current literary issues. For and against. Status quo or DIY. We welcome input even from those few writers or critics who embrace neutrality.

We hope to regularly report on the literary future. In some small way, we plan to make it.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Better Fiction?

What does better fiction look like?

If NEW POP LIT is to distinguish itself from the literary pack, we'll need to present new fiction as good or better than what anyone else is publishing. Our task is to discover hidden talent-- exciting new writers.

We're doing that! (Just three weeks up and running.) See our latest gem, "The Unshakable Kayfabe of Tommy Rage," by Andrea Gregovich-- an inside look at the small town wrestling scene.

A pop topic is combined with the sensitivity of a Mary Gaitskill.

Read it! This is terrific writing.

Third Way Fiction

Catch the New Pop Wave

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Shooting the Messenger

AS I’VE LIVED much of my life in Detroit, and had it drummed into my head over and over that change is inevitable, I’m sensitive to economic change elsewhere in the world—particularly the inability to recognize or acknowledge drastic change.

It was with this mindset that I jumped briefly into a discussion at the widely-read literary blog The Millions. The topic of the thread, “Practical Art: On Teaching the Business of Creative Writing,” was the idea of introducing business questions into the structure of creative programs. What I found interesting in the initial post by Nick Ripatrazone, and subsequent comments, is that no one acknowledged the proverbial elephant in the room. (See the post here—you’ll have to scroll down to reach my remarks:

My comments were aggressive, but not extreme by any means. They were written with clarity and intelligence. What I found interesting in the responses was that no one addressed my point about the uncompetitiveness of the book publishing giants. One respondent finessed the issue, saying it would be a shame if the big publishers went under. Well, maybe, but that’s not the point. The point is that change in the publishing realm IS happening. It does a disservice to students in writing programs not to mention this. Students should be given all the options available to them.

Neither was I advocating excluding the big publishers from the marketplace, or from the world of literary ideas. That’s scarcely an option. I’m sure some of them will survive, in retrenched form. Like most bureaucracies—the Detroit automakers a notable example—they likely won’t change until reality comes crashing down upon them; when they can willfully ignore reality no longer.

Neither would I want to exclude literary writers from literature—though I’d suggest they learn to tweak their writing, to make it more competitive in a changing world. My co-editor at, Andrea Nolen, and myself want to walk a middle path between the two extremes of literary and popular writing. We’ve stated again and again that the short story should be able to be both. (However, to suggest that Nobel Prize-winning short story writer Alice Munro, with her lengthy paragraphs and endless descriptions of trifles, her turtle’s pace, is readable and pop is absurd.) NEW POP LIT is designed to offer an alternative to both camps. I went on The Millions site to get word out to MFA/status quo writers who otherwise wouldn’t consider amending their art, to write what we call The New New.

After the reasonable comments of “Hot Ossuary” came a predictable demi-puppet attack by someone named “Toad.” A classic case of cognitive dissonance. I have no doubt that Toad read my remarks as he described them. It’s a condition of the human animal that when encountering sudden contrary ideas, the average person will at first see only red—the mind distorts the message, reading the words emotionally, instead of seeing what’s actually there. Toad ends up making me look moderate!

I suspect that within five years even Toad, as well as the blog he appears on (and for?) will be open to DIY ebook writing. In the face of reality, all bandwagons and their followers eventually change course.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Cat and a Ballerina?

That’s the subject of our latest NEW POP LIT “Rate-This-Story!” feature, “Attitude En Pointe” by Christina Murphy.

Take a minute to read this short short and vote on it!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Is the Phanatic Leaving Philadelphia?


The notion of the Phillie Phanatic leaving Philadelphia has been the subject of conversation since the spring. See this article:

The idea interests me, since my new project, NEW POP LIT—which I’m producing with writer/blogger Andrea Nolen as well as the Friends and Enemies of Pop Literature—needs a mascot!

(See our fantastic site: )

If the Phillie Phanatic is truly available, searching for a better deal, we’d like to make him an offer. Maybe some classic Detroit–style Coney Dogs and the opportunity to watch, um, a better baseball team. (And by now he must be tired of cheesesteaks.)

Of course, since the Phanatic is a native of the Galapagos Islands, there’s the question of possible travel restrictions on his visa.

“Rate This Story!”


One of the features of the New Pop Lit website will be “Rate-This-Story” as part of our Interactive page, which is located in a side room of the New Pop Lit “Coffeehouse.” First up is short story writer Lance Manion with his “how a story fails.” What is this guy talking about? Click on the link and see.

(Scroll down for more Interactivity.)

Kudos to NPL co-editor Andrea Nolen for the striking look she’s achieved—and mucho thanks to Mr. Manion for courageously contributing his story!


(This week’s NPL Feature Story coincidentally is also about a writer: “Harry Pinker Does It Again” by Corey Mesler. It’s also something of a short detective story. We are, after all, a pop lit site.)

Thanks. Happy reading.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

New Pop Lit Is Here!


Get the New New hyperreal hyperexciting pop stories art ideas mascots games the new entertaining literary web site. Surf the New Literary Wave.

Has the New Pop Lit era begun?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Terrific Story Writers

IF our task is to discover the best pop short story writers, we've already located two of them: Jessie Lynn McMains and Ian Lahey. Read their work NOW, "Insect Summer" and "Matt Murphy Private Eye" at New Pop Lit:

We're finding good writers but we want more of them!

(Take our poll at


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

New Pop Lit Is Coming!

WHAT is that appearing on the horizon, in the distance but moving steadily closer? Is it ISIS? Omar Sharif in “Lawrence of Arabia?” Are they good guys or bad guys? Do they carry destruction or renewal?

It’s NEW POP LIT! Launch date is in four days. Time to get on board as a writer, artist, reader or game participant. (Yes, we will have an interaction section.) What should the New New in literature look like? Will it lean more toward the literary or pop? Can we rescue the short story from its doldrums, and thereby reinvigorate literature as a whole?


Please answer the current question at our Coffeehouse feature: “Does NEW POP LIT Need a Mascot?” Do we? If so, what should it look like?

Also, please take our poll, “Pop or Literary?” placed directly beneath the mascot post. Both can be accessed here:

We have one must as a new literary site: That everyone have fun.

Monday, August 04, 2014

What Is Art?

Probably as a reaction to the unparalleled horrors of a world gone berserk, the post-World War II generation had a passionate commitment to art. Especially to the beauty of art, as shown in these clips from the 1948 film THE RED SHOES. Note the color and emotion—it’s likely the most beautiful movie ever made.

Note the attitude of the young people in the story toward the ideal of art—real art.

The question is whether members of the millennial generation can approximate this ideal; this commitment. As co-editor of a new literary web site I’ll settle for a handful of them—writers and artists willing to break all bounds to create the otherworldly. Ultimate art which exceeds expectations, which reaches deep into the human soul.

A crazy but necessary goal.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Locating Talent

The first question: What’s talent?

For a new project, NEW POP LIT, we’re receiving a number of submissions which fit into two categories:

1.) Masses of run-on verbiage. The ex-zinester syndrome. Much of it is good, but needs to be put into a structure.

2.) Writers with too much structure. Everything is given from one viewpoint, fitting into a narrow, solipsistic world. The writers and their stories take no risks.

We want explosive writing, but we want it to be tightly compressed, jammed into the confines of a plot, which will make the writing all the more powerful.

We want structure, but we want the writing within that structure not to be careful and timid.

Our goal is to reinvent the short story art.

Launch date: August 16.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Hype: Onstage or Off?

Howl Photo

The question is whether it’s easier to hype something when it’s not seen—or to use all current media tools and techniques which show the consumer everything?

Back in the day, promotion used to include an air of mystery.

Some say the basis of charisma is mystery.

A test case is the Underground Literary Alliance’s “Howl” reading/protest at Columbia University in 2006. Here’s an article about the event by establishment writer Rachel Aviv:

The article is fairly dismissive of the ULAers, yet captures some of the excitement of the affair.

Now, here’s video of the ULA that day, the first part of things anyway, our drinking from pitchers of margaritas and our own impromptu reading outside.

Which is more effective—the article or the video?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Needed: Artists and Writers

The editors of NEW POP LIT, Andrea Nolen and myself, are looking for good short stories to post at our upcoming site, as well as colorful artwork to illustrate the stories.

The theme: fun and excitement.

The site is under construction.

Email submissions or ideas to:

Stay posted as to the progress of this campaign via tweets @newpoplit

Please tell your friends. Target launch date is in about three weeks.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Where’s Lawrence Richette’s Writing?

Philadelphia writer Lawrence Richette died late last year. He was a competent novelist—a throwback to another time in that he wrote with clarity and intelligence about real-world issues, using no postmodern tricks. Larry died late last year. The question is: who are his heirs? Who managed his estate? What happened to his unpublished writing?

Larry Richette self-published much of his work, but not all of it. He’d told me he’d written many short stories. I’d love to publish the best of them on-line as part of a new literary project. Where are the stories? Who has them?

If anyone knows the answer to these questions, please let me know.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

“The Friends and Enemies of Pop Literature”

This is the name currently being used by a few writers interested in renewing literature through newer, clearer, more intelligent art. Several announcements about this campaign are forthcoming. Right now we’re looking for talent—talent of every variety.

If you’re interested in supporting, or becoming part of, this project, email me at Thanks.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The New New

I’ll soon announce my involvement in a new literary project with ambitious goals. It will be a campaign not of activism, but art. It will follow a principle of unilateral peace toward former antagonists. I’m prepared, in fact, to work with anyone and everybody.

Past is past.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

How Does One Build a Better Literature?

WHAT KIND of team would be needed to credibly challenge status quo literature? What mix of talents? Strategy and tactics?

CAN the status quo be challenged? While their attitude is unchanging, unassailable, they’re standing on quicksand.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Short Story Ingredients


Any time I write a short story, I’m reminded that fiction is a careful mix of ingredients. For it to work, the mixture must achieve some kind of balance. In my new ebook I’ve created a complex structure in order to explain a complex plot. To be able to do this, and keep the tale moving, I’ve skimped in parts on description and characterization. 

There are two versions of my story. First the “Director’s Cut,” and then a reworking, the “Producer’s Cut.” In my reworking I removed some insight into the characters, but also any trace of self-indulgent “fine writing.” I’ve done this to maintain pace—but there’s the danger of having too much pace. I’ve had to add short bits when I needed to slow things down. Complexity and flow? Perfect balance? It may not be possible. “Modernist Pop” is almost an oxymoron—but I’m nothing if not ambitious.

What’s left in? What’s cut? That defines the art of the art. Not everything can be jammed into one work. There are only so many words in one story.

(“Assassination of X” is now available at Amazon’s Kindle Store  Barnes and Noble’s Nook Books.)

Friday, June 13, 2014

Three Ways to Write a Story


1.) Start writing and allow the story to create itself.

In movies, shoot the world and find a theme. European directors like Fellini, Godard, and the Neorealists did this.

2.) Outline your story or novel step-by-step, setting up everything in advance. Know where you’re going and where you’ll end.

In movies, this is the storyboard technique used by Alfred Hitchcock and George Lucas. No surprises.

3.) Write a ton of material (or shoot a ton of footage) around a chosen subject—then eliminate, rearrange, edit, to discover what works best.

Film directors George Stevens and Orson Welles, among others, worked like this.


With my own recent writing I’ve tried all three ways.

In ebook novellas CRIME CITY USA and THE MCSWEENEYS GANG I used way #1.

With THE TOWER, I designed and plotted the entire novel in advance. The ending was the first part I wrote. Way #2.

With my new work, my “prototype,” ASSASSINATION OF X, I used Way #3. I wrote more than 20,000 words on the event the tale is about. I knocked this down to 15,000 words to patch together a narrative. My first version. Then I eliminated more of it.

I find it’s the hardest way to write. To complicate matters I used a few new tricks-- “literary montage”—learning to use new tools; discovering the excitement of mastering a more difficult skill.

I hope the result is worth the effort.

Buy ASSASSINATION OF X at Kindle or Nook.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Modernist Pop


My newest ebook, Assassination of X, is now available at both Amazon’s Kindle Store and BN’s Nook Books. (Links at left.) It’s my first experimental prototype to make it out of the shop. I have others in the planning stage.

What are my objectives?

1.) To convey ideas.

2.) To engage the broader culture.

3.) To make reading a new experience. To view the world—through the prism of fiction—with fresh eyes.

4.) To present new ways of creating the literary art.

5.) To be readable.

6.) To carry a punch.

7.) Or, to write an intelligent story without alienating the reader. A difficult task, but not impossible.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Not a Pop Writer


As I’ve long argued at this blog, there are two kinds of fiction writers in America now. The cookie-cutter genre novelist, whose work seems stamped from an auto parts stamping factory, or the “literary writer,” whose work is just as predictable and generic, only less readable, more pretentious, and deliberately unexciting.

I’ve argued for the kind of “pop lit” that’ll bridge the divide. An increasing number of writers are arguing likewise—and more, trying to themselves create that new kind of fiction which can be “pop” fast and entertaining, but also meaningful and relevant at the same time. It’s an ambitious quest and a difficult enterprise.

Former zine writer Ann Sterzinger once showed promise at creating new pop fiction. She wrote short-but-powerful stories which were dramatic and moved at a good pace. They were fun, often upsetting, always fascinating reads.

Then Ann decided to become “educated.” In the process she adopted the worst aspects of the academy-spawned literati.

That’s my conclusion anyway after reading about a third, so far, of one of Ann’s recent Nine Band Books novels, NVSQVAM (Nowhere).

The novel is an interminable narrative consisting mostly of Henry James-style interior monologues filled with doctoral-student banalities—most dialogue put in italics to further alienate the general reader. The objective is to impress rather than enlighten, much less (gasp!) entertain.

The viewpoint is impossibly solipsistic. The novel includes footnotes. Footnotes! A la everyone’s favorite unreadable author David Foster Wallace. “Look at Me!” the writer is saying. “I know something.” (Or, I did not completely waste the dollars spent on my education.)

There’s the ghost of a good story buried under the verbiage. Plenty of cynicism and wit—diluted by the banality of life. Likely the banality is the point—but who needs to read it? We live it. Most of us read to escape from the mundane and the disappointing.

An excerpt:

“He wasn’t walking toward the health center quite yet; he was walking
toward the big pink mall that squatted across the highway from the Wal-
Mart. He had planned to spend the morning editing his dissertation, but
two clauses into it his head had begun to pound. He thought at first that
he was dying of a stroke, but the pounding stopped whenever he looked
away from the computer screen. So he turned it off—why bother, when
the review committee would dutifully find fault no matter what?—and
found time on his hands. He had needed to buy new walking shoes for
months. He asked himself why, if he really needed a shrink, the mild
irony of walking through traffic to the mall so he could buy walking
shoes didn’t upset him more.”

In and of itself, it’s a fine paragraph. Well written, wise-eyed and all that—but unendurable when there are two hundred other finely written paragraphs just like it.

The old maxims of writing hold true. SHOW us on occasion, don’t just tell us. FIND a proper mix of narrative and scene. Bring pictures of what’s happening to the mind’s eye. Create a plot. Plant hooks. Have pace. BE dramatic.

There’s no effort to impose structure—sense and order—on the writing. That would be too condescending. Too beneath the intelligent writer, whose sense of intelligence, expressed solipsistically, is all. (Yet design—structure—is an expression of intelligence.)

Here I was worried about the readability of my new novella (ASSASSINATION OF X) and worked to impose order on the viewpoints and ideas—chapter numbers and the like-- so that the unwary reader stumbling upon it would be able to follow what’s happening. But let’s not bring that much-scorned creature the reader into the equation!

And so books written with clarity—no matter how shitty—control the marketplace, while authors capable of writing intelligently vomit out their intelligence in a stream of nonsensical consciousness, lest they’re thought to be pandering to the demands of the marketplace. It’s a willful need for obscurity.


(I Challenge Ann, and anyone else, to write a pop story that’s intelligent, fast-paced, dramatic and entertaining. I know someone putting together a new project who’ll be looking for such stories. People, please let me know if you or anyone you know can create that new story: can give us exciting new art.)

Tuesday, June 03, 2014


This is to announce the release of my new fiction ebook, Assassination of X. It’s now available at Amazon’s Kindle Store. I expect it to also soon be available at Nook Books.

What’s it about? That’s given in the title to this post.

My goal with the novella was twofold. To move at breakneck speed, and to leave the reader wanting more. Whether I achieve that or not is for you to judge.

Get ASSASSINATION OF X. New pop fiction of a kind you’ve never read.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Did I Edit Too Much?

Does the narrative of my new ebook, Assassination of X, move too fast? I might've been thinking as I wrote it, "race car."

The ebook is available at Amazon's Kindle Store, if you care to take a look.  (It's a mystery story, of sorts.)

(A link to Amazon is on this page.)

Saturday, May 31, 2014

What Is Modernism?

To me, modernism means presenting an artwork as a collection of fragments, with the reader or viewer required to fill in the spaces using imagination and intelligence. Everything is not explained.

(Stay tuned for my upcoming ebook-- fiction as a modernist painting. Does it retain pop elements?)

Friday, May 30, 2014

What If?


I don’t know if anyone else has posited this yet. To me it seems obvious. Or maybe I give some people credit for being smarter than they are.

The question: What if Los Angeles Clippers basketball team owner Donald Sterling wanted to sell the team all along? What if the scandal regarding his recorded racist remarks with his girlfriend were part of an elaborate plan to set up the National Basketball Association and the general public, big-money investors included? What if he and his wife have been playing everyone all along?

It seems to have worked. They’re on the verge of unloading a perpetual money loser for two billion dollars, three times its projected value. What’s more, they have the NBA demanding they sell at that ridiculous figure.

The scandal certainly inflated the value of the team, and the cachet in owning it. It’s a first. It’s like a robber on the street holding a gun to Donald Sterling’s head and saying, “Here! Take this money! I insist!”

Is Donald Sterling (with associates, wife and girlfriend) that sharp?

Friday, May 23, 2014

What Makes Great Art?

Being an adult means seeing the world through an adult viewpoint. It means realizing you grew up in a world of lies and half truths. Not the standard accepted lies—that America is exceptional and great. It actually is. The lie was that it was perfect. Gullible idealists with childlike sensibilities took the imperfections for totality. They abandoned context and rejected the core truth.

Most of us have grown up in a culture of lies. For instance, that rock n’ roll isn’t merely entertaining, and historically important as a folk movement, but also artistically significant. From the start rock was created and marketed for thirteen year-olds. If you’re still listening seriously at age 40 or 50 to Van Halen or the Rolling Stones, or Bruce Springsteen, or Kurt Cobain and Nirvana and Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam, it means you haven’t advanced. Culturally you’ve remained an adolescent, with the tastes and sensibility of an adolescent.

The problem is that most of us of any age aren’t exposed to great art. We can’t appreciate that which is unknown.

I offer the premise that a single opera, “Turandot,” by Giacomo Puccini, is greater art than the entire history of rock music. The Beatles and Stevie Wonder included. As does all great art, “Turandot” reaches deeper into the soul, while at the same time it connects with the cosmos; the mysteries of space and time.


Due to fortunate circumstances, I was able to see “Turandot” twice at the Detroit Opera House during its recent run. The first time was an overwhelming experience. The second time I saw deeper into the opera, its depths and breadths, realizing more of what makes it work. Revealed to me were the commonalities it has with a handful of ultimate masterworks like “King Lear” or The Brothers Karamazov. You see, “Turandot,” not “Madame Butterfly” or “La Boheme,” is Puccini’s masterpiece.

I can’t explain why in a single blog post. For now I’ll describe part of the experience.

The two leads, Lise Lindstrom as Turandot and Rudy Park as Calaf, carry superpowerful voices. When you get into opera the first thing you realize is that this is real singing. The major leagues of voice. In comparison, widely hyped pop stars give us amplified screeching and caterwauling. I appreciate their promotional abilities (Lady Gaga performed in town the same night I was at the opera) but I also know it’s a con game.

The performance at the opera that most stayed with me afterward was not that of the two heroic-sized bigs, or the superpowerful chorus—or even the martial arts sequence!—but Donata D’Annunzio Lombardi as the tragic slave girl Liu. Never have I seen live on a stage a more emotional performance. Lombardi’s wasn’t just a physical performance, but a spiritual one. Her character seemed to rise out of herself as she sang—partly due to her perfect voice control and total identification with the character; as much due to the magic of Puccini for writing the music and developing the role. It’s the kind of performance to be remembered through a lifetime. At the same time I could watch her do the part not once or twice, but a hundred times, and not be disappointed.


I’ve long advocated for populist art. Is there a contradiction in my becoming an unofficial advocate for an obscure and expensive art like opera?

I don’t think so. Opera is no more of an elitist art than literature. Both require an initial level of difficult adjustment. Reading must be taught. With opera, you merely sit through a few of them. If you have a mind, a heart, and a soul, the cultural barriers vanish. You realize suddenly what the art is about.

(Maybe you need scars on your psyche to appreciate opera. Pop/rock music has superficial appeal. Opera goes into your soul.)

Puccini is a populist among opera composers. A local Detroit reviewer bemoaned that Puccini wasn’t cutting edge, like Alban Berg! Or, I assume, other atonalists. The public doesn’t want atonality. They want drama and color, and passion, which is what Puccini is about.

Likewise, “literature” today suffers from a kind of a-tonality removing itself from the public. It lacks broad themes, color, drama, larger-than-life emotion. It no longer carries broad themes expressing the movements of societies and humanity, the depths of the soul or the vast reach of the universe. Until it again finds those attributes it will become increasingly distant from the public; an art that will have to be reached by accident; an unknown grail to be searched for, maybe discovered, maybe not, like opera.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Yes Men

The problem with the established literary world is that it’s filled with yes men.

I thought this in the aftermath of the NFL draft. The local team, the Detroit Lions, made a senseless first pick IMHO. Too many local commentators afterward took the management view, instead of calling the team out for what seems yet another blunder.

The Detroit Lions have won exactly one playoff game in fifty (50) years. The burden of proof is on the team. They have no track record of success. They deserve no benefit of doubt.


Can the same be said of American literature and those who run it?

For fifty years the cultural trendline has been down. There’ve been no innovations, no growth spurts, no large personalities who’ve grabbed the attention and imagination of America. Only a continuation of the mediocre.

There are small successes, sure—enough to give encouragement to the status quo; preserving the illusion that all is well. Donna Tartt has written, apparently, a fairly good novel. Lorrie Moore has written another mildly witty book. Etc. Outside the literary realm, these successes grab the attention of no one.


This is what American writing has lost during the past fifty years. The ability to turn the readership—ultimately the culture—upside down. To reorient the literary universe—and American culture itself.

How does one go about that?

One way not to do it is through the “everybody get along” philosophy of our friends on the west coast. If new writing isn’t upsetting the mandarins, it’s not doing its job. New art needs to be artistically provocative; provocative with its ideas as well. It needs to hold a mirror up to society, including to the intellectual class, and not simply to that smug class’s favorite targets.

Bold style and unflinching substance. New writing must be radical in both departments. At the same time it needs the ability to be read, otherwise it’ll not engage the populace.


This is one of a scattering of blogs devoted to literature that’s not run by yes men.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Writer Friendly or Reader Friendly?

For a writer, this is ultimately the key question. Most of what we create looks good to ourselves, but that doesn't mean it works. Especially when we try hard to write well, the result is often self-indulgence. (Writers like David Foster Wallace made careers out of self-indulgence.)

Which is a roundabout way of saying I've put my chief fiction prototype back in the shop. I've begun taking it apart, then will reconstruct it, paring much of it. With the original version I took my notions of modernism too far.

With this proposed ebook I behaved first like an Orson Welles with "The Magnificent Ambersons"-- trying new ideas and a few new tricks, heedless of overall effect. For the reconstruction I need to be more like Welles's editor Robert Wise-- putting together a version that's coherent and moves.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Best TV Movie Ever?

On a brief Orson Welles kick, I found this TV movie from 1975 while searching the Internet. “The Night That Panicked America,” based on the famous Welles “War of the Worlds” radio hoax. Slow starting, but then compelling, filled with humor and pathos. Worth a look.


Monday, April 28, 2014

Making Modernism Work

How many writers have read The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald? Many thousands. Maybe millions. Yet not one of these writers knows artistically what’s going on in it. They don’t understand what Fitzgerald as an artist is doing with the tale.

Oh, there have been professors who’ve broken down Fitzgerald’s use of time in the novel, showing its complexity. (Fitzgerald carefully studied Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness.”) The profs discovered Fitzgerald’s use of modernist technique. They had part of the picture, but not all of it.

As I’ve explained previously on my “Pop” blog, in The Great Gatsby Scott Fitzgerald became a pop writer—or at least half a pop writer. The elements of a genre tale are there. A gangster. A mysterious past. Money. Murder. Speeding cars. Quick violence. The protagonist possesses a dual identity: Jay Gatsby and James Gatz. Self-creation—which Fitzgerald took from the greatest and most influential pop novel, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.

I advocate for the fusion of pop and literary writing. It’s been done. F. Scott Fitzgerald achieved it in his greatest work. Modernism fused with pop.

Curiously enough, his buddy Ernest Hemingway at times seemed to be on the same path. “The Killers” is close to pop. His in our time (the primitive version) with its fragments of experience is very modernist, yet Hemingway’s genre sensibility of action and violence is present at the same time.

Both writers were able to write basic prose of simple sentences to keep the narrative moving. For a modernist this is essential. It’s the only way literary modernism can work without losing its audience.

What happened to American literature? Why were these trails not followed?

Instead of combining its strands, American writing divided—until today we have opposite poles. The literary and popular inhabit different worlds.

There’s no incentive from either big publishing or academia to bridge the gap. The genre novel is expected to be as simple and formulaic as possible. The same thin product stamped out over and over with minute variations.

With the literary, we see the ideology of the well-written sentence, as perpetuated by presumed authorities like Heidi Pitlor or The New Yorker editors. Writers who follow this path create Xerox art—copies of copies of copies, no one trying to find a way out.

Meanwhile, modernism morphed into postmodernism. Extreme solipsism as practiced by the form’s presumed god, David Foster Wallace. In his fiction, Wallace escaped into his head and wouldn’t come out, describing experience in an acutely self-conscious manner. Describing his feelings instead of objectively examining the world. Self-consciousness and self-indulgence; run-on sentences representing run-on thought.

The trick for the writer, the artist, is to reverse the process. Instead of bringing the world into the mind, project the mind onto the world. Make plot and settings representations of the subconscious. This was done with the novel She by H. Rider Haggard a couple centuries ago. It’s what “Batman” in its various forms is about. It’s the essence of “pop.”


In my coming ebooks I plan to leap ahead to where American literature should be artistically if it hadn’t been sidetracked by mediocrity and nonsense. The question is whether or not the literary world is too culturally regressed to recognize what I’m doing. We’ll see, I guess.


In my spare time I’ve also been examining movies for clues about the nature of art. My latest study is “Body and Soul,” a 1947 boxing movie starring John Garfield, which is formulaic and fast moving, gritty and tough, yet at the same time amazingly complex. Clues, tricks, techniques, layers: meaning everyplace. Stay tuned for my thoughts.