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