HYPER-TALENTS OF THE NEW LITERARY AGE PART IV
(Painting: “The Detective” by Jozsefs Rippl-Ronai.)
Why pop short story writers?
Because in the days of Jack London and O. Henry, the short story was THE popular American art form. Any renewal of literature starts there.
It’s begun!– particularly with various styles of “flash” or short short fiction, which puts an emphasis on brevity, clarity, and punch. But there’s no reason why entertaining and accessible stories can’t be longer, as they once were.
Recently we published a fairly long pop story by Norbert Kovacs, “The Fight,” which gives a hint at what’s possible.
We’ve published several writers who skirt the line between pop and pop lit, often through different twists on genre fiction. Among them is Ian Lahey, whose most recent story for us, from 2016, is “What I Don’t See.”
Ian uses a genre style and setting of agents conducting an interrogation to throw the reader off balance– making us see in the situation what we otherwise might not see.
However, the best pure pop story we’ve run to date is a new one by Alan Swyer, “Country Sweetheart.”
What makes Swyer’s story work is its sense of humor, along with the affection Alan Swyer has for the characters and for the often-quirky world of country music. It’s an entertaining story about entertainers– and about other things like authenticity. Authentic art. The main character may in some ways be a fraud (to put it mildly!) but at the same time his feeling for the music, his colleagues, and his audience is thoroughly genuine. The suspense comes from the question of how long he’ll be able to get away with the imposture. Or, how will he be caught?
The tale is quintessentially American in a variety of ways. Not least of them is the theme of reinvention– that, contrary to what Scott Fitzgerald once said, there are second acts in American life. (Why people came here in the first place.) But also the story’s love for the land and people, combined with a sense of good old fashioned fun-loving ballyhoo. The American quality of finding yourself through being an entertainer. Entertaining through singing, or entertaining through storytelling.
Our interest here is in the latter. . . .
Next up in this series: “Underground”