New Hemingway-Fitzgerald Discovery?

basil and josephine cover

Is New Pop Lit about to make some literary history?

We had assumed someone else had written about this– maybe someone has– but it seems that in the answer to our Hemingway-Fitzgerald Trivia Question lies a different take on the relationship between those two giants of American letters. It’s important because the two talents stand today as THE largest personalities dominating the field of American letters– in particular, the novel and short story. Iconic figures.

The new take is this: Ernest Hemingway took some obvious shots at F. Scott Fitzgerald over the years. But what if Fitzgerald had been creating some snarky portrayals of Hemingway, in his fiction, first? This appears to be the case.

We’re readying an explanation of all this. . . .

The Other Two

OUR OTHER TWO writers selected as top (#1) bracket seeds for the Tournament ARE:

C.) Herman Melville

Melville

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D.) Mark Twain

Mark_Twain_by_AF_Bradley

We’ll explain our choices tonight at New Pop Lit‘s “Fun Stuff” Interactive blog.

Let the catcalls begin!

#1 Seeds

Two American writers were so gigantic in standing and influence, even on the world stage, that they’re automatic #1 seeds. Both of them, in ways good or bad, helped define what it is to be American.

A.) Ernest Hemingway

hemingway at work

B.) Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman

We’ll explain our choices this afternoon at New Pop Lit’s Interactive blog.

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We’re re-discussing the other two #1 seeds. May not announce those until the weekend. . . .

Disclaimer

JUST IN CASE readers don’t “get” it:

The All-Time American Writers Tournament and events surrounding it will be fictional– though we do hope to mix in opinion and comments from actual readers and writers, as well as the occasional fictional depiction of a living literary personage. Our plan is also to use real persons as judges for the matches themselves. (Not too early to volunteer!)

The Tournament could be called an on-line novel, which mixes in some literary criticism and satire. Where exactly it’s going; how it will end? We have no idea.

Granta’s Young American Novelists

A CONTRARY VIEW

Granta cover

LITERARY ARISTOCRACY LIVES!

At least, it lives within tiny literary circles in London and New York. The aristos exist in small rooms with mirrored walls which make their numbers and clout appear greater– to themselves– than they actually are.

And so, Granta Magazine‘s “Best of Young American Novelists 3” has sent shock waves through the clubby room, if nowhere else. Which well-connected New York-based writers should have been included? Which had better been left out?

We’re not talking the 1920’s, when there were a host of culturally-and-artistically significant young American novelists to talk about– Hemingway/Fitzgerald/Faulkner/Wolfe/Dos Passos– giant names, talents, personalities, personas.

No, there is no young Tiger Woods waiting to revive the literary sport. What we get is what we get. The Granta 21.

One can assume the presented writings of the Granta 21 will appear daring to established literati. That everything said by them will appeal to the New York literati mindset and the greater literary mob. They wouldn’t have been included otherwise.

But enough of this rant. What are the facts?

THE FACTS

17 of the 21 novelists are captives of New York-based “Big 5” conglomerate publishing. (Random House with the most.) Of the other four writers, two live in New York City. Which proves that, for establishment lit people, New York remains center of the universe.

Most, if not all of the Granta 21 came up through the system– jumping through the required hoops at select writing programs of Stanford, Columbia, Iowa, or Brown. Most have been awarded with lavish non-profit (tax shelter) largesse: MacArthur Genius awards; grants from PEN, Young Lions, Guggenheim, National Book Foundation– large pools of well-protected wealth. Fellowships as well: MacDowell, NYFA, Fulbrights. There remains a truly massive system in the United States for creating approved writers; the greatest ever seen in world history. Huge bureaucracies. Enormous expenditures via sprawling real estate-gobbling universities, and Manhattan skyscrapers bursting with agents, editors, and publicists. The Granta 21 is what the giant behemoths have produced. Best of the best of system art, for whatever that’s worth.

Our contention is that the 21 aren’t representative of America, so much as a well-screened, well-indulged fragment of America.

IMPERIAL LITERATURE

union jack

Even more than New York City, London– where Granta is based– has an ingrained imperialist mindset. The point-of-view is always tops-down, with the rest of the world there to be colonized by those with the proper tops-down mindset. Everything stems from the ivory towers of Cambridge and Oxford. (In the U.S.A., Yale, Harvard, Columbia, Brown et.al.) Those from outlying territories can join the club by coming to the Imperial City or going through one of the elite academic screening centers.

The sun never sets on the Anglo-American cultural empire.

This isn’t bad or good. It just IS.

EXCEPTIONS

There are a few ringers thrown in. or at least one, in the person of Halle Butler, who lives in Chicago and is published by an indy, Curbside Splendor Publishing, based in Chicago. Hail Halle!

There are two African-born writers who may be American, or may not. Dinaw Mengestu was educated in the U.S., but now lives in Paris. Close enough. Chinelo Okperanta was shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African writers. In this day and age, editors get diversity any way they can. Everything is global, after all. (Globalism has always been a euphemism for Imperialism.)

Then there’s Mark Doten, published by indy Graywolf Press; fiction editor at indy Soho Press. Doten teaches English at Columbia University, as does one of the four Granta judges, Ben Marcus. Mark Doten straddles both worlds.

QUESTIONS

We have two questions.

1.) Is any one of the 21 “best” novelists under 40 qualified to be in the All-Time American Writers Tournament? They’re the future, after all. The present. Is forty years enough time to show outstanding talent?

garth2

What about Garth Hallberg? Hallberg received an enormous advance for his novel, then a tremendous publicity blitz behind the book from the Manhattan publicity machine. Ever hear of Garth Hallberg? Does he deserve to be ranked with Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Morrison, and company? (Uh, no.)

2.) Are any of the Granta 21 even as talented as the four young writers, under the age of 30, that we recently profiled? See our Overview, which contains links to their work.

Granta‘s 21, or our four? Judge for yourself.

-K.W.

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New Pop Lit is at New Pop Lit.

 

 

 

Pop Writers

HYPER-TALENTS OF THE NEW LITERARY AGE PART IV

Rippl_The_Detective for essay

(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.

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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 Lahey

 

 

 

 

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.

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However, the best pure pop story we’ve run to date is a new one by Alan Swyer, “Country Sweetheart.”

Alan Swyer photo one

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. . . .

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Next up in this series: “Underground”