Monday, December 17, 2012

Innovative Pop

ONE MILLION would-be writers are cranking out pop fiction and publishing them via ebooks and other outlets. AMERICAN POP LIT ebooks are distinguished by their originality and innovation. While I’m fully capable of writing a standard pop narrative (see “Hoppenngger House” at, I’m also willing to play with the form, as I do with the latest APL release, The McSweeneys Gang. What exactly is it? A novel? Satire? Criticism? Theory? Detective story? History? Madness?

Throughout, the narrative maintains pop style and energy. A collection of pop motifs hitting the reader at high speed.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Pop Black Style

ESPN commentator Rob Parker has accused Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III of being cornball. But RG III isn’t cornball. Eli Manning is cornball. RG III is pop. Robert Griffin III dresses and behaves in a pop style, which is something else.

Once again the Underground Literary Alliance was ten years ahead of the curve. We enlisted Detroit cartoonist Yul Tolbert to do much of our artwork. He creates in a pop black style. Or if you will, a black pop style. Check out the evidence here:

and here:
(Except watch for the ads!)

Pop style is colorful and not a little cartoonish. Most of all it’s fun. What does RG III seem to be about? Having fun!

In its heyday the ULA was always fun, and—who knows?—may be again, soon.

New Pop Novel

State of the art pop fiction satire like never before with The McSweeneys Gang, now on sale via Kindle or Nook. See links to the side.

SEE what new-style pop fiction looks like!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Back to Basics

I heard some Blondie/New Wave music yesterday. Classics like “Hanging on the Telephone” and “Atomic.” For a time, pop music had a remarkable ability to keep reinventing itself. Just as things were stagnating with pretentious album-oriented rock in the 70’s, punk and new wave hit the scene in reaction. Bands like the Ramones went back to basics. They simplified the art and made it exciting again.

This is what needs to happen with the literary scene. Forget over-pretentious overwritten sluggishly slogging tomes by the likes of Jonathan Franzen and David Foster Wallace. This fails to excite the general public. Writing can be exciting again if it simplifies itself, stripping itself down so all that remains is the plot, the movement, the punch.

It’s what I’m attempting to do with my new ebooks. Check them out. (Soon up: The McSweeneys Gang.)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Importance of Plot

Think of the 1962 John Ford western, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.” On the surface it’s a terrible western, utilizing few of the colorful aspects of the genre.

There are few visible open spaces. No breathtaking photography. Most of the film is shot on a sound stage, in black and white. The two leads, John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart, are too old for their parts. The style of the film is creaky, as if it’s a deliberate throwback to a 1920’s movie.

One thing the film has going for it is its plot. The main body of the film is a flashback, within which is another flashback which reveals the key to the story. A box within a box within a box. The movie demonstrates the importance of plot in examining the nature of myth by revealing buried truth.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Telling Stories

The public is hungry for stories. The National Football League (NFL) is overwhelmingly successful because it tells stories. It tells stories leading up to games, and has plotlines that last throughout the season. How will the different abilities of Tim Tebow be utilized—or will they be utilized? Will Michael Vick live up to his immense abilities and secure success for the Eagles? Will TV celebrity Peyton Manning comeback from neck surgery? Will the New Orleans Saints survive the suspension of their head coach for the entire season? What’s the status in the league of the running game? How will rookie Andrew Luck to against veteran icon Tom Brady in tomorrow’s game?

Each individual game tells a story. The outcome is seldom known; often surprising. The game proceeds with dramatic ebbs and flows, from surprising scores to jarring injuries. The fans are emotionally invested in the plotline and the outcome of the story.

Everything in life is a story. What happens next? The recent election campaign was a story, albeit one that for some of us went on too long. It contained ebbs and flows, even one or two surprises.

What’s known in the culture and academia as “literature” lost its standing in the culture when it stopped telling stories.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Authoritarian Literary Person

Here's a link to the infamous Dave Eggers 2000 Harvard Advocate interview.

Lest you think this was an isolated incident, in the next several years after this Dave Eggers acted vigorously to shut down all criticism of himself and his organization.

It's fairly unprecedented in any field, in U.S. business history, for an entrepreneur to come out so strongly to shut down all possible un-nice things said about him. Colonel Parker? Phil Spector? For them, the press was a given. You accepted the slings and arrows coming your way as part of the game.

The tragedy is that the unthinking literary crowd has gone along with Dictator Dave's way of doing things. (One must wonder what he's like inside the organization. But then, that's not anything we ever hear about, is it? Not something anyone would dare investigate.)

The Dave's rant makes rough sense from his own perspective. But it's a completely egoistic perspective. He should be immune from all criticism and competition merely because his intentions are good. He does many wonderful things for the world. He's wonderful, period. How dare anyone say anything bad about him, anyplace?

This led Eggers to overreact against his critics-- critics which included the Underground Literary Alliance-- but now all critics are gone. Mum's the word. Smooth sailing only in happy face McSweeney's World.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Pop Zeitgeist

Trendlines are clear. Literary fiction and poetry are diminishing in influence, as media flagships which sustain the stuffy art-- newspaper book review sections and mainstream magazines-- are themselves vanishing. Pop literature is a tidal wave.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Populist or Elitist?

The DIY zine scene, from which the Underground Literary Alliance was spawned, was by its nature populist literature. That’s to say, not imposed by mandarins from above, but a grass roots movement. As Jeff Potter calls it, folk art. Folk literature.

The robed defenders of elitist literature were the most intent on shutting out the ULA. But in so doing they were shutting out the world.

When Tom Bissell used the slur, “lots and lots of tombstones,” he may have been more prophetic than he intended. The tombstones won’t be for people, but instead for the relics of dead art. Elitist literary writing has been a near-corpse in a coma for decades, kept on life support by universities and nonprofits, unable to connect with the American populace, and so, an inauthentic representation of American culture.

Establishment literature has been a decayed and tottering castle waiting to be toppled. Now the approaching hordes of ebooks appear certain to accomplish the feat. Stale elitism won’t survive.

The only question is what style of new American literature will rise from the rubble?

The Underground Literary Alliance has always been the vanguard.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Newsweek: Why Is Print Dying?

Newsweek magazine has announced that it will no longer publish a print version of the magazine, effective at the end of the year.

The cause of this is not JUST that many readers are getting their information now from mobile devices. It’s attributable also to the insularity of the magazines themselves.

Tina Brown, for instance, is the best of her narrow class and viewpoint. But what does this upper class Brit know about the American populace? Do people here really want to read yet another article by or about Martin Amis?

The big New York magazines are dying because their staffs come from a tiny, elitist circle of viewpoint and opinion—Ivy Leaguers, for the most part. Elitists by training or birth for virtually all of them. Cronyism is the one law in their world. In this field, anyway, cronyism no longer works.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Simple Pop

Sunday morning I was listening on the radio to one of those Beatles breakfast shows you can find in nearly every town. I was struck, as I’m always struck, by the pure simplicity of some of their tunes, like “I Need You” from the “Help!” lp. (One of their best albums.) They were able, with the simplest form, to be striking, romantic, and evocative. You can sense the Britishness, the setting and sensibility of the piece. There’s an understated beat along with subtle touches of the guitar and a scant few other instruments. How did they do it?

The task of the new pop writer is to devise tales completely transparent and simple, yet which are evocative of time and place, of the world, and deep emotion. Make the difficult look easy. Do that and you’ll conquer the literary world.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Traditional Pop Story

Here’s an example of my take on today’s standard-style pop story, “Hoppenngger House,” up at my Literary Mystery blog. I wrote the story more than ten years ago, found it when I was putting stuff in storage prior to my recent move out of Philly. I tweaked it a bit and posted it. Check it out. It’s designed to be not a slog, but a read.

For me now it’s only a starting point. In future efforts I expect to move beyond this, while maintaining a pop style framework.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Return of Plot

The noteworthy development accompanying the rise of ebooks is the importance of plot. For decades, university writing programs have stressed the primacy of the sentence, and denigrated plot. This resulted in authors like David Foster Wallace crafting ever more convoluted sentences, obscure and complex, into nonsense.

But the public is proving that it wants plot! It’s no accident that inventive plotters like J.A. Konrath are at the forefront of the indy ebook movement.

The New Synthesis of American literature will also need to stress plot—plot ever more creative, more intelligent and fresh, full of surprise and knowledge, melding with setting and character, and stimulating to the highest intelligence.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Does Pop Lit Need a Vehicle?

This is a question I’ve been discussing with others at another blog--

Right now, what’s known as pop lit is a huge but diffuse entity with no cohesion and little coherence, a mass of publishing wannabes with little focus and no direction toward any future outcome for American lit. Only a gargantuan avalanche of recycled social media spam shouting, “Me me me me” with thousands of titles of imitative works which refuse in any way to stand out.

The solution is a vanguard outfit of authentic populists who know where literature is going-- who have strong ideas of how to save the art.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Pop or Populism?

Is it a choice? Which is the best direction for American literature to take?

These are questions I'll be exploring. I'll also introduce soon another blog, one devoted to the struggle for literary and cultural democracy in a land where fake culture is imposed from on high by controlling overdogs.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The New Synthesis


New writers, if they’re to be relevant, must reject the moldy standards of the literary establishment. The old modes don’t work, if they ever worked.

Everything about American literature is in flux. This includes how writing is made and sold. It must include as well new theories about what constitutes literary art, so we can create better stories, novels, and poems which are popular and populist yet at the same time, literary art. Works more readable and meaningful, which portray and discuss where we as a people and civilization are today.

My own example of what the New Synthesis looks like is an e-novel, THE TOWER, which presents the best of both camps, literary and pop.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Styles of Pop Fiction

WITH my four ebooks to date I present four different styles of pop Do-It-Yourself writing. If you want to see roads toward the literary future, they’re worth reading.

1.) Ten Pop Stories is straight pop, simple and quick, with the emphasis on fun reading. Within that guideline, each of the ten pop tales is unique.

2.) Mood Detroit starts out the same way, but the backdrop of the three novelettes in this collection is America’s toughest city. The three tales here are, each in a different way, literary-pop hybrids.

3.) Crime City USA, as much based on Philly as the Motor City, is pulp-style pop fiction about two rival criminal gangs, with hyped-up emotion and pace. This ebook is a hybrid between noir fiction and the graphic novel, with literary aspects simplified and intensified.

4.) The Tower is an ambitious pop novel of ideas, the conflict of ideologies, the story of a protest amid a tumultuous city: an evocation of the madness of contemporary life. Dramatic, over-the-top characters are caught up in currents of madness not of their making. It’s not the ultimate pop/populist novel, but it’s a step along that path.

All four of these ebooks are ridiculously affordable. You have no excuse not to buy them. No one has studied current American fiction and where it’s going, and should go, more than I have. Read these new works now ahead of the crowd.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Where Are the Populists?

The Old System for producing writers in America is focused on expensive institutionalized writing programs which encourage craft and refinement over the maw of experience and the big picture clash of ideas. The System has inhibited the creation of populist poems and novels. Attempts to remedy this have met with an unbreachable stone wall of arrogance.

But now the earthquake represented by DIY ebooks threatens to bring down that wall.

Where are new populist American writers prepared to jump into the breach with exciting literature?

When the wall comes down, tame literary fiction and poetry will be buried under the rubble and the dust. As replacement, barbarian outsiders need to provide more than recycled genre fiction which escapes from the realities of American life into fantasy and nonsense. We need new populist writers prepared to examine American realities with clear thoughts and clear writing.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Print Underground Lives!

Thanks to Brady Russell for tipping me off about this exciting happening on the zeen scene:

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

American Branding

A while back I had a conversation with one of those self-designated “postmodern” writers whose thinking demonstrates the elitist literary mindset.

He told me about international writers I’d never heard of, much less cared about. The way he talked, the concept of a distinctive American literature was a thing of the past. When I mentioned this to him, he looked at me as if I were from another planet.

Yet, around the globe, the American brand remains strong. Everyone wants to be American. It’s insanity to carelessly throw this asset away, as the official literary world has done by turning U.S. literature into a sterile thing that doesn’t represent the sound of this great country, but is instead a vague, intellectualized mish-mash.

What happened to the unique flavor of American writing? The not-so-long ago voices of Ellison, Mailer, and Kerouac?

When people buy an item of French culture, they want it to be distinctively French. To be relevant, American writing needs to be uniquely American. That’s my goal as a writer. Fiction with roots in a people and land is stronger fiction.

Consume America. Buy American Pop Lit ebooks.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Folk Heroes

Most striking about the 1963 film “Bye Bye Birdie” is that it treats Elvis Presley, through the satirical character Conrad Birdie, as a living American folk hero, which Elvis certainly was. Elvis remains as mythic a cultural icon as Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett. Key to the rise of popular music as the essential American art form was that so many early rock n’ roll characters were larger than life, presenting unprecedented energy and personality.

Literature will never regain a central position in American life until it likewise presents writers who are not only readable and exciting—whose writing gives the sense of a new creation—but who back up the art with compelling, even striking, personalities. The presentation of the artist is inseparable from the presentation of the art.

I attempted to find such writers when I was running the Underground Literary Alliance (ULA) last decade. I rejected the notion that writers have to be withdrawn nerds with negative personality, on the order of overhyped stooges of the mainstream like Jonathan Safran Foer or Jonathan Franzen. My thinking is that the writer spends a period of time in the silent wilderness creating the artwork, but by the time he or she finishes, is ready to explode, to release pent-up energy and make noise. After all, I’ve been not only a dynamic promoter and performer, making commotions and causing controversy, but I also write. I know both sides of the coin.

The most charismatic individuals I’ve known have been introverts part time—their charisma is a reflection of their innate hostility to human society, their vulnerability with people; a reflection of their internal pain. (An idea I pursue through the main character of The Tower, my latest ebook.)

The striking writer is able to present striking personality and voice to the outside world as well as putting it onto the page.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Those Who Attack Amazon

THERE WAS A COVER STORY in the June 18 issue of The Nation magazine which was an assault on Amazon, with a clear worry over what Amazon is doing to publishing-- “The Amazon Effect” by Steve Wasserman:

How objective is the article? Does Steve Wasserman have an axe to grind? Here’s his bio:

Quite extensive, isn’t it? Steve Wasserman has been involved in every aspect of mainstream literature and publishing, from teaching classes at universities, to sitting on grants panels, to literary agent, to publishing. He’s the quintessential literary apparatchik; his extensive career happening inside the System: the Machine. He gives the viewpoint of the Machine. What we can judge from what he says is that the Machine is terrified, because their clubby monopoly on literature is crumbling.

The reality is that ebook writers, using outlets like Amazon, are creating the horizontalization of literature. They’re destroying a tops-down hierarchical and costly system which puts the writer at its lowest point. In their system, the writer looks upward at the tower as supplicant, and begs, “Please publish me!” Who actually gets published—or more, who gets promoted—in such a world has to do more with cronyism, connections, and school ties than ability. The System is no less insular and corrupt than were the top heavy bureaucracies in Eastern Europe during the heyday of the Soviet Union. The mentality is the same.

Of course the stagnant status quo publishing system, existing in high-priced Manhattan skyscrapers, is going to be undercut in price. If not by Amazon, then by somebody. Everything involved in the system adds layers of expense. Look again at Wasserman’s bio. You can bet that in every stage of his history, in every prestigious position he occupied, he was amply rewarded. As no doubt he is today as literary agent. Care to guess at his salary? It’s money that would otherwise go to the creators of the art. To writers! Not to the System’s arrogant priests.

The System at some point had to be streamlined. It was too vertical, too undemocratic, too overburdened by go-along-to-get-along bureaucracy to locate truly exciting writers. The apex of the System right now is: Jonathan Franzen, whose prose is as plodding and enervated out-of-touch as his bird-watching personality. Yet he’s the face of the established literary scene.

No one knows how this will shake out—but the shake out is beginning.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

America Invented Pop Culture

While other countries like Japan and India have a great sense of the fun of pop culture, the style originated here in the good old U.S.A. I was reminded of this watching the 1963 movie "Bye Bye Birdie" on the big screen at the Suzanne Roberts Theater in Philadelphia last night. With its nonstop energy and candy-color photography, the surprisingly satirical film is "pop" from start to finish.

The premise is an Elvis Presley-like rock singer, Conrad Birdie, drafted into the army, who's to give a "last kiss" to a randomly selected teenage girl on the Ed Sullivan Show before going away. The girl, significantly, is played by Ann Margaret in as dynamic a movie appearance ever.

The direction by George Sidney still has verve and style, with split screen effects and sight gags. Everything is satirized, from teenagers in "The Telephone Hour" to Russians to small town America to, of course, Elvis and rock n roll. As gold jumpsuit-wearing Conrad Birdie, Jesse Pearson has to be swaggering, boorish, buffoonish, lustful, and sexy-- to mock Elvis yet show his backwoods allure-- and somehow pulls it off, in part because against the rest of the cast he appears to be seven feet tall.

Though everyone in the plot is supposed to be chaste, the subtext of sex is everywhere. It proves Slavoj Zizek's point that movies were sexier when sexual repression was the norm. Four scenes in this regard stand out. One, when Birdie destroy's the small town's entire girl population by performing a song in the town square. A bit later, a quick shot of the mayor's wife in heat from the encounter with the rock star. Later on, the character Rosie (Janet Leigh) sexually destroys a room of Shriners in a night club. Finally, Dick Van Dyke and Janet Leigh satirize the mores of the time when he tells her, "You've never seen me in my pajamas before!" It's a G-rated film, but sex is everywhere.

No more so than with Ann Margaret. She plays a wholesome all-American girl-- yet in the big dance scene that includes herself, Pearson, and her boyfriend played by Bobby Rydell, she caused an audible reaction from last night's audience when she started dancing. Explosive is the only way to describe it. Few performers have been so hyper-talented. She dominates a movie that includes the talented scene-stealing likes of Van Dyke and Paul Lynde, who have large personalities of their own.

The audience, which included many college students as well as older folks, a few people just escaping the summer heat like myself, was in hysterics for the last ten minutes. Would that movies were that much fun, had that much verve, now.

I'd like to write a pop novel sometime with that kind of energy and edge. It'd reinvent the form.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Tottering System

I sense among writers a fear of dissent-- of saying anything which might possibly piss off anyone in today's literary world. It's as if we're all required to get along-- that literature shouldn't be a clash of ideas and movements, but a place "where seldom is heard, a discouraging word, and the clouds are not cloudy all day."

This mindset leads to a stagnant art scene and a stagnant art-- a stale literary art that writers have the obligation to move beyond.

It's obvious to me-- why not to others?-- that with one good kick the entire house of cards that is approved "literature" will implode upon itself. This will happen anyway, with the rise of affordable ebooks, but it makes sense to speed up the process. Those at the forefront of change stand to benefit most from that change.

Can the literary System win the battle of ideas? It can no longer even engage in such a battle. Those tasked with maintaining the System are as intellectually helpless as dumb animals to any criticism of the monolith. They can only stare, or whisper amoing themselves, "What is this about? Why is that person saying those unapproved words?" It marks a system that's as stagnant and decrepit as the Soviet-style systems of Eastern Europe after World War II, manned by bureaucrats merely going through the motions, having forgotten the reasons for the system and therefore having no words or energy with which to defend it-- other than a blind instinct for the preservation of their positions, their turf.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Best Short Stories?

While googling for something online, I stumbled into this revealing post by one Michael P. Nye, who’s managing editor at the university lit-mag The Missouri Review--

Michael Nye gives his version of the “Ten Best” short stories of all time. What do his choices have in common? Two things.

1.) They’re all workshopped stories.

2.) The writers listed, Alice Munro, Charles Baxter, Raymond Carver and company, dominated the American short story during a period of the art form’s decline. They were, in effect, the form’s caretakers while the short story disengaged itself from the American public. The short story was once the popular American art form, wildly and eagerly read far and wide.

Why would anyone think at least a few of the “best” short stories should not come from the short story’s golden age? (If not all of them!)

What would be my choices?

In 1998, in an issue of a lit zeen I was then writing, New Philistine, I gave my list of the ten best “pop” stories of all time. My criteria included significance and meaning—but most of all I looked for what the short story, at its best, does best—what the form needs to do first—namely being sharp, fast, fun—entertaining. Only after it achieves that should we look for the subtle deep chords of meaning a story slips in to the reader, as if accidentally.

I recall that my first choice was “The Man Behind the Looking Glass” by the French detective writer George Simenon, because it accomplished more things in a short space than any story I’d ever read. It first appeared in this country in New Black Mask. Fast, mysterious, sophisticated and sexy, with the “detective” part of the tale serving as a metaphor for the chase to discover one’s true mate. Within the story are layers upon layers—yet it’s told with perfect clarity.

Other names on my list were writers who should be on any short story list—F. Scott Fitzgerald (his “The Captured Shadow” my favorite); Jack London (“Lost Face”); Edgar Allen Poe (“William Wilson”); Robert Louis Stevenson, and Stephen Crane.

I also included a story by the man who I claim was the best short story writer of them all, strangely enough, because he long ago fell out of favor. O. Henry. Yes, believe it. I base that assessment not on his widely anthologized stories (see the excellent “The Last Leaf”), but his lesser known tales like “A Municipal Report” and “The Moment of Victory,” whose endings aren’t so much surprises as revelations.

O. Henry’s apex was the apex of the short story, and that was attained in two amazing, emotionally powerful works, “The Renaissance at Charleroi” and “The Church with an Over-shot Wheel,” in which O. Henry goes beyond the here and now into the metaphysical, searching for, and maybe finding, ultimate meaning.

In conclusion, we can only say that Michael P. Nye’s “Ten Best” list reveals the narrowness of the university “literary” viewpoint. Any art form goes in cycles. The short story has been in a steady downtrend for decades. With the rise of pop ebooks, it’s time to resurrect the pop short story—to produce and promote short tales which the general public will enjoy reading, instead of the endless slog of slow-paced overly-detailed solipistic works smelling of mothballs and the academy, which have suddenly become, if they weren’t already, sadly obsolete.

Just my two cents worth. (Buy my  affordable ebook Ten Pop Stories—new short works signifying an artistic revival. For slightly longer tales, check out my Mood Detroit.)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Breaking Literary Monopoly

Blaming Amazon for the shaky status of the “Big Six” book giants is akin to blaming the 45 rpm vinyl disc or the portable record player for the sudden onslaught of low-rent rock n’ roll music in 1955.

At that time, the Big Four record companies controlled 85% of the market. Over the next several years they lost half their market share to hundreds of unlikely self-taught artists produced by scores of hypemaster entreprenurial hustlers like Alan Freed, Sam Phillips, Dick Clark, and Berry Gordy Jr. Yes, much of the music was very crude, especially from a learned and “serious” musical standpoint. But the new music, played on cheap discs, enlivened the music industry, and with it, American culture.

Likewise, most of the new 99-cent ebook novels intruding onto prestigious sales lists are plotted, readable, and little else. They’re the first wave of a revolution in publishing which will lead to a transformation of literature—to better novels that will be readable and entertaining, but also significant and meaningful art.

New models for the novel are needed. New exemplars of value. The finely-detailed slow-moving “literary” novel is dead.

Right now Amazon is the chief delivery system for DIY writers and publishers. Amazon is the current-day record shop making new fiction accessible and affordable to all. To those who truly value reading and writing, isn’t that what literature is about?

Read THE TOWER by King Wenclas. The better e-novel. No-overhead literature. A revolution unto itself.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Literary Direction

What direction should literature take?

Literature’s ideas need to catch up to economic realities. The ebook revolution will be more potent if explained by strong artistic arguments.

What does official “Literature” give us now?

1.) Standard “literary” narrow realism from writing programs is tame, uninteresting, and stagnant.

2.) Postmodernism, a more extreme version of #1 from the academy, is undemocratic, antiquated, and regressive.

Literature of the future will be “pop”—some improved blend of popular genre and populism. The hallmarks of the fiction will be readability, pace, emotion, and plot.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Fighting the Monopoly Mindset

NEITHER SIDE in the health care debate is capable of stepping back and seeing the system in its totality. It’s a verticalized system designed to be as expensive as possible, centered around institutions. Expensive institutions (universities) create the chief health care providers (doctors). The doctors then go to work for similar giant top-heavy institutions, called hospitals, whose motivating credo is to utilize as much advanced technology as possible. The system builds-in expense and cost, and it builds-in scarcity. There are never enough giant hospitals and never enough doctors to serve the entire population without denied access and long lines. Switching to a government-run system won’t change this situation. The solution, it seems to me, is to free up the system and horizontalize health care, by cutting down the artificial monopoly of doctors and hospitals. Maybe by having an interim category between nurse and doctor, without the hyper-brains and hyper-technology, and without the enormously expensive hyper-education, which sets up the artificial scarcity of “experts.” Open up the market for health care and allow a wide range of low cost clinics to proliferate. Drop the “one-size-fits-all” mentality geared toward treating the symptoms and effects of disease, allowing alternative ideas which focus on causes and lifestyles into the equation. These are stray thoughts. What we know for certain is that the present system isn’t working. A 2,800-page law requiring tens of thousands of regulations, with corresponding expansion of bureaucracies, is hardly the solution—there’s too much regulation and bureaucracy already.

America fights war in the same way it provides health care: as expensively as possible, with the focus on enormously expensive bureaucracies, hierarchies, and costly advanced technology. Our trillion-dollar force was sent to Afghanistan to fight—and has found failure against bands of low-rent fanatics, who exist and fight with no supporting superstructure of expense whatsoever. The horizontal has outmaneuvered the vertical.

The situation of book publishing and literature in this country is similar to that of war and health care. Once again, enormously expensive vertical institutions—the “Big Six”—operating in as costly a fashion as possible, with large high-rent offices in the planet’s highest rent city, manned by “experts” who are the products of hyperexpensive, questionable education which has only served to enforce a “one-size-fits-all” narrow-minded mode of artistry. American literature, based within the Big Six and within equally overlarge educational institutions, has tied itself to this monopoly mindset—and as a result has stagnated. As I experienced when I ran the Underground Literary Alliance, those who question the system are ostracized and banished from the high priests’ sight.

Signs of hope exist in the form of horizontalized low-rent pop writers, operating like insurgents under the radar—writers like J.A. Konrath and Barry Eisler, who are defeating the monolith of monopoly at its own game.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Expanding the Market

The other day I heard a writer say that the novelist has sixty pages to hook the reader. I thought to myself, “More like six pages.”

I’m rereading The Skull Beneath the Skin by detective author P.D.James, which I first read a couple of decades ago. It’s her best book. What strikes me about it now is how overwritten it is. James takes too long to get to the point. Like many writers, she’s trying to impress the reader with the fact that she writes well. Can turn a phrase. “The well-constructed sentence.” Does the ordinary person on the street who might chance to thumb through a copy give a shit how well P.D. James writes?

My goal is to produce fiction which anyone—anyone who can read—can get right into. Immediately. Bang, bang, bang. This is what I’ve done with my American Pop Lit ebooks. See the opening to Crime City USA, for instance. It’s well-written, but it’s also dynamic and fast. If fiction is to expand its audience it has to grab the reader, whoever that person is—doctor, lawyer, fastfood worker or gangbanger—from the very first page. No one not already predisposed toward reading and with a proper amount of free and quiet time is going to plunge into a P.D. James mystery, no matter how good it ultimately is. Her books are popular representatives of a popular genre, but they’re geared toward a static market.

Yet any market has to concentrate first on growing itself. Great strides have been made the last ten years or so, through fantasies mostly, from Harry Potter to the gory works of George R. Martin. These are still geared toward standard readers—stay-at-homes who escape from the world. What of the millions of people out in the world? A very different kind of popular novel is needed to engage them.

Just some rambling thoughts. . . .

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Has the Pop Era in Literature Already Begun?

At work yesterday one of my colleagues-- who doesn't know I write-- began telling me about this great book she'd read on her Kindle. It was about cloned Presidents, corrupt politicians, and had an amazing over-the-top plot. It sounded crazy and marvelous. She said it was so involving, like nothing she'd ever read, she couldn't put it down.

What was this imaginative work, I wondered? Something by Ben Marcus or David Foster Wallace?

No. The author was J.A. Konrath, who's one of the leading ebook writers, by all accounts selling enormous amounts.

I began thinking about the importance of my co-worker's unsolicited comment. Could 2012 become a dividing-line year in the world of American literature? I'm thinking of 1956 and 1964 in the realm of popular music-- years when styles and modes turned on their head. What had been "in" one day became instantly obsolete the next.

In the context of dynamite pop writers like Konrath, the snobby opinions of the once all-powerful literary establishment look quaint and stale.

The next year or two could be enormously exciting. Stay tuned to this blog. I intend to cover the changes as thoroughly as possible.

Monday, June 25, 2012

New Book Review Site

Check out this new book review site: 
The password is "discover_books"

They're looking for readers, but also for qualified book reviewers. It looks to me like a great resource, well worth scoping out. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Who Is Lara Vox?

The main character of THE TOWER, a novel by King Wenclas, is beautiful, sexy, committed, passionate, fiery, fearless, provocative, and dangerous: a voice from nowhere, from the radio airwaves, the air, the city—broadcasting the unforgiving truth.

Rock your world. Read The Tower by King Wenclas, available through Nook or Kindle.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Can They Survive?

Will the Big Six publishers make the moves necessary to survive in a changed age? No signs of it to date.

I’m thinking to myself of the changes they should be making—inexpensive office space, for instance; I know just the place—and am wondering if I can do those things myself in order to beat them at their own game.

A Brady Ebook Cartoon

I’ve been meaning to link to this post by Brady Russell for awhile. I like the cartoon at the head of it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Great Shakeout


We're at the beginning of enormous changes which will leave nothing in the realms of publishing and literature untouched. Those who survive and prevail in the new environment will be those who look ahead to see what will happen, then ready for it. The Big Six won't survive in their present form. Big bookstores may be victims as well. What comes after? What can come after? What are the new models?

If you're not thinking about those new models, and working to create them, then you're already behind the curve.

Friday, June 15, 2012


Check out my remarks about ebooks, here:

There's no point being wedded to the past, when the future is upon us.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Political Satire


I've started a new blog novel, right here:

It's a pop look at the current election campaign season. Highlights to come include "Panic in the Obama Camp"; "Mitt Practices Being Human"; "The Joe Biden Witness Protection Program"-- and much more, including a look at Mitt's VP choices, and how the selction will really be made.

Is it satire-- or real?? Stay tuned.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Exteriority or Interiority

There’s a marked divide in mindset between populist writing and the elite “literary” variety—a divide in viewpoint. The literary writer—David Foster Wallace being the classic example and furthest expression of the type—is focused on the interior of his own brain; on his second-by-second thoughts and feelings. The reader is given these often trivial thoughts, in relentless fashion. The view of the populist writer by contrast is outward, toward the things of the world. The populist view shows a curiosity about the world and how that world operates, including curiosity about the variety of people who inhabit the world. The greatest novelists held the exterior view.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Experimental Pop

Academy-trained MFA writers have preconceived notions of what “experimental” writing looks like. If you know what it looks like—what it’s supposed to look like—then it isn’t very experimental, is it?

Meanwhile, their box-barrier indoctrination keeps them from noticing the real experiments in pop taking place on the margins of the lit world. An example of this is the fiction of Wred Fright. (See Fright doesn’t present the kind of generic literary stories you’ll find from prestigious writing workshops, that’s for certain. There’s nothing pretentious about Wred’s stories.. Instead, a comic, comic book style to them. What makes them different from “experimental” stories of the past is that instead of being deliberately offputting, they’re deliberately inviting. The tales say, “Here we are.” Their accidental simplicity and intentional fun puts the characters in front of you, so that the effect conveyed is like a pop painting or a comic strip. In literary writing all emphasis is on the words. With what I call “pop,” the words are paint strokes or pontillist dots. You don’t read to notice the words, but instead, to experience with one impression the story, and the image in your head created by the words and the story.

I’ve tried to create a similar effect with my own experiments in pop. For instance, “The Strange Case of Mr. Box,” one of the tales in my ebook Ten Pop Stories. People have told me, “The characters have no depth.” Duh! In this case I wanted flatness: a sense of There-ness, so that the art is right in front of you. I modeled the story after the great Dick Tracy movies from the 1940’s shown on Turner Broadcasting, or a Dick Tracy comic strip. My real goal was to create something akin to a Roy Lichtenstein painting. Using and reinventing narrative cliches. Pop Art done with words instead of paint dots.

I think I achieved that simple effect with “Box.” From there I’ve sought to keep that effect, but see if I can play with the model, and so expand depth and emotion while keeping the fun or colorful there-ness. I realize that any art’s first objective has to be to attract an audience.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Writing Better Ebooks

The success of ebooks to date is unquestioned. Original talents like Amanda Hocking have gained attention and fame through their Do-It-Yourself efforts. They didn’t wait to be discovered by the conglomerates. They promoted themselves.

A few individuals like myself believe that ebooks are an avenue through which to break the monopolistic dominance of publishing’s “Big Six.” Those eager to compete with the Bigs see the economic advantage of having no overhead. Economics isn’t enough. New publishing entrepreneurs need a better product.

This means: better writing. It means going beyond the insubstantial. Creating works which are readable and popular, sure, but which also contain meaning and art. Works which awaken the reader’s brain and stir that person’s soul. It means presenting writing not lost in fantasy, but relevant to our time, because it depicts America now. Writing should be more than selling books to a static, pre-built audience. The writer’s task is to answer our deepest questions—to explain our world, our systems, our people. To present a coherent picture of the world and make it understandable to everyone.

Forever this has been literature’s goal.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Anarchists versus Plutocrats

Anarchists versus plutocrats is roughly what the new ebook novel THE TOWER by King Wenclas is about, with broken-body athletes, a sexy radio star, and a clown thrown in for good measure, with a whole lot more. Which is to say the novel is over-the-top-- which is exactly what our mad American circus society requires. Literature needs a few bells and whistles to get the message across. You'll find some of same in this novel. It's not your grandmother's tepid and tame literary work! I don't want any reader sitting comfortably in a cozy armchair while reading my work. I want to arouse, anger, or disturb that reader, if I possibly can. Literary complacency is dead.

Buy THE TOWER only at Kindle or Nook. It's very affordable.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Better Price

Details of the Justice Department judgment and lawsuit regarding the price-rigging done by Apple and five monopoly-media owned publishing companies indicate that the big publishers balked at having to charge the “low” price of $9.99 for their ebook novels in order to stay competitive. Please know that I’m offering three of my ebooks for 99 cents. My new novel The Tower is on sale under the King Wenclas name for a mere $1.99. In excitement and quality it’s the equal of anything produced by the book giants. Read it and find out. A better novel—at a better price.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Bold Writer

Writers need to be able to look beyond the here and now, to see where the arts of literature, the poem, the story, the play, the novel, need to be artistically in order to survive in the culture and prevail in coming years.

This means seeing beyond plot-driven fantasy novels, on one hand, and lethargic literary works, on the other. To take the best from both forms and combine them to create the new will renew the art.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Fusion Fiction

Fusion fiction combines the fun and excitement of pop novels with the intelligence of literature. The best example of a fusion novel is THE TOWER by King Wenclas (me). Give it a shot. It's popularly priced, and is available at both Nook Books and the Kindle Store. Get ahead of the crowd. Examine the future of literature.

Monday, April 9, 2012

A Better Model for the Novel

What does the literary future look like? What will the new and improved novel need to accomplish?

The new novel will need to be:
1.) Readable. 2.) Meaningful. 3.) Fast-paced. 4.) Exciting. 5.) Topical. 6.) Filled with dramatic characters in dynamic conflict. 7.) A colorful portrait of America NOW.

When will such a fabulous literary creation arrive? It already has! THE TOWER by King Wenclas. Don't get left behind. Buy THE TOWER soon at Nook Books or Kindle.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Being Dramatic

At the library I perused a book about film director Kenneth Branagh. The book stressed Branagh's dramatic entrance in his version of Shakespeare's "Henry V."

Two of the best American novelists knew how to create dramatic entrances for their characters. Think of the introduction of Jay Gatsby in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, and the equally effective entrance of Dominique Francon in Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead. In both instances, the characters are much talked about before we see them, which adds to the effect. The best novelists are buiulders who know how to set-up aspects of their material, whether characters, or important plot moments.

I classify both Fitzgerald and Ayn Rand as pop writers. Two of the very best. Not only did they understand the importance of being dramatic, they were also the most visual of writers. Influenced by movies, perhaps, but it works. Pop ,lit is painting with words.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Standard

Right now there are so many capable writers that the only way to stand out might be to nail the largest and most complex form-- the novel. That's what I'm attempting anyway, whether the result be success or failure.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Making a text readable takes work. Anyone can write long run-on sentences containing many clauses, if the goal is simply to impress people with your difficulty. The novelist who wishes to compete with other media needs strikingly readable prose. Which means going through every sentence, winnowing and compressing while maintaining the same ideas, strengthening the narrative thereby, doing more with less. Making less have more impact.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Instinctive or Analytical?

In politics one can see the difference in leadership style between Sarah Palin and President Obama, one who embodies the instinctive, the other the analytical.

How does that apply to literature?

Writing talent, real talent, is instinctive, then needs to be harnessed. The danger is that the writer become too careful, too constipated, and the spark of talent originally there be squelched. You'll never convince me that this doesn't happen in writing programs. If not, why do most MFA writers think and write in such an orthodox, constipated style?

The system with its levels of instructors, editors, and reviewers enforces literary constipation. The writer is compelled to become hyper-analytical. To become a chess player examining his position from every possible angle before making a move.

I find myself doing that with my novel-in-progress. I tear it apart in my head worse than any reviewer could. I well see what orthodox literati won't like about it. Those trained to read in a predictable manner. When I compare the novel with orthodox work-- the latest novel by Jeffrey Eugenides, say-- I see a gulf of difference. Is the problem mine; do I not approach the proper standards? Are they legitimate standards? Should I pull back from my own standards, slow down my pace, become more self-absorbed, less objective-- do all the things the system teaches and which I as a reader personally detest? That's the question.

This new e-book will be vastly more analyzed by me than, say, my last one, Crime City USA, which is instinct and emotion poured out of me. But with that analysis of the new book, I still pursue my aesthetic principles-- only I seek to make those principles as effective as they can possibly be. It will still be "pop."

If a novel doesn't look new, what's the point?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Elements of the Novel

What are the chief elements of the novel? Is it possible to master all of them? (If any novelists or critics read this blog, let me know.)

I won’t be satisfied just writing a novel. Or, writing just a novel. My goal is to write a superlative novel.


A.) Plot/form.

B.) Character.

C.) Ideas/meaning/symbolism.

D.) Style/pace.

The objective is to combine these elements in a way that achieves a sense of artistic excitement.

Take The Great Gatsby, for instance, as a model. I’d grade it thus:

A.) 9.8 (scale of 1 to 10). B.) 8.5. C.) 9.5. D.) 9.9.

Fitzgerald ably finesses the characterizations. Given the book’s short length, he has to. I knock him down slightly in Ideas, because the book lacks the scope of the best larger works. The pace and style are remarkable; the quality of the writing unsurpassed. I make Gatsby a top 5 American novel, though not #1. (The greatest American novel is The Octopus by Frank Norris.)

For my own novel, I’m aiming high. I’ll nail category A. I had the plot in my mind from the get-go, beginning with the ending. The plot threads and characters tie into the final image. I’m not a natural writer, but I have a logical mind, and as a former chess enthusiast I know how to construct a design and I know how to close.

Character is the element I’m working hardest on. It’s the crux of the book. Whether I’ll succeed or fail is an open question.

Ideas come easy to me. The trick is how to put ideas into a novel without being didactic or one-sided, and without slowing the narrative.

Finally, I’m not a “lyrical” writer. But then, I’m not writing a poem, though I can write poetry. My goal with my novel is to be readable, to give the writing a sense of clarity, to enable the reader to understand what I’m saying. Dense prose is a hindrance if you have ideas to communicate. I want the book to rush along. I’m not writing it for the leisure class, but for everyone.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Controlling Your Material

My biggest objection to the writing of David Foster Wallace is that he never seemed to be in control of his material. His material was in control of him. The other extreme is minimalism, which takes few risks, and with which the achievements are always minor. I like novelists who create sweeping narratives and handle meaningful ideas and, like Beethoven composing a symphony, are in control of every note, every word.

Friday, February 3, 2012

On Writing a Novel

Because of its length, unlike writing a story or novella, writing a novel becomes an obsession. You can’t sleep at night because you’re going over the plot threads and characters in your head. You fall deeply into the minds of your characters. If they’re mad, you become mad. The question becomes how much to reveal of them. If you have ideas, how much to reveal of your ideas. I’m not a Franzen or DFW type. I don’t believe in showing or telling everything. Instead: aspects. Sides. Glimpses.

I was at a coffeeshop—not Starbucks—that was filled with a more cosmopolitan crowd than at Starbucks. Two young writers behind me were talking about writing a novel. One said his had gotten away from him. He didn’t see this as a bad thing. One chapter was at 11,000 words and counting. It sounded to me like endless verbiage. This is the opposite of what he should be doing. The idea is not to sprawl, but compress. Condense, so the narrative becomes as potent as possible. But watch—next week the guy’ll sign a big contract with one of the book giants!

Short Novel Excerpt


Lara Vox had a reserve of hundreds of hours of pre-recorded tape. This allowed her to slip away from the Tower on occasion, into the city, among people, as she’d done this evening. To join the madness below. A return to the human race. Her excursions were few and brief.

She kept the broadcast going 24 hours a day, every day. Taped rants and jazz. This night, as the incandescent city fell asleep, it did so to jazz of the city, the noise of nightclubs and taxis, rumbling drug lovemaking climaxed by staccato bursts of gunshot violence and piercing sirens, a simple but endless composition performed by a bass, an intermittent and unexpected trumpet, and an introspective piano which occasionally dallied, occasionally dithered, occasionally flashed like a whiskey cocktail, but never ceased.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Two Kinds of Writers

As I was scanning a new novel by Ben Marcus, and noted the dense prose, I realized there are two kinds of writers.

A.) Those who strive for clarity, who want the reader to know what they're saying. Who make it as easy as possible for the reader to understand the ideas expressed and to follow the plot threads.

B.) Those who are showing off, who wish every sentence to be as showy as possible, with the unknown reader a secondary consideration, if considered at all.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Three Levels of Conversation

It's been said there are three levels of conversation, from low to high. How do they affect literature?

1.) THINGS. Simple people talk about things. (Usually what they own or want to own.) In writing, describing the furniture. Literary writers love to write about furniture.

2.) PEOPLE. Gossip is part of human nature. Even some very good novels contain what is in effect gossip. Our interest in character-- think Jay Gatsby-- is gossip.

3.) IDEAS. The most ambitious writers address ideas. Few have done it well, but when it's done well it's a high literary achievement.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Bridging the Divide

Studying the types of novels out there, it seems obvious to me that the writer who creates a true new synthesis between literary fiction, on one hand, and popular or genre fiction on the other, will reinvent the form. There have been attempts coming from the literary end of the spectrum to do this very thing.

Some like Michael Chabon have paid homage to "pop" fiction without budging from their stale academy style. Some by writing in a more straightforward, more popular style have traveled a few baby steps down the road toward a new synthesis-- Jonathan Franzen, notably. Others like Joyce Carol Oates, by creating bad plots and caricatured characters, have jumped entirely over the gulf between literary and pop, ending up on the other side, in so doing giving us the worst of both types.

I'd like to see more writers from the genre side of things take a crack at bridging the vast divide.

Monday, January 9, 2012


The biggest failing of most novelists is that their work lacks form.. Aristotle, I'm told, believed literature had three sections. I'm more familiar with chess than with Aristotle. Chess games have three parts also-- the opening, the middle game, and the end game. If you don't have a solid opening you'll lose the game. In the middle game you develop your themes, your narrative lines. In the end game the lines need to come together in a dynamic conclusion.

Note the three sections to my story, "Bluebird," in my 99-cent ebook, Mood Detroit, available via Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

The novel I'm writing will have a striking conclusion. I hope it checkmates the reader. (Surprise and drama.)

As a writer, reader, and book reviewer, I'm impressed by form, by the idea, the realization, that an author knows exactly what he or she is doing. I like the high that comes with the experience of form.

One reason I value the long-forgotten American novelist James Gould Cozzens is that his best novels have near-perfect form. Check out The Just and the Unjust and Guard of Honor some time for their balance, their architecture. Balance-- artistic form--is an imitation of the balance of the universe. Of the artistic intelligence of God.

Ideally, a novel achieves the right balance of elements; plot, characters, setting, in which every element expresses the work's themes, its overarching vision. The expression of meaning is enabled by form.

What novels would YOU give as examples of balance and form?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The First Step

The first requirement for creating great new pop fiction is readability.

Quick pace is one way to make a novel readable. How far to travel away from quick pace is the difficulty-- how much meaning, how many ideas, how much background or description to add, in subtle ways, without destroying the pace.

Ever novel is a mix of elements. How one mixes the elements, in what proportions, determines how great the novel will be.

Note that The Great Gatsby contains fantastic pop elements, a sense of mystery, has a tight narrative and is readable. Fitzgerald expertly finessed some of the elements, like characterization, to be able to achieve this.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Gatsby and Pop Fiction

When you look up and read early reviews of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, you see that the aspects of the novel which were criticized then were its "pop" motifs-- that it resembled a detective novel, was gaudy, violent, grotesque, and often melodramatic. It's these very pop aspects which give the novel its lasting allure, as does the condensed tightness of the plot, the novel's readability, the intense level of the writing and the intelligence of the narrative; that the work was intentionally created to be a work of art.