Lone Crusader Released

ebookcover I have released my latest novel, Lone Crusader, available for Amazon Kindle and Kindle apps! Print edition available soon.

Adam Wolfe, heir to an industrial fortune, abandons college to defend the Catholic Church in the Spanish Civil War. He escapes the ennui of Depression-era America to find something—though he’s not sure what.

Mike Barnes is the ex-mob enforcer turned FBI agent sent to find him. Held hostage by his past, the Wolfe case gives him an opportunity to turn a new leaf on his past.

Amid the battle between the proxies of fascism and international Communism, Wolfe and Barnes uncover a web of spies, gunrunning, and organized crime that crosses both sides of the war—and the Atlantic.

Ezra Pound and the Question of American Tradition

 

ezrapound1940The United States, a nation created by a document and not a people, has always had a challenge forming a tradition. Both the French and American revolutions emerge from the same “Enlightened” milieu.[i] The US has not had the long histories of Europe, and circumstances as a country founded by revolutionaries complicates the matters. Subsequent waves of European immigration further muddied the creation of a true American nation. This problem persisted throughout the nineteenth century, and came to head at the turn of the twentieth century. America’s place in the context of Western tradition is firmly rooted in its relationship to Europe.

The journey of Lost Generation writers and artists from America to Europe was a practical matter on one level. Paris, especially, had a highly favorable exchange rate compared to the dollar in the 1920s. At the same time, many Americans wanted to return to the old world, the source of Western art and culture. Even before the Modernist movements of the twentieth century, other generations of American artists and intellectuals “had their center of gravity in Europe—Irving, Hawthorne, Emerson, Whistler, Frank Harris, Henry James…Ezra Pound.”[ii] It is the last author on the list who attempted to work out America’s relation within a broader European tradition and finding its own in the history of the American Republic. Continue reading

Upcoming Novel

I am pleased to announce my second novel, Lone Crusader due for publication by the end of September.

ebookcover

Adam Wolfe, heir to an industrial fortune, abandons college to defend the Catholic Church in the Spanish Civil War. He escapes the ennui of Depression-era America to find something—though he’s not sure what.

 

Mike Barnes is the ex-mob enforcer turned FBI agent sent to find him. Held hostage by his past, the Wolfe case gives him an opportunity to turn a new leaf on his past.

 

Amid the battle between the proxies of fascism and international Communism, Wolfe and Barnes uncover a web of spies, gunrunning, and organized crime that crosses both sides of the war—and the Atlantic.

 

Cover art by Zach McCain

Patronage, Poetry, and Postmodernism

New article from New Pop Lit editor Karl Wenclas:

Recently the arts/news site Buzzfeed published three poems by Nick Flynn.

https://www.buzzfeed.com/nickflynn/three-new-poems-by-nick-flynn?utm_term=.dt4DPp3Pl#.aqanQOjQP

What’s noteworthy about the poems isn’t their utter mediocrity—I receive better submissions nearly every day for the New Pop Lit website (www.newpoplit.com)— but the way their author has been rewarded for his modest talent by the literary establishment. Simply scroll down from the poems to Nick Flynn’s biographical information. Read the list of plaudits and prizes.

***

This tells me the world of establishment poetry is in bad shape. Little is risked by approved poets—and little is achieved.

Why do I care? Not just because I co-edit a literary site, but also because I love to recite poetry. Today there’s little worth reciting.

I can’t help thinking that poetry has been trapped of late on two poles.  One is hip-hop based street poetry dependent on sing-song rhythmn and rhyming. It’s made to be read aloud. More, to be performed in front of the audience. The style has become predictable and is seldom artistically challenging.

The other pole is academic poetry. I can’t claim to understand the thinking behind it—I just know it reads like bad prose, looks bland on the page and puts audiences who dare listen to it read aloud to sleep. Contemporary academic poetry is sure proof of how institutionalizing an art form kills it.

Link to the rest at Karl Wenclas’ blog.

Modern poetry is not at all in “good working order” as Ezra Pound would say. The Nick Flynn poems linked in the post are completely underwhelming. I do not know much about Flynn; I am sure he writes what he believes in. His lengthy list of awards ties into a much broader issue with our managerial elite: the phenomenon of the Intellectual-yet-Idiot, a term coined by the superb author Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Taleb’s other charge to managerialism is that managers have no “skin in the game;” i.e., they aren’t responsible for the consequences of their actions.

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Taleb’s thesis in one line

In the literary world, the IYI is quite commonplace. Why? Even though commercial publishing is still a large industry, many of its authors are immune from the forces of market (not that the market is right all of the time: see James Patterson). Literary fiction authors have books published by New York, yet receive grants from the government and foundations. Several authors come to mind: David Foster Wallace (Whiting Prize, MacArthur fellowship), Johnathan Franzen (Guggenheim fellowship), Don DeLillo (also Guggenheim), Cormac McCarthy (Guggenheim, MacArthur, American Academy of Arts and Letters fellowship), among others. Patronage like this is historically quite normal–anyone versed in Renaissance history knows this. My intention here is not to disparage the talents of these particular authors (McCarthy ranks among one of my favorites). The point is that since the creation of the modern university/foundation centered era of literature, we have had a generation of authors insulated from having to write anything that relates to the reading public. The emergence of this new patronage is one of the most important factors in the emergence of Postmodernism–rather than the grassroots movement of the Modernists. The work of the Postmodernists reflects the tastes of a small group, rather than that of the rest of the nation.

The matter of contemporary poetry makes sense in this light. Most poets must teach in order to make a living, and in some way must appeal to the academy in order to gain some kind of recognition. The other problem with contemporary poetry published in literary reviews and journals is its lack of value to the reading public. Poetry read aloud was entertainment prior to the advent of recorded music. Poets were well regarded in popular culture and often frequent subjects of gossip columns. At the end of the First World War this started to decline, and certainly by end of the second war popular music was primary delivery for verse instead of poetry. Our best poets in the past sixty years have not been poets per se but songwriters. At the same time, the academy has done to poetry what they have done to fiction: create stale, “competent” work incapable of leaving any impression on the reader.

If you want good poetry, look to musicians and songwriters. Or, if there are aspiring poets, follow Pound’s advice and “make it new.”

Phoenix Operator one year on

Today is my belated post on one-year anniversary of the publication of my first novel, Phoenix Operator. Since publishing it, I have learned a wealth of experience as information on the business of publishing and self-publishing. All of my sources are listed on the side bar. I especially reccomend Kristen Kathryn Rusch’s series of blog posts The Business Rusch for a general overview. I have gone over the technical aspects in previous articles. This piece is more a reflection on the year since my book release.

If you think you may want to try self publishing, I encourage it. The corporate structure (what I refer to as the culture industry) around it is bloated and stale. However, it is frustrating to promote and attract readers. It takes years of practice at writing and patience with the reading public to do that. I am often disheartened at my extremely limited commercial success, but I have to remind myself my book is a year old and my online “platform” only a few months older. Balancing my academic and now work obligations has made time for writing and networking with other like minded literary sites difficult, but not impossible. I am determined to keep plugging away. 

Writing itself is only as difficult as you make it, but finding an audience is. The US literary scene is in dire need of rejuvenation after forty plus years of postmodernism rendering it inaccessible to many readers, along with the glut of hackneyed genre fiction–science fiction and fantasy most of all. My intent writing is to be the change I want to see by telling the best story I can that is entertaining and tries to reflect on human realities. God willing, the next year will give me more stories and more readers. 

 

 

Reflections on Hemingway

ernest-hemingway1

In honor of Ernest Hemingway’s birthday, I thought it was time to write a reflection on my favorite writer and the one I credit for me to start taking my writing seriously. I also contributed to another excellent question and answer column at New Pop Lit about Papa, which has a lot of stellar contributions.

For many years, I Ernest Hemingway was a name I had heard–I recall at some point reading “The Short, Happy Life of Francis Macomber” somewhere around middle school. I was too young to read much of anything carefully–instead I preferred Japanese manga or science fiction and fantasy novels.

I was turned on to Hemingway in high school when my English class read “Soldiers’ Home,” part of the unit on Modernism. As my teacher introduced Hemingway, I remember dismissing his meritorious and honorable service as an ambulance driver in the First World War. The lean, direct prose created the atmosphere of a returning soldier, clearly drawn from the author’s own experience returning to Oak Park after heavy action on the Italian Front. The protagonist, a war veteran named Krebs, tries to cope with the shock of coming home:

At first Krebs, who had been at Belleau Wood, Soissons, the Champagne, St. Mihiel, and in the Argonne did not want to talk about the war at all. Later he felt the need to talk but no one wanted to hear about it.

Later on in the story, we learn that Krebs has difficulty approaching or relating to women. Little has changed in his small Oklahoma home town. He turns to lying about his war experiences in order to cope with his boredom and apathy. He spends his days going to play pool or lounging about. The story ends much as it starts; Krebs does not break out of his ennui.

I was taken aback when I read this story. It was the first piece of fiction that hit me on a deep, emotional level. It conveys emotion in a way that the purple prose of many authors before and after Hemingway cannot.

As I learned more about him, I found that I could relate to him: Hemingway played football in high school, though not very well. I was a wrestler, but not a very good one. Hem spent his summers at his family’s lake house. My family does the same. I discovered him at a critical juncture in my writing. After reading “Soldier’s Home,” I did my best Hemingway imitation in a science fiction novel, about a man who lives in a Russian-occupied post-America. that ultimately broke me writing the genre (it remains, and probably will forever remain, unpublished). Writing about people and their relationships could be interesting, I thought. There was something to this “literary fiction” I dismissed for genre novels for too long.

In my AP lit course the next year I read For Whom the Bell Tolls  as part of a self-selected novel unit. I had to write a paper about the book. My teacher at the time (who was not fond 0f me) announced that she did not like Hemingway. We had also read “Hills Like White Elephants”–probably the best example of the iceberg method of writing. For Whom the Bell Tolls became one of my favorite books. While the protagonist fights for the Spanish Republicans in their Civil War, the book does not moralize the political. It is a close examination of mortality and the uselessness, ultimately, of sectarian war. Robert Jordan’s guerillas and the Spanish Nationalists both lose, albeit in different ways.

That same year, I read The Sun Also Rises. While I did not quite get it on my first reading, it is now another one of my favorite books I try to read every year. Hemingway’s rendering of man-woman interactions is worth more than every single dating advice website–no surprise given that the story was drawn from the actual intrigues among his circle of friends. It is in many ways a writer’s novel in that it can seem like page after page of drunken debauchery and lengthy stretches of dialogue .sun-also-rises-9781476739953_hr

Like his narrator, Jake Barnes, Hemingway was an outsider in his early literary career. He did not have an advanced degree, unlike fellow Paris expatriates Ezra Pound and Archibald MacLeish. His clear language, while avant-garde compared to the flowery prose standards of the day (pre-Hem, that is) was and is readable compared to the nearly unreadable writings of Gertrude Stein and parts of James Joyce’s Ulysses. Even within the Modernist camp, he marked himself as an outsider, an often overlooked aspect of Hemingway’s artistic life, explored in much greater depth in Colin Wilson’s book The Outsider. Yet despite all of this, Ernest Hemingway broke into the mainstream and turned from niche expatriate writer of the Paris modernists to an American icon.

Hemingway drew me into his friends’ and contemporaries work. I count F. Scott Fitzgerald and Hem’s rival William Faulkner as two other favorite writers, as well as his mentor and lifetime friend Ezra Pound. I credit all of these authors as continuing sources of inspiration for my own writing. On this Hemingway Day, I encourage you all to read him. Hemingway is one of the most relevant and influential American novelists.