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Thread: We Need A Revolution In Literature!

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    Exclamation We Need A Revolution In Literature!

    We Need a Revolution in Literature!
    An Essay by Wolf Larsen

    The best literature is the kind without a price tag. The goal of writing should not be to sell books, but to write the most innovative and exciting literature imaginable.

    Look at all the endless varieties of music! It almost seems that there are as many kinds of music as there are drops of water in the ocean!

    What a different story when you go to the bookstore! In the literature section of the bookstore you will find only novels, short stories, and poetry. That’s it! Why only novels, short stories, and poetry? Why is literature so limited? Why shouldn’t there be as many different kinds of literature as there are different kinds of music? Why must writers limit themselves only to novels, plays, short stories, and poetry? Why shouldn’t writers invent endless kinds of literature besides just novels, short stories, and poetry? It’s fine to write novels, short stories, and poetry – but why not invent new forms of literature as well?

    One of the reasons literature is so limited is that it is still shackled to the major publishing conglomerates and the universities. Literature will not be free until it has unshackled itself from the crass commercial interests of the publishing conglomerates and the conservative influences of the universities.

    Publishing houses have one and only one purpose: to make money. They are hostile to innovation in literature, because publishing innovative literature involves risk. And they certainly don’t want to risk their money! The publishing conglomerates want to continue pouring potential best sellers (particularly airport novels) unto the market. And to the publishing houses that’s all literature is – a market.

    I am not against the publishing conglomerates. Their books provide popular entertainment to the masses. Their backlist includes many good works of literature from the past, (because they make money from them). But while I am not against the publishing conglomerates I don’t like lies – like the misrepresentation of these huge corporations that own an endless array of imprints as being anything other than money-hungry corporations. Contemporary literature of quality needs a home – and that home is not and cannot be the publishing conglomerates – because today’s publishing conglomerates are only concerned with money.

    I am also not against those who work in publishing conglomerates either. For most employees of publishing conglomerates the work is hard, the pay is low, and as the publishing conglomerates have increasingly focused solely on making money the personal rewards for many editors (like getting a favorite manuscript into print) are dwindling. Today an editor in a publishing house cannot push a book for publication just because he loves it – more and more he has to work with books based on their economic potential.

    Academia may claim to be interested in quality in contemporary literature, and academia may also be less interested in money. But academia is primarily interested in promoting the “great” writers and poets of the past and those who today imitate them. (Of course there are exceptions to this – there’s exceptions to everything.) Anyway, after learning in a university about the “greats” of the past what is the writer/poet to do? Should he imitate the “greats” of the past in his writing, or should he seek to create his own innovative literature?

    By a young age Picasso had assimilated the “masters” of the past – and he went on to create new brazen works of art – he departed from the past – and created wonderful CONTEMPORARY masterpieces. Mozart also mastered traditional styles of classical music – and he went on to create music that at his time was INNOVATIVE.

    Hence, the truly great masters of the recent past – in music (Stravinsky, Mahler), painting (Dali, etc.), sculpture (Rodin) – produced great works that were INNOVATIVE and hence FRESH and EXCITING. In contrast, those that worship the past tend to produce works that are stale and flat. Sure, there are adequate writers, painters, sculptors, and composers who can blindly copy the “greats” of the past – but by copying what’s already been done they are contributing nothing to the arts and literature.

    There are those that argue that first you must learn tradition to be a great writer. By all means I agree you should read as much “great” literature as possible – both traditional and contemporary. But then some of these same people will go on to say “learn the rules before you break them.”

    Forget learning the rules unless you plan to write a conventional essay or a guide to used car repair. In creative literature go ahead and unshackle yourself from all rules! SMASH any and all rules with a sledgehammer, a wrecking ball, or better yet with a pen or a paintbrush! Works of literature, music, painting, etc, should obey no conventional rules whatsoever. If you feel the urge to have rules invent your own! Look at Schoenberg’s 12 tone scale! Wow!

    Let’s take grammar for example. Obeying the rules of grammar is fine if you’re writing a conventional essay or a manual about car repair. However, when you’re writing creative literature you should write as freely as possible – without rules.

    There are those that argue that if the writer does not obey the rules of grammar his work will be incomprehensible. That depends. It depends on the writer and his style and it also depends on the reader. In some cases, the writer may be creating for a more limited audience – like those who are familiar with modern and postmodern developments in the arts and literature, for instance – and that would explain why many readers might find a given work incomprehensible. In other cases, the writer may simply be incompetent. However, at times when a work seems incomprehensible it might be the reader’s fault. For example, if the reader hates a work of literature for no other reason than that it is different (i.e. more creative than more conventional works) than it’s the reader’s fault that the work seems incomprehensible. Certainly, if the reader is lazy, ignorant, or simply close-minded he may choose not to apply himself to any literature that is different than what he is used to. Such a person may be more comfortable reading an airport novel or one of the works of the past “greats”. At times, such a person may have an advanced degree and consider themselves highly cultured and learned, but all those years reading literature that is conventional can make it harder for that person’s brain to concentrate on and grasp anything that’s written in a new and innovative manner. The fact that their brain may have a hard time grasping anything that’s written differently than what they’re used to is not the fault of the writer, it is the fault of that particular reader.

    There are people who look at a Jackson Pollock canvas and say, “My five year old can do a better job than that.” Of course, such people are ignorant of art. Instead of studying art (which they don’t) they take their prejudices (which are pro-representational and pro-realism) and from a position of ignorance and prejudice they proclaim everything that doesn’t conform to their ignorant and prejudiced misconceptions of art to be bad. In the world of literature it is even worse. Those who are ignorant, prejudiced, and close-minded stand in judgment of what is “good literature”.

    Should the writer create works of “literature” easily accessible to even the most ignorant and close-minded of readers? Sure, if he wants to make money or be accepted by the conservative world of academia.

    But let us suppose the writer is either not employed by academia or is employed in academia but could care less what some of his “colleagues” in the English department think – in other words he has a decent day job and thus doesn’t give a damn about making money from his writing. Such a writer may be influenced by such innovators as Baudelaire, Rilke, Octavio Paz, Anne Sexton, etc. and less influenced by the “greats” of the publishing conglomerates (the best-sellers) and the “greats” of the academic world (people who have been dead a very long time).

    Frankly, I am rather disappointed with English literature and have ironically found greater inspiration for my writing outside of literature in the other arts (painting, sculpture, architecture, music, modern dance, postmodern theater, etc.). Many of the past “greats” that are in the canon of English literature are not so “great” at all.

    Many of the “great works” of English literature in the canon were written by “gentleman” with disposable income (that they didn’t have to work for) and lots of free time, as well as the high social connections to insure that their work was published. Not all of them were talented or had much to say. Is a writer/poet’s work “great” just because it’s included in the Norton Anthology and the professor taught it in your literature 101 class?

    Of course, some “great” works of the past are better than others. Some of these gentleman of leisure in the canon had talent – in addition to the work ethic necessary to produce great literature – but not all of them.

    Literature has not even begun to reach its potential. In fact, literature will not even begin to reach its potential until all of humanity has ample food in its stomach and plenty of free time.

    The seed of talent falls where it may. Most of those who have disposable income without having to work for it and thus have plenty of free time to write are inborn, have little or no work ethic, and are of mediocre abilities – like the president of my country George Bush. Besides, the outlook of the leisure class is often conservative, so it would not occur to them to write literature that is innovative.

    Most people are so engaged in the struggle for survival that they do not have the time to create innovative literature. When humanity is freed from its bondage to an economic system that benefits only a privileged few than a shorter workweek for all will make it possible for more people to create great works of literature, painting, sculpture, etc.

    Hence, the greatest most innovative period of literature does not lie in the past – but in the future.
    In a different kind of economy huge amounts of money will not be wasted on maintaining a class of worthless bourgeois bums – and huge amounts of money will also not be wasted on gigantic bloated militaries.

    With more money available culture, literature, and the arts would flourish more than ever – because we could improve the quality of education – including teaching more art in the schools – and offering free higher education to all. In such a society, we could also give a modest living stipend to writers and artists. And since more diverse parts of humanity would be free to create great literature – instead of just a small privileged leisure class – literature will have more variety and innovation than ever.

    Thus freed from their chains to market forces and academia writers would be free to create a new innovative literature. A general population with a reduced workweek would have more time to read a new revolutionary literature that’s constantly changing and evolving. If the world of painting can constantly evolve and change – why not literature? If classical music can constantly evolve and change than certainly literature can also evolve and change.

    The defenders of tradition look to the past because they cannot imagine a future any different than the status quo.
    But in fact, civilization is constantly changing. The world is different than it was a hundred years ago – and extremely different than it was just three hundred years ago.

    Human civilization has existed thousands of years – imagine the human race thousands of years from now! We as a species (homo sapiens) have existed 150,000 years – imagine the human race 150,000 years from now!

    If the human race is not extinct in a thousand years – and with constant war and the nuclear bomb that’s a big if – but if the human race is here a thousand years from now it is certain that capitalism will be a distant memory as feudalism is today. So far the human race has gone from hunter gathering to ancient city states to empires like the Roman to feudalism than national monarchies to capitalist “democracy” for the rich.

    Hence, human civilization is constantly evolving, and as civilization evolves so will literature. And just as human civilization has not even begun to reach its full potential, so the same is true for literature and the other arts.

    The best contemporary writers of creative literature – those who write today and will be read a hundred two hundred a thousand years from now – will not be those who copy the past but instead those who CONTRIBUTE to the DEVELOPMENT of literature. The writers who will be read a thousand years from now will be those who helped literature to advance.

    I don’t care whether you like my own literature or not – for the purposes of this essay it is irrelevant. If every writer wrote completely different from each other – and completely different from the “greats” of the past – then there would be more reason to pick up a book – because god knows what’s in between the covers of that book! And if you don’t like that author’s writing you can pick up another author’s book knowing that that book will be completely different than the one you just glanced through.

    Hence, THERE IS NO CORRECT WAY TO WRITE. In fact, the more we depart from the idea that there’s a correct way to write the more variety we offer to our readers. We thus begin to offer readers an exciting universe of literature where every author is completely different than another – how exciting!

    Traditionalists will argue that it is preferable and natural that literature remain the most backward and conservative medium of the art world. (Compare literature’s snail-like advancement to the great innovations in painting, sculpture, and the other arts since the beginning of modernism in the late 19th Century.) However, there is nothing positive about literature’s relative backwardness compared to the other arts. Even classical music in the past 120 years has left the literary world behind in innovation, boldness, and creativity! How pathetic!

    Look – the reason that literature is so backward compared to the other arts can be explained by several simple reasons. The first is money. For a writer to make enough money to support himself comfortably he has to sell A LOT of books. A painter, on the other hand, needs only a few appreciative buyers to support himself. Thus, it is easier (not completely easy – but easier) for the painter to paint whatever he wants. The painter may have to deal with galleries – but he doesn’t have to deal with publishing corporations. The painter doesn’t have to consider entertaining a large reading audience primarily looking for cheap entertainment like the writer does. Hence, partly or mainly for monetary reasons painting has left behind the literary world in boldness, innovation, and quality.

    The writer enjoys little independence. He is dependent on publishing corporations to help him reach a large audience seeking cheap entertainment. Hence, in order to make a living from his craft the writer often has no choice but to write mediocre and non-innovative “literature” that will be acceptable to conservative publishing conglomerates. In addition, since “success” is defined by how many copies are sold, the emphasis is on producing cheap mass entertainment.

    So writing remains the most conservative, mediocre, and backward medium of the art world partly or mostly because of money.

    Another conservatising influence (yes I probably just made up a word – good! We writers should make up words more often) – another conservatising influence on the literary world is the whole prestige game. You get your work in certain prestigious “literary” magazines, get nominated for certain prestigious “literary” awards, etc. – and suddenly you’re considered a “great” writer/poet.

    The pages of many (not all) of the most prestigious literary magazines are filled with excrement masquerading as great literature that doesn’t even qualify as mediocre – it’s just plain bad, conservative, and bland.

    The same is true for many “literary” awards. An “avant-garde” poet received a very large monetary award recently. I won’t name him here – but his work was so conservative, so dull, so devoid of innovation, so much like a zillion other poems you see everywhere that I don’t see how his poetry could be considered “avant-garde”. I guess for the people giving out the prestigious awards and the money anything that doesn’t rhyme is considered “avant-garde”.

    The contemporary writer/poet who wants literature to advance forward instead of being stuck in backwardness is inherently outside the literary world. He views the official literary world with contempt. He understands that the publishing conglomerates, academia, prestigious literary magazines, and award givers are mostly hostile to innovative literature. The contemporary writer/poet who wants literature to advance understands that the literary world is an obstacle to wonderful innovative literature and therefore must be SMASHED TO PIECES. Literature is great – but the literary world is not.

    It would be a great day for literature if all writers and poets started using the pages of the prestigious literary magazines as toilet paper. We don’t need the editors of the prestigious “literary” magazines to showcase great literature because they don’t even know what literature is – let alone great literature. The same can be said of those who give out prestigious “literary” awards – but maybe I shouldn’t say that – sometimes they actually give money to people who write good poetry!

    The great literature of our time is rarely found in prestigious “literary” magazines – it’s rarely found in the Sunday books section of the New York Times – and you would be lucky to find the great literature of our time in the bookstore.

    The great literature of our time can sometimes be discovered in the less famous literary magazines. The great literature of our time can sometimes be discovered on posting boards.

    The poetry stacks of the nation’s public libraries are filled with poets who were famous and prestigious in their times but who have since been forgotten. You open the book and begin reading and you often encounter mediocrity. These formerly famous poets were usually able enough – but their work lacked vision – their work appealed to the popular tastes of their day – but their lack of boldness and originality doomed their work to obscurity over time. The literary establishment has rarely been right in judging who are the great poets and writers of their day, because the tastes of the literary establishment are so conservative and backward.

    As writers most of us – with the exception of the airport novelists – have nothing to gain from the literary world. The traditional literary world is an obstacle to great contemporary literature. The literary world as we know it is an obstacle – an unnecessary middleman – between the writer and the reader. The literary world limits the reader’s choice to an array of airport novels and boring banal “literary” novels that help people fall asleep at night.

    Why should big publishing conglomerates decide which books are available to the general public? After all, there is no positive reason for the publishing conglomerates to exist anymore – except for their backlists.

    With the new technology print-on-demand a reader purchases a book and a copy is printed up especially for him or her. How nice! And the price is almost the same as a traditionally published book – and further advancements in technology will only bring the costs down more. The reader no longer needs to be satisfied with merely choosing amongst the thrillers, romances, and “literary” novels at the bookstore. With the Internet and print-on-demand the reader’s choices are no longer restricted by the dictates of the publishing industry – the reader’s choices are endless!

    Of course, the traditionalists and people employed in the traditional publishing conglomerates may argue that many of the books available via print-on-demand are not masterpieces. But the same is true of the books sold by the traditional publishing industry. In fact, if the book is published by the traditional publishing industry you can bet that the book was published primarily because of its commercial potential.

    With the technology print-on-demand books that are not commercial can now be made available to the general public. For the first time ever the general public can purchase and read all kinds of works of literature that were never available before.

    Another great innovation that makes more possible than ever is the Internet.
    The Internet weakens the traditional prestigious “literary” magazines vis-à-vis the less famous literary magazines that are more likely to publish innovative literature. Before, the more traditional literary magazines could use their prestigious names to receive greater distribution in the bookstores, and it was more difficult to get hold of the less famous literary magazines. But now, with the Internet, the less famous literary magazines that publish more innovative literature are only a click away.

    Of course, traditionalists will argue that not all innovative literature is good. However, most literature written in a traditional style is not good either. In fact, contemporary literature written in a traditional style is more likely to be stale – which is what often happens when one copies from the “masters” of the past. I am not saying that all contemporary literature written in a conventional style is stale. However, most contemporary poetry and prose written in a traditional style seems to be stale.

    Also with the Internet comes the posting boards. I’ve heard other writers/poets complain that many literary posting boards are no more than cliques hostile to outsiders, and other posting boards engage in all kinds of censorship, and still other posting boards are presided over by control freaks who ban everybody who they disagree with, and on some boards there’s intolerance towards writers/poets who feel shy about commenting on the works of others.

    I can understand why writers and poets would find the above problems very irritating. However, I still feel that posting boards are a positive – or can be a positive influence in the world of literature. In addition, posting boards have a great potential to transform the literary world.

    Posting boards make it possible for writers/poets to view each other’s work. In addition, the general public can enjoy a greater variety of literary voices than ever before.

    In addition, another extremely important innovation is the word processor. The word processor, by freeing the writer from the typewriter, has made it possible for the writer to experiment more than ever! A writer can try out zillions of new styles of writing on his processor and go back and change anything he wants easier than ever!

    With the word processor the writer is freer than ever to experiment. The writer may ravage the page at will! The writer is free to change, improve, evolve, invent new words, etc!

    Other technologies like print-on-demand make it easier than ever for the writer to bypass the publishing conglomeracy. You are now free! You don’t have to write some crass commercial novel to get published – you don’t have to write within the “literary” novel’s limitations on creativity – you can write anything any way you want to and the general public will be able to read your book.

    Of course, traditionalists will argue that a self published print-on-demand book stands little chance of being “successful”. But the traditionalists seem to define a book’s “success” more by its sales, and less by its quality or innovation.

    To this I respond that a traditionally published book stands little chance of commercial “success” either. The vast majority of traditionally published books fail commercially.

    Each publishing conglomerate works on much the same premise as a tree. A tree you ask? Yes, a tree – a tree throws out endless seeds every spring – and as you know only a small number of those seeds ultimately become trees.

    The same is true of traditionally published books. Each publishing conglomerate throws out lots and lots of books every year – and the few that make it and generate high sales sustain the publishing conglomerate’s profits.

    And just as a tree throwing out seeds does nothing to nurture its offspring publishing conglomerates nurture very few of their books with adequate publicity.

    The system works for the publishing conglomerates and the few airport novelists whose books become best sellers – but the losers are the vast majority of authors whose books never generate good sales and whose books are out-of-print within a few years.

    The other loser is the member of the general public who walks into a bookstore wanting to read something different than the same fare of romances, action-thrillers, and “literary” fiction.

    But now, with the advent of the Internet and posting boards and print-on-demand and the endless choices on Amazon.com and other online retailers the man or woman who wants something different than romances, thrillers, “literary” fiction and the like can now find an endless variety of literature on posting boards, in obscure e-zines that publish “out there” literature, and on author’s web-sites.

    Hence, now both the writer and the reader are free from the restraint of choices found in traditionally published books.

    The posting boards have a very important role to play. Over time, some posting boards may acquire a reputation for having more daring writing and will draw more interest from the general public. The public will be able to purchase on Amazon.com via print-on-demand whatever author they choose. Old outmoded institutions like the traditional publishing industry and the New York Times Book Review will play no role in any of this at all.

    Hence, the posting boards, (or at least some of them), will provide the general public with a venue to read all kinds of exciting innovative literature like they’re never read before, and the posting boards will thus help the writer of innovative literature to receive exposure and thus help writers to become increasingly independent of the big publishing conglomerates.

    Of course, not all writers want to be independent of the big publishing conglomerates. Many writers want to make big royalties, and the only way to do that is to write commercial airport novels. Of course, after the aspiring would-be airport novelist has actually written the commercial work he has to somehow get the attention of a literary agent, which is nearly impossible. If after writing the commercial work the writer is lucky enough to get a literary agent and then (hopefully) a publisher the would-be airport novelist is still not on easy street yet. After you sign the contract with the publisher the literary agent’s work is done, but the author’s headache is just beginning. Publishing conglomerates are notoriously stingy in putting resources and time into promoting their books. They publish LOTS of books every year – and they don’t have the time, resources, or inclination to adequately promote all their books.

    You might have the most commercial book in the world, but if your book doesn’t receive any publicity than nobody will know about your book which means nobody buys it and your book will be out-of-print in a few years – which is what happens to most traditionally published books anyway.

    Of course, you could max out your credit cards and take out loans to buy more publicity for your book – but this will more likely result in bankruptcy than a bestseller. The traditional publisher might offer to pay half of the publicity/promotion for your book if you pay the other half – but unless you want bankruptcy in your future you might want to be careful how much you put up for publicity.

    When (and if) a traditional publisher signs up your book you might receive all kinds of promises about how they’ll promote your book. Take it all with a grain of salt. The person in the publishing house in charge of promoting your book is also in charge of promoting LOTS of books. And unless your name is Stephen King or John Grisham don’t expect the publicity of your book to be given much priority – especially if you’re a first time author. And if your first book doesn’t sell there’s a good chance that no publisher is going to want your second book.

    By the way, don’t be surprised if the publishing conglomerate re-writes your book to make it more commercial.

    Why bother with all that? Why not write what you want to write? Why bother writing a commercial novel that’s just like so many other books already out there anyway?

    But one thing: in the unlikely event that a publishing house offers you a big advance my advice is to take it! If a publishing house gives you a big advance they’re almost definitely going to heavily promote your book – because they want to get a return on their investment.

    Something you may want to ask yourself is – why do you write? Do you write to make money? Do you write for prestige and acclaim? Do you write with the opinions of others in mind? Or do you write because you have to create?

    If the reason that you write is that you have to create than money, prestige, and the opinions of others are all secondary. Creating innovative works of literature is probably not going to make you money or give you prestige and acclaim anytime soon. And like many others who were creative – like Gauguin, Mahler, Rodin, etc. – you will receive endless harsh attacks.

    Let others make all the money from their airport novels, let others receive all the prestige and acclaim for their conventional banal “poetry”. Let others receive all the applause for their conservative traditional works written in “good taste”. Their work will wither into dust over time. A hundred years from now no one will be reading their novels, poems, and plays.

    Nearly everything ever painted, sculpted, or written in “good taste” later withered and died with time. “Good taste” is nothing more than what is in fashion at the time – and as time passes what was in “good taste” centuries ago becomes trivial.

    Many of the masters of the past in literature, painting, sculpture, and music were nothing less than innovators and revolutionaries in their time. Their work often caused controversy because they were not enslaved to tradition. They did not care about “good taste”. They could give a damn about the opinions of others.

    There is no correct way to write – at least in the creative sense. The very essence of creativity is to write without rules. In the arts there is no correct ism – except INDIVIDUALISM. Hopefully, you are a unique person. And if there’s no one else in the world like you why should you write like anybody else?

    I am not against conventional writing. It has its place. I have utilized it for essays and autobiographical novels. But I reject the idea that everything – particularly creative literature – must be written in a conventional manner according to any set of rules, including grammar. There is no correct way to write creative literature! As writers we should SMASH TO PIECES any obstacle to individual expression – especially in literature – which has been chained to tradition and convention for far too long.

    Copyright 2007 by Wolf Larsen
    "...the ramblings of a narcissistic, self-obsessed, deranged mind."
    My poetry & other stuff on Amazon:
    http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=ntt_athr...or=Wolf Larsen

  2. #2
    Left 4evr Adolescent09's Avatar
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    Man.. although my pea sized brain can barely understand your poetry, and thus through my ignorance, hate it... I must say this essay of yours pretty much nails the spot. Beautifully pointed and well said. How I wish your poetry was just as thought provoking and not about having sex on nuclear warheads and having flowers singing eulogies... and such...
    My hide hides the heart inside

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    edit: yes, that was going to be my alternative viewpoint
    Man.. although my pea sized brain can barely understand your poetry, and thus through my ignorance, hate it... I must say this essay of yours pretty much nails the spot. Beautifully pointed and well said. How I wish your poetry was just as thought provoking and not about having sex on nuclear warheads and having flowers singing eulogies... and such...
    I created pop-up poetry and hide-and-go-seek poetry once, but no one would publish it. So what’s to say others aren’t doing the same “innovative” writing? What’s to say it doesn’t already exist? Nobody tells me what I should and shouldn’t love about any work. I have my own reasons why I love specific author’s work – and that reason may be unique to that author only. Just because innovation is not marked by a big red sign that says “I’m being different” doesn’t mean it’s not happening.
    By the way, I’m going to start writing my poetry on people’s foreheads while they are sleeping, so when they wake up and look in the mirror, it will give my poetry that extra “wow” effect.
    Last edited by ktd222; 04-07-2007 at 06:43 PM.

  4. #4
    I'm not so sure that you are right. I don't think we can judge modern literature as we are too close to it, only time can tell what will survive and often time allows some of the most obscure, over-looked artists to live. As far as a lack of diversity in writing, what would you suggest be done to innovate the story? Should we rewrite the time sequences? Add in blobs of personal esoteria? It's already been done.

    You say that the forms of literature are too limited, unlike music, but the forms of music are limited too; there are only a few KINDS of music; dramatic (like operas and musicals), instrumental pieces and vocal pieces. Within each are infitinite types, but so is there in literature.

    Also, while on the one hand you demand free creativity and opinion in the arts, you also are mandating a dictatorial approach. For example, you claim people who call Pollack's pieces dribble ignorant of art, well I think they are worse than dribble (somewhere between a five-year old's crayola drawings and my attempts at spray-painting junked car) and I am far from ignorant about art.

    Revolutions in an art cannot be forced, nor are they an inevitable occurance. The changes in painting and indirectly in sculpture that you cite happened as a direct result of the challenge of photography on a discipline that had been traditionally dependant on creating true-to-life images. In essence, the arts were forced to redefine themselves to justify their existence. Literature has no need of this because there is nothing that does its job better than it. Movies don't, if for no other reason than because the global information of a character (particularly what he is thinking) is generally lacking.

    There may be some problems with publishing houses today, but they are no worse than they were in the past, but that is moot. The ultimate truth is there is no 'great art' because there is no standard for great art. There are pieces of art which some people consider great and I consider trash, just like there are some novels out there that some people consider great and you may consider trash, but there is no absolutism in this. If someone hates Shakespeare and loves Dan Brown, are they ignorant just because they refuse to acknowledge something that has become great by its establishment? Who can dictate to them that their taste is any worse than anyone else's? Art and literature are not sciences, nor will they ever be. There is no equation to produce great books or paintings, nor can there be one because aesthetics and values differ nearly inifinitely over a range of a single culture, let alone over the range of multiples of them.

    You also mention that popular art has never been great art. What about Dickens? Boucher, Fragonard, Picasso (who was wildly popular after a time), David, Conan Doyle, Shelley, Coleridge, Byron, Raphael, Michelangelo, Rubens, Davinci and the list goes on and on of great artists popular in their own times.
    Last edited by SheykAbdullah; 04-07-2007 at 07:12 PM.
    In these days, old man, no one thinks in terms of human beings. Governments don't, so why should we? They talk of the people, the proletariat, and I talk of the mugs. It's the same thing. They have their five year plan and I have mine.-Harry Lime, The Third Man novella by Graham Greene

  5. #5
    The Wolf of Larsen WolfLarsen's Avatar
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    Thank you SheykaAbdullah, ktd, and 09.

    09 - when you read my poems it may help you to think of collage - or it might help you to stop reading my poetry all together. Lol.

    ktd - You are right that lots of people that we've never heard are probably writing innovative literature.

    SheykaAbdullah - you raise a lot of interesting points, some of which I agree with and others I do not. But at no point did I say that ALL popular art/culture is ALWAYS garbage.

    You say that the major publishing houses have always been problematic. However, now there are more ways around them than ever before - like the Internet, Amazon.com, and print-on-demand. We don't have to submit ourselves to them if we don't want to now. In the publishing process, the writer has often had little or no power - that may change now if writers seize the new opportunities.

    If I were twenty years older I would never have written the above essay. The traditional publishing industry was the only viable route for the writer - but now it's easier than ever to go around the major publishing houses. Maybe easy is not quite the word - but going with the traditional publishers is not all that good either - unless you're absolutely 100% sure they're going to adequately promote your book. I mentioned that in the unlikely event they give you a big advance they are almost definitely going to promote your book well, because they want a return on their investment.

    As far as music goes I currently own hundreds and hundreds of CDs from all over the world - I'm sure many of you do too - and the variety of music in the world is wonderful - so I would have to disagree with what you said about music not having many choices - and music itself is evolving and changing all the time - much more so than literature. Also some of the wild stuff I hear on college radio stations (particularly late at night) do not seem to conform to the limited types of music you mention. In fact, the music I’m listening to right now defies category. I have no idea what it is. Lol. (I’m listening to some obscure station all the way on the far left end of the dial.)

    You asked me what kind of changes I suggest in literature. I suggest that every writer do his own thing - that every writer invent his own literature. There may be a time and place for conventional writing - but I don't think we should only limit ourselves to convention.

    Once again, thank you SheykaAbdullah, ktd, and 09.

    Cheers!

    Wolf Larsen
    Last edited by WolfLarsen; 04-11-2007 at 11:13 AM.
    "...the ramblings of a narcissistic, self-obsessed, deranged mind."
    My poetry & other stuff on Amazon:
    http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=ntt_athr...or=Wolf Larsen

  6. #6
    Freak Ingenu Countess's Avatar
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    You're preaching to the choir; actually, you're preaching to the preacher. Get out of my pulpit. (-;

    I've written enough diatribes on this topic that should I start again, I will only repeat myself.

    For me - abject poverty or great wealth, I will not prostitute my work to sell it.

    Finally: a case in point. On Fox News, Greta Van Susteran reported that the starting bid for Anna Nicole Smith's diary is $26,000. When I heard this, I thought to myself, "the ramblings of an inarticulate, semi-retarded addict stripper is selling for more money than I make in a year whist I, an English graduate with honors and a relatively coherent and intelligent person, cannot sell my work for a penny. I cannot, in fact, *give it away*."

    I pondered it for a moment, and realized to what stark depravity the American public has sunk in its "artistic taste" and I resolved, perhaps on a deeper level than previously realized, not to advance this degradation by participating in it, even if it means eternal obscurity and the death of all my work.

    Also, last night (when the above incident occured) I came home and wrote out a short scene that had played in my mind, a merging of my romantic yearnings with my philosophy on art. I'll post it in the writing section if anyone wants a read.
    Madness is my defense against Reality.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by WolfLarsen View Post
    As far as music goes I currently own hundreds and hundreds of CDs from all over the world - I'm sure many of you do too - and the variety of music in the world is wonderful - so I would have to disagree with what you said about music not having many choices - and music itself is evolving and changing all the time - much more so than literature. Also some of the wild stuff I hear on college radio stations (particularly late at night) do not seem to conform to the limited types of music you mention. In fact, the music I’m listening to right now defies category. I have no idea what it is. Lol. (I’m listening to some obscure station all the way on the far left end of the dial.)
    I agree, there are many genres of music and there are many genres of literature. What you asked was why should we limit outrselves to novels, short stories, poetry, etc, which are not genres of literature, but kinds of literature. You made a false analogy. There are many genres of music, but as far as types of music go, you have voal songs (and within that ballads, love songs, etc), dramatic music (within that Opera, Musicals, etc) and instrumental compisitions. Thus, one may point out that as far as ypes of music go (not genres, to which you refer) it is as limited as literature.

    However, I still believe the modern publishing houses are no worse a state than they have ever been before. One need only look back a hundred years or so to find the same scandals and trash enrapturing the minds of people. The only reason we don't know about them today is because they were ephemeral, just like no one will know about Anna Nichole Smith in seventy-five, a hundred years, except maybe as a brief footnote if something notable occurs in relation to her. Also, while there may be a thousand other mediums to transmit literature through-out the world today, if you aren't published who will read your material? Publishing houses still play an important, legitimate role in disseminating manuscripts to the public.
    In these days, old man, no one thinks in terms of human beings. Governments don't, so why should we? They talk of the people, the proletariat, and I talk of the mugs. It's the same thing. They have their five year plan and I have mine.-Harry Lime, The Third Man novella by Graham Greene

  8. #8
    Left 4evr Adolescent09's Avatar
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    The categories of literature or "genre" are abound as SheykAbdullah has properly emphasized. The only essential boundaries of literature are understandability, correct punctuation and grammatical tenses. Style, chronological consistency, and a foreknowledge of the literary work you wish to produce (without sounding esoteric..) are the paramount goals of literary success. Through the fine efforts of staunch classical authors of our decade and past, we may deduce that there was a theme which promoted a novel breakthrough in their societies literary tensions. John Steinbeck, Anthony Burgess, George Orwell and Ken Kessey all produced original works which starkly contrasted from the literature proprieties of their respective decades. John Steinbeck spoke out against Depression, Anthony Burgess spoke out against the harsh way society irrationally judges adolescents, George Orwell spoke out (in very brazen terms) against Nazism and Despotic rule, Ken Kessey spoke out, implicating the Combines and medical asylums for their abysmal treatment of medically imparied patients...

    We can see that all authors whose names have stood the test of time and will do so for several decades, if not centuries to come, were able to "break ground". They staunchly rivaled what their societies thought was improper to discuss and promoted the true "openness" which good literature strives to achieve.
    Last edited by Adolescent09; 04-15-2007 at 05:09 PM.
    My hide hides the heart inside

  9. #9
    Sweet farewell, Good Nite
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    i agree with you, Wolf. but mediocrity has always existed, no? making up words in poetry has been done many times, by the way. see ginsberg/kerouac.

    i posted an essay on the same topic from a poet mag that not a single person responded to when it was first posted. hmmm. i post it again here if for only to fill in any gaps left in the discussion.

    --------------

    FROM SEPT. 2006, POETRY MAGAZINE:
    American Poetry in the New Century
    "Poetry in this country is ready for something new. We are at the start of a century, and that, in the past, has marked new beginnings for the art. Pound and Eliot launched modernism in the opening years of the 20th century...and in the opening years of the 19th, 1802 to be exact, Wordsworth launched poetry's Romantic era with the 2nd edition of Lyrical Ballads. (...The early year of the 17th and 18th centuries did not mark new departures for English poetry. And American poetry found its true beginnings in Whitman and Dickinson...)

    A new poetry becomes necessary not because we want one, but because the way poets have learned to write no longer captures the way things are, how things have changed. Reality outgrows the art form: the art form is no longer equal to the reality around it.

    The need for something new is evident. Contemporary poetry's striking absence from the public dialogues of our day, from the high school classroom, from bookstores, and from mainstream media, is evidence of a people in whose mind poetry is missing and unmissed. A century ago our newpapers commonly ran poems in their pages: fifty years ago the larger papers regularly reviewd new book of poetry.

    The place to look for the next poetry is probably not where your might look first. Modernism was born amid an upheaval in writing that was heavily technical: Pound's Imagism and Vorticism, Gertrude Stein's automatic writing, Eliot's free verse and collage. It would be naturalto look for the next poetry to emerge from other kids of experimental poetry. But this has been tried, and the innovations that followed those of Morderism...have not carried the art form with them.

    My own experience with MFA programs, having taught in one, is that they can make of a writer a better writer. "Better" in this case means more knowledgable in the traditions and the contemporary scope of the art, more accomplished in the craft of writing, more aware of the numbus of critical commentary which surrounds and to some extent drives the art. That's the good news...At the same time, these programs carry pressures to sucumb to the intimidations implicit in a climate of careerism. They operate on a network of academic postings and prizes that reinforce the status quo. They are sustained by a system of fellowships, grants, and other subsidies that absolve recipients of the responsibility to write books that a reader who is not a specialist might enjoy, might even buy.
    The MFA experienec can confuse the writing of poetry, as a career, with the writing of a poem as a need or impulse. Writing a poem is a fiercely independent act....Will the next Walt Whitman be an MFA graduate? Somehow it seems hard to imagine.

    No major American poet has come from the academic world...(he lists among them Wallace Carlose Williams, Eliot who worked for a time at Lloyd's Bank, and Wallace Stevens) It is commonplace among creative writers that we should write what we know, but Hemingway took that a step further by seeking out fresh experience in the service of his writing...He sought to live more in order to writer better. That's not to say that one has to be chased around Pamplona by bulls to gain experience. It could be something as slight as the difference between the poem one might get from a poet strolling past a construction site versus the poem on might get from the poet who is pouring concrete. Either could produce the better poem, of course, but the latter's will be more deeply informed by experience. "To change your language," as Derek Walcott says, "you must change your life.
    I personally don't know many who would think to cross the street, let alone do what Hemingway did, in the hopes of getting a poem out of it. Rather it is the unconscious habit of poets to wait for the poem to come to them. (In the words of a poet friend, "You don't choose the poem, the poem choose you.")...the point rather is that poets today don't seem to be aware that what they write will be influence by how they live.

    At this point it is perfectly reasonable to ask that the public bear some responsibility for the plight of contemporary poetry. Our culture conspires to deny us our privacy, the quiet time it takes to read a poem. But I don't agree. The human mind is a marketplace, especially when it comes to selecting one's entertainment. Elizabethan theatergoers always had the option to go watch bearbaiting instead of one of Shakespeare's plays...

    Poetry needs to find it's public again, and address it. Poets can help accomplish this by bearing in mind the influences of how they live on what they write, and of what they write on how their readers live. They can rethink the traditional oppositions both within poetry (as they have done with formal verse vs. free) and between poetry and the rest of the world. They can revisit inherited atitudes regarding art for art's sake, art as therapy, and lyric poetry as the only kind of poetry. The can, like the first Impressionist painters, embrace the importance of being wrong in the eyes of the status quo---and thereby take back poetry's given ground....

    Groundbreaking new art comes when artists make a changed assumption about their relationship to their audience, talk to their readers in a new way, and assume they will understand. When Melville wrote, "Call me Ishmael"; when Whitman wrote, "I celebrate myself and sing myself/and what I assume you shall assume"; when Baudelaire wrote "Hypocrite lecteur"; when Frost in the first poem of his book, said, "You come too": each seemed to make transforming assumptions about his audience. Their direct address was address made somehow more direct. It held, succeeded, and literature was changed."
    "He was nauseous with regret when he saw her face again, and when, as of yore, he pleaded and begged at her knees for the joy of her being. She understood Neal; she stroked his hair; she knew he was mad."
    ---Jack Kerouac, On The Road: The Original Scroll

  10. #10
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    "No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money."

    Samuel Johnson


    I think that there are a few very good ideas in the essay, but a lot of it is overstated, and some of the points of comparison are simply misguided. "Why shouldn’t there be as many different kinds of literature as there are different kinds of music" - but there ARE as many different kinds. You seem to be saying that different GENRES equate to different modes of transmission, which is untrue. Here's some different kinds of music: jazz, metal, country, goth. Here's some different kinds of literature: detective fiction, gonzo journalism, gothic horror, sci-fi.

    With music, you are talking about different genres - and there are far more genres of literature than there are of music. Now, while I appreciate the sentiment (that we need a revolution in literature), I suspect that the real problem here is that none of us are able to agree on precisely WHAT the problem is! Also, I think most publishers would be happy to publish something radically removed from the mainstream format of literature, as long as it was actually any good! And unfortunately, there's a lot of mediocre stuff out there...

    Just my 2 cents.

  11. #11
    The Wolf of Larsen WolfLarsen's Avatar
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    Smile Hello everybody

    Countess said:

    "For me - abject poverty or great wealth, I will not prostitute my work to sell it. "

    "...I resolved, perhaps on a deeper level than previously realized, not to advance this degradation by participating in it, even if it means eternal obscurity and the death of all my work."

    Thank you Countess. Your words are few, passionate, and to the point. I wish my essay had those qualities.

    SheykAbdullah said:

    "However, I still believe the modern publishing houses are no worse a state than they have ever been before. "

    That may be true, but there are more ways around the publishing industry than ever before - like posting boards, the Internet, Amazon.com, print-on-demand, and author's web sites. Not exactly perfect - but more options for writers who don't write airport novels than ever before - and more options for readers looking for something different than commercial fiction.

    jon1jt makes some excellent points in his essay. Among them live an interesting life and hopefully your writing will be interesting too. He goes on to say "The need for something new is evident." He's right! And he says: "No major American poet has come from the academic world..." Maybe there are aspects of the academic world that discourage the innovation necessary to be a great poet?

    Touch says:

    "Also, I think most publishers would be happy to publish something radically removed from the mainstream format of literature, as long as it was actually any good!"

    I agree and disagree. I think some smaller publishers might publish radically different literature if they thought they would at least make SOME profit - it just depends on the publisher - there might even be a few small publishing houses who would do it if at least they didn't think they would lose money. I think larger publishers would publish something radically different if they were fairly certain it would make them a lot of money. I think their main concern would be the perceived risk of losing money by publishing radically different literature. The other obstacle is a certain corporate mindset - which is often very conservative and allergic to risk taking and anything radical unless there's big money to be made.

    Thank you Touch, Jon, SheykAbdullah, and Countess for your comments.

    Cheers!

    Wolf Larsen
    "...the ramblings of a narcissistic, self-obsessed, deranged mind."
    My poetry & other stuff on Amazon:
    http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=ntt_athr...or=Wolf Larsen

  12. #12
    The Wolf of Larsen WolfLarsen's Avatar
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    Oh yeah, 09. 09 said:

    "The only essential boundaries of literature are understandability, correct punctuation and grammatical tenses."

    I strongly disagree. Somewhere, on this site should be my essay entitled "Who Needs Grammar? Let's Throw Grammar in the Garbage Can." If you can't find it on this site you can google Wolf Larsen and the link to the essay is on the left side of my main web site page. You will have to scroll down a bit to find it, but the essay talks about how we do NOT need correct grammar in creative work - that an anal obsession with grammar can hinder creativity in literature.

    09 goes on to say:

    "We can see that all authors whose names have stood the test of time and will do so for several decades, if not centuries to come, were able to "break ground". They staunchly rivaled what their societies thought was improper to discuss and promoted the true "openness" which good literature strives to achieve."

    Those words are great 09! Thank you! Well said!

    Cheers!

    Wolf Larsen
    "...the ramblings of a narcissistic, self-obsessed, deranged mind."
    My poetry & other stuff on Amazon:
    http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=ntt_athr...or=Wolf Larsen

  13. #13
    Left 4evr Adolescent09's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WolfLarsen View Post
    I strongly disagree. Somewhere, on this site should be my essay entitled "Who Needs Grammar? Let's Throw Grammar in the Garbage Can." If you can't find it on this site you can google Wolf Larsen and the link to the essay is on the left side of my main web site page. You will have to scroll down a bit to find it, but the essay talks about how we do NOT need correct grammar in creative work - that an anal obsession with grammar can hinder creativity in literature.
    That is an interesting objection Wolflarsen and I must acquiesce with you to a point. Yes, grammatical scrutiny without concentrating astutely on the creativity of writing can marr the potentially profound meaning of its content, but if your writing is packed with bad syncopations and grammatical fallicies to the point where it is overtly incomprehensible, I think one should have some consideration for the fundamentals of grammar as a subject. Proper punctuation... commas... periods after short sentences... have been known to "stilt" writing to the point where it's outwardly unneffective but impulsive flaws in grammar such as sentence run-ons have proven to be very useful in writing. Here's an example:

    A sentence which is grammatically correct but drably portrayed: I saw the birds, the bees and the wallows from my angel's burrow on the ground. My hands and legs spun on degrees against the dandilions and sifted yellow pollen on my palms.

    A sentence run-on without the "stiltedness" provoking imagination: The birds and the bees and the wallows spun golden shadows, round and round, round and round my head,'Chirp--chirp, buzzzzz, deep droning call of life, about my earth-embedded countenance. Golden showers all around, drifting down inch by inch on open hands, angel wings, my floating legs... colored yellow..
    --------------

    So while I agree that attention on fine grammar and punctuation does less to promote imaginative thought, let us see what happens when grammatical attention is blatantly undermined:

    The birds and the bees. The wallows. They spin, spin gold shadows! Round, round, round about my head going "chirp--chirp"! "Buzzzzzzzzz". Deep drone calls. My countenance is flat--in the earth--very flat. Showers gold, bright, bright gold, drifting about on imperceptible strings upon my hands like angel wings and on my legs like floating, floating paddles.. All, yellow. So, so, so yellow.
    My hide hides the heart inside

  14. #14
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    Thumbs up Hey

    I started this with the desire to be short and sweet, but had too much to say. Two part response.

    1: On the entry:

    The topic this thread is attempting to chew might just be too simple for its contributors. Isn’t that human? I like the idea, but lets revive this as a discussion – not a sigh of defeat (which is the impression I get from some responses).

    First, I have a few issues with what Larsen said…

    To say that novels, short stories, and poetry represent limited venues of writing is absurd. Writing a story, whether it is a short, novella, novel, whatever – it is a story and that’s that. The content! That is what's lacking. Creative approaches to writing are out there and more are on their way.

    Also, writing is not a slave to grammar. Weak writers follow it to the grave, but the strongest writers will always know when and how to use proper grammar. If you are seeking a “Picasso” of literature, it would prove a point and then be rendered useless. I think that is why you used the word "can" in "an anal obsession with grammar can hinder creativity in literature." Why scoff at coherent writing? The stuffy artsy approach is reserved for appreciators and will never be shared by the innovators.

    Lastly, music. I agree with Touch, but wand to add...What musician spends a career foregoing simple tools of music like rhythm and scales, which are equal to grammar for writing in my eyes (feel free to argue that)? Even jazz has rules. Perhaps I don’t get what you were trying to say with that, but it seems irrelevant.

    2: The Future!

    Phew. Now I can get to the goods.

    There are so many trends in our culture right now that I’m sure you’re overlooking (because I’m definitely younger and see it). The established music industry is reaching its tipping point and the bands on indy labels or self-produced, are becoming the most popular among budding groups. Bands release music online, self-produce CDs and make a decent amount of money. Because music has the largest market in the arts, it will obviously move forward first.

    If an equal audience were available for writing and music, independent writing would be evolve as quickly. Authors can and are selling and publishing their own work. It takes time and money to catch on. Nothing changes overnight.

    New themes, styles, structures are desperately needed. Creative approaches to old ideas will even do in some cases! We have been rewriting Greek tragedy for far too long. Also, please consider that writing, at best, will amount to a tool used to gain insight into the present society for future historians and anthropologists. Why not be creative and f[mess?] with them by using creative measures. That’s just me. (I love that someone brought up Ginsberg and Kerouac. I've read Kerouac more-so. He is an innovative storyteller.)

    I think writing is something that people don’t get into if they can help it because of the low capital reward. If you love it, you are doomed to be a writer, good or bad. Be proud of it. Don’t squander it. Get on the scene and suck the marrow out of the beast. Write about it in your way, that’s your charge. If you forget that, hell – you’ll be (as Larsen put) one of those airport novelists. At least you’ve got the cash!

    Literary revolution is right here, right now, tangible, and if you don’t see it, that’s your fault for being jaded.

    So lets discuss… What is the future? What are we doing to change things? What should be done? Is it even something that should be articulated?

    I hope it has nothing to do with trite Chuck Palahniuk stuff. (Sorry for the barely related jab, it jumped out and I don’t want to take it back.)

    Thanks for the thread.

    -Ryan
    Last edited by cows; 04-18-2007 at 11:01 PM.

  15. #15
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    +, on the publishing/production/recording/advertising industry front, they will probably change to fit the trends and keep their power.

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