Pop Quiz: Angelo Lorenzo

A NEW POP LIT Q & A WITH AN EXCITING WRITER

Angelo Lorenzo

TODAY’S QUIZ IS WITH ONE OF THE BEST YOUNG SHORT STORY WRITERS ON THE PLANET– ANGELO LORENZO

1.)  Who’s your favorite short story writer living or dead?

AL:  I have to admit that before I got engaged with short stories, I’ve spent my early years as an avid reader by getting immersed in novels. When it comes to fiction, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Stephen King, and George R.R. Martin would definitely come to mind. While Lewis and Tolkien made it to my reading lists when I was in elementary and high school, King and Martin helped me with style and voice when I got serious with writing in college.

But for short stories, I must say Edgar Allan Poe would be one in the list. Horror and dark tales have their ways of engaging the reader. Poe, regardless of his personal life, innovated literature by shortening the narrative form and hooking the reader with terrifying imagery. “The Masque of the Red Death” is one of my favorites.

In the local literary scene, I have been following the works of Nick Joaquin, Dean Francis Alfar, and Elena Paulma. Joaquin has been one of the most recognized Filipino writers because of the socio-political issues he depicted in his short stories. While he may have passed on, universities still study his works. Alfar, on the other hand, has written short stories which can be categorized under the genres that I love – magical realism and fantasy. Paulma underscores women empowerment with her characters. She keeps classical themes of family and love in contemporary setting.

2.)  Why did you become a writer?

AL:  When I was 11, my mother took me and my sister to watch the film adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I was amazed by the story, as well as its allegory. I remember obsessing over the series since then. I read the books, got introduced to fantasy, and then started reading other books. I think it was at that time when I started dreaming of becoming a writer someday. I wanted to explore further the kind of worlds that Lewis, Tolkien, Ursula K. Le Guin, Christopher Paolini, and J.K. Rowling created.

It wasn’t until I was 18 that I started getting serious about writing. I wrote a couple of drafts, self-published them online, and also practiced translating my idea into words. I took advantage of the knowledge I gained while in college to hone this skill, especially when it comes to writing with structure. I majored in Development Journalism, and the program made me familiar with the discipline.

Currently, I am taking my Master’s Degree in Literature. Reading and writing will always be a part of me, and I think that’s a good thing. Nothing compares to the feeling of fulfillment once a writer completes a manuscript or makes worlds out of words. After all, I believe everyone is creative. The medium which we prefer to showcase our creativity makes the difference. I think it was Elizabeth Gilbert who introduced me to this idea after reading her book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.

Also, I write because I feel good doing it, and I feel accomplished every time I finish what I’m writing.

3.)  Can writers be pop stars?

AL:  Taylor Swift, I believe, is a great writer. Her songs made her a sensational pop star in this generation. The same goes with Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Karen Carpenter, Patti Smith, and the many names in the constellation of music.

But when it comes to art in the written format (or literature in general), I think writers can definitely be pop stars. However, the work matters before the name. Genuine artists focus on the craft before anything else. Fame, reputation, recognition and wealth may be side effects, but these should not be the end-result or the main objective. Art is not about hoarding attention or money. These may come or these may not. But what every writer should keep in mind is that their craft is their outlet to deliver their message. These messages may inspire, disturb, reflect, frighten, encourage, motivate, etc. And whether these would spark attention or generate income, that’s for the odds to decide. The value of the craft – and in the case of writers, writing – should always come first. 
***

NOW READ ANGELO’S STORY, “SPOILER ALERT.”

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Pop Quiz: Rachel Haywire

A QUICK NEW POP LIT Q & A WITH AN EXCITING WRITER

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TODAY’S QUIZ IS WITH TRANSHUMANIST PARTY CANDIDATE– AND WRITER– RACHEL HAYWIRE

1.)  Have you done anything in your life bolder than running for President?

“Too many things. Running for President is my attempt to learn how to be normal. When I was a teenager I hitchhiked across the country. I stayed in a bunch of hacker squats and played live shows in between going to conferences and festivals. Meanwhile I was running a record label, organizing street kids, and dining the elite. Seriously, running for President is a boring game.”

2.)  Is the new generation too shocked by out-of-the-box ideas?

“Yes. They think out-of-the-box means wearing a quirky t-shirt with their cat on it, or attending a poly gamer meetup. Yet the minute they meet someone who is actually out-of-the-box, they run away screaming and claim toxic vibes or micro aggression. They are careful and boring, yet then again they are far more stable than me and my friends were growing up.”

3.)  As a futurist, do you see a future for literature?

“I do, yet it will be nothing like the literature that we know today. Instead, it will be immersive and break down previous genre expectations. There will be an eclectic return to tradition mixed with a postmodern pop sensibility. It will have a vitalist current that will shake readers out of their comfort zones. Underground subgenres will mutate into new forms that will eventually penetrate the mainstream.”
***

NOW READ RACHEL HAYWIRE’S STORY, “THE KINGDOM.”

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This Hasn’t Been A Very Magical Journey So Far by Homeless

Reviewed by New Pop Lit

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“I move through the world like it’s some sort of mirage. I move through the poetry the same way someone moves through a ghost they don’t see but is still there. And it really is there, the poetry. Poetry is everywhere because life is everywhere. But how can you write about life when you’ve completely fallen out of love with life? You move through the world, or your perception of the world, like some kind of lethargic tumbleweed.”
****

Everything in the established literary world is geared toward standard status quo opinion. Everything among the literary cognoscenti is geared toward their peers, the herd of acceptable thought. NOT toward those writing outside the margins of approval or disapproval of the Big Five-financed literary establishment. Which are the only margins that matter. If you’re announcing your love of the marginalized at swanky dinners in Manhattan, at hyper-expensive chi-chi restaurants on Wall Street– Big Five-published marginalized– then how marginalized are they?

One writer who’s not on Wall Street but is marginalized and has named himself Homeless has written a novel published by an indy outfit named Expat Press.

The novel: THIS HASN’T BEEN A VERY MAGICAL JOURNEY SO FAR

I suspect Homeless is one of those homeless or near-homeless people you see throughout the island of Manhattan– that hyper-expensive island hyper-blind to its own authentic artists and writers– one of the characters handing out flyers to tourists in Times Square trying to survive to keep their art alive in that insular island dreams and disasters. . . .

His novel “Journey” has the vibe of homelessness, though it reads like a surrealistic dream, one of those dreams we all have which seem starkly real yet also mad and last forever, for days, then you wake up and you’ve been asleep for two hours. An experiment in reality and time.

The plot? There’s not much of a plot. Only a tale that begins in a hospital when the lead character meets a talking cat–

Hank Williams knows cats don’t speak. He knows they only purr or meow or sometimes screech and howl depending on their mood. But something about this unnatural act of the cat greeting him seems very natural, like it’s supposed to be happening, this unusual verbal exchange between human and feline.

–and they go on a long highway which might be a real highway or could be a highway of the mind. A mix of reality and unreality.

Isabel stops cupping her breasts and looks up around the ceiling, her face expressing intense levels of anxiety.

“I feel like an angel is locked onto my head with a sniper rifle. Like an angel’s lying on a cloud somewhere above me, staring down his scope at my head with his finger resting lightly on the trigger, ready to blow my brains out the back of my head and all over the wall.”

The narrative has the poignancy of a dream.

Expat Press is publishing more than a score of striking new writers. Fascinating, confident, intelligently imaginative writers. I see announcements about them everyplace. Their work isn’t pop and it’s not literary– it’s something underground that you’ll have to read for yourself to decide if it’s your thing. They might be, like Homeless, from the streets, or they might be instead the refuse of the academy. Or something in between. Are they the future– a possible path or magical journey showing the literary future?

That’s not for us but for you the reader to decide. They’re here and aren’t going away.
****

Purchase his book here. Do it.

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(Photo of Homeless.)

 

The Triumph of Christianity by Bart D. Ehrman

Reviewed by Karl Wenclas

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–we need to make a special effort not to think that somehow monotheistic faiths are inherently “superior” and that the movement away from paganism is somehow “progress.” It is not progress. It is not regress either. I am not making any evaluative judgment or asking whether one religious system is better than another and closer to some ultimate truth.

No judgments? Why would someone then pay twenty-eight dollars list price for the book? The subtitle says, “How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World.” Does the book answer the “how”?

THE TRIUMPH OF CHRISTIANITY concludes that, yes, the religion did triumph– but is unwilling to say much beyond that. According to his thorough research (Bart Ehrman is a much-lauded historian; he’s published many books), the obscure sect– begun in his words by “twenty or so illiterate day laborers”– triumphed over hundreds of other cults and sects, and the mighty Roman Empire itself, by using a strategy similar to that of Avon and Amway. Yep folks, that’s it. Have a few friends over while you work your job. Tell them about this neat idea you found out about. And they’ll tell two friends, and they’ll tell. . . .

Well, maybe. Or not.

The chief question the book raised for me is why Bart D. Ehrman hedges his bets. A severe avoidance of risk. A Simon & Schuster marketing person must have come up with the hyperbolic subtitle. My question is how intently a Simon & Schuster editor was looking over Ehrman’s shoulder tamping the emotion down. “Can’t offend anybody, you know. Not even pagans. They might be a vocal interest group– they have a good turnout on Halloween, anyway. All those werewolf movies! Nope. Too risky. Be careful.”

I was hoping for more. Ehrman scarcely mentions the Resurrection. Might that have been important? Transformative?

The Gospels? Did their words, depictions, narrative, drama, light a fire under people? Hardly touched on.

resurrection of Lazarus by leon bonnat(“Resurrection of Lazarus” by Leon Bonnat.)

Missing for the most part is the element of fanatical belief.

As for himself, Bart Ehrman indicates he kinda once believed, but now he kinda really doesn’t. But he can’t be sure.

Why does this matter to me?

I have an interest in cultural movements. (My focus has been on arts movements.) I’ve studied them assiduously, looking for clues. I can testify from experience they’re not sustained by the timid, the weak willed. By hobbyists or dabblers. They can be put through only by fearless 100% committed balls-to-the-wall individuals willing to face anything in pursuit of their cause. Anything— from prison to lions to upside-down crucifixion. Such movements require irrational passion– passion nowhere to be found in the careful pages of this book.

crucifixion of peter lorenzo veneziano(“The Crucifixion of Peter” by Lorenzo Veneziano.)

Like most other things in today’s culture, Bart D. Ehrman’s Triumph of Christianity is thin gruel.
****

The-Resurrection_Ricci_Sebastiano_wikimedia-commons(“Resurrection” by Sebastiano Ricci.)

Go-Go Day by Elizabeth Sims

Reviewed by New Pop Lit

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Regina knew perfectly well what Barb and everybody else thought of her. She was a Seybold. Her brothers and sisters, all way older, were gone from the house except Earl, the third oldest, who had been and come back from Afghanistan and was having a hard time getting interested in working. The Seybolds lived in the shabbiest double-wide in Dustin Point, Michigan. You could almost smell the cigarette smoke and dirty feet from the street.
****

ANYONE assessing America’s best short story writers needs to include Elizabeth Sims in their survey.

GO-GO DAY presents four stories– only four, but every one, in different ways, is terrific. They’re sustained by hidden wit and a large underpinning of humanity.

The four tales:

“Dixon Amiss”:  Two one-armed men show up at a man’s door one Saturday morning, ostensibly to look at an old-fashioned printing press, bringing with them much tension.

“The Cashmere Club”:  Two high school girls discuss shoplifting a cashmere sweater in order for one of them to join an exclusive school club.

The best story in the collection,  “The Cashmere Club” is also one of the best stories you’ll read this year, or any year. Like the other three tales, the narrative keeps the reader off balance at the same time it achieves– beyond the complications of plot– surprising understanding and depth. Ultimately, a sense of context about the dilemmas of time and life

“West Forkton Days”:  A young man with expansive dreams arrives back in his Indiana home town from Los Angeles for the funeral of his father.

Hale knew that hardly anybody who wanted to succeed in the film business actually did. Everybody he met in LA told him over and over how hard it was to make it, what a bastard of a market it was to crack. And yet everybody was trying like a maniac to be the one.

This story could be called wise but it’s also hilarious. Hale Hobson is all of us– a striver, a dreamer, but a little bit lazy and more than a bit hapless

“Go-Go Day”:  The title story is about an elderly home owner asked by her city to clean up the swimming pool in her yard, which hasn’t been touched in years. Memories and complications ensue. Catch the double meaning of the phrase “We’re Going Places!” evident at the end

These are four excellent stories which demonstrate that the short story can be readable and engaging, yet also contain wisdom and convey meaning about what it’s like to be a human being in this crazy world. Which is what literature is really about.
*******

Find out how to read Go-Go Day here.

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(Photo of Elizabeth Sims.)

1987 and Other Stories by Vladimir Kozlov

Reviewed by New Pop Lit

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Igor died at the end of the ninth grade in May. He was drinking wine on the bank of the river, then he went swimming and drowned.

Ten tough stories from Russian author Vladimir Kozlov which are distinctly unromantic. Most are set during perestroika and the collapse of the Soviet Union, examining the lives of those coming of age in that system. Incidents include a man picking up a woman on a bus, a boy falling off a roof, punks celebrating Hitler’s birthday; protests and police; classrooms, liaisons, rebellions, fights– a lot of them– and unemotional, often awkward dates. To say this is a world without illusion is an understatement. There are enough glimpses of now to believe things in Russia since then have not greatly changed.

Lenka’s father was an alcoholic and used to be a math teacher. People said he sobered up and fell off the wagon a bunch of times, and that he was fired from his regular job because of it. Now he was working as the school’s security guard at night.

But he also used to be a poet, and ten years ago or maybe longer, his poetry always used to get published in the city newspaper. Lenka hated her parents and they hated her.

The two best stories in the collection are the title story, “1987”– about the arrival of punk music and punk attitudes into a Soviet town– and “Olya.”

I walked on further to Victory Square. I went into the Dawn Bookstore, in the five-story building next to the trolley bus stop. Olya was sitting behind the counter, reading a book wrapped in a newspaper dust jacket. She looked up at me and said, “Hi.”

“Hi,” I answered. “You work here?”

“Looks like it, doesn’t it?” she said.

“Olya” is a pessimistic tale about a young woman with much promise, then with no promise. An analogy to the society. The character is never described, but we can see her, the expression on her face, based on her words and her life. Fallen potential– the story opens with the narrator thinking he glimpsed her twenty-five years later, but he isn’t sure.

The theme of these stories is the absence of dreams– the impossibility of dreams.

“Worker’s is a neighborhood for lame-o proletarians and peasants. The worst part is, the teachers that work at that school get to be the same way after a while. I know they all used to talk about me. But I don’t give a shit.”

Another very good story is “The Major,” which we’re privileged to present as our current fiction feature, for the first time anywhere in English, as translated by Andrea Gregovich.
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After I read the stories, I went with my contributing editor KMC to a small diner in a depressed community downriver of Detroit. Three high school students, two boys and a girl, lounged in one of the booths. Tough kids. I realized that Kozlov’s stories reminded me of downriver Detroit. The same sense of being trapped in a box; same gray attitude and acceptance of life.

Vladimir Kozlov’s stories are unflinchingly real.
****

Right now you can purchase this collection as an e-book for only five dollars, at Fiction Advocate, here. Buy it and keep up with the authentic literary world.

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(Photo of Vladimir Kozlov.)

 

Howls From The Underground

Reviewed by New Pop Lit

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IS the literary underground on the rebound? The new anthology from Screamin’ Skull Press suggests the answer to that question is YES!

Screamin’ Skull is a very cool literary project run by one of the coolest couples in all the lit world, Tony and Nicole Nesca (both whom we’ve reviewed previously). Their wonderful words bookend this collection and are in themselves highlights.

HOWEVER, the big surprise is a host of other indie word talents included as well.
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Talents such as Ali Kinteh, who contributes two superb essays.

The world is filled with whippets laden by pubertal and piteous interests and I can ill afford to fritter away my time when I have so little of it left. I am only interested in what is equitable and authentic.

-from “The Agony and Ecstasy of Penmanship”
****

Or Laura Kerr, an artist-poet who’s able to turn words into a type of visual artistic display.

I am split screen greens and
scarlet line rockets
upright on my reinforced skyscraper legs
lifting my battery-box torso arched against
election guns and a phosphorescent socket

-from “In The End”
****

C.S. Fuqua has 14 poems in the collection, and also designed the cover.

eyes avoiding eyes,
smiles fleeting, dismissing,
attention centered on phones connected
to the disconnected media of society,
platforms from which platitudes and concern
suicide dive into oblivion.

-from “At the MRI”
****

Definitely among the highlights are three slice-of-life short stories by Chrissi Sepe overflowing with gritty reality combined with wistful melancholy and a dab of cynicism– with humor in the last one about a strange European couple, and cockroaches, and. . . .

sepe two - Edited(Chrissi Sepe.)

They’re stories which give the same feeling as listening to New York City-style punk rock songs. They show the reader life.
****

With his poetry, Scott Laudati gives some of the same feeling.

the city is finally yours.
just a faraway hum of an ambulance.
no taxi horns.

-from “Leave Me Alone”
****

Stephen Moran offers two striking short stories.

“Transitory” is a written-out nightmare. The kind of paranoid dream each of us has on occasion. A sense of disconnectedness and alienation.

“A Parable” has a double theme.

First, the toxicity of males in this society which must be restrained.

Second, a subconscious unspoken unheard complaint at the restraint.

It’s another example of words becoming a painting in which the viewer sees various things– depending on the viewer, of course.
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G.H. Neale is a fiction writer who pushes at the outside envelope of what can be done with language.

“Carlo, don’t cuss, you should think of your body, hun. You should treasure your body,” hypocritically interjected the beefy American’s double-fatted wife, whose spaghetti-strapped crop top was salami-slicing deeply into her own fleshy chorizo heftiness of unctuous and glutenous lard.”

-from “En La Plaza Mayor”

(Reading this story started me thinking how close writers are to breaking through a literary sound barrier– using words in newly-creative ways, as G.H. Neale uses them, one part of that.)
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I wish I had the space to quote more from this collection. From Ted Prokash, Thom Young, and the Nescas themselves.

I wish I had the words to convey the experience of opening the book and finding all these variegated pieces together, reflecting on one another like a many-sided cubist three-dimensional painting.

I wish I could more fully express the importance of underground writers creating outside the mental conformity of boxes of one-size-fits-all programs and artistic-dictatorship conglomerates.

These are stimulating reads from a variety of authentically underground talents– in spirit and fact. They present literary punk– literary jazz– with all manner of heartfelt-and-honest notes in between. Literary music. Present and future writing.
****

Check out Screamin’ Skull Press here.

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(Photos of Tony and Nicole Nesca.)