Easter Rabbit, Joseph Young. This is an IMPORTANT book. Some reviewer predicted early in Richard Brautigan’s career that he was creating a new genre, that one day we’d read novels, poems, short stories, and “brautigans.” He was right, even if common parlance has yet to catch up. Enter the new mode of writing: ‘joe-youngs.’ These are not flash fictions. They use very few words and often have a narrative suggestion, but they are are not tightly wrought nuggets. These joe-youngs exist beyond the reader’s, and I suspect the writer’s, control. The words prod and explore the essence of a moment. Barthelme could suggest a world with a few words. Instead, Joseph Young explores a pinpoint in a page. (I keep this on my desk when I write; I’d suggest you do the same.)
Light Boxes, Shane Jones. This is a beautiful and fun and melancholy and classic ‘brautigan.’ You all heard about it, right? This book makes me nostalgic for my formative reading experiences: Dahl, C.S. Lewis, Marquez, Kafka, Calvino, etc. For me, this is a familiar and emotional book – a comfortable (and I mean that in a very good way) place to be.
MLKNG SCKLS, Justin Sirois. A book about Iraq. War-torn Iraq. It provides such a complicated narrative and emotional system that the didacticism inherent in political literature falls away. But, this book has great political potential. Justin leaves his characters bare to the reader so as to create an emotional connection and shift in values in the way we see an abstracted political conflict. The balance of power and our role in it will necessarily shift after reading this book.
Notes From the Committee, Catherine Kasper. This is a new one that I haven’t seen much talk about yet. Time to get it started. Read this book – it’s awesome. An anatomy of a structurally layered society presented as theater. The pleasure you’ll get from reading this will make you feel guilty. I’m working on an interview about this book with Catherine that should be up at The Chapbook Review in the next few months.
Lake Antiquity, Brandon Downing. Fence burnt the house down with this book. It would be disrespectful to leave it on your coffee table; hang it above your front door for everyone to see. This full color art edition collects a decade of Brandon’s collages, using found images and text to create page after page of maximalist masterpiece. (I published a selection in Action,Yes, but seeing in on the screen doesn’t begin to suggest what this block of book looks and feels like in your lap.)
(Note: I just noticed that three of these five are published by Publishing Genius. Adam Robinson is doing a great thing for American literature with his little Baltimore empire. The best thing about his press is that it isn’t defined by a certain type of literature; there’s no PG “type.” There is little similar about any of these books, other than reinvention. Things like PG should make us feel good about art as we step into the new year.)