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I Shot the Moon, Calamari Press, 41 / 41, SLEEPINGFISH 8

Click through to read the full review of SLEEPINGFISH, the forty-first (and final installment) in this full-press review of Calamari Press, and one in which I excerpt some tremendous work, praise Calamari Press one last time, give away copies of SLEEPINGFISH 8, and publicly offer a book contract to M. T. Fallon.

I cannot say enough goodness about Calamari Books. What I can say, is this: If Mud Luscious Press reigns for as long as Calamari Press has so far, releasing titles anywhere near as quality in both production and content as they have, and with an aesthetic branding even half as vibrant, I will forever glow. When I mention Calamari Press to readers or writers who don’t know them, I immediately name title after title. Gary Lutz, Peter Markus, Miranda Mellis. Sleepingfish and Ark Codex ±0. I run them over with words that they need to read, because these are words that need to be read.

For instance, and specifically, take this latest issue, SLEEPINGFISH 8. It is co-edited by Gary Lutz (brilliant), and contains work by the most heavy of hitters on the indie scene: Dennis Cooper, Blake Butler, Daniel Grandbois, David Ohle, Christine Schutt, Matt Bell, Diane Williams, and a host of others. But so what right? I mean, lit super-star or not, the words have to be beautiful no matter what name is attached, and they are, all of them, every one of them, beautiful. There is in fact not one single piece in SLEEPINGFISH 8 that I wasn’t charmed by in one way or another. Here, I’ll try to prove it. How about this from Rachel May’s ‘Good.’:

When dolls have sex on screen, and the hands hold the dolls, I feel uncomfortable. One is just a ghost-doll, and one is a real doll. The ghost doll has an open mouth. The ghost doll is starving for something. The real doll has brown hair, and climbs on the ghost doll, which is what happens in real life sometimes, the crawling yearning of it—which isn’t always pretty. But sometimes, like at the end of the doll serenade, it is so good.

The phrasing is repetitive but lively still, and ‘crawling yearning’ is a combination of words that knocks me out. Or how about this, from Amelia Gray’s ‘The Vanished’:

The couple was a boy and a girl couple, and they were eating love right out in the open. They swallowed great handfuls of love, sticky tangled masses of it, standing nose to nose with one another. They were gorging on the stuff. Love dripped from their hands and landed in spatters on their shoes. The boy wiped his hand in his hair and left a long slick. These gluttons of love spread it across each other’s mouths. They made wet noises as they consumed.

Such fully erect words – swallowed, sticky, tangled, gorging, spatters, slick, gluttons – and yet even with the sexual aggressive the piece still feels lovely and nice. A wonder. Or how about this from Julie Doxsee’s ‘Summary of a Moon Film’:

She is unaware of the little bits of fabric he would sew into her palms: in private she squelches her poise and it is awful to hear silence exist in such a perfect American accent.

I wanted to quote so much more of this one, like all of them, like all of the piece itself, but then again I want you to seek it out for yourself, to hold Doxsee’s carefully winding of language in your own head and hands, to feel how vivid her dissections are. And how about this, as a last instance, from M. T. Fallon’s ‘from An Introduction to the Work of Ivan Menchov by Igor Lenchov’:

I am going to kill Menchov, I said to myself, I am going to kill him, I thought, walking to the cake table. I am going to murder him, I thought, picking up the cake knife. What’s that you say, Menchov said, taking a bite of cake. I can’t hear you, Menchov said, you’re murmuring, he said. I am going to kill you, I thought, looking at Menchov. Open your mouth when you speak, Menchov said to me, what is wrong with you, he said, taking a sip of punch. I am going to kill, I thought, holding the cake knife. You are murmuring, Menchov said, I can’t hear you, said Menchov, eating his cake. I am going to kill Menchov, I thought. You’re murmuring, Menchov said, you’re a murmurer, said Menchov, murmurer!

Every excerpt I’ve ever seen from Fallon’s Menchov manuscript is stunning, rife with the best combinations of poetry and punch, and the extended portion in SLEEPINGFISH 8 is no exception, is in fact one of the best samples I’ve read. And I’m actually so in love with this manuscript that I’d like to make it public, right here, right now: M. T. Fallon, if you’d like to publish this Menchov book with Mud Luscious Press, we’ll contract it with you today, for real.

This is the power of Calamari Press. Words so good that I wish I’d published them, that I wish I’d written them, words that I hope to publish if no one else has yet. And to end this full-press review with proper gusto, to put my money where my mouth is, I will buy a copy of SLEEPINGFISH 8 for the next person who buys a title from Calamari Press – just forward the receipt to me here and I’ll order you a copy of SLEEPINGFISH 8. And if you miss out on this, don’t fret, you can nab your own here – it is a righteous buy.

Well, that is that. I’ve now officially reviewed every Calamari title up to their 2012 releases, and it has been a blast. As I said at the beginning of this full-press review, reading every title that a press publishes gives you an unparalleled insight – so: pick a press, order up, and start your own wave of reviews.

3 thoughts on “I Shot the Moon, Calamari Press, 41 / 41, SLEEPINGFISH 8

  1. Congrats, J. A., on seeing this project through!

    Do Dalkey next.

    … More seriously, would you be so inclined to pick your five or ten favorite of the 43 or so Calamari titles?

  2. Shit, Dalkey, there would go 5-6 years at least. But in all reality, next up is a full-press review of Subito, which I’ll start this month over at the PANK blog.

    How to pick 5-10 favorites though, realllllllly difficult, but (from past to present):

    Peter Markus / The Singing Fish
    Peter Markus / Good, Brother
    Miranda Mellis / The Revisionist
    Part of the World / Robert Lopez
    Motorman / David Ohle
    Ever / Blake Butler
    Boons & The Camp / David Ohle
    SleepingFish 8
    Divorcer / Gary Lutz
    Ark Codex ± 0

    If someone bought those ten titles, they’d fall in love.

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