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Big Other’s Most Anticipated Small Press Books of 2020!

 

Imagine if most anticipated books lists didn’t grossly resemble each other. Imagine if they didn’t simply privilege books from the so-called Big Five (Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster) and their many subsidiaries. Imagine if mainstream magazine and newspaper editors and publishers paid substantial attention to the marvelous books published by small presses every year. Imagine if they regularly spotlighted books that are smart, innovative, imaginative, and beautifully strange. Imagine if every critic, reviewer, interviewer, podcaster, etc., did the same. Imagine if everyone who cared about literature did everything to could to promote the best words in the best order. Et cetera ad astra.

Below you’ll find the 2020 books I’m most excited about, which all happen to be published exclusively by small presses, which always do the heavy lifting in publishing. You’ll find I’m partial to the unruly, difficult, provocative, anomalous, transgressive, innovative, disruptive, heterodox, unnameable.

Delighted to share that ten Big Other contributors have books coming out in 2020: Rae Armantrout, Nik De Dominic, Shira Dentz, Debra Di Blasi, Tina May Hall, Norman Lock, Lance Olsen, Danielle Pafunda, Davis Schneiderman, and Rone Shavers.

Shout out to literary citizens Cynthia Atkins, J’Lyn Chapman, Wendy J. Fox, Tim Horvath, Tim Jones-Yelvington, Meghan Lamb, Douglas A. Martin, Ray Nessly, Sejal Shah, Laura Stanfill, Jason Teal, and Dan Wickett for a bringing several of these books to my attention.

Feel free to leave comments about forthcoming small press books I might have missed. NB: Be sure to mention other people’s books beside your own.

 

January

Big Other contributor Nik De Dominic’s Goodbye Wolf (The Operating System, January 11, 2020): From the publisher: “A collection of poems alternating between the author’s subversion of the horoscope and its tropes and his epistles to chronic illness, dear wolf or lupus. The poems explore the everydayness of disease and the absurdity of asking for answers from the stars—and of course waiting for their replies. Someone once said the longer you wait for the bus, the sooner it’ll arrive.”

Still, by Sandra Meeks (Persea, January 14, 2020): “In her fierce new collection, poet Sandra Meek subverts Renaissance still-life painting in order to illuminate the perhaps irreparable natural and cultural harm inflicted by colonial forces, even those that manage to create a certain beauty from imperial spoils….Still re-imagines the Renaissance concept of the studiolo, a room displaying cabinets of wonder, each juxtaposing human-made art objects, such as miniature still-life paintings, with natural ones―harbingers of the coming wonders and catastrophes of travel brought back from distant lands Europeans claimed as ‘discoveries.'”

Your New Feeling is the Artifact of a Bygone Era, by Chad Bennett (Sarabande, January 14, 2020): From the press: “Chad Bennett casually combines icons of the way we live now—GIFs, smartphones, YouTube—with a classical lover’s lament. The result is certainly a deeply personal account of loss, but more critically, a dismantling of an American history of queerness…All at once cerebral, physical, personal, and communal, Your New Feeling Is the Artifact of a Bygone Era constructs a future worth celebrating.”

Big Other contributor Lance Olsen’s My Red Heaven (Dzanc Books, January 21, 2020): With advance praise from many literary luminaries, like Samuel R. Delany, Joseph McElroy, Carole Maso, John Haskell, Sergio de la Pava, Melanie Rae Thon, and Steven Moore, how can anyone resist this marvelous prose object set on a single day in Golden Twenties Berlin, which “explores a complex moment in history: the rise of deadly populism at a time when everything seemed possible and the future unimaginable”?

Homie, by Danez Smith (Graywolf Press, January 21, 2020): From the publisher: “Homie is Danez Smith’s magnificent anthem about the saving grace of friendship. Rooted in the loss of one of Smith’s close friends, this book comes out of the search for joy and intimacy within a nation where both can seem scarce and getting scarcer. In poems of rare power and generosity, Smith acknowledges that in a country overrun by violence, xenophobia, and disparity, and in a body defined by race, queerness, and diagnosis, it can be hard to survive, even harder to remember reasons for living. But then the phone lights up, or a shout comes up to the window, and family―blood and chosen―arrives with just the right food and some redemption. Part friendship diary, part bright elegy, part war cry, Homie is the exuberant new book written for Danez and for Danez’s friends and for you and for yours.”

Swerve: Poems on Environmentalism, Feminism, and Resistance, by Ellery Akers (Blue Light Press, January 24, 2020): Here’s Joseph Stroud’s advance praise: “In the world we are in now, and the harrowing world to come, we need poems as guides, and as resistance to the forces that would corrupt and diminish us. For some time now, Ellery Akers has been crafting these necessary poems. Swerve is a book that confronts the primary issues of the 21st century with insight and candor, along with hope and courage.”

Leave to Remain: Legends of Janus, by Thalia Field and Abigail Lang (Dalkey Archive Press, January 28, 2020): From the press: “Leave to Remain is a faux spy-novel possessed by the spirit of Janus: doubleness, duplicity, double-entendres, two-facedness, bridges and doorways—as is only appropriate for a work composed by two writers, one French, one American. In their earlier hybrid essay, A Prank of Georges (2010), Thalia Field and Abigail Lang returned us to ‘the primal force of language: naming’ (Susan Howe). In Leave to Remain, a weathered Janus pursues an elusive quest, responding to a world of war, traitors, translations, and the slippery personal and political terrain between friend and enemies. This silly and deadly serious fiction aims at nothing less than a full inquiry into how monstrous we are when we define loyalties and defend definitions, and how we are all double-agents seeking meaningful and intelligence.”

Howard and Charles at the Factory, by Dave Housley (Outpost19): From the publisher: “In this darkly funny novella, two aging men arrive at their old factory to wait for their jobs to come back, believing the promises of Donald Trump’s campaign. In a pair of lawn chairs, they keep watch over the abandoned site, echoing the president’s words and weathering the disorientation that follows, from visions of a dinosaur and a hovering UFO to the opportunistic violence of a white nationalist influencer. A swift meditation on the brute force of words, with all the comedy and urgency of Dave Housley’s expert wit.”

Animal Children, by Hugh Behm-Steinberg (Nomadic Press): Maxine Chernoff writes: “Like Ovid, Hugh Behm-Steinberg is preoccupied with transformation and resolution, the many complications of life negotiated with gentleness and humor in his prose poem collection, Animal Children. For any problem that presents itself, there is an imaginative way out in these contemporary fables. All of these moments have a sweetness to them, a transformative energy leading to new inventions and insights: currency based on sleep and wakefulness; an antidote to death; metamorphosis into a (toothless) bird while in the dentist’s chair. Even failing results in new possibilities and constructs, and often the new identity or circumstance leads to solidarity with one or many others. It is a poetry of connection with many resolutions partaking in love and ingenuity. Read this poignant collection to restore your faith in language and its makers.”

 

February

The Force of Nonviolence: The Ethical in the Political, by Judith Butler (Verso Books, February 4, 2020): From the publisher: “Considering nonviolence as an ethical problem within a political philosophy requires a critique of individualism as well as an understanding of the psychosocial dimensions of violence. Butler draws upon Foucault, Fanon, Freud, and Benjamin to consider how the interdiction against violence fails to include lives regarded as ungrievable. By considering how ‘racial phantasms’ inform justifications of state and administrative violence, Butler tracks how violence is often attributed to those who are most severely exposed to its lethal effects. The struggle for nonviolence is found in movements for social transformation that reframe the grievability of lives in light of social equality and whose ethical claims follow from an insight into the interdependency of life as the basis of social and political equality.”

My Autobiography of Carson McCullers by Jenn Shapland (Tin House Books, February 4, 2020): From the publisher: “My Autobiography of Carson McCullers is an audacious new form of nonfiction that remakes the boundaries between criticism, biography, and autobiography in search of two identities….In genre-defying vignettes, Jenn Shapland interweaves her own story with Carson McCullers’s to create a vital new portrait of one of America’s most beloved writers, and shows us how the writers we love and the stories we tell about ourselves make us who we are.”

Black Imagination: Black Voices on Black Futures, edited by Natasha Marin (McSweeney’s, February 4, 2020): From the publisher: “‘Witnessing is sacred work too. Seeing ourselves as whole and healthy is an act of pure rebellion in a world so titillated by our constant subjugation,’ reflects viral curator Natasha Marin, on Black Imagination. This dynamic collection of Black voices works like an incantation of origin, healing, and imagination. Born from a series of conceptual art exhibitions, the perspectives gathered here are no where near monochromatic. ‘Craving nuance over stereotype, we sought out black children, black youth, LGBTQ+ black folks, unsheltered black folks, incarcerated black folks, neurodivergent black folks, as well as differently-abled black folks.’ Each insists on their own variance and challenges every reader to witness for themselves that Black Lives (and Imaginations) Matter.”

Hezada! I Miss You, by Erin Pringle (Awst Press, February 10, 2020): From the publisher: “Hezada! I Miss You is a novel that explores tradition, love, and suicide—set under the fading tents of small-town America and the circus.”

The Galleons, by Rick Barot (Milkweed Editions, February 11, 2020): From the publisher: “For almost twenty years, Rick Barot has been writing some of the most stunningly crafted lyric poems in America, paying careful, Rilkean attention to the layered world that surrounds us. In The Galleons, he widens his scope, contextualizing the immigrant journey of his Filipino-American family in the larger history and aftermath of colonialism.”

Ceremonials, by Katharine Coldiron (Kernpunkt, February 11, 2020): Here’s Lidia Yuknavitch’s advance praise: “Between poetry and prose, between word and music, Katharine Coldiron’s hybrid tour de force Ceremonials is a loveletter between art and the body. This book makes my whole body ring like a tuning fork inside its lyric narratives. A specular devotional between artists, words, music and bodies.”

$50,000, by Andrew Weatherhead (Publishing Genius, February 11, 2020): Elisa Gabbert writes: “An aphoristic meditation collaging ‘facts’ with impressions, images, memories, quotations, passing feelings, $50,000 is one of those poems that could go on eternally—reading it feels like a kind of practice. A soothing book about language, loneliness, uncertainty and the banal rhythms of existence.”

Big Other contributor Tina May Hall’s The Snow Collectors (Dzanc Books, February 12, 2020): From the publisher: “Haunted by the loss of her parents and twin sister at sea, Henna cloisters herself in a Northeastern village where the snow never stops. When she discovers the body of a young woman at the edge of the forest, she’s plunged into the mystery of a centuries-old letter regarding one of the most famous stories of Arctic exploration―the Franklin expedition, which disappeared into the ice in 1845….Suspenseful and atmospheric, The Snow Collectors sketches the ghosts of Victorian exploration against the eerie beauty of a world on the edge of environmental collapse.”

Camel’s Bastard Son, by Corey Mesler (Thicke & Vaney Books, February 14, 2020): Laird Hunt writes: “Camel’s Bastard Son, by Corey Mesler, is smart, sharp, weird, sexy, and funny, which is to say it’s terrific, and I read it at a gallop, and I’m betting you will too. This is like Kurt Vonnegut for our fraught moment. It’s alsohats off to Meslerlike nothing I’ve ever read.”

Many Restless Concerns, by Gayle Brandeis (Black Lawrence Press, February 14, 2020): Francesca Lia Block writes: “Feels like a terrifying and gorgeously lyric fairy tale but never once does the author let us forget that the pain is real and the point is empathy, understanding and protecting the ones who come after. Ethereal and beautiful as its ghostly chorus, but with ‘muscle and scent,’ ‘meat’ and ‘bone,’ Many Restless Concerns is quickened with the blood of the victims, the essential, and ultimately healing, blood of story.”

The Tilt Torn Away from the Seasons, by Elizabeth Lindsey Rogers (Acre Books, February 15, 2020): From the publisher: “The Tilt Torn Away from the Seasons imagines a human mission to Mars, a consequence of Earth’s devastation from climate change and natural disaster. As humans begin to colonize the planet, history inevitably repeats itself. Dystopian and ecopoetic, this collection of poetry examines the impulse and danger of the colonial mindset, and the ways that gendered violence and ecological destruction, body and land, are linked…Featuring a multiplicity of narratives and voices, this book presents the reader with sonnet crowns, application forms, and large-scale landscape poems that seem to float across the field of the page…Striking, thought-provoking, and necessary, The Tilt Torn Away from the Seasons offers a new parable for our modern times.”

Reverse Cowgirl, by McKenzie Wark (Semiotext(e) / Native Agents, February 18, 2020): From the publisher: “Traveling from Sydney in the 1980s to New York today, Reverse Cowgirl is a comedy of errors, chronicling the author’s failed attempts at being gay and at being straight across the shifting political and media landscapes of the late twentieth century. Finding that the established narratives of being transgender don’t seem to apply to her, Wark borrows from the genres of autofiction, fictocriticism, and new narrative to create a writing practice that can discover the form of a life outside existing accounts of trans experience: an auto-ethnography of the opacity of the self.”

Capable Monsters, by Marlin M. Jenkins (Bull City Press, February 18, 2020): From the publisher: “Capable Monsters moves through entries of the pokémon encyclopedia—the Pokédex—as a way to navigate concerns of identity: otherness, what it means to be considered a monster, how we fit into a larger societal ecosystem. To make space for the validity of oft-dismissed subject material, Marlin M. Jenkins asserts the symbolic, thematic, and narrative richness of worlds like the world of Pokémon: his poems use pokémon as a way to explore cataloguing, childhood, race, queerness, violence, and the messiness of being a human in a world of humans.”

Bit Tyrants: The Political Economy of Silicon Valley, by Rob Larson (Haymarket Books, February 20, 2020): From the publisher: “In this highly unauthorized account of the Big Five’s origins, Rob Larson sets the record straight, and in the process shreds every focus-grouped bromide about corporate benevolence he could get his hands on. Those readers unwilling to smile and nod as every day we become more dependent on our phones and apps to do our chores, our jobs, and our socializing can take heart as Larson provides us with maps to all the shallow graves, skeleton filled closets, and invective laced emails Big Tech left behind on its ascent to power. His withering analysis will help readers crack the code of the economic dynamics that allowed these companies to become near-monopolies very early on, and, with a little bit of luck, his calls for digital socialism might just inspire a viral movement for online revolution.”

A Nail the Evening Hangs On, by Monica Sok (Copper Canyon Press, February 25, 2020): From the publisher: “In her debut collection, Monica Sok uses poetry to reshape a family’s memory about the Khmer Rouge regime―memory that is both real and imagined―according to a child of refugees. Driven by myth-making and fables, the poems examine the inheritance of the genocide and the profound struggles of searing grief and PTSD. Though the landscape of Cambodia is always present, it is the liminal space, the in-betweenness of diaspora, in which younger generations must reconcile their history and create new rituals. A Nail the Evening Hangs On seeks to reclaim the Cambodian narrative with tenderness and an imagination that moves towards wholeness and possibility.”

Toward Freedom: The Case Against Race Reductionism, by Touré F. Reed (Verso Books, February 25, 2020): From the publisher: “For many progressives, racial identities are the engine of American history, and by extension, contemporary politics. They, in short, want to separate race from class. While policymakers and pundits find an almost metaphysical racism, or the survival of an ancient and primordial tribalism at the heart of American life, these inequities are better understood when traced to more comprehensible forces: to the contradictions in access to New Deal era welfare programs, to the blinders imposed by the Cold War, to Ronald Reagan’s neoliberal assault on the half-century long Keynesian consensus. As Touré Reed argues in this rigorously constructed book, the road to a more just society for African Americans and everyone else, the fate of poor and working-class African Americans is inextricably linked to that of other poor and working-class Americans.”

be/trouble, by Bridgette Bianca (Writ Large Press/The Accomplices, February 2020): Natashia Deón writes: “bianca’s words hurt. Reading be/trouble is self-cutting for those who want to feel. Or don’t. bianca is masterful in exposing the tenuousness of life and of survival in a world that commands you to thrive. A world that asks Black women to transform to thrive. To earn it. And refusing to. Her words reflect Blackness and womanhood and with an embrace. be/trouble is essential reading for every waking mind.”

The Nail in the Tree: Essays on Art, Violence, and Childhood, by Carol Ann Davis (Tupelo Press): From the publisher: The Nail in the Tree narrates Carol Ann Davis’s experience of raising two sons in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, on the day of and during the aftermath of the shooting there. Part memoir, part art-historical treatise, these meditations lead her to explore crucial subjects, including whether childhood can itself be both violent and generative, the possibility of the integration of trauma into daily life and artistic practice, and the role of the artist.”

 

March

When Sleep Comes: Shillelagh Songs, by Jack Foley (Sagging Meniscus Press, March 1, 2020): From the press: “In his new poetry collection, Jack Foley revels in a wild and varied display bringing together many styles and preoccupations, from the depths of grief to love to the heights where light has its source. We might turn the title into a question: When sleep comes, can light be far behind? The diversity of forms and themes in this collection amply demonstrate Foley’s concept of mind as being not one but multiple, a dark cinematic chamber peopled with many voices and masks. Foley is our contemporary vaudeville performer, tap dancing on his own stage and singing in multiple voices with many a nod and shake to poets alive and dead.”

All of Your Most Private Places, by Meghan Lamb (Spork Press, March 1, 2020): From the press: “This debut collection by Meghan Lamb opens with the demolition of a building called the ‘Hi-Point’: with the ‘destruction [and] construction of an empty space.’ From an uncanny ‘Atomic Museum’ in the desert to a dying-off peepshow to a far-flung, falling apart hoarder house, these stories examine a series of spaces wherein external strangeness mirrors internal conflict. With quietly charged, unflinching prose, Lamb observes our ‘most private places’: the elusive, often unnameable accumulations with which we fill our emptiness.”

All I Feel Is Rivers: Dervish Essays, by Robert Vivian (University of Nebraska Press, March 1, 2020): From the press: “Utterly fearless in their passionate avowals of life’s many manifestations, these essays showcase the surprising connectivity between the sacred and profane, uncovered by associative drifting. Vivian’s essays take on grief and loss, the natural world and climate, spirituality and ecstasy, all while pushing the boundaries of what prose can do.”

How to Survive Death and Other Inconveniences, by Sue William Silverman (University of Nebraska Press, March 1, 2020): From the press: “Through gallows humor, vivid realism, and fantastical speculation, How to Survive Death and Other Inconveniences explores this fear of death and the author’s desire to survive it. From cruising New Jersey’s industry-blighted landscape in a gold Plymouth to visiting the emergency room for maladies both real and imagined to suffering the stifling strictness of an intractable piano teacher, Silverman guards her memories for the same reason she resurrects archaic words—to use as talismans to ward off the inevitable. Ultimately, Silverman knows there is no way to survive death physically. Still, through language, commemoration, and metaphor, she searches for a sliver of transcendent immortality.”

Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry, by John Murillo (Four Way Books, March 2, 2020): Rigoberto González writes: “John Murillo’s stunning new collection speaks hard truths about the violence that afflicts our communities, our bodies, and our stories. Yet over this troubling arena, shaped by hostile social and political climates, a saving grace arises: Murillo’s unfettered ability to get at the heart of the wound, giving us words that empower us to transcend the pain.”

Guidebooks for the Dead, by Cynthia Cruz (Four Way Books, March 2, 2020): From the publisher: “In Guidebooks for the Dead, Cynthia Cruz returns to a familiar literary landscape in which a cast of extraordinary women struggle to create amidst violence, addiction and poverty. For Marguerite Duras, evoked here in a collage of poems, the process of renaming herself is a ‘Quiet death,’ a renewal she envisions as vital to her evolution. In ‘Duras (The Flock),’ she is ‘high priestess’ to an imagined assemblage of women writers for whom the word is sustenance and weapon…Joining them is the book’s speaker, an ‘I’ who steps forward to declare her rightful place among ‘these ladies with smeared lipstick and torn hosiery. . . this parade of wrong voices.’ Guidebooks for the Dead is both homage to these women and a manifesto for how to survive in a world that seeks to silence those who resist.”

Fantasia for the Man in Blue, by Tommye Blount (Four Way Books, March 2, 2020): Vievee Francis writes: “We have waited a long time for a full collection of the evocative provocations of Tommye Blount to be released. Poem by poem Blount’s first book has become one of the most anticipated books of poetry of his generation. Fantasia for the Man in Blue does not disappoint. It is a kaleidoscopic self-portrait, where the self is viewed from every vantage, inside out, then in again. Fearless in its observations. So fearless it makes us wince. So baring we can’t help but see ourselves in this mirror.”

The Book of Kane and Margaret, by Kiik Araki-Kawaguchi (FC2, March 3, 2020): From the publisher: “In The Book of Kane and Margaret, dozens of Kane Arakis and Margaret Morris populate the Canal and Butte camp divisions in Gila River. Amidst their daily rituals and family dramas, they find ways to stage quiet revolutions against a domestic colonial experience. Some internees slip through barbed wire fences to meet for love affairs. Others attempt to smuggle whiskey, pornography, birds, dogs, horses, and unearthly insects into their family barracks. And another seeks a way to submerge the internment camp in Pacific seawater.”

The Town of Whispering Dolls: Stories, by Susan Neville (FC2, March 3, 2020): Here’s Joan Silber’s advance praise: “What beauties these stories are. Susan Neville has an imagination not only rich and strange but also very much a moral imagination. How gentle and shocking is her view of what humans have done, and what a find this book is.”

Post-Colonial Love Poem, by Natalie Diaz (Graywolf Press, March 3, 2020): From the publisher: “Postcolonial Love Poem is an anthem of desire against erasure. Natalie Diaz’s brilliant second collection demands that every body carried in its pages―bodies of language, land, rivers, suffering brothers, enemies, and lovers―be touched and held as beloveds. Through these poems, the wounds inflicted by America onto an indigenous people are allowed to bloom pleasure and tenderness: ‘Let me call my anxiety, desire, then. / Let me call it, a garden.’ In this new lyrical landscape, the bodies of indigenous, Latinx, black, and brown women are simultaneously the body politic and the body ecstatic. In claiming this autonomy of desire, language is pushed to its dark edges, the astonishing dunefields and forests where pleasure and love are both grief and joy, violence and sensuality.”

Apology to the Young Addict, by James Brown (Counterpoint, March 3, 2020): From the publisher: “Evocative and hopeful, Apology to the Young Addict is a reinvention of the recovery memoir and a lasting testimony from a master writing at his peak.”

Ways We Vanish, by Todd Dillard (Okay Donkey Press, March 3 2020): From the publisher: “Todd Dillard’s debut poetry collection navigates the grief following the loss of a loved one, while also starting a new life and becoming a parent. It peels back the layers of everyday living to reveal the impossible landscape flourishing underneath—one fraught with with sorrow, want, and pain, but also filled with hope, joy, and flight.”

Pain Studies, by Lisa Olstein (Bellevue Literary Press, March 4, 2020): Eula Biss writes: “Lisa Olstein’s luminous meditation on pain winds around a beautifully curated series of artifacts. Bits of poetry, ancient medicine, brain science, television episodes, excerpts from the trial of Joan of Arc, and works of art support the spiderweb on which her insights hang like condensed mist. A fascinating, totally seductive read!”

The Gringa, by Andrew Altschul (Melville House, March 10, 2020): From the publisher: “In this powerful and timely new novel, Andrew Altschul maps the blurred boundaries between fact and fiction, author and text, resistance and extremism. Part coming-of-age story and part political thriller, The Gringa asks what one person can do in the face of the world’s injustice.”

The Society of Reluctant Dreamers, by José Eduardo Agualusa (Archipelago Books, March 10, 2020), translated by Daniel Hahn. From the publisher: “In The Society of Reluctant Dreamers, Daniel dreams of Julio Cortázar in the form of an ancient giant cedar, his friend Hossi transforming into a dark crow, and most often of the Cotton-Candy-Hair-Woman, Moira, staring right back at him. After emails back-and-forth, Moira and Daniel meet, and Daniel becomes involved in a mysterious project with a Brazilian neuroscientist, who’s creating a machine to photograph people’s dreams. Set against the dense web of Angola’s political history, Daniel crosses the hazy border between dream and reality, sleepwalking towards a twisted and entirely strange present.”

Social Poetics, by Mark Nowak (Coffee House Press, March 10, 2020): From the press: “Social Poetics documents the imaginative militancy and emergent solidarities of a new, insurgent working class poetry community rising up across the globe. Part autobiography, part literary criticism, part Marxist theory, Social Poetics presents a people’s history of the poetry workshop from the founding director of the Worker Writers School. Nowak illustrates not just what poetry means, but what it does to and for people outside traditional literary spaces, from taxi drivers to street vendors, and other workers of the world.”

Still-Life with God, by Cynthia Atkins (Saint Julian Press, Inc., March 11, 2020): From the publisher: “A bold cautionary tale of the plight of the self to question our destiny and our place in the world. The poet addresses questions of gender, body, mental health/illness, gun violence and mental health. With a wide psychological net and narrative depth, the poet looks at coming of age, adulthood, motherhood, womanhood, selfhoodShe is a feminist, a Yankee, a Jew living in Southern Appalachia. Even though there is danger at every turn, there is also a reverence for the ‘exquisite human machine.’ With images that grab hold, this lyrical sequence of poems addresses the modem hypertext madness of our world. Yes, there is pain and ache at every turn, but these poems are fiercely resolute that facing the demons is what allows us to derail them. This is an impactful and sublime collection, rendering a quest for selfhood, love, contemplation and the divine in a world of human flux and devastation.”

Habitat Threshold, by Craig Santos Perez (Omnidawn, March 15, 2020): From the publisher: “Through experimental forms, free verse, prose, haiku, sonnets, satire, and a method he calls ‘recycling,’ Perez has created a diverse collection filled with passion. Habitat Threshold invites us to reflect on the damage done to our world and to look forward, with urgency and imagination, to the possibility of a better future.”

Later: My Life at the Edge of the World, by Paul Lisicky (Graywolf Press, March 17, 2020): From the publisher: “Later dramatizes a spectacular yet ravaged place and a unique era when more fully becoming one’s self collided with the realization that ongoingness couldn’t be taken for granted, and staying alive from moment to moment exacted absolute attention. Following the success of his acclaimed memoir, The Narrow Door, Lisicky fearlessly explores the body, queerness, love, illness, community, and belonging in this masterful, ingenious new book.”

Whiteout Conditions, by Tariq Shah (Two Dollar Radio, March 17, 2020): From the publisher: “With a poet’s sensibility, Shah navigates the murky responsibilities of adulthood, grief, toxic masculinity, and the tragedy of revenge in this haunting Midwestern noir.”

The Fabulous Dead, by Andriana Minou (Kernpunkt, March 24, 2020): From the publisher: “The Fabulous Dead is a collection of un-historical fiction, a type of literature that deals with the undoing of history and its reweaving into surreal fables…This novel is an intricate mosaic of identity, individuality, and lives wasted or enjoyed. The Fabulous Dead is, perhaps above all, a ball-masque oscillating between the eternal and the ephemeral.”

Burn It Down! Feminist Manifestos for the Revolution, edited by Breanne Fahs (Verso Books, March 24, 2020): From the publisher: “In this landmark collection spanning three centuries and four waves of feminist activism and writing, Burn It Down! is a testament to what is possible when women are driven to the edge. The manifesto—raging and wanting, quarreling and provoking—has always played a central role in feminism, and it’s the angry, brash feminism we need now.”

Edie on the Green Screen, by Beth Lisick (7.13 Books, March 26, 2020): From the publisher: “Like the work of Diablo Cody and Miranda July, New York Times bestseller Beth Lisick’s first novel, Edie On The Green Screen effortlessly mixes biting observational humor with disarming pathos, while asking, ‘What comes after It?'”

Snowden’s Box: Trust in the Age of Surveillance, by Jessica Bruder and Dale Maharidge (Verso, March 31, 2020): From the publisher: “Two behind-the-scenes players in the edward snowden story reflect on the meaning of snowden’s revelations in our age of surveillance….This is an illuminating story on the status of transparency, privacy, and trust in the age of surveillance.”

Very much looking forward to Big Other contributor Shira Dentz’s Sisyphusina (PANK).

Repetition Nineteen, by Mónica de la Torre (Nightboat Books): From the publisher: “Based on slippages between languages and irreverent approaches to translation, the poems in Repetition Nineteen riff on creative misunderstanding in response to the prevailing political discourse.”

Shahr-e-jaanaan: The City of the Beloved, by Adeeba Talukder (Tupelo Press): From the press: Shahr-e-jaanaan sets out to recreate the universe of Urdu and Persian poetic tradition. As the speaker maps her romances onto legends, directing their characters perform her own tragedy, their fantastical metaphors easily lend themselves to her fluctuating mental state. Cycling between delirious grandeur and wretched despair, she is torn between two selves—the pitiable lover continually rejected, and the cruel, unattainable beloved comparable in her exaltation to a god.”

April

Life’s Tumultuous Party, by Marvin Cohen (Sagging Meniscus, April 1, 2020), edited by Colin Myers: A “surrealistic suite of stories, dialogues ,and other party-dances” with advance praise from Paul Theroux, Jacob M. Appel, Douglas Glover, and Joseph Salvatore. And Wallace Shawn, who writes: “Once you start reading Marvin Cohen, it’s very hard not to start thinking like him and then eventually talking like him, which can raise the eyebrows of your more conventional friends. His stream-of-consciousness paragraphs are like delicious Christmas puddings, as if Virginia Woolf had hired a wild group of Restoration writers like Sheridan and Congreve to make her desserts for her. All paragraphs are served with a brandy-infused hard sauce of cold, blunt frankness. Unforgettable, and you’ll beg for more.”

Designing Disorder: Experiments and Disruptions in the City, by Pablo Sendra and Richard Sennett (Verso Books, April 7, 2020): From the press: “The public spaces of our cities are under siege from planners, privatisation and increased surveillance. Our streets are becoming ever more lifeless and ordered. What is to be done? Can disorder be designed? In this provocative essay Sendra and Sennett propose a reorganisation of how we think and plan the social life of our cities. “Infrastructures of disorder” combine architecture, politics, urban planning and activism in order to develop places that nurture rather than stifle, bring together rather than divide up, remain open to change rather than closed off.”

The Malevolent Volume, by Justin Phillip Reed (Coffee House Press, April 7, 2020): Terrance Hayes writes: “I’d quote a few of the breathtaking detonations across this incredible collection if there weren’t so many. On every page the intimacies of mind and body, myth and memory are simultaneously sung and said. It’s not quite enough to salute the literary ties and tangles, the range and urgency of subjects, the layered lyric linguistics. The Malevolent Volume is roundly astounding. Reed is making a new and wholly irreducible line through the waters of American poetry.”

Rue, by Kathryn Nuernberger (BOA Editions, April 7, 2020): From the publisher: “In this fiercely feminist ecopoetic collection, Kathryn Nuernberger reclaims love and resilience in an age of cruelty….With equal parts righteous fury and tender wisdom, Rue reassesses the past and recontextualizes the present to tell a story about breaking down, breaking through, and breaking into an honest, authentic expression of self.”

DMZ Colony, by Don Mee Choi (Wave Books, April 7, 2020): From the press: “Woven from poems, prose, photographs, and drawings, Don Mee Choi’s DMZ Colony is a tour de force of personal and political reckoning set over eight acts. Evincing the power of translation as a poetic device to navigate historical and linguistic borders, it explores Edward Said’s notion of “the intertwined and overlapping histories” in regards to South Korea and the United States through innovative deployments of voice, story, and poetics. Like its sister book, Hardly War, it holds history accountable, its very presence a resistance to empire and a hope in humankind.”

The Sky Contains the Plans, by Matthew Rohrer (Wave Books, April 7, 2020): From the publisher: “Matthew Rohrer’s latest collection explores the space between wakefulness and sleep, that drowsy loosening of consciousness called hypnagogia. Comprised not of dream-poems but poems that strain to hear dreams’ faintest messages squeaked through into waking life, The Sky Contains the Plans lays bare an imagination in which the mundane and surreal contort each other into a new kind of primordial reality.”

Godshot, by Chelsea Bieker (Catapult, April 7, 2020): T Kira Madden writes: “Chelsea Bieker’s Godshot is an absolute masterpiece. A truly epic journey through girlhood, divinity, and the blood that binds and divides us, it is a feminist magnum opus of this, or any, time. Bieker is a pitch-perfect ventriloquist of extraordinary talent and ferocity. Imagine if Annie Proulx wrote something like White Oleandercrossed with Geek Love or Cruddy, and then add cults, God, motherhood, girlhood, class, deserts, witches, the divinity of women…Terrifying, resplendent, and profoundly moving, this book will leave you changed.”

Birthright, by George Abraham (Button Poetry, April 7, 2020): From the press: “Birthright is a book that balances the weight of place. The pride and shame and worth of homeland. Palestine, a homeland under siege and under scrutiny from a world that doesn’t occupy its borders. It is a book of immense nuance, pulling together all corners of the author’s pride in home, but also a desire to understand the violent cycles of the American machinery of war.”

Rift Zone, by Tess Taylor (Red Hen Press, April 7, 2020): From the press: “Taylor’s ambitious and masterful poems read her home state’s historic violence against our world’s current unsteadinesses—mass eviction, housing crises, deportation, inequality. They also ponder what it means to try to bring up children along these rifts. What emerges is a powerful core sample of America at the brink—an American elegy equally tuned to maternal and to geologic time. At once sorrowful and furious, tender and fierce, Rift Zone is startlingly observant, relentlessly curious—a fearsome tremor of a book.”

Breasts and Eggs, by Mieko Kawakami (Europa Editions, April 7, 2020). From the press: “Breasts and Eggs looks at the ongoing repression of women in Japan and the possibility of liberation, poverty, domestic violence, and reproductive ethics. Mixing comedy and realism, Breasts and Eggs tells of an epic life-affirming journey about finding inner strength and peace.”

Obit, by Victoria Chang (Copper Canyon Press, April 14, 2020): From the press: “These poems reinvent the form of newspaper obituary to both name what has died…and the cultural impact of death on the living. Whereas elegy attempts to immortalize the dead, an obituary expresses loss, and the love for the dead becomes a conduit for self-expression. In this unflinching and lyrical book, Chang meets her grief and creates a powerful testament for the living.”

Apsara Engine, by Bishakh Som (Feminist Press, April 14, 2020): From the publisher: “By turns fantastical and familiar, this graphic short story collection is immersed in questions of gender, the body, and existential conformity.”

Year of the Dog, by Deborah Paredez (BOA Editions, April 14, 2020): From the press: “In poems and lamentations that evoke Hecuba, the mythic figure so consumed by grief over the atrocities of war that she was transformed into a howling dog, and La Llorona, the weeping woman in Mexican folklore who haunts the riverbanks in mourning and threatens to disturb the complicity of those living in the present, Paredez recontextualizes the historical moments of the Vietnam era, from the arrest of Angela Davis to the haunting image of Mary Ann Vecchio at the Kent State Massacre, never forgetting the outcry and outrage that women’s voices have carried across time.”

Moonflower, Nightshade, All the Hours of the Day, by JD Scott (&NOW Books/Lake Forest College Press, April 15, 2020): From the press: “Visceral, dreamlike, and full of dazzling prose: Moonflower, Nightshade, All the Hours of the Day announces the arrival of a distinctive talent who challenges us to see our own endless possibilities—to find luminescence inside and beyond the shadows.”

Audre Lorde’s Dream of Europe: selected seminars and interviews: 1984-1992, edited by Mayra Rodriguez Castro (Kenning Editions, April 20, 2020): From the press: “These selected writings lay bare struggles, bonds, and hopes shared among Black women in a transnational political context, as well as offering sometimes surprising reflections on the US American counter culture with which Lorde is associated.”

There Three, by Devin King (Kenning Editions, April 20, 2020). From the press: “There Three collects Devin King’s early collections of poetry, previously published in now scarce, limited editions: CLOPS, These Necrotic Ethos Come the Plains, and The Resonant Space. The poems look out and back to get down in it, combining minimalist repetition with Homer, Louis Zukofsky’s modernism with Lux Interior’s psychotic teenage America, the apocalyptic noise music of Les Rallizes Denudes with contemporary theories of the object, and Huygens’ theory of pendulums with the operas of Strauss & Hofmannsthal. King’s organizing principle echoes Virgil’s early quest: how to grow bees out of rotting meat?”

A Sinking Ship Is Still a Ship, by Ariel Francisco (Burrow Press, April 21, 2020): From the press: “Taking inspiration from Campbell McGrath and Richard Blanco, among others, Ariel Francisco’s second book of poems deals with climate change and the absurdities and difficulties of being a millenial Latinx in the Sunshine State.”

Velocities, by Kathe Koja (Meerkat Press, April 21, 2020): From the press: “From the award-winning author of The Cipher and Buddha Boy, comes Velocities, Kathe Koja’s second electrifying collection of short fiction. Thirteen stories, two never before published, all flying at the speed of strange.”

Shrapnel Maps, by Philip Metres (Copper Canyon Press, April 24, 2020). From the press: “Writing into the wounds and reverberations of the Israel/Palestine conflict, Philip Metres’ fourth book of poems, Shrapnel Maps, is at once elegiac and activist, an exploratory surgery to extract the slivers of cartography through palimpsest and erasure…Working with documentary flyers, vintage postcards, travelogues, cartographic language, and first person testimonies, Shrapnel Maps ranges from monologue sonnets to prose vignettes, polyphonics to blackouts, indices to simultaneities, as Palestinians and Israelis long for justice and peace, for understanding and survival.”

Shooting Down Heaven, by Jorge Franco (Europa Editions, April 28, 2020): From the publisher: “Expertly told by one of Latin America’s most exciting voices, Shooting Down Heaven follows the children raised by 1990s Colombia’s most dangerous drug cartels and the consequences that shape their adulthood. ”

I Have the Answer, by Kelly Fordon (Wayne State University Press). From the press: “Kelly Fordon’s I Have the Answer artfully mixes the fabulist with the workaday and illuminates relationships and characters with crisp, elegant prose and dark wit. The stories in Fordon’s latest collection are disquieting, humorous, and thought-provoking. They might catch you off guard, but are always infused with deep humanity and tenderness.”

 

May

K: A Novel, by Ted O’Connell (Santa Fe Writer’s Project, May 1, 2020): From the publisher: “In this surreal and brutally honest literary thriller, Kauffman reflects on the turbulent family history that brought him to China, where he leads a solitary, expat life of soulless insurance jobs and all-night writing binges, only to wind up fighting a battle for his life inside the walls of Kun Chong.”

The Park, by John Freeman (Copper Canyon Press, May 5, 2020): From the press: “In The Park, his second book of poetry, John Freeman uses a park as a petri dish, turning a deep gaze on all that pass through it. In language both precise and restrained, Freeman explores the inherent contradictions that arise from a place whose purpose is derived purely from what we bring to it––a park is both natural and constructed, exclusionary and open, unfeeling and burdened with sentimentality…Interspersed with meditations on love, beauty, and connection, The Park is a pacific and unflinching mirror cast upon a space defined by its transience.”

Cockfight, by María Fernanda Ampuero (Feminist Press, May 5, 2020). From the press: “Thirteen stories explore domestic horrors and everyday violence, providing an intimate and unflinching portrait of twenty-first-century Latin America.”

Telephone, by Percival Everett (Graywolf, May 5, 2020): From the press: “A deeply affecting story about the lengths to which loss and grief will drive us, Telephone is a Percival Everett novel we should have seen coming all along, one that will shake you to the core as it asks questions about the power of narrative to save.”

What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About #MeToo: And Other Essays on Sex and the Mess of Life, by Joann Wypijewski (Verso Books, May 5, 2020): From the press: “From the HIV crisis to the paedophile priest panic, Woody Allen to Brett Kavanaugh, child pornography to Abu Ghraib, Wypijewski takes the most famous sex panics of the last decades and turns them inside out, weaving what together becomes a searing indictment of modern sexual politics, exposing the myriad ways sex panics and the expansion of the punitive state are intertwined. What emerges is an examination of the multiple ways in which the ever-expanding default language of monsters and victims has contributed to the repressive power of the state. Politics exists in the mess of life. Sex does too, Wypijewski insists, and so must sexual politics, to make any sense at all.”

Catrachos, by Roy G. Guzmán (Graywolf Press, May 5, 2020): From the press: “A name for the people of Honduras, Catrachos is a term of solidarity and resilience. In these unflinching, riveting poems, Roy G. Guzmán reaches across borders—between life and death and between countries—invoking the voices of the lost…With exceptional energy, humor, and inventiveness, Guzmán’s debut is a devastating display of lyrical and moral complexity—an introduction to an immediately captivating, urgently needed voice.”

Quotients, by Tracy O’Neill (Soho Press, May 12, 2020): “Two people search for connection in a world of fractured identities and aliases, global finance, big data, intelligence bureaucracies, algorithmic logic, and terror.”

Wolf, by Douglas A. Martin (Nightboat, May 12, 2020): From the press: “Wolf tells the composite truth of two brothers, a family friend, a father, and a murder. Skeptical of news cycles and the way trials become page-turners, this book forgoes the standards of true crime: quick conclusions and moralistic underpinnings. Instead, motivated by an attempt to extend empathy, its reconstruction unfolds in tones of witness and meditation. What results is a story about the extremities to which deeply unchecked abuse and ongoing trauma can push a family.”

Not Go Away Is My Name, by Alberto Ríos (Copper Canyon Press, May 12, 2020): From the press: “Resistance and persistence collide in Alberto Ríos’s sixteenth book, Not Go Away Is My Name, a book about past and present, changing and unchanging, letting go and holding on. The borderline between Mexico and the U.S. looms large, and Ríos sheds light on and challenges our sensory experiences of everyday objects. At the same time, family memories and stories of the Sonoron desert weave throughout as Ríos travels in duality: between places, between times, and between lives. In searching for and treasuring what ought to be remembered, Ríos creates an ode to family life, love and community, and realizes ‘All I can do is not go away. / Not go away is my name.'”

The Royal Abduls, by Ramiza Koya (Forest Avenue, May 12, 2020): From the press: “The Royal Abduls, a family drama about the lives of secular Muslims post-9/11, engages with the difficulties of maintaining relationships in a fragmented America.”

What Comes After Farce? by Hal Foster (Verso Books, May 19, 2020): From the publisher: “If farce follows tragedy, what follows farce? Where does the double predicament of a post-truth and post-shame politics leave artists and critics on the left? How to demystify a hegemonic order that dismisses its own contradictions? How to belittle a political elite that cannot be embarrassed, or to mock party leaders who thrive on the absurd? How to out-dada President Ubu? And, in any event, why add outrage to a media economy that thrives on the same? What Comes After Farce? comments on shifts in art, criticism, and fiction in the face of the current regime of war, surveillance, extreme inequality, and media disruption.”

Memory, by Bernadette Mayer (Siglio, May 19, 2020): From the publisher: “Mayer has called Memory ‘an emotional science project,’ but it is far from confessional. This boldly experimental record follows the poet’s eye as she traverses early morning into night, as quotidian minutiae metamorphose into the lyrical, as her stream of consciousness becomes incantatory. In text and image, Mayer constructs the mercurial consciousness of the present moment from which memory is―as she says―’always there, to be entered, like the world of dreams or an ongoing TV show.”

Index Cards: Essays, by Moyra Davey (New Directions, May 26, 2020): From the press: ” In these essays, the acclaimed artist, photographer, writer, and filmmaker Moyra Davey often begins with a daily encounter―with a photograph, a memory, or a passage from a book―and links that subject to others, drawing fascinating and unlikely connections, until you can almost feel the texture of her thinking. While thinking and writing, she weaves together disparate writers and artists―Mary Wollstonecraft, Jean Genet, Virginia Woolf, Janet Malcolm, Chantal Akerman, and Roland Barthes, among many others―in a way that is both elliptical and direct, clearheaded and personal, prismatic and self-examining, layering narratives to reveal the thorny but nourishing relationship between art and life.”

Concordance, by Susan Howe (New Directions, May 26, 2020): From the press: “‘Only artworks are capable of transmitting chthonic echo-signals,’ Susan Howe has said. In Concordance, she has created a fresh body of work transmitting vital signals from a variety of archives…The fierce ethic of salvage in these three very different pieces expresses the vitalism in words, sounds, syllables, the telepathic spirit of all things singing into air.”

Salient, by Elizabeth T. Gray, Jr. (New Directions, May 26, 2020): From the press: “Over the course of several decades, Gray tracked the contours and traces of the Ypres Salient, walking the haunted battlefield ground of the contemporary landscape with campaign maps in hand, reading ‘not only history, poetry, and fiction, but also unit diaries; contemporary reports and individual accounts; survey information and maps of all kinds; treatises on aerial photography and artillery tactics; and manuals on field engineering and tactical planning.’ Out of this material, through a process of collage, convergence, and ritual chöd visualization, Gray has composed a spare, fascinating lyrical engagement with The Missing, in shell hole and curved trench, by way of amulets and obstacles. What is salient rises from the secret signs in song, like a blessing, protected from harm.”

Minor Detail, by Adania Shibli (New Directions, May 26, 2020), translated by Elisabeth Jaquette: From the press: “A searing, beautiful novel meditating on war, violence, memory, and the sufferings of the Palestinian people.”

The Distance from Four Points, by Margo Orlando Littell (University of New Orleans Press, May 28, 2020): From the publisher: “Margo Orlando Littell, author of Each Vagabond by Name, tells an enthralling and nuanced story about family, womanhood, and coming to terms with a left-behind past.”

Big Other contributor Davis Schneiderman’s debut short-story collection, there is no appropriate #emoji (MadHat, May 2020) features stories by Schneiderman and collaborations with Lance Olsen, Tim Guthrie, Stacey Levine, Cris Mazza, and others. Oscillating between stories and text and images from The Museum of Alternative History, #emoji is set “everywhere”: from the Greek island of Lemnos to a hovering Zeppelin to a suburban street on the brink of solar catastrophe, #emoji is a wide-eyed view of life in the death throes of the Anthropocene—or something like that—predicting an endless epoch of nothing-but-the-same. #emoji has also gathered more than 50 ’emoji blurbs’ by an excellent roster of independent and innovative authors.”

Anthropica, by David Hollander (Dead Rabbits, May 2020): From the publisher: “A Hungarian fatalist convinced that the human race is a blemish on God’s otherwise beautiful universe; a statistician who has determined that we completely exhaust the earth’s resources every 30 days; a failing novelist whose nihilistic fiction has doomed her halfhearted quest for tenure; an Ultimate Frisbee-playing man-child who has discovered a fractal pattern contained within all matter, but is nevertheless obsessed with the chase for a National Championship; a race of subterranean mole people developing a sad and dangerous religion; a factory filled with human heads being mined for information; a former philosophy professor with ALS who has discovered, as he becomes ‘locked in,’ that he can make things happen simply by wanting them badly enough; and a trio of vengeful, superintelligent robots secretly imprisoned in an underground hangar in Iksan, South Korea, patiently waiting for some gullible human(s) to release them. (Well, one of the robots is happy enough viewing outdated network television sitcoms and internet pornography.)”

June

This Is One Way to Dance: Essays, by Sejal Shah (University of Georgia Press, June 1, 2020). From the press: “In the linked essays that make up her debut collection, This Is One Way to Dance, Sejal Shah explores culture, language, family, and place. Throughout the collection, Shah reflects on what it means to make oneself visible and legible through writing in a country that struggles with race and maps her identity as an American, South Asian American, writer of color, and feminist. This Is One Way to Dance draws on Shah’s ongoing interests in ethnicity and place: the geographic and cultural distances between people, both real and imagined.”

A Fish Growing Lungs, by Alysia Sawchyn (Burrow Press, June 9, 2020): From the press: “Funny, intelligent, and unflinchingly honest, Sawchyn explores how we can come to know ourselves when our bodies betray us. Drawing from life experience, literature, music, medical journals, films, and recovery communities, each essay illuminates the richness of self-knowledge that comes from the act of writing itself.”

The Lying Life of Adults, by Elena Ferrante (Europa Editions, June 9, 2020): An excerpt: “Two years before leaving home my father said to my mother that I was very ugly. The sentence was uttered under his breath, in the apartment that my parents, newly married, had bought in Rione Alto, at the top of Via San Giacomo dei Capri. Everything—the spaces of Naples, the blue light of a very cold February, those words—remained fixed. But I slipped away, and am still slipping away, within these lines that are intended to give me a story, while in fact I am nothing, nothing of my own, nothing that has really begun or really been brought to completion: only a tangled knot, and nobody, not even the one who at this moment is writing, knows if it contains the right thread for a story or is merely a snarled confusion of suffering, without redemption.”

Misery Boy, by Rose Servis (7.13 Books, June 15, 2020): From the publisher: A hilarious college novel in the tradition of Evelyn Waugh and Kingsley Amis, Misery Boy skewers the nature of youth, friendship, and ambition, while making us feel for the lovable, but hapless Edward.”

Three Streets, by Yoko Tawada (New Directions, June 30, 2020), translated by Margaret Mitsutani: From the press: “The always astonishing Yoko Tawada here takes a walk on the supernatural side of the street…Each of these stories glows, and opens up into new dimensions the work of this magisterial writer.”

The Famous Magician, by César Aira (New Directions, June 30, 2020), translated by Chris Andrews: From the press: “A writer is offered a devil’s bargain: will he give up reading books in exchange for total world domination?”

Spadework for a Palace, by László Krasznahorkai (New Directions, June 30, 2020), translated by John Batki: From the press: “A joyful ode―in a single soaring, crazy sentence―to the interconnectedness of great (and mad) minds.”

An Inventory of Losses, by Judith Schalansky (New Directions, June 30, 2020), translated by Jackie Smith: From the press: “Recalling the works of W. G. Sebald, Bruce Chatwin, or Rebecca Solnit, An Inventory of Losses is a beautiful evocation of twelve specific treasures that have been lost to the world forever, and, taken as a whole, opens mesmerizing new vistas of how we can think about extinction and loss….With meticulous research and a vivid awareness of why we should care about these losses, Judith Schalansky…lets these objects speak for themselves: she ventriloquizes the tone of other sources, burrows into the language of contemporaneous accounts, and deeply interrogates the very notion of memory.”

The Complete Works of Alberto Caeiro, by Fernando Pessoa (New Directions, June 30, 2020), translated by Margaret Jull Costa and Patricio Ferrari: From the press: “Here…are the complete poems of Alberto Caeiro, the imaginary ‘heteronym’ coterie created by Fernando Pessoa, the Portuguese modernist master…This imaginary author was a shepherd who spent most of his life in the countryside, had almost no education, and was ignorant of most literature; yet he (Pessoa) wrote some of the most beautiful and profound poems in Portuguese literature.”

The Way a Line Hallucinates Its Own Linearity, by Danielle Vogel (Red Hen Press, June 30, 2020): From the press: “In The Way a Line Hallucinates its Own Linearity, accord—writing with, reading with—is always a verb, always kinetic, alchemical, and alive. ‘It only takes one letter on the page,’ Vogel writes, ‘and we are already inside one another’s lungs.’ To consent to walk through these spaces is to give up that part of you that wishes to remain anonymous and un-entrained. You will be grateful that you did.”

 

July

Big Other contributor Norman Lock’s American Follies (Bellevue Literary Press, July 7, 2020): From the publisher: “A savage yet farcical tale, American Follies explores the roots of the women’s rights movement, its relationship to the fight for racial justice, and its reverberations in the politics of today.”

We Were Called Specimens: An Oral Archive of Deity Marjorie, by Jason Teal (Kernpunkt, July 7, 2020): Here’s Matthew Gavin Frank’s advance praise: “In Jason Teal’s wonderful, fugitive, and wholly singular new book, We Were Called Specimens, formal refreshment dovetails with cutting social commentary, and the archetypal origin story is shattered into fragments more mystifying than any archetype should contain. In short, Teal, again and again, ushers forth an innate, but ever-unexpected light from the confines of what he may call “porcelain trinkets mislabeled as heirlooms,” and other detritus that attends humanity in this fever dream of a 21st century. In Marjorie, Teal has done nothing short of invoke a new American mythology—hilarious, heartbreaking, and raw—ever scored with the sort of surreal incantation that essentially disturbs, even as it delights.”

Count Luna, by Alexander Lernet-Holenia (New Directions, July 28, 2020), translated by Jane B. Greene: From the press: “At once a chase novel, black comedy, and softly keening death song, Count Luna starts off at a gallop and accelerates into warp speed…The nightmare logic of Count Luna comes from deep within Jessiersky’s festering fears and serves up his brooding, insanity-spiced, delicious disquisitions―on what the Etruscans knew, on cemeteries as originally ‘sleeping places’―before coming at last to death itself…”

Good Luck Stone, by Heather Bell Adams (Haywire): From the publisher: “Heather Bell Adams’s beautiful second novel gives us a compelling portrait of friendship across the ages, from World War II-era Manila to modern-day Savannah, Georgia.”

 

August

Can’t wait for Big Other contributor Rae Armantrout’s Conjure.

Golden Gate Jumpers Survivors Society, by Ross Wilcox (7.13 Books, August 7, 2020): From the publisher: “Golden Gate Jumper Survivors Society is a funny and poignant story collection about everyday people confronting everyday challenges with escalating absurdity. Reminiscent of the work of Aimee Bender, Ross Wilcox’s stories will make you view the mundane in an entirely new way.”

 

September

Big Other contributor Debra Di Blasi’s Selling the Farm: Descants from a Recollected Past (C&R Press): From the publisher: “Di Blasi’s lyric memoir questions the nature of existence for human and non-human animals alike, pulling into the present a way of writing and living most relevant to what we know of the physical universe and what we might anticipate as truer representations of how we bear witness to any place and time, and to ourselves amid it all. As personal and global extinctions loom in the foreground, and family farms become scarce, these short elegiac and paeanic ruminations remind us how much has been and will be lost to us all.”

Also, very much looking forward to Big Other contributor Rone Shavers’s experimental Afrofuturist novel: Silverfish (Clash Books).

Each of Us Killers, by Jenny Bhatt (7.13 Books, September 8, 2020): From the publisher: “Set in the American Midwest, England, and India (Mumbai, Ahmedabad, rural Gujarat) the stories in Each of Us Killers are about people trying to realize their dreams and aspirations through their professions. Whether they are chasing money, power, recognition, love, or simply trying to make a decent living, their hunger is as intense as any grand love affair. Straddling the fault lines of class, caste, gender, nationality, globalization, and more, they go against sociocultural norms despite challenges and indignities until singular moments of quiet devastation turn the worlds of these characters—auto-wallah, housemaid, street vendor, journalist, architect, baker, engineer, saree shop employee, professor, yoga instructor, bartender, and more—upside down.”

 

October

Warning to the Crocodiles, by António Lobo Antunes (Dalkey Archive Press, October 2020), translated by Karen Sotelino: From the publisher: “Set in the aftermath of the ‘Carnation Revolution’ of April 25, 1974, Antonio Lobo Antunes’s Warning to the Crocodiles is a fragmented narrative of the violent tensions resulting from major political changes in Portugal. Told through the memories of four women who spend their days fashioning homemade explosives and participating in the kidnap and torture of communists, the novel details the clandestine activities of an extreme right-wing Salazarist faction resisting the country’s new embrace of democracy.”

 

November

Tight Little Vocal Cords, by Loie Rawding (Kernpunkt, November 10, 2020): From the publisher: “Tight Little Vocal Cords is a taut exploration of one person’s shifting identities as they abandon their decaying home to a post-war Germany and what consequences await them when they return…Naïve and broke, [M] travels through a schizophrenic evolution of forms; epistolary, poetic, script, and prose that evokes the song of high modernism and then strives beyond it, toward something wholly contemporary.”

 

Other Books:

Agitprop for Bedtime, by Charles Holdefer (Sagging Meniscus Press): A stingingly comic, knowingly irreverent, and engagingly unafraid collection of polemical bedtime stories for adults (“story problems, kulturporn and humdingers”) skewering all kinds of sacred cows, not to mention playful with regard to form and style. With shades of John Barth, Robert Coover, and George Saunders.

Big Other contributor Danielle Pafunda’s Spite (The Operating System): From the publisher: “Danielle Pafunda’s Spite reimagines André Breton’s Nadja in conversation with his Communicating Vessels and My Heart Through Which Her Heart Has Passed. Spite speaks through the melancholy bohemian dream girl. No longer gateway to the masculine artist’s destiny, Nadja becomes agent of her own evolution.”

Body of Empire, by Mariko Nagai (Tarpaulin Sky Press): From the publisher: “Weaving historical documents, photographs, and first-hand accounts against a background of nationalism and war, Body of Empire explores the lives of Japanese sex workers⁠—both government-sanctioned and freelance⁠—between 1868 and 1953. Some hid in the bottom of ships heading toward Shanghai or Hong Kong. Some were auctioned off to Singapore, Manila, Borneo, Thursday Island, Rangoon, and Bombay. Some were taken from villages in Korea with a promise of a better job, even an education, then were herded into Japanese Imperial Army ships and labeled ‘military supply.’ Some lost their families in air raids and were stranded without homes, opening their legs to the “white devil” soldiers as a last chance to survive. Karayuki-san. Rashamen. Comfort women. Special Women of RAA. Panpan. Only-san. Different names, different times, all of them women and girls whose bodies were bought and sold by men.”

The Freezer Door, by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore (Semiotext(e)): Maggie Nelson writes: “I really love Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore’s The Freezer Door. In a happy paradox common to great literature, it’s a book about not belonging that made me feel deeply less alone. I so admire its appetite to get down and dirty, to wield non sequitur with grace and power, to ponder the past while sticking with the present, to quest unceasingly. I stand deeply inspired and instructed by its great wit, candor, inventiveness, and majesty.”

The Nancy Reagan Collection, by Maxe Crandall (Futurepoem): From the press: “The Nancy Reagan Collection is a response to growing up queer under the rise of HIV-AIDS. Crossing genres and generations, this performance novel remixes the AIDS archive through an ever-spiraling politics and aesthetics of mourning. Alternating chapters offer up a narrative throughline composed of hallucinogenic episodes from the perspective of a nameless, grieving protagonist in the midst of the global carnage of the Reagan dynasty. Part revenge, part fantasy, the book experiments with poetic practices that challenge conceptions of memory and morality, activism and escapism, grief and beauty.”

 

John Madera's fiction may be found in Conjunctions, Opium Magazine, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His criticism may be found in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, John Madera lives in New York City, where he runs Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.

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