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Most Anticipated Small Press Releases: January 2021

 

Here are some compelling January 2021 small press books that captured my attention, including Big Other contributor G. C. Waldrep‘s The Earliest Witnesses; and Georges Braque: A Methodical Adventure, by Pierre Reverdy, translated by Big Other contributor Andrew Joron with Rose Vekony:

 

Georges Braque: A Methodical Adventure, by Pierre Reverdy, translated by Andrew Joron and Rose Vekony

From Black Square Editions: “This translation consists of an essay/homage written by Pierre Reverdy about his friend, the cubist painter, Georges Braque, and also a letter from Pierre Reverdy to Georges Braque.”

 

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Cathedral, by Ben Hopkins

From Europa Editions: “A thoroughly immersive read and a remarkable feat of imagination, Cathedral tells a sweeping story about obsession, mysticism, art, and earthly desire in gripping prose. It deftly combines historical fiction and a tale of adventure and intrigue. [….] Fans of Umberto Eco, Hilary Mantel, and Ken Follett will delight at the atmosphere, the beautiful prose, and the vivid characters of Ben Hopkins’s Cathedral.”

 

Capitalism, Technology, Labor: A Socialist Register Reader, Vol. 2, edited by Greg Albo, Leo Panitch, and Alan Zuege

From Haymarket Books: “This volume offers a radical critique of techno-utopianism, instead seeing innovation as a field of ongoing class struggle. [….] As we enter what some term the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ and both mainstream commentators and the left grapple with the implications of rapid technological development, this volume is a timely and crucial resource for those looking to build a political strategy attentive to sweeping changes in how we produce goods and live our lives.”

 

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Consequences of Capitalism: Manufacturing Discontent and Resistance, by Noam Chomsky and Marv Waterstone

From Haymarket Books: “Consequences of Capitalism exposes the deep, often unseen connections between neoliberal ‘common sense’ and structural power. In making these linkages, we see how the current hegemony keeps social justice movements divided and marginalized. And, most importantly, we see how we can fight to overcome these divisions.”

 

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Vibratory Milieu, by Carrie Hunter

From Nightboat Books: “Vibratory Milieu weaves together eight years of writing and the author’s daily practice of collection to build a glistening web of perception and interconnection, including bits and pieces from a myriad of sources: current events, news briefs, facebook & twitter quips, the movie Carrie, Buddhist texts, and feminist theory. Hunter’s own writing practice becomes material for the collage as she culls lines from journals, poems written to music, poems written after meditation and dreams, poems written in response to friends’ poems, poems inspired by the Divine Comedy (itself a collage text). What emerges from the field of language is a study of identity and its abstraction, formation, and analysis through interaction with texts of all kinds: poems, film, music, dream, friendship.”

 

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Art Is Everything, by Yxta Maya Murray

From Northwestern University Press: “In her funny, idiosyncratic, and propulsive new novel, Art Is Everything, Yxta Maya Murray offers us a portrait of a Chicana artist as a woman on the margins. L.A. native Amanda Ruiz is a successful performance artist who is madly in love with her girlfriend, a wealthy and pragmatic actuary named Xochitl. Everything seems under control: Amanda’s grumpy father is living peacefully in Koreatown; Amanda is about to enjoy a residency at the Guggenheim Museum in New York and, once she gets her NEA, she’s going to film a groundbreaking autocritical documentary in Mexico.”

 

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The Adventures and Misadventures of the Extraordinary and Admirable Joan Orpí, Conquistador and Founder of New Catalonia, by Max Besora, translated by Mara Faye Lethem

From Open Letter Books: “Using historical facts as raw material, and with stellar appearances of characters such as Miguel de Cervantes or the brigand Serrallonga, among others, Besora converses with the satirical tradition of works such as Gargantua and Pantagruel, Gulliver’s Travels, or Don Quixote, to paint a fresco of Catalonia in the seventeenth century and the Golden Age of the Spanish empire, creating a novel that is fresh, sharp, and bursting with exuberant adventures.”

 

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The Schrödinger Girl, by Laurel Brett

From Akashic Books: “When a young woman appears to split into four different versions of herself, protagonist and behavioral psychologist Garrett Adams must decide what is vision, what is science, and what is delusion.”

 

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How to Blow Up a Pipeline: Learning to Fight in a World on Fire, by Andreas Malm

From Verso Books: “In this lyrical manifesto, noted climate scholar (and saboteur of SUV tires and coal mines) Andreas Malm makes an impassioned call for the climate movement to escalate its tactics in the face of ecological collapse. We need, he argues, to force fossil fuel extraction to stop—with our actions, with our bodies, and by defusing and destroying its tools. We need, in short, to start blowing up some oil pipelines. Offering a counter-history of how mass popular change has occurred, from the democratic revolutions overthrowing dictators to the movement against apartheid and for women’s suffrage, Malm argues that the strategic acceptance of property destruction and violence has been the only route for revolutionary change. In a braided narrative that moves from the forests of Germany and the streets of London to the deserts of Iraq, Malm offers us an incisive discussion of the politics and ethics of pacifism and violence, democracy and social change, strategy and tactics, and a movement compelled by both the heart and the mind. Here is how we fight in a world on fire.”

 

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The Care Crisis: What Caused It and How Can We End It?, by Emma Dowling

From Verso Books: “In this groundbreaking book, Emma Dowling charts the multi-faceted nature of care in the modern world, from the mantras of self-care and what they tell us about our anxieties, to the state of the social care system. She examines the relations of power that play profitability and care off in against one another in a myriad of ways, exposing the devastating impact of financialisation and austerity. The Care Crisis enquires into the ways in which the continued off-loading of the cost of care onto the shoulders of underpaid and unpaid realms of society, untangling how this off-loading combines with commodification, marketisation and financialisation to produce the mess we are living in. The Care Crisis charts the current experiments in short-term fixes to the care crisis that are taking place within Britain, with austerity as the backdrop. It maps the economy of abandonment, raising the question: to whom care is afforded? What would it mean to seriously value care?”

 

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Reel Bay: A Cinematic Essay, by Jana Larson

From Coffee House Press: “Equal parts memoir, mystery, reclaimed screenplay, and travelogue, Reel Bay charts Jana Larson’s unusual journey toward understanding another woman’s life. What was Takako Konishi really doing in North Dakota, and why did she end up dead? Did she get lost and freeze to death, as some locals concluded, while searching for the fictional treasure buried in a snowbank in the Coen brothers’ film Fargo? Or was it something else that brought her there: unrequited love, ritual suicide, a meteor shower, a far-flung search for purpose? The seed of an obsession took root in struggling film student Jana Larson when she chanced upon a news bulletin about the case. Over the years and across continents, the material Jana gathered in her search for the real Takako outgrew multiple attempts at screenplays and became a remarkable, genre-bending essay that leans into the space between fact and fiction, life and death, author and subject, reality and delusion.”

 

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Red Rover Red Rover, by Bob Hicok

From Copper Canyon Press: “Bob Hicok’s Red Rover Red Rover is joyous and macabre, hopeful and morbid, caring and critical. These poems are apocalyptic in tone but tender in their depiction of dying animals, disappearing water, raging fires, and the humans to blame. He calls attention to the dire costs of modern conveniences and begs for our willingness to change. No subject is too high or low for his wide-sweeping gaze, a comfort with extremes that gives his work the quality of an embrace. Threads of humor, romance, and kindness suggest America’s capacity to transcend the disastrous present: ‘heaven’s everywhere / someone needs a place to rest // and someone else says, / Come in.’ Hicok presents a high-stakes game of survival and connection.”

 

The Earliest Witnesses by G.C. Waldrep

The Earliest Witnesses, by G. C. Waldrep

From Tupelo Press: “Waldrep’s seventh collection begins where his prior collection, feast gently, left off: ‘This / is how the witness ends: touch, withdraw; touch again,’ according to the opening poem in The Earliest Witnesses. If these are poems of witness, then they are also testators to the craft of seeing: eye-proofs of an epiphenomenal world. ‘Can you see this,’ the ophthalmologist in ‘A Mystic’s Guide to Arches’ asks over and over again. Sight becomes both the facilitator and impediment of desire, in collusion with language itself. ‘She said, When you say pear, I see p-e-a-r for a second before I see, in my mind’s eye, a pear,’ Waldrep carefully records in ‘[West Stow Orchard Poem (II)].’ The desire-poems in The Earliest Witnesses want the thing itself, its image of the mind, and the language that transmutes both thing and image into song.”

 

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Salvador Puig Antich: Collected Writings on Repression and Resistance in Franco’s Spain, translated by Peter Gelderloos

From AK Press: “In the early 1970s, Salvador Puig Antich of the Iberian Liberation Movement (MIL) was engaged in a fight to the death with Franco’s brutal fascist dictatorship over the future of Spain. In 1974, the Franco regime garroted Puig Antich—literally strangled him to death. The charge was for shooting a policeman during a bank robbery, the details of which were contested. Puig Antich’s case became a cause célèbre internationally. This is his story.”

 

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The Experience Society: Consumer Capitalism Rebooted, by Steven Miles

From Pluto Books: “Airbnb, gaming, escape rooms, major sporting events: contemporary capitalism no longer demands we merely consume things, but that we buy experiences. This book is concerned with the social, cultural and personal implications of this shift. The technologically-driven world we live in is no closer to securing the utopian ideal of a leisure society. Instead, the pursuit of leisure is often an attempt to escape our everyday existence. Exploring examples including sport, architecture, travel and social media, Steven Miles investigates how consumer culture has colonised ‘experiences,’ revealing the ideological and psycho-social tensions at the heart of the ‘experience society.’ The first critical analysis of the experience economy by a UK sociologist sheds light on capitalism’s ever more sophisticated infiltration of the everyday.”

 

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Vineland Reread, by Peter Coviello

From Columbia University Press: “Beginning with his early besotted encounters with Vineland, Coviello reads Pynchon’s offbeat novel of sixties insurgents stranded in the Reaganite summer of 1984 as a delirious stoner comedy that is simultaneously a work of heartsick fury and political grief: a portrait of the hard afterlives of failed revolution in a period of stifling reaction. Offering a roving meditation on the uses of criticism and the practice of friendship, the fashioning of publics and counterpublics, the sentence and the police, Coviello argues that Vineland is among the most abundant and far-sighted of late-century American excursions into novelistic possibility. Departing from visions of Pynchon as the arch-postmodernist, erudite and obscure, he discloses an author far more companionable and humane. In Pynchon’s harmonizing of joyousness and outrage, comedy and sorrow, Coviello finds a model for thinking through our catastrophic present.”

 

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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