- Books, Reading, Small Presses, Writing

Most Anticipated Small Press Releases: August 2021

Here are some compelling August 2021 small press books that captured my attention, including Big Other contributor Brian Evenson‘s The Glassy, Burning Floor of Hell.

 

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Brian Evenson’s The Glassy, Burning Floor of Hell

From Coffee House Press: “A sentient, murderous prosthetic leg; shadowy creatures lurking behind a shimmering wall; brutal barrow men–of all the terrors that populate The Glassy, Burning Floor of Hell, perhaps the most alarming are the beings who decimated the habitable Earth: humans. In this new short story collection, Brian Evenson envisions a chilling future beyond the Anthropocene that forces excruciating decisions about survival and self-sacrifice in the face of toxic air and a natural world torn between revenge and regeneration. Combining psychological and ecological horror, each tale thrums with Evenson’s award-winning literary craftsmanship, dark humor, and thrilling suspense.”

 

Inwardness

Jonardon Ganeri’s Inwardness: An Outsider’s Guide

From Columbia University Press: “Jonardon Ganeri explores philosophical reflections from many of the world’s intellectual cultures, ancient and modern, on how each of us inhabits an inner world. In brief and lively chapters, he ranges across an unexpected assortment of diverse thinkers: Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, Chinese, and Western philosophy and literature from the Upaniṣads, Socrates, and Avicenna to Borges, Simone Weil, and Rashōmon. Ganeri examines the various metaphors that have been employed to explain interiority—shadows and mirrors, masks and disguises, rooms and enclosed spaces—as well as the interfaces and boundaries between inner and outer worlds. Written in a cosmopolitan spirit, this book is a thought-provoking consideration of the value—or peril—of turning one’s gaze inward for all readers who have sought to map the geography of the mind.”

 

Bernoulli's Fallacy

Aubrey Clayton’s Bernoulli’s Fallacy: Statistical Illogic and the Crisis of Modern Science

From Columbia University Press: “There is a logical flaw in the statistical methods used across experimental science. This fault is not a minor academic quibble: it underlies a reproducibility crisis now threatening entire disciplines. In an increasingly statistics-reliant society, this same deeply rooted error shapes decisions in medicine, law, and public policy with profound consequences. The foundation of the problem is a misunderstanding of probability and its role in making inferences from observations. Aubrey Clayton traces the history of how statistics went astray, beginning with the groundbreaking work of the seventeenth-century mathematician Jacob Bernoulli and winding through gambling, astronomy, and genetics. Clayton recounts the feuds among rival schools of statistics, exploring the surprisingly human problems that gave rise to the discipline and the all-too-human shortcomings that derailed it. He highlights how influential nineteenth- and twentieth-century figures developed a statistical methodology they claimed was purely objective in order to silence critics of their political agendas, including eugenics. Clayton provides a clear account of the mathematics and logic of probability, conveying complex concepts accessibly for readers interested in the statistical methods that frame our understanding of the world. He contends that we need to take a Bayesian approach—that is, to incorporate prior knowledge when reasoning with incomplete information—in order to resolve the crisis. Ranging across math, philosophy, and culture, Bernoulli’s Fallacy explains why something has gone wrong with how we use data—and how to fix it.”

 

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Jung Young Moon’s Arriving in a Thick Fog

From Deep Vellum: “The four novellas in Arriving in a Thick Fog typify renowned Korean cult writer Jung Young Moon’s emphasis not on events, but on the meticulous and convoluted paths the narrator’s minds take as they navigate through life. Through a deep, filterless gaze into the narrator’s heads, Jung shares thorough musings that manage to be both spontaneous and complex. Arriving in a Thick Fog takes the reader on a discombobulating yet captivating stroll. Like ‘a person looking for a path that stretches forever in the wrong direction,’ the reader traces the steps of one who is walking endlessly toward a false destination, through a maze of layered stories.”

 

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Monica Huerta’s Magical Habits

From Duke University: “In Magical Habits Monica Huerta draws on her experiences growing up in her family’s Mexican restaurants and her life as a scholar of literature and culture to meditate on how relationships among self, place, race, and storytelling contend with both the afterlives of history and racial capitalism. Whether dwelling on mundane aspects of everyday life, such as the smell of old kitchen grease, or grappling with the thorny, unsatisfying question of authenticity, Huerta stages a dynamic conversation among genres, voices, and archives: personal and critical essays exist alongside a fairy tale; photographs and restaurant menus complement fictional monologues based on her family’s history. Developing a new mode of criticism through storytelling, Huerta takes readers through Cook County courtrooms, the Cristero Rebellion (in which her great-grandfather was martyred by the Mexican government), Japanese baths in San Francisco—and a little bit about Chaucer too. Ultimately, Huerta sketches out habits of living while thinking that allow us to consider what it means to live with and try to peer beyond history even as we are caught up in the middle of it.”

 

Marc Anthony Richardson’s Messiahs

From FC2: “A fiercely ecstatic tale of betrayal and self-sacrifice,
Messiahs centers on two nameless lovers, a woman of east Asian descent and a former state prisoner, a black man who volunteered incarceration on behalf of his falsely convicted nephew, yet was ‘exonerated’ after more than two years on death row. In this dystopian America, one can assume a relative’s capital sentence as an act of holy reform—’the proxy initiative,’ patterned after the Passion. The lovers begin their affair by exchanging letters, and after his release, they withdraw to a remote cabin during a torrential winter, haunted by their respective past tragedies. Savagely ostracized by her family for years, the woman is asked by her mother to take the proxy initiative for her brother—creating a conflict she cannot bear to share with her lover. Comprised of ten poetic paragraphs, Messiahs’ rigorous style and sustained intensity equals agony and ecstasy.”

 

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Thirii Myo Kyaw Myint’s Names for Light: A Family History

From Graywolf Press: “Names for Light traverses time and memory to weigh three generations of a family’s history against a painful inheritance of postcolonial violence and racism. In spare, lyric paragraphs framed by white space, Thirii Myo Kyaw Myint explores home, belonging, and identity by revisiting the cities in which her parents and grandparents lived. As she makes inquiries into their stories, she intertwines oral narratives with the official and mythic histories of Myanmar. But while her family’s stories move into the present, her own story—that of a writer seeking to understand who she is—moves into the past, until both converge at the end of the book.”

 

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Kaveh Akbar’s Pilgrim Bell

From Graywolf Press: “With formal virtuosity and ruthless precision, Kaveh Akbar’s second collection takes its readers on a spiritual journey of disavowal, fiercely attendant to the presence of divinity where artifacts of self and belonging have been shed. How does one recover from addiction without destroying the self-as-addict? And if living justly in a nation that would see them erased is, too, a kind of self-destruction, what does one do with the body’s question, ‘what now shall I repair?’ Here, Akbar responds with prayer as an act of devotion to dissonance—the infinite void of a loved one’s absence, the indulgence of austerity, making a life as a Muslim in an Islamophobic nation—teasing the sacred out of silence and stillness. Richly crafted and generous, Pilgrim Bell’s linguistic rigor is tuned to the register of this moment and any moment. As the swinging soul crashes into its limits, against the atrocities of the American empire, and through a profoundly human capacity for cruelty and grace, these brilliant poems dare to exist in the empty space where song lives—resonant, revelatory, and holy.”

 

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Nataliya Deleva’s Four Minutes, translated Izidora Angel

From Open Letter Books: “Giving voice to people living on the periphery in post-communist Bulgaria, Four Minutes centers around Leah, an orphan who suffered daily horrors growing up, and now struggles to integrate into society as a gay woman. She confronts her trauma by trying to volunteer at the orphanage, and to adopt a young girl—a choice that is frustrated over and over by bureaucracy and the pervasive stigma against gay women. In addition to Leah’s narrative, the novel contains nine other standalone character studies of other frequently ignored voices. These sections are each meant to be read in approximately four minutes, a nod to a social experiment that put forth the hypothesis that it only takes four minutes of looking someone in the eye and listening to them in order to accept and empathize with them.
A meticulously crafted social novel, Four Minutes takes a difficult, uncompromising look at modern life in Eastern Europe.”

 

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Silvia Federici’s Patriarchy of the Wage: Notes on Marx, Gender, and Feminism

From PM Press: “At a time when we are witnessing a worldwide expansion of capitalist relations, a feminist rethinking of Marx’s work is vitally important. In Patriarchy of the Wage, Silvia Federici, bestselling author and the most important Marxist feminist of our era, asks why Marx’s crucial analysis of the exploitation of human labor was blind to women’s work and struggle on the terrain of social reproduction. Why was Marx unable to anticipate the profound transformations in the proletarian family that took place at the turn of the nineteenth century creating a new patriarchal regime? Patriarchy of the Wage does more than just redefine classical Marxism. It is an urgent call for a new kind of radical politics.”

 

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Rebecca Subar’s When to Talk and When to Fight: The Strategic Choice between Dialogue and Resistance

From PM Press: “When to Talk and When to Fight is a conversation between talkers and fighters. It introduces a new language to enable negotiators and activists to argue and collaborate across different schools of thought and action. Weaving beautiful storytelling and clear analysis, this book maps the habits of change-makers, explaining why some groups choose dialogue and negotiation while others practice confrontation and resistance. Why do some groups seemingly always take an antagonistic approach, challenging authority and in some cases trying to tear down our systems and institutions? Why are other groups reluctant to raise their voices or take a stand, limiting themselves to conciliatory strategies? And why do some of us ask only the first question, while others ask only the second?”

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Paul B. Preciado’s Can the Monster Speak?: Report to an Academy of Psychoanalysts, translated by Frank Wynne

From Semiotext(e): “November 2019, Paul Preciado was invited to speak in front of 3,500 psychoanalysts at the École de la Cause Freudienne’s annual conference in Paris. Standing in front of the profession for whom he is a ‘mentally ill person’ suffering from ‘gender dysphoria,’ Preciado draws inspiration in his lecture from Kafka’s ‘Report to an Academy,’ in which a monkey tells an assembly of scientists that human subjectivity is a cage comparable to one made of metal bars. Speaking from his own ‘mutant’ cage, Preciado does not so much criticize the homophobia and transphobia of the founders of psychoanalysis as demonstrate the discipline’s complicity with the ideology of sexual difference dating back to the colonial era—an ideology which is today rendered obsolete by technological advances allowing us to alter our bodies and procreate differently. Preciado calls for a radical transformation of psychological and psychoanalytic discourse and practices, arguing for a new epistemology capable of allowing for a multiplicity of living bodies without reducing the body to its sole heterosexual reproductive capability, and without legitimizing hetero-patriarchal and colonial violence. Causing a veritable outcry among the assembly, Preciado was heckled and booed and unable to finish. The lecture, filmed on smartphones, was published online, where fragments were transcribed, translated, and published with no regard for exactitude. With this volume, Can the Monster Speak? is published in a definitive translation for the first time.”

 

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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