Few exceptions aside, the most compelling, challenging, absorbing literary art is being produced by small presses and their respective writers. I asked a number of writers, editors, and publishers to send me a list of small press books to look out for in 2016. Below you’ll find my own list, which is informed by Kate Angus, John Cayley, Lauren Cerand, Samuel R. Delany, Rikki Ducornet, Andrew Ervin, Lily Hoang, Sean Lovelace, Scott McClanahan, Hubert O’Hearn, Jane Unrue, and Curtis White.
Below you’ll also find lists from Jeff Bursey, Tobias Carroll, Gabino Iglesias, Janice Lee, Dawn Raffel, Nick Francis Potter, John Reed, Adam Robinson, Michael Seidlinger, Terese Svoboda, Jason Teal, Angela Woodward, and Jacob Wren. All the abovementioned people are small press heroes and great writers in their own right. My thanks to all of them.
Before I say anything else, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Chris Newgent for all of the time and energy he has put into our efforts to bring you the next nine words: WELCOME TO THE OFFICIAL LAUNCH OF THE LIT PUB! I’d like to also thank Matt Bell for his excellent advice during the early planning stages, and I especially need to thank my parents, without whose emotional and financial support this would never have been possible. A big round of applause for the guys and gal at Fuzzco, who helped make our website everything I hoped it could be. Many special words of gratitude to Lidia Yuknavitch, for believing in us before we even knew what we really were. And thank you also to Ethel Rohan, Mike Young, and Ofelia Hunt. Of course, gigantic hugs for the entire crew at TLP for all of their hard work and much-needed emotional support during these last few months (Mike Bushnell, thank you for listening, I am so grateful for your energy; Erika Moya, what would I do without you, seriously, my birthday twin!; Elizabeth Taddonio, you are going to manage the hell out of our community, I know it; Kristina Born, Mark Cugini, David Blomenberg, Nicelle Davis, Jacqueline Kari, Corey Beasley, Jordan Blum, M. M. Wittle, and Dave Kiefaber, I thank you for your belief in this; Richard Nash, Adam Robinson, Kevin Sampsell, Dan Wickett, Zach Dodson, and Michael Griffith, let me tell you how grateful I am for your guidance along the way). And thank you again and again and forever to my parents, who are really the unseen heros behind everything that we have accomplished thus far. Without them, I mean it, this would still be just an idea.
My neighbor Jon Cotner just shared this video of his recent appearance, with his writing partner Andy Fitch, on Emily Gould’s Cooking the Books. In the vein of Adam Robinson’s rumored, but yet-to-be-aired, Culinary Genius, Gould’s show features writers in her kitchen. (She assures us the writers are famous, though, unlike Robinson.) Jon and Andy look to Basho as a literary model, and Jon also relies on his culinary advice: “Eat vegetable soup rather than duck stew.” After Jon and Andy discuss theories of skin degradation, Jon makes a vegetable juice (with lemon). Andy seems unimpressed, while Emily apparently enjoys it. The real highlight, though, is a montage-set-to-music of Jon shoving radiant vegetables into a food processor.
Amber Sparks already wrote a fantastic and comprehensive review of Joseph Riippi’s The Orange Suitcase for Big Other, which you can read here, but I want to dedicate a post to “Something About Maxine,” which is a short chapter in three tiny parts, and “Something About the Rest,” another short chapter in three parts. I read The Orange Suitcase last night, but when I woke I realized that these two chapters were still with me, and I wanted to write a post to attempt to answer why.
“Something About Maxine”
Here’s the opening:
They didn’t look like baby rabbits. More like pink balls of unbaked dough with caper eyes. [. . . ] My grandfather gathered up the five or six of them. Max, their shaky mother, wrinkled her nose again and again and again and again in the corner of the cage. There’ll be rabbits everywhere, he grumbled.
I didn’t notice the “again and again and again and again” when I first read this; I must have skimmed right over all four “agains,” but when I typed it here I realized how many there are. I think this is important. As I typed, I wondered, “Why so many agains?” And as I type this now, I think, “Well, sure, they help to show the narrator’s focus, show how long the narrator stares at Max.”
A few months ago, in April, to be exact, I started a series of posts entitled “A Sentence About a Sentence I Love” with a sentence about one of Gerard Manley Hopkins’s magnificent sentences. This concentration, or, rather, this obsession with the sentence may have come from my, at the time, recent readings of William Gass’s essays wherein he concentrates much of his attention on the sentence as a primary building block in poetry and prose. Essays by Gass like “The Soul Inside the Sentence,” “The Sentence Seeks Its Form,” “The Architecture of the Sentence,” take as their focus the centrality of the sentence toward the construction of thought, and particularly of thoughts within the parameters of fiction. In “Philosophy and the Form of Fiction,” Gass claims that sentences are “the most elementary instances of what the author has constructed….a moving unity of fact and feeling.” Moreover, sentences
must be sounded, too; it has a rhythm, speed, a tone, a flow, a pattern, shape, length, pitch, conceptual direction. The sentence confers reality upon certain relations, but it also controls our estimation, apprehension, and response to them. Every sentence, in short, takes metaphysical dictation, and it is the sum of these dictations, involving the whole range of the work in which the sentences appear, which accounts for its philosophical quality, and the form of life in the thing that has been made (Fiction and the Figures of Life, 14).
Recently, Adam Robinson introduced me to David Gianatasio, who analyzes ads like the one seen here and offers witty commentary.
Now, this is how you advertise circumcisions. These perforated business cards for a circumcision doctor in Turkey were done by ad agency Healthy People by Grey. Via Ads of the World.
See and read more at the Adweek site, here.
Several years ago a writer with whom I have been linked, Henry Mescaline, published a piece in The Iowa Review (37.3) titled “First paragraph of Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way, (Translated from the French by C. K. Scott Moncrieff), Alphabetized,” which begins like this:
a a a a a a a a a actually after all an And and and and and and and and appeared as asleep astonished at awake awaken away be be become bed been been begin between blow book book book burning but but candle candle cause channel Charles V […]
Thus, I was delighted to discover Andy Devine’s new book from Publishing Genius, Words, a short text that take these experiments to new places.
There is something in Devine’s whispy precision that recalls the too-little-read 99: The New Meaning, by Walter Abish, in that text’s (il)logical pursuit of its structure, and something in Devine’s maniacal production itself that recalls Abish’s much-better-known-but-hard-to-find Alphabetical Africa.
Big Other tracked down the elusive Devine, for this all-too-brief exclusive interview: