Most Anticipated Small Press Books of 2016!

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.

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Writing On It All: Governors Island, June 2013

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Alex Chasin, who has been featured a few times as a guest contributor at Big Other, is spearheading a site-specific collaborative writing project at Governors Island called Writing On It All.

It begins this month and it looks unusually good–so sign up for a session, donate, and/or spread the word!

In a series of seven sessions, invited artists and writers, along with interested members of the public, collaborate in writing on the interior of an out-of-use house on Governors Island. Writing On It All enacts the physical as well as social nature of writing, with a materialist twist on contemporary conceptual art practice. Just as writers are embodied, so do we write with concrete tools, in and from particular locations with particular histories and functions. Mindful of this materiality, Writing On It All takes place in an early 20th-Century house that used to serve as senior officer housing when Governors Island was a military base.

Writing On It All puts these ideas and this history into play with a number of poets and visual thinkers, a graffiti artist, and a movement improviser, who will facilitate sessions designed to invite different forms of engagement with the empty old house, from listening to dancing to a range of collaborative writing activities. The project foregrounds process over product, which means that we don’t know quite what to expect, and that our collective focus is on acts of writing rather than on the texts we produce – nevertheless, the house will be available for viewing after each session. Ultimately, the texts themselves are ephemeral; they will be painted over, rinsed or sanded off, and the house restored to its original condition, at the beginning of July.

EVENTS

June 15 – Kundiman Poets – Writing Race & Belonging: A Live Monument
June 16 – Al Diaz – WET PAINT PROJECT 2011-2013
June 22 – Wendy S. Walters – Out of Regiment, a Project in Personal Mapping
June 23 – Carla Gannis and Justin Petropolous – legend / legend
June 23 – Jovanina Pagano and Rachel Levitsky – Against the Wall: Migration / Habitation / Erasing / Tracing
June 29 – Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture
June 30 – Anne Carson, Robert Currie, and Ébauche

Big Other’s Birthday Tribute to William H. Gass, 2012

https://bigotherbigother.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/tunneling-gass-dipiazz1.jpg?w=300

Photo by Frank Di Piazza

It’s probably too easy a move to begin my very brief remarks about Gass’s use of architecture as a metaphor by trotting out the old horse of a quote about language being the house of Being, before flogging it to death once and for all; but it seems appropriate, nevertheless, to do so, especially when I think about Gass’s positing that the sentence is a container of consciousness. Actually, the quote from Heidegger is useful only when held in contrast with Gass’s ideas about language. Whereas Heidegger placed speech, that is, the continuum of speech, which includes talking, listening, and silence, at the center of his theory of language, Gass does not see writing as a mere supplement to speech. The continuum of writing includes four modes: persuasive, expository, expressive, and literary; and two hybrid modes: argumentative (a fusion of persuasive and expository) and critical (a fusion of expository and expressive) modes. Of these modes, it is the literary that receives the primary focus in Gass’s critical writing. And so, one might perhaps properly say that, for Gass, writing, or, rather, the sentence is the house of becoming. And what is it exactly that becomes in a sentence? For Gass, the sentence is a container of consciousness, a “verbal consciousness, of course, one built of symbols, not sensations; yet one of perceptions all the same: perceptions followed by thoughts like tracking hounds, and infused throughout by the energies of memory and desire, the moods emotions foster, and the reach, through imagery and other juxtapositions, of imagination…” (“The Aesthetic Structure of the Sentence”). Like any house, this container can take any number of forms:

[S]entences must be understood to contain all sorts of unused syntactical space; places that could be filled with more words, but, in any specific instance, aren’t…Sentences are like latticework, like fences, to be left open or prudently closed, their boards wide or narrow, pointy or level, the spaces between them, ditto….A sentence can sometimes give its reader such a strong sense of its overall character that it provokes a flight of fancy, a metaphorical description: it’s like a journey of discovery; it’s like a coil of rope, a triumphal column; it’s like a hallway or a chapel; it’s like a spiral stair. To me, for instance, Sir Thomas Browne’s triplet—“Grave stones tell truth scarce forty years. Generations pass while some trees stand, and old families last not three oak.”—with its relentlessly stressed syllables (seven strong to one weak in the first row, seven to two in the second course, and six to one in the last) resembles a wall. I can even locate spots (the weak stresses) where its stones have crumbled. Families come to pieces the way the word does.

Yes, architecture is a theme running throughout William Gass’s oeuvre, not only in his critical work but in his fictions as well, particularly in The Tunnel, where tunnel-as-metaphor is used as the very structure from which the novel is built.

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Alexandra Chasin’s “Literary Pillars”

1. What Shall I Put in the Hole That I Dig? Eleanor Thompson
The first book I read.  Can’t write without reading.  What I dug so much, I think, were the meter and the metaphor, because other than that, the book is rather sophomoric.

2. Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White
Charlotte’s line, all her lines, but especially “Some Pig.”  What kind of mind thought of those mots justes?  Writing is a matter of life and death.  It’s in and in between the lines.

3. Go Tell It on the Mountain, James Baldwin
It’s not funny.  Writing is a matter of life and death.

4. The Frogs, Aristophanes
Brekekekex koax koax.  From the makers of onomatopoeia.

5. The Poetics, Aristotle
Couldn’t ask for a better strawman.

6. A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf,
Political, angry, in total control of every word.

7. Sentimental Education, Gustave Flaubert
Le. mot. juste.

8. Beloved, Toni Morrison
9. Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys
Writing into the gaps

10. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
Palindromic Pip.  “Mudbank, mist, swamp, and work; work, swamp, mist, and mudbank.”  Chiasmus makes the world go round.

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#AuthorFail 8: Alexandra Chasin

Greetings, earth people, from the (pain) planet failure.

Here, the atmosphere is different. The stars are different.

The entire sense of the project-to-be, an examination by NYC writer (and my collaborator) Alexandra Chasin, requires more preliminary work into the nature of the question: and what of it, when the question is pain?

Here, the question itself, perhaps, gleams always far away.

Preface:

An idea leads to a little research and a little research leads to a little more, and lines of inquiry extend and elaborate themselves fractally, and proliferate, beckoning a would-be writer in multiple directions, and two years later the representation of the medical condition of a character as originally conceived continues to elude her…hundreds of pages of quotations from articles, treatises, stunning 18th-, 19th-, and 20th-Century articulations of the matter, relevant documents, novelistic case histories, authorities, literary treatments, pamphlets, and more, and yet it still seems like a little more information might tie everything together so that the writing proper could begin.  And then it doesn’t.  

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A Sentence About a Sentence I Love: An Anthology, of Sorts

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).

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Skype reading–right now

Notes during and at the close, immediately after, my Skype appearance on Friday, June 4th, at

“The Importance of Independents,” Los Angeles, 7:30 pm

w Harold Abramowitz / Teresa Carmody / Alexandra Chasin / Gina Frangello / Davis Schneiderman / Mathew Timmons
a reading at w o r d s p a c e
3191 Casitas Avenue, #156 / Los Angeles, 90039

I’ve deliberately not done any significant editing to the document, in hopes that the immediacy of the entry might compensate for its roughness. I’m initiating a Skype reading series for Lake Forest College next year, and well, I find the whole thing fascinating. I would be very interested in hearing from others about their experiences reading at-a-distance.

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