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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The Big Other Contributors List

contributorsThe contributors list at Big Other recently changed and I’m wondering what the new organizing logic is. Before, the list recorded the order in which contributors joined the site. Now it’s something else. At first glance I thought it was now in alphabetical order, but it isn’t. Perhaps it’s arbitrary? But the names seem grouped according to initial letter: A D Jameson, Amber Sparks. But even that doesn’t work, because the list starts and ends with A’s. And not all the J’s are together, and later on there’s a P, then an N, then two P’s. Next I thought that it might be in order of total page views, but then Greg Gerke’s name would be higher up. It’s also not in order of who’s made the most recent post, because it isn’t, and if so it would always be changing. And that would also be redundant, since the posts themselves establish that order. So I just don’t get the list’s logic; I’m hoping this post provokes discussion of this issue, though I’ll concede it isn’t important. But I don’t like things I don’t understand, though I’ll also concede that there’s no real reason why I should understand anything. I’ll also admit that I haven’t been posting much as of late. I’ve been busy with school, but also been trying to figure out what I should post here. Below you can see a photo that I posted; I’ve long thought that it might be cool for this site to have more visual art. I spent most of last year posting links to movies, so I thought I might spend this year posting photos. But Edward is kinda already covering that with his Bluets posts. So I’m left wondering what the new list’s logic is, and what I should post. Perhaps I’ll put up posts like this, metatextual musings on the subject of Big Other? Well, I’ll first wait and see if anyone responds to this post. Thank you for reading.

Big Other Reaches One Million Page Views!

One Million Dots (detail) / Robert Barry. 1968

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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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“My Fifty Literary Pillars,” by Amber Sparks

Unlike the wonderful William Gass, I am not a scholar, nor am I particularly well-versed in the language of literary criticism—and these books are all by writers (many, critics themselves) with a genius far beyond what I’ll ever possess. Gass’s original literary pillars are so masterfully described, so beautifully rendered that in comparison I feel ill-qualified, in fact I feel it impossible, to comment on these books without sounding like an unholy idiot. I’ll just say that after thirty years as a voracious and passionate reader, it was very difficult to winnow a list to fifty. These, then, are not only the books that are my favorites, but also the books that have shaped me, molded me, changed the way I write or think about writing, started a revolution in my head, books that have made their lasting mark on me as a writer and a performer and a reader and, perhaps most importantly, for the best of these, as a human being.

I admit there is a certain partiality on the list to poets and playwrights. This is my background—poetry and the theatre—so I can’t help but have been shaped by these first and foremost, before I found my way to fiction. I do read a lot of non-fiction and especially history and philosophy, but they haven’t impacted my writing as directly or as immediately. Also missing are works of fiction that I’ve loved a good deal but that haven’t necessarily impacted or changed my writing. Books by John Barth and Lydia Davis, for example, would fall into that category.

These are not all classics; in fact some are decidedly failures, inferior to other works the masters who wrote them may have produced. But in those cases that is usually precisely why I love them. I will choose a messy, hugely ambitious failure over a safe and well-crafted novel any day. I’ll choose experimentation over perfect symmetry. I’ll choose the excessive, the sprawling, over the Spartan sense of order.

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A Sequence on Sequence, Part 3: Amber Sparks

[Wisdom from Amber Sparks.]

Warning: my thoughts on ordering stories will almost certainly be incredibly unhelpful to you in your efforts to do the same. I really feel, after going through the process of writing and ordering a collection, (PLUG: My debut short story collection, May We Shed These Human Bodies, comes out in September from Curbside Splendor Press and is available for pre-order RIGHT NOW)  that there is almost nothing about this that makes any sense and what remains is a whole lot of magical thinking, personal preference, and random guessing. Nonetheless, take what dubious wisdom from this you can; glean whatever kernel of anything useful that you might be able to. I hope at any rate it might be more helpful than the dreaded ‘just make a mix-tape!’ advice that Gabe referred to in his previous post and that I’ve also come across, again and again. Continue reading

Big Other Contributors’ News, #25

Ryan W. Bradley‘s story, “The Pit Bull’s Tooth,” is up at Wigleaf, and his chapbook, MILE  ZERO will be out in September from Maverick Duck Press.

Elaine Castillo had poems published in Issue 12 of > kill author, and a piece forthcoming from Used Furniture Review, both from her poetry manuscript CANDIDA: A TRANSLATION.  Several of her short films will be screened in Glasgow on April 9, for the Digital Desperados premiere night at the Center for Contemporary Arts.

Greg Gerke wrote about William H. Gass at The Nervous Breakdown–touching on his essay “The Soul Inside the Sentence,” his story “Mrs. Mean,” and meeting the man himself at the Strand Bookstore.

Paul Kincaid has had reviews of The Anatomy of Utopia, by Karoly Pinter, at SF Site; Nexus: Ascension, by Robert Boyczuk, in New York Review of Science Fiction 270, February 2011; and The Quantum Thief, by Hannu Rajaniemi, in Vector 265, Winter 2011. The BSFA also published a chapbook, Into the Woods: Robert Holdstock Remembered, which included “An Answer” as its introduction; “The Memory of Stories,” an interview Kincaid conducted with Holdstock; and “Robert Holdstock: A Roundtable Discussion,” in which Kincaid took part. Finally, Palgrave Macmillan have apparently published Teaching Science Fiction, edited by Andy Sawyer & Peter Wright, which contains Kincaid’s essay “Through Time and Space: A Brief History of Science Fiction,” in which he attempts to compress 500 years and the entire global endeavour of science fiction into just 6,000 words (don’t try this at home, kids).

Michael Leong‘s writing has recently appeared online at So and So Magazine; Action, Yes; Marsh Hawk Review; and Blackbox Manifold and in print in Hotel Amerika.  His manuscript The Philosophy of Decomposition / Re-composition as Explanation: A Poe and Stein Mash-up was a semi-finalist for the 2011 Sentence Book Award and will be published in the near future as a chapbook by Delete Press.  He will be reading from that work at the Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA) as well as giving a paper on generic hybridity in C.D. Wright’s long poem One Big Self.

John Madera was accepted to attend Brown University’s MFA in Literary Arts program, Fall 2011. “The Museum of Oddities & Eccentricities,” a collaboration with Lily Hoang, appears in Unfinished, Stories Finished by Lily Hoang (Jaded Ibis Press). He also reviewed Ted Pelton’s Bartleby, the Sportscaster (Rain Taxi: Review of Books, Spring 2011 Print Edition) and Renee Gladman’s Event Factory (The Review of Contemporary Fiction, 2011). Madera, along with John Reed, John Deming, and Tim Brown, took part in the National Book Critics Circle’s Celebrates Small Press Month panel, with Barbara Hoffert
moderating.

Amber Sparks‘s story, “A Brief, Bright Fire to Sweep the World Clean,” appeared in the March issue of PANK. The story was shortlisted for PANK’s 1001 Awesome Words Contest. Two of her previously published stories (“Tours of the Cities We Have Lost” from Unsaid 5, and “You Will Be the Living Equation” from Annalemma 7) were published in the latest issue of Zine Scene’s Reprint.

J. A. Tyler‘s second book, A Man of Glass & All the Ways We Have Failed, is now available from Fugue State Press. Please eat this book up.

John Dermot Woods and Lincoln Michel have begun posting their weekly comic strip, Animals in Midlife Crises, at The Rumpus. New jokes every Sunday!