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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A David Bowie of Literature?

Is there a David Bowie of literature?—such an asinine question, as dumb as asking, “Is there a Virginia Woolf of music?”—arguing against it arguably as asinine as answering it at all, even on its own terms, which is to say, which “David Bowie”? which “literature”?; not to mention the problem of even locating a “there” with any kind of certainty, and of establishing what and/or where or whatever “Is” in this case is.

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Rust Belt Bindery

Rust Belt Bindery is “a book bindery that’s committed to producing and distributing new work as well as repairing and rebinding existing objects. Working collaboratively with artists and writers, Rust Belt puts out limited edition works of fiction and artist books.” I found out about Rust Belt Bindery when their literary editor, Blake Kimzey, sent me a copy of Ashley Farmer’s “Farm Town,” a beautiful chapbook of poems replete with hand-colored illustrations from Meredith Lynn. Here’s one of Farmer’s poems, “Gone to Waste”:

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N Ways of Reading Incidents in the Night

In1

Adventure comic. Artist David B.’s Incidents in the Night unveils a conspiracy that involves the Napoleonic Wars, an ancient god of nothingness, and the enigmatic founder of an anthology that shares the book’s name. Our lead and narrator, meanwhile, shares his name with David B. The in-text David learns of the conspiracy as we do, and a narrative through-line like this—the pursuit of answers—is probably pretty essential to the project’s not going off the rails. David B.’s ambition seems to grow geometrically as the book advances, but Incidents is fundamentally an adventure story, and its strengths and weaknesses wrap around that structure like the snakes of the caduceus.

Bookstore elegy. It reads like one now, anyway. Incidents in the Night was first published twenty years ago in France. In the intervening years, bookstores have diminished in number, in their share of the bookselling market . . . These are things you already know. Our protagonist’s journey begins in a bookstore, and he visits other shops while collecting volumes of the Incidents anthology. Although David B. (the creator) drafted his story at a time when bookstores enjoyed relative security, he imbues these places with a sense of mystery, endless potential—a gesture that grows more poignant with time. Continue reading

David Peak’s Recent Reading at Brown University

Here’s the introduction I delivered before David Peak’s reading at Brown University’s Literary Arts Department’s Demitasse on  April 18, 2013:

The first fiction I read from David Peak’s work was his chapbook Museum of Fucked, the curator-narrator of which has a thing for b-grade horror films, the narrator offering aching portraits of disturbed, hurting, and despairing people living in rundown Chicago neighborhoods, ne’er-do-wells, like crack addicts, homeless people, a blind man begging for change, a landlord who starves cats and dogs for pleasure, a woman with “burned out nostrils” with “rotten” teeth who claims her mother was Marilyn Monroe, and a desperate man swinging a baseball bat holding kids captive. Roaming Chicago’s “gray gentrified industrial neighborhoods,” its “people-packed, colorful shopping districts,” “hip neighborhoods filled with three-flats,” and the “dirty parts…with their broken glass and families,” these grotesques could easily be confused for the zombies of Dawn of the Dead and Night of the Living Dead (titles of two of Museum’s stories). The view of life here is encapsulated in the following lines from this brutal fiction: “God we’re all fucked, he says to someone on the other end of the line.”

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Thoughts About Christine Schutt’s Nightwork

I was recently asked to play a game of “Truth or Truth,” an asinine variant of an already asinine game, “Truth or Dare,” the game a transparent but ultimately futile attempt at sublimation: a redirection from the charged quality of being a stranger in a sleepy town: an escape from the anguish of having been uprooted, that uprooting being self-imposed doing nothing to assuage that feeling. After I said I was “game” (yes, I was willing to play, but I also meant less-than-half-jokingly that I was also permanently injured), I was asked: “What subjects are taboo in your writing?” Perhaps too quickly, I answered, “None.” And so the game moved on to someone else. I say, “too quickly” because after having just finished rereading (for what, the third time?) Christine Schutt’s Nightwork, preparing to teach it tomorrow, I can’t help thinking that Schutt’s writing demonstrates what I can only hope is evident in my writing, that is, a willingness to engage, to represent what is socially or culturally prohibited; to accept, that is, come to some kind of intelligent terms with the unacceptable; to sully the so-called sacred; to allow, in some way, what’s forbidden; to trespass whatever number of boundaries.

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Happy Birthday, Lance Olsen!

Today, October 14, 2012, marks Lance Olsen‘s 56th birthday. In celebration of him and his work, and with a nod to a quote by Roland Barthes, I’ve turned most of the sentences found in the first chapter of Olsen’s The Architectures of Possibility into questions without answers. (You’ll also find that I’ve altered quotations, found in the selfsame chapter, from Brian Evenson, Fredric Jameson, and Curtis White, as well as the abovementioned Barthes).

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Review: Issue 0!

Issue 0 of Review, “THE CREATION MYTH OF THE DIGITAL UNIVERSE,”  is here! Rejoice.

FICTION

POETRY

ESSAYS

INTERVIEW

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I Shot the Moon, Calamari Press, 35-38 / 41, 3RD BED [7, 8, 9, 10, 11]

 

Click through to read the full (super-mega) review of 3RD BED [7, 8, 10, &11]

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Of A Monstrous Anthology

At AWP I spent 99% of my time at the Artistically Declined Press table at the bookfair. Two tables down from me was the Lost Horse Press table. Lost Horse is one of my favorite presses. Their books are beautiful and they have published some of my favorite people and poets. Anyway, I became friendly, as one does at the bookfair, with my neighbors, including the guy manning LHP’s table. Turns out he co-edited an anthology just released from LHP and as friendly neighbors do, I picked up a copy. To be honest I didn’t know too much about it, it looked nice and was thick (and as heavy) as a brick. Turns out, it’s one of the most intriguing anthologies I’ve picked up in some time.

It’s called Of A Monstrous Child and is an “anthology of creative writing relationships.” The idea behind it is that a mentor and a student-turned-peer are paired up. They introduce one another and a story or some poems. It’s a fresh take on the anthology, one that goes beyond the work into the making of the work through the influence, study, and companionship that runs at the depths of this trade. A few of the writers who show up here are Zachary Schomburg, Robert Wrigley, Ryan Boudinot, Rick Moody, Amy Hempel, and Brian Evenson.

To be honest, traditional anthologies start to bore me at a certain point. I’ve had some ideas for non-traditional anthologies myself, and maybe one day will be fortunate enough to see one realized. When it comes to Monstrous Child, brain-baby of Nate Liederbach (the fellow I met at AWP) and his former student, James Harris it’s too soon for me to tell exactly what the effect of the anthology’s format will be as a whole, after all, I’m only a fourth of the way into it. But I like the ambition, I like the portrait of mentor relationships, a bond dear to writers. I’m surprised I haven’t heard anything about this anthology in the way of a review or a blog post. Anything. I’m sure somewhere there has been, but it seems right up the alley of so many writers I know and interact with. I hope this post will help people find the book. You can learn more about it HERE.

Fact-Simile 3.1

I got hardcopies of the new issue of Fact-Simile in the mail today and am thoroughly enjoying the innovative poetry and prose within its pages. 

Check out a free pdf verion here to read new work from Michelle Disler, Cralan Kelder, Shanna Miller McNair, Andrew Wessels, Mark Cunningham, Tim Roberts, Derek Henderson, Elizabeth Robinson, Roxanne Carter, Mary Kasimor, David Brennan, Charles Freeland, Richard Schwass, Peter Grieco, John Tway Zackel, Matt Reeck, Rich Murphy, Ryan Ridge, Dan Ruhrmanty, John Kearns, Scott Bentley, Jennifer Karmin and yours truly.

The issue’s feature is particularly noteworthy: an interview with Brian Evenson along with his short story “Hurlock’s Law” (reprinted from The Lifted Brow).  Yesterday, I just wrapped up a creative writing workshop that ended with a look at Evenson’s fiction, so it was great to linger a bit longer over his always striking prose.  I found “Hurlock’s Law” to be an intriguing investigation into the meandering maze of referential mania, a mysterious fable — for our contemporary age of Reality TV and digital surveillance — of how meaning eludes both our psychic and technological apparatuses.

And the interview has some choice nuggets…here are some of my favorites…

BE on perception:

When I was a teenager, I thought Dennis Hopper was Dennis Hooper.

BE on literary theft:

I have no problem with stealing, but once I steal something, I want to repaint it and kind of bend it around and make it my own…I’m more interested in stealing something that I can use to help make a new machine…

And BE on mutilation:

…before I had an interest in mutilation, I had kind of an obsessive interest in axes…

Overall, a great issue from a great small press — I suggest taking a look and subscribing!

Over Forty Writers Over Forty to Watch

Writing the title of this post actually felt very silly; it seems such an arbitrary way of gathering a list of writers to look out for. What could be sillier than singling out writers in this way, according to their age? Surely, there are more worthy criteria. Well, there is an answer to what could be sillier than singling out over forty writers over forty to watch, namely, singling twenty writers under forty to watch, especially largely mainstream writers writing, for the most part, conventional and redundant fiction. And the New Yorker has done just that. But this isn’t surprising. Theirs is an idea once again institutionalizing, reinforcing our decayed culture’s obsession with youth, not to mention its eyes wide shut wallowing in mediocrity. So, not only have they missed, for the most part, who are the best fiction writers under forty to watch, but, with their unapologetic valorization of youth, they missed entirely. The following writers (and I include poets, essayists, and theorists among them) are writers who have consistently written great work. I anticipate great things from each of them in the years and years to come. With full awareness of how a corrective sometimes ironically and paradoxically legitimizes what it seeks to correct, here, in the order in which I thought of them, are over forty writers over forty whose work I will be busy watching.

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Brian Evenson’s Baby Leg

Baby Leg, like last year’s Last Days, starts in medias res. Kraus: the protagonist, the wrong man and the man caught in the middle, is in a cabin alone. He is waiting for someone to come and kill him, though he doesn’t know who—his memory fails. Night after night, he dreams of a woman with a normal leg and a baby leg who carries around an ax. As these visions continue to accost him, the woman known as Baby Leg starts telling him to do things. Kraus becomes a man of action—a very dangerous man, though he has only one hand. Soon he wanders around the unnamed town, ends up at a deserted gas station, and has a tense conversation with the female cashier. He leaves but returns after remembering there was a flyer posted of his face. It’s now gone, but the woman had been on the phone when he came back in. Soon she is dead, though Kraus and the reader don’t exactly know how. Evenson isn’t one for shock value; he knows what is sometimes most chilling is that which is not described.

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Interview with Ken Sparling

Sean Lovelace interviews Ken Sparling for Big Other

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My Favorite Books from 2009 (in alphabetical order):

I’ve read over 120 books in 2009, and by the time the year is up I’ll have reviewed over fifty. At the risk of being redundant, I’ve put together a list of the books I thought were this year’s best. I’ve also included links to the ones I reviewed. But before that, I should mention some great books that weren’t published this year: Eugene Lim’s Fog & Car, Eugene Marten’s Waste, Mary Caponegro’s first three books, Ken Sparling’s Dad Says He Saw You at the Mall, Ursula K. Le Guin’s Lavinia, and Michael Kimball’s The Way the Family Got Away and Dear Everybody. And then there’s Shane Jones’s The Failure Six, David Shields’s Reality Hunger, and Ander Monson’s Vanishing Point, all of which won’t be released until next year. By the way, while the so-called major presses churned out a whole lot of fluff I did enjoy John Haskell’s Out of My Skin and Anne Michaels’s The Winter Vault. Oh, and I should mention The Complete Cosmicomics, by Italo Calvino which  is playful and inventive in that inimitably Calvino way. Each chapter is a combination of pseudo-science (as far as I can tell) and fantasy—a weird mishmash of fable and fact. They sound like entries from an encyclopedia sometimes, albeit a whimsical one. This was the best way to close out the year. So, besides beautifully-crafted language, eddying narratives, evocative imagery, and provocative characters—whose quirks, thoughts, and comings and goings remain with me—what the books on this list have in common is that they were published by independent presses.
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Bradley Sands’s Best of 2009

Here’s a quick run-through of the books that I read this year and came out this year. Pretty much the books that I gave four stars to on goodreads because my memory sucks. I would mention movies, but I don’t have a goodreads like thing for movies.

Light Boxes, by Shane Jones: Made me want to write bitter-sweet happy stuff. Have failed, except for prose poem-y things.

A Jello Horse, by Matthew Simmons: Publishing Genius put out this one along with Light Boxes. It has a similar tone. About a road trip to go to a funeral, but reading it made me feel happy to be alive. Written in second person, and it actually works.

Fugue State, by Brian Evenson: Might be my favorite collection by him. It felt more diverse than earlier ones.

Last Days, by Brian Evenson: A lot of fun. Love the lean prose. He’s always played with genre, but this feels like the first book where he’s totally embraced it.

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Interview: James Kaelan of FMC

Yep, that’s right, had the wonderful opportunity to interview James Kaelan, managing editor of FLatmancrooked.

Tons of good info, new news, & in-depth coverage –  read more after the break

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Big Other Contributors’ News #6

Molly Gaudry and Kim Chinquee have been translated into Polish, alongside Matt Bell, Jamie Iredell, Claudia Smith, and a number of others.

A review of Molly Gaudry’s We Take Me Apart appears HERE.
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Shya Scanlon curated a Fan Fiction section for Opium 9, which includes work by Brian Evenson, Matthew Simmons, Matt Briggs, Blake Butler, Nick Bredie, Sean Carman, E. Loic Leuschner, Ben Greenman and Ryan Boudinot.

Shya’s story “Waiting,” from a semi-autobiographical novel-in-stories called Look No Further, is in Monkeybicycle 7.

He’ll be reading with Leslieann Hobayan and Douglas Treem Wednesday, Dec. 9th at  Cornelia St. Cafe, 29 Cornelia Street in New York City. Details HERE.
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Jac Jemc has five poems in the new Front Porch.  Here’s the link.
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Christopher Higgs‘s prose piece titled “Parents Being We Are Wrongly” in the inaugural issue of We Are Champion.
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Stacy Muszynski‘s review of Bonnie Jo Campbell’s National Book Award-finalist American Salvage and interview with the author at The Rumpus. Recent book reviews at The Collagist include: Josh Weil’s The New Valley, Skip Horack’s The Southern Cross. An interview with the editor of National Book Award-finalist American Salvage at American Short Fiction blog. Three-part interview with B.J. Hollars, editor of You Must Be This Tall to Ride, at American Short Fiction blog: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
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Greg Gerke is reading with Barry Graham Reading at Freebird Books on Sunday, December 6 at 7:00pm. Greg’s new story “Truth Be Told” and interview is up at Dark Sky. And Sam Pink interviews Greg at Html Giant.
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J.A. Tyler‘s Inconceivable Wilson is officially available for order now from Scrambler Books.
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John Madera‘s review of Jamie Iredell’s Prose. Poem. A Novel. is up at the Rumpus.