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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National Book Critics Circle Awards Ceremony and After Party, Tonight!

One-third of the finalists for the awards are small press books. Bravo, N.B.C.C.!

While  I’d love to see Paul Beatty’s The Sellout win the fiction award, and Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me the criticism, tonight, I’m rooting for the small presses: the following books in their respective categories:
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#AuthorFail 13: Debra Di Blasi

Welcome back, my friends, to lucky #13. My good friend and publisher, Debra Di Blasi, speaks best for herself.

Go failure!

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Seems everybody has a memoir these days.  Seems I’ve been trying to have one for years.  Like an egg that won’t drop.  A stuck turd.  The opposite of purgation.  Ah, yes, shit. Indeed, allow me to remain scatological for a few words longer.

I’m not constipated about my past, my many lives lived large. No remorse, no regrets.  Neither the drugs nor the booze, neither sex nor abortions, neither mobsters nor terrorist(s), neither poverty nor wealth, disease nor health, Jesus nor Buddha nor nothing that cannot be and everything than might…  Failure to complete a memoir – four memoirs, to be exact – is for me a failure to apologize.  Failure to apologize is a failure to demand revision. Continue reading

Is it September yet?

Coffee House Press does it again! To be released in September, 2010, Kate Bernheimer’s Horse, Flower, Bird is illustrated by none other than Rikki Ducornet and blurbed by Pulitzer finalist Lydia Millet. Here’s the scoop:

In Kate Bernheimer’s familiar and spare—yet wondrous—world, an exotic dancer builds her own cage, a wife tends a secret basement menagerie, a fishmonger’s daughter befriends a tulip bulb, and sisters explore cycles of love and violence by reenacting scenes from Star Wars.

Enthralling, subtle, and poetic, this collection takes readers back to the age-old pleasures of classic fairy tales and makes them new. Their haunting lessons are an evocative reminder that cracking open the door to the imagination is no mere child’s play, that delight and tragedy lurk in every corner, and that we all “have the key to the library . . . only be careful what you read.”

And here’s the blurbage:

“Each of these spare and elegant tales rings like a bell in your head. memorable, original, and not much like anything you’ve read.”—Karen Joy Fowler

Horse, Flower, Bird rests uneasily between the intersection of fantasy and reality, dreaming and wakefulness, and the sacred and profane. Like a series of beautiful but troubling dreams, this book will linger long in the memory. Kate Bernheimer is reinventing the fairy tale.”—Peter Buck, R.E.M.

“My admiration for [Bernheimer’s] talent as a writer, and the dazzling use to which she puts it, is of the highest order.”—Kathryn Davis

“Bernheimer’s fiction offers a unique and delicate gift, the tempting mirage of a grace that constantly escapes.”—Lydia Millet

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait . . .

Selah Saterstrom’s THE PINK INSTITUTION

I can’t thank Mathias Svalina enough for introducing me to Selah Saterstrom. Her first novel, The Pink Institution (Coffee House Press, 2004), offers up such stark, spare language as to mimic the fragmented, but forever life-altering, moments in the lives of her (many generations of) women, not one of whom escapes her own special brand of suffering.

“Willie called his daughters into the dining room. He picked up a dining room table chair and threw it into a closed window. The window shattered. He said, “That’s a lesson about virginity. Do you understand?” to which they replied, “Yes sir.”

The chapter — yes, chapter — above is the first in the section “Maidenhood Objects,” which follows the section “Childhood Objects.” Perhaps the following is the most representative chapter from “Childhood Objects”:

“Azalea sent Aza to Toomsata to see if Willie was there. Aza walked into the house. She asked Dunbar if her father was there. Dunbar said, ‘He’s in the bed, you jealous little bitch.’ On several occasions the children watched Dunbar masturbate their drunk father while their mother, also drunk, slobbered on herself sitting in the corner.”

This is a painful novel, but it is beautiful and reminds me of Lydia Millet’s My Happy Life, and Kate Bernheimer’s The Complete Tales of Ketzia Gold and The Complete Tales of Merry Gold. Buy it, check it out (check out all of them) from your library, and get reading at once. And if you’re an impatient type, try a little sneak preview action at Google books.

Thanks again, Mathias. I owe you one.