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.
- Euphorbia Rhizophora: A Harvested Ginger Rhizome
I love reading lists, especially lists from smart people who are paying attention and have insightful things to say. Hence, these lists from Ravi Mangla, Lance Olsen, Dawn Raffel, Joseph Riippi, and Penina Roth. With all these choices of amazing things to check out and revisit, 2012 is looking very promising already. Check out our first and second installments of Best of 2011, HERE and HERE.
I first saw Luca Dipierro’s work in an animation he’d made for a book of short stories by Dawn Raffel. It was a stop motion video based on a story in which a young woman and her father try to find their car in a parking lot one night in winter. The wind off the lake is sharp; it burns their ears. The parking lot is almost empty. Suddenly the father says, “Now I remember. We’re not here.”
There is a weirdness in Dipierro’s work that is also in that line of dialogue. To say, “We’re not here,” is something that can only be true if it means something else. Because of course they are there. We can only be where we are. What the father really means, in that instance, is: “Our car’s not here.” But if he’d been allowed to say it like that – so matter-of-factly – something incongruous would have been missing.
Luca Dipierro in front of "Foreverland", a storefront he painted in North Carolina
The words were Raffel’s, and they stayed with me, but so did the animation, which was simple and precise, yet full of a strange and frightening wonder. The characters had heads that looked too real, or not real enough. An ordinary object, like a woman’s handbag, seemed capable of more than it ought to be capable of. After I saw that animation, I looked for other work by Dipierro. I saw that he was working on an art zine called Das Ding, which is German for ‘The Thing’. So far there have been three issues. Each issue, wrapped in a cellophane envelope, is a beautiful paper object with words and drawings. They remind me of little dreams; they are always about something, but it is difficult to describe what. Their characters and creatures often find themselves in trouble, and either they get out of that trouble or they do not. Or maybe what you think is trouble, for them, turns out to be something else.
You can find Das Ding here. Below is a conversation I had with Dipierro. Continue reading
This post features lists by five fine writers: Vincent Czyz, Darby Larson, Brad Listi, Dawn Raffel, and Andrew Zornoza. And when you get a chance, check out part one, part two, and part three of “Best of 2010.”
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).
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.
Tonight the first Soda Series: Writers in Conversation will take place at Soda Bar with Dawn Raffel, David Peak, Ana Božičević and Edward Mullany reading and conversing with you, the audience.
On Monday June 14th at Pacific Standard Bar in Brooklyn, a Big Other extravaganza will be taking place with games, prizes, raffles, music and readings. Mary Caponegro will be the headliner.
Music by John Madera and Robert Lopez (yes, that Robert Lopez).
Readings by Michael Leong, John Dermot Woods, Shya Scanlon, Edward Mullany, John Madera, Greg Gerke, Nicolle Elizabeth.