On Robert Lopez’s All Back Full

all-back-full

Robert Lopez’s darkly comical collections and novels are full of bizarre, dissolute isolatos moving in and out of desultory relationships, talkative heads navigating through absurd situations, bleak states of mind and being, the mud and murk of day-to-day doldrums. All Back Full (Dzanc Books), Lopez’s fifth book, offers three such characters: a husband and wife and the man’s friend, who aren’t having it, who’ve had it with each other, each one talking to each other, talking at each other, around each other, as if the addressee weren’t there, as if they, the addresser, weren’t there, the “there” sometimes not there either, the “there” that’s sometimes there for the most part a nondescript kitchen in a “toxic” house.

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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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Links

Helen DeWitt’s “Cormac McCarthy & the Semi-Colon” is about the travails of punctuation. Yes, editors are often always trying to add commas.

The new great issue of The Quarterly Conversation has a review of William H. Gass’s Middle C by Brad Johnson and one of  Sam Lipsyte’s The Fun Parts by David Winters. David Winters’ review of Christine Schutt’s Prosperous Friends in the LA Review of Books is also well worth the click.

Canadian author Douglas Glover’s literary journal Numero Cinq is billed as “A warm place on a cruel web.” Jason Lucarelli’s piece “The Consecution of Gordon Lish: An Essay on Form and Influence” might be the most definitive piece on Lish.

There is a wonderful interview with Evan Lavender-Smith by Edwin Turner at Biblioklept. Lavender-Smith’s glorious From Old Notebooks was recently re-issued by Dzanc Books. I reviewed it at this site.

Forward-Thinking Dzanc Books Once Again Outthinks the So-Called Majors

Robert Coover is one of the most important writers (among the many living, seemingly living, or otherwise writers), his work not only crossing genres but remaking them in his own peculiar, acerbic, lyrical, defamiliarizing image. The so-called major publishers have shied away from publishing Coover’s work for some years now, even sadly allowing his many books to go out of print, marking, once again, not only their poor judgment, but, ultimately, their cowardice.

So, I was very happy to hear the news that, come September 2013, Dzanc Books will publish Robert Coover’s novel The Brunist Day of Wrath, the sequel to his award-winning debut novel, The Origin of the Brunists. A Coover short story collection will be published in September 2014. Beginning in August 2012 and running on up through August 2013, “eBooks” of ten of Coover’s backlist titles will be released.

Bravo, Dzanc Books!

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T. J. Beitelman’s PILGRIMS: A LOVE STORY

Winner of the Black River Chapbook Competition, Pilgrims: A Love Story is a book I’ve had on my stack for far too long. I bought it because of the cover. I wanted to know what this car had to do with anything. I bought it because Black Lawrence Press is an imprint of Dzanc. I bought it because I like a lot of the writers that come out of Alabama’s MFA program and so I thought I’d take a chance on T. J. Beitelman. And I’m glad I did. This book is about one of my favorite writers, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and one of my favorite dreamboats, Jude Law. Someone should make this book into a short film. Man, I’d love to see this on screen.

Here is one of the early poems in the book, “The Inciting Incident,” which introduces the two to one another:

Scene: Arc d’ Triumph. Jude Law meets Gabriel
Garcia Marquez, calls him Gabo.
Marquez slaps the boy and calls him puta,
Bitch, and they are instantly transported
To a deserted island where they must listen
To evangelists until they repent and kiss
On the lips. A stand-off for months. Then the rainy season.
The droplets, open mouths. The two men kiss like dust.

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A Sampler of First Lines from Best of the Web 2010

Nola is splayed on the wooden floor, her skirt hiked up high above her knees, playing jacks.

My son’s first-grade teacher doesn’t shoot heroin anymore.

I went to a wedding reception at the house of a man who painted with his ass.

When the war was over and all the shelling stopped, Dan Barley set up a balloon animal zoo in a broken chemical factory.

Tonight, before they cross the street to their neighbor’s house, Tommy and Margo wrap their seven-year-old boy, Caleb, in his winter coat and mittens and hat until he is not their son but a bundle of clothes in the shape of a boy.

The locker room walls were painted puke green and lined like a cage with metal hooks, and red mesh equipment bags hung from the hooks like meat.

Solely and thus sorely did he row off the disk of the sun that the lake reflected and into the dark of the piling-held dock where many-legged water-denizens and not just water-livers lived, where he lived, when he could.

She lived in my bathtub.

In February, my best friend died in a creek.

In my head, it sounds better–in my head, I am Johnny Rotten screaming into a tattered microphone, I am Vince Neil shrieking to a sold-out arena. I am Roger-fucking-Daltrey singing “Magic Bus” at the Monterey Pop Festival, and Chris is my Keith Moon.

Cut from the front of scalp back to the temple.

We are here, our tentacles coiled in the pond of Martina’s soul, the one untouched by the storm.

I built a bridge and named it Samuel.

I made it my goal in life to be pretty for you so that when we met you would want to put your mouth on mine and fill my head with your bullshit ideas.

Nights, we kept father confined to his room by draping the walls with black velvet curtains to hide the door–which in his sleep-addled state he did not entirely remember existed–and by hanging the drawing of the girl on the window.

This man only dated caves.

The sky rolled up and fell through the hole in Kate’s roof and bounced from her forehead and floated to the floor, upon which it made a crinkly sound as it brushed the hem of her bedskirt.

She staples her plaid skirt shut.

This was supposed to be about the dirt that flies up in puffs between bare feet when the bees are buzzing all a-thrill, their noses deep and delighted in flat Cokes that sit out for too long while kids splash in the creek, browned legs stemming from cut-off shorts and browned arms hallooing, glinting like sun-spackled trout.

Her mother whispers a promise: that if she is a good, good girl, she will be baptized.

In August 1968, a visiting minister from Pakistan gave Chairman Mao a basket of mangoes as a token of the friendship between the two states.

When we were in writing school, Violet and I decided one of the fiction writers had the biggest dick, and the poets who wrote about love would be the best at going down.

She doesn’t know there is a man inside her pillowcase.

After the butter princess wins her title, the other glazed girls who were sculpted and born from a ninety-pound block leave the fairgrounds too.

By the time Sis was fifteen the doctors started calling her problem a gift.

The wires inserted beneath the skin during the cinching and draining allow me to position the limbs of each body perpendicular to the ground.

Father is draped over the windows: what is left of him, dried and stiff and burgundy-brown: somewhat wrinkled and dirty, bleeding and caked with soul.

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