5 Books Published in 2009 that Wrecked My Brain a Little

Easter Rabbit, Joseph Young. This is an IMPORTANT book. Some reviewer predicted early in Richard Brautigan’s career that he was creating a new genre, that one day we’d read novels, poems, short stories, and “brautigans.” He was right, even if common parlance has yet to catch up. Enter the new mode of writing: ‘joe-youngs.’ These are not flash fictions. They use very few words and often have a narrative suggestion, but they are are not tightly wrought nuggets. These joe-youngs exist beyond the reader’s, and I suspect the writer’s, control. The words prod and explore the essence of a moment. Barthelme could suggest a world with a few words. Instead, Joseph Young explores a pinpoint in a page. (I keep this on my desk when I write; I’d suggest you do the same.)

Light Boxes, Shane Jones. This is a beautiful and fun and melancholy and classic ‘brautigan.’ Continue reading

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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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The Easter Rabbit Is Here!

From Adam Robinson:

Heya,

Tis the season to celebrate the birth of Joseph Young’s first book, Easter Rabbit.

The party is at the Hexagon, in Baltimore (1825 N Charles St) THIS SATURDAY NIGHT.
It opens at 7pm, the show starts at 8:30.
It’s free, and the book will be available at a discount.
Before the show, there is art to look at — paintings and installations specifically made for the book.
There will be very short plays and very short songs. Free champagne.
I just went to the space where it’s happening and it looks really cool. I feel certain that this is going to be a winning event. Would love to see you if you’re in or around Baltimore.

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Little Easter War Machine Rabbit

There has been quite a bit of attention draw to Joseph Young’s Easter Rabbit, a collection of micro-fictions from Publishing Genius Press, so I wanted to take the opportunity to draw readers to another older book (2004) that has many of the same components of well-written, tightly-wound, intensely-structured lit:

Little War Machine, by M Sarki, available from Ravenna Press, also works in micro-phrases and with a high emphasis on the perfectly neutered sentence, leaving to us the bulk of extrapolation.

Such as:

Long Robes Sublime

She sees

her sun now

as first love.

Aged beside

indifference.

Her lips

opening each can.

Or:

The Temporary Gent

He favors

landscapes

imposed severely.

Then swerves

beneath

her clothes.

See?

Check out this book at Ravenna Press.

And check out Joseph Young’s Easter Rabbit too from Publishing Genius.

Lit, lit, lit.

Joseph Young’s Easter Rabbit

Joseph Young’s Easter Rabbit is available for pre-order from Publishing Genius. It’s a beautiful book of micro-fictions, most no longer than fifty words and none longer than two-hundred. Young’s micros are dominated by He and She scenes ranging from the domestic to the absurd and to the absurdly cruel as in “Loss”:

She burned the shirt in the backyard, the green  smoke an ugly whiplash, the buttons popping. I still don’t get it, he said. What? That I have one less shirt? The fire was pale, shining on her arms.

Many things are going on in between the lines, but the words and images are precise with ‘whiplash’ overlaying the whole as the sensation in worn relationships such as this.

Elsewhere water is dominant in the ninety-plus micros. Rivers, eddys, streams, lakes, ice sheets. As is nature itself: tadpoles flip, squirrels jump about, there is a wounded horse.

In “Ascension” Young portrays the mystery of nature and how the observer observes that which falls away in decay:

How many animals, she said, you think live in this woods? How much flesh? They thought of the birds, the rats, the snakes, the deer, the thousand bugs piled over the ground, squeezed among the leaves.

My favorite is “The Willful Child,” a micro that encompasses so many gothic images and startling emotions you think you’ve read a dose of Flannery O’Connor”

Her doctor told her it was the bite of a brown recluse, the dime-sized wound on her palm. She believed this, knowing that if there were a god, he’d come to her as a spider. Of course, she knew there wasn’t, and as the wound deepened and went purple, her heart refused to give it blood. She lay gaping on the bathroom floor, her hand the look of dead roses, her body an excitement of shudders. Help, she told her father through the telephone, I’m sorry for everything I’ve done.

It is a tender piece but not maudlin. The scared child is realizing what the world can do, how it can take away, even end things. These micros refuse any sense of completion. They live in the actions of the characters, in the details of the river or forest, and in the Beckettian/Pinteresque bits of dialogue. They are story and poetry and they describe a universe in mourning for its own mysteries, a human race run down but capable of enchantment. Joseph Young said he started out writing traditional length stories but he has found his niche in this powerful, evocative collection.