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.
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.
Click through to read the full review of James Wagner’s THE FALSE SUN RECORDINGS, the thirty-fourth in this full-press review of Calamari books.
Let us perform a search. Let us research the online journal Action, Yes, edited by Johannes Göransson, Joyelle McSweeney, and our very own John Dermot Woods.
Google tells us in bright blue (then purple) letters that Action, Yes “may be compromised,” and, below, appears evidence of such “compromisation”: “Our drugshop has everything you need. Buy online viagra Buy viagra cheap.” Who, we may wonder, is actually talking? Who presumes to tell us about what we desire?
“To compromise,” in common parlance, has a negative connotation. To compromise means to “[w]eaken (a reputation or principle) by accepting standards that are lower than is desirable” (Merriam-Webster). Something (a site, a body, a person) that is “compromised” is “[e]xposed to risk, danger, or discredit”; it is, alternately, something “[t]hat has been in contact with infectious disease” (OED). For Google, a website that “may have been hacked or otherwise compromised” means that a “third party has taken control of the site without the owner’s permission.” Cleary this is not a desideratum…or is it?
In a recent comment, John Domini remarked how Kafka is “a major marketing tool” in Prague (Kafka beer steins, Kafka underwear, etc.), which reminded me, in a U.S. context, of how Levi’s exploitatively enlisted Walt Whitman’s poem “O Pioneers” for their 2009 “Go Forth” ad campaign. The commercial is a laughably bad example of corporate propaganda that turns Whitmanian address into capitalist interpellation (I remember the commercial was loudly booed when it was shown before a screening of Pedro Almodóvar’s Broken Embraces).
In an apparently non-ironic comment, YouTube user sapporo1992 says, “i seriously get so inspired when i see this. haha and i do kinda live a life like that full of adventure maybe thats why i relate to it so much…and i love walt whitman’s poetry.”
In contrast to the “inspiring” and “adventurous” Whitman (this is the Whitman of “Song of the Open Road”), the recent The Simpson’s episode “The Squirt and the Whale” (episode 460) presents us with the “comforting” and “compassionate” Whitman (this is the Whitman of “Vigil Strange I Kept on the Field One Night”). In the episode, Lisa comforts a beached blue whale (she names her “Bluella”) by reading her a passage from Leaves of Grass. She says to the whale, “When I’m sad I read something beautiful and true: poetry” and then reads aloud the first three lines of “The World below the Brine” (“The world below the brine; / Forests at the bottom of the sea—the branches and leaves, / Sea-lettuce, vast lichens…”) before falling asleep beside the beast. When she awakes, she finds that Bluella is dead.