Death to February

In a recent blog post, “Human,” Shane Jones writes:

Anytime I read something positive about my book I get a very short (maybe like 30 second happy feeling) and then it’s gone and I don’t remember it really. When I read something negative, or get a negative email from someone, it lasts much longer, and I remember it. It stays with me. When I google myself I feel empty. But I do it. It’s part ego, being selfish, and placing importance in what others think – something authors can’t control. Now if I read a book for an hour, I feel good. I feel great. If I write 500 words, I feel great. I’m just talking this out now. When I’m on twitter and facebook and reading HTMLGIANT, I never feel good. But I’m still doing it. The need for someone to say “Light Boxes is a good book” is there, but the danger is that someone says “Light Boxes is a hack work by a dick” is also there, and one has a tiny pay-off and the other is extremely damaging.

This honesty is something I’ve always appreciated about Shane. Well, that’s not exactly true. The first thing I appreciated about Shane, the very first thing, was this little piece in the online journal Pindeldyboz: “The Tiny Sheriff.” Famous sculptors, sparrows, exile in the woods, metafiction, and a tiny sheriff whose “legs were bicycling through the air. He wore black boots with spurs and smoked a cigarette. He moved like a storm cloud. The tiny sheriff carved a wooden door into your stomach with his spurs.” This was my introduction to Shane Jones, and I was smitten.

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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

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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Bradley Sands’s Best of 2009

Here’s a quick run-through of the books that I read this year and came out this year. Pretty much the books that I gave four stars to on goodreads because my memory sucks. I would mention movies, but I don’t have a goodreads like thing for movies.

Light Boxes, by Shane Jones: Made me want to write bitter-sweet happy stuff. Have failed, except for prose poem-y things.

A Jello Horse, by Matthew Simmons: Publishing Genius put out this one along with Light Boxes. It has a similar tone. About a road trip to go to a funeral, but reading it made me feel happy to be alive. Written in second person, and it actually works.

Fugue State, by Brian Evenson: Might be my favorite collection by him. It felt more diverse than earlier ones.

Last Days, by Brian Evenson: A lot of fun. Love the lean prose. He’s always played with genre, but this feels like the first book where he’s totally embraced it.

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Big Other Contributors’ News

header3Leni Zumas has a fantastic new story in Kitty Snack’s 2nd issue. Please check out an excerpt of “On Water” HERE.

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Artistically DeclinedRyan Bradley is co-publisher of the new press Artistically Declined which will be releasing Ken Sparling’s elusive second novel, Hush Up and Listen Stinky Poo Butt in early 2010. Sparling is the author of three other novels, Dad Says He Saw You At The Mall, For Those Whom God Has Blessed With Fingers, and [untitled]. Previously Hush Up and Listen was available only in handmade editions by request, Artistically Declined is looking forward to bringing this fantastic novel of fatherhood to more readers. Ryan is also the editor of their journal Sententia. Check out guidelines HERE. And please feel free to use that “poster” on the left on your blog, Facebook, and/or the like to help spread the news!

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John Madera has a review of Nick Antosca’s Midnight Picnic at The Collagist. Check it out HERE.

He’s also posted Music Inspired by Light Boxes HERE.

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pretty

Check it out and spread the love: Kim Chinquee‘s new book hits in April. Here are blurbs:

“There is always a roiling subtext beneath the seemingly placid surfaces and tones of Chinquee’s pieces, a dichotomy which speaks to deep truths about the human condition. Kim Chinquee is a true artist with a true vision, and Pretty is a brilliant book.”—Robert Olen Butler

“These brief snapshots of conversations manage to seem not like fragments of lost wholes but like vivid distillations of essential dramas, each a variation on the shared subject of thwarted intimacy.”—Carl Dennis

“Kim Chinquee writes with remarkable heart and grace. Her wise capsulizings of love’s devastations and of life’s roil and disappointments come at you with a sorrowing precision that comforts even as it haunts.”—Gary Lutz

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We Take Me Apart

Check out Molly Gaudry‘s We Take Me Apart (forthcoming from Mud Luscious Press, December 2009)

There is no more perfect place to be than in Molly Gaudry’s tender, dirt-floored novel(la), WE TAKE ME APART. Oh cabbage leaves, oh roses, oh orange-slice childhood grins: this book broke my heart. Its sad memory-tropes come from fairy tales & childhood books. With language, Gaudry is as loving & careful as one is with a matchbook . . . when wishing to set the whole word on fire.—Kate Bernheimer

Entwining the trance that is childhood around the hallucination that constitutes adulthood, Molly Gaudry’s WE TAKE ME APART is a bewitching & carefully barbed tale.  A cross between silence & a fairy tale, Gaudry’s Beckettian narrative sews bright bits to near-faint whispers, slowly swaddling us in quiet & darkness.—Brian Evenson

Molly Gaudry’s WE TAKE ME APART is a dazzleflage of a book.  The stuttering disrupted language of this cubist con-coction disappears before your ears, sinks into your eyes.  This aggressive dress camouflage reweaves Gertrude Stein’s rewoven grammar of worsted silk-screened gabardine into a fully ripped patois-ed pattern of stunning wonder.—Michael Martone