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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How I Wrote Certain of My Books

[In which I elaborate on an earlier post, “Slow Writing?“]

In thinking about my earlier contention that writing ought to be slow, I decided to examine my own process. Specifically, I wondered if I, a man with two books coming out this year, was living up to my own lofty standards. I thus constructed a mental timeline for one of those books, Critique of Pure Reason, out this fall from Noemi Press.

Critique is a collection of essays and fictions, and so already has the patchwork frame of an occasional book built into it. But I had the concept of it in mind at least since 2009, when I gave my Master’s thesis that title after thinking (at absurd length) about what to call the heterogeneity that was to be contained therein. (It should be noted that, of the seven stories in that thesis, only three will appear in the book, and one of them has been completely overhauled. The rest, it transpires, were not meant for posterity of a more public kind.)

The oldest story in the book, “The Behavior of Pidgeons,” was begun in 2006. I won’t bore you with “VH1 Storytellers”-type information here, just the (boring) facts. It took me another year to get it into shape. I began another story, “Play,” around the same time, but it was put aside while I was in grad school, and didn’t get finished until two years later, a sort of book-end for that experience. While I was in grad school, I began two other stories from the book, but neither were “finished” at the time of my graduation. 2009 was a relatively productive year for me — I finished “Play” and one of the stories I had started in school, I pushed forward with a third, and I started and finished a fourth. In 2010, I wrote four of the remaining stories in the collection, start to finish, and started another two. But last year was the worldbeater. I finished those last two, finally finished overhauling the one from school that had been languishing, and wrote four more, start to finish. But I had an advantage I hadn’t had before: a project. I was thinking about this loose shape or constellation of creative work as a book, and seeing for the first time its bounds and its gaps. With a proper map, I could explore the remainder of the territory, free from worries of unprofitably covering the same ground or taking the long way from point to point.

But: to the numbers! Continue reading

Soda Series #10 this Wednesday at 7pm in Brooklyn

The Soda Series is having our 10th reading Wednesday at the Soda Bar in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn at 7pm. What makes our series unique is that it is a reading and conversation. First short readings and then a 30-40 minute conversation between the writers and the audience. This time we have Roberta Allen, Robin Grearson, John Haskell, and Kirsten Kaschock.  Facebook RSVP

Also, on January 24th  Bradford Morrow, Brian Evenson, and Susan Daitch will be reading. After that the series will be going to four times a year.

Here is a complete list of our past readers: Christine Schutt, Gary Lutz, John Domini, Claire Donato, Mary Caponegro, Tim Horvath, Nick Ripatrazone, Robin Beth Schaer, Brenda Shaughnessy, Anthony Tognazzini, Paula Bomer, Sasha Fletcher, Amy King, Eugene Lim, Matt Bell, John Madera, Jeff Parker, Amber Sparks, Dawn Raffel, David Peak, Ana Božičević, Edward Mullany, Janice Shapiro, Michael Leong, Mike Young, Steve Himmer, Joseph Riippi, Mairéad Byrne, Daniel Groves, Stephanie Barber, Andy Devine, Adam Robinson, Vincent Czyz, Melissa Broder, Stever Himmer, and Josef Horáček.

A very big thank you to all of these past readers and the future ones. You have made and will continue to make the Soda Series a spectacular event!

Kirsten Kaschock makes poems, novels, dances, sometimes people. Her novel Sleight has just been released by Coffee House Press. Her second book of poetry, A Beautiful Name for a Girl, is available from Ahsahta Press. She lives in Philly with three proto-men and their father.
John Haskell is the author of American Purgatorio, I Am Not Jackson Pollock, and Out of My Skin. A contributor to the radio program The Next Big Thing, he lives in Brooklyn.
Robin Grearson is a nonfiction writer who relocated to Brooklyn from Los Angeles last year. When she arrived in New York, she sought to collaborate with visual artists in an effort to expand her writing practice. This interest in art and artists has led to her curating art shows and teaching; she leads a writing workshop for artists at 3rd Ward. Her writing has appeared in print in The New York Times and The Brooklyn Rail, and online in various publications. She is currently working on a memoir.
Roberta Allen is the author of eight books, including Certain People, short shorts, published by Coffee House Press. Her two collections were both praised by The New York Times Book Review. She has been a Tennessee Williams Fellow In Fiction. Her popular writing guide in the 1990s, FAST FICTION, was the first to teach flash fiction. A visual/conceptual artist as well, she has exhibited worldwide and has work in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. She taught at The New School for eighteen years and has taught in the writing program at Columbia University. She continues to teach private workshops. Recently, she completed a new story collection called The Princess Of Herself. Her 2000 novel, The Dreaming Girl, has just been republished by Ellipsis Press.

Special Bastille Day Soda Series this Thursday July 14th

Join us for our special Bastille Day edition with Mary Caponegro, Tim Horvath, and Gary Lutz. Soda Series     Facebook RSVP

Mary Caponegro is the author of the short story collections Tales from the Next Village, The Star Cafe, Five Doubts, The Complexities of Intimacy, and All Fall Down. She is the Richard B. Fisher Family Professor of Writing and Literature at Bard College. William Gass said of her work, “The music of Mary Caponegro’s stories is to the mouth what wine is. Readers will find themselves lost among answers, intoxicated, knowing only that these are stories unlike any others before or since, which is, for this reader at least, a relief, a challenge, and a godsend.” Excellent interview in Six Questions.

The Review of Contemporary Fiction called Tim Horvath’s first book, Circulation (sunnyoutside 2011), “perfect for an afternoon of quick rumination,” and the Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene wrote, “The casual reader and the bibliophile will love this book. It traces men’s lives through their obsession with books and arcania … Highly recommended.” Magazine publications of Horvath’s work include Fiction and Everyday Genius. Tim’s website

Gary Lutz is the author of three short-story collections: Stories in the Worst Way, I Looked Alive, and Partial List of People to Bleach. A fourth, Divorcer, is forthcoming from Calamari Press. Lutz has been awarded grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Foundation for Contemporary Arts. His seminal lecture, “A Sentence is a Lonely Place,” is at The Believer. Also available is the recent interview he gave on Big Other.

Reading Caponegro’s The Complexities of Intimacy: “The Son’s Burden”

This 113-page novella is the centerpiece of Caponegro’s book of stories. As in the first stories (articles here, here and here), it again presents a family, but a family fragmented by misconceptions and hatred. After a prelude, most of the work takes place on New Year’s Eve and gives off the air of Long Day’s Journey into Night.

The story is narrated by the son, Thomas Edward Smalldridge, a toiling inventor. His father is a bullying railroad worker who has long tormented his son and daughter (Eleanor) by making them learn and recite obscure facts about inventors, inventor’s birth dates, their patents and patent dates. At some point early on the father’s harpist wife went to live in the attic of the house, never coming down to the family except for New Year’s–the day when Thomas is to reveal his new invention. But Thomas’s inventions never satisfy his father because they aren’t practical enough and he, along with Eleanor, seemingly insult him every chance they get. Thomas, meanwhile, has an attachment to his mother–he grieves her and her harp, which she held against her womb and played when he was inside her, as well as when she breastfed him. On this night as well, Thomas has brought Cecilia, his finance, to meet the family and will ask his father to give him money to buy a wedding ring–a request denied. Thomas introduces the characters and story this way in the fourth paragraph:
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Reading Caponegro’s The Complexities of Intimacy: “The Father’s Blessing”

“The Father’s Blessing” is the longest story in The Complexities of Intimacy so far, and it’s a major comedic turn, albeit a dark one. Whereas the first two stories are told from the point of view of a daughter and a mother, respectively, the third (told from the perspective of a priest, an unreliable narrator who wreaks all kinds of psychological mayhem) might be considered a kind of fracturing of the nuclear family, one of the collection’s primary themes, if not a theme, generally, in Caponegro’s work. Caponegro was wise to change it from its original title: “The Priest’s Tale.” This might be a stretch, but his name, Faraday, suggests “faraway” to my eyes and ears, and it also suggests that he’s “far from a day,” that is, the current time in which the story is set, his sometimes rather stiff language and antiquated ideas underscoring his temporal displacement. Being “far from a day” also suggests that he may be closer to night, that is, darker things, making him more menacing than he might at first appear. Speaking of displacement, I was surprised upon reading about the Polaroid photograph (51), since I had been thinking that the story was set in much earlier times, particularly because of the priest’s description of how “The road to the rectory is seldom plowed in winter, and in spring the potholes impede smooth travel. When it rains, the roads turn almost instantly to clay, so that only in a skilled driver’s hands and at high speeds can they be traversed successfully” (44). These things, of course, can be true, even now, but this description, in tandem with the priest’s old-fashioned rhetoric transported me back in time.

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