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.
Eileen Tabios’ latest book Silk Egg is a Wunderkammer — in fact, a series of Wunderkammers — curated with the eccentric intelligence and playfulness of a Gertrude Stein (think of the “Objects” section of Tender Buttons). Framed as a collection of novels, the book presents twelve prose poems, each of which is divided into seven short chapters. Some of the chapters — each one isolated on a page of its own — are as short as a single sentence, and in their fragmented state, give off a startling radiance:
She wished the lightning flash didn’t reveal his eyes.
Like Wunderkammers, Tabios’ text is filled with a wondrous array of surprising objects (a chandelier of gold antlers, a wet diamond on a red velvet petal, a shirt woven from hummingbird wings); it is filled with numerous textures (coral suede, white taffeta, the velvety flesh of a dog’s ear, handkerchiefs embossed with black-and-white photographs) as well as lustres (a pewter sea, mahogany inlay, glass panes veined with gold). It is also filled — importantly — with lusters, with desiring subjects and bodies. One of her characters says, “Realism…can suddenly become synonym for Desire.” Another says (with metaphorical frisson): “His cock was midnight.” This is all to say that Silk Egg is a book that revels in the senses and intoxicates the reader with both its sensuous language and its teasing swerves toward and away from a linear narrative.
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
There are still more! Alphabetically, then…