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.
Time has revealed Werner Herzog’s greatest artwork to be himself; his movies are always about himself more than anything else. So what makes Little Dieter stand out is that its subject, Dieter Dengler, for once trumps Herzog at his own game, making the director take backseat. (You might argue that Klaus Kinski did the same thing, but Kinski always looks to me trapped in Herzog’s films, even the really great ones. Plus, as great as Kinski was, you can always see that he’s acting. That’s not a problem per se—Kinski was a great actor—but Dengler is less acting than simply being, and it’s beautiful to see.)
Herzog later remade this as Rescue Dawn (2006), starring Batman. I haven’t seen it and I always confuse its title with Saving Grace (2007), which I always confuse with Grace Is Gone (2007). Confusion is sex.
[By now it was late. The three stars were dimpling the sky. The baby raccoon was crying for its milk (I’d taken in an orphan the week before). But Jeremy and I weren’t finished yet discussing the movies we’d just watched.]
A D: You had a rather serious reaction to this one, Jeremy. Were you crying afterward?
Jeremy: Yes. Crying because I realized how much of my life I had wasted watching movies. What George Lucas did for his own franchise with the prequels, Malick did for all of cinema with The Tree of Life.
Two texts are now sitting on my desk. They are still and inert — like rectangular paperweights. I would like to activate them, to mingle their pages. I would like to set them, if only momentarily, into motion.
The first text in front of me is a little gem of a book: Paul Scheerbart’s The Perpetual Motion Machine (Wakefield Press, 2011), translated by experimental poet Andrew Joron. In late 1907, Scheerbart — a visionary German author and artist who wrote, among other things, poetry, essays, theater pieces, and a prodigious amount of fantastic fiction (he called them “astral novels”) — set out to devise, in his laundry room, a perpetual motion machine. Das Perpetuum mobile, which was originally published in 1910 along with 26 charming diagrams, is a roller-coaster account of Scheerbart’s failed but energetically inspired attempt to set such a machine into motion; it is a fascinating record, as Joron puts it, “of a two-and-a-half-year-long tantrum of the imagination.” Continue reading