Writer Lori Jakiela and poet Jimmy Cvetic confer at the bar (L) while Erin Valerio (R) sells tickets to Literary Death Match.
November 9, 2011, Brillobox Bar, Pittsburgh.
It's that time of year again! Best-of-the-small-press lists for 2011 will be appearing on this blog for the rest of the month. This year I'm asking for recommendations from writers and small press gurus who came to visit Pittsburgh (my current city) in 2011. The lovely Erin Valerio was my First Responder this year; I had the pleasure of meeting this Pittsburgh native when she brought Literary Death Match to Pittsburgh last month. If Literary Death Match comes to a city near you (and at 38 cities and growing, it very well might), you shouldn't miss the chance to attend. The format of this unique reading series combines comedy, hijinks, and seriously good readings to create an entertaining evening that is greater than the sum of its parts. Erin was thrilled to finally get the series to her hometown, and I think I heard her say that it all went even better than her wildest hopes. I, for one, was impressed and entertained. The excellent reading lineup consisted of Lori Jakiela (winner), Jimmy Cvetic, Lissa Brennan, and Adam Matcho. You can see photos and read a recap here.
1. God Bless America: Stories, Steve Almond (Lookout Books, 2011)
Steve Almond's latest is almost frighteningly perceptive. Equal parts wickedly funny and hugely, desperately sad, God Bless America is a true portrait of a nation -- not always pretty, but stunningly honest and self-aware.
2. Lamb, Bonnie Nadzam (Other Press, 2011)
Lamb is dark, unnerving, and quite frankly, a bit icky -- which is precisely why I love it. It's about a middle-aged man and a preteen girl on a road trip, but try to read it without thinking of Lolita.
3. Other People We Married, Emma Straub (FiveChapters Books, 2011)
Emma Straub works at one of Brooklyn's best indie bookstores, and when this book was released, there was a post-it note beneath it on the shelf which read "I wrote this book. Please buy it. I love you." This collection is as stellar as you'd expect from a prominent figure on the indie scene, so take her advice: buy it.
Recommended by Erin Valerio
Literary Death Match producer