Friday, December 31, 2010

Small Press Recommendations: New Year's Eve!

Today’s small press picks, the last ones of this holiday season, come from the great Wred Fright. I met Wred at the Cleveland reading that Dave Hoenigman set up at Mac’s Backs. A few months later he was embarking (with Crazy Carl Robinson) on his Underground Literary America Tour and asked me to be the local reader for his stop in Pittsburgh. Both Wred and Carl were members at the time of the Underground Literary Alliance. If you don’t know about the ULA, they were a group of underground writers and zinesters (many from the Rust Belt and from the working class) who protested the hypocrisy and monopoly of the New York literati, especially those from families of wealth and privilege. You can read their original protest statement from October 2000 here and more about their creative activism here.

Wred’s a really generous spirit and was a fun friend to do a reading with. We got a big crowd for the event, Crazy Carl’s reading was actually one of the craziest performances I’ve ever seen, and Wred read from his hilarious novel chronicling a young Ohio band, The Pornographic Flabbergasted Emus. His novel was originally serialized as a zine; Wred also did his graduate research on zines, and I interviewed Wred about the intersection of academia, libraries, and zines here:


1. The Hanging Gardens Of Split Rock, Mike Faloon (Gorsky Press, 2010)

2. The Journeymen, James Jay (Gorsky Press, 2010)

3. Strangers In America, Erika Meyers (Bottom Dog Press, 2010)

Recommended by
Wred Fright, author of The Pornographic Flabbergasted Emus (Out Your Backdoor, 2006)


Speaking of James Jay, I still have to flip a coin and see who wins the free copy of The Journeymen: Margaret Bashaar or Ron Kolm. Stay tuned for those results as well as more guest reviews and publisher giveaways.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Small Press Recommendations: On the Eve of the Eve of the New Year

Today’s small press recommendations come from Philly, San Fran, and New York. Doug Gordon is editor at New Door Books in Philadelphia. New Door Books formed in 2009 out of a writer’s collective that’s been around since 1985. Their first title, Hanah’s Paradise by Ligia Ravé, had been rejected by American presses but published in translation to much acclaim in Spain—New Door thought the book deserved an audience in its native language. Read more about New Door Books here: Samantha Giles heads the San Francisco literary organization, Small Press Traffic, a literary center which started out in the back room of a Castro Street bookstore in 1974. Remaining above the petty politics of literary cliques, SPT has been dedicated to attracting writers from many backgrounds, and promoting independent presses and writing that pushes limits; the organization has grown over the years to run a reading series, hold writing workshops, curate a small press archive, publish a journal, and much more. Veronica Liu works at one small press during the day, and runs a great micro-press, Fractious Press, in her free time. I got to meet Veronica when she came to Pittsburgh to table for Fractious at a Progressive Library Skillshare in 2007. We plotted methods of a small-press world takeover, and although it hasn’t quite happened yet, we maintain hope. I enjoyed reading poet Elizabeth Harrington, who writes about her childhood home of Oklahoma from her current home of New York. The subjects and imagery of her poems read with honesty and emotion while the language continually surprises in both great and subtle ways.


1. The Tables of the Law, Thomas Mann, trans. Marion Faber and Stephen Lehmann (Paul Dry Books, 2010)
This is a brilliant new translation of a neglected novella by Mann, a story of Moses commissioned in 1943 as a "defense" of Jewish law and culture against the Nazis, but so imbued with Mann's depth of vision that it challenges our understanding of religion.

2. Degrees of Elevation: Short Stories of Contemporary Appalachia, ed. Charles Dodd White and Page Seay (Bottom Dog Press, 2010)

3. Love Park, Jim Zervanos (Cable Publishing, 2009)

Recommended by
Doug Gordon, New Door Books


1. Killing Kanoko, Hiromi Ito (Action Books, 2009)

2. Humanimal: A Project for Future Children, Bhanu Kapil (Kelsey Street Press, 2009)

3. The Book of Frank, CA Conrad (Wave Books, 2010)

Recommended by
Samantha Giles, Executive Director, Small Press Traffic


1. Stroll: Psychogeographic Walking Tours of Toronto, Shawn Micallef, illustrations by Marlena Zuber (Coach House Press)

2. Hyperart: Thomasson, Genpei Akasegawa (Kaya Press)

3. Local Motion: The Art of Civic Engagement in Toronto, edited by Dave Meslin, Christina Palassio, & Alana Wilcox (Coach House Press)

Recommended by
Veronica Liu, coordinator of Fractious Press


1. Earthquake Came to Harlem, Jackie Sheeler (New York Quarterly Publications)

2. Equal to the Earth, Jee Leong Koh (Bench Press)

3. For My Father, Paula Brancato (Finishing Line Press)

Recommended by
Elizabeth Harrington, author of The Quick and the Dead, Grayson Books (First prize winner in Grayson Books chapbook competition)


Stay tuned for more guest reviews, and more book giveaways.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Small Press Recommendations: On the Third Day of Kwanzaa

Today’s recommendations come from two great small press booksellers. Ron Kolm has been a bookseller at various indies in Manhattan for 35 years, including some of the greats: St. Mark’s Bookshop, Strand, East Side Books, Coliseum, Posman Books. Known as the “Fuller Brush Man of the Lower East Side” because he is often carrying a bag of small press books to show or give you, Ron is also a prolific writer of prose and poetry and a founding member of the group of literary renegades, The Unbearables. He’s edited several anthologies of writing by the Unbearables, including one of the best small press books I read in 2010, called The Worst Book I Ever Read. I love that the writers included are mainly poets, novelists, and experimentalists, but happen to be talented and engaging nonfiction storytellers in their spare time. Yes, a bibliophile’s title of books writers hate: This is one of the best books about books (and reading) I’ve read in a while--and one of the best books of true stories, too.

Bill Boichel runs Copacetic Comics, one of my favorite bookstores in Pittsburgh or elsewhere. He’s been selling comics for over 30 years, and promoting Pittsburgh artists/educating Pittsburgh readers for almost as long through his always-eclectic wares and gatherings, first through multi-media, comics-oriented events like Transfer (and an accompanying comics anthology, Transformer); next through his hangout-store in east Pittsburgh, BEM; and most recently through the first annual PIX: Pittsburgh’s Indy Comics Expo. Copacetic is his second store (opened in 2000) and features much more than traditional comics: Marvel and DC favorites sit beside indie comics, art and photography monographs share the store with fiction and poetry, titles on cinema studies sit beside a highly-curated selection of CDs and DVDs. Consequently, Bill has the chance to introduce Superman fans to Julie Doucet, to lure in art students and fiction lovers and introduce them to graphic novels, or to be an unsuspecting neighborhood shopper’s first exposure to the existence of zines, the films of Hal Hartley, or the artists of Fantagraphics. Copacetic expanded in late 2009 to provide a gift shop for Pittsburgh's cartoon museum, Toonseum: There Bill features the history of comics on his shelves.

Ron and Bill have also contributed their small press expertise to library collections. Ron helps libraries build comprehensive small press archives, most notably at the Fales Special Collection at the New York University library. Bill helped build the graphic novel collection at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh by selecting the small press and other obscure titles to round out the superheroes.

I have to offer kudos to both Ron and Bill for their tireless evangelism on behalf of the small press!


1. Haywire, Thaddeus Rutkowski (Starcherone Books)

2. Sasquatch Stories, Mike Topp (Publishing Genius)

3. Virgin Formica, Sharon Mesmer (Hanging Loose Press)

Recommended by
Ron Kolm, writer and editor at Unbearables Books and Autonomedia


1. Birchfield Close, Jon McNaught (NoBrow Press, $18)

2. Tele-Tales, Dan Zettwoch (self-published, $3)

3. Afrodisiac, Jim Rugg (AdHouse Books, $14.95)

Recommended by
Bill Boichel, owner of Copacetic Comics


The BFI Film Classics Series sits near the Cometbus zine anthology at Copacetic Comics.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Small Press Recommendations and Book Giveaway! On the Second Day of Kwanzaa

Today’s small press recommendations come from writer Mike Faloon, author of The Hanging Gardens of Split Rock (Gorsky Press) and editor of the zines Go Metric and Zisk. Mike is also generously giving away a copy of one of his recommendations, a poetry book by James Jay called The Journeyman (Gorsky Press). Leave a comment (on Blogger or Facebook) and tell us anything about your relationship to the small press or to reading, and I’ll choose one person to receive a free copy. No review necessary. You can also email me at

I met Mike Faloon in July when he and James came to Pittsburgh on their Journeymen and Split Rock Tour. I had the pleasure of showing them around Pittsburgh’s North Side neighborhood before the reading. Although I forgot that it was a Monday and that the Warhol Museum would be closed, we ventured across Allegheny Square to see the artful writers’ residence houses on Sampsonia Way, the ones obtained by City of Asylum for international writers in exile. On the way there we passed the high school where a young Willa Cather was once head of the English department, and stumbled onto a sign for an industrial business owned by one of Andy Warhol’s brothers.

The reading that night at Cyberpunk Apocalypse showcased three great storytellers: James Jay with his tragicomic narrative poems, Mike Faloon with his deadpan-funny fiction, and Art Noose with her personal zine, Ker-bloom!


1. The Journeymen, James Jay (Gorsky Press)

Finding poetry I enjoy is like shopping for gifts: I don’t know what I’m looking for until I find it. And with The Journeymen I’ve found it. A consistently satisfying collection of character sketches. Insightful, graceful, and funny at the right times. The titles speak volumes: “Ronald Reagan Killed My Band Teacher so Now I Can’t Play Saxophone for Huey Lewis or the News.” (I love the choice of “or” rather than “and.”) “A Sunny Day at the Pub Debating Whether to See the ‘On the Road’ Scroll at the Library or Order Another.”

2. Devil Born Without Horns, Michael Lucas (Rudos and Rubes)

At the 150-page mark I was still wondering whether this was a crime story or a memoir about life in the high-end furniture business. Devil Born Without Horns is the former and it’s worth the work. The “what the hell?” sense of wonder (confusion?) mentioned above kept me turning the pages and drew me into the narrator’s descent into madness. Credit Lucas with the willingness to let the story unfold so slowly and dishing out the absurdity in the proper doses.

3. Impossibly Funky – A Cashiers du Cinemart Collection, Mike White (BearManor Media)

Don’t be misled by the title, focus on the subtitle. This is a “best of” from one of the premiere movie zines of the past 20 years. Mike White is driven by a fan’s passion (obsession?) and writes with a critic’s objectivity. I can only assume that it took months to track down all of those James Ellroy documentaries he writes about but he has no reservations about letting you know which ones suck. White takes his movies very seriously but not himself. (You may remember his documentatry Who Do You Think You’re Fooling?, which brilliantly compared Reservoir Dogs to the Hong Kong movie, City on Fire, from which Tarantino swiped the ending.) Perfect commode fodder.

Recommended by
Mike Faloon, editor of Go Metric zine and author of The Hanging Gardens of Split Rock


Stay tuned for more end of the year Small Press Recommendations, and more guest reviews.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Guest Review: Peter Blair Reviewed by Robert Isenberg

Peter Blair, Farang: Poems by Peter Blair. Pittsburgh: Autumn House Press, 2010. Poetry. 80 pages. ISBN: 978-1-932870-34-3.

In Thai, farang means “outsider.” Specifically, a white outsider. The farang is the gringo of Southeast Asia, and there is no question, as one reads Peter Blair’s verse, that he is an outsider. But Blair is also deeply imbedded in Thailand, and as Farang progresses, we see not a mere outsider, but a man caught in a cultural tide-pool.

Among Westerners, Thailand enjoys a happy reputation – easy to fly to, traveler-friendly, full of exotic wonders. But when Blair began work as a Peace Corps volunteer, he found a different Thailand – a troubled country wracked by loathing and political turmoil. Blair dates a woman named Siripan, but her father “doesn’t like her/dating a farang.” He meets a “bar girl,” the infamous victim of Asian sex-slavery, who “says her father sold her, 10,000 baht,/to a Bangkok bar.”

One could expect such cultural dissonance in a country 7,500 miles from Blair’s native Pittsburgh. Blair seems savvy enough, but nothing could prepare him for the drowning of his friend, Ampon. This accidental death is a shocker, and there are many such moments in Farang – there is even a coup, while Blair is “up-country” – and they are all treated with an eerie Buddhist calm.

Blair adapts to Thailand, slowly and painfully, and by the time he returns to Pittsburgh, he sounds ghostly with new perspective: “In O’Rourke’s Bar and Grille, a mile/from where I grew up,/I’m a farang,” he declares in his penultimate poem, “Back in Pittsburgh for my Father’s Funeral.”

Farang has been described as a travel narrative, but the volume is something more – an intimate account of life on a cultural frontier. Blair is not only a white outsider, but a first-worlder living in a country ravaged by foreign powers. Like Steinbeck, Blair comes uncomfortably close to his subjects, and the proximity burns him. But this is what makes farang such a masterwork; if Blair can’t bring us all of Thailand, he can show us the tragic beauty of his scars.

Reviewed by
Robert Isenberg, author of The Archipelago: A Balkan Passage (Autumn House Press, 2011)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Guest Review: Julia Wertz reviewed by Eric Nelson

Julia Wertz, Fart Party, Vol. 1. Baltimore: Atomic Book Company, 2007. Collected comics. 178 pages. ISBN: 978-0978656935.

Brooklyn-based artist Julia Wertz began publishing the online comic Fart Party when she was still residing in San Francisco over five years ago. Since then, this biting and brutally honest autobiographical comic has developed a well-earned following. Wertz, who also recently published her debut feature-length graphic novel Drinking at the Movies writes earnestly about the embarrassing, mundane and ridiculous events of one female cartoonist.

The genre of autobiographic comics is often plagued by self-consciousness and insincerity. I think the best example of this is shown by Jonny Ryan in a one-off comic about Art Spiegelman running past the Twin Towers saying "Pulitzer, here I come!" While many of Wertz's comics are to be taken facetiously, they refreshingly lack any sense of irony or vanity. A large portion of the material (80% of which was never featured on the original website) is relatable even as she waxes non-poetic on cheese, comics and the 101 things that irritate her. The collection also touches on the more serious as multiple comics deal with her relationship with her now ex-boyfriend. While one can easily find many of her comics online, the book is a necessity not only to witness the evolution of her visual style and subject content, but also because many of the best panels can only be found there. Definitely someone to look out for in the future.

Reviewed by
Eric Nelson, zinester and author of Silk City Series (Knickerbocker Circus Publishing, 2010)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Small Press Holiday Recommendations: On the Eve of Winter Solstice

Today’s small press picks come from New York, Louisville, and Chicago. Long before making her acquaintance, I remember poet Maggie Balistreri’s brilliant chapbook The Evasion-English Dictionary (since picked up by Melville House) from the consignment shelf at St. Mark’s Bookshop. Later I was thrilled when I heard she was going to library school, and again when she got a job as a librarian at the Poets House, now located in Battery Park City. Fiction writer Jason Jordan was the Beard Guy I used to see at all the New Yinzer literary events, but I finally met him officially when Amy Guth came into Pittsburgh for a reading. I remember seeing Amy talking to Jason at ModernFormations: Realizing how well she knew Beard Guy from cyberspace was one of the first moments I understood the extent of the online small press community. Jason has since left Pittsburgh and I miss seeing him around. I met the always-hilarious Ben Tanzer when Scott McClanahan suggested I arrange a reading for him in December 2009: Ben (a fiction writer based in Chicago) was coming through Pittsburgh en route to a reading in West Virginia. I got Savannah Schroll Guz involved, and the resulting reading launched the Seasonal Shorts reading series, now held four times a year in Pittsburgh (and run by Savannah). Thanks to Maggie, Jason, and Ben for sharing their Small Press Picks today:


1. Wrens Fly Through This Opened Window, Amy Holman (Somondoco Press, June 2010)

2. The Touch, Cynthia Kraman (Bowery Books, 2010)

3. In Paran, Larissa Shmailo (BlazeVox, 2010)

Recommended by
Maggie Balistreri, Librarian
Author of:
There Was a Young Lady Who Swallowed a Lie, written by Maggie Balistreri, illustrated by Ryn Gargulinski (Em Dash Group)
Jabberfucky and Other Poems, edited by Maude Spekes and Sybilia Grogan (Em Dash Group)
(Maggie uses pseudonym Maude Spekes here)


1. If You Lived Here You'd Already Be Home, John Jodzio (Replacement Press)

2. The Universe in Miniature in Miniature, Patrick Somerville (featherproof books)

3. Pathologies, William Walsh (Keyhole Press)

Recommended by
Jason Jordan, editor of decomP (, and blogger at


1. Big World, Mary Miller (Hobart)
As I read the stories in this collection I thought, man these are Carveresque, but when I was done, I thought eh, fuck that, they’re Milleresque.

2. Hush Up and Listen Stinky Poo Butt, Ken Sparling (Artistically Declined)
All the quotidian frustrations, triumphs, anxieties, joys, fury and awesomeness of parenting, like a handbook, almost, except that you might never have kids if you read this first.

3. Grease Stains, Kismet and Maternal Wisdom, Mel Bosworth (Brown Paper Publishing)
Mel Bosworth is love.

So sorry, but, also and:

Stories II by Scott McClanahan (Six Gallery Press), The National Virginity Pledge by Barry Graham (Another Sky Press) and Songs of Insurgency by Spencer Dew (Vagabond Press)
The first is Jesus and kidney stones, the second is tacos and prostitutes and third is paranoia and sex, and all are sparse and neat and slamming and humorous and profane and reflect the best kind of storytelling.

Well, and this too:

7. The Lost Episodes of Beatie Scareli, Ginnetta Correli (Marshmallow Press)
I am cheating here, I know, but this book which is almost too disturbing to read, much less put down, deserves more attention.

Recommended by
Ben Tanzer, author of 99 Problems (CCLaP Publishing)


As always, if you are involved in the small press and want to contribute recommendations, please email me at

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Another Small Press Book Giveaway: Atticus Books

Atticus Books is a new independent press based in the Maryland outskirts of Washington DC, with a catalog focused on innovative literary fiction by emerging writers. Atticus editor Dan Cafaro has generously offered to donate three Atticus titles to reviewers for another book giveaway. Dan (a native of New Jersey) is a poet and former journalist who once owned a bookshop in Eastern Pennsylvania. He named Atticus Books in homage to Cicero’s publisher, although he gets many inquiries about the relationship to an Atticus bookstore that once thrived in DC and Alexandria, Va. (No relation.) I’ve been enjoying the Atticus website, which has a large amount of literary content, especially considering it doesn’t call itself a literary journal. The site runs short fiction as well as poetry, a wonderful column of profiles in indie bookselling, book reviews, interviews, and a blog of musings on literature and the indie publishing world. Check out the site and its offerings here:

To win a book to review (see selections below), tell me:
1.) which book you want to review
2.) a bit about your relationship to the small press
3.) what’s your favorite small press book
I will publish your review of the book (succinct: 100-250 words) on this blog and would request the review to be sent to me before the end of February 2011.

I’ll take comments on Blogger or Facebook, messages on Facebook, or emails to, and I’ll choose three winners. Previous winners are ineligible.


1. Fight for Your Long Day, Alex Kudera (Atticus Books, October 2010)

Cyrus Duffleman, the decidedly non-PC antihero of Fight for Your Long Day, channels the rage of the academic underclass, with a story that "unflinchingly exposes key paradoxes that lie disturbingly at the core of American academia." Created in the cockeyed spirit of A Confederacy of Dunces, Adjunct Duffleman, aka Duffy, undergoes an unraveling that conjures up visions of a subway-scholar Ignatius J. Reilly schlepping for humanity in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.

2. Daring to Eat a Peach, Joseph Zeppetello (Atticus Books, November 2010)

This finely crafted narrative explores the motivations and mettle of a close-knit group of 21st century knowledge workers and examines the interpretation of history, the translation of language, and most of all, the dynamics of modern day relationships. It sheds a shadowy light on the crux of decision-making and investigates the conflicting forces that shape our daily lives. It captures in fine fashion both the choices we make and the accidents that happen.

3. The Absent Traveler: A Novella & Other Stories, Randall DeVallance (December 28, 2010, Atticus Books)

Charles Lime eats, breathes, and sleeps the romantic idea of leaving Small Town USA, wandering the globe, and “having grand adventures laced with the danger and lustiness of exotic climes.” In reality, Charles, a 20-something college-graduate, walks the drab city streets of Western Pennsylvania, dazed and bemused—a dreamy misfit bewitched by a girl and bewildered by a string of misfortunes. If someone has the right to fall off the deep end, it’s Charles who reads incessantly and retreats further and further into his imagination where he escapes his predicament by creating a parallel life filled with overseas travel, adventure and Serbian pop music.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Small Press Holiday Recommendations: The Third Thursday of Advent

Tao Lin is everywhere, so I’m really surprised no one on this blog has recommended his newest book: the novel Richard Yates, put out by the powerhouse small press publisher, Brooklyn-based Melville House. Tao Lin is a poet and fiction writer, a blogger, a prankster, and a relentless self-promoter: If you’re on the literary web, Tao Lin’s name comes up at least three times a day. On my last visit to New York, I couldn’t go anywhere without seeing stickers for his books: on the street, in cafe bathrooms. I’ll admit I started asking all my favorite writers and small press people, “What’s the deal with this Tao Lin character? Is there any substance behind the hype?” And they all said immediately, “Richard Yates is a great book.” I haven’t yet read it, but I can pass on the fact that it was one of the most talked about, and most recommended, small press books of 2010. I will also pass on this hilarious review from New York Tyrant editor, Giancarlo DiTrapano, called I Like Tao Lin Now.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Small Press Holiday Recommendations at Lazy Fascist Press

Lazy Fascist Press is running a Holiday Gift Guide, fueled by their authors and friends. Each Lazy Fascist author gets a chance to recommend several books, and many include mini-reviews. The site is up to six posts so far--here are some highlights:

Mike Daily recommends Down Where the Hummingbird Goes to Die by Justin Hyde (Tainted Coffee Press)

Kevin L. Donihe recommends Motorman by David Ohle (3rd Bed)

Kris Saknussemm recommends It Came from Del Rio by Stephen Graham Jones (Trapdoor Books)

Alan M. Clark recommends Lost in Cat Brain Land by Cameron Pierce (Eraserhead Press)

Sam Pink recommends The Condemned by Noah Cicero (Six Gallery Press)

Riley Michael Parker recommends Everything Was Fine Until Whatever
by Chelsea Martin (Future Tense Books)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Small Press: Related Terms

These terms are related to the term Small Press:

Underground press, alternative press, alt press, independent press, indie publishing, indie lit, underground literature, underground newspapers, free press, zines, little magazines, fanzines, micro press, samizdat, bibuła, self-publishing, self-published, underground comix, small press comics, The Mimeograph Revolution.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

On the 7th Day of Hanukkah: Small Press Picks, 2010

Welcome to our ongoing small press picks, which I've been blogging since November 10. Today’s small press recommendations come from Brooklyn and Chicago, with an author giveaway from Putnam County, New York. Brooklyn-based Ken Wohlrob (formerly founding editor of Bully Magazine) writes fiction that is often gritty, urban, and rough, but is never jaded or cynical. He reveals the ugliest side of his characters, and then manages to make you have a serious soft spot for them. I have no idea how he does it, but I recommended his last collection, The Love Book (2007), on this blog, and I’m excited to announce his newest story collection, Songs of Vagabonds, Misfits, and Sinners (Bully Press).

Tim Hall is a longtime friend and comrade, and his enthusiasm for the small press is at least half of the reason for my own involvement with it. We met through my first self-published novel and then solidified our mutual fandom with the publication of Tim’s bold debut novel about the horror of sobriety, Half Empty. That novel was also the debut of Tim’s publishing works, Undie Press (Undie = underground + indie), which recently grew into an amazing literary website where I’m lucky to be a contributor. The columns at this smart and edgy webmag highlight things that the media keeps telling us are going away: print books, indie bookstores, print newspapers; there's even a fiction serial about "the day money stopped."


Giveaway Contest:
Mike Faloon (editor of the zine Go Metric) has generously offered to give away a copy of his story collection The Hanging Gardens of Split Rock (Gorsky Press) --the title is below on Ken’s recommends list. I’ll choose a winner from the comments. Just tell us:
1.) what you do in the small press
2.) what you’ve enjoyed about the 2010 small press recommendations on this blog, or what you’d like to see more of in the future.
I’ll take comments on Blogger, Facebook, or emails at Previous winners are disqualified.


1. The Hanging Gardens of Split Rock, Mike Faloon (Gorsky Press, 2010)
Mike is one of the funniest bastards I know. No one tells a yarn like him. It never seems forced. Like a blues player. My favorite line:
"Did I injure an autistic child to get my team into the Little League World Series? Yes and no."

2. The Journeymen, James Jay (Gorsky Press)
What I like about James' poetry is his sense of storytelling. The characters have blood in their veins. You feel the grit in your teeth. Favorite line:
"At the wheel of the V.W. bug,
Jesus, short-legged, pot-bellied,
he rounds up the kids from the trailers
of Kingman, of Birdland, of Butler.
He sticks his hands out the window
into the scorching summer air
as the V.W. takes slow wide turns
all on its own. 'The hands of God
now have the wheel!
You better believe.'
The Jesus of the V.W. hollers."

3. Repetition Patterns, Ben Tanzer (CCLaP Publishing, 2009)
In many ways, Ben's writing reminds me of Mike's in how unforced it all is. There seems no effort behind it. And the stories are always great. This e-only collection was a nice step up for Ben. He took it to a whole different level compared to his previous work. And I always like that he writes good female characters, something too many male writers can't do very well. I also liked that CCLaP was experimenting with a different publishing model for this release and doing it as a digital- only release. Favorite line:
"But the sounds that engulfed her outside of her home, these she could hide in, and revel in, creating a world that was hers and hers alone. Sound made sense; it provided her with both an anchor and a lifeline. Sound could be classified, explained, and organized, whereas regular life could not."

Recommended by
Ken Wohlrob, author of Songs of Vagabonds, Misfits, and Sinners (Bully Press)


1. Dick Briefer's Frankenstein, Dick Briefer (IDW Publishing)
I just learned of Dick Briefer's Frankenstein comics of the 1950s and 60s, which were recently reissued in a beautiful package by IDW. Briefer's monster is possibly the best rendition I've ever seen, and bizarre in the extreme--like putting the monster's nose above his eyes in most

2. i am here And You Are Gone, Shome Dasgupta (Outsider Writers)
Okay, I'm biased on this one, since I got to cast the deciding vote that made this charming story of young love the winner of the 2010 Outsider Writers' chapbook contest.

3. Daddy's, Lindsay Hunter (Featherproof)
I absolutely love Lindsay's work and think she's a breakout star on the Chicago lit scene. I've had the privilege of reading with her and her incantatory, non-stop, lilting gothic prose-poemish stories always floor me.

Recommended by
Tim Hall, author most recently of One Damn Thing After Another (Outsider Writers Press) and Full of It (Undie Press). Tim is editor of the new literary entertainment site,

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Small Press Holiday Recommendations: Day 25

Today's post brings you some small press titles that landed on various Best Books Of 2010 lists around the web:


from the Chamber Four blog, Best Literary Fiction of 2010:

We Take Me Apart, Molly Gaudry (Mud Luscious Press)

Museum of the Weird, Amelia Gray (FC2)

See more:

from the Small Press Distribution Staff Picks 2010:

SLEEPINGFISH8, Gary Lutz and Derek White, eds. (Calamari Press)

The Creepy Girl and Other Stories, Janet Mitchell (Starcherone Books)

Hyperart: Thomasson, Genpei Akasegawa (Kaya Press)

See more:


Caleb J. Ross’ Top 5 Books of 2010 include:

Wolf Parts, Matt Bell (Keyhole Press)

Bliss Inc., Ron Burch (BlazeVOX [books])

See more:


The No Tells Poetry Blog has been running Best Poetry Books of 2010 lists from various poets since late November.

Poet Brian Foley included these small press titles in his picks:

Lake Antiquity, Brandon Downing (Fence)

Bluets, Maggie Nelson (Wave Books)

The Redcoats, Ryan Murphy (Krupskaya)

See more:


Bookforum asked authors to list the best books they read in 2010. Some small press books that made their lists include:

The Importance of Being Iceland: Travel Essays in Art, Eileen Myles (Semiotext(e) / Active Agents)

The Guilt Project: Rape, Morality and Law, Vanessa Place (Other Press)

La Medusa, Vanessa Place (FC2)

How, Emily Pettit (Octopus Books)

Collected Fictions by Gordon Lish (O/R Books)

See more:


Shelf Unbound's Top 10 of 2010 picks include:

The Orange Eats Creeps, Grace Krilanovich (Two Dollar Radio)

I Hotel, Karen Tei Yamashita (Coffee House Press)

If You Lived Here You’d Already Be Home, John Jodzio (Replacement Press)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Small Press Holiday Recommendations: Day 24

Today’s recommendations come from three multi-talented women of the small press. Lynn Alexander is a poet who also works non-stop behind the scenes: She’s one of the main creative forces behind the full-service Full of Crow, a press, literary website, online audio show, and distro. She’s also the creator of numerous zines, co-edits the journal Fashion for Collapse, works on production and distribution for the micro-fiction journal Blink-Ink, and was a force behind the latest incarnation of the Outsider Writers Collective. Andria Alefhi is a writer and zinester who hosts the radio show Zine Therapy and publishes the awesome non-fiction zine, We’ll Never Have Paris. The zine gets better-looking everytime another issue comes out, and I love that it’s dedicated to the theme of “all things never meant to be.” Christen Clifford is a fearless writer and performer of some powerful one-woman shows tackling taboo subjects, including the acclaimed “Baby Love”: This Off-Broadway show talked frankly about the sexuality of maternity, and started out as an essay on I’m also a fan of Christen’s essay about moving out of Williamsburg (published at Evergreen Review) and of her illustrated memoir piece, My Home Birth at Smith Magazine. Christen offers three memoir recommendations today, while Lynn recommends poetry, and Andria focuses on zines and the micro-press.


1. In Praise Of Absolute Interpretation, Felino A. Soriano (Desperanto-Foster, 2010)
See Lynn’s review here:

2. Prominences, John Swain (Flutter Press)
This was John's first chapbook, he has a few out now and actually we just printed one at Full Of Crow called "Burnt Palmistry". He is definitely one to keep an eye on.

3. Voices, Kyle Muntz (Enigmatic Ink)
See Lynn’s review here at Crow Reviews:

Recommended by
Lynn Alexander, co-editor at Full of Crow and Fashion For Collapse, and production assistant at Blink Ink


1. Aaron Lake Smith, self-published author of zines Big Hands and Unemployment
2. Tin House literary journal
3. I Like to Keep My Troubles on the Windy Side of Things, Buzz Poole (Fractious Press)
4. Microcosm Publishing and Parcell Press: two great, great websites for window shopping

Recommended by
Andria Alefhi, curator of the zine We'll Never Have Paris.
Andria is also working on a collection of her personal writings, essays and creative nonfiction, out on Fractious Press sometime in 2011.


1. Inferno: A Poet’s Novel, Eileen Myles (O/R Books)
2. There's a Road to Everywhere Except Where You Came From, Bryan Charles (Open City Books)
3. The Adderall Diaries, Stephen Elliott (Greywolf Press)

Recommended by
Christen Clifford, writer and performer
Christen at Evergreen Review:
Christen at Smith Magazine:
"My Home Birth: A Graphic Graphic Memoir by Christen Clifford & David Heatley":

Stay tuned for more small press holiday gift recommendations, publisher giveaways, and guest reviews.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Small Press Holiday Recommendations: Day 23

Congratulations to Doug Mathewson and tENTATIVELY a cONVENIENCE, who will be receiving review copies from Bottom Dog Press. Doug is a Connecticut-based writer and editor of the lovely Blink-Ink, my favorite journal of micro fiction (featuring stories of approx. 50 words). He’ll be reviewing Degrees of Elevation, a compilation of Appalachian short stories, and says, “Several years ago I read Breece D'J Pancake. His writing impressed me immensely. His style, his cadence, changed (or perhaps validated) my own writing style. Breece Pancake, to me, has been the voice of Appalachian short fiction. I would be fascinated to read more from the region.” Doug is also providing us with three small press publisher recommendations today.

tENTATIVELY a cONVENIENCE is both a one-man avant-garde movement, and an eclectic and obsessive archivist. A Baltimore native, Tent and his impressive collection of small press books and underground films have resided in Pittsburgh for the past few decades. Last I checked, he creates in the media of film, poetry, performance art, and music, but I’m probably forgetting a few more. I recently had the pleasure of attending an evening of short films curated by Tent, from his stash of underground reels collected over the last thirty-odd years. Tent’s two most recent books are HiTEC Systems Management from Encyclopedia Destructica,
and footnotes from Six Gallery Press. I’m happy that he will be reviewing the prose-poetry novel, The Mermaid Translation.


1. Small Beer Press
Fantastic small publishing house. Gavin Grant and Kelly Link offer many new titles for the Holidays from well known and newer writers. They also publish "Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet” on a bi-annual basis. Free shipping and discounted "Remainders."

2. Right Hand Pointing
On-line indie publisher. See links to their other ventures Left Hand Waving and White Knuckle Press. Dale Wisely and company put out some incredibly good writers and poets in a clean well formatted environment. Nice friendly people to work with.

3. The Boston Literary Magazine
Editor Robin Stratton published more high quality chap-books than anyone I know. My favorite of her many delightful ventures is a quarterly literary journal, The Boston Literary Magazine. She achieves a remarkable level of inclusiveness (which I admire), without the least compromise in quality. The artwork is consistently complimentary and strangely attractive.

Recommended by
Doug Mathewson, editor of Blink-Ink and author of "True Stories from Imaginary Lives"

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Giveaway: Free Small Press Books!

Happy Hanukkah! If you are willing to write a review, we have an offer of two review copies from the very fine Bottom Dog Press! This generous offer is from publisher, poet, editor, and novelist Larry Smith. Larry is one of the co-founders of Bottom Dog; this 25-year-old press (now based in Huron, Ohio and Bellingham, Washington), concentrates on writers of the Midwest (including the Great Lakes and Appalachia), and the Pacific Northwest. One of Bottom Dog’s books I have run across on my own is the wonderful compilation, d.a.levy & the mimeograph revolution. I am grateful for Larry's offer and am looking forward to peering deeper into Bottom Dog’s catalog.

I will have to choose two winners: If interested in reviewing, write in the comments section the following: 1.) which title you would like to review 2.) a brief description of your relationship to the small press in general 3.) why you are a good choice to review this book. (Number three doesn’t have to be anything lofty: It could be why you have more time to read and review a book than I do.) I will publish the review (succinct: 100-250 words) on this blog and would request the review to be sent to me before the end of January 2011.


One Review Copy Available of Each:

1. The Mermaid Translation, Allen Frost (Bird Dog Press, 2010)
Prose from the poet Allen Frost: Just released, this is a contemporary fantasy novel set in the Pacific Northwest and in the mind of Frost. The Mermaid Translation is one of those wonder books of old like William Blake and Kenneth Patchen wrote--a magic fable, a novel in poetry.

2. Degrees of Elevation: Short Stories of Contemporary Appalachia, Charles Dodd White and Page Seay, Editors (Bottom Dog Press, 2010)
A very strong collection of stories by writers including: Rusty Barnes, Sheldon Lee Compton, Jarrid Deaton, Richard Hague, Silas House, Chris Holbrook, Denton Loving, Mindy Beth Miller, John McManus, Jim Nichols, Valerie Nieman, Chris Offutt, Mark Powell, Ron Rash, Alex Taylor, Crystal Wilkinson. "Hard, brilliant, and dark as coal, this brand new and necessary volume captures Appalachia today, a place where the old bedrock verities of family, community, belief, work, and the earth itself are all in painful "Upheaval"—to use the title of Chris Holbrook's story herein.”—Lee Smith

Offer from
Larry Smith, publisher at Bottom Dog Press and author most recently of The Long River Home: A Novel (Working Lives Series at Bottom Dog Press, 2009)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Small Press Holiday Recommendations: Day 21

I’ve often said that the small press is a place where you CAN judge a book by its cover. Sometimes the best editors and self-published authors have dead-on aesthetic judgement which includes the visual, too. Caketrain is one of those presses that knows how to make good reads into great-looking books. Three Caketrain titles have already been recommended on this holiday blog this season; today’s small press recommendations come from the Caketrain editors and one Caketrain author. Amanda Raczowski and Joseph Reed began Caketrain journal and press in 2003. Despite being based in Pittsburgh, Amanda and Joseph are too busy publishing their stylish books and issues to paint the town red, so I still haven’t really met them.

Matt Bell came to Pittsburgh to read at the New Yinzer Presents series a few months ago and did an awesome reading of The Collectors, a version of the Collyer Brothers story. (I grew up with a mother who told me that I was “going to end up like the Collyer Brothers” if I didn’t pick up my room, so I always appreciate a good Collyer Brothers yarn.) Matt’s story was published as a chapbook by Caketrain in 2009, and is now part of Matt’s new collection, How They Were Found. (When my boyfriend stops devouring the book, I’ll let you know how it is.)


1. End of the Fire Cult, Angela Woodward (Ravenna)

2. Scary, No Scary, Zachary Schomburg (Black Ocean)

3. The Physics of Imaginary Objects, Tina May Hall (University of Pittsburgh)

Recommended by
Amanda Raczkowski and Joseph Reed, editors of Caketrain Journal and Press


1. The Physics of Imaginary Objects, Tina May Hall (University of Pittsburgh Press)
2. Firework, Eugene Marten (NY Tyrant Press)
3. Asunder, Robert Lopez (Dzanc Books)

Recommended by
Matt Bell, author of How They Were Found (Keyhole Press)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Small Press Holiday Recommendations: Day 20

I’m really surprised that only one person on my seasonal blog has recommended INFERNO: A POET’S NOVEL by Eileen Myles (OR Books), because it’s definitely been the most talked about and enthusiastically recommended book among my Facebook friends and acquaintances. Many of these recommendations have just been in the form of: Buy it. NOW. Others have been a bit longer winded, like, “Buy this book for every female artist you know.” Still others have paraphrased ideas from the book in their status line, like “Eileen Myles writes that she knew she was probably a lesbian, but wanted to become a poet first.” I really liked a concept that one writer paraphrased: “Eileen Myles’ Inferno reminds us that for a scene to be COOL, there must be mixing of the classes. There's a cash transaction to support the artists, but the artists come with gifts, fresh from the struggle to live.” (Since Myles often writes about her working class background but most artists I know do everything they can to wish away their dayjobs, I remembered this in my mind as “Artists need to learn how to earn a living, because part of their job is to depict the struggle to live.”)

One of my newest Facebook pals talked to Eileen Myles about writing and publishing the book, here: BombBlog podcast—Eileen Myles and Jackie Wang.

INFERNO is available mainly from the publisher, OR Books, or from select independent bookstores. I just bought my copy from my favorite New York bookstore and am anticipating its arrival on my doorstep. I can't wait.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Small Press Holiday Recommendations: Day 19

Today’s recommendations come from two New York poets. Not even “New York-based” poets, but gen-u-ine native New Yorker, born there, stayed there, writers. Jackie Sheeler contacted me a few years ago when I was trying to get my friend, poet and vet Richard Leck, a proper burial. Though we didn’t end up needing to raise money to bury him, Jackie agreed to participate in his memorial reading, so I got to experience her voice on stage first hand. Jackie’s a talented wordsmith, an activist, and a force of nature. Her heart’s always in the right place and when she writes, she also says something worth listening to.

I’m “meeting” Tony Gloeggler for the first time through these small press recommendations but I already feel richer for reading a few of his poems. I’m looking forward to checking out his books and also the small presses they are on: his publication list reminds me to look closer at Ohio’s Pavement Saw Press and introduces me to the existence of Jane Street Press.


1. inheriting craziness is like a soft halo of light, Thomas Fucaloro (Three Rooms Press)

2. The Quick and the Dead, Elizabeth Harrington (Grayson Books chapbook competition winner)

3. The Last Lie, Tony Gloeggler (NYQ Books)

Recommended by
Jackie Sheeler, poet & songwriter, most recently the author of Earthquake Came to Harlem (NYQ Books, 2010)


1. Bones & Jokes, Ted Jonathan (NYQ Books)

2. Girl On A Bridge, Suzanne Frischkorn (Main Street Rag)

3. Earthquake Comes to Harlem, Jackie Sheeler (NYQ Books)

Recommended by
Tony Gloeggler, author most recently of The Last Lie on NYQ Books.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Small Press Books: Steer Gift-Givers to the Nearest Indie Bookstore

Live from Small Business Saturday: With today's post, I'm hoping to steer you to a method of receiving some of your holiday small press book wishes while supporting indie bookstores.

I'll admit that I utilize evil Amazon (as a catalog) a lot for their many useful web functions, and their Wish List is one of them. But where I used to tell people to look at my Amazon book-list but please, please, buy the book at a local indie bookstore--today I discovered that IndieBound (formerly BookSense, a coalition of indie bookstores that formed in reaction to the predatory practices of the chain bookstores) has a Wish List function on their website, too. It's quick and easy to make:

1. Go to to create a username and password and register your email (no real names necessary)
2. Go to Wish Lists and start adding desired books by author name, book title, or ISBN
3. Go to the Indie Stores tab and become a "fan" of one or more of your favorite bookstores
3a. You'll find the Become a Fan button when you find a bookstore and go to its profile page
3b. I suggest you fan the obvious bookstores where your friends and relatives might shop, in addition to your own favorite bookstores
4. Send interested friends and relatives the link to your Wish List

While it's true that not all micro-press books will be found in IndieBound's database, there are many small press books that do show up. A quick look just landed me catalog listings for Matt Bell's How They Were Found on Keyhole Books, Michael Kimball's Dear Everybody on Alma Books, Dalkey Archive's Best European Fiction (2010), Felino A. Soriano's In Praise of Absolute Interpretation (Desperanto-Foster), and Shome Dasgupta's new book on Outsider Writers Press.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Small Press Holiday Recommendations: Day 17

Today's small press recommendations come from two writers I met via Pittsburgh small press events. I first encountered poet Claire Donato in 2006 when we were tabling near each other at an event that would prove to be the predecessor to what is now an annual Small Press Festival in Pittsburgh. Claire was representing the magazine, the New Yinzer, and we talked about poetry, publishing, public transit, Pittsburgh, and New York. I had recently moved to Steel City from Brooklyn, and now Claire and I have traded places. Brooklyn is lucky to have Claire, and Pittsburgh misses her!

Actually, I met Burning River Press editor Chris Bowen through the New Yinzer, too. Although he tabled at the aforementioned Small Press Festival Expo in 2009, I didn't meet him until he came to read at The New Yinzer Presents series in April 2010. Burning River is a great little press out of Cleveland; Chris read some moving short stories that night and so did Michelle Reale, whose book, Natural Habitat, Burning River had just published.


1. Meddle English, Caroline Bergvall (forthcoming from Nightboat Books)

2. selections from the novel Leaving the Atocha Station, Ben Lerner (chapbook published by The Physiocrats, 2010)

3. Best European Fiction 2010 (Dalkey Archive Press)

Recommended by
Claire Donato, author of Someone Else's Body and co-editor of Dewclaw


1. I am here And You are Gone, Shome Dasgupta (Outside Writers Press)
This book is simple and innocent in its growth of the two main characters. It is beautiful.
--Review by Chris Bowen at Book Punch here.

2. Sweetgrass, Micah Ling (Sunnyoutside Press)
I’ve listened to the author of this book read from the text during a reading in Pittsburgh, the event before their Small Press Festival Expo sponsored by Open Thread. Micah Ling makes her stance elegant in a somewhat dangerous, rough and misunderstood setting. The book is a collection of prose poems, short and sweet, like the name.

3. We Were Eternal and Gigantic, Evelyn Hampton (Magic Helicopter Press)
This book, like its cover, roars. The writing is proud, bold and a good mixture of Hampton’s abilities.

Recommended by
Chris Bowen, editor of Burning River Press


Thanks to all who have been following the Small Press Holiday Recommendations! If you're involved with the small press and want to send your three picks or a guest review, write to me at

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Guest Review: Felino Soriano reviewed by Lynn Alexander

Felino A. Soriano. In Praise Of Absolute Interpretation. Desperanto-Foster, 2010. Poetry/prose. 90 pages. ISBN: 978-0-615-38013-1.

In Soriano’s latest work, In Praise of Absolute Interpretation, the poet celebrates the experience of allowing one’s self to respond to music viscerally, giving the mind the autonomy to instead tether to the unconscious over the intellectual, to feel music’s more inner motions. He both honors the work and produces inspired words- images coaxed- the mind urging text from this more earnest and primal terrain. He shares what the various pieces inspire on a level beyond what might be called our intentional perceptions, subjective and layered with preconceptions.

Soriano’s work brings to mind the experience of musical immersion and the deconstruction of perception in order to make way for the intuitive, and from there build the weave of his jazz-inspired poetics, the raw rendered beautiful.

Reviewed by
Lynn Alexander, co-editor at Full of Crow and Fashion For Collapse, and production assistant at Blink Ink

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Small Press Holiday Recommendations: Day 14

Today’s small press recommendations come from two writers I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and the privilege of reading with at the Six Gallery Press Showcase readings at ModernFormations Gallery in Pittsburgh. I met Scott McClanahan probably in 2008, and his West Virginia storytelling promptly blew me away. Michael Begnal was someone I’d been introduced to on email and finally got to meet in person when he came to Pittsburgh in 2009. More than just readings, both writers give engaging performances—Scott reads almost directly to the audience, and the last time I saw him read, he had us singing "The Long Black Veil." Michael Begnal has a dynamic, high-energy stage presence, with echoes of the Beats and other 20th Century rock stars.

Six Gallery Press authors John Thomas Menesini & Scott McClanahan, Fall 2008, ModernFormations in Pittsburgh


1. Person, Sam Pink (Lazy Fascist Press)
2. Everything is Quiet, Kendra Grant Malone (The Scrambler)
3. The Insurgent, Noah Cicero (Blatt Books)

Recommended by
Scott McClanahan, author of Stories and Stories II (both on Six Gallery Press) and the in-progress novel called Hillbilly


1. Strasbourg, Alan Jude Moore (Salmon Poetry, 2010)
Alan Jude Moore is one of the best of the newer Irish poets, and he's set to read in Pittsburgh in the New Yinzer series in early February 2011.

2. Optic Verve, Catherine Walsh (Shearsman, 2009)
Her publisher, Shearsman, bills Walsh as "perhaps Ireland's most radical experimental woman poet" -- I would strike the word "perhaps"! This great book, a long poem (132 pp.), shows why.

3. Chain Gang/Blood Songs, Bill Hughes (Six Gallery Press, 2010)
Hughes is a young Pittsburgh-based poet who puts me in mind of the spirit of Rimbaud, a visionary!

Recommended by
Michael Begnal, author of Ancestor Worship (Salmon Poetry, 2007). Begnal's new collection is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry in 2011, titled Future Blues. His other titles are Mercury, the Dime (Six Gallery Press, 2005) and The Lakes of Coma (Six Gallery Press, 2003).

Monday, November 22, 2010

Brief Holiday from Small Press Holiday Blogging

I took both an internet vacation and a real vacation, and went to Detroit. This post is to let you know that I'll resume with Small Press Holiday Recommendations tomorrow, Tuesday November 23rd. Meanwhile, I wanted to share a small press gem I discovered in Motor City.

When I came upon it, Leopold's Books had just closed for the day--so, sadly, I did not get to go inside and browse. But I loved the look of the sign and the tiny, impeccable shop (located on the ground floor of a gorgeous old apartment building), so I looked it up on the world wide web today and I loved everything I read about it. The shop bravely opened a little over a year ago in Midtown Detroit (just across the street from the Detroit Institute of the Arts and Wayne State University). Their philosophy (both of how to survive and how to curate) reminds me of that of Copacetic Comics (Pittsburgh)--both stores run a very tight ship in a modest space, selling only books the owners know, love, and can personally recommend. They know their customer base and they play directly to that, offering a kind of specialized knowledge and personalized selection that chain stores and Amazon can't. Leopold's blog claims, "This is a strategy all small retailers can use to combat their giant, wealthy competitors. We can afford to be specialist experts, whereas they must be conforming generalists."

Leopold's sells a select array of local zines, magazines, graphic novels, art books, fiction and nonfiction. They also hold regular reading events ranging from local poets to out-of-towners on book tours. Recent events have featured Seth Tobocman of World War Three comics, poet Carla Harryman, and graphic novelists Jim Munroe and Shannon Gerald. One blogger raved about a rooftop reading for Counterpoint author Peter Lewis.

Emphasizing discovery and face-outs, Leopold's hopes you'll come inside because you trust their taste, and leave with a book you didn't know existed when you walked in.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Small Press Holiday Recommendations: Day 10

Today's book recommendations hail from the comics side of the small press world. Jim Rugg is a Pittsburgh-based illustrator and comics dude whose books (he's co-creator of the notorious Afrodisiac and Street Angel) I’ve been noticing for a few years now. I finally got to meet him at a great event the other night when film zinester Mike White came to Pittsburgh from Detroit. Mike’s new book Impossibly Funky features Jim Rugg’s excellent cover art, and Jim was part of the book talk and signing. I had fun chatting with Jim afterwards, as we jawed about movies, marketing, video games, format transfers, horror hosts, Austin TX, and the Youghiogheny Valley. I got to meet Cleveland-based Kevin Czapiewski when he came to town recently for PIX, Pittsburgh’s first annual indie comics expo. Kevin does a very cool comic called Spoilers and edits a comics anthology called Puppyteeth.


Jim says: Uncivilized Books is a small publisher based in Minneapolis. It has published a handful of mini-comics and zines. Tom Kaczynski has done a series of mini-comics called Trans Alaska, Trans Siberia, and Trans Atlantis. The site describes them as, "Philosophy, economics and the metaphysical crisis of the capitalist creative... or something like that." They summarize a lot of my feelings, doubts, and ups and downs as a freelance cartoonist/illustrator. And the books themselves are beautifully designed and illustrated. I highly recommend all three! And while you're at Uncivilized Books, you may want to check out the talented Gabrielle Bell's L.A. Diary. I love her diary comics, and this book includes some of her sketchbook pages, which I guess are early drafts for the finished work.

I'd also like to recommend Robin Bougie's Cinema Sewer. Robin's annually published zine covers a lot of film that other, more "respectable" sources skip like - horror, exploitation, classic porn, and other genre offerings...Bougie hand-letters most of the contents and the results are amazing. Cinema Sewer is perfect for anyone interested in old drive-in and grindhouse fair. Highly recommended (though not for the squeamish).

Individual issues are available, as are two collected volumes:
Cinema Sewer, Volume Two
Cinema Sewer, zine issues

Recommended by
Jim Rugg, co-creator of Afrodisiac (AdHouse Books)


1. Driven by Lemons, Joshu W. Cotter (AdHouse Books, 2009)

2. Gang Bang Bong, various artists, edited by Ines Estrada and Ginette Lapalme (Cafe Con Leche, 2010)

3. Aplomb, Vincent Giard (Collection Colosse, 2009)

Recommended by
Kevin Czapiewski, editor of PUPPYTEETH, Czap Books 2010

Kevin Czap's table at PIX, September 2010.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Small Press Holiday Recommendations: Day 9

Today’s book picks come from two of the hardest-working people in Pittsburgh’s small press scene. Fiction author Sherrie Flick is the co-founder (with poet Nancy Krygowski) of an amazing reading series that has brought emerging writers to enchant Pittsburgh audiences once a month for the last ten years. The Gist Street Readings have no equal, and the audience that Sherrie and Nancy have cultivated is a big part of that. Held in an artist’s studio building, augmented with a delicious pot luck dinner, the readings regularly turn people away when they reach capacity: This means 85 people in the winter, and 120 people in the summer--audiences so hungry to listen to writers they often haven’t heard of that they arrive way-early (I always go an hour in advance) and clamor inside. Once a year, the Gist Street Readings* showcase one small press--hosting several readers instead of just two. As if this weren’t enough, Sherrie is also the author of award-winning micro-fiction and a beautiful novel, a teacher of writing, and a writer of articles and book reviews.

Poet Adam Atkinson is one of the driving forces behind Open Thread, a Pittsburgh small press outfit that publishes books, runs a chapbook contest, co-hosts a reading series, and in 2009 started an annual Small Press Festival in Pittsburgh. Adam is also co-founder of a brand new small press, Oh No Books. I’ve had the pleasure of reading with Adam, whose poems are whip-smart and funny.

For the first Small Press Festival in 2009, Adam and Sherrie joined forces and brought IsReads Issue Number 5 to Pittsburgh. IsReads is the outdoor journal founded by Baltimore’s Publishing Genius and co-edited by Nashville’s Keyhole Magazine. Adam and Sherrie took the matter to City Council in Pittsburgh and July 21, 2009 was declared “The Journal Outdoors Day” by the City of Pittsburgh.

IsReads Pittsburgh


1. Big Bend: Stories, L.E. Leone (Sparkle Street Books, 2008)
2. How Some People Like Their Eggs, Sean Lovelace (Rosemetal Press, 2009)
3. Wouldn't You Like to Know: Very Short Stories, Pamela Painter (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2010)

Recommended by
Sherrie Flick, author of Reconsidering Happiness: A Novel, University of Nebraska Press


1. With Deer, Aase Berg [translated by Johannes Goransson] (Black Ocean)
2. There is another poem in which the news is erased and rewritten, Zachary Harris (New Michigan Press)
3. Open Thread Tri-State Chapbooks, Matt Anserello, Noah Falck, and Colin C. Post (Encyclopedia Destructica and Open Thread)

Recommended by
Adam Atkinson, Literary Editor of Open Thread and Co-Editor of OH NO Books


*The Gist Street Readings are actually set to end at the close of 2010. Perhaps I will ask Sherrie and Nancy to do an interview. I would love to know what they learned about running such a great reading series for 10 years. When I was moving to Pittsburgh, a few poets told me, "Well, The Gist Street Readings are there, but there's nothing else." If this were ever true, this is no longer true, but good for Gist Street for starting to put Pittsburgh on the map of literary America. So, what can the small press do for your city?

Stay tuned for more small press picks.