Saturday, February 19, 2011

In Paris a Billboard Boasted Paulo Coelho's Head 10 Feet High

Lynn Alexander of Full of Crow recently posed some important questions about the small press:

*What is our obligation [as writers, voices, opinions] to this [small press] community?
*Are we cooperative or competitive?
*Is "community" the relentless pushing of the friends that push us?
*Is "community" playing nice?

To Lynn's thoughts I add a few of my own:

I think that the small press community CAN be in danger of mindlessly boosting our friends, or of being another sort of vanity press--and that (more over) we can be in danger of being seen that way, even when it's not true. For myself as a small press blogger, I have come to the conclusion that it is my obligation (and preference) to THOUGHTFULLY SPOTLIGHT the writers and presses I like and/or respect.

On spotlighting: I feel that the small press (being SO far below the big presses in advertising dollars) always needs a boost, and its worthiest voices usually deserve a wider audience. Equally often there are small press folks working hard on very interesting projects--or tackling ongoing dilemmas like distribution--in ways that merit attention even when I'm not in love with (or haven't had the time to read) the actual writing. That is, there are ways to add to the small press conversation that expand the diversity of expression and the scope of publishing--ultimately strengthening and testing and enjoying the fruits of the first amendment--which earn my respect even if the writing is not to my taste. But I don't wish to add more noise to the conversation by merely boosting mindlessly, so....

On thoughtful blogging: I have to admit that I dislike reviewing, but I also feel guilty about it. I wish I was a faster reader, and it's probably absurd to say I wish I was faster at writing criticism: Reviews necessarily take time to consider, research, and write well. But what I try to achieve in this blog is to offer some *context* to the small press books, presses, and authors I write about. The "librarian" aspect of this blog is similar to my journalism background; I'd like to tell you things about the small press without either condescending to those who already know, or leaving out those who don't know. I'd like to leave you with a bit of context, history, background; a flavor of the small press culture; a notion of which small presses are connected to which others; some objective information about a book you're not likely to have heard of outside of promo-speak by the author; a notion of why you might care that I'm spotlighting this particular title today. I try to assign reviews from time to time, and I thank my guest reviewers very much for that service to this blog.

What do you think about these issues? Do you think it's the role of small press writers to critique or support their fellow small press folk? Should there be an emphasis on exposing the "truth" no matter how harsh, or is that better left to the professional critics? Should small press writers you feel are bad writers be squelched early rather than encouraged, or should small press writers who do well be shot down when you feel they're overrated? Is there such as thing as an "overrated small press author," when 85% of the nation's readers still haven't heard of any of us? When even a literate magazine editor has never heard the term "small press"? Does "bad writing" add to the diversity of publishing, or detract? And can we still talk about "diversity" in the small press when the vast number of its players are white and college-educated? Or is diversity of expression an important thing unto itself that should be critiqued along with the diversity of the backgrounds (and content) of its voices?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Challenge: The Revenge of Print

I have been surprised to run into small press friends lately who have NOT heard of the REVENGE OF PRINT 2011 Challenge, sponsored by Quimby's (Chicago) and Atomic Books (Baltimore). So I'm here to tell you about it. It's very simple, really. If you've ever made a zine, mini-comic, or other micro-press serial, make another one in 2011. Make one more issue. If you're sick of hearing about the "death of print" and the "end of books" and the "e-publishing revolution," remind the world about the Mimeograph Revolution that got you into this biz in the first place. If you've been taking a break, if you've gotten lazy or complacent, if you had a falling out with your co-editor, if your plans for the next ish are so elaborate that it's taken you three years to work on it....make 2011 the year that you get on with it. Be a comeback kid. Just do it.

You can join the conversation here on the Revenge of Print Facebook page. And no, that's not irony, or foreshadowing, or inevitability. That's the way we live now, in a world where digital communication and print publications can CO-EXIST.

What will you publish in 2011?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Small Press Authors Tour; Indie Bookstores Close and Open

Elwin Cotman’s punk/folklore/fantasy story collection, The Jack Daniels Sessions EP (Six Gallery Press, 2010) has just been re-released in a newly updated second edition. The author is currently booking a reading tour for late spring, (only a year after his tour with Dan McCloskey) starting on May 28th at SubRosa in Santa Cruz. He plans to tour the West Coast, Southwest, and key spots in the Midwest. Find details and updates on the book’s Facebook page.

GoMetric’s Mike Faloon has a run of Southern California readings starting this Monday, February 14: On the Mommy Can I Go Out and Read Tonight? Tour, Mike will be reading with Todd Taylor (aka the Studds Terkel of punk rock) and Matt Hart (the Sideshow Bob of punk rock). Mike has been billed as the Bob Newhart of punk rock. Mike’s latest book is The Hanging Gardens of Split Rock, from Gorsky Press.

Jamaica Plain, a hip enclave of Boston, will soon welcome a new bookstore (a revamp of Rhythm & Muse book and music store) called Tres Gatos that will also sell vinyl records and Spanish-tapas eats. This business model reminds me of 3138 Dobson St. in Pittsburgh, a newly- renovated building that boasts a hip café on the first floor, vinyl-only music store on the second floor, and a powerhouse comics store/bookstore on the third floor. The Pittsburgh complex has been doing well for all three businesses, and we wish the new Boston venture the same success.

When Buffalo Street Books closes, it will leave vibrant college town Ithaca, New York (and its county) with no more independently-owned retail bookstores. “The positives and negatives of owning and operating an independent bricks-and-mortar bookstore are many with the perks far, far outweighing the bumps but for personal reasons and a rapidly diminishing bottom line, I finally have no choice,” says owner Gary Weissbrot on the store’s website.

In the What Goes Around Comes Around category: Shelf Awareness reports two indie bookstores soon to open in former Waldenbooks spaces in New England malls. Rivendell Books will open a second store in Montpelier, Vermont, and Wakefield Books opens tomorrow in Wakefield, Rhode Island. The Wakefield bookstore will even employ some of the former Waldenbooks workers.

Finally, Moby Lives writes on Powell's layoffs as well as Powell's 24-hour reading of Moby Dick.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Poet Ed Steck's Underground Lit Collection

Poet Ed Steck has cleaned out his bookshelves and is selling his collection of underground lit, including a number of Allen Ginsberg titles, through Caliban Books in Pittsburgh. Check out these beauties:

Monday, February 7, 2011

Guest Review: DEGREES OF ELEVATION reviewed by Doug Mathewson

Charles Dodd White and Page Seay, eds. Degrees of Elevation: Short Stories of Contemporary Appalachia. Huron, Oh.: Bottom Dog Press, 2010. Anthology of short fiction. 186 pages. ISBN: 978-1933964393.

To successfully capture a place; to transport the reader to a different world using words alone is a mighty feat. By observation or remembrance writers create narrative portraits of a place. People are often shown to us through their language and peculiarities of culture. Capturing a sense of the land is harder. The dialogue of Stephen King brings us back to his native rural Maine. E. Annie Proulx, with her sharp eye and careful ear has taken us on a long journey from Newfoundland, down through Vermont to Texas and finally to Wyoming. Every place is unique, as are its inhabitants. Both are woven tightly together in a finely detailed pattern. They seem to be inseparable. This tie between place and people is incredibly strong in this collection of new Appalachian short fiction. Degrees of Elevation published by Bottom Dog Press is a treasure. These seventeen stories introduce us to the independent-natured people who live in a very natural land entirely dominated by coal. These are fictional works, telling the stories of people who are very real.

I was honored to be introduced to Scott McClanahan’s kindly “Mary the Cleaning Lady” who helps a young girl gain a greater understand of the world. Silas Hound, Richard Hague, and Denton Lowing treat us to their determined eccentric characters. Each living life to its fullest. When I read Alex Taylor’s story “The Coal Thief” I felt I knew Uncle Ransom from somewhere. Then I recognized him as every mythological trickster from the Monkey King to Br’er Rabbit!

Hard times, doubt and depression offset with the smallest kernel of hope prove the most stringent tests of people. These tales are beautifully told by Mindy Beth Miller, Jim Nichols, and Sheldon Lee Compton. I earnestly cared for every one of their characters. Marginalized sub-cultures are explored by Crystal Wilkinson and John McManus. These writers introduce us to people we may not even know exist. “Horseweed” by Chris Offutt and “Into the Gorge” by Ron Rash both show us so much in so few words about the wooded hills of Appalachia, and how times have changed.

Several of these stories may well stay with the reader for years. Two in particular will always be with me. “Haskell” from Chris Holbrook’s “Upheaval” is heart-breaking man who is coming apart physically and mentally. The story is told in specific small language that is so much a part of this man’s life. In “Country Boys” by Rusty Barnes, Reena puts Jimmy in some enticingly difficult situations till he gets over his head, and has to decide. Jimmy’s choice is not easy, but yours is. Support small and independent press by purchasing this fine collection of stories written by some of the very best authors you will find today in American short fiction.

Degrees of Elevation at Bottom Dog Press:

Degrees of Elevation at SPD:

Review by
Doug Mathewson
Editor at Blink-Ink
Published by:
Full of Crow Press and Distribution

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Recent Acquisitions

Blink Ink issue #5
Journal of micro-fiction

We’ll Never Have Paris, issue #7: Modern Fire
Zine of narrative non-fiction

Tel-Tales # 1: Cut Lines and Intricate Minds
Comic by Donald and Daniel Zettwoch

Salmon Poetry titles by Alan Jude Moore
Black State Cars:

Friday, February 4, 2011

Itinerant Poetry Booksellers Will Stalk You at AWP

Exciting news: "Berl's Poetry Book Shop" is the name of a bookstore seeking a home. Until they find a brick and mortar space, poets/
proprietors Farrah Field and Jared White will be itinerant booksellers, hawking their wares at craft fairs around New York (such as Brooklyn Flea) and elsewhere.

Look for Farrah and Jared at AWP this weekend, where they will be seeking your poetry books (especially handmade chapbooks) to sell. If you're not at AWP, contact them through their blog:

Brooklyn will soon join Boulder, Cambridge, and Seattle in having the nation's few bookstores dedicated solely to poetry:

In January, the nation's third poetry-only bookstore opened in Boulder, Colorado:
Innisfree Poetry Bookstore and Cafe

Groiler Poetry Book Shop in Cambridge, Massachusetts has been open since 1927:

Open Books in Seattle is the only poetry-only bookseller on the West Coast: