Friday, March 31, 2017

9 Small Press Books Avid Thinks You (Specifically) Should Devour Right This Second

Small Press Month is drawing to a close, but the time for reading these outstanding books is all year long! Below you'll find nine of Avid's current Small Press obsessions; you should definitely *run* to your favorite local indie bookshop and get all of them.

1. There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé by Morgan Parker (Tin House)

These poems consider sex, depression, black womanhood, religion, racism, beauty from angle after angle after angle. They also consider Beyoncé. Turning a compassionate, aware, questioning gaze on Beyoncé, Parker finds that place where pop icon flows into human flows into poet.

“Sometimes I wonder/ Is Beyoncé who she says she is/ Will I accidentally live forever/ And be sentenced to smile at men/ I wish were dead.”

"There are more beautiful things than Beyoncé: self-awareness,/ Leftover mascara in clumps, recognizing a pattern...Lavender, education, becoming other people,/ The fucking sky”

2. The Waitress Was New

This book is April's pick for Small Press Book Club at Avid!! Observational and mundane, this is a novel that inhabits the mind of an ordinary man for three days as his life abruptly changes. For all those who need a dose of Parisian café in their lives.

"Let the world turn around us, beyond our spotless bars, in the end every day will be carefully wiped away to make room for the next."

3. Whereas by Layli Long Soldier (Graywolf)

These poems breathe and grow and puncture; they consider grass and atonement for genocide and language and writing. They are a song against silencing, against over-simplification, against misremembering, against nationalism.

"I climb the backs of languages, ride them into exhaustion..."

4. The Crown Ain’t Worth Much by Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib (Button Poetry)

These poems are imbued with music and youth, humor and elegy. They're thick with language and honesty and the city, the force of feeling a knife that will twist within your gut as you read.

"this is what is happening / in our America right now"

5. Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary by Justin Green (McSweeney’s)

I was over the moon to discover that McSweeney's has published a beautiful edition of such a rad comic. It's for anyone who wants to read about the bizarre effects of Catholic sexual repression, and for all fans of comic book history. Many penises reside within.

"Maybe if they read about one neurotic's dilemma in easy-to-understand comic book format these tormented folks will no longer see themselves as mere food-tubes living in isolation."

6. Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada (New Directions)

Dreamy and philosophical and bittersweet, this book makes me wish I could get my paw-hands on more memoirs written by polar bears.

"After the death of all living creatures, all our unfulfilled wishes and unspoken words will go on drifting in the stratosphere, they will combine with one another and linger upon the earth like a fog. What will this fog look like in the eyes of the living? Will they fail to remember the dead and instead indulge in banal meteorological conversations like: 'It's foggy today, don't you think?'"

7. An Essay in Forty Questions by Valeria Luiselli (Coffee House Press)

Luiselli is the brilliant author of a number of books from Coffee House, both fiction and non-fiction. She also volunteers as an interpreter for child migrants in a federal immigration court in NYC. This essay contains details of her experiences, and her thoughts regarding human rights violations in the U.S. It is a 2017 must-read.

"Why did you come here? I asked one little girl once. 
Because I wanted to arrive."

8. Suite for Barbara Loden by Nathalie Léger (Dorothy, A Publishing Project)

This slim book is everything: biography, fiction, film criticism, memoir. It originated from an encyclopedia entry, and evolved to pursue a means of knowing Barbara Loden, the creator of cult classic film / underground feminist masterpiece, Wanda. As it grasps at the fragments of a life, this little book will suck you right into its obsession. . .

“I felt like I was managing a huge building site, from which I was going to excavate a miniature model of modernity, reduced to its simplest, most complex form: a woman telling her own story through that of another woman.”

9. Humanimal by Bhanu Kapil (Kelsey Street Press)

Dissecting the story of two young girls raised by wolves, this book of poetry considers what it means to be "wild" or "civilized," and what it means to be human. Its language is thick, heavy, like a jungle suffused with red light.

"Notes for an animal-human mix: 'Reaching and touching were the beginning actions.'"

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