Tragic Magic, HardcoverRegular price $24.00
Tragic Magic is the story of Melvin Ellington, a.k.a. Mouth, a Black, twenty-something, ex-college radical who has just been released from a five-year prison stretch after being a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War. Brown structures this first-person tale around Ellington’s first day on the outside. Although hungry for freedom and desperate for female companionship, Ellington is haunted by a past that drives him to make sense of those choices leading up to this day.
Through a filmic series of flashbacks, the novel revisits Ellington’s prison experiences, where he is forced to play the unwilling patsy to the predatory Chilly and the callow pupil of the not-so-predatory Hard knocks; then dips further back to Ellington’s college days, where again he is led astray by the hypnotic militarism of the Black Pantheresque Theo, whose antiwar politics incite the impressionable narrator to oppose his parents and to choose imprisonment over conscription; and finally back to his earliest high school days, where we meet in Otis, the presumed archetype of Ellington’s “tragic magic” relationships with magnetic but dangerous avatars of black masculinity in crisis. But the effect of the novel cannot be conveyed through plot recapitulation alone, for its style is perhaps even more provoking than its subject.
Originally published in 1978, and edited by Toni Morrison during her time at Random House, this Of the Diaspora edition of Tragic Magic features a new introduction by author Wesley Brown.
Praise for Tragic Magic
“Tragic Magic is a tremendous affirmation. . One hell of a writer.”
“Wesley Brown’s Tragic Magic is an underrated classic in the vein of my favorite albums. This is a book worth holding close and hugging hard. There has been much talk about the literary foreparents to hip-hop culture and for my money Brown has to take his place alongside the likes of the Black Arts Movement, The Nuyoricans, Piri Thomas, and Julius Lester. Pick this one up and ride alongside a masterful storyteller.”
—Nate Marshall, author of Finna: Poems
“A prescient ancestor to today’s insurgent, boundary-breaching African American fiction… deserves rediscovery by a new generation of readers curious about where an earlier generation of Black protest came from and how they came through its challenges.”
Aperture 223: Vision & JusticeRegular price $29.95
Guest edited by Sarah Elizabeth Lewis, Vision & Justice addresses the role of photography in the African American experience.
This award-winning issue of Aperture magazine was released in summer 2016, in a political moment defined by the close of the Obama era and the steady rise of #BlackLivesMatter activism. As a racial reckoning continues in the United States, this powerful issue remains an essential resource for understanding the role of art in the movement for equity and social justice.
Rooted in the prescient thinking of Frederick Douglass, and his argument that social progress requires pictures, “Vision & Justice” includes a wide span of photographic projects by such luminaries as Lyle Ashton Harris, Sally Mann, Jamel Shabazz, Lorna Simpson, Carrie Mae Weems, and Deborah Willis, as well as the brilliant voices of a younger generation―Devin Allen, Awol Erizku, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Deana Lawson, and Hank Willis Thomas, among many others. Their portfolios are complemented by essays from some of the most influential voices in American culture, including contributions by celebrated writers, historians, and artists such as Vince Aletti, Teju Cole, Ava DuVernay, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Margo Jefferson, Wynton Marsalis, and Claudia Rankine.
Shantrelle P. Lewis: Dandy Lion: The Black Dandy and Street StyleRegular price $35.00
Songbook by Nick Hornby, HardcoverRegular price $30.00
What will people think if you play Van Morrison at your funeral? When was the last time you listened to Pet Sounds? How does a mandolin solo illustrate or clarify the plight of Eskimos, anyway? In twenty-six song profiles that are hilarious, nostalgic, and deeply personal, one of our greatest music critics reminds us how much pop songs affect our lives. After all, as Hornby says, “There’s something in us that is beyond the reach of words… It’s the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part.”
At long last, this deluxe, limited-edition reprint of Hornby’s National Book Critic’s Circle Award–nominated book will reprise its original form: a square-shaped, intimate, Marcel Dzama–illustrated ode to the lasting joys of the fleeting art of pop music.
Praise for Songbook:
“A small, singular, delightful collection [about] the power of songs to bind people culturally and to reach deeply into the human spirit, bending the heart into new shapes with new potential.” —The New York Times Book Review
“When Hornby writes about his enthusiasms and how they intertwine with his life, he’s amusing and inspiring.” —Rolling Stone
“That whole subculture, all those mournful guys to whom the sound of record-store bin dividers clicking by is almost music enough, should love Songbook, yet so should anyone interested in great essays, or in the delicate art of being funny, or in how to write about one’s feelings in such a way that other people will actually care.” —The San Francisco Chronicle
“Delivered in a hugely enjoyable, invisible prose that does in words what Hornby’s tunesmiths do with sound. He writes good.” —Time Out London
“Quintessentially Hornby: an idiosyncratic and charming exploration of the meaning of music and how it changes as we grow up and grow old.”—Seattle Weekly“A book about the joy of listening to great pop songs, about the elusive genius of a catchy chorus…what shines most is Hornby himself—his wry self-awareness, his disarming honesty. Effortlessly readable, every chapter reminds us how special an observer of human behavior Hornby is.” —Heat
It Is Right to Draw Their Fur, a Portfolio of Drawings by Dave EggersRegular price $42.00
Printed in time to coincide with a gallery show in San Francisco, this is Dave Eggers's first collection of drawings. Most of these works are of unusual mammals, most often accompanied by slogans with ancient, heroic, or just plain odd overtones. This 14" x 19", full-color package is a combination of 26 large-sized prints and an accompanying booklet.
It Is Right to Draw Their Fur echoes questions posed by Eggers in McSweeney's Issue 27: What is the line between a doodle, a cartoon, a gag, and a work of fine art? Does it seem, sometimes, that the artist is defacing his or her own work by adding text? Is loose draftsmanship appealing, in that it's intimate and disarming? Is absurdity more appealing when it comes across as humble?
For most of his youth, author/editor Dave Eggers was an aspiring painter. After college, he was a cartoonist and illustrator for dozens of magazines and newspapers. In 2008, he curated a show for apexart (a nonprofit art gallery in New York) featuring the works of René Magritte, Francisco Goya, Andy Warhol, David Shrigley, Kurt Vonnegut, Shel Silverstein, Raymond Pettibon, and many others.
More Curious by Sean Wilsey, HardcoverRegular price $22.00
In More Curious, Sean Wilsey travels across the U.S., from the launchpad at Cape Canaveral, to the isolated artists’ enclave of Marfa, Texas, to the boardrooms and ballrooms of post–9/11 New York City. Wherever he is, Wilsey captures his surroundings with the precision of a photographer and the raw grace of a skateboarder (he’s an amateur practitioner of both arts). These essays—some of which have been expanded and updated from pieces originally published in Vanity Fair, GQ, McSweeney’s, and elsewhere, and some of which appear here for the first time—comprise nearly fifteen years of Wilsey’s most vital work on the glory and the misery, the beauty and absurdity of contemporary America.
Interviews and Extras:
“Honest writing is funny”: The Atlantic talks to Sean Wilsey about his creative process.
Check out the Paste Magazine interview with Sean Wilsey.
Read the Late Night Library interview with Sean Wilsey.
SF Gate talks to Sean Wilsey and recounts his skateboarding days in San Francisco.
Listen to the Los Angeles Review of Books interview with Sean Wilsey here.
Praise for More Curious:
“Wilsey (Oh the Glory of It All) makes curiosity the unifying aesthetic and raison d’être of this eclectic collection of essays on places and people, hobbies and grief, and the ‘comedy and poverty of the United States.’”
“Sean Wilsey’s witty essays from his cross-country adventures form a portrait of the weird side of contemporary America.”
—Los Angeles Times
“More Curious is the most delicious of literary smorgasbords. Whether Sean Wilsey’s subject is rats, NASA, or a surreal road trip across America, the writing is animated and diverse, dappled with literary oddities and enlivened, always, by his eye for the absurd. More Curious begins by making you wonder what kind of book it is, exactly, and ends by reminding you that categories are nonsense when you’re enjoying something this much.”
—Jennifer Egan, author of A Visit from the Goon Squad
“Sean Wilsey puts the fire out with wine, as he reports was done after the 1906 Earthquake in San Francisco. To douse a fire with wine, as I take it, is to respond with something unexpected, and a little extravagant, but in that moment, a tool at hand. Wilsey is playful, maximal, wonkily earnest and fun to read, as he ranges over the varied landscapes of this book.”
—Rachel Kushner, author of The Flame Throwers
“Mr. Wilsey can write in a range of emotional octaves, moving from the comic to the philosophical to the streetwise with ease, while putting body language on his prose to give the reader an almost synesthetic sense of what he’s saying.”
—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“More Curious captures the dizzying absurdity of contemporary America.”
“An insightful and witty portrait of modern America’s highs and lows.”
“Wilsey is a punchy, captivating writer with a perceptive eye.”
—Dallas Morning News
“A marvelous book… Wilsey has a gift for shifting gears emotionally — changing the focus at precisely the right moment, and those shifts, those juxtapositions are effective and often profound.”
“Generation-defining… a welcome chronicle of our age”
—San Francisco Bay Guardian
“[C]areful, thoughtful, perfect sentences”
“[T]he essays are a testament to Wilsey’s infectious ability to make his curiosity ours”
“Enjoyable, occasionally hilarious, and always insightful.”
“A funny, touching, and smart look at the core of Americana.”
—Vol. 1 Brooklyn
—one of the Strand’s Booksellers’ “Most Loved in 2014”
A Load of Hooey by Bob Odenkirk, PaperbackRegular price $15.00
Bob Odenkirk is a legend in the comedy-writing world, winning Emmys and acclaim for his work on Saturday Night Live, Mr. Show with Bob and David, and many other seminal TV shows. This book, his first, is a spleen-bruisingly funny omnibus that ranges from absurdist monologues (“Martin Luther King, Jr’s Worst Speech Ever”) to intentionally bad theater (“Hitler Dinner Party: A Play”); from avant-garde fiction (“Obituary for the Creator of Madlibs”) to free-verse poetry that’s funnier and more powerful than the work of Calvin Trillin, Jewel, and Robert Louis Stevenson combined.
Odenkirk’s debut resembles nothing so much as a hilarious new sketch comedy show that’s exclusively available as a streaming video for your mind. As Odenkirk himself writes in “The Second Coming of Jesus and Lazarus,” it is a book “to be read aloud to yourself in the voice of Bob Newhart.”
Check out “Hilter’s Dinner Party,” an excerpt from A Load of Hooey.
Praise for A Load of Hooey
“The king of alt comedy…expands his reign with this absurd collection of tirades, rhyming verse, and tips on how to avoid getting an embarrassing tattoo.”
—O, Oprah Magazine
“Odenkirk…shows his cerebral side in his first collection of humor writing.”
“Whip-smart and laugh-out-loud funny.”
—The Weekly Alibi
“A deft blend of silliness and ridicule, mirth and rage: salt augmenting sweetness.”
—Barnes & Noble Review
“Delivered with a combination of thoughtfulness and absurdity that Odenkirk has honed over the course of his career.”
“’A Load of Hooey’ is a load of laughs.”
—New York Post
“Very funny and immensely silly.”
”A Load of Hooey finds the comedy legend doing what he does best: lampooning pretension.”
“Spoiler alert — it’s FUNNY!”
—The New York Times Book Review
A Million Heavens by John Brandon, HardcoverRegular price $24.00
On the top floor of a small desert hospital, an unlikely piano prodigy lies in a coma, attended to by his gruff, helpless father. Outside the clinic, a motley vigil assembles beneath a reluctant New Mexico winter—all watched by a disconsolate wolf on his nightly rounds. To some the boy is a novelty, to others a religion. And above them, a would-be angel sits captive in a holding cell of the afterlife, finishing the work he began on Earth, writing the songs that could free him.
A Million Heavens brings John Brandon’s deadpan humor and hard-won empathy to a new realm of gritty surrealism—a surprising and exciting turn from one of the best young novelists of our time.
Check out John Brandon’s interview on the Rumpus celebrating the paperback release of A Million Heavens.
Listed as one of 2012’s most anticipated books by The Millions
Praise for A Million Heavens:
“John Brandon’s novels are choral compositions in the voice of marginal Americans… At his best, which he’s at with some frequency here, he writes in a crackling way about small hopes and larger despair. He gravitates to the kind of regional misfits who drew Flannery O’Connor’s eye, and his dialogue is snappy and eccentric, like a combination of two masters of the craft, Elmore Leonard and Charles Portis. [His] strengths—assured prose, well-timed wisecracks and a convincing crew of pilgrims just waiting for directions—are quickly becoming Mr. Brandon’s trademarks.”
—The New York Times
“[John Brandon] deftly renders a desert wilderness where human hearts are compelled to seek isolation from the pains of the world, but tend to find connectedness despite themselves.”
“A surreal exploration of the origin of inspiration, of what connects humans to each other and to their surroundings. …Brandon’s gift for conjuring a powerful sense of place has never been stronger as the high-desert sands invade every nook and cranny of the lives of his characters.”
“Brandon deftly orients his readers to the level of his characters by perfectly evoking the everyday emotions, urges, and annoyances that are relatable despite the uncommon situations they are born of.”
“‘A Million Heavens,’ [is] a book that practically shouts from the rooftops its refusal to put on airs, its desire to strip down the prose and get out of its own way. Brandon’s unadorned style and disdain for anything ‘fancy’ belie what a good (and sometimes fancy) writer he is, as well as how much he loves playing with the reader’s expectations, interrupting and upending traditional elements of the novel even as he claims to want to be the deliverer rather than the composer.”
“Wondrous… More than once I handed A Million Heavens to a friend and watched the rhythms compel him or her into the thickness of a paragraph, then onto the next page…. I had to stop reading to actually pace, marveling at what one writer can imagine, what a novel is capable of holding.”
—Charles Bock New York Times Book Review
“A theologically engaged book, salted with hope, as well as blistering insight.”—The Plain Dealer “Something of a genre-buster: in alternating beats a bittersweet comedy about the law of inertia and a plaintive serial-killer thriller on the laws of the wild. … The crisscrossing roads of A Million Heavens bustle with luminous prose that carries only good news for lovers of original fiction.”
—The Boston Globe
—The Portland Mercury “Leaves one swift note of humanness ringing in your ears, reminding you that people overcome things, subtly or powerfully, and in the end that it is all right to have questions.”
—The Oxford American
The Abridged History of Rainfall by Jay Hopler, PaperbackRegular price $18.00
The Abridged History of Rainfall is a finalist for the National Book Award.
Jay Hopler’s second collection, a mourning song for his father, is an elegy of uproar, a careening hymn to disaster and its aftermath. In lyric poems by turns droll and desolate, Hopler documents the struggle to live in the face of great loss, a task that sends him ranging through Florida’s torrid subtropics, the mountains of the American West, the streets of Rome, and the Umbrian countryside. Vivid, dynamic, unrestrained: The Abridged History of Rainfall is a festival of glowing saints and fighting cocks, of firebombs and birdsong.
Praise for The Abridged History of Rainfall:
“By these poems, your faith will be shattered and restored, restored and wondrously shattered again.”
—Craig Morgan Teicher
“This is a major work of art. Hopler’s vision and voice, both painfully complex because of how much of the world he allows to attach to him, to stake its claim on him, teach us we are in the presence of lasting, inimitable poems. No one writes like Hopler. And no one ever will.”
“In his second collection of poetry, Jay Hopler’s incredible ear and inventiveness with poetic from return full throttle. Even as they engage grief and loss, the poems here are funny and sardonic, not afraid to wear their feelings on their sleeves; they’re a tonic.”
Chicken of the Sea, by Viet Thanh Nguyen and Ellison Nguyen, illustrated by Thi Bui and Hein Bui-StaffordRegular price $19.00
A band of intrepid chickens leave behind the boredom of farm life, joining the crew of the pirate ship Pitiless to seek fortune and glory on the high seas. Led by a grizzled captain into the territory of the Dog Knights, they soon learn what it means to be courageous, merciful, and not seasick quite so much of the time.
A whimsical and unexpected adventure tale, Chicken of the Sea originated in the five-year-old mind of Ellison Nguyen, son of Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen; father and son committed the story to the page, then enlisted the artistic talents of Caldecott Honor winner Thi Bui and her thirteen-year-old son, Hien Bui-Stafford, to illustrate it. This unique collaboration between two generations of artists and storytellers invites you aboard for adventure, even if you’re chicken. Maybe especially if you’re chicken.
Of Color by Jaswinder Bolina, HardcoverRegular price $18.00
Praise for Of Color
“(T)hese companionable essays squeeze one’s arm with the firm, fraternal pressure of a trustworthy adviser.”
—Ron Slate, On the Sea Wall
“An excellent collection any year, but it feels particularly necessary in 2020.”
“Eminently readable… entrusts us with an honest conversation that we all should be having with each other.”
“Jaswinder Bolina’s insightful, raw and honest collection of brilliant essays illuminate the joys and pains of being a specific person Of Color and through his unique lens we also come to understand the universal ongoing story of America.”
—Wajahat Ali, author of The Domestic Crusaders and contributor to CNN and the New York Times
“Lyrically intelligent, exceptionally alert… A crucial addition to the growing canon of works about race in contemporary America.”
—Sarah Manguso, author of Ongoingness and 300 Arguments
“(M)oves from the polemic to the personal with the candidness and flair of a rollicking dinner conversation.”
—Aisha Sabatini Sloan, author of Dreaming of Ramadi in Detroit
“(A) powerful and wise collection of essays, one that will make reverberations into how we look at this country in the future.”
—Cathy Park Hong, author of Engine Empire and Minor Feelings
My Gaza: A City in Photographs by Jehad al-SaftawiRegular price $35.00
My Gaza offers a startling perspective on contemporary Gaza. Photographer Jehad al-Saftawi documents his life there up until his escape, in 2016. His eye is drawn to moments of humanity and tenderness that redefine this place beyond propaganda, beyond prevailing narratives. Through vivid images and captions—a gun to the head, an interrogation, a family in strife—al-Saftawi exposes a situation that cannot withstand further escalation.
Urgent and resolute, My Gaza is the first book of its kind, presenting photos of present-day Gaza by a Gazan journalist.
Praise for My Gaza
“Blistering portraits of a territory plagued by violence… atmospheric, visually moving.”
—Kirkus (starred review)
“This is an outstanding book. These gorgeous photos force us to look, to direct our unflinching gaze at a subject most of us usually ignore. They are both microscopic and universal in scope, beautifully poignant. Gaza is the land of two million prisoners. Jehad al-Saftawi is a wonderful guide into its heart.”
To preview some of Jehad’s photography featured in this collection, click here.
All Known Metal Bands by Dan Nelson, HardcoverRegular price $25.00
This volume contains the names of over fifty thousand metal bands. If one presumes that each of these bands had an average of four members, and multiplies that by the bands, one might figure that at least a quarter of a million humans have pledged allegiance to one of these groups of wandering beasts. Never has a music relegated to the underground of a civilization had so many devotees; no radio need transmit the power of this music, for it is sought fiercely and freely by the doomed and the dispossessed, whose ears are never touched by songs of love and weakness. These names are invisible tokens to be spoken aloud, each representing a human quest for superhuman spectacle: shaking floorboards and quivering walls, split ears leaking blood, with faces painted and ornaments pointy, voices uttering eternal truths shunned by woman and man alike.
This is the perfect gift for the music lover or metalhead in your life.
Praise for All Known Metal Bands:
"The best bathroom book ever."
All Known Metal Bands was picked as one of Amazon.com's Best of the Year So Far: Hidden Gems.
The Secret Language of Sleep: A Couple's Guide to the Thirty-Nine Positions by Evany ThomasRegular price $15.00
Some couples wonder if they have the mettle for a committed relationship, or the momentum for long-distance love, or the reflexes for fighting crime. Unsure couples waste years looking for answers in each other's eyes, or in the offices of behavioral therapists. And yet each night their sleeping bodies reveal more than any doctor or private detective could ever discover.
With The Secret Language of Sleep: A Couple's Guide to the Thirty-Nine Positions, a couple unlocks the true meaning that lies within their chosen pose. All thirty-nine poses (including Classic Spoons, the Tobogganer, and Softserve Swirl) come with easy-to-identify illustrations along with detailed descriptions, case studies, and training tips. Handy icons indicate which positions are the most therapeutic for snorers, outdoorsmen, or couples who work on their feet.
Praise for The Secret Language of Sleep:
“Hugely entertaining and deadpan smart, Evany Thomas’s The Secret Language of Sleep details 39 positions for dormant lovers, from Melting Spoons (that’s Classic Spooning for codependents) to Starfish and Conch ('the preferred position for couples who fight well together') and Sixth Posture of the Perfumed Forest (one hand on stomach, opposite elbow across eyes). Amelia Bauer's line drawings, evocative of prim 1950s sex guides, give this tiny volume its tart appeal.”
“For mates completely stuck in their Pinching Koala and Tree ways (lots of knee squeezing) or who are avowed Ticket Punchers (plenty of hot toe-on-toe action), Thomas purports to explain what each snuggle means using a mixture of research ranging from hard science to soft tarot, with a sprinkling of survival guides, yoga and ventriloquism thrown in for good measure.”
—New York Post
Mermaid in Chelsea Creek by Michelle Tea, HardcoverRegular price $21.00
Everyone in the broken-down town of Chelsea, Massachusetts, has a story too worn to repeat—from the girls who play the pass-out game just to feel like they’re somewhere else, to the packs of aimless teenage boys, to the old women from far away who left everything behind. But there’s one story they all still tell: the oldest and saddest but most hopeful story, the one about the girl who will be able to take their twisted world and straighten it out. The girl who will bring the magic.
Could Sophie Swankowski be that girl? With her tangled hair and grubby clothes, her weird habits and her visions of a filthy, swearing mermaid who comes to her when she’s unconscious, Sophie could be the one to uncover the power flowing beneath Chelsea’s potholed streets and sludge-filled rivers, and the one to fight the evil that flows there, too. Sophie might discover her destiny, and maybe even in time to save them all.
And here is your go-to interview with Michelle Tea for all the mermaid-specific decisions in the book.
Praise for Mermaid in Chelsea Creek:
“I couldn’t keep still when I was reading Mermaid in Chelsea Creek. I kept standing up to pace around because I was so excited by the book and then I’d hurry back to my chair so I hadn’t missed anything. The novel has everything terrific about Michelle Tea, with the grit and the wit and the girls in trouble loving each other fierce and true, and then it has all the juice of a terrific fantasy novel, with the magic and the creatures and the otherworldly sense of something lurking underneath each artifact of our ordinary lives. I can’t keep still to write a blurb about it. Just read the thing, read it now.”
“A radiant hybrid of piercing realism, creeping horror, and heartbreaking fantasy—but fantasy with dirt in its hair and scabs on its knees. Tea is an uncommon talent doing uncommon things and her voice tickles you, slaps you, whatever it takes to wake your ass up.”
—Daniel Kraus, author of Rotters
“Tea’s novel is a refreshing breath of air in the world of YA, equal parts eerie, heartbreaking, and fantastical.”
“Each line carries substantive heft, emblematic of extensive research on Polish mythology, grounded by the gritty, immigrant haven that is Chelsea, Massachusetts.”
“The story itself braids threads of ancient myths and lore with today’s world full of mixed emotions and environmental neglect. It blurs the line between fact and fiction gracefully, thereby making the impossible seem possible.”
”Mermaid in Chelsea Creek is a triumph in its own right, a stand-alone treat.”
—San Francisco Bay Guardian
“Tea populated her foray into the genre with head-nods to outsider fantasy, Here, pigeons aren’t marginalized—they’re bearers of wisdom; and mermaids are surly and complex, not preening or diabolical.”
“I started reading Michelle Tea’s Mermaid in Chelsea Creek on the subway this morning and was instantly hooked… can’t wait to get back to it”
—Emily Temple, Flavorwire
“If you want to read a really original book with gutsy characters, I strongly, sweary recommend you find this book.”
“There’s a lot of heavy wisdom in this book, alongside the beauty and the grunge…And there’s a lot of humor too—it wouldn’t be Michelle Tea if you didn’t laugh out loud at her spot-on cultural observations, her astute sarcasm at the banalities that infiltrate our gorgeous world.”
“A fun read… a classic fairytale.”
—San Francisco Book Review
“It’s as if Chelsea is Narnia, with talking animals, mind readers, and a heroine who, instead of finding a wardrobe, makes herself pass out with her best friend.”
—The Boston Globe
“Lonesomely populating a chasm in books for young readers where the magic comes from the blessed gutter.”
—The Globe and Mail
“Sophie Swankowski is the young-adult protagonist we’ve all been waiting for.”
Vicky Swanky is a Beauty by Diane Williams, SoftcoverRegular price $13.00
In Vicky Swanky Is a Beauty, Diane Williams lays bare the urgency and weariness that shape our lives in stories honed sharper than ever. With sentences auguring revelation and explosion, Williams's unsettling stories—a cryptic meeting between neighbors, a woman's sexual worries, a graveside discussion, a chimney on fire—are narrated with razor-sharp tongues and naked, uproarious irreverence.
These fifty stories hum with tension, each one so taut that it threatens to snap and send the whole thing sprawling—the mess and desire, the absurdity and hilarity, the bruises and bleeding, the blushes and disappointments and secrets. An audacious, unruly tour de force, Vicky Swanky Is a Beauty cements Diane Williams' position as one of the best practitioners of the short form in literature today.
Praise for Diane Williams:
"Let's hear it for the magnificent Diane Williams, one the wittiest and most exacting writers of our time. Her fictions are fervid endorsements of terrible, joyous life. But that’s not quite right, because like all great literature, they are life. Well, you figure it out. All I know is that this book is an amazement, composed with a stricture that guarantees splendor."
"Diane Williams is one of the true living heroes of the American avant-garde. Her fiction makes very familiar things very, very weird."
"She is one of the very few contemporary prose writers who seem to be doing something independent, energetic, heartfelt."
"The uncanny has met its ideal delivery system: the stories of Diane Williams."
"These stories are the Giacometti walking man, the Cornell box, that extraordinary object born out of a genius for expressing the inner murmur of the mind. Each page is like throwing open the window in an electrical storm—strange sky, air full of voltage, and inside, a square of brave. Diane Williams is hilarious, brilliant, eccentric, powerful, and, luckily, ours."
—Deb Olin Unferth
"Vicky Swanky is a Beauty and Diane Williams is a genius. She is also a hero who 'resurrect(s) glee' in the face off with mortality. Her stories are sensationally complex; sorrow and hilarity, melancholy and wonder mingle, rendering this surpassingly winning collection, her seventh, quite extraordinary."
"'Vicky Swanky' is Williams at her best, shaking us awake again to the persistent strangeness of human life."
—Jenny Hendrix, The Boston Globe
"The shorts in Diane Williams's Vicky Swanky Is a Beauty (McSweeney's) emit an unsettling brilliance, becoming, on repeated readings, even stranger and more revelatory."
“To read these delightful stories is simply to drop in on random encounters as they are occurring—tense, awkward, jokey, fraught.”
—The San Francisco Chronicle
“Even without the cameo appearances by the character ‘Diane Williams,’ it’s unlikely that anyone who’s attempted to tease apart a handful of Williams’s stories will forget her linguistic precision, the ways she whittles sentences into solid gems, or her wonderfully strange way of seeing.”
“There is also the pleasure of Williams’s sentences…dense and different. They pop. They’re part of what makes Vicky Swanky Is a Beauty so enjoyable.”
“Dark, strange and revelatory”
—Time Out New York
“Equal parts satisfying, mysterious, thoughtful, and quick.”
“Williams’s steadfast devotion to keep experimenting has yielded another highly entertaining collection that defies any contrary urge to settle down.”
“In Vicky Swanky Is a Beauty, we are reminded that Diane Williams is a brilliant writer and that there is absolutely nothing preordained in this world, which is sometimes a truly great thing.”
—Amanda DeMarco, Dalkey Archive Review of Contemporary Fiction
Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine by Diane Williams, HardcoverRegular price $20.00
Not a single moment here is what you might expect. While there is immense pleasure to be found in Williams’s spot-on observations about how we behave in our highest and lowest moments, the heart of the drama beats in the language of American short fiction’s grand master, whose originality, precision, and power bring the familiar into startling and enchanted relief.
Check out an excerpt from Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine in Granta Magazine’s.
Read an interview with Diane Williams in the LA Review of Books.
Praise for Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine:
“In a story called “The Great Passion and Its Context,” one of Williams’ narrators stands on public transportation with an injured foot, anxiously echoing Markun: “What’s still to come?—a warm flat landscape?—a shallow swimming pool?—the complete ruin of her health?—her absolute devotion to anyone?” The only answer comes in the form of children singing a duet three rows ahead of her: “They offer their share of resistance to you name it!—in a remote and difficult key, and in poor taste artistically.” If you can hold onto some vestige of poignancy in the face of that ironic exclamation mark and deflating final clause, you’ve found your new favorite writer. Williams has been plumbing this territory for decades—she’s published eight books before this one—and her confidence with language is frankly unnerving. She makes it jump through hoops, and a reader had better be willing to follow.”
—The Chicago Tribune
“A taut collection of flash fictions that are often beautiful but impenetrable, structured like little riddles to unspool. While it is easy to compare Williams’s work to that of Lydia Davis, another expert writer of absurdist shorts, this collection stands in its own category as defiantly whimsical and weird… Williams creates stories that can be consumed in small bites. But she provides enough material in each to chew over for an entire meal.”
—The New York Times
“Her work is certainly odd, but it’s also poetic, passionate, and precisely crafted. Her strange voices linger in the mind. Part of the pleasure of reading Williams is you have no idea what’s coming next. Don’t fret. These marvelous stories do have a beginning, middle and an end—just not necessarily in that order.”
—The Los Angeles Times
“The whip-quick snapshots in Diane Williams’s Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine pack a sizable punch; to read is to tread unstable ground. Discomfitingly and devastatingly funny, Williams upends the mundane, the painful, and the unusual, resulting—much in the way an art teacher might ask her class to copy a photograph upside-down—in precision and clarity.”
“I’m tempted to call Diane Williams’s stories ‘little gems,’ but really they have no equivalent among jewels I’m familiar with. I’ve never tried acupuncture, but I wonder if the experience is like reading her prose. It can’t be as much fun.”
—Vulture’s Best Books of 2016 (So Far)
“Surprising, funny, and evocative, the narratives in Williams’s newest collection mine small instances for larger meanings… Once again, Williams’s askew, precise prose demonstrates tremendous compassion and skill.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“[T]he hysterics in Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine have already fallen apart, and author Diane Williams catalogs their damage with avant-garde zeal… [Williams’s] characters speak with such astonishing curiosity and independence that they stake out a space for themselves—where, fully alive and alive in language, they finally become free.”
—O, The Oprah Magazine
“If you’re prone to judging books by their covers, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine is likely as irresistible as what lies inside: Williams’ super-short stories are “folk tales that hammer like a nail gun.” Intrigued? … Well, you should be: Fine x 5 is out of McSweeney’s, which does everything just a liiiittle bit different in the best possible way.”
—The Week’s 28 Books to Read in 2016
“Williams’ stories are like summaries of “Leave It to Beaver” episodes written by an alien: that is to say, supercollided collages of domestic life that somehow become stranger the more you read them.”
—SFGate Recommended Reading
“[Williams’] details are always precise, and her masterful prose distills her fictional worlds down to bright, brief moments… we can feel ‘the mysteries of daily life’ pulsing through Williams’ keenly observed, contemplative tales.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
“Perhaps the finest collection of 40 stories since Donald Barthelme, Williams lights this one up with tremendous humor and wit.”
“A Diane Williams story resembles a story as it exists in the mind at the moment it reifies from abstract brain activity into concrete language. Her stories—events, ‘slices of life,’ human things—are free from the interlocutor of literary convention. They are just being, and they are about just being.”
“Centrifugal stories, supershort and superpithy, by avant-gardist Williams. In Williams’ stories, a non sequitur has the same weight as an ordinary logical proposition, as if to suggest that either we are very illogical creatures indeed or that no one is really listening to anyone else anyway… Charged with meaning, every word carrying more than its weight, this is a series of provocations inviting us to look at the world a little differently from before.”
“…the best of the [flash fiction] bunch, in my estimation, is Diane Williams…the ways in which these stories, rarely longer than two pages, upend the alleged normalcy of the bourgeoisie is particularly sharp. While not exactly a work of parody, a sly sense of humour ripples throughout the book, and, like any good joke, many of these pieces conclude with unexpected twists of language and imagery.”
—The Globe and Mail
“These intensely taut, fraught little tales [are] refreshing. They are surreal, but not Kafkaesque, or even Murakami-like. People do not perform impossible activities, experience bizarre events or even say absurd things, so much as they inhabit little worlds of highly condensed experience… They pace through plots like expertly crafted androids plagued by software glitches.”
—Las Vegas Weekly
“Nobody comes close to the American short story writer Diane Williams, perhaps because they’re too scared. Her gifts are curious and disturbing, yet paraded with exquisite calm. Her eighth collection in nearly three decades, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, arrived this month to prove that the uncanny is alive and well and living in her head… Her stories climb inside your mind and ask, in the words of one narrator, ‘Whose house is this?’”
“Williams’s exquisitely deadpan method can result in a story that evidently means something devastating but is so obliquely sketched that the moral is left tantalisingly out of reach.”
“Her stories may be short, but their mysterious centers are nearly unreachable—and reaching them is not always part of the exercise. As Williams once said,“How unlifelike to understand perfectly.” Instead of reinforcing normal human habits of perception, her fiction exists to subvert them.”
“Williams renders every single word like a prism of implication, and she stretches the space between sentences as wide as chapter breaks, while the sentences themselves somehow read like stand-alone stories. The density of her writing warrants a closer reading than most fiction because it also reads like superb poetry, just casual and fluid and lilting between verse and improvised speech.”
“The death of metaphors, the pruning or framing of ridiculous language: much of this marks the fiction of Diane Williams, one of our most persistent side-eyers of realism over the last twenty-five years. This [is] to say that where Balzac or Dickens—those paradigmatic authors of 21st century TV realism—go deep, Williams instead lingers on surfaces. Where they work to build houses for the reader to enter into and reside in, Williams works alongside them, constructing an edifice that estranges the neighborhood, a home that only looks familiar insofar as it has one window and a doorknob… This also proves why Jonathan Franzen, the godhead of televisual prose, describes Williams’ fiction like this: ‘Her fiction makes very familiar things very, very weird.’ He can’t stop himself from transcribing her work into comfortable, realist terms, but when he can’t pay the word ‘weird’ a high enough wage, he has to bring in ‘very’ twice to finish the job.”
“Williams’s short stories operate according to the principles of Viktor Shklovsky’s ostranenie: making strange in order to reveal the ordinary anew. They are dense and dazzling oddities with an ear for patois and steeped deeply in the uncanny. Darkness and desire and despair and longing and schadenfreude and judgment roil just below the surface of seemingly pleasant exchanges, and, in their telling, subvert the reader’s expectations of just how a story unfolds.”
“Forty very brief stories strike with precision… Encompassing interactions both vast and intimate… Williams’s avant-garde stories explore the faulty power of the mind as well as the delusions we cling to to keep moving forward.”
“To say that Williams is a poet who happens to write prose won’t quite do. Although there are affinities with postwar American poetry, Williams is working consciously… against the grain of the conventions of fiction. Her stories tend to veer away from any expectations put forward in the first few lines. There are apparent disjunctions, jarring juxtapositions, and seeming non sequiturs. Language often seems to be calling attention to itself and away from the narrative flow. But these turns often resolve into texts with their own sort of coherence—of a sort that’s neither vacuum-sealed nor merely morally ambiguous in the ways we’ve been trained to read fiction. No epiphanies or plots, but vectors of life.”
One Hundred Apocalypses and Other Apocalypses by Lucy Corin, PaperbackRegular price $15.00
Lucy Corin’s dazzling collection is powered by one hundred apocalypses: a series of short stories, many only a few lines, that illuminate moments of vexation and crisis, revelations and revolutions. An apocalypse might come in the form of the end of a relationship or the end of the world, but what it exposes is the tricky landscape of our longing for a clean slate.
Three longer stories are equally visionary: in “Eyes of Dogs,” a soldier returns from war and encounters a witch who may in fact be his mother; “Madmen” describes an America where children who reach adolescence choose the madman who will accompany them into adulthood; in “Godzilla versus the Smog Monster,” a teenager is flustered by his older, wilder neighbor while California burns on the other side of the continent.
At once mournful and explosively energetic, One Hundred Apocalypses and Other Apocalypses makes manifest the troubled conscience of an uneasy time.
Interviews and Extras:
Read an excerpt of apocalypses on Buzzfeed.
Check out selected Apocalypses of the week on the Tendency.
Largehearted Boy teams up with Lucy Corin in creating the musical companion to One Hundred Apocalypses and Other Apocalypses.
Lucy Corin interview with Flaunt Magazine.
Lucy Corin interview with The Rumpus
Praise for Lucy Corin
“There is no writer quite like Lucy Corin. Her control over language–her unique phrasing feels like an incantation—leads the reader willingly toward their own reckoning. What makes Corin such an amazing writer, one of my favorites, is that once she brings you to the end you don’t want to leave, because, as she says in one of her apocalypses, ‘finally it was all so beautiful.’”
—Kevin Wilson, author of The Family Fang
“Unforgettable voices resist description. Lucy Corin sounds like no one; prickly, shrewd, faintly paranoid or furtive, witty and also savage, she has something of Paley’s gift for soliloquy combined with Dickinson’s passionate need to hold the world at bay, that sense of a voice emanating from a Skinner box. Her achievement is already dazzling, he promise immense.”
—Citation of the American Academy of Arts and Letters Rome Prize
“Lucy Corin has a gift for illuminating the dark and the unsettling through flashes of often absurdist humor, even of beauty.”
“Corin is one of the few authors who continuously plays with the form of the short story, and the fact that her subject matter is alternate endings to the world (which is the term she uses for these short, morbid vignettes) is amazing.”
“An eye-opening, enlightening read.”
“[Corin] leaves us thinking deeply about parts of humanity we don’t often examine under a magnifying glass.”
“‘One Hundred Apocalypses’ is a delightful, endlessly inventive read.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
“Corin’s newest collection One Hundred Apocalypses and Other Apocalypses (McSweeney’s) resists categorization.”
“In her newest book, […] Corin creates a series of dreamscapes in which the apocalypse becomes a set piece for melancholy, humorous, beautiful, and lonely ruminations.”
“These mordant, pitch-perfect apopularcalypses mock our manic inflation of the ordinary, how emotional minutiae run rampant in the hyperthyroid imagination of of post-modern, post-religious, post-literate Apocalyptamerica.”
—The Review of Contemporary Fiction
“Corin’s work engenders creative thought.”
—San Francisco Magazine
“The printed book is almost as beautiful, intriguing and interesting as the stories themselves.”
“[U]ndeniably beautiful all the way through”
“Lucy Corin is a genius.”
“[M]agical, intellectual, and utterly convincing”
“[Corin] is at her fearsome best.”
—Los Angeles Review of Books
“[P]repare for a hackling, for all of your hairs to raise themselves in one grand, creepy salute.”
Between Heaven and Here by Susan Straight, HardcoverRegular price $24.00
In August in Rio Seco, California, the ground is too hard to bury a body. But Glorette Picard is dead, and across the canal, out in the orange groves, they’ll gather shovels and pickaxes and soak the dirt until they can lay her coffin down. First, someone needs to find her son Victor, who memorizes SAT words to avoid the guys selling rock, and someone needs to tell her uncle Enrique, who will be the one to hunt down her killer, and someone needs to brush out her perfect crown of hair and paint her cracked toenails. As the residents of this dry-creek town prepare to bury their own, it becomes clear that Glorette’s life and death are deeply entangled with the dark history of the city and the untouchable beauty that, finally, killed her.
Praise for Between Heaven and Here:
“It is only the rarest of novels that cry for a sequel, the most unusual of stories that at once satisfies and leaves the reader aching for more. Susan Straight’s remarkable Take One Candle Light A Room is such a novel. And she has satisfied our desires in Between Heaven and Here, a magnificent novel, that manages to be at once unflinchingly real and transcendently beautiful. Susan Straight is one of the very best American writers. If you haven’t read her, you’re in for a delight and an awakening. If you have, then you’re probably as thrilled as I am that she has taken us back to Rio Seco.”
“Susan Straight finds LA’s secret heart in Between Heaven and Here and with a sleight of hand only the masters have, she creates an alley, a neighborhood, a history that is as rich and tragic as any Shakespearean tale.”
“Straight employs glorious language and a riveting eye for detail to create a fully realized, totally believable world.”
—Kirkus (Starred Review)
“The mysterious murder of a hooker kicks off this exquisitely wrought final installment (after Take One Candle Light a Room) of Straight’s trilogy, set in fictional Rio Seco, California. When Glorette Picard’s longtime admirer, Sidney, discovers her body in a shopping cart in an alley behind a taquería, he fears the wrath or indifference of the police, and so claims her corpse as his responsibility, setting of a storm of consequences. Left behind to weather the world on his own is Glorette’s young son, Victor, who memorizes SAT vocabulary words to drown out the crack dealers, and her uncle Enrique, who takes it upon himself to avenge her death. Straight plunges readers into a whirlwind of dialects, drugs, derelict homes, and delinquent locals as she weaves together the story of Glorette’s life and death, while addressing weighty and timely issues like race, language, and the socioeconomically disenfranchised. Straight deftly avoids clichés and easy outs, and her refusal to vilify or sanctify the numerous members of her cast allows the experiences of each to resonate powerfully.”
—Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
“And yet, in a novel set in a world in which people are too often stripped of dignity, Straight has accomplished the larger act of ennobling her characters. She sees them clearly and gives them a striking presence on the page.”
—New York Times
“Straight, a 2001 National Book Award finalist for Highwire Moon, has the ability to create straightforward contemporary voices, no pun intended. She does not subscribe to the maximalist school of over-the-top characters, yet she can still dramatize the complex, jagged nature of American culture today. ”
—The Daily Beast
“Despite the tragedies that befall them, Straight’s characters still recognize the splendor of the natural world, from the pepper trees behind the taqueria to the orange blossoms in the alley scenting the midnight air… Straight’s group portrait of this community ought to be recognized as a national artistic treasure. Her focus on this singular place magnifies the hopes and disappointments of so many Americans, so many humans on earth.”
—The Boston Globe
“Susan Straight has remarkable range as a writer. Her voice can be elegant in the rhythms and vocabulary of her narrative, yet also blunt and raw in dialogue… Her work is so intensely alive in its movement, action, and in the speech of her characters that reading it is almost like being caught in the center of a storm: exhausting but exhilarating at the same time.”
“How can a novel that is essentially the story of a dead prostitute prove so uplifting? It must be some kind of black magic that only Susan Straight can work… And by the end of this gorgeous and heart-wrenching novel, this family will be your people, too.”
—The Dallas Morning Star News
“A thoroughly engrossing novel, one that operates powerfully in the empty, lonely gaps between people.”
“Straight’s writing pulls the reader into a world that is both surreal and yet inescapably concrete, ugly and beautiful all at once. She binds the multifaceted perspectives together into a narrative that is fragmented but still very much whole.”
Rerun Era by Joanna Howard, HardcoverRegular price $24.00
Rerun Era is a captivating, propulsive memoir about growing up in the environmentally and economically devastated rural flatlands of Oklahoma, the entwinement of personal memory and the memory of popular culture, and a family thrown into trial by lost love and illness that found common ground in the television.
Told from the magnetic perspective of Joanna Howard’s past selves from the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, Rerun Era circles the fascinating psyches of her part-Cherokee teamster truck-driving father, her women’s libber mother, and her skateboarder, rodeo bull-riding teenage brother. Illuminating to our rural American present, and the way popular culture portrays the rural American past, Rerun Era perfectly captures the irony of growing up in rural America in the midst of nationalistic fantasies of small town local sheriffs and saloon girls, which manifested the urban cowboy, wild west theme-parks, and The Beverly Hillbillies.
Written in stunning, lyric prose, Rerun Era gives humanity, perspective, humor, and depth to an often invisible part of this country, and firmly establishes Howard as an urgent and necessary voice in American letters.
Praise for Rerun Era
Literary Hub, “Twelve Books You Should Read This October” (2019)
”Rerun Era is both a romp and a deep dive through a late-70s-and-80s childhood, where many of us were remanded to the television for caretaking, fueled on the intoxicants of processed foods, where the day was vast and sometimes, particularly if you were down south, crushing with heat or emptiness or endless lots of red mud. There is a warm hilarity that moves through this book and a kind of cracking pain that follows. It’s a story of time, family, culture, and subjectivity we all need to read, written with a wild, quiet, and wide intelligence.”
“Children are given the gift and burden of feeling the infinite in a single afternoon, an hour, an event—Rerun Era, a wonderfully tactile and intimate book, returns that gift to its readers. Each chapter explodes with the force and shine of fireworks on an unlit night.”
“Joanna Howard has a masterful understanding of the way memory bends time and forms startling new structures from the patterns of good sameness, bad sameness, strange sameness that compose our lives. She tunnels through this sameness to the glorious specificity at its core, so that these swathes of childhood recaptured feel like they belong to me, even though I know that I never witnessed my own life with such penetrating beauty or insight. Rerun Era is startling and new on every page, a book that you will find yourself in, lose yourself in, and long to return to again and again.”
“Joanna Howard’s memoir, Rerun Era, is a meditation on the uncertainties of memory. Though ‘meditation’ is maybe not the right word. Perhaps ‘attempt’ is better. Like an attempt to scale a wall, an attempt to capture the flag, an attempt on someone’s life. It is like a meditation, but more sweaty, surprising, and funnier than I generally think of meditations to be. What I’m trying to say is rather than sitting back and letting the memories flicker through, Howard hustles around—in a sort of breathless, sometimes wacky game of slow-mo sunset tag with her past—where the rules are always changing and no one really seems to mind. Like the world of childhood it mostly lives within, Rerun Era is mysterious and familiar. Howard has a way of echolocating difficult histories of family and trauma—of the ever-shifting meanings of America even—that is compelling and surprising and kind. Reading this book is like pressing your face up against an old TV screen, letting the rainbow of glowing points shimmer right through you. Faulkner once wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Which I think could describe the central mechanism at work here, but with a slight update: The past is never dead—it’s just gone into reruns.”
—Justin Carder, EM Wolfman General Interest Small Bookstore, Oakland, CA
Joanna Howard’s small, compelling memoir will hook you from the opening page. Recounting the author’s childhood in rural Oklahoma, Rerun Era is told in short, vivid bursts, and each scene blends events in Howard’s life–including her father’s sudden, devastating illness–with the sentiments of the pop culture she was steeped in as a young person living in America during the 1970s and 80s. Her family members are Dickensian for their comic timing and dynamism, but Howard’s prose is striking, precise, and never showy. Rerun Era is powerful little book from a gifted writer.
—Liv Stratman, Books Are Magic, Brooklyn, CA
Joanna Howard’s Rerun Era is like if Violet Beauregard had an episode of MTV’s Cribs, giving a tour of her Oklahoma hometown, her dad’s cool boat, all her favorite TV shows, and a catalogue of childhood injuries. But Rerun Era is also a sometimes painful exploration of the strangeness of childhood and flawed family dynamics, including an angsty older brother and a lovable but troubled father. Joanna Howard perfectly captured my childhood obsession with the idyllic life of woodland creatures who lived in cozy little abodes inside hollowed trees in such a real and true way. I loved this book.
—Katie Tomzynski, Alley Cat Books, San Francisco, CA
“An elliptical and elusive memoir that skips back and forth across time and circles back on itself as the author comes to terms with events and circumstances in a way that she couldn’t comprehend as a young child…when coming-of-age in hardscrabble Oklahoma didn’t seem as toxic as she would later realize it was, when her parents’ marriage wasn’t as unstable as it would soon prove to be, and when TV reruns, turning time into something of a jigsaw puzzle, seemed as real as whatever she was experiencing in her so-called real life… Deftly written, with a tonal command that complements a child’s observations with an adult’s insights.”
“The thing about eras is that, someday, they’re bygone, and Howard records this one with clarity and a kind of reverence. This is both funny and touching, and likely to reach readers in wholly unexpected ways.”
“This is a short, fast, laugh-out-loud read, but it’s sticky; Rerun Era will keep playing in the reader’s mind like the earworms of childhood.”
“Rerun Era captures the sounds, smells, and emotional tenor of growing up in rural Oklahoma. Entwined with Howard’s memories of countrified TV and movies (she loved Smoky and the Bandit even more than Robin Hood) are those of her cheating, truck-driving father and her women’s rights activist mother. Together, these memories portray a part of America—and its provincial popular culture—rarely explored in literature.”
My Favorite Girlfriend was a French Bulldog by Legna Rodríguez Iglesias, HardcoverRegular price $22.00
My Favorite Girlfriend was a French Bulldog is a novel told in fifteen stories, linked by the same protagonist, our narrator, who—in her own voice and channeling the voices of others—creates an unsparing, multigenerational portrait of her native Cuba. Though she feels suffocated by the island and decides to leave, hers is not just a political novel—nor just a queer novel, an immigrant novel, a feminist novel—but a deeply existential one, in which mortality, corporeality, bureaucracy, emotional and physical violence, and the American Dream define the long journey of our narrator and her beloved pet dog, who gives the book both its title and its unforgettable ending. In its daring style and structure—both playful and profound, youthful and mature—and its frank discussion of political and sexual identity, My Favorite Girlfriend was a French Bulldog marks the emergence of an original and essential new voice.
Praise for My Favorite Girlfriend Was a French Bulldog
Listed as a featured top book by Publishers Weekly, Chicago Review of Books, and Ms Magazine.
One of Lithub’s ”5 Books You May Have Missed in July.”
“(A) boundary-breaking work… at once wild, compassionate, and challenging… precise and correct.”
“This profound and delightful novel-in-stories… is a breathtaking exploration of identity, country, art, and family.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“There is a power and rawness to these stories that is deeply affecting....clever and intriguing.”
“Unique, raw, funny, ruthless prose.”
—Cristóbal Pera, Editor, Vintage Español
“There is only one way to know that you are alone, believing you are not,” said a voice in My Favorite Girlfriend Was a French Bulldog. Thought-capsules such as this pop open when least expected in this intriguing collection of vignettes in which bodies and beings are bound to a collective claustrophobia that stretches from the small towns in Cuba to the big city of Miami. There is something rotting away here. It is pervasive, and it reeked. It reeks of the decay of humanity. And yet, as much as there is sullenness of expression throughout, so too are there flashes of tender joy and humorous affection, like the tossing of a flip flop into the air or the wagging of a dog’s tail. The book ends wagging its tail, and it made me wag mine.”
—Giannina Braschi author of Yo-Yo Boing!
“Legna Rodríguez Iglesias is the most enchanting Cuban writer alive today and My Favorite Girlfriend was a French Bulldog is a wry, brilliant and delightful ride.”
—Achy Obejas author of The Tower of Antilles
“There is a winning self-awareness to these stories that charms as much as it disorients. Funny, surprising, and disturbing—not so much by turns as in layers, all at once—the fifteen sections of Legna Rodríguez Iglesias’s strange and wonderful My Favorite Girlfriend Was a French Bulldog stand alone and also build on one another. I both admired and enjoyed this book, happy to get a little lost along its deceptively meandering paths, and happy to have this author snap me back to attention, over and over, and then startle and satisfy me with the ending. Even as she yanks you around, Rodríguez Iglesias knows precisely what she’s doing: she’ll rip your heart out—with a wink.”
—Hadley Moore author of Not Dead Yet and Other Stories
“In My Favorite Girlfriend Was a Bulldog, Legna Rodríguez Iglesias reminds the reader that revolution lives in the world and in the self. Dog is a droll god in Cuba, one that takes the protagonist on wild adventures in these interconnected stories that slay me with their wry humor and potent storytelling.”
—Carmen Gimenez Smith author of Milk and Filth
Black Imagination, by Natasha Marin, HardcoverRegular price $22.00
“(D)on’t think for one minute that Black Imagination is easy. As you will read here, it is hard-earned and sometimes dangerous, but it’s necessary, and radical, to claim and work towards. Listening to my people in this book gave me so much life, and I’m pretty sure, dear reader, you’re in for the same.” —from the Foreword by Steven Dunn
What is your origin story?
How do you heal yourself?
Imagine a world where you are loved, safe, and valued.
“Witnessing is sacred work too. Seeing ourselves as whole and healthy is an act of pure rebellion in a world so titillated by our constant subjugation,” reflects viral curator Natasha Marin, on Black Imagination. This dynamic collection of Black voices works like an incantation of origin, healing, and imagination. Born from a series of conceptual art exhibitions, the perspectives gathered here are no where near monochromatic. “Craving nuance over stereotype, we sought out black children, black youth, LGBTQ+ black folks, unsheltered black folks, incarcerated black folks, neurodivergent black folks, as well as differently-abled black folks.” Each insists on their own variance and challenges every reader to witness for themselves that Black Lives (and Imaginations) Matter.
Cover art by Vanessa German.
Praise for Black Imagination
Recommended by Jason Reynolds on PBS News Hour
“Black Imagination reads like a survival guide with a sense of humor as deep as its sense of history, a literary oasis for black people fed up with the white gaze.”
“Our bodies and actions are under external control, but the well-spring of rebellion is our own imagination. In Black Imagination, Natasha Marin shows us how to free our imagining — as a first step toward freeing ourselves.”
“Black Imagination is somehow as innovatively utopic as it is sincerely soulful. I’ve never felt the physical feeling of pages melting in my hands or chapters folding themselves into squadrons of black airplanes flying to freedom because I’ve never experienced an art object like Black Imagination. It is exquisite art in action.”
—Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy
“Have you ever read a book and realized you’re reading something you didn’t know you needed? This is not a book to simply read in total and digest—yes, do that—but it is also a work to return to in parts whenever necessary. It’s a book to ingest like medicine, because it is that. Lastly, it is a reminder that joy, too, is necessary and also a form of resistance.”
—Rion Amilcar Scott, author The World Doesn’t Require You
“In an age where spirituality has a price-tag and crystals, teas, and sage reign supreme, this book is a welcome rebuttal. Black Imagination shakes us out of our cultural trance and reminds us that so much of what we deem to be true is learned, and so much of what is actually true has to be remembered. With the storytelling talent of Grio tradition this book is required reading for the African diaspora.”
—Akilah Hughes, author of Obviously: Stories from My Timeline and host of Crooked Media’s What A Day
“If there is healing to be done it begins with a book like Black Imagination. It’s time to return to our beauty, step by step, word by word.”
—E. Ethelbert Miller, author of If God Invented Baseball
“Words create worlds. Black Imagination weaves lyrical narratives of being and becoming into a tapestry that shows us the beauty and power of unfettered imagination. From cosmic allegories on origin to piercing reckonings with race and family trauma, this book creates a doorway through which we can become reacquainted with our essential selves, and dream a whole new reality.”
—Keisha-Gaye Anderson, author of Everything Is Necessary
“(W)eaponize(s) a conceptual work of art in the asymmetrical war that is race in America… the words penetrate the defenses and break your heart.”
—Dr Jon Woodson, author of Summer Games and The Esoteric Mission of Zora Neale Hurston
“Moving, nuanced, and realer than real, Black Imagination is a necessary archive for these times. This unique project asks Black people to respond to three simple yet profound questions about one’s origin, self-healing rituals and alternate world visions in which Black people feel safe and are valued. The rawness of these pages, along with a versatility of voice and vision makes for an immersive read that galvanizes the imagination and massages the heart.”
—Samantha Thornhill author of A Card for My Father
“Authentic and empowered, wistful and insistent, the chorus of voices gathered in Black Imagination sings in defiance of patriarchal, heterosexist, white supremacist erasure. Drawing from the ether of pre-memory, the soulsoil of ancestral knowledge, and depths of individual and collective longing, this collection bears witness to the many ways Blackfolk have devised/unearthed to resist the chokeholds of violence on our subjectivity. A powerful testament to the richness and resilience of Black interiority, Black Imagination reminds each and every one of us of our truest story: ‘Despite and beyond time, I am.’”
—Lauren K. Alleyne, author of Honeyfish
“The agenda of Black Imagination is defiantly hopeful, and rests on a simple, but deeply complicated tenet of faith—faith in the proposition that empathy and hope are all functions of the imagination, or even the products of the imagination. To read Black Imagination is to witness writers wrestling with the abstraction of language to achieve the tangible and bodily effects of safety in a hostile world. Think Soul Train Line, think The Stroll, think the joyous striving with language for the possibilities of safety and hope.”
—Kwame Dawes, author of Nebraska
“Black Imagination reveals itself at times as a baptism, a confessional, a communion, and a coronation. This really isn’t a book. It’s more like a rosary or a mandala. Which is to say, this is a holy thing. Handle it with reverence. Read it out loud like a prayer.”
—Mike Gaston, CUT CEO
“What happens when the Black imagination thrives, unburdened by the white gaze? This collection reaches across time and generations, cities and continents, identities and experiences, to answer: We fill the unburdened space with rituals, remembrances, and discoveries, with our joys and vulnerabilities. The contributors’ poems, vignettes and smaller morsels of language come together to form a chorus, their voices recurring in multiple passages throughout the collection, to powerful effect. Black Imagination is a freedom song, deep-throated and resonant. The collection also answers the age-old Black question—Where your people from?—and builds on it: Where do you go to heal? And there is healing in the pages of this collection, medicine in the lines.”
—Deesha Philyaw, author of The Secret Lives of Church Ladies
“It’s fitting that this project began on the backend of Marin’s two reparations projects—the first for folks to reach out to each other; the second Marin’s healing of herself—cause this here is a catalogue and a map. One of the riffs begins “[l]egend says that I was born in the back seat of a Cadillac,” and you know Avery Young is telling you all that’s needed to know he survives. These pieces, together, are a kind of rent party, a reminder that Black folks can gather in a room and heal. “Coping is ever so awkward,” as Natasha herself says—but damn if it ain’t necessary. And damn if that coping itself, does turn into a beauty here, a Black imagination makes all of us better.”
—Reginald Dwayne Betts author of Bastards of the Reagan Era
“I challenge us to read this tremendous and tremendously important book, white friends. I challenge us to read it without inserting ourselves into the narrative and without rushing to interpret experiences that are not our own (a hint: none of these are). I challenge us to read it without revving into some look-at-me-ish version of empathy which, at best, only ever demonstrates the weakest, most facile form of allyship. And then I challenge us to read it again. And again. “We persist,” Natasha Marin writes. “We have persisted. We will continue to persist with or without acknowledgement.” Black Imagination does not need our justification. But it demands our attention. And it’s about damn time it gets it.”
—Jill Alexander Essbaum, author of Hausfrau
“Black Imagination required Natasha Marin to curate as a curate in the medieval sense—a spiritual guide that cares for souls. This assemblage—at once a book, an installation, a secret meeting and a waiting room—dares to sing an aria in white and violet with Brooks. We are challenged to move beyond the abject, beyond pure pessimism, on the wings of a different criticality—to walk with Hayden, with Douglass ‘visioning a world where none is lonely, none hunted, alien.’”
—Christian Campbell, author of Running the Dusk
“Like a goooood gris-gris sack comes this book. I looked inside and among the medicines found some warm balsam, some astringent drams in brilliant vials, even powerful seeds that tumbled me up into deep interiors. What Natasha Marin has curated via this anthology-as-curative she herself needed, is a multifarious and vibrant sociality of Black care; thus, a network entangling giving a damn with only one left to give. That generosity is Black Imagination’s principle ingredient pot-and-kettled into the poems, microessays, origin stories, spells, and rituals gathered for our collective dreaming and healing. How you feeling? That so? Black Imagination invites you to accept this good balm being given.”
—Douglas Kearney, author of Buck Studies
Spilt Milk, HardcoverRegular price $22.00
What role does a mother play in raising thoughtful, generous children? In her literary debut, internationally award-winning writer Courtney Zoffness considers what we inherit from generations past—biologically, culturally, spiritually—and what we pass on to our children. Spilt Milk is an intimate, bracing, and beautiful exploration of vulnerability and culpability. Zoffness relives her childhood anxiety disorder as she witnesses it manifest in her firstborn; endures brazen sexual advances by a student in her class; grapples with the implications of her young son’s cop obsession; and challenges her Jewish faith. Where is the line between privacy and secrecy? How do the stories we tell inform who we become? These powerful, dynamic essays herald a vital new voice.
Praise for Spilt Milk
“(K)eenly perceptive… masterful essays in a fresh, vulnerable voice readers will want to hear more of.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“(M)oves back and forth through time with an elegant quickness that insightfully captures how the past shapes who we are and who we might become.”
—Booklist (starred review)
“In her layered storytelling, (Zoffness) brings empathy to every situation and often finds empathy for herself along the way. Spilt Milk is a generous, warm debut from an already prizewinning writer.”
—Book Page (starred review)
“Each essay is just as thoughtful and smart and well-told as the last one — don’t miss this.
“In Spilt Milk, Courtney Zoffness, with compassionate clarity, exposes herself—her worst fears, her best hopes—to expose her art.”
—The Masters Review
“A slim, tender collection of essays.”
—Good Morning America
“lyrical and brilliant in the way a jewel reveals many facets at different angles.”
“A graceful debut.”
“In this collection of essays, Courtney Zoffness tackles motherhood in a way that is simultaneously fresh and achingly relatable… Zoffness recreates tender, moving, and poetic moments that will etch their way into your brain and heart for a very long time. We should be so lucky to get more work from the young writer.”
“Searching and exquisitely-wrought.”
“I don’t know what I love the most about Courtney Zoffness’s Spilt Milk. The taut originality of the prose? The acuity of its insights? The daring vulnerability? There is so much I want to say about Spilt Milk, but honestly they’re all variations of This is fucking brilliant. Whatever you think this book is, it’s more. A debut writer this talented and skilled is an event in itself.”
—Mat Johnson, author of Pym
“Gentle, playful and laced with subtle wit, these essays are a welcome balm in an insane and un-gentle time.”
—Mary Gaitskill, author of This is Pleasure and Bad Behavior
“Spilt Milk contains the wisdom of a mother, the maturity of an older sister, and the wide-eyed wonder of a small child. It’s a magical gift of a collection.”
—Lisa Taddeo, author of Three Women
“In these ten musical, open-hearted essays, Courtney Zoffness establishes herself as one of our most soulful, clear-eyed narrators. A lucid dream of a book I wished would never end.”
—Elisa Albert, author of After Birth
“Wry and masterful—Spilt Milk examines the multiplicities of self and culture, asking the tough questions with remarkable concision. Courtney Zoffness is a writer of supernatural acuity and wit.”
—T Kira Madden, author of Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls
“Spilt Milk is current, self-examining, honest, insightful, biting, and funny. Essentially, a perfect book.”
—Jesse Eisenberg, actor and playwright, author of Bream Gives me Hiccups and Other Stories
“Perhaps you have heard that being a mother of small children is hard, especially so right now, and finally, here is a book of essays that don’t cover up the messiness, the oddness, the love and the sadness and the worry all at once. Unsanitized and beautiful.”
—Emma Straub, author of All Adults Here and owner of Books Are Magic
“Courtney Zoffness’s collection is written with a fierce and sometimes funny honesty. Zoffness explores motherhood and daughterhood, and how these early attachments make us and unmake us, how they connect us to others—until they are us.”
—Tiphanie Yanique, author of Land of Love and Drowning
“These bright, knowing essays spill over with intelligence and wit. Courtney Zoffness traces the dizzying conflict faced by parents—the daily ricochet between burden and joy—and, with a sharply lyric voice, discovers hidden connections between this domestic struggle and the larger cultural and political winds shifting around us.”
—Ben Marcus, author of Notes from the Fog
“On one level, Spilt Milk is an extraordinary exploration of the connections, small and large; real and imagined, between childhood and parenthood. On another level, it’s irrefutable proof that Courtney Zoffness is a wondrous calculus of a prose writer: keen, inventive, candid, open-hearted, not to mention one helluva stylist.”
—Mitchell S. Jackson, author of Survival Math
Bruce Davidson: SubwayRegular price $65.00
the people in the subway, their flesh juxtaposed against the graffiti, the penetrating effect of the strobe light itself, and even the hollow darkness of the tunnels, inspired an aesthetic that goes unnoticed by passengers who are trapped underground, hiding behind masks and closed off from each other.In this third edition of what is now a classic of photographic literature, a sequence of 118 (including 25 previously unpublished) images transport the viewer through a landscape at times menacing, and at other times lyrical and soulful. The images present the full gamut of New Yorkers, from weary straphangers and languorous ladies in summer dresses to stalking predators and homeless persons. Davidson's accompanying text tells the story behind the images, clarifying his method and dramatizing his obsession with the subway, its rhythms and its particular madness.
Diane Arbus: An Aperture MonographRegular price $65.00
The monograph, composed of 80 photographs, was edited and designed by the painter Marvin Israel, Diane Arbus' friend and colleague, and by her daughter Doon Arbus. Their goal in producing the book was to remain as faithful as possible to the standards by which Arbus judged her own work and to the ways in which she hoped it would be seen.
Universally acknowledged as a photobook classic, Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph is a timeless masterpiece with editions in five languages, and remains the foundation of her international reputation. A quarter of a century has done nothing to diminish the riveting impact of these pictures or the controversy they inspire. Arbus' photographs penetrate the psyche with all the force of a personal encounter and, in doing so, transform the way we see the world and the people in it.
Diane Arbus: A box of ten photographsRegular price $80.00
Acquired by the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC, in 1986—and the only one of the four completed and sold by Arbus that is publicly held—that portfolio is the subject of an exhibition on view at the museum from April through September 2018. This exceptional book replicates the nature of Diane Arbus's original and now legendary object. Smithsonian curator John P. Jacob, who has unearthed a trove of new information in preparing the book and exhibition, weaves a fascinating tale of the creation, production, and continuing repercussions of this seminal work.
Published by Aperture in association with the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.
Question Bridge: Black Males in AmericaRegular price $29.98
Aperture 229: Future GenderRegular price $24.95
Future Gender explores the relationship between photography and transgender lives, histories, and communities.
Guest-edited by Zackary Drucker, the artist, activist, and producer of the television series Transparent, the issue offers an urgent reflection on gender and society and considers how trans and gender-nonconforming individuals have used photography to imagine new expressions of social and personal identity, from the nineteenth century to today.
Aperture magazine is an essential guide to the art and phenomenon of photography, that combines the smartest writing with beautifully reproduced portfolios. Published quarterly, each issue focuses on a major theme in contemporary photography, serving as a book about its subject, for everyone interested in understanding where photography is heading. With fresh perspectives on the medium by leading writers and thinkers, and beautifully designed and produced, Aperture magazine makes new ideas in photography accessible to the photographer, student, and the culturally curious alike.