When I first began to read and write fiction, contemporary literature seemed a venue of originality, boldness, and adventure. It was the late '60s, a very different time in culture and publishing. One could walk into any suburban chain bookstore and find hordes of novels and short story collections offering the prospect of entertainment, emotional and/or intellectual enlightenment, and an anarchic literary spirit. Prominent publishers like New Directions and Grove Press were reliable sources of fresh and fascinating fiction. I knew I could buy any book from these presses and have at the very least an unusual and very engrossing reading experience. In those days, the feeling that innovation and personal vision were the goals of contemporary literature was a pervasive one, and this impression shaped the expectations of my generation of writers and book lovers.
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by Travis Jeppesen
Victims is a novel about the final days of a religious cult called The Overcomers. Like the infamous Heaven's Gate cult whose mass suicide gained world media attention in the 1990s, they are a small group of lost souls guided by the teachings of a charismatic leader, Martin Jones. The Overcomers go about their lives preparing for the cosmic event that will signal the end of their time on earth. Their struggles to reconcile their faith in Jones's teachings with the emotional ups and downs of their relationships, jobs, and interactions with the natural world form the subject of this exquisitely written and highly original novel.
“[A] thrill to read, and... the best debut novel I've read in a long time” — Bookslut
by Benjamin Weissman
The author of the acclaimed transgressive cult classic Dear Dead Person returns with this long awaited second collection of brilliantly written, outrageously imaginative and comedic short stories. Benjamin Weissman is one of the true originals in contemporary American fiction. In Headless, he turns his daredevil wit and fearless storytelling gifts on subjects ranging from Hitler's secret life as a skier to the philosophical musings of identical twin porn stars to the travails of the world's most sitcom-defying family. Weissman's dysfunctional, hilarious, and strangely moving tales of life in contemporary America are a real and unique treasure.
“Brilliant. Wildly inventive, profane, and hilarious. Benjamin Weissman is a master stylist.” — Bret Easton Ellis
by Derek McCormack
Grab Bag is comprised of two interrelated novels, Dark Rides and Wish Book, from one of Canada's most important young writers. Both books are set in the same small rural city, in different eras (1950s, 1930s), each characterized by McCormack's spare and elliptical prose.
“Boy, can Dennis Cooper find 'em! Grab Bag will grab you, all right; plain, simple, and hard.” — John Waters
THE FALL OF HEARTLESS HORSE
by Martha Kinney
The Fall of Heartless Horse is a postmodern multigenerational family drama that is dark, hilarious, moving, and wildly original. By turns lyric, comic, and tragic, it deals with greed, inheritance, heroism, capitalism, sex, and the intertwining of public and private histories. Kinney has brought to life an amazing cast of characters with a "novella in verse" combining elements from ancient Scottish sagas, songs, legal documents, new age literature, and interviews. Here is a deeply affecting tale of ruthlessness, loss, rivalry, and the difficulty of finding one's place in the world.
“Tumultuous and beautiful, an emotional inquiry into writing and the nature of illusion, so highly pleasurable, a surprise and triumph for the American novel” — Claude Simon
by Richard Hell
Godlike, Hell's second novel, is a stunning achievement, and quite likely his most important work in any medium to date. Combining the grit, wit, and invention of Go Now with the charged lyricism and emotional implosiveness of his groundbreaking music, Godlike is brillant in form as well as dazzling in its heartwrenching tale of one whose values in life are the values of poetry. Set largely in the early '70s, but structured as a middle-aged poet's 1997 notebooks and drafts for a memoir-novel, the book recounts the story of a young man's affair with a remarkable teenage poet. Godlike is a novel of compelling originality and trascendent beauty.
“[Hell's] every move and word reveal a naked, impassioned intelligence in the throes of the only truly rock & roll artistic convulsion...” — Lester Bangs
by Trinie Dalton
In Trinie Dalton's tweaked vision of reality, psychic communications between herself and Mick Jagger, The Flaming Lips, Marc Bolan, Lou Reed, and Pavement are daily occurrences. Animals also populate this book; beavers, hamsters, salamanders, black widows, owls, llamas, bats, and many more are characters who befriend the narrator. This collection of stories is told by a woman compelled to divulge her secrets, fantasies, and obsessions with native Californian animals, glam rock icons, and horror movies, among other things. With a setting rooted in urban Los Angeles but colored by mythic tales of beauty borrowed from medieval times, Shakespeare, and Grimm's fairy tales, Wide Eyed makes the difficulties of surviving in a contemporary American city more palatable by showing the reader that magic and escape is always possible.
“Trinie Dalton is as radically original a young writer as I've ever come across: a post-punk, post-apocalyptic, post-everything sensibility, casting spells of willed innocence against the powers of darkness she knows terrifyingly well.” — David Gates
by James Greer
In 1994, a young woman named Fiat Lux donates twenty-one notebooks full of her writings to a university library and then disappears. It's only later that her close relationship with a well known rock musician who had recently committed suicide is discovered, and the notebook's contents become the subject of growing fascination, conjecture, and gossip. Intending to satisfy the public's insatiable curiosity about the rock star and throw light on the author's rumored involvement in his now infamous death, and, more importantly, hoping to make a case for her remarkable writings as a work of literature, the university's press has decided to publish her notebooks in a single volume under the title she had given them, Artificial Light.
“Artifical Light skates on the purity of confession. It's a brutal reveal; an Abyss Narrative with hooks. Read it in a rush of abomination and rise above, rise above.” — Stephen Malkmus
New fiction from the blogging underground
Dennis Cooper (from his introduction):
"This anthology intends to bring to light some of the new fiction writers who are using the Internet's labyrinthine array of blogs and personal web pages to expose, test, and develop their work. The contributors range in age from sixteen to early forties. They are gay, straight, and in some cases still searching for their identities. They live in North America's cities and small towns as well as in countries as physically far afield as Norway, Italy, Spain, Denmark, France, and the UK. Their fiction ranges in character from adventurous literary works to pieces that are astonishingly emotional, sexual, and/or personally revealing. What unifies them is their extraordinary talent, their daring and highly individualistic approaches to composing fiction, and the breathtaking freshness, charge, and skill of their prose. Somewhere in this anthology's collection of mostly unknown, exciting voices are the next important writers of English language fiction."
by Matthew Stokoe
Hollywood, the City of Dreams. Jack had one ambition: to become famous, a star--in exactly what way he didn't care. He just wanted to be like the people whose lives he followed in the tabloids. Instead he entered a world much seedier than anything he could have imagined, a world of drugs and crime, whores, snuff shows, incest, deceit, and despair. His wife, Karen, a hooker, is found dead - murdered and disemboweled. During his search for her killer he meets Bella, a woman of immense wealth, and sees a chance to make his dreams of money and fame come true. As it turns out, though, his nightmare is only beginning.
Includes a new introduction by Dennis Cooper.
"Soaked in such graphic detail that the pages smell, Matthew Stokoe's High Life is the sickest revision of the California crime novel, ever."
— Paper Magazine
THE SHOW THAT SMELLS
by Derek McCormack
McCormack begins his quirky Tod Browning-inspired tale with a disclaimer: "This book is a work of fiction. It is a parody. It is a phantasmagoria . . . Elsa Schiaparelli was never a vampire. Shocking! by Schiaparelli never contained blood." The work of Schiaparelli, a 1930s Italian fashion designer, was influenced by Surrealist Salvador Dali, and the same spirit permeates The Show that Smells, which is set in a maze of mirrors. Schiaparelli dresses introduced playfulness to the fashion industry and a sense of "anything goes." She branched into perfume and became designer to a number of film stars. In addition to Schiaparelli, this tale is about Jimmie Rodgers, a country music singer dying of tuberculosis, and his wife, Carrie, who tries to save him by selling her soul to a devil who designs haute couture clothing.
""Derek McCormack has written a mini-masterpiece that keeps swelling with invention long after you've put it down."
— Guy Maddin
THE LATE WORK OF MARGARET KROFTIS
by Mark Gluth
The Late Work of Margaret Kroftis begins during the later days of Margaret Kroftis's life. She is a writer, living alone. As she experiences a personal tragedy the narrative moves forward in an emotionally coherent manner that exists separately from linear time. Themes of loss and grief cycle and repeat and build upon each other. They affect the text and create a complex structure of crosshatched narratives within narratives. These mirror each other while also telling unique stories of loss that are both separate from Margaret's as well as deeply intertwined.
This groundbreaking debut demonstrates an affinity with the work of such contemporary European writers as Agota Kristof and Marie Redonnet, while existing in a place and time that is uniquely American. Composed in brief paragraphs and structured as a series of vignettes, pieces of fiction, and autobiography, The Late Work of Margaret Kroftis creates a world in which a woman's life is refracted through dreamlike logic. Coupled with the spare language in which it is written, this logic distorts and heightens the emotional truths the characters come to terms with, while elevating them beyond the simply literal.
by Matthew Stokoe
Mother's corpse in bits, dead dog on the roof, girlfriend in a coma, baby nailed to the wall, and a hundred tons of homicidal beef stampeding through the subway system. And Steven thought the slaughterhouse was bad...
"[A] phantasmagoria of extreme violence, death, sex, bestiality, self-surgery, torture, and a really, really, really bad mother-son relationship, all of which takes what the marquis de Sade did and pushes it down the road a little farther. Stokoe is an able craftsman, which makes the content all the more horrifying as he blasts through boundaries and finds increasingly twisted ways of making readers squirm." - Publishers Weekly
THE MECHANICS OF HOMOSEXUAL INTERCOURSE
by Lonely Christopher
The Mechanics of Homosexual Intercourse, a radical map of shortcomings in our daily experiences in the form of a debut story collection, presents thematically related windows into serious emotional trouble and monstrous love. Lonely Christopher combines a striking emotional grammar with an unyielding imagination in the lovely-ugly architecture of his stories.
"[A] provocative and refreshing debut collection."
- Publishers Weekly