Time Keeps On Slipping

Another quiet week here at Winkelman Abbey, as we approach the end of winter. On the left is Surreal Expulsion, the newest collection from excellent West Michigan poet D.R. James, who has been published in two issues of The 3288 Review. On the right is the new issue of Rain Taxi, about which I cannot say enough good things. I have to keep my wits about me when reading Rain Taxi or I might accidentally purchase every book they review in every issue.

Just above the poetry book is the stone I use to massage by head when struck with a tension (or other) headache. Seriously. It feels good to work the locked-up tendons and muscles on the side of my head with a smooth, cool piece of rock. And of course it also feels good when I stop.

In reading news I finished A People’s Future of the United States and can whole-heartedly recommend it to anyone and everyone who has an interest in superb speculative fiction. It is a masterful collection. I am now about halfway through The Monster Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson. This is the sequel to The Traitor Baru Cormorant, which I read a couple of year ago. Monster is every bit as good as Traitor, and I recommend both to anyone who likes dense, intricately plotted fantasy history novels. These books would fit comfortably on the shelf next to Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose and Foucault’s Pendulum, and K.J. Parker’s The Etched City.

I am also browsing through The Essential W.S. Merwin, in order to re-familiarize myself with the work of the former poet laureate who passed away a couple of days ago. With Mary Oliver‘s death back in January, this makes two towering figures of arts and letters who have left us behind this winter. I have a sinking feeling that 2019 will be for poets what 2016 was for musicians. I hope I am wrong.

Here are some Merwin links:

A Quiet Week

It was a quiet week here at Winkelman Abbey, what with the latest polar vortex turning Grand Rapids into a wasteland of ice and snow. Not a lot of time or energy for complex tasks (or thought), so it is just as well that the new stack was small.

From left we have the latest issue of The Paris Review and the new Two Lines journal. Next is 77, the most recent shipment from my subscription to Open Letter Books. The last two are If This Goes On and Hope in This Timeline, books from a couple of Kickstarter campaigns which I backed some time ago. They will go nicely with the other resistance-themed anthologies which I have picked up over the last few months.

Speaking of such anthologies, I am still reading through A People’s Future of the United States, which remains amazing. Such consistently powerful writing from an exceptionally diverse group of writers! I expect to have it finished by the end of this week.

This issue of The Paris Review includes an interview with Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who will turn 100 in a couple of weeks! The interview was conducted over several weeks in 2018, when he was 99. That he is still alive is remarkable, and that he is still active in the literary world is nothing short of astonishing! In the interview he offhandedly mentions regular occurrences from his early life in France, like occasionally seeing Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoer in a cafe in Paris. You know – trivial things.

Ferlinghetti’s book A Coney Island of the Mind was published in 1958, which means it has been out for over 60 years. I have the 50th anniversary edition, which I picked up at City Lights Bookstore this past June. Ferlinghetti has been doing great things in and for the literary world for a decade longer than I have been alive, and he is still going at it, with a new book, Little Boy, coming out on March 19. I was going to hold off on buying more books for a while, but I can see this is a lost cause.

For more on Sartre and de Beauvoir, I highly recommend At the Existentialist Cafe.

Suddenly, A Stack of Books

So I started this week expecting to maybe get one or two books from my various subscriptions, and maybe buy myself a little something. This in fact happened – the right-most book in the second row of the above photo (“Muslim”: A Novel) is the latest from Deep Vellum Publishing. Just to its left is Screaming Like War from Sault Ste. Marie poet Mark Senkus, which I picked up over the weekend while in the Upper Peninsula visiting my girlfriend’s family.

All the rest of these books appeared unexpectedly.

The bottom row consists of the contents of the new shipment from Ugly Duckling Presse. Four books of poetry, one of experimental prose, and Emergency INDEX, which is a listing of well over 100 performance art works in calendar year 2018. It’s all brilliant stuff, and I wish I had a couple of years free so I could bury myself in the beauty therein.

The top row, and the first three titles in the second row, are books of poetry which I unexpectedly acquired when I attended the Evening of Literary Luminescence, a fundraiser for local literary organization Write616. Not surprisingly, almost all of the poetry is by local and regional writers, so extra bonus there.

And now reading news:

Last week I finished Scarborough and, needing something lighter, read Kelly Link‘s wonderful Origin Stories, which is a hardcover chapbook published by Subterranean Press.

Currently I am over halfway through A People’s Future of the United States. It is, simply, an amazing collection of stories. They follow the theme of the possibility of hope standing against the logical outcome of the current (reactionary right-wing, racist, bigoted, sadistic, misogynistic, jingoist, xenophobic, capital-fetishizing, violence-loving, neo-fascist, Dominionist) political and social climate. The stories are beautiful, sad, infuriating, hopeful, astonishing, intelligent and above all necessary. Every imagined dystopian future in this book is easily extrapolated from the actions of the current dominant power structures. And each of these futures must be recognized and resisted.

In other literary news, I am almost done re-integrating at Caffeinated Press and am at various stages in four projects: Issues 4.1, 5.1 and 5.2 of The 3288 Review, and layout work for the next edition of our Brewed Awakenings anthology. Other things are afoot as well, which will be revealed in the fullness of time. Selah!

A Big Book in a Small Stack

It was a quiet week for the acquisitions department here at Winkelman Abbey. But what it lacked in the X axis it more than made up for in the Y. From left, we have A Thousand Plateaus by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, followed by the most recent issues of Jacobin, Willow Springs, and Poetry Magazine. On the right is To Leave with the Reindeer by Olivia Rosenthal, the latest from my subscription to the catalog of And Other Stories.

All of which is to say, one deliberate purchase this week.

I feel like I have been orbiting Deleuze and Guattari for a very long time. Back in my Angry Young Man days in the late 1990s I amassed a collection of titles published by Autonomedia and Semiotext(e), publishers of very wild and far-out titles from a wide variety of unconventional, leftist and radical writers and thinkers. One of those books (unfortunately lost in a long-ago purge) was Nomadology: War Machine, from the chapter of the same title in the then-unknown-to-me A Thousand Plateaus. I understood very little of it at the time, but it haunted me. These were words from thinkers operating on a plane of existence so far above my own that they might as well have been performing magic.

Over the years I forgot their names but the sense of the conversations stuck with me. It felt like peeling back a layer of reality and seeing some of the inner workings of the universe.

This past summer my girlfriend and I traveled to San Francisco where we made a pilgrimage to City Lights Bookstore, which had been a goal of mine for some decades. Wow, what a store – probably the best-curated bookstore I have ever seen. The Philosophy section held scores of titles and thinkers which were new to me, or which I had only ever seen as references in other places. And of course. A Thousand Plateaus was one of them. That brought Deleuze and Guattari back into my awareness.

Shortly thereafter I borrowed Plateaus from the Grand Rapids Public Library, attempted to make sense of it, and made almost zero headway. Then I did so again, a month later. Then I resigned myself to the fact that I will be forever haunted by D and G if I did not add this book to my personal library, and so here it is.

In the reading side of things, I finished The Black God’s Drums by P. Djeli Clark this past Thursday, and absolutely loved it. Probably my favorite read of the year so far. Clark’s use of language and patois in world-building is wonderful and, though this is not precisely the New Orleans so near and dear to my heart, it is close enough to make me feel some serious longing and wanderlust.

Currently I am a little over halfway through Scarborough, by Catherine Hernandez. I picked this one up several months ago and attempted to read it while on a business trip to Las Vegas. Reading that book in that city made me want to burn everything to the ground. So I set it aside. Now that I am not in the worst city in the world I am able to read and enjoy this beautiful, heartbreaking book.

Books, and What Could Have Been

A small but distinguished selection of reading material appeared at Winkelman Abbey this past week. From left, we have Cursed and Skull & Pestle, two anthologies from World Weaver Press. Third is the inaugural issue (!!!) of DreamForge Magazine. And finally, and most eagerly awaited, Terminal Uprising by Jim C. Hines.

A year ago this month I spent most of my free time putting together a story for Skull & Pestle. I completed about 90% of a first draft but realized that I would need to either burn a week of vacation days or break up with my girlfriend in order to complete and edit the story in time for the deadline. Therefore I shelved it. The story is good, I think, involving a colony of Old Believers, teen angst and bullying, the Midwest, and of course Baba Yaga. I may complete it at some point and see if there is still need for such stories.

But hey! Even if I didn’t submit my story to this anthology I still get to read the anthology, and that is a very good thing. And World Weaver Press consistently produces some top-quality anthologies.

In reading news, I finished The Blood-Tainted Winter by TL Greylock, and moved on to Death March by Phil Tucker. This was a much faster read and I had more time available for reading, so I completed it Friday night. Last night I started The Black God’s Drums by P. Djeli Clark. 25 pages in, and I am completely hooked! Of course it is a short novella so I will probably finish tonight or tomorrow. Then likely on to Terminal Uprising, though The Nine by Tracy Townsend is suddenly looming large in my attention, due it being discussed in the most recent episode (14.7, “How Weird is Too Weird?”) of the Writing Excuses podcast.

Currently goals: Structuring life so I have time to both read well and write well.

Hot Books for Cold Days

Only a few additions this week, but what they lack in quantity they more than make up in quality. First is The Hole by Damian Duffy and John Jennings, a graphic novel delivered from Rosarium Publishing, which arrived as part of the Sunspot Jungle Kickstarter reward. Next to it is Lord by João Gilberto Noll, the latest from my subscription to the catalog of Two Lines Press (part of the Center for the Art of Translation). In the bottom row we have A People’s Future of the United States and Marlon JamesBlack Leopard, Red Wolf, followed by the Winter 2018 edition of Pulphouse Fiction Magazine.

In reading news, I am about a hundred pages from the end of The Blood-Tainted Winter. I would be done, but I keep getting distracted by, well, book like A People’s Future of the United States. There are just so many good books out there, and so little time for reading.

A Long-Awaited Treasure

This week brought in a couple of books which I have been looking forward to for months. Sunspot Jungle, the two-volume exclusive-to-Kickstarter hardcover set by Rosarium Publishing, arrived by mail yesterday, and they are stunning! I’ll get into the set in a moment, but first, here is the rundown of this week’s acquisitions.

On the left is the Winter 2018 issue of Rain Taxi, which I became aware of when their article about Lawrence Ferlinghetti appeared on LitHub last week. On the right is the latest book from Deep Vellum, Mephisto’s Waltz by Sergio Pitol.

So: Sunspot Jungle.

I first heard of this project when Bill Campbell, owner of Rosarium Publishing, announced the Kickstarter campaign back in the early part of 2018. I supported the pledge on the first day and the rest has been a year of eager anticipation.

I first heard of Rosarium when John Scalzi posted a photo of one of his weekly stacks of new books, and in that stack was a small collection of short stories called The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria.

That, of course, is one hell of a title.

And Rosarium is one hell of a publishing company.

In reading news, the past week was hectic, what with the polar vortex and associated schedule disruptions. I did make significant progress through Reckoning #1, and am a couple of chapters into T L Greylock’s The Blood-Tainted Winter.

In other literary news, I am back in the saddle at Caffeinated Press after a year-long hiatus/sabbatical, and am hard at work assembling the next issue of The 3288 Review.

Amazing how a schedule disruption, even one which ostensibly frees up a chunk of free time, seldom actually results in more usable free time.

The Books That Are Not ConFusion Books

Lest the last few posts give the impression that I only purchase books at conventions, here are some others which arrived in the past week.

On the left is The Black God’s Drums by P. Djeli Clark, which has been on my radar for a couple of months now. Next to it is Katherine Arden‘s The Bear and the Nightingale, because Russian folklore. Also about a year ago I wrote most of a Baba Yaga story for an anthology call, and in the research for that story this book came up repeatedly.

The third is The Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty, the sequel to her excellent The City of Brass which I read several months ago. Next to it is Friday Black, a collection of short stories by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah which came to my attention when LitHub posted the story “Zimmer Land“.

The bottom row includes reading material from various subscription. First is Night School by Zsófia Bán, then I Am God by Giacomo Sartori, and finally the latest issue of Poetry.

In reading, I finished Fix by Ferret Steinmetz (which Mr. Steinmetz signed at ConFusion 2019!) and am now bouncing between three of my ConFusion acquisitions: Reckoning #1, Death March by Phil Tucker, and The Blood-Tainted Winter by T L Greylock.

For this year I am keeping a list of the books I read, and I plan to write reviews (GoodReads, Amazon, etc.) both to boost the signal of those authors and to give me practice at writing reviews.

That’s all for now. The books continue to accumulate.

Books from ConFusion 2019, Round 2

Okay, so I didn’t pick up these books at ConFusion, but I did talk to the authors and was thereby convinced that I should pick them up. Here they are, from top left:

T L GreylockThe Hills of Home
T L GreylockAlready Comes Darkness
Phil TuckerNightmare Keep
Phil TuckerThe Path of Flames
Nathan LowellQuarter Share
Mike ShelAching God
Michael J. SullivanTheft of Swords
Michael J. SullivanAge of Myth
Maurice BroaddusBuffalo Soldier
D. Thourson PalmerOurs is the Storm
David Anthony DurhamAcacia

Since I purchased these post- ConFusion 2019 I will bring them to ConFusion 2020 to be signed. Of course.

Books from ConFusion 2019, Round 1

Yeah, it was a good weekend. Here are the books I picked up during the first signing session at ConFusion 2019. Also some I picked up while talking to various folks at the convention. From top left, and going through in order.

The Blood-Tainted Winter, by T L Greylock
Death March by Phil Tucker
The Field Trip by R.A. Andrade
Darkness by Erin Eveland
Reckoning, issue 1
Gate Crashers by Patrick Tomlinson
The Rite of Wands by Mackenzie Flohr
Justice in an Age of Metal and Men by Anthony W. Eichenlaub
Peace in an Age of Metal and Men by Anthony W. Eichenlaub
The Queen Underneath by Stacey Filak
Timehunt: Borrowed Time by Keith Hughes
The Quantum Magician by Derek Künsken
While the Black Stars Burn by Lucy A. Snyder
Garden of Eldritch Delights by Lucy A. Snyder
Ice Bar by Petra Kuppers
Power Tools in the Sacred Grove by Josef Matulich
Camp Arcanum by Josef Matulich

I would have picked up many more, but I was in a panel during the second book signing session. Fortunately I took many notes, so I was able to order the ones I missed. They will be in a separate blog post. Other than Reckoning and Gate Crashers, all of them were signed by the authors.