The Passive Acquisition of Reading Material

And just like that, the year is half over. Moderately more ups than downs at this point, which is entirely reasonable.

This was a slow but interesting week for the acquisitions department at Winkelman Abbey. Two Kickstarter fulfillment packages arrived, as well as two journal issues. On the left is Frozen Hell, the newly-released deluxe hardcover version of the John Campbell story which inspired The Thing. On the left-of-center is The Writer’s Book of Doubt, an anthology of encouragement for writers, by writers. Center right is the new issue of the always excellent journal Reckoning, and on the right is the latest issue of Poetry. These all just kind of appeared at my doorstep and I didn’t have to lift a finger.

In reading news, just before midnight last night I finished the book which I have been beta-reading for the past two months. It was superb, but I need to let it sit for a month before I offer my feedback to the author. I am also about 20% through the book of essays for which I will be providing a blurb in a few week. For pleasure reading I picked up Ken Liu‘s novella The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary. I quickly realized that, while a beautiful story, it’s a terrible story, if you follow me. Or, as Tom Waits would put it, “beautiful melodies telling me terrible things”. I’ll likely finish it this evening if time permits.

June 30 was the last day of submissions for the October 2019 issue of The 3288 Review, and I am hard at work sending out acceptance and rejection letters and contracts and other various communications on behalf of Caffeinated Press. After an extended bout of self-inflicted FUBAR around the previous issue, this one is coming together nicely, which makes me very happy as I finally have some breathing room in my life, so I can enjoy the summer with my wonderful girlfriend. Maybe I’ll even do some writing. And maybe it will even be good. And with a whole lotta luck and some good old-fashioned elbow-grease, I’ll get something published by the end of the year.

 

Half a Century, Give Or Take

Yup. I did it. I just turned fifty. I have been reading for approximately the past 47 years. If I could do it all over again, I would start earlier and not purge the books I had to buy for college. Well, not all of them, anyway.

Here we are in the first full week of June. I have been running myself ragged trying to get the new issue of The 3288 Review out the door to our contributors and customers. We were ready to go a couple of weeks earlier but ran into an unexpected roadblock called I AM AN IDIOT WHO CAN’T INDESIGN, and that pushed us even farther behind schedule. But the magazines are out now, winging their way into the hands of the excellent members of the West Michigan literary community.

The latest issue, by the way, is in the upper right corner of the above photo. If you would like a copy, they are available from the Caffeinated Press online store.

(That amazing cover artwork? Local artist Jon McAfee.)

So, yes. It has been a busy week.

From top left in the above photo, we have the latest issue of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet from Small Beer Press, followed by the newest Dreamforge. On the top right is of course the Spring 2019 issue of The 3288 Review.

The middle row is all Harlan Ellison, from a Kickstarter campaign I helped fund back in 2016. Ellison, of course, passed away just over a year ago. But reading through these previously-uncollected works I felt the same frisson I experienced when I first cracked open Dangerous Visions, The Glass Teat, and the excellent collections put out by White Wolf Publishing back in the mid-1990s.

In the bottom row we have The Body Papers by Grace Talusan, published by Restless Books, followed by Undocumented: Great Lakes Poets Laureate on Social Justice. On the right is The Wilderness After Which, a collection of poetry from L.S. Klatt, a former Poet Laureate of Grand Rapids, Michigan. The latter two I picked up on a whim on a recent visit to Books and Mortar. Call it a birthday present to myself.

In reading news, by day I am still working through the superb poetry in Here: Poems for the Planet. I would have finished by now, but I kept getting sidetracked by sudden inspirations for my own poetry. Collections like this will do that to a person. I am about halfway through the beta read of a novel a good friend wrote over the last decade or so. Time permitting, I should be done with that one by the end of the month.

In non-literary news, I was saddened to see that Mac Rebennack, a.k.a. Dr. John, a.k.a The Night Tripper, passed away on June 6. Dr. John’s music got me through some of the most difficult parts of my life, and the world is diminished by his passing.

The second line in his honor was quite the celebration.

 

Books From Near and Far and In Between

It was another quiet week here in the library at Winkelman Abbey, which is good, considering that, as far as I can tell, I own about a thousand more books than I have actually read. Per Umberto Eco’s antilibrary, I don’t actually consider this to be a problem.

On the left is the newest book published by our very own Caffeinated Press: Trust, the first book in Jean Davis‘s new trilogy The Narvan. Davis is one of the brightest literary lights here in West Michigan. She is a consummate professional, a dedicated booster and supporter of the West Michigan writing scene, and a superb writer.

In the middle is Elemental, a collection of nonfiction writing by Michigan writers, published as part of the Made in Michigan Writers Series of Wayne State University Press. This was an impulse buy of sorts; I noticed it on the WSU Press website when I pre-ordered Jack Ridl’s Saint Peter and the Goldfinch, and added it to my order on a whim. It’s on the top of my stack of to-read books, starting in May.

On the right is Bright by Duanwad Pimwana, the most recent delivery from my subscription to Two Lines Press. I’m looking forward to this one in particular because, as near as I can tell, this is the first book in my collection from a Thai author.

In reading news, I continue to burn through my collection of poetry. Since my last post I have read When the Moon Knows You’re Wandering by Ruth Ellen Kocher, and The Somnambulist by Lara Mimosa Montes. I admit I had a hard time getting into the Kocher poems, and finally gave up about halfway through the book. This is not a slight on the quality of the poetry; the type of poetry she writes was simply not where my head was when I was trying to read it.

The Somnambulist, on the other hand, was great! It can be read either as a long poem broken into fever-dream fragments, or a many short poems assembled into a barbed narrative. Had I the time I could easily have read it in one session.

I would also like to give a shout out here to the publisher of The Somnambulist, Horse Less Press, a Grand Rapids outfit which is currently on indefinite hiatus from publishing. They turn out some top-notch work — full length poetry collections and hand-stitched chapbooks. Being part of a publishing house myself I understand the need for breaks from the work routine, and hope they find the mental and emotional energy to resume work. The world needs what they have to offer.

In the evenings as I drift off to sleep I am still working my way through Laurus, and it continues to be a remarkable book. I suspect I will revisit this one again and again in the years to come.

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 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 Record of My Life

I have just added a “Published Work” page to this blog. You can access it through the main menu. It’s kind of threadbare at the moment, but with a little luck I will have some publications to add by the end of the year.

Most of my published work at present consists of editorials written for The 3288 Review, and around three dozen interviews with contributors to The 3288 Review.