Appropriate Cover Art

Books acquired week of April 20, 2019

Spring is in full bloom here in Grand Rapids, which means we need to pull plants indoors overnight on account of random catastrophic snowstorms. Fortunately I have enough books in my house to keep us insulated in the event of an April snowpocalypse.

The May 2019 issue of Poetry is the only reading material to find its way to my house this past week. Fitting, I suppose, for the last full week of National Poetry Month.

In reading news, I have been burning through poetry collections as fast as I can turn the pages. In the past week I completed Wyn Cooper’s Postcards from the Interior and CJ Evans’ A Penance. I am now about halfway through the superb Gestures by Artis Ostups, published by Ugly Duckling Presse. I should have it completed before the end of the month, just two days away.

Three days ago I finished Laurus, and am still processing my emotions. I can’t describe the book without running out of superlatives. It is magnificent. I would put it on a shelf with Eco’s Name of the Rose, Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, any of the fiction of Borges, and probably (and of course) Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita. Vodolazkin’s particular use of the holy fool (юродивый) characters blurs the edges of reality and moves Laurus well into the real of magic realism. I will certainly be reading this one again in the years to come.

With Laurus done, I have just begin D. Thourson Palmer‘s Ours is the Storm, which I picked up at ConFusion this past January. Though I am only about twenty pages in I am already hooked. It’s a good one so far.

Over at The Ringer, Brian Phillips has written a wonderful remembrance of Gene Wolfe.

Cold Days Are Good Days For Reading

Books for the week of March 24, 2019

It’s been a quiet week here at Winkelman Abbey, in the literary sense. My subscriptions came through, of course, but no new purchases or Kickstarter releases. On the left is the latest issue of Poetry Magazine. Next to it is the new Amazing Stories, which is actually a Kickstarter originated subscription. Third in line is the most recent New Ohio Review, which I subscribed to when I submitted a few poems to NOR. I haven’t heard back yet, but it is a very well put together journal so it is already a positive experience. The last is The Polyglot Lovers, the latest from my subscription to And Other Stories. According to LibraryThing I have 19 books from And Other Stories, of which I have read several, though not all. One of these days…

In reading news, I am less than fifty pages from the end of The Monster Baru Cormorant. I still plan to finish by the end of the month, which gives me (checks clock) slightly less than seven hours.

In the spare bits of time I have read two books of poetry, Why I Wake Early by Mary Oliver, and Ha Ha Ha Thump by West Michigan poet Amorak Huey. I also read a few more pages of Laurus by Eugene Vodolazkin, which is still extraordinary.

National Poetry Month starts tomorrow and, Laurus notwithstanding, I plan to read only books of poetry for the month, with the occasional dip into the contents of journals. There’s just so much good poetry out there, and I have a lot of catching up to do.

Links and Notes for the Week of March 24, 2019

Over the past couple of weeks I have resurrected an old Flash experiment from back around, oh, 2007: The Lindenmayer Explorer. The image at the top of this post was created in the Explorer. Head over and check it out! If you create anything interesting, post it online and add a link in the comments here. Basic instructions are on the page. More detailed instructions and notes to follow.

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. Bishop‘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 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.

Links and Notes for the Week of January 27, 2019

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.