Nothing against the big publishers, they're our partners in all this after all, but my heart and soul go first to the small presses. Consistently, they bend toward plots askew like question marks and voices that linger like echoes. I thought I might give a shout out to three that are currently dominating my head space, in hopes that others will join me.
1) Valeria Luiselli's, Faces in the Crowd, is one of the most mesmerizing debut novels in recent memory. Two narrators, each haunting the narration and memory of the other, seamlessly swerve, recollecting their loves and losses. Is each fading into the other, or are they simply fading away? One of the narrator's description of her novel-in-progress matches that of Luiselli's achievement: "A horizontal novel, told vertically. A novel that has to be told from the outside in order to be read from within."
Coffee House Press has produced this lovely video introduction to the author and her novel (as well as her recently released essay collection, Sidewalks.)
2) How to describe Jonathan Littell's The Fata Morgana Books? (Two Lines Press, 2013)
I attempted to do so in my shelf-talker in Oakland:
"These are delightfully lusty, often depraved stories, each crafted with a
gorgeous and breathless ease. If you like your fiction to take you down
darker corridors, into the pitch-black of self-reflection, around the
circles of Hell, and outward like an oncoming bull's horn, then you need
for the moment look no further."
Two Lines Press has some of the most beautiful covers in the business, and the authors to match them. (See, most recently, Xu Zechen's Running Through Beijing.)
3) Last, but by no means least, there's Stanley Crawford and our friends at Calamari Press.
This year they did us all a service by breathing new life into Crawford's raw and scraggly hallucinogenic classic, Travel Notes. My shelf-talker doesn't stand up to Calamari's description:
"TRAVEL NOTES could indeed read like Stanley Crawford's private
travelogue, yet no real-world places or people are explicitly mentioned. Instead we're taken on a rompish tromp thru wild and often absurd
landscapes -- in a bus that gets dismantled & reassembled to get
around a broken-down car, in a biplane that only flies in the mind of
the naked pilot, or on the back of a white elephant named Unable with
untranslatable obscenities tattooed to his underbelly -- the traveller
ever self-aware of the nagging fragility of routine customs, ever on the
verge of having the magic carpet pulled out from beneath your feet if
you stop to think."
Crawford recently sat down with Stephen Sparks and BOMB Magazine. The interview is worth your time.