Literature that makes me uncomfortable holds a special place in my heart. This year I’ve been lucky enough to read two books that have dug their way underneath my skin and stuck with me like angry chiggers hellbent on never letting go. The first book was Rachel Eve Moulton’s Tinfoil Butterfly. The second was my most recent read, Matthieu Simard’s The Country Will Bring Us No Peace. A bleak, strangely poetic narrative full of mystery that explores the darkest corners of human emotion, The Country Will Bring Us No Peace is an outstanding novel with a depressive atmosphere that sticks to your ribs and refuses to let go.
Joshua Chaplinsky‘s new collection, Whispers in the Ear of a Dreaming Ape, boasts one of the best titles I’ve seen in ages and a cover that suggests some lost cosmic horror classic. The stories contained within range in tone from surreal to horrific to satirical; it’s a terrific statement of purpose, and one that never lets the reader rest. I talked with Chaplinsky about the genesis of the book, the ways in which it came together, and what’s next for him.
The guiding principle of Six Ridiculous Questions is that life is filled with ridiculousness. And questions. That only by giving in to these truths may we hope to slip the surly bonds of reality and attain the higher consciousness we all crave. (Eh, not really, but it sounded good there for a minute.) It’s just. Who knows? The ridiculousness and question bits, I guess. Why six? Assonance, baby, assonance.
Well, it’s November, and the days are growing shorter and shorter. (Assuming you’re in the northern hemisphere, at least.) We’d say that this group of books are an array of doorstoppers, suitable for curling up by the fire, but that’s not entirely true; most of these books are quite trim, in fact. They do represent a wide array of styles, however: from comic novels to incisive cultural studies; from surreal fiction in translation to candid usage of the essay form. Here are a few of the November books we’re most excited about.
Brian Evenson isn’t an author that fans of Cormac McCarthy, Stephen King, or Chuck Palahniuk typically know, but he certainly should be, as his work is every bit as apocalyptic, surprising, and haunting. For years, Evenson’s readers have been slipping copies of his books into the hands of friends, students, and family members. When travelling, I often keep a copy of Contagion (which Evenson graciously allowed my small press, Astrophil Press, to reprint) and drop it into neighborhood lending libraries, and I must admit that I find a little thrill in knowing that I’ve done my small part in introducing people to this pitch perfect collection of stories. I am not alone in this; many of Evenson’s readers border on evangelicals, spreading the dark word of Evenson. This enthusiasm for Evenson’s work is understandable considering his ability to publish tightly wrought, layered stories that often stick with us long after having read them. There are very few authors I can think of who have a catalog as strong as Evenson; his stories feel entirely new and each of his sentences feel entirely necessary.
Recently, MCD Books has begun to establish itself as a home for some of today’s most memorable horror fiction. That’s bolstered by the recent publication of Rachel Eve Moulton’s Tinfoil Butterfly and the forthcoming publication of Andy Davidson’s The Boatman’s Daughter. To learn more about the press’s foray into horror, their aesthetic, and their future plans, I spoke with MCD Books Executive Editor Daphne Durham. Our conversation touched on everything from what constitutes literary horror to the legacies of bygone horror imprints, and includes some details of what you can expect from horror at MCD Books in the future.
We’re very happy to be publishing an excerpt from Dave Newman’s new book East Pittsburgh Downlow, out now on J.New Books. As its publisher says, “Pittsburgh’s most famous citizen, Mr. Rogers, said ‘In times of crisis, look for the helpers. East Pittsburgh Downlow is the story of the helpers. It’s the story of the helpless and people desperately trying to help themselves. In more than 600 pages, lives will change and end and people will be re-born. Families will be saved. Love will find love because that’s what love sometimes does.”
Hillary Leftwich has a knack for titles. Her new collection has arguably the best one I’ve encountered this year: Ghosts Are Just Strangers Who Know How to Knock. In it, she combines surreal fiction, sharply-composed poetry, and taut nonfiction into an unpredictable and compelling whole. In addition to her book, she’s also the person behind the reading series At the Inkwell Denver; in other words, Leftwich is someone who can approach literature from many sides. I talked with her via email about the range of work in her collection, literary kindred spirits, and her handling of class.