Brian Alan Ellis is both a prolific writer and champion of other prolific writers, releasing knock-out books by the likes of Noah Cicero, Sam Pink, Bud Smith (through House of Vlad Productions) between publishing his own steady stream of wry, scuzzy poetry and flash fiction.
His most recent book, Sad Laughter, is a cavalcade of witty one-liners, shitposts, and disarmingly funny micro-commentaries on the current state of indie publishing. Between bad band name puns and evocative new manifestations of a writer’s quiet desperation, Ellis breaks down the everyday absurdities behind trends like #AmWriting with the grace and power of Rob Van Dam’s Five Star Frog Splash. But, in line with the master-your-craft ethos behind professional wrestling, Ellis’s piledrives are safely choreographed and, dare I say, delivered with love.
While 2019 is still young and there is a lot of literary terrain to cover before the end of the year, I can confidently say Robert Jackson Bennett’s Vigilance will be talked about in many best of 2019 lists as one of the most honest and timely book of the year. Unflinching in its portrayal of senseless violence and scathing in its critique of the country’s obsession with guns and distrust of the Other, this is a book that resonates.
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.
Coyote Songs, the latest novel from Gabino Iglesias, covers a bold stylistic range, from tautly realistic characters living desperate lives to head-spinning forays into body horror. To call it “unsettling” would miss the mark somewhat: this is fiction that isn’t intended to leave a reader settled. It’s also a significant stylistic departure from his previous novel, the searing noir that was Zero Saints. I spoke with Iglesias about the process of finding a structure for this book, the role of religion in his work, and how bodies factor into his fiction.
As Amazon sets upon its tax-sponsored path of evicting every last New Yorker, turn-of-the-millennium Seattle looms as the inexorable cautionary tale, the gold rush prototype of full-throttle technocratic gentrification. To apply a gauzy retrospective lens, the specter of early-2000s Seattle evokes not only a simpler, more innocent age, but one which augured the crises which would kneecap the soaring economy. In a cynical light, the murderer’s row of 21st century doomsdays—dot-com boom, housing bubble, Silicon Valley oligopoly, Facebook’s unfurling the carpet for Trump’s 2016 sweep—were beta-tested in a Seattle incubator.
This February brings with it plenty to savor, literarily speaking. Among the highlights from the month’s books are new works by the writers behind several of our recent favorites, from incisive nonfiction to imaginative fiction. There’s also some bold work appearing in translation for the first time. Here’s a look at some of the books we’re most excited about this month.
In our morning reading: book recommendations from R. O. Kwon, a preview of Rob Hart’s forthcoming novel, and more.
Daisy Johnson’s Fen emerged seemingly out of nowhere. Here was a collection of tales overflowing with ideas and emotion, but firmly rooted in the ground. They were delightful beasts, written with a panache that showed a masterly style, as raw as it could be delicate, which punched you in the gut while displaying an odd fragility. Fen was a worldly, earthy book, which at the same time left an aftertaste of fairy-tale and folklore. It introduced us to Johnson’s protagonists: strong, lonely women, trapped at the sources of myth, taking us closely, at times uncomfortably closely, into their world. We could almost feel as if we were catching eels ourselves, as if we trod those lonely East Anglian towns in our Saturday night high heels. We had always known of the darkness in these places; but we had known it out of the corner of our eyes, intuitively. Now Johnson showed us that we had been right all along; and we felt as if we had met a friend, someone who understood this often forgotten part of the world.