Everything is My Favorite: 2013 in Review
On the morning following Valentine’s Day this year, I sat scrolling through my Tumblr feed and stumbled upon a reblogged photo of two guys with big smiles holding paperbacks surrounded by walls of displayed books. The caption read “We got small press books. We got beer. We open 2/12/13” and another image announcing “GRAND OPENING- Mellow Pages Public Library & Reading Room.”
After a brief email exchange, I found myself in a studio space off the Morgan Avenue stop on the L train in Brooklyn and met both founders Jacob Perkins and Matt Nelson. After giving them a copy of a book I had recently written, I quickly came back with more books to give in exchange for membership (10 books, preferably small press, or $20 qualifies you.) Since reading is over half of a writer’s job (the other half being the physical act of forming words and sentences) the space has evolved for me from being a wonderful resource for contemporary literature to meeting place and second home. The past ten months have seen innumerable readings and events and of course, hundreds of book donations pour in from across the country. As you might guess, if a category for “Best Place for Literature in New York City- 2013” existed, MPL would get the gold medal (with Bushwick’s Molasses Books, a bookstore/bar hybrid, taking the silver.)
As many critics and bloggers use space at year’s end to list their “bests,” I’ve decided to show some of my favorite books out of the 40 or so I checked out from Mellow Pages in 2013, including a number of which have been published in previous years, followed by an addendum of small presses, journals and folks who shined this year. I’d like to add that several books and journals came from recommendations.
Crapalachia by Scott McClanahan
The Stories of Breece D’J Pancake
The Glass Key by Dashiell Hammett
I Will Never Be Beautiful Enough to Make us Beautiful Together by Mira Gonzalez
Low Down Death Right Easy by J. David Osborne
The Flame Throwers by Rachel Kushner
Don’t Kiss Me by Lindsay Hunter
I RL, You RL by Sophia Le Fraga
Look! Look! Feathers by Mike Young
Normally Special by xTx
Partyknife by Dan Magers
The Day Walt Disney Died by Sean H. Doyle
I Was a Fat Drunk Catholic School Insomniac by Jamie Iredell
It is also worth noting that two books released this year that surprised me in how much I enjoyed them were Tao Lin’s Taipei and What Purpose Did I Serve in Your Life by Marie Calloway. In willfully ignoring the press and waiting several months to read each, I found relatable scenarios and empathy in both.
Books with much promise to look out for in 2014 (many of which are debuts) include Dolan Morgan’s short story collection That’s When the Knives Come Down (Aforementioned Productions,) Julia Fierro’s Cutting Teeth (St Martin’s Press,) Courtney Maum’s I Am Having So Much Fun Without You (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster,) and finally the debut novel Walls by Andrew Worthington (Civil Coping Mechanisms.)
Among the small presses I enjoyed works from this year were Birds LLC, Publishing Genius (which will be publishing books by Melissa Broder and Spencer Madsen in 2014, woohoo!) Two Dollar Radio, Nap (publisher of brilliant e-books of poetry by such upcoming poets as Thais Benoit,) Sorry House, Curbside Splendor Publishing, NY Tyrant, Future Tense, Lazy Fascist, Civil Coping Mechanisms, Plain Wrap Press, Singing Saw Press and Immaculate Disciples Press. I’m also excited to see what upstart crime press Broken River Books, started by J. David Osborne (whose book Low Down Death Right Easy I listed above) puts out this year, as well as Mark Cugini’s Big Lucks press. Big Lucks will also be publishing Sarah Jean Alexander’s debut book Wildfires in 2015.
2013 also saw some wonderful new journals and websites, as well as several that hit the nail square on the head including, but not limited to Shabby Doll House, Keep This Bag Away From Children, TinHouse, Hobart Pulp, The Newer York, Bodega, HouseFire, Newtown Literary (shoutout to Queens!), Pop Serial, Voicemail Poems, Gigantic and Fiddleback Magazine, which unfortunately is currently on hiatus.
The award for MVP in promoting the work of other writers is a tie between Michael J. Seidlinger and Beach Sloth, who in addition to both being prolific in their own rite, go out of their way on a regular basis to champion work they believe in whether it’s popular or not.
It goes without question that the best music writers of the year were Zachary Lipez, The Kid Mero and Eric Sundermann, all of whom write for Vice’s music site Noisey. The latter made the smart move from the Village Voice. Nice job, Eric. An honorable mention goes to Maria Sherman, whose posts at Buzzfeed were hilarious.
Finally, the best literary Twitter accounts over the last twelve months, using consistency, the ability to make me laugh and my subjective notion of “quality” belonged to Mira Gonzalez(@miragonz), Mike Bushnell (@iamaparty) and the brain or brains behind “Mao Lin” (@themaolin.)
The son of a machinist and a nurse, Eric Nelson is a prose writer living in Queens, New York. His stories, essays, criticisms and interviews have appeared in The Rumpus, The Billfold, Bust, Fanzine, HTMLGIANT, and Keep This Bag Away From Children, among others.