Vol.1 Brooklyn’s February 2020 Book Preview

February 2020 books

With the arrival of February, it feels like 2020 is getting into high gear, for better or for worse. A cursory glance at the month’s most anticipated new books could best be described as eclectic: there are experimental and transgressive works here, along with career-spanning tomes and thematically ambitious works of fiction. If this is a harbinger of what the rest of the (literary) year looks like, it’s a good omen.

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Six Ridiculous Questions: Seb Doubinsky

Seb Doubinsky

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.

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The Baroque Emptiness of Jonathan Buckley: On “The Great Concert of the Night”

Jonathan Buckley cover

When we think of the baroque, we tend to think of complexity wedded to fineness. Images of darkened ballrooms extending indefinitely into the distance, mirrors framed elaborately in gold, and candle-bearing chandeliers as spindly and diffuse as ancient jellyfish come to mind. Fiction-wise, though, there’s not really an immediate image to latch onto, mostly because the novel as we understand it today (especially in English) didn’t crystallize as a form until the eighteenth century. There are, however, plenty of books being written today that could comfortably be classified as baroque, works by writers like Javier Marías and W.G. Sebald that have in common a respect for antiquity and an elegant, unfolding prose style, as well as a certain covetousness, as though the world were constantly slipping away and needed to woven together again by language. 

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“Music Felt For Us, Was Ecstatic For Us”: An Interview With Lars Iyer

Lars Iyer

Like a lot of my favorite books, I bought Spurious by Lars Iyer partially due to the cover design – two plastic bags hovering provocatively on the edge of a parking lot (Melville House can really do a good book cover). But, like with all of my favorite books, what was inside the book changed my life. This book (and the rest of the Spurious Trilogy – Exodus and Dogma) oozed a sticky, refreshing style that completely shook me. I quickly became obsessed – with the culmination of the staccato chapters, with the overbearing third-person presence of the shit-talking W., with the unending push behind every idea that propels every image to its bleak, (il)logical extensions. I also loved this book for the unique central characters and their obsessions – two academics in philosophy who acknowledge that “the corpse of the university floats face down in the water”, who are also then “poking it with sticks,” and, of course, who talk unendingly about Kafka and Joy Division.

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Lance Olsen and John Domini Talk About Cities as Fictions, Political Daymares, and Never Being at Home

Domini and Olsen covers

Lance Olsen and John Domini have followed each other’s work for years, sharing an attraction to the edges of the fictional enterprise, to experiment and risk. Olsen has many works of fiction and non-fiction, and his awards include the Guggenheim. Domini too has published widely, in all genres, and won an NEA Fellowship. Both have spent extended time abroad, Olsen in Germany, Domini in Italy. Not till now, however, did they share new titles with similar core concern— namely, a European city going through a radical change.  In Domini’s case, in his novel The Color Inside a Melon, this was contemporary Naples, over a single hectic week. Olsen’s latest, My Red Heaven, considers a June day in Berlin, in 1927. 

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No Ordinary Love: “Estoy Tristeza” by Ximena Izquierdo Ugaz, Reviewed

"Estoy Tristeza" cover

You know this already when you encounter the title (the cover an elegant, minimal design by Patrick Delorey; evocative of modernist flourishes found in municipal buildings throughout Latin America and the Caribbean); Estoy Tristeza’s grammar is both disjointed and highly conscious, it takes the verb ser, which signals impermanence, in place of the prescribed sentir or tener, which would have the subject possess tristeza rather than be it. This grammatically estranged reconstruction amplifies the phrase, compels the reader to consider the ways that sadness courses through us. The poet’s first gesture asserts a stability in her unmooring; a grace in her own winding path, and this is how we begin, in a state.

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Six Ridiculous Questions: Chris Campanioni

Chris Campanioni

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.

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Towards a Definition of Ecological Fiction: An Interview With Marian Womack

Marian Womack

My first time reading Marian Womack‘s work came via the collection Lost Objects, an unsettling array of speculative fiction informed by climate change in multiple unsettling ways. (I interviewed her about it in 2018.) This year will see the release of her novel, The Golden Key — but first, Womack has another literary project that she’s ushered into the world, an anthology co-edited with Gary Budden. This is An Invite to Eternity, which includes stories from Kristen Roupenian, Aliya Whiteley, and Naomi Booth. It’s also the first book from Calque Press, a new independent publisher. I talked with Womack about the anthology, the press, and the uncanny boundaries of ecological fiction.

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