Innovators in Lit: featherproof books

featherproof books is an indie press founded by Zach Dodson and Jonathan Messinger. They are based in Chicago, and their serious literary chops—recent titles include Patrick Somerville’s The Universe in Miniature in Miniature, Lindsay Hunter’s Daddy’s, Christian TeBordo’s The Awful Possibilities, Blake Butler’s Scorch Atlas, and Amelia Gray’s AM/PM—and genius eye for design have garnered them serious attention over the years. More importantly: do you know what a publishing yacht is? Or how a book can be turned into a mobile? No? Sit back and let Zach Dodson explain it all.

Laura: Featherproof is “an indie publisher dedicated to doing whatever we want.” What are some of the things that featherproof wants?

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Free Ploughshares! Featuring Guest Editor Philip Levine

Here at Ploughshares, we’ve been lucky enough that the new Poet Laureate of the United States Philip Levine has guest edited our magazine not once, but two times in our forty year history. Today we’re featuring the first issue, published in Winter 1988 and filled with contributions from writers as diverse as Yusef Komunyakaa, Dean Young, and Joyce Carol Oates.

In order to win this issue, please comment in the space below explaining why you love Philip Levine or any of the issue’s contributors. We’ll read through the comments and our managing editor Andrea Drygas will choose our winning commenter by noon tomorrow. After that, we’ll send you the issue and you’ll have up to thirty days to write a review that we’ll later publish on the Ploughshares blog and website, in honor of our upcoming fortieth anniversary.

The full contest details can be found here. If you’re interested in continuing to hear about this weekly contest, make sure to fan us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, subscribe to our blog feed, or add us on Tumblr.

 

UPDATE: I’ve made my selection, and so this posting is now CLOSED. We’ll be doing this every week, so there will be plenty more chances for free issues. Stay tuned!

As Though She Were Sleeping

As Though She Were Sleeping
Elias Khoury (translated by Humphrey Davies)
MacLehose Press, May 2011
368 pages
$23.83

This post was written by M. Lynx Qualey.

Translator Humphrey Davies has called Elias Khoury’s 2007 novel, As Though She Were Sleeping, “one of the least linear books ever put down on paper.” The comment seems to signal both Davies’ frustration with the book, recently released in English translation by Maclehose Press, and his admiration for it.

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Curating Wonder: Reader Review #4

Today’s reader review comes from Daniel DiStefano, who looks at our Charles Baxter issue through the prism of lost youth, adolescent fantasies, and the thought process behind mixtapes.

Ploughshares Fall 1999, guest edited by Charles Baxter.
Featuring work by Jill Bossert, Antonya Nelson, and Michael Byers.
233 pages, $10.95.

In the fall of 1999, I was a fourteen-year-old freshman at an all-boys Catholic high school. The youngest in my family, my brother and sisters were already off in college or out starting their lives, and their bedrooms, once little kingdoms unto themselves and booming with music I didn’t recognize, were now silent and vacant. I knew no one in school, made friends only through discovering a mutual love of bands our older siblings had taught us to like, and harbored thoughts that any school dance would bring about my romantic moment: I’d finally meet a girl from one of our sister schools, we would step outside to talk, kiss before our parents picked us up, and we’d continue a torrid love affair until our late 80’s when one of us would unfortunately die before the other. This moment never happened though, and although I learned a little bit about algebra and the Odyssey, I learned mostly that in those days I just wanted to be somewhere else with someone else, always.

I made mix-tapes and mix-CD’s back then, ones with names and themes. Sometimes I’d even draw or collage together a melodramatic cover for the case. These mixes were always in someway about my romantic dilemma and I was struck with a strange nostalgia upon reading Charles Baxter’s introduction to the Fall ’99 fiction issue of Ploughshares. In it, he writes, “I feel as if I have been the curator for an exhibit of wonders,” choosing stories for the issue that “distract me in the way I want to be distracted; they play to my weakness for stillness and wonder.” His carefully chosen mix-tape of stories reminds me of my old tapes, and feels familiar to the pathos found in his own fiction. All of these stories seem to be based on a singular, foundationary thought: Love, in all its iterations, is hard to understand.

This tone is set with the issue’s opener, Jill Bossert’s “Remaining in Favor.” Lise is continuing her affair with Frank, and although “they are not new lovers needing to know one another’s every move,” she is still aware that “there are needs,” and, at least on her end, a great deal of love that cannot be shelved while he is off being a husband and a father. Peter Ho Davies’ “The Hull Case,” based in part on an actual UFO abduction account, is less interested in aliens and more invested in exploring a childless interracial couple in post-WWII America. In Antonya Nelson’s “Palisades,” a new mother is estranged from her non-committal husband and comes to act as confidante to an older husband and wife, both cheating on each other. Emily Hammond’s “Back East,” Stewart O’Nan’s “Please Help Find,” and Hilary Rao’s “Every Day a Little Death,” each explore the painful and confusing love children can have and lose for their parents.

It is Michael Byers’ “The Beautiful Days,” however, that conjures the most nostalgia, shame, and even a bit of envy in me. His story of Aldo’s college days, being plopped right in the “basin of happiness,” prone to fits of grace or some other “unnamable generosity of spirit,” and navigating the perplexing canals of sex, love, and what they have do with each other, exhibits such lyrical prose and an incisive insight into the young male psyche on the precipice of adulthood that it’s impossible not to think of who you were at that same stage in your own life.

Much like Aldo, I thought I was a little too smart for my own good, thought I was more in-tune with the earth and its graces than others, felt love was something deserved and not earned, and had a hard time learning, sometimes through stories like these, that none of these things were particularly true.

Daniel DiStefano was once a contracts coordinator for a literary agency, but will soon be pursuing his MFA in fiction at the University of Michigan this fall. Originally from New Jersey, he is a little nervous about moving Fred, his 21-year-old pet frog, from New York to Ann Arbor in less than a month. His fiction has appeared in The Rambler and Whitefish Review, and hopefully, someday, in Ploughshares.

My Anthology: “Walking Out” By David Quammen

Sometimes I daydream about putting together an anthology of my favorite short stories, kind of like a mix tape. Over the course of my blogging duties, I’m going to discuss a few of the stories that—from my experience—aren’t as familiar to readers.

My Anthology: “Walking Out” By David Quammen

I first encountered this story in the anthology American Short Story Masterpieces, edited by Raymond Carver and Tom Jenks, so “Walking Out” would seem to have received quite a bit of acclaim. It is, after all, a masterpiece, and in Raymond Carver’s eyes, no less. Yet when I bring it up to friends and students, few have heard of it. Perhaps it’s because Quammen rarely writes fiction anymore, instead concentrating on (excellent) non-fiction work and so his name doesn’t continue to be passed around fiction circles. Perhaps it’s because “Walking Out” is a story about hunting, and editors say, “Well, we already have “Hunters in the Snow” in here,” or something ridiculous like that. I don’t know. It cannot possibly be any shortcoming on the part of the work itself.

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We The Animals

We the Animals
Justin Torres
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
125 pages
$18.00

In We the Animals, Justin Torres demonstrates how crafting one tactile sentence after another can transform even the most ugly imaginations, experiences, and memories into a work beautiful to behold. In this debut semi-autobiographical novel, Torres asserts himself as a master of detail and haunting images as he orchestrates the inevitable life of a boy who is the third son of his too-young parents, uprooted from Brooklyn to upstate New York.

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Innovators in Lit #2: Vouched Books

Our second “innovators in literature” brings us into the world of Vouched Books, an organization devoted to promoting small press literature. I deeply admire founder Christopher Newgent’s proactive, passionate approach to spreading the word about books, the way he talks about the possibility of “setting up on the main party stretch here in Indy on a Friday night, just to see what can happen when you believe people want to read” and the importance of bringing the book to the reader. Read on and be inspired.

Laura: Vouched “exists to promote small press literature,” a decidedly awesome mission. Could you break down the different ways Vouched does this?

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Free Ploughshares: Jorie Graham

Once again, it is that time of the week in which we offer a free issue of Ploughshares from our archives. This week, it’s our Winter 2001 – 2002 issue, guest edited by Jorie Graham and featuring a gamut of contributors (the full list of which can be found here.)

In order to win this issue, please comment in the space below explaining why you love Jorie Graham or any of the issue’s contributors. We’ll read through the comments and our managing editor Andrea Drygas will choose our winning commenter by noon tomorrow. After that, we’ll send you the issue and you’ll have up to thirty days to write a review that we’ll later publish on the Ploughshares blog and website, in honor of our upcoming fortieth anniversary.

The full contest details can be found here. If you’re interested in continuing to hear about this weekly contest, make sure to fan us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, subscribe to our blog feed, or add us on Tumblr.

UPDATE: I’ve made my selection, and so this posting is now CLOSED. We’ll be doing this every week, so there will be plenty more chances for free issues. Stay tuned!

Anima

Anima
José Kozer (translated by Peter Boyle)
Shearsman Books, February 2011
268 pages
$20.00

José Kozer, one of the foremost Cuban poets of his generation, was born in Havana in 1940 to Jewish immigrants from Poland, and moved to the U.S. in 1960; Peter Boyle, his translator, is an award-winning Australian poet and translator, who has done his work here with an enviable dedication and skill. Anima is an extraordinary book.

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