Big thanks to Dan Cafaro of Atticus Books for an inventive interview with two of the most colorful characters from The Grievers, Charley Schwartz and Greg Packer! I’m a huge fan of the titles that Atticus has produced, especially The Snow Whale, The Great Lenore, and Fight for Your Long Day. I was also blown away by their latest title, Kino by Jurgen Fauth, so it was especially flattering when Dan offered to interview me on his press’s book blog. Needless to say, I’m also struck by his generosity and the generosity of the small press scene in general. After all, how many big publishers offer to help with promoting titles by “the competition”? Then again, it isn’t competition when good people like Dan remind us that we’re all in it together–writing, reading, making art, and changing the world a little bit at a time!
The books keep piling up! I wish I could give all of them the time and attention they deserve. In the meantime, here’s a rundown of some recent small press titles:
Kergan Edwards-Stout’s Songs for the New Depression follows the adventures of Gabriel Travers, a young man battling AIDS. Despite his doctor’s proclamations to the contrary and rumors of a promising new HIV drug cocktail, Gabriel is convinced he doesn’t have long to live. With the clock ticking, Gabe begins to finally peel back the layers and tackle his demons — with a little help from the music of the Divine Miss M (Bette Midler) and his mom’s new wife, a country music-loving priest. The Advocate writes that “Kergan Edwards-Stout has crafted a work of fiction reminiscent of some classic tales in Songs for the New Depression. Even better, Edwards-Stout’s debut boasts the kind of dark humor that made Augusten Burroughs (Running With Scissors, Dry) a household name.”
Kelly Easton’s Time in the Sleeping Sky is a novel about the mysteries of time. Ben Hawkins has sped through time only to find that he can’t remember his life. His daughter “ticks in reverse,” allowing the past to control her present. A bear named Gertrude, a Persian shopkeeper, an unsolved murder, a farm in Japan, and the star-struck landscape of Los Angeles weave through the trajectory of one family’s journey through time. Publishers Weekly writes, “Easton ably establishes a complex, highly charged atmosphere and mediates with sympathy and intelligence.”
Steve Caplan’s Welcom Home, Sir touches on issues ranging from hypochondria to PTSD. On the surface, Dr. Ethan Meyer is the picture of success. A biochemistry professor, he runs his lab with efficiency and care, projects an air of confidence, and is respected by his peers. Inside, however, he’s coming apart at the seams. While fighting his personal demons and struggling to keep his family together, Ethan must also navigate a series of crises at work. Welcome Home, Sir is Caplan’s second novel.
Diana Salier’s Letters from Robots is a quirky collection of poetry about post-millennial pre-apocalyptic neuroses. Zombies, sandwiches, movie monsters, and Kurt Cobain all make appearances, as does Salier’s lamentation that she should have been an astronaut. Kevin Sampsell, author of A Common Pornography, writes of Letters, “Robots don’t have emotions, but these poems do. Salier is able to bring to life the sad, cold moments of loneliness and turn them into weird, apocalyptic, and sometimes funny scenes.”
Thanks to Monica D’Antonio for this interview…
Today, I had the pleasure of two firsts: conducting my first interview and conducting my first interview with author Marc Schuster. Schuster’s second novel The Grievers is gearing up for release on May 1, and he graciously sat down with me over our respective computers (who does this stuff face-to-face anymore?) and answered questions about writing, the state of education in America, and, most importantly, about what it’s like to be friends with me. Here’s how it went:
The Grievers is your second novel, following pretty closely on the heels of The Singular Exploits of Wonder Mom and Party Girl. What was the experience like this time around?
I actually wrote several drafts of The Grievers before I wrote Wonder Mom. About three drafts in, I felt like I had to switch gears a bit, and that’s when Wonder Mom started coming together. It wasn’t until later that I…
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Despite F. Scott Fitzgerald’s protests to the contrary, there are plenty of second acts in American lives, and Charles Holdefer’s Back in the Game offers a case in point. The novel follows former AAA and European League baseball player Stanley Mercer as he struggles to make a life for himself as a schoolteacher in the small town of Legion, Iowa. That Stanley has never graduated from college is the least of his worries as he falls for a married woman who also happens to be the mother of one of his worst students.
Throughout the novel, Holdefer develops a perfect level of synergy between setting and character. Like any small town, Legion is home to a wide range of endearing individuals, not the least of which are a pair of misfit siblings named the Snows, who ride the school bus with Stanley amid a constant barrage of verbal slings and arrows from their classmates. Yet while the people of Legion may fit the traditional profile in many ways, Holdefer offers a complex vision of Small Town America that firmly resists cliché. Indeed, while the townspeople cheer their high-school football team by donning rubber pig noses and squealing from the sidelines, methamphetamine abuse runs rampant behind closed doors and environmental disaster looms on the horizon in the form of a massive sewage lagoon. To put it mildly, the simple life has never been so complicated.
Back in the Game explores the changing face of Middle America in a moving and nuanced way. Quirky as they are heartbreaking, Holdefer’s characters come across as nothing less than fully human in this loving study of the relationship between people and the places we call home.
Related: A Conversation with Charles Holdefer.