Have you heard about Authors for Indies? It’s a new, national (actually, international) initiative to bring attention to the amazing work that independent bookstores do in terms of supporting regional authors, hand-selling books, hosting events, and building communities—for starters.
I don’t talk about it much (yet) but I used to co-own an independent bookstore, so this is a cause not only close to my heart, but a longstanding part of me. Authors for Indies takes place Saturday, May 2nd, 2015. On that day, authors will be in stores doing everything from reading and signing work to very likely recommending books for Mother’s Day. I’ll be at Book City Bloor West Village May 2nd, from 2:30-4pm. What will I be doing? I DON’T KNOW! But it’ll beat having been snowed in, reciting the parts of a Eukaryote to myself.
In advance of the event, the organizers asked me to supply a list of books I would recommend, with the intention that they might order some in. And I thought, hey, why not post my list with some comments?
But you know, also get out on May 2nd and visit your local independent bookstore!
Saeed Jones: Prelude to Bruise
Saeed Jones calls himself “the ferocity” online, for every reason you can imagine. He is a force of nature—not only in this, his multiple award-nominated first book of poetry, but also in his work for Buzzfeed LGBT, his creation of their groundbreaking paid writing fellowships and forthcoming literature section, and a number of recent essays that slay. He’s unstoppable, and can break fools with glance. Jones grew up in the American south (mostly Texas), and his writing captures the spectrum of southern atmospheres—parchedness giving way to lushness, community ebbing into threat, and back again. The nameless “Boy” of the book (that ancient, loaded condescension) could be anyone, but reading this book your heart will race as if you are the first person:
In a four-legged night,
clouds sink into the trees,
refuse me morning
and mourning, but I pass
what I thought was the end
of myself. To answer
your rifle’s last question:
if you ever find me,
I won’t be there.
— from ‘After The First Shot”
CA Conrad: The Book of Frank
CA Conrad is one of our most fearless and original poets, and I’d recommend anything he has written. When I got The Book of Frank, I read it three times in a row in one sitting. “Frank,” is a character without a plot, a boy whose learned sense of self-worth is reminiscent of that Sexton line: “I was stamped out like a Plymouth fender into this world.” BUT. Aimless Frank has a surrealistic vision and the distance of a wizard, both of which help him transcend his chaotic environment.
Ken Babstock: Methodist Hatchet
Methodist Hatchet is a masterpiece. Each poem is its own world, each line its own breath. In this book, there’s urgency, there’s resignation, there’s scoffing, there’s pleas—but never prayers. Lines will inhabit your mind like destabilizing mantras, like koans: “No one occupies me like me. And no one/makes me lonelier.”