Lance Olsen. Dzanc Books, January, 2020.
In what PW’s review called “a narrative that pushes boundaries and reflects on what is means to dwell in the here and now,” Olsen weaves together a mixture of styles to render Greta Garbo, Werner Heisenberg, and Vladimir Nabokov, among others, across a single day, June 10, 1927. The effect is inspiring and masterfully captures a distinct moment in history. The Michigan-based Dzanc Books was founded in 2006 by Steven Gillis and Dan Wickett and has launched the careers of writers like Laura van den Berg, Anne Valente, Robert Lopez, Jen Michalski, Jac Jemc, and more.
McKenzie Wark. Semiotext(e), February, 2020.
Deemed an “auto-ethnography” by the publisher, Mark poses questions like, “what if you were trans and didn’t know it? What if you went through life not knowing why you only felt at home in your body during the height of inebriation?” The underlying work designs an entirely new genre to answer these questions, resulting in a mélange of literary criticism, auto-fiction, and memoir. Active for over three decades, Semiotext(e) is leading the introduction of French theory to American readers, as well as publishing the work of bold voices like Michelle Tea, William S. Burroughs, Eileen Myles, and more. The press is coedited by Sylvère Lotringer, Chris Kraus, and Hedi El Kholti.
Erin Pringle. Awst Press, February, 2020.
At the core of this novel is an exploration of the effects of time. A traveling circus has visited a town every year for a century. Like the town, the circus is a shell of its former self: down to a handful of staff and a single elephant. Pringle’s novel fearlessly tackles what it means to see tradition passed over for our breakneck 21st century, social-media-driven present. Awst Press is an independent press based in Austin, TX and edited by author Tatiana Ryckman (I Don’t Think of You (Until I Do)) focusing on the elevation and publication of diverse voices.
Andrew Weatherhead. Publishing Genius Press, February, 2020.
In his latest collection, Andrew James Weatherhead (Cats & Dogs) uses a succession of facts and musings to render the emotional economics of being a creative. The use of white space creates a rhythm to each pondered line, allowing Weatherhead to deftly bob and weave between topics long enough for the sum of the poem’s effect to hit like a knockout blow. Founded in 2006 by Adam Robinson in Baltimore, Publishing Genius has grown to become an acclaimed publisher of authors including Rachel B. Glaser, Michael Kimball, Melissa Broder, Matthew Simmons, Shane Jones, and more.
Katharine Coldiron. Kernpunkt Press, February, 2020.
Inspired by the Florence + the Machine’s album of the same name, Coldiron weaves together a twelve-part novella about two girls, Amelia and Corisande, falling in love while at boarding school. When Corisande dies and suddenly and haunts Amelia, the effect is as majestic as it is heartbreaking. Kernpunkt Press was founded by editor and librarian Jesi Buell to curate her own blend of poetry and fiction titles. In a little more than a year, the press has published dozens of experimental and hybrid blend titles.
Tariq Shah. Two Dollar Radio, March 2020. The protagonist of the short novel, Ant, attends a funeral, which would affect him more if he didn’t enjoy funerals. A lot of it has to do with his history of loss, which makes for a stark, grim, yet hilarious perspective to explore timeless themes. Two Dollar Radio was founded in 2005 by Eric and Eliza Obenauf to publish books “too loud to ignore.” They opened Two Dollar Radio HQ, the press bookstore, in Columbus, OH, where they publish up to four books a year.
Alan Pelaez Lopez. The Operating System, March, 2020.
Utilizing a mixture of photographs, emails, and collages to break away from traditional structural forms, Lopez explores the intersections of queerness, blackness, and migration, a refusal to belong to structured politics in this ambitious poetic memoir. The Operating System evolved out of a Dada-inspired magazine called Exit Strata that began in 2011. Operated by managing editor Lynne DeSilva-Johnson in Brooklyn, NY, the press aims to publish books outside of the academic, MFA. and trade publishing eco-system.
Don Mee Choi. Wave Books, April, 2020.
The latest collection from Don Mee Choi, deemed a sister book to Hardly War, combines the personal and the political exploring Edward Said’s notion of “the intertwined and overlapping histories" concerning to South Korea and the United States. One of the most prolific and popular independent poetry publishers in the country, Wave Books was founded in 2005 in Seattle, Washington, merging with the established Verse Press to publish bold, innovative poetic texts.
Edited by Jordan Castro. Tyrant Books, April, 2020.
Containing a mixture of new and old writing from authors like Ryunosuke Akutagawa, Ann Beattie, Chelsea Hodson, Sarah Manguso, Kathryn Scanlan and more, editor Jordan Castro presents an anthology of deft writing, a wide range of stories about pets. Tyrant Books started in 2006 by Giancarlo DiTrapano in Hell’s Kitchen, New York. In 2009, DiTrapano began publishing full-length books, beginning with a limited edition blood-printed hardcover editions of Brian Evenson’s Baby Leg, and has gone on to publish many successful titles, including the PEN/Faulkner award-winning novel, Preparation for the Next Life by Atticus Lish.
Tea Hacic-Vlahovic. CLASH Books, May 2020.
In this clever debut novel of fashion and nightlife, readers are introduced to Mia, an expat newly moved to Milan. The drugs, nightclubs, and men blur together into a seemingly nonstop, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas-style fever dream as intense as it is dripping with style. CLASH Books was founded in 2015 by Leza Cantoral and Christoph Paul to publish books that imbue a sense of punk rock, goth cool. The press has published the work of authors like Sam Pink, Mark de Silva, Lindsay Lerman, and more.
Ashleigh Bryant Phillips. Hub City Press, May 2020.
The winner of the 2019 C. Michael Curtis Short Story Book Price, this debut collection of stories explores the seemingly forgotten corners of America. Hub City Press began in 1995 in Spartanburg, SC, by a group of writers looking to preserve some sense of their gentrifying city. Operating for 25 years, the mission hasn’t changed—evolving into a press, community bookshop, and literary programming.
Chris Lambert. King Shot Press, May 2020.
The author of 2015’s Killer & Victim, Lambert’s second offering is structured to be a full deck of 52 vignettes brimming with corporate espionage, murder, impossible miracles and more. With characters that run the gamut from a professional wrestler-turned-preacher to a game designer responsible for a deadly RPG, each story adds a layer of bold intensity to already alarming material. King Shot Press was founded in Portland, OR in 2014 by writers Tiffany Scandal and Michael Kazepis to be a “radical publishing house” that blends together “80s hardcore records, Goth existentialism, Gucci Mane, and monster movies.”
Alysia Li Ying Sawchyn. Burrow Press, June 2020.
Chronicling the author’s experiences after being misdiagnosed at age 18 with bipolar I, Sawchyn uses topics as varied as music to medical journals, friendship and loneliness, to link each individual essay with unrivaled honesty. The Orlando, Florida-based Burrow Press was founded in 2010 to expand the boundaries of Florida Literature and to foster the literary community around the city.
Chloe N. Clark. Word West, July, 2020.
The 26 stories comprising Clark’s debut collection display a dizzying range of genre-bending playfulness. The scenarios explore everything from a zombie apocalypse that actually happens (yet literally everything remains the same) to a woman suddenly feeling the planet moving on its orbit. Word West was founded by David Queen after he moved from New York City to the prestigious MFA program at the University of Montana.
Adam O. Davis. Sarabande Books, Oct. 2020.
A debut collection of prose poetry, Davis tackles themes generally reserved for the annals of genre fiction. Everything from things that go bump in the night to disappearing and destroyed Bison, the pieces actualize how even the worst hauntings, the scariest monsters, carry their own nightmares and doubts. Founded in 1994 as a nonprofit operation, Sarabande Books is a Louisville, Kentucky-based independent publisher created by Sarah Gorham and Jeffrey Skinner. Notable authors published by the press include Frank Bidart, Louise Glück, Karen An-hwei Lee, Cate Marvin, Edith Pearlman, Ann Townsend, and more.
Michael J. Seidlinger is a frequent PW contributor and the author of My Pet Serial Killer (Fangoria, 2018). He lives in Brooklyn.