Remember mystery books? The intrigue of unsolved, bloody murders. The goosebumps you get when the hero cop turns an innocent corner, to get jumped by the greed-warped villain. On May 15, the Booklist Reader featured Bitter Lemon Press, one publisher that keeps churning out the mysteries like they’re addicted. The Booklist Reader featured Bitter Lemon Press in their Small-Press Lineup, complete with a brief history on Bitter Lemon Press from founders, brothers François and Frederic von Hurter, and accomplice Laurence Colchester. According to the founders, Bitter Lemon Press was founded while the three were “sitting in the shade of a large oak tree one summer in the Cevennes region of France, we decided it was time to do something together, different and probably not very profitable.” Now, Bitter Lemon Press is coming up on 11 years, and launching exciting new titles all the time. Just released last May, Fallout by New Zealander Paul Thomas follows the dangerous political intrigue of Tito Ihaka, the unkempt, overweight Maori cop. Coming up this June, Tin Sky by Ben Pastor continues the Ukrainian/Russian tale of Major Martin Bora as he flees further from Stalingrad. For more mystery (and bitter lemons), check out the website.
Now, independent English bookstore Rough Trade is promoting Third Man Books as its publisher of the month, which includes taking the exclusive rights to selling the first two titles by Third Man Books for a short time.
Third Man Books is a new venture of Third Man Records, founded by Jack White of The White Stripes. Whether it’s music or books, the mantra is motion:
Where your turntable’s not dead.
Where your page still turns.
In celebration of the collaboration, Third Man Books will be heading over to London on May 29 to host an event featuring readings, performances, and special guest speakers with Rough Trade East.
How did the likes of Rabindrinath Tagore, Toni Morrisson, and Alice Munro function in life as they were creating masterpieces that propelled them toward Nobel Laureate awards? What were their habits? Were they normal? Coffee House Press‘s own Chris Fischbach has been asking those sorts of questions as he collaborates with independent curator Sarah Schultz for the Laureate Lounge—a project of the American Swedish Institute.
On May 6, Minneapolis online literary community Hazel & Wren completed part 1 of a 2-part interview with Fischbach and Schultz. They chatted about the details of the Laureate Lounge— “an inventive space inspired by the real and imagined habits of Nobel Laureates,” and selecting four brilliant writers (Rachel Jendrzejewski, Janaki Ranpura, Sun Yung Shin, and Andy Sturdevant) to create writing exercises for visitors to the Lounge.
In the words of Hazel & Wren, “Arts organizations are moving from traditional (and sometimes elitist) modes of art presentation to more collaborative, grass-roots, and innovative ways of engagement. One of the organizations I admire that is addressing this shift in a very successful and intriguing way is Coffee House Press.”
The interview honed in on why Fischbach (and Coffee House Press) is involved with so many community events. They’re a publisher after all, not an event sponsor. Fisbach’s intention is to show that “literature is something that can be experienced in ways other than just reading. That reading isn’t necessarily a passive experience, but that it’s always participatory—this exhibit enacts that literally.”
As Coffee House Press continues to publish incredible literature, the independent house is also intentionally creating programming that, in Fischbach’s words, “connects writers and readers. It’s about creating different kinds of spaces for both writers and readers to encounter, enact, absorb, create literature. To demystify it.” With projects like the Laureate Lounge, Coffee House Press continues to innovate the idea of what publishing means—starting a conversation around the books.
The Laureate Lounge runs through May 24.
One day, she suffered a brain aneurism, and during a long gig at the hospital, played the stock market. By the time recovery came, she had deep enough pockets to start a press for her newfound love: comic books. Since 2007, Annie has been publishing comics, graphics, art books, and zines out of Toronto.
The Comics Alternative Podcast highlighted the spring releases of Koyama Press, including Alex Schubert’s Blobby Boys 2, Ginette Lapalme’s Confetti, A. Degen’s Mighty Star and the Castle of the Cancatervater, and Dustin Harbin’s Diary Comics.
Derek and Andy discussed in great detail the comic art from Confetti, uncovering the visual themes of food with faces, cats, dogs, butts, and bodily “leakage.” In Andy’s words, “Poop, pee, melting skin, something like intestines–there’s a lot of leakage in this one.”
According to the Two Guys, Koyama’s spring collection is quite the eclectic bunch, from the Blobby Boys without a moral compass, to a butt with eyeballs, you’ll see just about everything comical.
- “When we talk about something ‘being human’ or a ‘universal experience,’ what we hope to mean is that there are things . . . that bind us through basic empathy . . . The fundamental achievement of Jason Little’s Borb is the manner in which he harnesses that attention, underpinning the trials and tribulations of his main character with equal amounts of mirth and despair.”—The A.V. Club, April 14, 2015
- “What makes Little’s approach and execution so impactful is the way it subverts the wacky expectations of the medium. . . . There are walls a reader has to break down to find this overweight, lumbering amputee relatable and sympathetic. Little’s considerable sincerity and skills make those walls cardboard-thin.”—Chicago Tribune, April 9, 2015
- “A brief, picaresque story of the titular Borb, a down-on-his-luck homeless man whose fiction is as hard-fought and tragic as the reality that millions of people face every single day.”—This Is Infamous, April 6, 2015
- “Beautifully drawn. . . . There is no way this book will not get a reaction out of you. It is an early contender for book of the year.”—Mental Floss, April 2, 2015
- “Jason Little’s illustrations capture Borb’s life in all its dismal glory. He says so much about addiction and homelessness, and ultimately how hard it is to get out of that downward spiral, which too few ever do.”—Jason Kennedy, Boswell Book Company, March 7, 2014
- “Little’s elegant linework, minimal dialogue, and unwavering focus on the man’s day-to-day struggles are powerful, giving us a gruesome, slapstick view of society’s underbelly.”—Publishers Weekly, February 23, 2015
Poetry isn’t the most popular genre out there. In fact, it’s not even close. So, what if a team of poets shoved themselves even further into the niche with political poetry? What about poetic activism, anarchism, socialism?
Welcome Commune Editions.
In an article published April 24, Publisher’s Weekly profiled the three poets Jasper Bernes, Joshua Clover, and Juliana Spahr who “have bootstrapped Commune Editions, a publishing collective, with an assist from anarchist publishing and distribution house AK Press.” This team of poets has been collaborating for years. In their final collective post for online poetry Journal Jacket2, they defended their highly collaborative efforts with this: “We have gone to jail for each other and bailed each other out and done each other’s jobs and collaborated on many writings before and argued a lot with each [other] too.”
With this gritty, loyal foundation, Commune is set to launch three books this year, all self-published, with books by Cheena Marie Lo and David Lau slated for next year. Commune holds no pretense about their self-publishing. In Bernes’s words, “What we’re doing isn’t that different, though it is different in that we’re being honest about it.”
AK Press, whose mission is to “revolutionize by the book” will be the perfect support grounds for Commune’s publishing and distribution needs. After a fire two weeks ago, AK Press is currently crowdfunding to rebuild their distribution center in Oakland, CA. Please consider donating to get this boundary-pushing press back on its feet.
Last Monday, the art editor at the New Yorker and founder of TOON Books got a spot smack dab in the middle of GOOD Magazine. Françoise Mouly, whose relationship with comics began when she was learning English (she’s a native Frenchwoman), spoke with GOOD‘s associate editor Jed Oelbaum about kids, her 22-year stint with the New Yorker, and, of course, the incredible cultural and educational value of cartoons.
In the interview, Mouly explained that comics are important to build visual literacy, which is just as important in today’s image-driven media as word literacy. Quoting her husband, Art Spiegelman, Mouly said of the comic, “it’s a gateway to literature, as Art says, a gateway drug to reading.”
Reading is pleasure, and that’s Mouly’s entire philosophy behind TOON Books, and the captivating and playful titles that she continues to churn out. From Perdidos en NYC: una aventura en el metro by Nadja Spiegelman and illustrated by Sergio García Sánchez, to Stinky written and illustrated by Eleanor Davis, Mouly’s cartoon books are fun for children and adults, which is completely intentional: “I think it’s really important to acknowledge that both as children and adults, we are driven by a very simple pleasure principle. It has to be pleasurable to read. It has to have literary value, it has to be a good story, it has to have something where if you spend time with the pictures, it can convey a lot of meaning.”