A few weeks ago we began inviting small publishers of any size to send us review copies of their work. We review anything from bestsellers to chapbooks at LitKicks, but we’re hoping to focus more closely on a territory in the modern literary landscape that’s neglected by most book reviews or litblogs: high-quality books from small or regional non-affiliated presses or individual self-promoting authors.
The vast sprawl that surrounds high-finance corporate publishing is more than the minor league of literature. It’s a permanent home for an incredible range of wildlife and humanity. Here are some of the books that showed up in our mailbox recently:
The Closer’s Song by Christopher Cole
Closer’s Song is a tough look back at a relationship between two men over decades. Spanning the 1969 Woodstock Festival to modern-day suburban success (the author is an auto executive), the story is ambitious, well-written and peppered with references from zen buddhism to white rap.
The text appears strong, but my main complaint is with the packaging. The cover is a color field with text, and the back cover promo could be punched up. As a successful automobile executive, Christopher Cole must know the importance of the sales pitch — this book may be a good ride, but he’s got to work harder to get the customers into the seats for a test drive.
The Oblivion Evangelist by Dolly Sen
Brit transgressive author Dolly Sen has an intense, honest violent streak that recalls Quentin Tarantino, Bret Easton Ellis, Chuck Palahniuk and the grandmaster of all murder-minded transgressives: Fyodor Dostoevsky. Somebody’s rude to her at the dole office, and that’s where the killing begins. If you go for this kind of thing … here’s a kind of thing to go for.
Harvey Keitel, Harvey Keitel, Harvey Keitel by John Dorsey, S. A. Griffin, Scott Wannberg
I really like S. A. Griffin and his Los Angeles/Venice Beach clique, and I’m glad to see their latest publication. Griffin’s a talented poet with a strong loud voice:
the ghosts of war
rising from the killing fields
of Wall Street
(the ghost dancers of Wounded Knee)
all rising like the phoenix of a bad acid nightmare
with the broke & broken babble of blind young soldiers
oiled by God the Destroyer
& the vengeful bark of hungry gun song
dipped in gold
His compadres, each of whom contributes a third of the book, aren’t too shabby either. Check this poetry volume out and see for yourself.
The Last Stage by Jim Cherry
Novelist Jim Cherry gets high marks for clarity — it’s immediately obvious that his The Last Stage aims for the transformative Dionysian magic embodied by Doors singer Jim Morrison. The book is about a down-and-out Jim Morrison look-alike who confronts his own inner lizard king while fronting a Doors-wannabe band. I’d like to see this book sell a lot of copies, and I hope Cherry is aggressively marketing it to his target audience — not aging hippies, but rather anybody of any age who is fascinated by the decadent symbolism of poets like Jim Morrison. I hope he’s getting out to college campuses, open mics, goth festivals, etc. and selling this thing.
Prawject Revolution by Jonathan Stevens
Prawject Revolution speaks for itself — and with the best website of all the publishers on this page, I hope you will let it speak to you. Author Stevens gets points for understanding one of the most important requirements for a successful small press or self-promoting author: you gotta put yourself out there with style, or nobody’s going to want to read your book.