LitKicks Reviews: Let’s Get Small

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
of Gettysburg
(the ghost dancers of Wounded Knee)
& Columbine
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.

5 Responses

  1. CommentsS.A. Griffin’s ghosts

    S.A. Griffin’s ghosts of war poem rocks! I don’t know why the mention of Harvey Keitel sounds subversive. Maybe all the weird movies he’s been in (and by weird, I mean, I like them). So the title grabs me.

    I have one of Jim Cherry’s previous books, a collction of short stories called Stranger Souls. While I didn’t completely dig each & every story, I really liked the ones I liked. The price of the book is worth it for a sci-fi piece called The Softest Metal.

    And yes, Levi, Jonathan Stevens does have a great website. It makes me want to know more about his work.

  2. Yeah, Stranger Souls has it’s
    Yeah, Stranger Souls has it’s moments. It was a means to an end in that I wanted something to give to people to show what I could do, and I hoped they didn’t notice the weaker stories.

    The Last Stage I think is my best work to date.

  3. Dust off yer credit
    Dust off yer credit cards

    Where else can we be informed about all these awesome independent pubs, that otherwise would’ve slipped under the radar.

    The Last Stage sounds very interesting, as I grew up a huge Doors fan. In fact, it was the Doors that turned me onto Kerouac.

  4. Thick skinnedYou have to be
    Thick skinned

    You have to be thick skinned to be a writer. Recently I checked back to an article I wrote on Wikipedia entitled “Is Woodstock Dead?” I wrote the original on the 35th anniversary of the concert.

    I recieved a rather harsh response from a critic who gave me a backhanded compliment by comparing me to Kerouac. Here is the article, entitled “Is Woodstock Dead?”:

    I returned to the original site after thirty-five years and sadly I have to ask this question. I set out on my Yamaha V Star Sunday, August 22 2004 at 5am from New Hope Pennsylvania (a Woodstock-like town of artists and shops in Eastern Pa.) with Francis Theuer a friend who drives a Harley Davidson Road King. It was cold and damp as we set out at 5 am, but my spirits were high because I was returning in style with hopes and anticipation of recapturing some of the magic I had experienced the first time around in 1969. After all it was where I met my wife and spent a purely magical weekend. My friend although my age had not been there, and I filled him with stories and folklore the days prior, of the original event. It was a long 150+-mile trip first up Rte 287 through Jersey to The NY Throughway to rte 17b and finally Hurd Road. When we finally arrived, the lower half of Hurd road had homes that weren’t there in 69 and made the place look quite different. I blew right past the original site without recognizing it, although the dip of grass off to the side of the road sparked a little glimmer of remembrance. I turned around two miles past and finally retracing my ride arrived at the site. I didn’t realize the monument had been erected to the lower side near the stage area (from photo’s I thought it was on the upper end). No one was there at 9:30 am. We parked the bikes and read the monument. I looked toward the field where I had sat thirty- five years ago, and played back the memories in my mind. I found it hard to determine where the “Hog Farm” (Hippies from California who prepared food and helped talk down those of us who were too stoned on brown acid and needed their assistance) had been set up. I marveled at how pretty and manicured the lawn was now kept (unlike the muddy field I remembered) and how different it seemed surrounded by the wooden fence that shouted “STAY OUT!” I thought about the expensive new homes that had been built all around the place since my last visit and felt sad that the solemnity of the original landscape had been altered. I wanted to stay and play it all back again, but after only a few minutes of reflection we set off for Yasgur’s farm. I stopped in the General Store (shown in the film) on 17b to ask directions and saw the headlines “Peace, Love, and Two Stabbings!” blasting out from the newspaper on the rack. It sickened me. I also found out that this incident plus a heavy downpour over the weekend had cleared a lot of people out. When I arrived at the farm around 10am Sunday there were only about a few hundred people (unlike the 25th reunion which I also attended at the original site were I estimated about 60,000 people had turned out). We parked our bikes on the driveway of a neighbor’s house and walked over to one of the coordinators of the event named Paul and I signed the wooden table reserved for the veterans of the original festival. We had a cordial talk and reminisced about the old days for a while. My buddy and I walked around a bit and decided to leave. We smelled the long gone familiar aroma of pot and my friend joked that we were probably the only two people without any. I added that we would probably scare the hell out of any of the kids (thinking we were narcs) if we asked for some. I was hoping to catch my brother Peter there who had restored an old Triumph I once owned, but we never connected. Francis and I drove through the back roads through Ellenville to Newburgh (almost getting literally run over by the Hasidim who were all over the roads), stopped in New Paltz for lunch and drove up to the town of Woodstock fifty miles from White Lake. We drove up Meads Mt, to the old Church Of Christ built by Fr. Francis (a colorful renegade bishop in the 60’s) and went in. The church is very rustic with many icons, and on the back wall also the picture of Fr. Francis, Fr. John the present Deacon, and the bishop of the Western Rite Orthodox Church who now owned the place. It brought back a flood of memories of my stay there many years ago. I soaked up the aura inside the church and visited the graves just outside. I scanned the landscape and recalled the anti-war posters that once were tacked to the trees when I had first arrive in 1969. My friend shook me out of my Zen like state, and asked me to leave before it got too late. Then it was further up top of the Mt. to the Buddhist Monastery built twenty years or so ago which overpowered the Church, and then back down to the town of Woodstock. We parked our bikes and sat on the steps of a store and watched the tourists pass by, many of who erroneously thought this is where the festival was originally held. I took note of the commercialism that had begun in the Sixties and was now full blown. My ass was real sore by this time and I was exhausted, so I leaned up against a pillar, closed my eyes for several minutes, only to open them as my buddy yelled out that I should look up. It was Father John the new Deacon of the Church on the mountain, dressed in his long black cassock and full beard and long hair walking down the street. What a coincidence! I had always wanted to meet him. I called him over and we spoke of FR. Francis, the Church and Orthodoxy, and my seminary days and the book I wrote about Woodstock, which I once left with his caretaker a few years before. Fr. John is a gregarious fellow and had a keen sense of humor, but something was troubling him. He spoke about how the Buddhists and some town officials were trying to close the Church and push him off the Mountain. [DON’T LET IT HAPPEN!] How ironic I thought. At 4:30pm we started our machines and headed for the New York Through Way South and the last 150-mile leg of our journey back to Pennsy. Pulling out of Woodstock and flying down Zena Road I couldn’t help feel that something had died. Perhaps fifteen years into the future at the 50th reunion we may have been able to recapture some of the spirit of Peace and Love once again. To be fair I have also changed. I had grown hard and callous after Altamont, Kent State, the assassinations of our leaders and all the trauma of our generation. I copted out and embraced the society I once reviled. I left the seminary, got married, turned my back on organized religion, floated aimlessly in a self-induced alcoholic self-pittying cycle of pleasure and pain for countless years. But a spark of hope, once experienced so intensely at that Concert in 69, kept me hanging on all this time. And with tears in my eyes I will never let that ember die, because the MUD OF WOODSTOCK STILL SQUISHES BETWEEN MY TOES. — Christopher Cole

    Here’s the response I got:

    This is drivel. And it seems to be mostly about yourself rather than the concert. And you’re non-notable. Jack Kerouac could get away with this crap because he did it first. You’re twice my age and and you can’t spell pitying. I despise you and all you stand for. You and your generation amounted to nothing. And now it’s your turn to grow old and have everything you cared about wiped away. –Ashley Pomeroy

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