This week's new lit from guest contributor, Sam Riviere
Write it or hate it, alt lit seems like a thing, and its most recognised format is probably the eBook (: the pdf). It's still rare that the form matches the content as immediately and elegantly as this, though: the beautifully sparse erasure poems in Japanese Red Leaf Maple are composed entirely from Craigslist entries. There's something startling and affecting about these oblique, almost Zen-like appeals to strangers to take away unwanted household items ('No it’s not on fire. It is in our basement and that is a sunbeam.'). It can be downloaded free from Love Symbol Press.
NEW BOOK OF THE WEEK: What Purpose Did I Serve in your Life, Marie Calloway [Tyrant]
For a book hasn't even been published yet, What Purpose… has already created more than its fair share of controversy: two companies have refused to print it due to content; a TV appearance by the author on Dr Phil was scheduled then abruptly cancelled ('too hardcore'); and a story, 'Adrien Brody', published at Tao Lin's Muumuu House, created a comment-stream shitstorm on an unprecedented scale. 'Marie Calloway' is both a pseudonym and the work's narrator: part of its achievement is the way the book makes categories like 'autobiography' and 'fiction' seem suddenly spurious. At moments seeming like a calling-out of the entire male literary tradition, the collection of writings begins with an account of the loss of the protagonist's virginity and proceeds to progressively extreme accounts of sexual encounters: sex work in Blackheath, London; a harrowing BDSM session. Over the different pieces, it mounts a sort of aggressive inquest into the ideal of feminine passivity – here, the gaps in a young girl's sexual knowledge are 'filled in by porn'; what she wants is to be decided always by a male other. Accompanied by facebook collages and selfshot nudes, the writing pushes the logic of a woman identifying herself as a blank tool for the use in the desires of others beyond comfortable limits and confronts us, at times shockingly, with the realisation that discussions about patriarchy and misogyny must begin with the way these ideologies are enforced most powerfully on the level of personal relationships. Calloway is interviewed at the Believer here.
DIY PUBLISHER OF THE WEEK: Civil Coping Mechanisms
Quietly amassing a formidable catalogue of intimidatingly young and talented authors from both sides of the Atlantic, CCM has recently published The Prodigal, a novel by Alexander Allison about a self-absorbed 21-year old's idiosyncratic rebellion via the accruement of online poker gambling debts, and poetry collections by the internet's Ana Carrete (Baby Babe 'has given poetry the handjob it so desperately needs' – Noah Cicero) and Jordan Castro, all of which are well worth a look.
INTERNET ZINE OF THE WEEK: Illuminati Girl Gang
Perhaps the most genuinely exciting prospect about Tumblr is the possibility of connected individuals quickly creating and developing group aesthetics and values independent of 'official' moderation or approval… It seems incredibly appropriate to address from these outlets issues such as the enormous gender imbalance in literary publishing. IGG is a online and print publication celebrating female art and writing, edited by poet and online presence Gabby Gabby. Poems, photobooth sessions, short fiction and collage make up an inclusive, non-prescriptive, savage, warm, and enormously appealing assortment – the varied work collected here feels unified in the sense that you won't find much resembling it in mainstream literary publications; it is more interesting than about 90% of what you will. And hey, you can look at it right now, or buy as a luxurious large format magazine.
'NON-FICTION' BOOK OF THE WEEK: A Question Mark Above the Sun, Kent Johnson [Starcherone]
All-round imp and bane of US poetry establishments Kent Johnson argues nimbly and bloody-mindedly that it's not impossible one of Frank O' Hara's most well-known and beloved poems was in fact written and attributed to him after his death by his friend Kenneth Koch. The book collects Johnson's extensive research into the matter, as well as incensed and hilarious responses to his claim from other poets and academics. Oddly, it seems to aid the book's cause that it has been refused permission to use any quotations from O' Hara or Koch, meaning in order to reference them Johnson resorts to elaborate paraphrasing beneath massive empty quote marks, and italics reading 'quote redacted'. Frustrating, affectionate, uncategorisable, in its tireless speculation and steely sense of mischief, the whole book comes to seem itself like a weird and bold commemorative poem.
Text by Sam Riviere