We love the people that make up this community. The visionary editors and publishers, the marketing wizards who can work miracles with a shoestring budget, the super-savvy interns, and everyone in between. We think it’s about time we celebrated the amazing and witty and straight-up brilliant people behind indie lit magazines and presses. So we decided to start a mini interview series! 5 questions: 3 about literature and 2 about, well, anything. (Pizza, mostly. Because how else do you think we get so much done?) We hope this interview series will turn the impersonal, somewhat hard to pronounce names on a masthead into real, live people you can relate and connect to.
First up? The team behind lit mag A Public Space.
Hey, y’all! Guess what? The Firecracker Awards are back!
That’s right. And we’re currently reading submissions. Categories include Best Fiction, Poetry, Creative Nonfiction, Graphic Novel, YA, and Magazine of the Year.
Find out more information and enter on our Submittable page: https://firecracker.submittable.com/submit
Issue No. 113
In Sasha Graybosch’s “Recovery Period,” a sardonic woman called Greer suffers from a degenerative eye disease. “Eyes going Greer?” her boyfriend Lucien asks, as if she is both the victim and the cause of the disease, a patient zero. Keratoconus, it’s called, causes the cornea to protrude into cone. A Google image search of the condition reveals bulging eyeballs like those of surprised cartoon characters, and it’s fitting somehow to picture Greer that way—disoriented and flabbergasted—when she learns of Lucien’s death:
“Lucien’s exit from Greer’s apartment and then her life was incomprehensible; it disrupted the logic she’d once trusted—a grid had been twisted into additional dimensions. His death curled backwards over his entrance, so that when she reached for the beginning, or the middle, she always came up with the end.”
“Recovery Period” is one of the most extraordinary and sophisticated depictions of grief I have read. The world, viewed through Greery eyes, becomes both a reflection and a projection of her unstable emotional state: “Abruptly the temperature plummeted and a stretch of freezing rain bound the earth’s surface to the sky, one grey layer compressed beneath another. The trees, unable to prepare, suffered.” That kind of resonance between the inner and outer worlds is what elevates “Recovery Period” from subtle observation to gobsmacking truth.
But it’s not all straightforward. The story’s pathos is complicated by mysterious postcards that arrive from nowhere, and phone calls that may or may not come from purgatory. Graybosch makes reference to the famous eye slicing in Buñuel’s Le Chien Andalou, and I am reminded of another film that is not for the squeamish: Michael Haneke’s Caché. In it, a couple receives videotapes in the mail of their house, of them sleeping. The film, like this story, never reveals who is behind the missives. Though there are clues, I prefer the interpretation that the videotapes exist independently of a maker, as ontological evidence of their subject. To be watched one must exist, and so when Greer’s mysterious pen pal writes, “Lick your lips as you chop vegetables tonight, lovely lonely lady, and I’ll know it’s a sign,” and inadvertently she does it, the gesture is more than just a communication. It’s a sign that she’s alive.
I could go on, but I’ve already spoiled enough. “Recovery Period” is a tremendous story; why don’t you see for yourself.
Editor-in-Chief, Recommended Reading
Support Recommended Reading
by Sasha Graybosch
Recommended by Electric Literature
Sight-wise, Greer had developed a high tolerance for disturbance. Buildings doubling, streetlights smearing into ribbons, cars in the fore twitching against cars in the back, one pigeon appearing as a flock—fine. She could walk. She could still collect the mail, pick up bagels, get about. She learned to sit in the front at the movies, blink longer, take breaks, take the bus. When the world shook and danced at her windows, and she didn’t feel much like dancing, she could pull the blinds, shut her eyes. And Lucien was beside her in the dark.
It began early in the morning after her thirty-fourth birthday, an occasion she commemorated with an all-night jigsaw puzzle. Greer settled the last piece into place and stood, bleary, ready for bed, and noticed, bleeding from the kitchen light and the microwave clock and the hallway lamp, luminous halos. She rubbed her eyes. Bright cores diffused into ghosts. Lucien stirred on the couch, where he’d been sleeping since midnight. “What is it?” he said.
The troubles with her eyes emerged slowly—a faint stretch at the edges of distant words, the occasional wiggle of movement she mistook for a bug. Her glasses lenses were weak, she assumed. Lack of sleep, she thought. The distortions came and went; she often convinced herself she was getting better. The body had a way of sorting itself out.
At times, though, even the television was too much. “Balls gone bad?” Lucien would say when Greer squinted at a commercial. Or, “Eyes going Greer?” Or, “Greery?”
“Very Greery,” she’d say, the screen glaring into a muddle. They would click the show off, push her glasses back and do things up close that didn’t require looking.
Greer had met Lucien on a blind date arranged by a mutual friend, a self-proclaimed matchmaker named George. Greer knew George through cooking club, and George knew Lucien from an addiction recovery support group. George said he had been jogging with his wife along the river when Lucien surfaced in his mind, and then Greer, one figure folding into another. “It was a moment of inspiration,” he told Greer on the phone.
Greer was skeptical. “You met this guy in rehab?”
“That was years ago. You won’t like him at first, so be prepared for that. But I think you’ll be great together. I see how people can fit. He is the trees and you are the forest. He is the spicy pepper and you are the milk. He’s a piece of smoking meat left to burn in a pot, and you’re like a wet towel, or a lid. But not in a bad way.”
Greer decided not to be offended. “Does he have any other issues I should know about?”
“He’s had to work through some things—haven’t we all,” George said, the last phrase like punctuation, “and he’s a good person. Great listener. Not bad looking. His parents are rich, but you can’t hold that against him. I know you’re not judgmental, or all that excitable—that’s why I thought of you. You’re an open spirit, even if it’s not easy to see at first. I already told him about how calm you were when Cynthia hacked her thumb cutting pineapple. How everyone was falling over themselves and you just wrapped her hand up in a kitchen towel, led her out to get stitches.”
Greer was flattered. She realized George thought of her as some kind of stoic, a protector. She’d never thought of herself that way, as the someone who was good for someone. She suddenly felt curious. Open.
Today’s Recommended Reading is amazing.
You may know the lovely and oh-so-generous literary citizen Amanda Bullock as the Director of Public Programming at Housing Works Books, but she is also the co-founder and co-organizer of the Moby-Dick Marathon (MDMNYC)!
This three-day marathon reading of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, will be held in New York City from November 14th - November 16th (Ishmael super-fans may recognize the 14th as the anniversary of the U.S. publication of the book). In the past, over one hundred and fifty people participated in the event, each reading ten-minute segments of the novel. Three independent bookstores around the city hosted the reading: WORD, Molasses Books, and of course the Housing Works Bookstore and Cafe.
This year, MDMNYC hopes to expand their venue options, hire photographers and web designers, print programs in color, and provide their guests with more spoons for clam chowder! And they’re asking (nicely) for your help.
Show your support for this incredible project by backing their Kickstarter campaign! To make donating even more of a no-brainer, the MDMNYC team has also lined up some unreal-cool incentives for anyone who backs this whale of a project. The entire novel in Litograph poster-form? Yes please.
— David T.W. McCord (via observando)
— Matthew Kelly (via observando)
Whew! This weekend was quite the literary whirlwind. Between our BIG Party for Small Publishers and the 15th Annual Lit Mag Fair, we had our hands full—and we wouldn’t have had it any other way!
The BIG Party for Small Publishers was held in Brooklyn, at A Public Space's lovely office on Dean Street. (Thank you guys so much for your generosity and open arms! The night wouldn't have been nearly as successful without your support.)
The party was full of great food. Thanks, 2 Duck Goose—opening in Gowanus soon!
And there was a kickass cocktail…
But most of all, there was great company!
Thanks for coming, everyone!
The Lit Mag Fair turned 15! The festivities were held, as always, at the Housing Works Bookstore Cafe in Soho. It was a lit lover’s dream. Literary magazines from across the country covered every surface!
Editors from Bodega, Confrontation, The Literary Review, Rattapallax, and St. Petersburg Review gave one-on-one advice to blossoming writers! Readings were given by lit mag contributors Idra Novey (A Public Space), Aimee Herman (Bone Bouquet), and Camille Rankine (Tin House)!
A thought-provoking discussion on women in publishing was moderated by Amy King (VIDA)!
And yes, there was cake!!!
Thank you so much to everyone who stopped by! We can’t even begin to tell you how much your support means to us and the literary community! We hope you had as much fun as we did, and we hope to see you all again next year!
Great news! The Council of Literary Magazines and Presses has joined forces with the American Booksellers Association and a team of publishing professionals to revive and re-vamp the Firecracker Awards! This new and improved set of awards will celebrate independent literary publishers and self-published works of high literary merit.
CLMP Executive Director Jeffrey Lependorf says, “New and lasting literature from independent publishers and from self-published authors as well has been moving from the fringes to the middle. We believe the new Firecracker Awards can significantly increase the profile of exceptional, independently produced and self-published books—we want readers to know about the best from the full world of literary book publishing.”
Rest assured: the spirit and liveliness of the old award will be preserved (as in the past, winners will be announced at an unforgettable party). A major difference, however, will be a fully transparent and ethical judging system involving writers, editors, booksellers, and agents. Members of the new Firecracker Committee include representatives from CLMP, ABA, Tin House, Workman Publishing, Random House, Byliner, Greenlight Books, and literary agents, with writers to be added as the planning progresses.
By reviving and re-inventing the Firecracker Awards, CLMP hopes to provide independent literary publishers and exceptional self-published titles with a valuable marketing opportunity that will be meaningful for writers, publishers, booksellers, and readers. The committee intends to announce the first round of Firecracker Awards at BEA 2015. Submissions will be open to publishers and self-published authors starting in the fall of 2014.
You can sign up for more announcements here.