Tuesday, December 28, 2010

**Easter Rabbit versus Sasquatch Stories Get Both for $15**

**This post ends with an offer to get both these books for $15. You should read the post though so you know what crazy books you're getting.**

I received the reprint of Easter Rabbit and the new version of Sasquatch Stories over the Christmas weekend. Here they are:
I love all PG books equally, but in different ways. Like children, each book develops with its own experiences, so it takes on a personality (to me) that is separate from the book's personality as literature. So, for instance, while Mairéad Byrne's book, The Best of (What's Left of) Heaven is very funny, I think of it as serious and challenging because of how difficult it was to design. And while Words by Andy Devine is a severe and complicated book, I view it as a breeze because of how easy it was to work with Michael Kimball and Justin Sirois (who did the design).

Another book that makes my heart swell is Joseph Young's Easter Rabbit. One astounding and gratifying milestone for this book is that it received Baltimore's City Paper award for best book by a local author. Another neat thing is that we sold through its first print run of 300 copies in less than six months. But what really makes me proudest of ER is what the book is and what it means for literature. I believe it is the ground that all microfiction walks on. It is the beginning and the ending of flash. Or, to put it in tamer words, it is the best book of very short stories that exists today. Hint fiction is cool. Twitter fiction is whatever. Flash fiction is constantly seeking definition. But I am convinced that ER is great because it is so confident about what it is. It answers questions about itself even though it is a book of ambiguous plots. It stands up to scrutiny but defies systematization. I have always been proud of this book as a foundation for a genre. Now that the second edition has finally been printed, I sure hope to sell a couple.

I also hope to sell a bunch more copies of Sasquatch Stories by Mike Topp. This book resides at the other end of ER's teeter-tauter. Where ER is elegant and restrained (?), giving (?), patient (?), delicate (?), Sasquatch Stories is tricky and goofy (?), inane (?), frantic (?), disturbing (?) -- but both are significantly more enriching then their word count suggests. When ER was first released, I issued a challenge that anyone who could read the whole book (of only 3000 words) in one sitting, could have their money back. Two people did it. One live-blogged his attempt and concluded that by the end, he didn't know the words he was processing.

I won't offer this contest for Sasquatch Stories, though, because I think if people can't read the entire thing in one sitting, probably in less than 15 minutes, they're making something out of it that isn't there. BUT! I defy anyone to put the book down after that first read and not think about the book very soon (and for a long time) afterward. It invokes a definite and lasting wonderment about its stories and jokes and poems -- or whatever these things are that Mike Topp writes. In fact, they work in a very similar way to Joe's stories in that they often end before you begin to wonder about them. As Gary Lutz blurbed, Topp is "a miniaturist of nervous precisions, our supreme abridger of metropolitan startlement and inner fidgetry." These apt characterizations are borne out in the short book.

Another "bet-you-can't-eat-just-one" effect of reading Sasquatch Stories, I think, is that after you finish it, you won't be able to resist showing it to friends. You're going to need their help, like, "Carl, what the heck, help, let me show you this book, is this poetry?" That's something you'll say indignantly while jabbing the open pages with your index finger. "How do you explain this, Carl?"

One fear I have with this book is that people will think it's an indictment of literature. With ER, I think befuddled people can write the stories off as poetry they don't get, but something about Sasquatch Stories points a finger at regular literature and says, "What's your problem?" Take the story "Survey," from page 11:
Do you ever eat other people's food from the office refrigerator?
Can this story be taken seriously? Do you like it? Why or why not? Does it ask a question about "what is literature?" Is it really a survey question? Where do you fill in your answer? In what way is this titled interrogatory sentence amusing? Other things in this book are funny, so is this also meant to be funny? Is literature meant to be amusing? What percentage of people do steal food from the office fridge? There's another survey question in Section Four:
In a milk drinking contest, is it okay if one of the contestants drinks chocolate milk? 
Is this one funny? Is Mike Topp trying to be difficult? Was he mad about something when he wrote this story? There I go calling it a story again; what is a better word for it? Topp doesn't even call blog posts "Blog Posts," he calls it a "Plog Bost":
Oh yes, this is a funny book. When Joe saw it, he called it a "hefty piece of art" or something like that. He used the word "hefty," I'm pretty sure. It meant a lot, coming from him, you know? And I'm pretty sure he wasn't just referring to the Tao Lin cover art. 
Yes, they are strange brothers. As different as night and day, but they play together so nicely. Now, for a limited time, get both books for $15, with free shipping.

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