June 14th, 2008

Jason sepia

recommended reads

I just realized that I haven't blogged about books for some time, and we just can't have that. So here are some capsule reviews of the last five books added to the Recommended Reads section of my website:

Starbook by Ben Okri

A remarkable fairy tale, the legend of a lost time and a lost people, elevating an unnamed African kingdom and an unknowable tribe of artists to the heights of myth. Okri's facility here with language rivals Rushdie or Nabokov at their most luminous, and makes the novel a joyous reading experience. His insights into the minds of his characters, or the vital importance of art, or the epiphanic nature of stillness and silence, are rendered in words that slow down the eye and the mind, that force the reader to examine how the beauty of such language embeds in the mind the story being told for long after the last page is turned over.

Tin House #33 ed. by Rick Moody

A remarkable collection of fantastical fiction from women writers on both sides of the genre divide. Standout's include Aimee Bender's "Lemonade," Samantha Hunt's "Beast," Shelley Jackson's "Word Problem," Kelly Link's "Light," Miranda F. Mellis' "The Coffee Jockey," Alissa Nutting's "Hot, Fast, and Sad," and Ricky Moody's tribute to Angela Carter. Incredibly strong writing from start to finish, and a hopeful sign that fabulism and surreality will continue to find a home in established literary journals.

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

One of the most entertaining and important books of 2008, and a worthy successor to Orwell's 1984. Security, freedom, technology, and terror are tackled in this kick-ass YA novel that both teens and adults need to read. Told through the eyes of 17yo techno-geek Marcus (aka w15t0n, aka M1k3y), the novel plummets through a devastating near-future attack on San Francisco, and the fascistic policies of the DHS in its aftermath. Brilliant in the sociopolitical, technological, and narrative senses, and highly recommended for anyone who feels as if they're now living in a police state.

War by Candlelight by Daniel Alarcon

A remarkable collection of stories about Peru, and Peruvians living in New York. Everyday people living through war, poverty, hopelessness, and geological disasters, and finding a way through the day. Poetically observant and socially aware, Alarcon's writing sings with beauty and savagery, rich with humanity.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Tragic and horrifying, and at the same time full of hope, the story of Huascar de Leon, his sister Lola, his mother Belicia, and the fuku that has cursed their family since the reign of the dictator Trujillo. Narrated deftly by Yunior, Oscar's college roommate, with the confident Dominican voice of a natural storyteller. Full of heartbreaking prose and faux-academic footnotes and geeky sf references, and a stunning account of the immigrant experience. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize.

On deck to be reviewed, here at the blog or elsewhere:


Affiliate links to the books above are through BookSense.com, which acts as a portal to participating independent bookstores all over the States. By clicking on those links, you are helping to support your local indie bookshop and promote the good customer service and knowledge of literature that the staff at those shops are so well-known for. I also get a tiny cut of the transaction as a thank-you for pointing people to the site.
Jason sepia

me wantee: ubik, the screenplay

Ubik was the first novel I read by Philip K. Dick (thanks to the young Dr. Kessel), and it's still my favorite. All the reality-bending metaphysical narrativity that Dick is known for is pumped up to 11 in Ubik, and the reader is left on progressively shaky feet as the book slides towards its entropic conclusion.

And so I was jazzed to see that the always-cool Subterranean Press is publishing Dick's own screenplay adaptation of the novel, which I've only heard about in rumors or reverent whispers, in August of this year. Tim Powers -- who was in Dick's inner circle, along with James Blaylock and KW Jeter -- has written a new foreword, and has this to say:

Dick included far more parenthetical description and interpretation than can be standard for screenplays, and so we have here his considered, after-the-fact portraits of Glen Runciter, Ella Runciter, Joe Chip, Pat Conley, and Ubik itself. And too, with a facility that's scarce among novelists, he smoothly adapts his story to the wider, deeper ranges of the film medium. The Ubik 'ads' are much more effective as actual intrusions than as chapter headings, the soundtrack becomes a central element (and makes us wonder what music Dick would have chosen to complement some of his other novels), and he presents the dysfunctions in time and perception even more effectively when he imagines them enacted on a movie screen. In some ways, in fact, it almost seems as though we're getting a purer version of Ubik—something closer to the original conception than the text of the novel.

As I've just inexplicably received an economic stimulus check from the US Treasury (even though, when I paid my taxes, I was informed that I didn't qualify), methinks I'll celebrate by snagging this book.
Jason sepia

three bits of surreal botany news

1. We will be sending A Field Guide to Surreal Botany to the printers very soon (hopefully next week). Yay! The layout and copyediting was finished last week, and the final PDF assembled for printing. After shopping around, we've decided to go with KEPmedia; I've worked with them a bit for Panorama, Hwa Chong's triannual newsletter, so I know what kind of quality they can deliver, and their quote was the most reasonable. Looks like our print run will be 1,000 copies this time, our biggest yet (Four Seasons in One Day was 100cps, Scattered, Covered, Smothered was 230cps, and Off the Map was 250cps); however, this title also seems the most commercial of the three, so we're hoping for more sales.

2. That being said, I'm starting to ramp up the publicity machine for the book so we can get as many books into as many hands as possible. Putting together a list of reviewers and bloggers to whom I'll be contacting about sending review copies, but right now, that list is on the small side. If you would be interested in reviewing the book, please let me know, either via email or in the comments to this entry. Also, please indicate your willingness to take a PDF copy of the book; shipping from Singapore is expensive, so I'd like to send PDFs when I can. If you're not reviewing for one of the larger review venues or a well-known litblog, but just for your blog, I'd really only be able to send a PDF.

3. Speaking of shipping expenses, I have a huge favor to ask. In the past, the majority of our sales have come directly from the Two Cranes Press website, and the majority of those were within the US; I'm guessing that this will be the case this time as well, although I'm also going to try to get copies into Singapore bookshops too. But if many of our sales will be in the States, we run into a bit of a financial problem, re: the aforementioned cost of shipping to the other side of the world.

So, the favor: I'd like to be able to work with one of my peeps based in the US, who will act as the Two Cranes Press US Distributor. All this will really involve is addressing envelopes and mailing off orders when they come in; you won't have to approach any bookstores about carrying the book on consignment, although this would be incredibly helpful if you wanted to do it. You'll need to pay for the envelopes and postage up front, and you'll be reimbursed once a month (or sooner, if it's a lot of orders).

In addition to being reimbursed for your material costs, you'll also receive a 10% cut of the profits on sales made within the US. Not a bad deal for just addressing envelopes and going to the post office once a week.

I would prefer it if you were somebody I knew personally, though this may not be possible. However, you will need to be dependable, timely, and organized. It also helps if you have clear penmanship. If you're interested in working with us to deliver copies of the Field Guide to your fellow short fiction enthusiasts in the States, please let me know soon via email.

Many thanks in advance.