This weeks picks come from Coffee House Press Publisher Chris Fischbach,
and Marketing and Sales Director Jessica Deutsch.
Glass by Sam Savage
The book I’m most excited about this season, though of course I’m excited about all of them, is Glass by Sam Savage. This is not a book for everybody. The best novels never are. If you want to make a lot of money as a novelist, you should write a compelling novel with an exciting plot filled with significant events and how these characters react to these events, revealing an important “portrait of our time,” etc. etc. You will get great reviews and be very popular. Go to town. Glass is not one of those books. It is, in fact, very much intentionally not one of those books. If you want to read one of those, books, you could also watch many of the excellent television shows available to audiences today. But a novel can be something different than a television show. What can a novel do that a television show can’t? Plenty.
Edna, our narrator, and Sam Savage, our author, directly challenge the “fallacy of significant events”—that great art has to be driven by the remarkable, the tragic, historical moments of catastrophe or confusion. Can you write a great novel with the bare minimum of plot? Of course you can. Ask Nicholson Baker, Sterne, Beckett, Markson, Joyce. Of course such work is not currently in vogue, if it ever was. Read Glass using the same tools you use when you read those authors, and you just might fall in love with Edna, and with Glass.
Edna, who reluctantly agreed to write the preface to a posthumous edition of her late husband’s long-out-of-print novel. This book is her attempt at that preface, but as you’ll see, Edna has a very active mind, and is easily distracted by the tiny details of her isolated, lonely life in a cluttered apartment. What eventually unfolds, as if by accident, is the story of a marriage and a portrait of a mind pushed to its limits. The reader is never quite certain if Edna’s preface is an homage to her late husband or an act of belated revenge. Is she the cultured and hypersensitive victim of a crass and brutally ambitious husband? Or was Clarence the long-suffering caretaker of a neurotic and delusional wife?
Sleight by Kirsten Kaschock
When I first read Sleight by Kirsten Kaschock, I was so excited to read a novel that was not only powerful and intriguing but also, well, truly novel. What is sleight, you might wonder. The only way to know is to read Sleight. In her debut novel, Kaschock has created a fictional art form—and an entire world around it.
Sleight is an interdisciplinary art form that combines elements of dance, architecture, acrobatics, and spoken word; it pushes its participants to the edge of their physical, mental, and emotional limits. As Kaschock tackles the translation of the visual to the written, she describes this art form just enough to let the reader do some of the imagining too. (I’m sure if I drew a picture of what I thought Sleight looked like and what another reader drew, it’d be a fun exercise in comparison. That is if I had any talent in that department at all.) As she boldly invents a grammar and a vocabulary to accommodate the concept of sleight and its characters, Kaschock performs a kind of linguistic gymnastics on the page.
All of this happens as we enter the curious and compelling world of two sisters named Lark and Clef who have spent their lives honing their bodies for sleight. Lark has left the rigors of sleight and now involuntarily “births” what she calls Needs, while Clef has remained fully immersed in the sleight world. After many years of being estranged, the sisters are reunited by a troupe director named West. When a disturbing mass murder involving a group of children makes national headlines, West seizes on the event as inspiration for a new performance. At the heart of the novel lies an exploration of loss, creation, and artistic responsibility.
Sleight blurs the edges of reality. Parts of the novel—the mass murder, Lark’s Needs, the idea of “wicking” (sleightists will often disappear during a performance)—were reminiscent of my most curious dreams and nightmares. It’s as if Kaschock is able to dig into the trenches of our subconscious and weave a story out of the riff raff and detritus. But in Sleight, these whiffs of the horrific and fantastic and unreal are juxtaposed with the tenants of “real life” – family tensions, falling in and out of love, work, and obsessions. Prepare yourself for the world that is Sleight—its unlike anything you’ve ever read before.
Chris Fischbach is the publisher of Coffee House Press, where he started as an intern in 1994. He acquires and edits fiction, poetry, and nonfiction, and has worked closely with Sam Savage, Kao Kalia Yang, Patricia Smith, Anne Waldman, Gilbert Sorrentino, Laird Hunt, Rikki Ducornet, Mary Caponegro, Ron Padgett, Eleni Sikelianos, Wang Ping, and many more.
Jessica Deutsch is the Marketing & Sales Director at Coffee House Press. She lives in Minneapolis. You can find her on Twitter @jessicadeutsch and @coffee_house_.
I've only recently discovered the awesomeness that is Coffee House Press. And I am very happy to be able to showcase the books they are most excited about this fall!!
So what do you think guys? See anything that catches your eye? Which of these books are you most excited to see release? Help TNBBC and Coffee House Press spread the buzz about these books by sharing this post with others!