Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Holiday gift ideas: local, organic, artisanal literature

Everyone knows that the best-tasting holiday cookies are the ones made from scratch with fresh ingredients and a lot of love. The same goes for gifts. Southern California's indie presses are cooking up unique, reasonably priced poetry and fiction appealing to almost every taste. Check them out online or visit an indie bookstore, and enjoy the warm holiday feeling that comes from knowing you supported local artists and businesses instead of overseas sweatshops and multi-national retail chains.

Here are a few presses and stores we recommend.

Southern California-based Presses:

  • Angel City Press: nostalgic yet cool illustrated books
  • Arktoi Books: poetry and fiction that give lesbian writers access to "the conversation"
  • Cahuenga Press: poetry that honors creative freedom and cooperation
  • Cloverfield Press: books as visually beautiful as they are intellectually and emotionally stimulating
  • Dzanc Books: literary fiction that falls outside the mainstream
  • Gorsky Press: risk-taking books that encourage readers to re-examine society
  • Green Integer: essays, manifestos, speeches, epistles, narratives, and more
  • Les Figues Press: aesthetic conversations between readers, writers, and artists, with an avant-garde emphasis
  • Make Now Press: contemporary works of constraint and conceptual literature
  • Otis Books/Seismicity: contemporary fiction, poetry, essays, creative non-fiction and translation
  • Red Hen Press: poetry and more by writers whose work has been marginalized
  • San Diego City Works Press: local, ethnic, political, and border writing
  • Santa Monica Press: offbeat looks at pop culture, lively how-to books, film history, travel, and humor

Independent Bookstores in L.A.:

Happy holidays from the Future of Publishing Think Tank*!

*The Future of Publishing Think Tank is an ad hoc group of writers and representatives of independent publishers and bookstores, nonprofit literary organizations, and producers of public radio. Our task: to consider the changes occurring in publishing, distribution, and marketing of literary work and to envision new ways for writers to engage readers and build audiences for their work. Groups who that have been involved include 826LA, Arktoi Books, GuerrillaReads, the HeArt Project, Hol Art Books, "Indymedia on Air" (KPFK), the Lambda Literary Foundation, Les Figues Press, Poet Joi, Poets & Writers, Red Hen Press, Skylight Books, and Writers at Work.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Predator, victim! Parasite, host! Canine distemper! Surely there could be finer mechanisms than these! Surely God can do better than this!

from Mercy
by Lara Santoro
Other Press, 2007

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Monday, November 10, 2008


This business of being human is tougher than being the devil, or being God for that matter. And it doesn't matter whether in the role of brutalized or brutalizer.

from Salt
by Earl Lovelace
Persea Books, 1997

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

An Unsuitable Job for a Woman

I can never see why people should be jealous. After all, youth isn’t a matter of privilege, we all get the same share of it. Some people may be born at an easier time or be richer or more privileged than others, but that hasn’t anything to do with being young. And being young is terrible sometimes. Don’t you remember how terrible it could be?

from An Unsuitable Job for a Woman
by P.D. James
Scribner Paperback Edition, 2001

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Saturday, November 01, 2008

My Mother's Lovers

It was good to be moving, good to be free at times like this. The happy ache that came of knowing you were alive in a foreign place, and richly lost. Where none of your rules apply, where nothing you know is of any use.

from My Mother's Lovers
by Christopher Hope
Grove/Atlantic, 2006

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The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears

There are those who wake each morning ready to conquer the day, and then there are those of us who wake only because we have to. We live in the shadows of every neighborhood. We own corner stores, live in run-down apartments that get too little light, and walk the same streets day after day. We spend our afternoons gazing lazily out of windows. Somnambulists, all of us. Someone else said it better: we wake to sleep and sleep to wake.

from The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears
by Dinaw Mengestu
Riverhead Books, 2007

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

People believe in God because the world is very complicated and they think it is very unlikely that anything as complicated as a flying squirrel or the human eye or a brain could happen by chance. But they should think logically and if they thought logically they would see that they can only ask this question because it has already happened and they exist. And there are billions of planets where there is no life, but there is no one on those planets with brains to notice. And it is like if everyone in the world was tossing coins eventually someone would get 5,698 heads in a row and they would think they were very special. But they wouldn't be because there would be millions of people who didn't get 5,698 heads.

from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
by Mark Haddon
Doubleday, 2003

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Drop Edge of Yonder

"Man is not a shark, always moving forward. He moves backward. He holds his ground. By changing directions he avoids boredom, which, I submit, is the biggest curse of all."

from The Drop Edge of Yonder
by Rudolph Wurlitzer
Two Dollar Radio, 2008

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Sunday, August 03, 2008

Faceless Killers

We live as if we were in mourning for a lost paradise, he thought. As if we longed for the car thieves and safe-crackers of the old days, who doffed their caps and behaved like gentlemen when we came to take them in. But those days have irrevocably vanished, and nor is it certain that they were as idyllic as we remember them.

from Faceless Killers
by Henning Mankell
translated from the Swedish by Steven T. Murray
Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, 1997

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Sunday, July 27, 2008


"Love ain't something you feel, young lady. Love is something you do."

from Southland
by Nina Revoyr
Akashic Books, 2003

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

I Married an Earthling

Your parents should give you the money. It's no fair you have to construct your queer identity without any funds.

from I Married an Earthling
by Alvin Orloff
Manic D Press, 2000

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die!

Had anticipated more nostalgia, perhaps even ennui, being in such close vicinity to one's own boyhood. But thus far (knock-knock), I remain as free of discernible affect as ever. Perhaps like a ballerina's sole, my own (soul) has callused after years of unnatural contortion, exposure to hard flat surfaces, support of entire body weight at odd angles for prolonged periods. Reader may continue to overextend metaphor as he sees fit.

from Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die!
by Mark Binelli
Dalkey Archive Press, 2006

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Monday, May 26, 2008

The Medium

Honesty was not a coin to be spent indiscriminately.

from The Medium
by Noelle Sickels
Five Star, 2007

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Intimate Relations with Strangers

Like the dogs, the people accepted their fate, and came to realize that living was only a laborious form of dying.

from Intimate Relations with Strangers
by David Valentine Bernard
Strebor Books, 2007

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Friday, May 09, 2008


Anything is possible. God made the world that way so that we might find within us the urge to do right, not wrong.

from Mannequin
by J. Robert Janes
Soho Press, 1994

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