Sunday, January 08, 2006


There were three books in 2005 that have gotten hardly any press in genre publications, and hardly any press in mainstream literary publications, as far as I can tell (although Frank may be an exception to this latter category). I think they all deserved better than that, although in the case of the Payseur & Schmidt book, the limited run of copies and the nature of the project conspired to make it so. Check all three of these out--and the presses that produced them, as I don't think the presses are that well-known either, and all are doing unique things.


FRANK by R.M. Berry (Chiasmus Press) - Berry is a keen postmodernist who likes to deconstruct story structures and build them up again. I thought that his previous novel Leonardo's Horse was brilliant in the sections from Da Vinci's time period. His short story collections have been hit-or-miss with me in that the concepts behind his stories are formally experimental--they sometimes seem like husks that should contain depth but don't. However, he now has a second novel out, and this is a clever, often very funny, retelling of the Frankenstein story--or, as Berry says, an "unwriting"--that involves Frank, the distant cousin of Gertrude Stein, among other absurdities. Definitely worth checking out, and likely to slip under the radar, coming out as it has at the end of the year.

KAFKA'S UNCLE AND OTHER STRANGE TALES by Bruce Taylor (After Birth Books) - I published Taylor's first collection, The Final Trick of Funnyman, through my Ministry of Whimsy Press back in the 1990s. Now Taylor has a collection of longer fiction and some short fiction out from After Birth Books, with an introduction by Brian Herbert. Taylor has always suffered from being too productive, in a sense--he writes too much and when it comes to putting together collections, he wants to stuff too much into them. Kafka's Uncle is no exception to this rule, but the fact is that Taylor is a legitimate talent, writing odd surreal/magic realist tales, and an often unfairly overlooked one. Expect to like some stories and dislike others, but give the book a chance; it has its charms. Another one that seems to be slipping under the radar.

MECCA & METTLE by Thomas M. Disch, Bloodhag, Tim Kirk (Payseur & Schmidt) - Easily one of the best-designed and most idiosyncratic books of the year. I love this little book. But: it's really, really hard to describe. So I suggest you go to the publisher site at, because they do a much better job of it there. Trust me--if there are copies left, you want one.


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