Tag Archives: Tiny Hardcore Press

Review: Normally Special by xTx

5 May

NormallySpecialWeb-e1381810886462

 

The phrase “big things come in small packages,” is normally cliché, but it’s completely true when it comes to Normally Special by xTx. Her collection of flash fiction fits snugly into any back pocket, but carries the weight of a ten-ton anvil. The pieces cover a broad range of topics; father/daughter relationships, standard relationships, abuse/neglect, regret, and stalkers. The writing and content doesn’t allow you to put the book down. I was in awe and instantly fell in love.

xTx’s writing style is simple but breathtaking. She pours herself every word to get that fire between the lines. Every sentence breaks you down and leaves you begging for more. xTx has the ability to lead the reader to the edge of something resembling an emotional epiphany and turns them away, but at the last second the dagger comes out and gets you. That’s especially how I felt when I read “Father’s Day”:

“He’d always be the opposite of melted and I’d never felt like a princess. Even when he’d call me princess soft and soft, then louder and louder as if he were trying to make it true.”

Those two lines forced me to set the book down and stop everything for five minutes while I pulled myself back together. xTx paints these terrifying pictures that haunt the reader, that remind me of a car crash whose image you can’t shake. It’s terrible but you just cannot stop looking. She creates this game of tug-of-war over the emotions of the reader. There is no buffer. xTx has clearly picked each and every word meticulously to wring out as much emotion as possible, like in “The Mill Pond”:

“Mister Dean watched and Mister Dean made me say please two more times. Later on the only please I would say would be followed by the word, ‘stop.’”

xTx doesn’t mess around when  there’s a point that she feels needs to be made. There’s no concern for what the readers may think. She is bold and not afraid of anything. I loved that as a reader. I felt closer to the prose; it made me connect more with writing, and it left an impression on me that I still cannot shake off. I got a better sense of who xTx is not only as a writer, but also as a person. She pours herself on every page, and encourages the reader to drink all of that up. All of that combines for one intense and emotionally draining read.

One of my favorite aspects about xTx’s writing style is her ability to make certain off-the-wall subjects drenched with emotions, just like her story “Because I Am Not a Monster.” The story talks about how the narrator is dealing with the end of a relationship. She constantly references all of the terrible things she could do, but she always finishes them up with: “Do not worry, I will never find you. You are safe.” The rest of the story follows suit. Narrator saying she could drive, bike, or walk to the person she is addressing until the very end. That’s when things get turned upside down. It turns into this grand scene between the narrator and their ex to meet for the final “confrontation,” and the narrator believes that their ex is egging them on and wants the narrator to find them. She then ends it with the chilling lines:

“But you and I both know I wouldn’t. You are safe. Do not worry. I will never find you. But I could. If I really wanted to.”

The only real issue that I found was the discrepancy between the emotional barrage and the reader’s ability to recuperate in the stories themselves. Each piece is designed to demolish the reader, but there is no time to catch your breath. The pieces are relentless. I found it slightly unbearable after reading a few pieces back to back. It left me wanting a bit more of a gap between each stab of the dagger. I started to leave my guard up; losing some of the “oh snap” effect of the pieces.

Beyond that one thing, I loved absolutely every aspect of this collection. She has a mastery over flash fiction and the gift to rip out your heart and make you ask for seconds. xTx is an unstoppable force, and there seems to be no signs of her slowing any time soon. Her new book, Today I Am A Book, is available from Civil Coping Mechanisms.

Normally Special can be purchased here.

Indie Lit Classics: Roxane Gay

15 Nov

roxane-gay

We had a lot of fun with the Scott McClanahan roundup, and thought another tribute of a similar nature was of order.

Why?

Well, cause Roxane Gay has been a hero of ours for quite some time (it’s true, even when she was contributing here. She’s a total rockstar).  And we’ve had the pleasure of saying a lot of good things about her, her work and the work that she publishes over the years.

So here they all are in a list for ya!

The Widow Takes Her Coffee Black at Wigleaf

A single-sentence review of Ayiti

A longer than one sentence review of Ayiti

How much of a winner she is

A collaborative work by her and xTx

Some thoughts about an essay of hers at the Rumpus

aaaaaand

She read for us at a Dogzplot party in Indianapolis

Oh, and did we mention? She’ll be kicking ass at the Letters Festival all weekend. Make sure to check her out!

SSR #9 of 15: The Fullness of Everything

11 Jul

The Fullness of Everything
by Christopher Newgent, Tyler Gobble, and Brian Oliu
Tiny Hardcore Press
128 pgs, $12

This may seem weird or incestuous of me to write an SSR for a book that is 2/3rd’s Vouched people but, fuck it- you need to read it. Plus Tyler Gobble is on a mega roadtrip right now and we need to celebrate that.

So, here we go:

It is said that triumvirates are all a ruse, that no three can wield power equally- but these collections are equilateral in strength- so Gobble, Oliu, and Newgent have accomplished something here that Caesar, Magnus, and Crassus couldn’t.

Some Favorite Parts of Some Favorite Indie Books I’ve Read Lately

9 Jul

ImageFrom The Map of the System of Human Knowledge, by James Tadd Adcox, published by Tiny Hardcore Press

I’ve run out of dreams. For the past four nights, all that’s been in my head, the entire time I slept, was a dial tone. I tell my friends about this. Everyone congratulates me. They tell me they had secretly run out of dreams long ago. We go out to celebrate. My friend Thomas, who hasn’t shaved in days, leans in extremely close to my face. He’s had too much to drink. He tells me that all we can do now is wait for the night that the dial tone goes silent, when whoever is on the other side of our dreams answers.

 

 

 

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Tadd Adcox Wants to Read to You a Story

4 Jun

All this week, James Tadd Adcox is opening his Google Chat/Skype to anyone who wants Tadd to read to them. Here’s some info from his blog:

Monday through Friday [this] week, I will read you a story if you contact me through Gmail or Skype. The story will be from my first book, The Map of the System of Human Knowledge, which came out this week from Tiny Hardcore Press. I will be at my computer working from 10 am to 6 pm, Chicago time, so that’s the best time to contact me, if you want me to read to you.

All of the stories are fairly short, between 1 and 5 minutes maybe.

This is a good thing to do if you are wondering whether you would like the stories in this book, or also if you just want someone to read to you for 1 to 5 minutes.

My Gmail address is jamestaddadcox AT gmail DOT com. My Skype name is jamestaddadcox.

I am excited about this.

I just got this book in the mail last week, and started digging into it myself. It is full of so much goodness, and the way the stories hang on you feels like newly laundered clothes, or maybe the way feathers would feel against our skin if humans were feathered creatures. A feeling like we could take flight at any moment if we simply raised our arms high enough and pushed against the air beneath us and above the ground.

The Southern Summer Comfort Tour

8 May

Some of our favorite women (and dude) here at Vouched are piling into a van this summer and trekking from Austin, TX over to Atlanta, GA in what is sure to be some insanity that leaves all your wife beaters and panty hose running with sweat and mud and tears. Here are some details from their Kickstarter:

The Southern Summer Comfort Tour is an exciting literary event consisting of authors Chloe Caldwell, Elizabeth Ellen, Mary Miller, Brandi Wells and Donora Hillard, all crammed into a rental van touring the hot southern states like a good old fashioned rock band. Our new books have been released on indie presses such as Future Tense Books, Short Flight/Long Drive Books, and Tiny Hardcore Press.

We are: Five women authors hailing from New York, Michigan, Mississippi, and Alabama and we’ll be meeting up in Austin, Texas to start our travels. From there, we will be reading from ours books at bookstores and bars in Austin, Houston, New Orleans, Oxford, Tuscaloosa and Atlanta. There will be special guest appearances along the way by people like Kevin Sampsell, Jess Stoner, and others.

We need your help for car and gas money, not to mention breakfast tacos and lots of liquids.

I wish I could embed the video because it’s absolutely hilarious and amazing, but Kickstarter is kind of dumb and architected their video embeds so that a vast majority of bloggers can’t actually embed their videos into their posts.

So, I hope you’ll hop over to their Kickstarter, watch the video, laugh, and considering contributing to the cause. And, if you’ll be in and/or around the following cities on the following dates, you should pop in and listen to these bitchin’ ladies share their bitchin’ words.

Here are our dates:

July 11th – Austin, TX – Domy Books, 7pm
July 12th – Houston, TX – Domy Books, 7pm
July 13th – New Orleans, LA
July 14th – Oxford, MS – Square Books, 6pm
July 16th – Tuscaloosa, AL
July 17th – Atlanta, GA – Beep Beep, 8pm

Awful Interview: Christopher Newgent

29 Mar

Once, Christopher Newgent and I shared a pair of Strawberry Shortcake themed, cell phone shaped walkie-talkies. They were dwarfed in Christopher’s big-ass hands. We bought them for when we were bored at our respective jobs, but they weren’t capable of carrying a signal across the few hundred feet between his Jimmy John’s and my coffee shop, so we pitched them and reverted back to paper airplanes.

Sometimes Christopher puts things in his face and writes words about those things. At all times there are words all over Christopher’s arms. Some other times words come out of his hands. He makes those words into things, like his chapbook from Tiny Hardcore press, or these stories at these different places.  Some other times times he pushes words out of his face to a crowd. He calls this process ‘reading.’ If you are in Atlanta on Friday, April 6th, he would like to show you how he does this ‘reading.’

One time we talked about stuff and dubbed it an interview. It went like this.

Christopher. Let’s get serious. Let’s answer the question that’s been plaguing everyone for years. What are you doing to save the bats and the bees? I heard you might be a super hero.

The extent of my environmental superhero’ism is pretty much Googling for sad images of animals and frowning at my computer screen, then posting them to facebook and typing, usually in all caps, LOOK AT THIS SAD POLAR BEAR. IT’S TRAPPED ON THIS ICEBERG. Which is bullshit, really. Polar bears are amazing swimmers and have been known to swim dozens and even hundreds of miles in a single swim. Basically, my activism is misinformation. I’m a superhero of misinformation.

I guess I was misinformed. Wait- what?! Whoa! You ARE a superhero. What’s your favorite way to use capslock?

My favorite way to use capslock is life. I want to live my life in capslock. Sure, some randmas argue that caplock is best reserved for emailing and instant messenger, but I personally believe capslock needs no reservation. Fucking live it, man.

Don’t you think people will feel that you’re yelling at them? What does your barbaric yawp sound like?

Make no mistake. There’s a difference between capslock and yelling. Only those who’ve not probed the depths and nuances of all caps usage think it’s simply yelling at people. Caps lockers have been known to whisper in all caps, actually. It’s pretty amazing to behold. It’s like those Buddhist monks who can throat sing 2 different pitches at once.

Regarding my yawp, have you ever heard the lid blowing off a pressure cooker? It sounds mostly like that, but imagine a Kodiak bear exploding from the pressure cooker.

That is quite a mighty yawp. So, like, what have you been reading lately?

I don’t read a lot, actually. I don’t even really like books that much. They’re too, I don’t know, hands on. Reading is like carpentry for your brain. I’d rather have someone build my bookshelves for me, metaphorically speaking of course. And not that I’d need bookshelves.

Yeah man, I totally get you! Books are so OLD and stuff. I used to own some books, but then I gave them to some homeless men to burn and keep warm with, since the low was 40 degrees that night. Pr’chilly. I mean, who reads these days anyway?

Movies are so much better than books. They’re like books, but someone’s already done the work of imagining it as real life. Have you seen the new Vin Diesel movie?

I am morally opposed to watching movies where the male lead is shorter than I am. Mostly just Vin Diesel and Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise violates me on many moral levels. First of all, he’s shorter than me. Secondly, he looks like Justin Bieber got his face stuck in a suction cup. Thirdly, there was that one time he jumped on those couches in front of Oprah like a rabid monkey, and then I had nightmares.
May we change the subject?

Oh, absolutely. It’s never good to dwell on being violated by Tom Cruise. Change away.

Thanks. So… huh. Sorry, I keep thinking about Tom Cruise. …Tell me about what you’re wearing. Wait no, that’s creepy.-such a Tom Cruise thing to say! HELP!

Coincidentally, my wife just came home with 4 bags worth of new button down dress shirts for me–a bunch of plaids and stripes. I need more patterns in my life, to be honest.

Patterns are grand! Tell me about the reading on April 6th, what fresh dose of amazing-ness are you preparing to unleash on my dear A-T-L?

If stampedes of buffalo were commonly kept on leashes, you could expect that. But they are not, so you’ll have to settle for a metaphorical stampede of buffalo. Buffalo with hooves the size of your head, metal wings, and rocket launchers on their haunches. That is what you can expect from the April Vouched Presents reading.

Awful Interview: Brian Oliu

27 Mar

Brian Oliu and I don’t know each other in person per-se, but I know enough of him to exclaim “Roll Tide” when we meet. I also know enough of him to say that he has awesome taste in cover art, and  *SPOILER ALERT* knows exactly how terminators eat ice-cream.  His collection of Tuscaloosa Missed Connections, So You Know It’s Me, was released on Tiny Hardcore Press in 2011. His  collection of lyric essays based off of videogame boss battles, Level End, will be released in April of 2012 by Origami Zoo Press, which may just be the most epic thing to drop since the defeat of Sephiroth.

He’s reading in part of the Over-the-Top tour and will be gracing us in Atlanta on Friday, April 6th!

Are you a ghost? Be honest.

No. Although I am often compared to a robot of some sort because there is a belief that I do not sleep and I am working all of the time–or at the very least online and on a computer providing information for the masses. My neighbor has taken to calling me ‘Skynet’ ala the Terminator franchise. So, to answer your question, there is a good chance that I am the ghost in the machine. So, yes.

Oh man! It would be grand if you were the terminator. But how would a terminator eat ice cream?  

One lick at a time, I suppose. The Terminator is a robot with human skin around it–I wonder if this expands to the tongue. You don’t really get a good look down Arnold Schwarzenegger’s mouth in the film, so I cannot be sure. Is it a metal mouth or a human mouth? These are the questions that were never answered in the sequels.

Yes, I think these are critical things we need to know. If you were Awfully Interviewing the Terminator, what would you ask him first?

I’d probably ask him if he would like some ice cream, and he would probably say ‘Affirmative’ and then I’d bring him ice cream, but he wouldn’t recognize it because it wouldn’t be Dippin’ Dots, which everyone knows is the ice cream of the future. Then I’d probably ask him who the robots have been reading lately and if robot sci-fi is about a bunch of humans showing up acting funky.

I hope that robot sci-fi is all about humans sitting around on a Sundays, reading their papers, mowing their lawn, and drinking milk out of the carton.
What’s your favorite road-trip song? You know, the one you play really loud to get yourself awake and pumped again after driving for too long.

Robot Sci-Fi! So horrifying. I’ve been a lot of roadtrips lately–I did a summer book tour of the entire Midwest with a few friends & I’m always hopping in my car & going some place. When I was starting to lull, I’d put on G-Side’s Huntsville International to keep the party going. Great balance of rapping along & sounding awesome with some crooning as well.

What do anticipate you, Matt Bell, Christopher Newgent, and Tyler Gobble rocking out to on your road-trip to Atlanta for the reading? Boston? Jovi? Rachmaninoff?

You know, I’m not sure. They’re some nice Midwest boys, so I don’t really know what they listen to. I like to think that we would continue the trend of listening to southern hip-hop on the way over. Maybe some ATL All-Stars. Outkast seems like a must, right?

As an adoptee of the ATL… yes that certainly is a must! There’s nothing like Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik to get the party started. Maybe you could also bust out some Janelle Monae, or T.I if you’re feeling saucy.  Have the four of you discussed a possible wrestling match finale to the tour? It could make things interesting. How do you think that would pan out?

No discussion as of yet, although fatal-four-way matches are always dicey. Is it an elimination match? Or is it first to a pin-fall? Because I think Gobble is crafty enough to wait until the three of us punch each other out, hit our finishers, and snag a quick pinfall on a schoolboy roll-up. If it’s elimination, the obvious choice would be Newgent, simply because of his AWP-famous biceps. Don’t rule out Bell, however–he looks like he might’ve wrestled in highschool. As for myself, I have a weight advantage, but my cardio is lacking. However, I have an intricate understanding of professional wrestling so I feel as if I can use that to my advantage.

All of those scenarios make total sense. The fight could really conclude any way and I wouldn’t be surprised, a lot like a choose your own adventure. Did you ever read any of those? Did you enjoy them?

Loved Choose Your Own Adventure books! My mother worked at a library and so I’d be there every other day after school. I’m pretty sure I’ve read every single one of the original series. I absolutely adore the covers as well. I made my students write them (I teach a game-based Creative Writing course at the University of Alabama) and they came out really great. Also, did you know that the majority of those books are translated into other languages? International folks absolutely love them.

I did not! Wowzers! What was their original language? My instinct says “Dutch.”

The Netherlands is all about some Choose Your Own Adventures. Also, surprisingly, pretty much all of them are translated into Catalan of all languages. Even the late-era ones that no one read. My entire family is from Barcelona so I of course geeked out when I heard this.

That is stupendous! If there was a Choose Your Own Adventure book for the reading coming up on April 6th, what would your ideal ending be?

There are a few Choose Your Own Adventure books that have an ending that is unreachable: meaning that the only way you can get there is by flipping through the book (which is obviously against the rules of Choose Your Own Adventure!) I’d like to think that there is an ending that no one can possibly see coming–some sort of lovely utopia involving kind words and a couple of beers. Outkast too.

SS Review: Please Don’t Be Upset by Brandi Wells

2 Feb

Please Don’t Be Upset and Other Stories by Brandi Wells

Tiny Hardcore Press

$8.99

Brandi’s stories at their best are the tube through which the story comes, sincere storytelling at its boldest, the strange beckoning the strange, the startling startling itself, oh yeah and stirring up everyone in its path.

from “Deer”

Ben brings home a shotgun.

“No,” I say.

He takes the gun into his room. His room.

“The whole rest of the house is yours,” he once told me. “With your stuff in it. Can’t I have my room?”

“Why a secret room?” I asked. “Why drawers I can’t go through and cabinets with locks on them? Why boxes taped shut, piled in the closet?”

“My room,” he said.

 

Holiday Book Buying

4 Dec

I’m sitting here working on my list of books that I’d like to buy, be given, and/or give this holiday season. I’m becoming overwhelmed as I realize (again) that tricky situation: so many books, limited money. I thought I’d share a few books that I haven’t read but really really want (or want to give) that seem like great choices for holiday shopping this December.

1. The Oregon Trail Is The Oregon Trail by Gregory Sherl (MudLuscious Press): Every book MLP puts out is that beautiful blur of story and sound. In his past work, Sherl is a fearless traveler of emotions, searching inside himself and carrying whatever he finds to his readers. Add in that obvious connection to the video game of my (our?) youth and this could be a good gift for any literary lover of our generation, despite it being a pre-order (better a little late than never!). Check out this excerpt from the book’s page:

In my dreams we always ford the river.
In the wagon I cover you with blankets
when you sleep. You often dream of ghosts
while I hunt bison wherever bison live.
The ghosts are vegetarian, your heart
is April wind, raindrops the size of half dollars.
We never hire the Indian guide. Instead,
we keep the five dollars, roll it up, hide
it in my wool sock. You look better in 3D.
I touch your breasts with my fingertips.
Then I touch your breasts with my whole
hand. I swallow the idea of independence,
finding the West before the dirt was soiled
by factories that build heat-seeking missiles,
amusement parks, & chain restaurants.
Chimney Rock is underwhelming. I spit
in the cracks of the rock, tiny crevices
that hide who the fuck knows. You are hot
shit & the other carpenters from Ohio
are jealous. They think about your hair
while they’re inside their wives, think about
your dimple while they try to repair the axle
on their wagon. True love is finding wild
fruit. We eat without bibs. By rivers I sleep
easy, knowing you’re cleaning the clothes nearby.

2. Issue 4 of Artifice Magazine: The next installment from our favorite super self-aware journal promises to be beautiful, both inside and out. It also will fit in a stocking. Most importantly, it features new work by wonderful writers like Ryan Ridge, Richard Chiem, and Caroline Crew that are sure to be mind-thumping.

3. So many things from Dzanc Books’ Holiday Sale: With sales like Buy One, Get One Free or free eBooks with every print book or sweet bundles, Dzanc continues to offer some of the best literary booyeah for your buck. Maybe you have a friend/relative that needs some good lit exposure; try some the 30 Under 30 Anthology edited by Lily Hoang and Blake Butler, featuring innovative fiction from the likes of Matt Bell, Evelyn Hampton, and Brian Oliu. Or maybe–like me (silly I know)— you still haven’t read Kyle Minor’s book, so ask for that. Or maybe one of those wild new releases has caught your eye, like Animal Sanctuary by Sarah Falkner:

Winner of the 7th Starcherone Prize for Innovative Fiction

A wild and mysterious novel of multiple characters and episodes structured around the life and career of a fictional actress and animal rights activist, is the winner of the 7th Starcherone Fiction Prize. The manuscript was selected by novelist and short story writer Stacey Levine.

Animal Sanctuary is a challenging, readable, powerful, and mysterious novel. The story—not a single plot, but multiple, peripherally connected episodes and discourses – concerns an American actress, Kitty Dawson, who stars in two movies by a famous (and famously obscure) British director, Albert Wickwood, both having animal disaster themes. Kitty then goes on to make a great many other pictures with animal themes, and to found in the 1970s a sanctuary for big cats that rich people decide first to have as pets, then abandon. Later, Kitty’s only son, Rory, raised in the animal sanctuary and as a young teen the lover of a renowned Austrian big cat trainer, becomes an installation and performance artist whose work incorporates animals & animal themes, as well as attempts to critique and get outside of institutions.

4. Please Don’t Be Upset by Brandi Wells: Missed out on Tiny Hardcore Press’s sweet sales awhile back? That’s okay, you’re not alone. But, you can still snag Well’s sure-to-be-sweet book for a stellar $8.99. I’m always impressed by how Wells’ writing, and THP books in general, can be in-your-face without being obnoxious, intimate without being awkward, and 100% hard-hitting.