SMALL PRESS REVIEWS
I’M ON A TREASURE HUNT. I’m tired of hearing people say there are “no good books left.” Yes, the market is inundated right now, but I’m on a mission to find the best literary fiction out there provided by the “little guys.” I’m digging through the muck to find rare gems: meaningful and culturally significant literature that engages and says something more than vampire love.
Today the book market is dominated by Amazon and big publishing houses, so I want to give a nod to the small presses who are fighting the good fight. ALL the books I read here have been published by small presses and (whenever possible) purchased from local bookstores.
You won’t find negative reviews here. The market is too vast to waste anyone’s time with bad reviews. Rather, you will find that I am selective about the books I read, and if I don’t like something, I won’t review it. In other words, I won’t give you the dirt, only the plunder.
I will be posting quarterly book recommendations for writers, avid readers, and anyone who thinks good literature is dead. I will also have "Throwback Thursdays" to show some of my old book collection to promote the preservation of classic stories and the art of beautiful bookbinding.
Wednesday, January 1, 2014
My January recommendation is BILLIE THE BULL by an author known as xTx. That name's easy enough to remember, right?
Publisher: Mud Luscious Press / eprint: Dzanc Books
The first time I read Billie the Bull, I grasped for more. xTx says a lot with very few words, but while this book only takes a couple hours to read, every chapter is charged with meaning, symbolism, and layered emotion - which is why the moment I finished it, I read it again. And again.
In the fashion of xTx's writing (she likes lists), I will enumerate what this tale is about:
1) A giant woman
2) An insatiable man & his collector
3) A big son
4) A normal-sized son
5) The death of a bull
Admittedly, in the end I wanted Billie to be at peace with her past, or at least find something happier than the torment she faces as a woman with gigantism. But what I wanted is irrelevant. Given that xTx parallels Billie's story with the savage reality of bullfights, you can pretty much predict that there's going to be carnage.
I'm not saying I'm an advocate for sunshine endings just for the hell of it. I'm just saying this book left me silent and contemplative for the rest of the day. I was struck by Billie's words:
One might say that you can never leave these sorts of things behind; that the scars they made are permanent. Scars that stay with you no matter if you choose to leave them where they lay, or if you hold them tight so they can remind you of what they make you think you are.
Dzanc describes this book as a story of a mother's love for her son. Which is true. However, I think it's about something else. It's about how society treats a spectacle. It's about collective bloodthirst. For me, it has a taste of feminism and animal rights, but you don't have to read it through that lens. In all, it gives us a glimpse of what it's like to be "the bull," a reality that transfers to many walks of life.
I'm recommending this gem based on xTx's engrossing language and unique storytelling. I don't recommend it if you want something straightforward. Some questions are left unanswered or hidden in a puzzle of words, but while the end is unsettling, it is complete.