Books & Merchandise

CCLaP’s first-ever online store is currently in the process of being built. In the meanwhile, here is a full list of our entire catalog, and links to their Amazon listings when appropriate.

Novels

 

Blithedale
By Nathaniel Hawthorne
With a New Introduction by Jason Pettus
Purchase at Amazon

Did you know that the author of The Scarlet Letter once wrote a Jonathan-Franzen-style scathing contemporary comedy? He did, and the result was the cultishly popular The Blithedale Romance from 1852, a sorta true story that wrapped in many of his real-life experiences at the leftist experimental Brook Farm, run by idealistic Transcendentalists but that became a very public and humiliating failure. But this is not just a funny send-up of misguided young urban hippies who flop once they get to the actual woods; this also enfolds the public’s fascination at the time for spiritualism and spectacularly spooky stage shows in the big city, and the then-new concept of ‘free love’ in a marriage, framed within a magically picturesque pre-Industrial rural New England that the nation would lose to the Civil War less than a decade later. For those who have only experienced Nathaniel Hawthorne through required high-school lessons on Puritans that they had to fitfully choke down, this book will be a revelation, a young and light-hearted hipster telling a bitterly funny story about his own generation, and of the eternal struggle between artistic idealism and the cold hard truth of the cold hard ground. The second book of CCLaP’s new “Victoriana” series of reprints (with a new scholarly introduction from the center’s executive director Jason Pettus), this is a forgotten gem that shows a whole new side to this notoriously grim-faced Victorian titan, and the man who we often forget almost single-handedly established “American Romanticism” in the literary arts.

 

Condominium
By Daniel Falatko
Purchase at Amazon

Charles and Sarah are a typical New York creative class couple — he’s in finance, she works at a hipster small press, yet both are indie-rock East Village veterans who aren’t above snorting a little heroin on the weekends. But when they decide to take the logical next step and buy a condo in one of the glass-and-steel skyscrapers now dotting the waterfront of Williamsburg, their lives start to fall apart almost the moment after they sign their mortgage; and this is to say nothing of their creepy neighbors, their possibly haunted apartment, job crises in both their industries, and former friends still in Manhattan who are determined to pull them back into the debauchery. A touching ode to the a–holes ruining Brooklyn, this literary debut of “the Millennial John Updike” is a funny yet wistful dramedy about young urban life during the Great Recession, and you do not need to be a New Yorker yourself to enjoy his smart insights about city living and growing older…although that certainly doesn’t hurt.

“[Falatko is] not actually writing a horror novel, despite the trappings in the early going. Instead, he’s interested in the terror of adulthood, of gentrification, and of the very real impact these things have on our mortal souls….leading up to one hell of a redemptive party to close things out. This isn’t anywhere near as bleak as [JG Ballard’s] High-Rise or the work of [Jay McInerney] — but, then, neither is Williamsburg in 2008, you know?” –Raging Biblioholism

 

four sparks fall
By T.A. Noonan
Purchase at Amazon

Sixteen-year-old May Florence is a budding poet who is about to join Louisiana’s most elite boarding school. Her brilliant but reserved twin sister, Susanna, isn’t. But the truth is, they’ve been drifting apart for some time, their relationship barely sustained by shared friendships and mutual envy. Now, as Susanna watches May prepare to leave her behind, she must reconcile what she thinks she knows about herself and her sister with the secrets they’ve been keeping from one another — or risk losing her closest friend forever. four sparks fall is the story of two young adults searching for love and acceptance in Baton Rouge, a city as complex as the people who inhabit it. At once confessional and speculative, analytical and numinous, T.A. Noonan’s debut novella is an affecting coming-of-age story for readers of all ages.

“Noonan uses two streams of first-person narration to capture the mental interplay, and at first this form threw me for a bit of a loop, as the first lines seem enigmatic, yet poetic….Before long, though, the exchanges begin to seem natural, perhaps even inevitable. The true drama and force of the story exist in this interplay as we see the dual natures of the girls, and really, the dual nature of youth. They are world-weary, yet naive; cynical, yet gullible; protective yet destructive of themselves. Within this beautiful form, a heartbreaking story unfolds, exposing the vulnerable psyches of the twins….Susanna and May are two characters who will stick with me for a long time, and I’m glad that I’ll get to live with their witty, petulant, broken, strong voices rattling around in my mind.” –Curbside Splendor

 

Have You Seen Me
By Katherine Scott Nelson
Purchase at Amazon

DOUBLE FINALIST, LAMBDA AWARD FOR LBGTQ LITERATURE

Chris and Vyv have always been close — as the only two ‘weird’ kids in their small Midwestern town, they’ve often depended on each other to survive. But their friendship will be put to the test when Vyv runs away and continues to communicate with Chris in secret. All summer, as the search for Vyv mounts, Chris tries to avoid the pressure by working for Albert, an off-the-grid survivalist writer building an anarchist compound from an abandoned house and barn. But as Albert’s plans for the future grow more apocalyptic, and Vyv’s emails gradually become more terrifying, Chris will face the complete upheaval of everything he’s ever known. The Chicago Center for Literature and Photography is proud to present Have You Seen Me, the debut novella of local author Katherine Scott Nelson.

“Refreshingly earnest and artfully wrought, Nelson’s debut is a quick, compelling read that warrants a wide audience.” — Kirkus (starred review)

 

Humboldt: Or, The Power of Positive Thinking
By Scott Navicky
Purchase at Amazon

The Iraq War? The housing market collapse? College football’s concussion crisis? How can anyone be expected to understand such complexities, especially a “horticulturally dyslexic” farmboy with an eighth-grade education and a penchant for perpetually misunderstanding, misreading, and misinterpreting the world? Born on a farm in Ohio, Humboldt is content to spend his life “outside amongst the oxygen and unhurried hydrocarbons.” But when his father’s farm is threatened with foreclosure, Humboldt is forced to save it by enrolling in college, leading him on an epic absurdist adventure through Washington politics, New York performance art, Boston blue-bloods, post-Katrina New Orleans, multiple murders, and holy resurrections. Mixing the speed and structure of Voltaire’s Candide with a heavy dose of Joycean wordplay, and a love of literary acrobatics worthy of David Foster Wallace, Scott Navicky’s debut novel assails some of modern America’s most cherished beliefs and institutions with the battle cry: “Ticklez l’infame!

“Navicky’s writing style and the way he tinkers with the English language is playful and terribly clever. Combined with Humboldt’s wild, crazy adventure, this makes for a fun, off-the-wall read that challenges the intellect, amuses, yet never panders to the reader’s comfort zone….I was reminded of Candide, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, the naivete of Don Quixote, and maybe even a bit of Monty Python.” –A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall

 

The King in Yellow
By Robert W. Chambers
With a New Introduction by Jason Pettus
Purchase at Amazon

It’s the hit HBO show from the 21st century, True Detective, that has brought Robert W. Chambers’ 1895 book of “weird” stories back into the mainstream public eye for the first time in 120 years; but those in the know have been aware of The King in Yellow this entire time, with its Wikipedia page listing such modern notables as H.P. Lovecraft, Raymond Chandler, and Blue Oyster Cult as fans who have self-professed this book as a major influence. And why shouldn’t they? An inauspicious volume from an artist just starting his career, who up to then had been a visual painter who suddenly switched mediums without any given explanation, there wasn’t much of a reason to expect great things from this mid-list story collection; but it turned out to be one of the very first volumes to help define what horror became in the modern era, the fabled “bridge between Edgar Allen Poe and Stephen King” that’s been cited since in so many term papers on the subject. A meta “stories about stories about stories” project that was also one of the first tales of existential dread ever published (the major force driving Lovecraft’s “Cthulhu” mythology as well), and with the kind of elaborate alt-history world-building usually only seen in space operas, this is truly a 20th-century text that magically first appeared in the 19th, and it’s no surprise that it still has the power to legitimately creep people out well into the 21st. Come enter the dark world of Carcosa, where the yellow king rules over the black stars in a flat circle of time, and see why these powerful tales of madness and the spiritual abyss still hold our fascination more than a century later. (The first in the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography’s new “CCLaP Victoriana” series, this edition also features an exclusive new scholarly introduction by executive director Jason Pettus.)

 

Life After Sleep
By Mark R. Brand
Purchase at Amazon

It is the day after tomorrow, and a device has been invented that immediately induces REM sleep, otherwise known as “Sleep” with a capital S. Society has been transformed. The average person now only needs two hours of rest a night. The work day is officially sixteen hours long. Americans party at clubs until daybreak, then log into virtual worlds and party in a reunified Korea all morning too. And within this busier, noisier, more global society, we watch the intertwining fates of four people as they struggle with issues regarding Sleep: new parents who for postnatal reasons aren’t allowed to use their special Beds; an Iraq vet and PTSD victim who is haunted by the non-ending nightmares that Sleep produces; a harried, arrogant doctor whose Bed has stopped working, driving him to the brink of madness; and a band promoter with an illegal Bed that lets her Sleep for hours on end, then stay up for four straight days and nights. Chicago science-fiction veteran and former medical assistant Mark R. Brand presents here a stunning and nuanced look at the world that might just await us around the corner — a place where GPS, Facebook and cellphones mesh perfectly to tell us where even in a nightclub to stand, yet traditional enough for couples to still have fights over groceries, and for office politics to still have enormous repercussions; and since it’s being released by the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography, it means you pay only what you want for an electronic copy, even if you want to pay nothing, making this mini-novel easily worth taking a chance on. Rich in its prose and deep in its metaphor, you do not have to be a fan of sci-fi, Michael Crichton or Malcolm Gladwell to love Life After Sleep…although it certainly wouldn’t hurt either.

“Even with an overarching social theme, the narrative stays focused on individual lives rather than sweeping political statements. This move keeps the novella lean and intimate. Readers meet characters who stay vulnerable and believable, beset by problems and conflict but never forced into saving the world…. Some readers may prefer fantasies so unbelievable that the enjoyment comes from reveling in the seemingly impossible, but this novella’s appeal comes in its chilling likelihood.” –Joel Thomas

 

The Links in the Chain
By Fred Russell
Purchase at Amazon

In the late 1980s, the Arab-Israel conflict reaches the streets of a pre-gentrified New York City when an Israeli minister visits his sister in Brooklyn, and rival assassins play a deadly game of cat and mouse with the minister’s nephew, a young horse-playing slacker by the name of Arnold Gross. Gross may be sharp and wise in the ways of the street, but finds that he has bitten off more than he can chew when he comes up against the PLO, the Israeli secret service, fugitive Nazis and more money than he knows how to count. Written with stylistic flare and an insider’s knowledge of the Middle East, this Elmore-Leonardesque crime caper is a pitch-black yet smartly hilarious look at a bygone age, a droll retro thriller that enhances the growing reputation of American-Israeli author Fred Russell.

 

Love Songs of the Revolution
By Bronwyn Mauldin
Purchase at Amazon

An official painter for the Lithuanian Communist Party, Martynas Kudirka enjoys a pleasant, unremarkable life with a beautiful wife and all the privileges that come with being a party member. Yet in the summer of 1989, his ordinary world suddenly turns upside down. Political revolt is breaking out across Eastern Europe, and Martynas comes home to find his wife dead on the kitchen floor with a knife in her back. Realizing the police will not investigate, he sets out to find his wife’s killer. Instead, he stumbles upon her secret life. Martynas finds himself drawn into the middle of an independence movement, on a quest to find confidential documents that could free a nation. Cold War betrayals echo down through the years as author Bronwyn Mauldin takes the reader along a modern-day path of discovery to find out Martynas’ true identity. Fans of historical fiction will travel back in time to 1989, the Baltic Way protest and Lithuania’s “singing revolution,” experiencing a nation’s determination for freedom and how far they would fight to regain it.

“What compelled journalists in droves to the Baltic States and Eastern Europe after independence and the fall of the Soviet Union? Wasn’t it about seeing a world where corruption goes unchecked, the bad guys don’t go to jail, and the good guys lose out? It’s exactly this political climate that Mauldin coolly and impressively puts on display in Love Songs. The dead remain dead, and the guilty go unpunished. Entanglements aside, the mystery slides sleekly from one suspense, emotional pang, or clue to another, ensuring impeccable timing and delivery. In this, Mauldin’s prose and poise equals that of the highest calibre mystery writing. The book calls to be picked up, even if it’s put down. Poetic gems glitter throughout. Mauldin is sensitive to detail and nuance, her prose is always vivid and alive.” –The Baltic Times

 

The Misadventures of Sulliver Pong
By Leland Cheuk
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The Pongs are an American immigrant family that has seen it all. They helped build the transcontinental railroads of the Victorian Age. They were mistakenly interned with Japanese-Americans during World War II. They may even have co-invented the landmark video game that bears the family’s last name. But despite all they’ve endured, each new generation’s patriarch has had one thing in common: a penchant for degeneracy. Sulliver Pong was supposed to be the exception. Married and living in Copenhagen, he was supposed to have escaped his toxic hometown of Bordirtoun; and most importantly, its mayor, his father Saul. When Saul visits unannounced, he begins to draw his son back into his corrupt world of city politics and redevelopment schemes. Yoked to his feelings of guilt for his abused mother and his lust for a now-married adolescent crush, book-smart but life-dumb Sulliver finds himself running for mayor against his father–a decision that will carry hilarious and unfortunate consequences for all involved. A laugh-out-loud black comedy about a dysfunctional family that has endured almost every major injustice in Asian-American history, but can’t endure each other, Leland Cheuk’s irreverent debut is perfect for existing fans of Jonathan Franzen or the Coen Brothers.

“Equal parts laugh-out-loud satire and dysfunctional family comedy, Leland Cheuk’s The Misadventures of Sulliver Pong brims with Vonnegut-flavored humor and Delillo-esque commentary as it sends up Asian-American struggles and father-son rivalries. This is the hilarious and assured debut of a wise and wacky new talent.” –Laurie Foos, author of The Blue Girl and Ex Utero

 

Orest and August
By Steven Garbas
Purchase at Amazon

Orest Godwin is ruining his long legacy three fingers of rye at a time. His lectures have become bizarre. He’s smoking indoors. And he’s begun to carry a knife. When Orest nearly burns down the campus destroying memoirs in his attic, the College has no choice but to dismiss him. After 50 years, a prestigious career is ended in a humiliating act of senility. Or so The Provost thinks. Orest decides he is no longer satisfied to be a known historian; he wants to be historic. So he cashes his pension, draws a new will, and vanishes. With the help of a failing Spanish student whom he has promised a fictional scholarship, he embarks on an adventure from northern California to the lawless badlands of Mexico to join a true rebellion. Armed with Wyatt Earp replica pistols and a case of rye, Orest and Augie trespass through a thousand miles of brothels, cantinas, jungles, diners, and motels, threatening those they meet along the way. If Orest can just elude the pimps he’s crossed, the ranchers he’s sworn vengeance upon, and kidnapping charges, he might just join his peasant uprising. At least while he can still remember where he is going. And if no one gives him a drop of mescal.

“The story is rich and layered; the characters and dialogue nuanced and compelling; the plot fast and tense. It’s the most erudite road trip novel ever. I love the skillful way the author blends reality with dreams, memories, insanity, drug-induced hallucinations….There is so much grifter truth and wisdom that rises up through all the lies and schemes. Orest and Augie are perfect counterbalances, and in the end Augie might have received the most meaningful internship of all time.” –Donald Evans, founder and executive director of the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame

 

Paul is Dead
By Stephen Moles
Purchase at Amazon

Paul McCartney is not a celebrity himself, but works on the edges of that industry, unhappily toiling away at a tabloid devoted to famous deaths and the public’s ongoing fascination with them. But one day he discovers a mysterious red button on a back wall of his new house, which when pressed causes the immediate death of a celebrity sometimes half a world away. And what does this have to do with the eyeball in a glass jar that his biggest fan has recently mailed to him? Find out the darkly hilarious answer in this full-length debut of British absurdist author Stephen Moles. A rousingly bizarro exploration of fame, identity and mortality, this novella will make you laugh and cringe in equal measure, a perfect read for existing fans of Will Self or Chuck Palahniuk. You might not think a book about death would begin with the word “life” written 27 times in a row, but then you have yet to enter the strange but compelling world of Paul is Dead. Best approached with caution and with tongue firmly in cheek!

“Moles should be commended for accomplishing so much in such a small space. Each sentence is as packed as Shae Stadium 1965, the prose marches with a momentum as robust and unusual as our main character, and the absurd plot is a delightful distraction from the larger question at hand: Money. Money. Money? or Love. Love. Love?” –Atticus Review

 

Rise of Hypnodrome
By Matt Fuchs
Purchase at Amazon

It’s 2039, and a political faction called the Lifestyle Party has risen to power under the Presidency of Deepak Chopra. The new government bans scientific innovation and introduces a set of policies focused entirely on maximizing personal happiness. So why is Grady Tenderbath so unhappy? Believing that he’s fallen short of his professional potential, he buys a personal robot muse to nurture his talent and ego, while his wife Karen, a genetic scientist, becomes more entrenched in her lab. But just when Grady seems on track to solve his career crisis, he discovers a new problem: he’s swooning for the empathetic yet artificial Ashley. Not only that, he’s distracted by haunting visions of Karen transforming into…something else. Half speculative fiction and half marriage thriller, Rise of Hypnodrome explores how future generations might draw from the realm of epigenetic engineering to eventually control their own biology. Whether human or robot, the characters in this cutting-edge science-fiction novella have one thing in common: an irrepressible desire to evolve.

“Imagine a mash-up of the murderous marital politics of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and the AI-driven soft-focus romanticism of Spike Jonze’s Her with a dash of Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot and the contemporary self-help culture spearheaded by real-life lifestyle guru Deepak Chopra. Done? What you just imagined is probably something like Matt Fuchs’ debut novella, Rise of Hypnodrome. …The best thing about the novella is the strangely plausible world-building. This is a dystopia rooted, in the best of ways, in our current moment. The Millennial yearning for a more authentic, wholesome lifestyle, as shown by the farm-to-table movement, popularity of Eat Pray Love, and growing suspicion of Big Pharma, could easily be twisted and darkened into Fuchs’ dystopian America dominated by an immortal-seeming self-help guru.” –Atticus Review

 

Sad Robot Stories
By Mason Johnson
Purchase at Amazon

Robot is one of millions of androids on an Earth that recently saw the extinction of human life. While Robot’s mechanical brothers and sisters seem happy, Robot finds himself lost and missing the only friend he had, a human named Mike whose family accepted Robot as a piece of their personal puzzle. Without both the mistakes and the capacity for miracles that define human civilization, is civilization even worth having? Explore this question in the hilarious yet heartbreaking full-length debut of popular Chicago performer Mason Johnson. A Kurt Vonnegut for the 21st century, his answers are simultaneously droll, surprising and touching, and will make you rethink the limits of what a storyteller can accomplish within science fiction.

“Take an early interest in Dr. Seuss, mix with critically bad sci-fi movies such as Enemy Mine and Tron, blend in a heavy dose of ‘Star Wars’ literature, stir in ‘mecha’ TV shows like ‘Robotech,’ boil with Dashiell Hammett detective fiction and top this concoction off with a studied understanding of Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner and Dorothy Allison. That gives you Sad Robot Stories.” –Chicago Tribune

 

solo/down
By Lauryn Allison
Purchase at Amazon

SILVER MEDAL WINNER, HORROR, INDEPENDENT PUBLISHER BOOK AWARDS

It is perhaps the day after tomorrow, or maybe the day before yesterday. Two lone scientists work in isolation at a deserted vaccine laboratory, in what may or may not be an apocalyptic America beyond their locked compound, attempting unspeakable experiments in combining plant and insect DNA to produce crops that can defend themselves against attackers. One gets pregnant with twins. A minor lab accident mixes this DNA with her embryos, producing hideous monsters locked in an age-old battle. And that’s when the mysterious Solo shows up and decides to make things really interesting. The Chicago Center for Literature and Photography is proud to present solo/down by Lauryn Allison, a dark and surreal body-horror tale in the spirit of David Cronenberg or J.G. Ballard, her full-length literary debut after the self-published and cultishly popular The Beauties in 2011. CAUTION: Not for the weak of either stomach or spirit.

“I couldn’t stop turning the pages to find out what happens next, but I was absolutely terrified to find out. The ending was sad, bittersweet in an odd way, shocking, and absolutely bone chilling. solo/down is a thrilling sci-fi novella with just enough horror and magical realism thrown in…. This was an exciting read, one that will appeal especially to sci-fi fans.” –A Lovely Bookshelf On the Wall

 

Too Young to Fall Asleep
By Sally Weigel
Purchase at Amazon

Why would a poetry-writing high-school emo girl from suburban Chicago volunteer for the Iraq War? And when both of her legs are blown off in a non-combat IED explosion, how will she ever recover? The Chicago Center for Literature and Photography is proud to present its newest original novella, Too Young to Fall Asleep, the literary debut of talented local up-and-comer Sally Weigel. Originally written when she was still in high school, Asleep is one of the first-ever adult character dramas concerning the so-called “Millennials,” a prescient and eerily mature look at the generation of youth just now entering college — an entire nation of idealistic sincerity-seekers within a maelstrom of suicidal Gen-X parents, a nation of kids who have no problem getting wasted on weekends but feel horribly guilty when smoking cigarettes while doing so. Weigel takes a razor-sharp look at this generation here, through the filter of the two events that have so far most influenced them — the rise of the dark post-9/11 supergroup Radiohead, and the decimating of their numbers by Bush’s ‘war on terrorism’ — delivering at the end a haunting and thought-provoking snapshot of our current zeitgeist, in a sophisticated way that can only be done by an actual member of that generation. Too Young to Fall Asleep marks the daring debut of an important rising voice in the American arts, and you are sure to be both informed and moved by what she has to say.

“[W]e loved it, read it straight through in one sitting. Ms. Weigel’s prose is excellent, really bringing the reader into the situation and the mood. Reading this little book is almost like being temporarily lost in a Radiohead song. And yes, to think Ms. Wiegel was only in high school when she wrote this. Dang.” –Curbside Splendor

 

Turtle and Dam
By Scott Abrahams
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Like millions of other only-child Chinese twenty-somethings, Turtle Chen is graduating college and vicariously desperate (via parental pressure) to find a job, though he would probably settle for a girlfriend. He speaks English. He studied abroad in America. Employers, ladies, what’s not to love? With a bit of bravado and some hometown luck, this engineering grad lands himself an entry level position working for the state news agency; not that he particularly cares about politics or journalism, not that they particularly want him to. Through a class assignment, Turtle learns that his grandmother’s village will soon be inundated to make way for a dam construction project. His parents tell him not to worry about it. His bosses tell him not to worry about it. He would be only too happy to oblige, and yet despite his best efforts not to care he finds himself on the front lines fighting bulldozers, next to what some villagers claim to be the ghost of Chairman Mao. There’s bribery, corruption, computer games, and text messages imbued with uncertainty. Air pollution, censorship, and a job fair where students attack employers with paper basketballs. And it’s all told through the eyes of a young man with impeccable English (‘impeccable English,’ that’s correct, yes?), who’s right there in the middle of it all. Welcome to the delightful world of Turtle and Dam, the literary debut of Washington DC analyst Scott Abrahams.

“Scott Abrahams’ literary debut, in one-hundred sixty-four pages, represents a merging of English into Chinese culture. The novel’s world feels seamless and confident. Its details narrated not from secondary sources but from the level of the street and the dormitory, culminating into the voice of Turtle Chen…. It is an English system of signs beginning to hold new connotations and lose old meanings in the context of another society. Beneath Turtle’s homogenized English formed of jargon, broken idioms, and misused diction, lay his heart, and his emotional response to the chaotic scene swirling around him. The repetitive botching of common American expressions begins as a funny gag but soon becomes the shallow mask hiding Turtle’s true feelings he cannot express in fear of breaking his duty to his family and his second mother: China, herself.” –Chicago Literati

 

Women Float
By Maureen Foley
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Lonely California pastry chef Win never learned how to swim, despite growing up just miles from the Pacific Ocean. Even Janie, her flaky pro-surfer single mother, couldn’t convince her to brave the water, solidifying Win’s fear when she leaves her at the tender age of 9. But when Win turns 29 and decides to take swimming lessons for the first time — finally confronting her hydrophobia and trying to make sense of why her mer-mother suddenly swam off all those years ago — she must also deal with a desperate crush she’s developed on her New Age neighbor, mysterious postcards that keep arriving in the mail, and her bad habit of pathological lying. This touching and humorous look at female relationships and the dramas that come for contemporary women turning thirty also doubles as a loving ode to the small coastal town of Carpinteria and the laid-back SoCal lifestyle that guides it. Poetic and moving, Maureen Foley’s fiction debut is both a perfect beach read and an insightful look at love, accidental families and the power of friendships.

“[A] girl power anthem for real, everyday women. It shies away from any sort of artificiality, and seeks to represent the depth and complexity of female relationships, both hetero and homosexual, in their truest nature.” –Santa Barbara Independent

 

Non-fiction

 

99 Problems: Essays About Running and Writing
By Ben Tanzer
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AMAZON TOP 100 BESTSELLER, SPORTS MEMOIRS

Why is it that so many full-time writers seem to be full-time runners as well, and what is it about each activity that seems to fuel the other? In 99 Problems, Chicago author Ben Tanzer tackles this very question, penning a series of essays completed after a string of actual runs across the United States during the winter of 2009, cleverly combining the details of the run itself with what new insights he gained that day regarding whatever literary story he was working on at the time; and along the way, Tanzer also offers up astute observations on fatherhood, middle-age, and the complications of juggling traditional and artistic careers, all of it told through the funny and smart filter of pop-culture that has made this two-time novelist and national performance veteran so well-loved. A unique and fascinating new look at the curious relationship between physical activity and creative intellectualism, 99 Problems will have you looking at the arts in an entirely new way, and maybe even picking up a pair of running shoes yourself.

“Filled with humor, pop-culture references, and personal insights, Tanzer entertains and enlightens with each essay. Since finishing the book I have again started pounding the pavement every other morning.” –LargeheartedBoy.com

 

Famous Drownings in Literary History: Essays on 21st Century Jewishness
By Kevin Haworth
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GRANT RECIPIENT, OHIO ARTS COUNCIL

What exactly does it mean to be young, Jewish and creative in 21st-century America? How do you reconcile a quiet life in the Midwest with a parallel life in Israel? And how do you fit in a five-year-old son with an interest
in frilly dresses? Ohio professor and celebrated cultural essayist Kevin Haworth answers these questions and more in this, his debut full-length essay collection; and the answers are part Sloane Crosley, part Philip Roth, with a dash of Malcolm Gladwell’s intelligence and a pinch of Denis Johnson’s poetic style. Already the winner of a pre-publication grant from the Ohio Arts Council, from a former winner of the Samuel Goldberg Prize for Jewish fiction, this will be right up the alley of those who enjoy “The Believer” and “This American Life,” a charming but darkly tinged look at circumcision, terrorist bombers, the Catskills in the ’70s, and all the other confusing things that make up the life of post-9/11 Jewish American parents and artists.

 

História, História: Two Years in the Cape Verde Islands
By Eleanor Stanford
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WINNER, MORITZ THOMSEN PEACE CORPS EXPERIENCE AWARD

Twenty-two and newly married, Eleanor Stanford and her husband join the Peace Corps and find themselves on the West African islands of Cape Verde. In this beautifully alien place, as she teaches her students and struggles to come to terms with the island’s fascinating yet frustrating culture, Eleanor watches everything she knows about relationships get flipped upside-down and attempts to hide the eating disorder she’s developed, which threatens both her marriage and her life. Part travelogue, part cultural documentary, Historia, Historia combines journalistic excellence with the gripping style of personal memoirs to bring you this lyrical, moving portrait of an enchanting, little-glimpsed geography. Fans of factually informative and emotionally moving nonfiction will be drawn towards this haunting meditation on love, fidelity and self-image.

“Eleanor Stanford captures experience with the precision of a poet and the broad vision of a novelist, translating the unwritten language of the the inner world into a handful of words as shimmering and polished as sea-glass. Her ability to give voice to the estrangement of being alive and wildly observant in an unfamiliar culture brings vivid light to both the outer world she describes, and the interior terrain that is her own. In this book, Stanford goes far beyond a description of an eating disorder–this book explores the meaning of body, of place, of home, of language itself. An essential read.” –Marya Hornbacher, Pulitzer nominated author of Wasted

 

Mountainfit
By Meera Lee Sethi
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In 2011, a tiny bird observatory in far western Sweden found itself hosting its first American volunteer, and Meera Lee Sethi found herself exactly where she wanted to be: watching great snipe court each other under the midnight sun and disturbing lemmings on her way to find a gyrfalcon nest. Mountainfit is an ecological field notebook, a keenly observed natural history of the life that sings from the birches, wheels under the clouds, and scuttles over the peat bogs of the Swedish highlands. And it is a letter, in 21 jewel-like parts, from a well-read and funny friend. Meera’s vigorous, graceful prose communicates a wry understanding of how utterly ordinary it is to long for more out of life — and how extraordinary it can feel to trust that longing. Meera’s intent was to create a book small enough to fit in your pocket and read on the train to work in the morning. It is that. But it’s also large enough to contain a mountain or two.

“For me, the balancing act Sethi pulls off here is perfect. She could’ve easily tipped into self-help, spiritual-awakening, anthropomorphizing treacle; but instead we get field observations and natural history, some fascinating connections between legends about birds and that natural history, and reflections on the rigors, rewards and technology involved with tracking birds in a remote northern location. But we get poetry too, joy laced with melancholy, and a reminder of the loveliness of language, as we acquire a deep sense for the Swedish landscape she inhabited that summer. I learned things I didn’t know, and I looked at things I did know a little differently after reading Sethi’s essays.” –Leslie Brunetta, “Science For The People” podcast

 

The NSFW Files: An Appreciation of the Erotic in Literature and Comics
By Karl Wolff
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The runaway success of Fifty Shades of Grey made erotica mainstream, but can erotica really be written off as derivative fiction read by suburban moms for titillation? As Karl Wolff investigates in his new collection of essays, erotica belongs in a vast literary landscape, a genre that hides hidden treasures and rare delights. He covers erotica from The Song of Songs to Nic Kelman’s girls: A Paean; from Gynecocracy to Matriarchy: Freedom in Bondage; from City of Night to Naked Lunch; Story of the Eye to Story of O; and a bawdy bouquet of graphic novels. The NSFW Files includes essays on erotica written by a Nobel laureate, an outsider artist, a surrealist, and a French prisoner, among many more. Most important, the essay collection offers an answer to the question, “What dirty book should I read next?”

“The world needs more works of intelligence when it comes to the discussion of erotica. This book is one of them. …Wolff is an intellectual without trendy baggage. He has a refreshing style. He sounds like the sort of person you could have a very good conversation with in a bar or a coffee shop. …[E]ven if you are a frequent reader of erotica, you will likely discover something weird and wonderful you didn’t know existed.” –Roxy Katt

 

On Being Human: Critical Looks at Books and Movies That Examine the Question of Humanity
By Karl Wolff
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Just what does it mean to be human? Various artists from over the centuries have tackled this all-consuming question in a variety of ways; and now Karl Wolff, cultural essayist for the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography, presents a brand-new examination of fifteen such projects, ranging from the undeniably highbrow (Samuel Beckett’s “Trilogy”) to the decidedly lowbrow (the “Warhammer 40,000” roleplaying game), and every shade of complexity in between. Originally published monthly at the CCLaP blog in 2012, these intelligent, probing looks at such varied creative endeavors as the sci-fi television show Battlestar Galactica, the Victorian erotic classic Venus in Furs, and the noir pulp The Killer Inside Me present a layered, fascinating overview of how artists have viewed the subject of humanity over the years; and with three brand-new essays exclusive to this book version, there’s a good reason to pick this up even if you’re already a regular fan of Wolff’s wry, articulate online writing. Whether it’s a comic book like Hellboy or a Postmodernist literary master like Anthony Burgess, Wolff’s shakeup of popular culture in On Being Human is sure to get your brain working in new ways, and to get you introduced to at least a handful of projects you’ve never heard of before.

“His book does what criticism does at its best: not only raising important questions and suggesting new avenues of exploration but introducing readers to ideas and works new to them, or encouraging readers to revisit and understand them in new ways….[A] welcome addition to the literature on the topic of what it means to be human in a potentially posthuman age.” –Christopher Bernard

 

Stalking the Behemoth: Critical Essays About Very Long Novels
By Chris Schahfer
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In 2014, CCLaP cultural critic Chris Schahfer issued himself a daunting challenge — to read and review over a dozen books 600 pages or longer, going as far back as Don Quixote but with a special emphasis on Postmodernist epics from the 20th century. After a year of publishing the results on the web, these essays have now finally been collected in book form, where Schahfer’s complex interweaving of literary history can clearly be seen for the first time. By turns funny, insightful and intellectually engaging, Schahfer celebrates here the Long Novel in all its messy glory; and along the way, he questions the common assumption that erudite fiction is dead, instead showing how such modern masterpieces as Infinite Jest, House of Leaves and 2666 have in fact paved the way for a new blooming of hefty tomes in the 21st century. Sure to rekindle your love of the very, very, very long book, or to make you a new fan of the subject if you’ve never been one before, this sweeping look at the last 500 years of arts history sets a new bar for accessible, thought-provoking looks at usually dense topics.

 

Stories

 

American Wasteland: Bleak Tales of the Future on the Tenth Anniversary of 9/11
Edited by Jason Pettus
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With all the talk of “hope” and “honor” that was bound to arise during the tenth anniversary of September 11th, the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography (CCLaP) thought it was important to also remind the future of what the last ten years have REALLY been like. That’s why the center put together this latest anthology, which took a dark science-fiction conceit as its core and then invited a series of writers across the nation to pen stories set within that alternative universe. In this case, the stories (by Ray Charbonneau, Delphine Pontvieux, John Reed, Matthew Christman, Mark R. Brand and Lawrence Santoro) look back from a fictional twentieth anniversary of 9/11, but one where John McCain won the 2008 and ’12 elections, then Sarah Palin in 2016 and ’20; and with no government bailouts, no withdrawals from the Middle East, and no attempts to move away from an oil-based economy, the US has become a much bleaker and more terrible place, a nation that is now used to rolling electricity blackouts two or three days a week and that is just about to go to war with Mexico, where the permanently unemployed squat in half-finished McMansions out in crumbling suburbs that almost completely lack both gasoline and fresh fruit. A sobering reminder of what life under Tea Party rule would likely be like, “American Wasteland” is an antidote to the false cheeriness and optimism that has come with the tenth anniversary of 9/11, a more realistic look at all the mistakes this nation has made between then and now.

 

Amsterdamned If You Do: An Anthology About Setting
Edited by Traci Kim
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Of all the basic building blocks that go into modern literature, the issue of setting may perhaps be both one of the trickiest and one of the most powerful; and now the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography is proud to announce a new anthology that specifically examines this subject, conceptualized and edited by the center’s 2011 intern, Traci Kim. The compilation features a dozen noted writers from around the world, each penning a story in which their locations play a pivotal role — from Brandon Tietz writing about a post-disaster Joplin, Missouri, to Jenn Winter discussing rush hour in Nairobi, and from Nora Bonner detailing the adventures of a white girl in Thailand to David Harris Ebenbach chronicling a family drama unfolding at “Jewish Day” at New York’s Shea Stadium. Featuring multiple award winners, academic stars, and contributors to the Chicago Tribune, New York Times, Huffington Post, and Chuck Palahniuk Writers’ Workshop among others, this novella-sized anthology is a smart and satisfying read, a globe-spanning look at how physical location can still profoundly affect us in these online-everything times.

 

Big Venerable
By Matt Rowan
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A darkly surreal yet absurdly funny short-fiction writer, Matt Rowan has been a Chicago local secret for years; but now this latest collection of pieces, all of which originally appeared in the pages of the CCLaP Weekender in 2014 and ’15, is set to garner him the national recognition his stories deserve, a Millennial George Saunders who is one of the most popular authors in the city’s notorious late-night literary performance community. Shocking? Thought-provoking? Strangely humorous? Uncomfortable yet insightful on a regular basis? YES PLEASE.

“I love this book. The day-to-day reality of a burger joint is almost magical, while the future fantasy of a synthetic forest is so profoundly real we could hike there together tomorrow. Inside these wildly imaginative, near-cinematic stories, Rowan is asking big questions: What constitutes true change? And what part do we want to play in it? I’ll go back to Big Venerable again and again. I can’t get it out of my head.” –Megan Stielstra, New York Times columnist and author of Once I Was Cool

 

Chicago After Dark: A City All-Star Student Anthology
Introduction by Don de Grazia
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Here in the 21st century, Chicago has been receiving an increasing amount of attention as one of the premiere literary cities in the United States; but what often gets overlooked is the thriving educational community that exists here as well, with over two dozen institutions in the area teaching thousands of student writers, under the tutelage of some of the most celebrated published authors on the planet. And now the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography is proud to kick off its first in a series of annual looks at the best of such student work, gathered around a specific theme each year in order to spur daring and original new pieces by these writers. This 2014 collection features 31 students in the fields of fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry, turning in everything from sentimental family portraits and funny coming-of-age stories to cutting-edge horror and science-fiction, and capped with a brand-new introduction by revered author (and beloved local professor) Don De Grazia. It provides a fascinating and highly entertaining snapshot of how this city is being viewed by its youngest adults here in the Millennial years, and shows that Chicago is not just the current home of some of the brightest writers of our generation, but will continue to be so for generations to come.

 

Death to the Bullshit Artists of South Texas, Vol. 1
By Fernando A. Flores
Currently out of print

HONORABLE MENTION, ALFREDO CISNEROS DEL MORAL FOUNDATION AWARD

McAllen, Texas is the indie-rock capital of the world; or at least it would be, if all their bands didn’t have the pesky habit of disintegrating before ever having their first big success. That’s the central premise of Austinite Fernando A. Flores’ literary debut, and anyone who’s ever pawned their guitar to buy more beer will find much in this book to celebrate. Working from the conceit that all acts of creativity are vital to human happiness, no matter what the public reaction, Flores presents a smorgasbord of interconnected tales about artists who can’t quite seem to get their act together–from the performance artist whose most important work was only ever seen by five people, to the revered punk singer who never recorded a single album, to the bar band who accidentally become pawns of a local political campaign–and shows how in all these cases, the mere existence of these artists is a magical antidote against day-to-day ennui and adversity, and that it’s actually the rest of the squares who are the true bullshit artists. By turns hilarious, heartbreaking and infuriating, this compact story collection is a loving ode to small-town music scenes in all their messy glory, and a welcome slap in the face to our “Yes We Can” times.

“The real-life punk rockers on whom Flores bases some of his stories may take umbrage at seeing their bullshit so plainly laid bare, but these stories–and the scene they portray–are art about art and artists, and the truth is that any of Flores’ inspirations might have written the same thing. That, ultimately, is what makes Death to the Bullshit Artists of South Texas work: It captures a time and place in which despair and hope combined into punk rock, and one in which all the local heroes would ultimately be forgotten. The ‘bullshit’ slung by the artists in this book is the belief that punk rock is worth playing, and that the scene that springs from it is worth believing in. That’s why Flores’ book rings true. These stories are the same kind of art their characters make: desperate, grim and hopeful all at once.” –The Texas Observer

 

Get Up Tim
By Sally Weigel
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A middle-aged rock star has a nervous breakdown in a posh Mexican hotel. A sullen teen with a DUI contemplates life during court-ordered community service. A man decides between his girlfriend and her roommate in the middle of an earthquake. A gay professor in ’70s New York uses yoga to get over his young, dangerous, closeted ex-lover. These are just some of the complex, fascinating milieus that Chicago author Sally Weigel explores in her new story collection with the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography, Get Up Tim, a series of dense character studies with a sprinkling of magical-realism thrown in. Her second book with CCLaP after the 2009 youth/war novella Too Young to Fall Asleep, and with several of these stories already appearing in admired lit journals around the US, these probing looks at the contemporary human condition take us from teen prescription-drug parties to the dumpsters of homeless Pilsen, and even to a dark fairytale alt-universe, Weigel holding it all together with her trademark style and dry wit. The love child of Joe Meno and Joan Didion, this short and intense manuscript shows the flowering of a strong, young voice in the literary community, and fans of Weigel’s first book will be delighted to see her potential realized even more potently here.

“[P]erhaps her greatest achievement in this collection is her intimate knowledge of her narrators and the characters that populate her stories. I imagine–as evident in the completely original and unique voices of her many narrators–that she knows everything about her characters: their favorite color, favorite food, first love, worst fear, and most guarded secrets. Weigel shows the mastery of her craft in the information she refuses to tell her readers, leaving us to come to our own conclusions and further interact with the stories and the themes they explore. The result: a collection of ten stories that you can completely dive into, immerse yourself in, and think about long after you’ve finished reading.” –Curbside Splendor

 

The Kickstarter Letters
By David David Katzman
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In Fall 2011, Chicago author David David Katzman ran a Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds for his newest novel, A Greater Monster. As a reward for each of his 128 supporters, he wrote and sent them a stream-of-consciousness email or handwritten letter inspired by either their name or a suggestion they made. Now comes this new volume, which is a collection of 52 of those letters, paired in this case with two dozen illustrations (five in full color) by celebrated local artist Mike Wilgus, and originally paid for through its own Kickstarter campaign. By turns funny, thought-provoking and surreal, The Kickstarter Letters is both a personal document of creativity and a postmodern publishing event, and will be an old-school delight for those who believe in the power of books as art objects unto themselves.

 

Long Live Us
By Mark R. Brand
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A family tensely waits out a meningitis scare in a quarantined home during the Great Recession. Small-town farmers in pre-war America battle a tree the size of a skyscraper. In a day-after-tomorrow dystopia, the new naughty contraband among rebellious teenagers is starchy carbohydrates. And in a barely recognizable far future, enlightened humanoids debate the implications of a mother who has smothered her child. These are just some of the speculative visions collected in the new Long Live Us by Chicago writer Mark R. Brand, author of the previous CCLaP hit Life After Sleep. Known primarily as a science-fiction author, this new collection will certainly not disappoint Brand’s existing fans, with pieces set among lunar colonists and blue-collar astronauts among other fanciful situations; but this is also Brand expanding his scope and vision for the first time, treating us with more down-to-earth stories set among contemporary families and even offering up a Great Depression tall tale. A multiple past winner of the Independent Publisher Book Award, Brand is at the height of his creative power in Long Live Us, and the stories found within are sure to delight, disturb and thrill you long after you’ve finished reading.

“Authors like Roald Dahl, Joe Hill, and Chuck Palahniuk come to mind[,] a great crowd to be in when it comes to short stories….[D]iverse and good for readers who are looking for something peculiar, but not overly filled with fantastic elements.” –Odd Engine

 

The New York Stories
By Ben Tanzer
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Top Ten Books of 2015: Clash Magazine
Top Ten Books of 2015: The Next Best Book Blog
Top Ten Books of 2015: Pete Lit

THE PUBLISHING EVENT NINE YEARS IN THE MAKING. In 2006, celebrated author Ben Tanzer began working on a series of short stories all set in the fictional upstate New York town of Two Rivers, most of them published in various literary journals over the years and eventually collected into the three small volumes Repetition Patterns (2008), So Different Now (2011), and After the Flood (2014). Now for the first time, all 33 of these stories have been put together into one paperback edition, highlighting the long-term planning of themes and motifs that Tanzer has been building into these pieces the entire time. Featuring dark character studies of childhood, middle age, and (lack of) grace under pressure, these stories are considered by many to be among the best work of Tanzer’s career, and voracious fans of his short work will surely be pleased and satisfied to have these small masterpieces collected together into one easy-to-read volume. So take a stool at Thirsty’s, order another Yuengling, and be prepared to be transported into the black heart of the American small-town soul, as one of our nation’s best contemporary authors takes us on a journey across space and time that will not be soon forgotten.

“With great humor and the natural voice of your closest confidant, Ben Tanzer brings us stories set in our shared fictional hometown of Two Rivers, NY. With tenderness and heart, Ben brings us real people and their poignant, messy struggles, reminding us of the folly of our youth and the beauty in even our most mundane histories. Though my family left when I was small for the big city, Tanzer has given this reader the gift of a sliding door here, and I think you’ll feel the same way, wherever you’re from.” –Elizabeth Crane, author of We Only Know So Much

 

Salt Creek Anthology
By Jason Fisk
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A couple meet in a mental institution, have six kids, and devolve into violent alcoholism. An elderly Polish woman with Alzheimer’s goes insane in front of our eyes. A frazzled empty-nester has her bruiser son move back in, along with a scheming girlfriend planning a surprise pregnancy to get them both back out. And an abusive, overweight, racist monster of a man psychologically lords over them all, a total of twenty-odd characters all living on the same cul-de-sac in the far rural suburbs of Chicago. Welcome to the dark, poetic world of author Jason Fisk, a “micro-story” collection that breaks these families’ adventures down into a series of 75 linguistic nuggets; these are then experimentally hooked together in a non-linear fashion through literal hyperlinks within each story, letting you read them in whichever order you wish. With Salt Creek Anthology, tumble down that brooding, enticing rabbithole that Fisk has created on this unassuming street for yourself, and see just how far the nightmare will take you.

 

Twilight of the Idiots
By Joseph G. Peterson
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Know thyself and nothing in excess. Just as the doomed sailors of Homer’s Odyssey fail to heed one or the other of these maxims, and end up getting turned to swine or lured to their peril by the singing sirens; so too do the doomed characters in Joseph G. Peterson’s new collection of stories fail idiotically in one way or another and end up, like those ancient sailors, facing the prospect of their own mortal twilight. Set mostly in Chicago and by turns gruesome, violent, comic, lurid and perverse, these stories are suffused with a metaphorical light that lends beauty and joy to the experience of reading them.

“These tales are sparse in their details, but Peterson shows skill at revealing his characters’ states of mind through their reactions to their situations. …Though not all of these stories support one character’s belief that ‘he was just an animal, and that this world, humanity itself, was a perverse evil,’ most are appealing in their depiction of characters trying to survive in a world that’s out of their control.” –Publishers Weekly

 

The View From Here: A City All-Star Student Anthology
Edited by JH Palmer
Introduction by Patricia Ann McNair
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Chicago goes by many nicknames — the City on the Lake, the Windy City, the Third Coast, the City of Big Shoulders, the Second City. But for the people who call it home, perhaps the most fitting sobriquet is the City of Neighborhoods, hundreds of them altogether, each containing their own defining character, physical boundaries, and identity. Representing almost two dozen students of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, this second annual CCLaP “city all-star” anthology takes you on a tour of many of these neighborhoods, from the north side’s Rogers Park to the west side’s Austin, to Bronzeville on the south side and beyond. With an introduction by famed local author Patricia Ann McNair, the voices in this collection are as different as the neighborhoods they represent, and in them you’ll get a snapshot of what the next generation of Chicago writers have to say about their hometown, whether born here or adopted into the city.