They've Gone and Monofonus'd the ATX Again!
Locally published treats both grisly and gratifying and in between.
By Wayne Alan Brenner,
1:00PM, Mon. Jan. 19, 2015
We'd never suggest that everything that's issued by big corporate publishers is crap.
For example, just looking around at our crowded shelves here at the Chronicle offices: Little, Brown is a big corporate publisher, yes? And it's hard to tally the number of decent reads they've visited upon a fortunate world in just the past few years. (Note: Doug Dorst & JJ Abrams' amazing pulp-adventure-throwback/collegiate-rom-com/book-as-object masterpiece called S., for one.)
And other, similarly big, publishers – they also release works into the belletristic environment, works that thrive and help keep the ravening herds of cultural illiteracy at bay, that even add, every now and then, a touch of funky strange to this world's ever-thickening textosphere.
But we're especially glad for the output of smaller publishers. Of micro-publishers. Of we daresay nano-publishers.
Whether locally based or otherwise.
For example, just looking at what's come through the digital and meatspace transoms in the first two weeks of 2015: Monofonus Press and Instar Books.
We've written of Monofonus before, because they've been at this publishing game for a while now and they also release records & tapes & that whole music-based biz, the kind of products that keep Kevin Curtin and Raoul Hernandez and other audio-obsessed Chronies tapping their fingers to bloody nubs on various unforgiving keyboards.
But this post is more concerned with Monofonus's recent offerings in the book and zine departments. We're talking, specifically, about Bad Jobs III by a fellow named William Z. Saunders.
There are people who live comfortably in the abstract milieu of literature and can limn (as Michiko Kakutani might put it) impressions of the more concrete world in language that's sufficient to impress the stuffiest professor of English. And then there are people who might not have that polish, but who nonetheless are going to share tales of the shit they've lived through, and they're going to do it via the written word. And so they wind up committing the literary equivalent of cinema verite with a thrift-store camcorder.
That latter: That's what Saunders has going on in the first two, and this latest, of his series about bad jobs he's been part of because "works sucks but I need the bucks."
If you haven't been through this sort of employment yourself – in the case of Bad Jobs III, a brief gig as part of a ragtag lead-abatement team working a government building in a ditchwater burg outside Corpus Christi – and especially if you haven't been through it while navigating a scattershot lifestyle predicated on how frequently you can drink or drug yourself away from the oppression of, well, sobriety … then here's you a little primer, bro, on what you've missed. Here's the grimy, grisly, vivid evoking of a situation that people, initially trapped in it, escape if they can.
Now available in a clever little perfectbound format, featuring a cover by Mike Aho.
Lucky old Chronicle transom, Monofonus also visited it with Caroline McCloskey's Fixations #2, a more zinelike affair, but a zinelike affair that we're adding to our permanent library with all the reverence accorded to an upper-echelon hardcover. Because McCloskey, going on in compelling detail about her fixations on 1) TV show host Rick Steves and 2) being negatively namechecked in an old classmate's book on bullying, nails her observations and insights with a level of precision and style that makes you want to weep for McSweeney's because McSweeney's didn't get to publish this excellent thing.
And, let's also mention, Jules Buck Jones & Audrey Stewart's Animal Animal, a compendium of tautonyms that features illustrated factlists about such animals as the wolverine, the Indian cobra, the cassowary, and so on. Tell you what, nature lover: If shows on Animal Planet were this well-compiled, this engagingly written, that channel wouldn't have to rely so heavily on ye olde Shark Week for good ratings.
So good on you, Monofonus, for continuing to inundate the local micropublishing scene with such gems. And good for all of us, readers, because we can often find this stuff right here in town – or maybe order it online?
Now, did we say something about … Instar Books?
That post is right here.