Coffee House Press

Coffee House Press
Coffee House Press
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The press’s goal is to "produce books that celebrate imagination, innovation in the craft of writing, and the many authentic voices of the American experience." It is widely considered to be among the top five independent presses in the United States and has been called a national treasure.
Bill Berkson was a poet, art critic, and joyful participant in the best of postwar and bohemian American culture. Since When gathers the ephemera of a life well-lived, a collage of bold-face names, parties, exhibitions, and literary history from a man who could write «of [Truman Capote's Black and White] ball, which I attended as my mother’s escort, I have little recollection» and reminisce about imagining himself as a character from Tolstoy while tripping on acid at Woodstock. Gentle, witty, and eternally generous, this is Bill, and a particular moment in American history, at its best.
A Summer/Fall 2018 Indies Introduce Debut Fiction SelectionWhen Samuel Johnson dies, he finds himself in the body of the man who killed him, unable to depart this world but determined, at least, to return to the son he left behind. Moving from body to body as each one expires, Samuel’s soul journeys on a comic quest through an American half-century, inhabiting lives as stymied, in their ways, as his own. A ghost story of the most unexpected sort, Martin Riker’s extraordinary debut is about the ways experience is mediated, the unstoppable drive for human connection, and the struggle to be more fully alive in the world.Martin Riker grew up in central Pennsylvania. He worked as a musician for most of his twenties, in nonprofit literary publishing for most of his thirties, and has spent the first half of his forties teaching in the English department at Washington University in St. Louis. In 2010, he and his wife Danielle Dutton co-founded the feminist press Dorothy, a Publishing Project. His fiction and criticism have appeared in publications including the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, London Review of Books, the Baffler, and Conjunctions. This is his first novel.
• Booksellers and readers have responded with great enthusiasm to our Emily Books imprint, embracing both the ethos and the individual titles, and Tan's work has all the hallmarks of what that audience has responded to in previous books: dark humor, a strong voice, and a decidedly transgressive feminist stance.
• Sceptre is publishing Things to Make and Break in the UK, giving our edition a great potential publicity runway. The previous, micro-press edition already has fans as well, so we're well situated to build review momentum.
• Tan's stories are beautifully crafted, but they also have a bitter heart—each digs into the uncomfortable wounded spots that keep us from being fully present, fully alive, fully happy.
• Short fiction, especially explicitly feminist short fiction, is enjoying something of a renaissance, and Tan's stories fit into a sweet spot between Machado's fabulism and Joy Williams's acidity.
• Toliver's work has the generosity and intelligence of C.D. Wright's and Claudia Rankine's, both of whom were her teachers, and the exacting standards of form, meaning, and language of Dawn Lundy Martin's.
• One of the delights of Spectra is how it is maximal in content, and minimal in production—these are razor sharp, almost clinically precise poems about a domestic sphere—there's nothing soft-focus about them.
• Guadalupe Nettel has already established a reputation for herself in this country with Natural Histories and The Body Where I Was Born, and we’re delighted to have yet another exceptional young Mexican writer join our already stellar Latin American list.
• After the Winter is the prototypical Coffee House book—deeply sad, ambitious, formally daring, and executed with aplomb. Stores that did well with In the Distance or Faces in the Crowd should have a market for this one as well.
• Nettel’s ability to inflect the emotional lives of two closed-off (and, in the case of Claudio, quite cruel) narrators, giving their limitations not just texture, but also the pathos of human frailty, makes the novel a vigorous entrant into conversations about “likeability” and the challenges of creating fiction about fully realized, and deeply flawed, characters.
• Nettel’s English is very good, and she will be able to participate in events and interviews, lowering the barriers that sometimes greet works in translation.
Anna Moschovakis is one of our most intensely curious poets—a writer whose work is constantly pushing against received notions of how we should be, and what questions we should ask. In this, her first novel, those preoccupations take narrative form in a novel about our responsibility for self-definition, for meaning, and for an ethics that reflects more than the thin gruel of our own experiences and desires. Eleanor is a distinctly feminist novel, a metafiction whose humor and intelligence rivals Leaving the Atocha Station, and a book that feels pressingly contemporary in its concerns. The personal is political to Anna, and both come roaringly to life here.
Passivity, and the tendency to let life happen to you, are one of the foils here, as is the conviction that ideas are experiences. And the form all of this is delivered in is a heady page-turner of a novel. The warmth of the response we saw for The Gift gives every confidence that this similarly brainy, thoughful, humane, political, and art-obsessed novel has an audience just waiting for another shot of smart writing by women about being a person in the world.
The events of 1999’s Columbine shooting preoccupy Forsythe in these poems, refracting her vision to encompass killer, victim, and herself as a girl, suddenly aware of the precarity of her own life and the porousness of her body to others’ gaze, demands, violence. Deeply researched and even more deeply felt, Perennial inhabits landscapes of emerging adulthood and explosive cruelty—the hills of Pittsburgh and the sere grass of Colorado; the spines of books in a high school library that has become a killing ground; the tenderness of children as they grow up and grow hard, becoming acquainted with dread, grief, and loss.
Comemadre is a natural fit for our Latin American translation list—funny, oddball, and dark. It came to us recommended by Valeria Luiselli and Daniel Saldaña París and is our first collaboration with translator Heather Cleary, who lives in New York and is an eloquent, charming advocate for the book. The novel deals with questions of obsession (artistic, scientific, romantic) and the desire for transcendence/immortality—it's really exciting and rich with ideas. The ethics of experimentation in art and science come under scrutiny here, as does the attraction to spectacle, and the dangers of capitalism.Booksellers really engaged with last year's Sudden Death (Alvaro Enrigue, Riverhead) and this should hit the same sweet spot.
Idiophone came to us via Elena Passarello who said it was “so much funnier and weirder (and more musical!)" than most essay being published today. And she's right—Amy has a distinctively forthcoming, humorous voice, and she’s honest about anxieties and obsessions that others might veil in lyricism or circumnavigate altogether.The essay offers leaps that feel both unexpected and then, after the fact, obvious, which is such an exciting quality. From the Nutcracker (and its opposition with Tchaikovsky’s opera) to idiophones themselves, there's so much to be interested in, and these fascinations do so much work as modes for thinking.This is lyric essay at its freshest and best, taking on motherhood/daughterhood, artmaking and the judgment of artistic value, queerness, consumerism, being a woman in publishing, addiction and alcoholism, writing as a profession or industry, caregivingEssaying about art, and in a pleasurable (not dry) way has become part of the CHP brand (Cat Is Art Spelled Wrong, Prententiousness, Little Boxes), and this extends that with a distinctly feminist bent.
«Promise me the rich can’t sleep," Joseph Lease begs in The Body Ghost, offering poems as light on the page as nursery rhymes, and as powerful as prayer. Here, verse conjures up the body in pain, the body politic in collapse, and the tensile strength of the filaments that connect us.
Not Here is a flight plan for escape and a map for navigating home; a queer Vietnamese American body in confrontation with whiteness, trauma, family, and nostalgia; and a big beating heart of a book. Nguyen’s poems ache with loneliness and desire and the giddy terrors of allowing yourself to hope for love, and revel in moments of connection achieved.
“Jenny is the future of nonfiction in America. What an absurdly arrogant statement to make. I make it anyway. Watch.” —John D’Agata“Yes, Aristotle, there can be pleasure without ‘complete and unified action with a beginning, middle, and end.’ Jenny Boully has done it.” —Mary Jo Bang“Jenny Boully is a deeply weird writer—in the best way.” —Ander MonsonJenny Boully’s essays are ripe with romance and sensual pleasures, drawing connections between the digression, reflection, imagination, and experience that characterizes falling in love as well as the life of a writer. Literary theory, philosophy, and linguistics rub up against memory, dreamscapes, and fancy, making the practice of writing a metaphor for the illusory nature of experience. Betwixt and Between is, in many ways, simply a book about how to live.Jenny Boully is the author of The Body: An Essay, The Book of Beginnings and Endings: Essays, not merely because of the unknown that was stalking toward them, and other books. Born in Thailand, she grew up in Texas and holds a PhD in English from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. She teaches creative writing and literature at Columbia College Chicago.
Gerber Bicecci's novel, recommended to us by Valeria Luiselli, is the latest in our Latin American translation program and another collaboration with Christina MacSweeney. The author is also a visual artist and the novel is built around her original, Thurber-esque illustrations and diagrams, which tweak the narrative, giving it both depth and buoyancy. Like The Story of My Teeth, Empty Set is a playful novel which uses a conceit (in this case, diagramming relationships) to take on ideas. Here: absence, the disappeared, and the physics of time. The appeal of Zambra's Multiple Choice, backed with a story that unfolds in loops and hopscotches, but remains immediate, trackable, and charmingly nostalgic. Empty Set will have patterned end-papers, echoing the drawings inside, and signaling the charm of this little novel.
Praise for Raymond McDaniel:“Raymond McDaniel's language trains every particle of your attention on the surface and what stirs beneath.” —C.D. WrightFrom “Projection Box”:Light is not light.Light is only one way things radiate,so light is an object falling apart. The light of the moonis the light of the sunwhich is the sun collapsing.Raymond McDaniel is the author of Special Powers and Abilities, Saltwater Empire, and Murder (a violet), a National Poetry Series selection.
Praise for Lightsey Darst:“This is a vital poetry of the Deep South ripe with bones, blood and bogs, Snow Whites, Gretels and debutantes all stirred into a harrowing stew of lust, dusk and summer.” —New York Times“A terrific collection. … Full of horror, bleak humor, and suspense, these poems read like mini-thrillers, daring you to put the book down.” — Entertainment WeeklyDesire & the page felt it.I told myself, something is happening.You could make weather happen then. Dear not only in dream life, dear never until storm.
Gurba is an extraordinary performer with an enthusiastic spoken word fan base, and the Mean's voice-driven quality should appeal to them directlyRather than a memoir, this is a nonfiction novel, a la How Should a Person Be—Gurba's life provides the plot points, but a novelistic impulse provides the frame. Gurba turns what might be tragic into piercing, revealing comedy, differentiating between “classic” (stranger rape) and “avant garde” (molestation by a classmate) sexual assault in a way that's in your face and unforgettable.Race, class, gender, and sexuality all break open in unexpected ways in Gurba's hands. This is a confident, funny, brassy book that takes the cost of sexual assault, racism, misogyny, and homophobia deadly seriously.
Mean, Myriam Gurba
Grudova's debut collection is inspired weirdness—fairy tales written by Margaret Atwood, or dystopias by Angela Carter—that feels entirely, distressingly contemporary in its concerns. Doll's Alphabet will be published this winter in the UK by Fitzcarraldo Editions and has built-in momentum from its already enthusiastic reception there. CHP and Coach House will be offering the book simultaneously in the US and Canada (with a shared cover) adding to the energies behind the book, and the ability to garner publicity upon releaseGrudova's stories are patterned, layered with motifs and recurring objects that create a coherent universe for the collection, one where women's limited power stands in stark contrast to the demands made of them. This is an explicitly feminist dystopia.
Victor Hernández Cruz is a major poet of the Nuyorican school and co-founded the East Harlem Gut Theatre and the Before Columbus Foundation. Closely associated with both it and Second Generation New York school poets, his work speaks to others on the CHP list, most particularly Ron Padgett. These poems are sometimes prosey, and sometimes close to songs, but always inclined to be performed, and pleasurable for even casual readers of poetry. He’s been the recipient or nominee of several major awards and prizes, including a Guggenheim and na NEA grant. He was the Chancellor of the Academic of American Poets from 2008–13.
A young Swedish immigrant finds himself penniless and alone in California. The boy travels East in search of his brother, moving on foot against the great current of emigrants pushing West. Driven back again and again, he meets naturalists, criminals, religious fanatics, swindlers, Indians, and lawmen, and his exploits turn him into a legend. Diaz defies the conventions of historical fiction and genre, offering a probing look at the stereotypes that populate our past and a portrait of radical foreignness.

Hernan Diaz is the author of Borges, Between History and Eternity (Bloomsbury 2012), managing editor of RHM, and associate director of the Hispanic Institute at Columbia University. He lives in New York.
Building on Cat Is Art Spelled Wrong and Pretentiousness, Little Boxes expands CHP's investment in cultural criticism, this time inviting 12 writers to talk about TV, and what it means to be raised with television, not the internet, as the primary cultural background noise. These essays are less “Why I Loved Parker Lewis Can't Lose” and more «What Is Up with Everyone in the 80s Having a Domestic: The Different Strokes/Gimme a Break/Mr. Belvedere/Charles in Charge Story.”The writers assembled come from a mix of genres, and work in very different modes, but for each one, TV is part of their cultural DNA, and the collection purposefully abrogates the space between the arts and pop culture, making an argument for how they seed and reflect each other. There was something essentially lonely about watching television in the era before the internet—you did it alone, one episode at a time. The essays here represent, in some ways, the opportunity to binge watch and live tweet together—to turn viewing into a form of cultural production.
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