Soft Skull Press

Soft Skull Press
Soft Skull Press
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Independent publisher of books that engage art, culture, and current events in new and radical ways. We publish every genre.
THE LONESOME BODYBUILDER marks the English-language debut of one of Japan's most celebrated and surreal contemporary writers, Yukiko Motoya
The story collection contains ten lucid yet slippery short stories and one novella perfect for fans of Etgar Keret and Clarice Lispector
Each story begins rooted firmly in reality, until the edges start to blur—shifting from the stable to the surreal with thrilling and beautiful precision
PICNIC IN THE STORM, a story within the collection, won Japan’s prestigious Kenzaburo Oe Prize, which comes with a $30,000 grant for use by the publisher of the English edition for marketing and publicity
A housewife fulfills a new dream of becoming a bodybuilder, without her husband noticing; a group of monkeys in a zoo miraculously bring their chimpanzee friend back to life without pomp and circumstance; and a boutique clerk struggles to help an amorphous customer to find something that fits, no matter the cost. Each story is enchanting and ever so slightly sinister
Motoya won the Akutagawa Prize, Japan’s most prestigious literary prize, for AN EXOTIC MARRIAGE, the novella contained in THE LONESOME BODYBUILDER; this book offers the exciting opportunity to introduce Motoya to a U.S. audience. Previously, her translated stories have appeared in GRANTA and CATAPULT
Bookseller Praise for The Lonesome Bodybuilder
«The Lonesome Bodybuilder takes ordinary people and thrusts them into bizarre situations, which they accept with equanimity: the woman morphing into her husband doesn't question the transformation, just does her best to deal with it. The child confronted with a mysterious specter at the bus shelter doesn't run away, but eventually eats the biscuit he offers (and it's delicious). The world's most dedicated saleswoman will not leave work until her amorphous, possibly alien client finds the perfect garment. It is both amusing and a devastatingly effective way to explore our most elemental fears. Motoya's stories are neon bright with touches of darkness, like Saturday morning cartoons that occasionally veer into the grotesque.» —Lauren Peugh, Powell's Books (Portland, OR)
«There's weird and then there's 'oh my goodness, what the heck did I just read?' weird. The stories collected in Yukiko Motoya's The Lonesome Bodybuilder belong to the latter group. These stories are incisive explorations of domestic life fraught with tension and 'out-of-left-field' bizarre field trips into the dark woods of the mind. Immersive, captivating—I can't get enough of Yukiko Motoya!» —Uriel Perez, BookPeople (Austin, TX)
“This collection had me riveted from beginning to end. Each story was a beautiful and intriguing blend of surrealism and the mundane, and nothing of Motoya's succinct language is lost in the translation. An excellent escape book.” —Lauren Nopenz Fairley, Curious Iguana (Frederick, MD)
A lyrical memoir about open marriage, autotheory, desire, identity, art, ambition, and identity, for fans of Graywolf Nonfiction Prize winners, Roland Barthes's A Lover’s Discourse, Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts, or Chris Kraus's I Love Dick

A mesmerizing, quickly immersive narrative told through shifting mediums of correspondence; a couple opening up their relationship to distance and other partners; a blend of personal experience, references to art/performance, and auto-theory.

Lyrical and lucid, Leah Dieterich's memoir is of the zeitgeist, straddling the literary and the popular topics of our day  A provocative, intelligent and playful entry into the national cultural discussion about open marriage. Vanishing Twins explores open marriage in the context of queer identity; discovering and wanting to explore her own desires led Leah and her husband to explore an unconventional marriage

Open marriages have recently in mainstream conversation thanks in part to May 2017 pieces like The New York Times Magazine’s divisive “Is an Open Marriage a Happier Marriage?” (May 2017) and the NPR feature on how Netflix, Amazon, MTV Networks, and other major television players were portraying «open relationships as…an ongoing part of storylines, key to driving plots and understanding major characters. They're not just stunts… Based on conversations with MTV viewers, [one executive] added, there's probably not enough representation of unconventional and polyamorous relationships on TV.»

The smart and cheeky wordplay throughout Vanishing Twins is delightful and insightful; words and their meaning assume a three-dimensional space in the narrator's world, motivating decisions and opening doors of discovery: «The connections she ties between typography and twinning and ballet and sex are unexpected and frequently magical” (Sarah Manguso, author of 300 Arguments)

A charismatic social media presence and copywriter by trade, thxthxthx author Leah Dieterich (based in Portland, OR with strong ties to Los Angeles and New York, and to the fine art scene on both coasts) will be an effective and creative co-promoter of her own work

«How do you make room, in a marriage, for the feelings and compulsions that exceed your expectations of one-true-love? Can 'openness' be the key that frees couples who feel locked in wedlock? Vanishing Twins explores these and many other questions in propulsive epigrammatic style. Leah Dieterich makes the history of her relationships (with lovers, family, and with herself), her hopes, dreams, and desires, come alive, and she does this without wasting any words.» —John Francisconi, Bank Square Books (Mystic CT)

«This is a very cool book—a story we don't often hear, about how people change, or change together, over time, and all the different types of relationships that become important to us. Leah Dieterich combines her dance background, fascination with twins, and the story of her marriage in a unique, fascinating way that kept me turning pages very quickly.» —Abby Fennewald, BookPeople (Austin TX)
Pink stands out among writers who explore the thoughts and feelings we all have but hide or forget; he excavates moments of isolation, boredom, despair, and disgust with a singular honesty and humor.

Pink writes with the minimalist humor and detachment of Mary Robison, the loving attention to minutiae of Nicholson Baker, and the clarity and emotional rawness of John Fante.

The Garbage Times/White Ibis is a chance to bring a beloved cult writer to a wider audience.Praise from booksellers“With so many emotions stirred up while reading, this book is hilarious, intense, heart warming, and surreal. Sam Pink's honesty and style make for a very poetic and lyrical prose in what I feel, reads like a modern day journey through the underworld. At the same time, brilliant and strangely uplifting.”—Rob Hawthorn, Gallery Bookshop (Mendocino, CA) «Sam Pink's The Garbage Times/White Ibis is unique in terms of its contents as well as its physical presentation. The visual juxtaposition of the two halves of the whole does much to emphasize the different lenses through which the world is viewed in each portion. In The Garbage Times we are treated to Pink's nonchalant and spitefully humorous narration of his own poverty and numbness; working in a Chicago dive bar, mucking through the shit and making jack squat. The Garbage Times gives off the vibe of telling a cruel world 'Haha, yeah well, fuck you, too!' and I adore it. Continuing on into White Ibis we travel along with Pink through the changes in his life, ride along on an upswing. Still broke as hell but in a better place with himself and the world at large. We see marvelous humor at the smallest of events and deep appreciation for the little things, like a gas station clerk with an extensive stuffed animal collection, or a weird little Girl Scout learning how to love her own strangeness. The joining of these two works brings together two sides of the coin of lived experience; sometimes life is garbage, and in other moments it is nothing short of moving.» —Jack Hawthorn, Raven Bookstore (Lawrence, KS)
Men and Apparitions showcases Lynne Tillman not only as a brilliantly original novelist but also as one of our most prominent thinkers on culture and visual art today; she deserves a place in the literary canon alongside her oft-touted male compatriots like DeLillo, David Foster Wallace
A quintessential “Soft Skull book,” Men and Apparitions teems with word play and critical theory, dark humor and philosophical questions, popular culture and unforgettable one-liners.
A cult figure at the intersection of literature and art, Lynne Tillman will speak to her devoted audience with Men and Apparitions
Lynne Tillman is twice a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist (Criticism and Fiction) and has been featured in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, BOMB Magazine, and more
Early ARCs available August 2017, and author to appear at ABA Winter Institute 2018 in Memphis, TN Background anecdote: It was Colm Toibin's idea that Lynne use Clover Hooper Adams in a novel
Bookseller Praise for Men and Apparitions«Men and Apparitions is about photography, 'New Men,' ethnography, family history, interpreting images, growing up, falling apart, and just about everything else in its own wonky way, featuring Clover Adams, a praying mantis named Mr. Petey, and a kindly elderly painter in Amsterdam, but ultimately it a brilliant novel about a funny, charming, intelligent, sensitive man trying to understand what it means to be alive. A new classic in the 'figuring shit out' genre.» —Josh Cook, Porter Square Books (Cambridge, MA)
«A Girl's Guide to Personal Hygiene is everything I never knew I wanted: a disgusting, hilarious, and honest book that pays tribute to the female body and all of its habits and suppurations. It is delightfully and uncomfortably relatable and I love it with my whole self—heart, sweat, bowels, and all.»—Carmen Maria Machado, author of Her Body and Other Parties

We sniff our knickers; we bite our own toenails; we laboriously dig out ingrown hairs: Women aren't as ladylike as people would like to imagine. Using anecdotes collected from hundreds of anonymous sources, this gleefully disgusting illustrated book rewrites our definition of femininity.

One day, the artist Tallulah Pomeroy overhead a conversation between two girls about another friend of theirs they knew in college. Apparently, when this friend had been on tour with the rugby team, she'd drunkenly 'done a shit in the sink.' 'She's not a girl if she did that,' said one to the other. 'She may have a vagina, but she's not a girl.'

This exchange made Tallulah laugh, but it also made her think. How many things had her friends done that meant they 'weren't girls?' She made a Facebook group and asked people to submit stories about their 'unladylike' behaviors. The page was soon flooded with more stories than she could have ever imagined: about ear wax and trapped wind, gray pubes and bloody pajamas. It became a community of honest, funny, and supportive women, who, by admitting to things they'd thought were shameful, no longer had to feel ashamed.

For A Girl's Guide to Personal Hygiene, Tallulah made original illustrations to accompany a selection of those Facebook posts—plus dozens more from an expanded call for submissions—to create an exuberant and galvanizing handbook for all the nasty women of the world.
“A witty and grisly gothic unlike anything I’ve ever read. You should absolutely read this.”
—Kelly Link, author of Get in Trouble

A new arrival at an isolated school for orphaned boys quickly comes to realize there is something wrong with his new home. He hears chilling whispers in the night, his troubled classmates are violent and hostile, and the Headmaster sends cryptic messages, begging his new charge to confess. As the new boy learns to survive on the edges of this impolite society, he starts to unravel a mystery at the school's dark heart. And that's when the corpses start turning up.

A coming-of-age tale, a Gothic ghost story, and a murder mystery all in one, The Job of the Wasp is a bloodcurdling and brilliantly subversive novel about paranoia, love, and the nightmare of adolescence.
When Oliver Bonds, a revered religious studies professor at the University of Texas, loses his toddler son and undergoes intense legal scrutiny over his involvement, grief engulfs him completely. His life is upended; Oliver loses his wife, home, and faith. Three years after his son’s death, Oliver lives in a shack without electricity and frequents the soup kitchen where he used to volunteer. It’s only when befriended by Lyle, a con artist with a passion for theories of Hollow Earth, that Oliver begins to reengage with the world. Oliver too becomes convinced that the inside of the planet might contain a different realm. Desperate to find a place where he can escape his past, Oliver chases after the most unlikely of miracles. With unforgettable characters, wild imagery, and dark humor, Hollow explores the depths of doubt and hope, stretching past grief and into the space where we truly begin to heal.
The playground of the rich and the beautiful, downtown New York’s nightlife spectacles and power of self-invention incubated pop icons from Andy Warhol to Lady Gaga. NYU sociologist Victor P. Corona sought a new education, where night classes held in galleries, nightclubs, bars, apartments, stoops, and all-night diners taught him about love, loss, and the living possibilities of identity. Transforming himself from dowdy professor to glitzy clubgoer, Victor immerses himself among downtown’s dazzling tribes of artists and performers hungry for fame. Night Class: A Downtown Memoir investigates the glamour of New York nightlife. In interviews and outings with clubland revelers and influencers, including Party Monster and convicted killer Michael Alig, Night Class exposes downtown’s perilous trappings of drugs, ambition, and power. From closeted, undocumented Mexican boy to Ivy League graduate to nightlife writer, Corona shares in Night Class the thrill and tragedy of downtown and how dramatically identities can change.
Thomas’s most recent book from Soft Skull, The Seed Collectors, received praise from The New York Times Book Review (where it was also selected as an Editor’s Choice pick), Boston Globe, The Huffington Post, The Millions and more
What is the price of staying connected, of that phone in your hand or that watch on your wrist? Recent TV shows would have you believe that the most dangerous job in America is a crab fisherman, or maybe even an ice road trucker. But what U.S. Department of Labor unequivocally recognizes as truly the most dangerous job in America is a tower dog, the men who work on cell towers all across the country building the networks that keep us all connected.In Tower Dog: Life Inside the Deadliest Job in America, Doug Delaney, a tower dog for over fifteen years, draws readers into this dark and high stakes world that most don't even know exists, yet rely on every minute of every day. This risk-laden profession has been recently covered by NBC Dateline, Frontline, The Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post, but none of these reports have provided an in-depth look at the rough and tumble sub-culture of workers throughout America who are risking their lives—and dying at such a high rate. These men have always been living on the edge of polite society; a fascinating mix of construction crews and thrill-seekers. Delaney is a brash and illuminating guide, and Tower Dog gives us the real experience of what its like for the workers balanced precariously above the clouds.
This riveting, poignant and hilarious memoir recounts Clancy Sigal’s escapades as a young agent, handling screenwriters and actors at the Sam Jaffe Agency in the blacklist-addled Hollywood of the 1950s. He’s hired by the take-no-prisoners agent Mary Baker after being fired from Columbia Pictures for using the mimeo machine to copy radical leaflets. Atom bomb tests in the desert light up the night sky, and everyone is either naming names or getting named. As the point person of a small circle of anarchistic oddballs, Clancy is constantly dogged by the FBI. But he spends his days going from studio to studio, trying to promote his clients Jack Palance, Peter Lorre, Humphrey Bogart, Barbara Stanwyck, and many others.Clancy’s style is rip-roaring—headlong, ribald, wiseass. Black Sunset belongs to a hardboiled school that also includes Raymond Chandler and Elmore Leonard. This is a once-in-a-lifetime tale of Hollywood drama and excess, from a legendary entertainment industry insider.
“A cult figure to a generation of post-punk females forming their own literary avant-garde.”—The New York Times Why can’t I live right now. Because I am not rich, I am not a saint. But I do know this: not all of us were sent here to work. The first published novel of legendary poet and performer Eileen Myles follows a queer female growing up in working-class Boston, straining against the institutions that hold her: family, Catholic school, jobs at a camp, at a nursing home, at a school for developmentally disabled adult males. Free-ranging and deadpan, tragic and joyful, this is a book about women, gender, class, bodies, escape, and what it means to be “inside.” Never more relevant, and now with an introduction by Chris Kraus.
In American Junkie, Tom Hansen takes us non-stop into a land of desperate addicts, failed punk bands, and brushes with sad fame, selling drugs during the Seattle grunge years. It’s a story that maps his heroin addiction, from the promise of a young life to the prison of a mattress, from budding musician to broken down junkie, drowning in syringes and cigarette butts, shooting heroin into wounds the size of softballs, and ultimately, a ride to a hospital for a six-month stay and a painful self-discovery that cuts down to the bone. Through it all he never really loses his step, never lets go of his smarts, and always projects quintessential American reason, humor, and hope to make a story not only about drugs, but a compelling study of vulnerability and toughness.
Bonomo has both a MA and PhD in Creative Writing from Ohio UniversityHe is currently an Associate Professor of English at Northern Illinois University and a music columnist for The Normal SchoolHe has had notable essays placed in Best American Essays (2015, 2013, 2011, 2010 2006)His book AC/DC’s Highway to Hell was selected as a 2010 Music Book of the Year by Outsideleft MagazineHis essays, book reviews and prose poems have been published in The Rumpus, Brevity, TriQuarterly Online, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Georgia Review and much more
From the author of The Dogfighter, hailed by Geoff Dyer as “the most exciting debut…by an American writer since Eugenides’s The Virgin Suicides,” comes Journeyman, a tightly wound novel about dwelling, building, belonging, love, and the value of a place to call home. Nolan Jackson is a journeyman carpenter by trade and a wanderer by nature. Set in 2007, while fellow Americans fight in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Nolan builds tract homes across California, travelling between jobs. Following a shocking workplace accident in his temporary home of Las Vegas, he uproots himself from the tentative relationships he has made and heads west towards the ocean.

On his way he passes through his brother's town where circumstances force him to stay put. Bereft of his trailer and his tools, Nolan turns to the task of building the foundations of a meaningful life. The specter of war and questions of the Western-film notions of masculinity are woven throughout the novel; from the damage to Nolan’s family by the Vietnam War in which his father fought, to the ubiquity and consequence of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to slow unraveling of his brother’s marriage and mental state, to the mysterious series of arsons being set around their small town.

Ultimately, Journeyman is an important, timely novel about men and brothers finding their way in the 21st century West.
Rowe was the producer of Comedy central’s stage show sitnspin for the last fourteen yearsShe is a television writer for both Arrested Development and FlakedPreviously she has sold pilots to Disney, Nickeloden, and HBOShe is the creator of stage shows “Hollywood Hellhouse” (with Bill Maher, Will Arnett, Zach Galifinikas, Sarah Silverman, Joe Rogan) and “Hollywood Purity Ball” (with Larry Miller and Bill Maher)
Set in India in 1648, Guards at the Taj introduces two young Imperial Guards, Humayun and Babur, as they stand watch in front of the city walls. New to their roles and just recently out of training, they have been assigned the less-than-exciting “dawn watch” leaving them plenty of time for discussion about the great Tajmahal—which they have heard much about, but have never seen until now. According to rumor, Shah Jahan has issued a royal decree that anyone who took part in the building of this majestic “city within a city” must have their hands chopped off, so as to ensure that “nothing so beautiful as the Tajmahal shall ever be built again.” Humayun and Babur’s repartee takes a somber turn as they realize that they will be the guards tasked with carrying out this violent judgment.Mr. Wolf is a powerful play about child abduction told from the point of view of various characters: Michael and Hana’s daughter was kidnapped fourteen years ago. Julie also had a child kidnapped around a similar time. Theresa was kidnapped when she was three and knows nothing of the world except that which her captor selectively revealed to her over the years. These four lives, once altered by tragedy, now must face that nightmare once again.
On September 21, 2012, twenty-five year old David Villalobos purchased a pass for the Bronx Zoo and a ticket for a ride on the Bengali Express Monorail. Biding his time, he waited until the monorail was just near the enclosure of a four hundred pound Siberian tiger named Bashuta before leaping into it. They spent ten long minutes together in the tiger’s cage before nature took its course, with one exception: The tiger did not kill him. David’s only response: “It’s a spiritual thing. I wanted to be at one with the tiger.”One with The Tiger: On Savagery and Intimacy uses David’s story, and other moments of violent encounters between humans and predators, to explore the line between human and animal. Exposing what the author defines as the “shared liminal space between peace and violence,” Church posits that the animal is always encroaching on the civilization —and those seeking its wildness are in fact searching for an ecstatic moment that can define what it means to be human. Using examples from Timothy Treadwell to Mike Tyson, or such television icons as Grizzly Adams and The Incredible Hulk, Church shows how this ecstasy can seep its way into the less natural world of popular culture, proving time and again that each of us can be our own worst predator.
Liza Monroy’s new book is collection of deeply personal essays that tackle the universal themes of romantic and familial love, fate and chance, all told in a humorous and intelligent manner that keeps the reader yearning for more. Created in the wake of Liza's popular essays– including her piece for the Modern Love column in the New York Times — Seeing As Your Shoes Are Soon To Be On Fire chronicles Liza's many misadventures in her quest for love. These misadventures span a variety of countries and a variety of men, all bound together under the watchful eye of her eccentric, single mother, a profiler for the U.S. State Department, who is soon using her professional aptitude to weed out the men in her daughter’s path.Filled with quirky details and archetypal characters from our everyday lives, with stories that are both wildly hilarious and deeply heartfelt, Seeing As Your Shoes Are Soon To Be On Fire is both a vulnerably open testament to Liza's personal experiences and an intriguing work that confronts the odds of finding love and intimacy in the increasingly depersonalized world of technology.
Most of us have experienced what it’s like to know what someone is going to say right before they say it. Or perhaps you have been shocked by the irrefutable phenomena of coincidence, when your life intersects with another’s in the most unlikely way. In gripping prose marked by stark simplicity, Another Place You’ve Never Been by debut novelist Rebecca Kauffman explores the intersection of human experience amidst the minutiae of everyday life.In her mid-thirties and living in Buffalo, NY (where she is originally from), Tracy spends most days at the restaurant where she works as a hostess, despite her aspirations of a career that would make use of her creative talents. Tracy’s life is explored not only though her own personal point of view, but also through the viewpoints of other characters, wherein Tracy may only make a peripheral appearance or even emerge at different periods in her life.Kauffman subtly exposes the lives of these characters—alongside the presences of spiritually mysterious Native American figures that appear throughout—and gradually reveals the true purposes of both as their paths intersect.
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