In 2016, James Reich, chairman of the Creative Writing and Literature Department, launched his independent publishing house, Stalking Horse Press, which specializes in the “spiky, angular, errant” and seeks work that “engages with the world.” As a writer with “avant garde tendencies,” Reich has sympathy for writers whose work has difficulty finding a place in mainstream literary publishing. His three books I, Judas, Bombshell, and Mistah Kurtz! each play with the idea of what is “mainstream” and “canon,” air quotes for emphasis. Though his books found a home in Soft Skull Press and Anti-Oedipus Press, Stalking Horse Press represents an “opportunity to give something back…to help people…who have a great manuscript but are finding it difficult to find a publisher willing to take a risk on it.”
Meet the Underground Correspondents — Todd Harris Jr., Italia Marie and Niko’a Salas — an eclectic trinity, bonded by a mutual love of performative self-expression. Each member comes from wildly different backgrounds—the South, the Northwest, the Northeast—but all brought something from interdisciplinary interests into their spoken word album Social Static. A truly collaborative experience, Social Static was born both of the need to share a message and a desire to bring the members’ work to life in a less-utilized medium.
Every once in a while, I come across a book that hits the perfect note between “I have something to say” and “I have a story to tell.” This was one of those books. The inescapable thought I had while reading was that this school shooting is not unique. This shooter is not unique. In America, there’s a new incident every week. If we’re lucky enough not to be touched directly by these events, we go numb after a while out of self-preservation. This book rips the Novacaine from our hands and asks us to confront the reality of the lives lost, because these characters and their experiences are not abstract. Everything in here is brutally real, even the more supernatural elements.
This book is not easily categorizable by any means, with genre or otherwise. In speaking with the author, the word that came up was “intangibility,” and that sounds right. The book is concerned the power of intangible emotions, namely intense grief, and the horrific effects of bottling up such emotions, writ large. Within the first few pages, it becomes clear that the memory of the shooting never leaves these characters, and it’s confirmed again in the beautiful final chapters, where our narrators say they’ve tried to forget and move on, move away, and haven’t entirely succeeded. The first-person plural voice was especially striking. It felt like the voice of a community as a whole, struggling to heal in the midst of further tragedies.
Though I’ve had days to gather my thoughts, I’m still a little at a loss for how to articulate it. It was beautiful and resonant and exactly the book I believe everyone should read. Yes, it’s hard and intense and I definitely cried several times, but it also served to wake me up and remind me that mass violence is not a problem for tomorrow, but today.
Mike Sager’s resume reads less like a timeline and more like a greatest hits reel, with all his stories as steeped in history as they are. Having worked early in his career at the Washington Post under Bob Woodward, he went on to work at magazines such as Rolling Stone, GQ, and Esquire, where he is currently a Writer-at-Large. His stories range from subjects as varied as celebrities to murderers, Paris Hilton to Warren Durso, whose greatest claim to fame is his apparent ugliness. Yet whether he is writing about famous porn star John Holmes or disgraced former journalist Janet Cooke, it is his empathy that stands out for the reader. Through Sager’s work, dignity is returned to his subjects, their lives and stories reclaimed from a public eye that perhaps sees public figures as entertainment first and human beings second. During a whirlwind two days in Santa Fe, Sager granted interviews, readings, and visited SFUAD classes as the Creative Writing and Literature department’s Fall 2016 visiting writer.
A man of serendipitous luck, Michael J. Wilson’s third year of teaching at SFUAD also marks the publication of his first poetry collection A Child Of Storm. Born in England, Wilson spent his childhood moving from place to place. Along with his time at the New School in New York City, these experiences shaped the poems that would eventually constitute his first book, solidifying an already-present fascination with the life of Nikola Tesla and shifting his focus to the way people relate to each other. With only days left until the book release, Wilson spoke with Jackalope Magazine about his writing process and the themes of his poetry.
SPOILERS AHEAD. And now that you’ve been warned, on with the review! So, as a YA fiction enthusiast who is also tired of tropes, this is the fantasy book I’ve been waiting for. There has never been a book I’ve more wanted on my bookshelf. There was such an original plot. It was so beautifully written. Everyone in this book lives in a dream world, dreaming that they’re Lord Byron or Isaac Newton and dreaming about colours and Colors and missing fathers and swan-mothers. Some lines I love:
“When Jack cast his gaze over Madeleine’s former life he caught glimpses of sails swelling in gusts of winds, reindeer stamping and breathing mist, diamonds woven through plaits and spilling like raindrops down a window.”
“Jack had gathered the names together by the stems; he’d arranged them in a vase that he kept to the right of his mind. At night, before he fell asleep, he’d breathe in the fragrance of each, the details that Madeleine had shared.”
“a whole bubbling brook sort of name”
“What hinders the fixt stars from falling upon one another?… She had to stop the stars from tumbling together… A sky full of stars was relying on her to keep her back straight, her shoulders firm, her head nodding now and then, her voice calm and polite… because as long as she did that, her mother would be okay… All she had to do was keep the stars fixed to the sky.”
“The thing is, Elliott, you were like a piece of magic. You held the fixed stars in place for me and you stopped them from falling. If I open another letter from you, I think they might start to tumble.”
There is this really clever extended metaphor revolving around Isaac Newton, Lord Byron, and Ada Lovelace, and how their lives parallel the lives of Madeleine, Jack, and Belle. What starts out as an annoying school assignment becomes this heartbreaking condemnation when Madeleine starts recognizing the cracks in her own worldview, realizing that her father is not some glittery hero and her mother is not a lost swan in a tower.
I also really appreciate how the romance was handled in here, mostly Madeleine and Jack’s relationship. In general, I am not a fan of romance in YA novels because nothing feels original anymore, nor does it ever feel realistic, or it will takes over the actual plot. What made this feel fresh was how both Madeleine and Jack both accepted that they worked better as friends at the end of the book. The power of Madeleine’s journey is that once she “wakes up,” she sees that Jack is remarkable just as he is, a teenage boy in Cambridge, her friend. Elliott and Kala’s relationship was tolerable for me. It felt very sentimental at times, but the burst of clarity from Elliot’s perspective injected some much-needed realism into their relationship. Elliott realizes that his feelings for Kala don’t make either of them as wonderful or perfect as they see each other; or else, how could he have cheated on her? It seemed a healthier alternative to seeing each other as perfect.
Within Alexis Hall, the tutors of the Writing Center live out a parallel reality. While they are providing invaluable assistance in writing, art history and math, they also are engaged in a mission of their own—one that aims to empower students and allow them to speak confidently about their art.