Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Monstrous Women of the Avant-Garde: Part II

Shortly after my arrival at AWP, I headed for the Book Fair, specifically to the Les Figues Press table, piled with their lovely TrenchArt series and a few more superb anthologies.

And I must say something here about book-as-art-object. When did the publishing industry -- including most small, independent presses -- forget that part of a book’s allure lay in its aesthetic beauty, and I’m not just talking about cover art? (Much of which sucks, by the way. A game my husband and I play: Q: How do you tell if a book’s poorly written? A: If the title and author’s name appears in embossed metallic!) Go to any bookstore and watch people fondling paperbacks, weighing them in their hands. They’re drawn to unconventional formats: perfect little squares, long horizontals, tall verticals, unusual cover textures. Look hard at the Children’s book section, with its marvelous sensuality. Just because we get older does not mean we lose our love for the visually and tactilely enticing.

Enticing like Les Figues TrenchArt series. You can subscribe to the series for a so-reasonable-as-to-be-unholy $60, that gives you all five books, shipped to you as they’re published. It’s an investment in art and intellect, certainly, but also (to be materially crass) in one’s economic portfolio: I predict owning the complete sets will one day prove financially fruitful; thus, I subscribe. NOTE TO INVESTORS: I collect signed first editions published by small presses in print runs less than 3,000 because the return on investment is typically enormous and relatively quick, though staying in for the long run is significantly more profitable. You can watch your investment multiply at used & rare book sellers like and

Les Figues is run by Vanessa Place and Teresa Carmody, avant-garde writers and literary visionaries. Vanessa is author of Dies: A 50,000 Word Sentence, and La Medusa, forthcoming Fall 2008. Teresa is author of the story collection, Requiem.

Les Figues Press is by far one of the most interesting functioning today, more proof that much of the avant-garde exists far from New York and Brooklyn. (Though, as you’ll see in Part III of Monstrous, there are some very fine women writers on the F Train.) Besides their incredible brain capacity, these women are fun. Conversations with them are always full of "joie de tete," and sentences swing like machetes whacking through the untouched scrubland of contemporary aesthetics, with the historical path well-marked and respected.

For hors d’oevres of their deliciousness, here’s a clip from my forthcoming vodcast wherein I interview Vanessa and Teresa, plus the lovely former dancer, current actress and experimental dramatist, Sissy Boyd, not shown in this clip. Sissy's book, In the Plain Turn of the Body Make A Sentence: Two Plays, was published by Les Figues Press. (More about Sissy to come).

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