Tarpaulin Sky Press has brought the joy of summer early with a trio of newly released books. Burial by Claire Donato, Haute Surveillance by Johannes Goransson, and Salamandrine: 8 Gothics by Joyelle McSweeney were all released in May and continue the press’ solid run of publishing innovative and hybrid form titles.
These titles push boundaries and lack classification. They transcend the limits of what hybrid, or experimental, writing can do. While each book has their own distinctive voice it’s under the umbrella of Tarpaulin Sky that they’ve been given the freedom to push past the restrictions of much of today’s contemporary writing and flourish in thinking outside of the box. They all eschew plot for style, linear narrative for experimentation and the end result, for all three much like the majority of the press’ catalogue, is something original in both content and technique. The focus is on the journey rather than the destination as the lyrical prose in this trio comes to the forefront creating something greater than mere words on a page. At time, in all three, there are elements not only of prose, poetry, essay, and hybrid forms, but theatre, movie, and television sneak their way onto the page. There’s a three-dimensional quality to these books that gives them a pulse, beating just below the surface, somewhere deep in the gut. Burroughs, Genet, Bataille are all hinted at here, used as guides, but there isn’t any gimmicks or reproductions. Instead, these great experimentalists and avant-garde writers of the past are put through a blender topped with equal parts muscle relaxer, speed, acid, and a new, distinct style forcing the reader to down the contents in one giant gulp. It will leave you feeling as though they just went speeding through a backyard makeshift house of mirrors ride that was rigged with no brakes, bending through the maze of tight corners to the point where you can the feel the sharp shards of glass on your forearm if you don’t keep your hand inside the ride that is their minds.
I was left, other than writing this essay/review, speechless after finishing the third book. My highlighter dried up from the constant underlining, I was left to try and spread the word of these great titles by just simply nodding my head and telling my friends to just trust me on this one as I handed them my copy to loan out. They’ll definitely thank me. I’d like to think that’s because I have smart friends. It’s more likely that these books are just too good to ignore.
Burial by Claire Donato is a small book with a large personality. The story is broken into short sections that read like stream of conscious journal entries. The mixture of emotionally charged writing with the uncanny ability to keep her distance from the subject is what separates this text from falling into an experimental haze.
Salamandrine: 8 Gothics by Joyelle McSweeney is a punch to the face. Your brain will vibrate off your skull as your meander through her beautiful words. Dark, creepy, visceral writing that, much like the other two, lacks a straight forward narrative, but more than makes up for it in intelligence. She is a prose writer with a poet’s touch. The book is filled with complex (bordering on genius) intellect, elegantly put together sentences that build upon each other to create this finely crafted piece of art.
Haute Surveillance by Johannes Goransson rounds out the trio. Goransson showcases his multitude of talents with this book. Constantly changing, morphing the boundaries of what the reader can stomach and fathom. The audience is as much a part of the book as any I’ve ever read. I can’t remember the last time that such dark, raw, and visceral thoughts caused me so much comfort.
If these titles are any indication of Tarpaulin Sky’s future than the press is in good hands. They are quickly becoming one of the best small presses out today thanks to authors like Donato, Goransson, and McSweeney. Clear skies ahead indeed. And I’ll be anxiously anticipating not only their future releases but also those of the individual author’s. Get on the bandwagon quickly before there’s no more room left.